Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle -- Reliable at Last?



Back in my teen years, I was lucky enough to own an original Armalite AR-7 .22 survival rifle. In fact, I even took it with me when I moved from Florida to Colorado for a brief period when I was 18.

Back in those days, my main mode of transportation was a motorcycle, so carrying around a rifle was a bit of a challenge. The AR-7 proved handy because not only would it fit inside a motorcycle saddlebag, it would also fit inside a backpack for treks into the National Forest.

One of my motorcycle camping adventures in the Rocky Mountains, circa 1989

Whether for a fun day of plinking, or bagging an occasional squirrel for the camp stew pot, the AR-7 was always a great companion.


Fully assembled:

For many years, I've wanted to revisit the AR-7, but was wary because of the bad reputation it developed after Charter Arms took over production in 1973, and into its early production by Henry Repeating Arms beginning in 1997. AR-7's produced during this period developed a well-deserved reputation as "Jammo-matics" because of severe magazine feeding issues.

Over the last few years, I had been hearing through various internet forums that Henry had finally addressed the feeding issue. This made me curious enough that I decided to contact them to request a test sample to see if it really had been made reliable after all these years. Henry was nice enough to oblige our request and lend us a brand new AR-7 to conduct our testing.

FIELD TESTING



My main objective for testing the AR-7 was to see if it would be reliable shooting a wide assortment of ammunition. I also wanted to find out how accurate it was, and see if it would float in a creek.

I put over a thousand rounds of mixed 22LR ammunition through the AR-7, including the following:

CCI Mini-Mags
CCI Velocitors
CCI Stingers
Remington Golden Bullets
Remington Thunderbolt
Remington Yellow Jackets
Federal American Eagle
Winchester Whitebox Bulk 22LR HP
Winchester Wildcats
Dynamit Nobel Subsonic 22LR


I found that the AR-7 was most accurate with three types of ammunition-- CCI Velocitor HP, Remington Golden Bullet HP, and Winchester Wildcat Solid Points. Here are the results of the testing at 25 yards, using a semi-rested position:

Remington Golden Bullets:

Winchester Wildcats:

CCI Velocitors (a strong crosswind at the time of testing pushed the group to the right):

Using high quality ammunition, such as CCI Mini-Mags (both solid and hollow points), as well as CCI Stingers and Velocitors, the AR-7 experienced no jams or malfunctions. I got the same results from shooting slightly lower quality Winchester Wildcat ammo. With cheap, dirtier bulk ammo, such as Remington Golden Bullets and Winchester 333 Whitebox, the AR-7 was 99% reliable. I think this is excellent overall performance.

On a side note, I'd highly recommend sticking with CCI ammo for survival ammo in this gun. The bulk ammo had occasional bad primer misfires, whereas the CCI ammo experienced no failures of any kind.

As you can see from the photos above, accuracy was decent enough to hit a rabbit at 25 yards, but not up to par with most .22 Rifles, which would normally group smaller at this range. Remember, the groups shown were done at a gun range in a semi-rested position, not standing or kneeling while shooting free-handed as you would in a wilderness environment

The reason for this less-than-optimal accuracy is quite simple. The AR-7 has a heavy, gritty trigger which is nearly 8lbs in pull. When you combine this with an ultralight barrel (polymer with a rifled steel insert), you have a recipe for less than perfect accuracy. This is due to the difficulty of keeping the barrel on target while squeezing the heavy trigger.


I also did quite a bit of off-camera testing at paper squirrel targets shooting freehand at ranges varying from 10 yards to 50. I found that at best, the AR-7 is 17 yards max for squirrels, and maybe 28 yards for rabbits. This is assuming a well practiced shooter with good marksmanship skills. In all fairness to Henry, I don't remember my old Armalite AR-7 being a tack driver either.

One thing that helped the AR-7's accuracy slightly was to have the trigger assembly polished by a qualified gunsmith. I took the AR-7 down to the folks at Tall Guns in Loveland, Colorado, and they were able to make the trigger on the AR-7 a little smoother, and dropped the trigger pull down to just under 7lbs. This didn't turn the AR-7 into a tack driver, but it did help to make the groups more consistent and a little bit tighter, making the $30 I spent well worth the price. Tall Guns informed me that they'll do a trigger job on your AR-7 if you want to mail it into them (call or email them for more info).

Flotation Test

One of the big selling points of the AR-7 is its ability to float while packed inside its stock. This is an excellent feature to have if you're in a canoe or you're the pilot of an aircraft that might have to make an emergency water landing.

