In my humble opinion, it’d be hard to find a gun more fun to shoot than a .22 LR lever action. And what could be more American? The .22 rimfire cartridge and the lever-action rifle are both American inventions. So how can you beat a rifle and a round that exude history and, combined, provide such a high degree of shooting pleasure? Another hard-to-beat combination is Henry Repeating Arms and one of the true maestros of Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS), Evil Roy (aka Gene Pearcey), SASS #2883. Not only is Evil Roy a world champion CAS shooter, but he also has his own cowboy shooting school, produces instructional DVDs and sells or endorses numerous CAS products on his website.
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Roy recently collaborated with Henry’s president, Anthony Imperato, to design the perfect lever-action .22 by modifying the basic Henry Frontier carbine. The end result met all of Roy’s personal needs and has become known as the Evil Roy Edition. Luckily, I recently got my hands on a test model.
Evil Roy’s Own
When I opened its shipping container, the first thing I noticed about the Evil Roy Edition Frontier was the brushed rather than brass finish on the receiver. Per Roy, this was one of Anthony’s ideas to give the rifle some individuality. Besides the receiver, the barrel band and barrel stampings are also brushed. The rest of the metal components, including the barrel, magazine tube, hammer, trigger and lever, are blued.
The next eye-grabbing feature is the large-loop lever, which is another touch to give this special edition some added flavor. The two-piece American walnut stock has a dark, glossy finish and attractive grain. Evil Roy’s signature is laser cut into the right side of the buttstock, while the shotgun-type buttplate is made of checkered black plastic and features the Henry logo. When it comes to the rifle’s external fit and finish, it certainly earned an “A+.”
The Evil Roy rifle has a short overall length of just 34¼ inches and a barrel length of 16½ inches. The octagonal, medium-weight barrel has a 1-in-16-inch twist rate. The rifle can chamber .22 LR, .22 Short and .22 Long rounds, and the magazine tube will hold 12 .22 LR rounds or 16 .22 Short rounds. The polish on the barrel is outstanding, giving the rifle a look of fine quality. At the muzzle is a gold bead front sight mounted in a dovetail, and the step-adjustable, semi-buckhorn rear sight is also attached via a dovetail so both sights can be moved laterally for windage adjustments. The top of the receiver is serrated to reduce glare, and full-length grooves are provided for easy scope mounting.
The Evil Roy rifle also has a side ejection port, making it optics friendly. There is no manual safety per se, but the hammer has a safety notch at the first “click” when cocking, and the hammer should be in this position if a round is carried in the chamber. The hammer spur is deeply serrated for good thumb purchase.
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Two large transverse screws on the receiver secure the receiver cover over the internal receiver unit that actually contains the firing mechanism. As expected, the lever was as easy to work and as smooth as butter. I’m not a big devotee of large-loop levers, but this one works well, and my finger was right at the trigger when the lever stroke was completed—a boon for rapid-fire shooting. The trigger has a grooved face, and the pull weight on my test model’s trigger measured close to 6 pounds with a touch of creep.
Like most rimfire rifles with tubular magazines, the Evil Roy Edition is loaded by twisting the checkered steel magazine cap to the right, freeing the notch pin and allowing the inner magazine tube to be withdrawn toward the muzzle. The tube is pulled forward enough to open the feeding slot in the outer magazine tube that is located near the front of the wooden forend. Ammunition is introduced into the slot and then the inner magazine tube is pushed back into place and secured via the notch pin. Working the lever retracts the bolt, and the lifter/carrier brings a cartridge from the magazine up to the barrel breech. As the lever is returned to its original position, the bolt chambers the cartridge. If the rifle is not going to be fired immediately, the hammer can be lowered into the safety position through careful manipulation of the trigger.
