June 15, 2023
Taking a break from its mainstream lever-action products, Henry Repeating Arms unveiled a semiautomatic carbine chambered in 9mm at the 2023 SHOT Show. Normally, I wouldn’t get too excited about a pistol caliber carbine (PCC), but the Homesteader is such a well-executed and handy rifle that it’s hard not to love. Anyone looking for a soft-recoiling carbine that’s inexpensive to shoot, good for plinking and self-defense should be interested.
Rifles Chambered Like Pistols
The Homesteader has a 16.3-inch barrel, an aluminum receiver and feeds from detachable magazines in one of three flavors: Henry, Glock, or Smith & Wesson. It is a blowback-operated carbine.
There are a couple of reasons why someone would want a short, light carbine chambered in 9mm. The first is money. A 9mm PCC is a lot cheaper to shoot than anything other than rimfire, but 9mm could be more useful than rimfire for many. A carbine chambered in 9mm can be an effective choice for home defense where a rimfire should be viewed as the last available option.
In keeping with the topic of expense, the 9mm Luger is the most affordable centerfire chambering because it is produced in massive quantities. It’s almost a commodity.
Ammunition for 9mm can be purchased anywhere ammo is sold. Guns & Ammo’s staff found 9mm available everywhere at the time of this writing.
Nobody enjoys recoil or muzzle blast, and carbines chambered in 9mm minimize both. By the time that a 9mm bullet travels down 16 inches of barrel, there’s not much pressure behind it. Comparatively, a 9mm pops, rather than booms out of the muzzle. It’s much easier to ensure a pleasant day at the range when firing through a couple hundred rounds of 9mm versus a centerfire cartridge.
Historically, the problem with shooting carbines chambered in 9mm is, until now, they’re usually built around the AR-15-platform, shoehorned as a conversion of an upper receiver and magazine well, or some variation of these. An AR-15’s upper receiver limits the shape of the bolt carrier group, even if it’s practically a solid chunk of steel. Because the bolt carrier group can’t be made any heavier in an AR-pattern 9mm carbine, the recoil spring is stiff and the buffer is manufactured as heavy as possible. The final result is usually a snappy recoiling carbine.
The Homesteader was engineered from the ground-up to be a PCC — and it’s obvious. The bolt is large and heavy, but there are two action bars that connect the bolt to a large steel weight that rides inside the handguard. This opens the entire handguard volume for a designer to add weight and move it. The end result is that the reciprocating mass in the Homesteader is well-balanced, heavier than any AR, and distributed along the carbine’s length. The additional reciprocating weight slows cycling down and reduces felt recoil. Spreading the weight along the carbine’s length prevents the Homesteader from moving around when fired. This gun is a wonderfully pleasant little rifle that’s great for newbies and seasoned shooters alike.
A Bit of Everything
The barrel is carbon steel that’s blued and features a 1-in-10-inch twist rate. The carbine-length barrel adds, with some loads, considerable velocity to the 9mm cartridge versus typical handgun velocities. I tested the Homesteader with 135-grain Federal’s Personal Defense Hydra-Shok Deep, and the velocity I recorded was similar to what Federal suggested the ammunition achieves from a handgun. Federal 115-grain Syntech Range produced a shade more than a 200 feet-per-second (fps) increase compared to handgun results.
Liberty Ammunition’s Civil Defense +P load features a 50-grain bullet that smoked along at 2,472 fps. A 50-grain .355-inch diameter bullet cruising at almost 2,500 fps makes for a dandy home-defense option. It produced almost no felt recoil and minimal muzzleblast. The light projectile moves so fast that it fragments quickly when striking a barrier such as sheet rock; our over-penetration worries are minimized when compared to traditional 9mm loads. Liberty’s Civil Defense would be my pick for home defense.
The barrel has a threaded muzzle at ½-28, the standard thread pitch for 9mm barrels. I threaded a 9mm suppressor directly to the barrel for testing on the Homesteader. The can’s short configuration made it comfortable enough to shoot without hearing protection, but I don’t think the noise level was less than 140 decibels. I would feel comfortable using that set-up for home defense. If I were plinking with the Homesteader, I would still use some hearing protection or lengthen the suppressor.