To test the AR-7, I loaded both of its magazines to capacity (8 rounds per magazine), disassembled the gun and packed it into its stock. Then I went to a spot in the Roosevelt National Forest, where there's a creek with areas at least three feet deep, and tossed in the AR-7. I knew there would be trouble almost immediately.....

The stock nose-dived when it hit the water and began releasing air bubbles. Within 5-10 seconds it started to sink towards the bottom. It was apparent from this test that it was not watertight nor did it have enough (if any) Styrofoam inside the stock to make it buoyant. 

Going, going.......

Gone....

As it was sinking I could hear the funky sound of the "losing horns" from the "Price is Right" ringing in my head.

After fishing the AR-7 from the bottom, I found that the stock had completely filled, waterlogging the gun and drenching the ammo. 


I decided to use this opportunity to see if the AR-7 would still fire after being drenched, so I took it to a safe location in the wilderness and discharged it. I'm happy to report that it fired all 16 rounds without a hitch.

Conclusion

So has Henry Repeating Arms finally made the AR-7 reliable after all these years? After going through a thousand rounds of mixed ammo, and even shooting it after it was submerged in a creek, I'm happy to report that yes, it does appear to be reliable. The accuracy still leaves a lot to be desired, an issue I hope Henry addresses in future models. If the trigger pull was lowered by a few pounds, I'm sure it would make the gun more accurate. In a rifle that's meant to help you forage for game in a survival situation, this aspect can't be underestimated. 

The biggest surprise/disappointment is the AR-7's failure in the flotation test. Though it didn't sink right to the bottom, it sank fast enough that you'd be SOL if you needed to grab it in an emergency situation. If you need a .22 survival rifle that will float, you might want to check out Marlin's Papoose Rifle, which comes in a padded, floatable case.


Even with these shortcomings, the AR-7's reliability, packability, ultralight weight (3lbs 6oz) and decent-enough accuracy still make it a viable and handy camp/backpack/survival/stash-in-the-vehicle rifle.

The AR-7 also has something you don't find everyday-- a unique "cool factor." Aside from the nostalgia trip I had testing this gun, it was a big attention getter at the range when I assembled it and disassembled it for testing. I had several people walk up and say "wow, what kind of rifle is that!" It's also the same gun used in the James Bond film "From Russia With Love" (Bond used the Armalite version of the AR-7, but close enough). This kind of cool factor is enough by itself to consider throwing one into your survival gun collection.

3 out of 5 Stars


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rocky Mountain Bushcraft Exclusive: Discovery Channel responds to Cody Lundin being fired from Dual Survival- UPDATED


The recent firing of Cody Lundin from the Discovery Channel's highly popular "Dual Survival" show has come as a shock to fans of the reality-based survival series. According to a Facebook post written by Cody yesterday, he stated that he was fired for "differences over safety and health concerns on the show."

Rocky Mountain Bushcraft contacted the Discovery Channel about Cody's termination and received the following response:

"We are always striving to get a lot of different takes on survival on our air and we felt it was time for change. We had a good run with Cody and wish him well. -Discovery Channel"

We were also informed that Dual Survival will in fact be airing a new season this year. We should have a date and time posted soon, so keep checking back.

Feburary 20th, 2014 UPDATE- in a Facebook post written on February 18th, Joe Teti says that he is still on the show, and that Season 4 of Dual Survival will premiere in April. He also says that the "information you are getting about Cody was not supposed to be released in the fashion it was."

So, the plot thickens. It will be very interesting to see who appears on the new season with Teti, and if there's a change to the classic Dual Survival format (i.e. will it become more sensational and "Bear Gryllish"?). Either way, the loss of Cody Lundin is a huge blow to fans of the show. Not only did he bring something unique, he also brought a respected and established survival background which educated legions of viewers on appropriate survival techniques (Cody studied under Mors Kochanski, need I say more?).

We wish Cody the best of luck in his future endeavors, and hope that his talents will appear on TV again in the near future.

April 10th 2014 UPDATE- Dual Survival: Season 4 promo shows HUGE conflict between Cody Lundin and Joe Teti

May 6th 2014 UPDATE: Cody Lundin says he is dissapointed in the Discovery Channel, says Matt Graham from "Dude Your Screwed" is replacing him 

May 20th 2014 UPDATE: Discovery's latest promo video points to this Wednesday's episode as explaining the firing of Cody Lundin. In the video, Cody says "I lost my cool."

May 21st 2014 UPDATE: Former 'Man Woman Wild' star Mykel Hawke speaks out about the firing of Cody Lundin

May 22nd 2014 UPDATE: Cody Lundin says Discovery Channel defamed his character, says legal action is under way

June 11th 2014 UPDATE- Cody Lundin accuses Discovery of doctoring footage, criticizes Matt Graham

About the author

Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Wilderness Survival: Look for waterholes in the tops of rock outcrops



An often overlooked place to find water in a survival situation is on the tops of rock outcrops in the mountains or in the desert. These rock formations sometimes have bowl-shaped depressions in them which collect water from rain or snow storms.