After shooting the rifle, regular maintenance is encouraged by the folks at Henry Repeating Arms. Under most circumstances, Henry lever guns do not need to be disassembled for routine cleaning. The bore can be scrubbed using a standard cleaning rod or from the breech end using a bore snake. Removal of debris from the chamber, bolt and breech face can be accomplished with a swab. Aggressive solvents are not recommended, especially on the exterior of the receiver. The balance of the bolt assembly and action are maintenance free. After cleaning, a thin film of quality lubricant is used in the bore and on exterior metal surfaces to prevent corrosion. Henry recommends rimfire cleaning kits like those from Hoppe’s, Otis or Dewey along with mild solvents like Hoppe’s No. 9, KleenBore and Break Free.
On The Range
Henry’s Evil Roy rifle is a versatile firearm that can be put to any number of uses in the backwoods or on the range. The rifle’s length and weight should also make it popular with cowgirls or little buckaroos. I primarily planned to use this rifle for CAS rimfire lever-gun side matches, so I directed my test and evaluation to this end. I had no plans to use anything other than the iron sights, so I limited my accuracy testing to a maximum distance of 25 yards. I also used .22 LR cartridges as well as some .22 Long and Short cartridges to see how well they would feed. The .22 LR ammo consisted of some 40-grain loads from Aguila, Federal and Winchester.
The first order of business on the range was to measure the velocity of the .22 LR ammo out of the Evil Roy Edition’s 16½-inch barrel. I fired five rounds of each ammo type through the sky screens of my Oehler Model 35P chronograph, and the average velocity readings were moderate.
Next, I put my target stand out at 25 yards and did some preliminary shooting with each ammo brand to see where the sights were in relation to the point of aim. I adjusted the sights and then proceeded to shoot three 5-shot groups with each of the test loads to wring out the Evil Roy Edition’s accuracy. The Federal load produced the best group of the day, which measured 1.04 inches. It also had the best group average at 1.26 inches. Second place went to the Winchester Supreme Match ammo with a 1.81-inch average, and the Aguila load had an average of 1.99 inches.
Work on paper targets is one thing, but I wanted to see what the Evil Roy Edition would do on steel. Many of the CAS side matches with .22 LR long guns involve speed shooting, so I engaged a rack of five small falling milk-bottle targets at 10 yards, shooting from right to left as quickly as possible. To make this more interesting, the targets had been set to fall down with a hit by a centerfire round like the .38 Special or .45 Colt. To knock the targets down, I had to aim at the upper part of the target for the .22 LR shots to do the job. I limited myself to 10 rounds per attempt, and each milk bottle had to go down before I could move on to the next target. I did this drill several times, and once I got into the swing of things, it wasn’t too difficult to clear the rack with five shots in a little over five seconds. Best of all, I had no malfunctions and the large-loop lever seemed more of a help than a hindrance.
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My last exercise was to load up the magazine with a mix of .22 Short, Long and LR cartridges to see how well they’d cycle through the action. I used five of each type of Short and Long cartridges and two LR cartridges to fill the magazine. They all loaded without a hitch. Now for the acid test: Holding the gun level, I worked the lever as fast as possible, and it fed and fired the rounds just as fast as I could work the lever and pull the trigger. I tried it a couple more times, just ejecting the live rounds, and there was nary a bobble. This capped to me what was a very successful evaluation. The Henry Evil Roy Edition Frontier carbine is more than adequate for its intended purposes, plus it’s reliable and a handsome gun to boot. I think Evil Roy and Anthony Imperato have come up with a real winner. For more information, visit henryrifles.com or call 201-858-4400.
Henry Evil Roy Edition Frontier
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Barrel: 16½ inches
- OA Length: 34¼ inches
- Weight: 5.5 pounds (empty)
- Stock: American walnut
- Sights: Front bead, semi-buckhorn rear
- Action: Lever
- Finish: Blued, brushed
- Capacity: 12+1
- MSRP: $500
Henry Evil Roy Edition Frontier .22 Lr
Load: Aguila 40 SuperExtra
Load: Federal 40 Gold Medal Match
Load: Winchester 40 Match
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph, and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 25 yards.
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This article originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.