Placing a suppressor on the Homesteader did not obscure the iron sights that come attached to the barrel. No raised or additional sights are necessary to fire this gun suppressed. However, the suppressor does force additional gas back into the receiver and out the ejection port on the right side of the receiver, as well as out of the charging-handle slot on the receiver’s opposite side. Dumping a magazine’s worth of ammunition through the carbine puts enough gas in the shooter’s face that it’s a noticeable consideration, but not a distraction.
The receiver is made from aluminum and can accommodate either left- or right-hand charging handle positions. A scope base can be added while, underneath, it feeds from Henry’s proprietary magazine. With an adapter, it will also run Glock 9mm mags and Smith & Wesson’s M&P9 mags.
To change magazine adapters, you have to remove the buttstock and trigger assembly from the receiver. Driving out the three pins allows the trigger and buttstock to slip down and out. With the trigger and buttstock out of the way, the magazine well insert has a tab that pops out of the receiver, which allows it to slide out and be replaced with another. The Homesteader model sent to Guns & Ammo for testing was set-up for Henry magazines, but the Glock insert accepts G17/G19 magazines while the Smith & Wesson insert runs M&P9 magazines. Swapping these magazine-well inserts was easier than I had expected.
To switch the charging handle orientation required no tools and was useful. Locking the bolt to the rear is all that’s required to remove the charging handle out of one side of the bolt. Then, insert it into the opposite side. The interchangeable charging handle, tang-mounted safety and bolt catch — available on both sides of the triggerguard — makes the Homesteader completely ambidextrous. That said, it only ejects cases out the right side of the receiver.
The receiver comes ready to accept the same scope mount that Henry uses on its lever-action rifles. Adding a section of rail was as easy as removing the threaded caps and securing the rail with four screws. It’s important to remember that the receiver is aluminum, though, so read the installation instructions. Stripping the threaded holes is very possible.
Adding a scope base to the receiver will obscure the rear ghost ring that’s affixed to the barrel near the receiver, rendering the iron sights obsolete. Most red-dot optics are robust and reliable enough that I wouldn’t give it a second thought. However, a red-dot sight sitting atop the Picatinny rail will require the shooter to pull his head away from the stock’s comb to get a good sight picture. On a rifle chambered in a rifle cartridge, this would be a problem, but the Homesteader doesn’t generate enough recoil to disturb one’s sight picture, even with a soft cheek weld. I’d have no concerns shooting the Homesteader with either its factory iron sights or with an electronic sight.
The stock and forend are made from walnut, a hardwood well-suited for use on a rifle. Walnut stocks were what many of us grew up using, so it feels nice to handle the Homesteader. This feature sets it apart from the steel/aluminum/polymer guns that dominate the racks in every gun shop.
The walnut used isn’t fancy, but it is functional. There is texturing on both the grip and the forend with sling swivel studs mounted at the tip of the forend and on the stock’s toe. The buttpad is thick and softer than a 9mm needs, but it adds to the overall comfort when shooting. The forend is comfortable but has a square shape that some might not appreciate. When I look at it, I see all the volume it leaves for the internal weight. There’s enough room for Henry to eventually allow chambering the 10mm or a straight-wall cartridge for deer hunting in certain states. (Please, Henry. Explore this option!)
Range time with the rifle added to my appreciation for this lightweight and economical carbine. The trigger was crisp and the reset easy to feel. I had fun and shot all of the ammunition brought for testing, which leads me to believe that others will have a similar experience. The Homesteader promises to be a crowd-pleaser.
Henry Repeating Arms Homesteader
- Type: Blowback operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 5 or 10 rounds (standard)
- Barrel: 16.3 in.; 1:10-in. twist
- Overall Length: 35.75 in.
- Weight: 6 lbs., 9 oz.
- Stock: Walnut
- Length of Pull: 14 in.
- Finish: Blued (steel), anodized (aluminum)
- Sights: Aperture, adjustable (rear), post (front)
- Safety: Two-position tang selector
- MSRP: $928
- Manufacturer: Henry Repeating Arms, 866-200-2354, henryusa.com
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