Depending on the time of year, this water may only last 1-2 days before drying up, or it may last several weeks if the weather is cooler and the depression holds enough water to prevent it from evaporating quickly.


As always, make safety your first priority. If the rock outcrop is too dangerous to climb, don't risk it. If you do find water, be sure to boil it for 3 minutes to kill any bacteria or viruses that might be present. 



About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Breaking News: Discovery Channel fires Cody Lundin from Dual Survival


In yet another shocking turn of events at Discovery Channel's popular Dual Survival TV show, it was announced today on Cody Lundin's Facebook page that he had been fired for "differences over safety and health concerns on the show."

According to a Facebook post written by Cody himself, he states the following:

Dear Campers,

Unfortunately, I have been fired by Discovery Channel for differences over safety and health concerns on the show and will no longer be a part of Dual Survival.

Although I’ll miss elements of the show, what I’ll miss the most are my fans and the opportunity to teach - on a global level – life saving skills, indigenous culture, and values of integrity and respect toward our natural world.

I have received numerous letters from viewers. Many are from kids, or their parents or grandparents, describing in detail how the show has changed their lives. It has brought families together, inspired kids to go outdoors, and motivated moms and dads around the world to take that family camping trip, many for the first time. If I can use a TV show to encourage people to turn off TV and turn on nature, I have done my job.

Thank you all very much for your support over the years. Be safe and prepared, and maybe I’ll train with you in the woods some day!

Stay classy,
Cody Lundin

Without Cody, I'm not sure what this will mean for the future of Dual Survival. The show barely recovered from a viewer backlash after popular co-star Dave Canterbury was fired last year. Will this be the end of Dual Survival as we know it? Or does Discovery have a new star waiting in the wings who will replace him?

February 19th, 2014 UPDATE- Discovery Channel responds to Cody Lundin's termination

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mountain Bushcrafting: Dead Aspen bark- A versatile wilderness tool


Aspens are one of the most beautiful and widespread trees found in the Rocky Mountain high country. When Aspens die, their bark, which is soft and velvety to the touch when alive, becomes hard and separates from the main trunk. This bark is actually one of the most useful wilderness survival tools you'll find in the high elevation forests.

The reason Aspen bark is so versatile is because of its shape and consistency. Aspen bark is easy to carve and cut into pieces, yet strong enough for simple bushcraft tasks. The concave nature (bowl-shape) of the pieces makes them great for a number of things, including making crude utensils, emergency bowls/containers, tinder holders, kindling, and shingling on shelter roofs. The inner bark also makes a great tinder, as you'll see further below.


A crude spoon carved from Aspen bark using a small hatchet. Note the beautiful colors on the bark after it has been scraped clean:


This piece of Aspen bark was used as a crude bowl to hold some wild Wax Currants I gathered last summer (very delicious!):


Aspen bark is great for keeping tinder and kindling from coming in contact with wet or snowy ground when starting a fire. A second piece of bark can be placed over your tinder/kindling to keep it dry from falling snow or rain.


An Excellent Tinder

Many bushcrafters are familiar with using the inner bark of Cedar, Juniper and Cottonwood trees for tinder. What's not as well known is that the dead inner bark of Aspen actually makes fantastic tinder. The fibrous inner bark smolders very well and easily blows into a flame, making it ideal for catching the ember from a bow drill. It's easy to ignite with charcloth, or light with a firesteel, match or magnifying glass.

To find the best tinder, look for dead-standing trees on south-facing slopes. The best trees will look like the one below, with almost perfectly dried fibrous inner bark ready to be peeled off and made into tinder. If you can't find a tree with bark that looks like the photo, just look for any dead standing Aspen with the bark still attached. Pull off a couple of pieces at least 2-3 feet above the ground.


Then take your knife or axe blade and scrape the inner bark vigorously to remove the fibrous material:


This is what the inner bark should look like after scraping or pulling out the fibers. (tip- cut a separate piece of bark to hold the raw tinder).


To prepare the tinder, make sure it is as dry as possible by putting it inside your coat or laying it on a dry rock in direct sunlight for a few hours. Then roll it in your hands vigorously a few times to make it finer in texture:


Once the fibers are ignited, they will start to smolder, ready to be blown into a flame (this particular bundle was ignited with an ultra-thin, credit card-sized magnifying glass).


 Blowing on the tinder pile to intensify the burning:

Success!


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Guides. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)