Battle of the Best 22 Survival Rifles: Henry AR 7 vs. Marlin Papoose

Henry AR 7 vs. Marlin Papoose
Henry AR 7 vs. Marlin Papoose

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- The Henry Survival Rifle and the Marlin Model 70 PSS are arguably the greatest survival rifles made. Let me explain.

The takedown rifle has been around at least since the bicycle rifles of the turn of the 20th century. Hunters valued light-weight rifles that could break down into pieces. This allowed for ease of transport to and from the destination. Plinkers could ride to the edge of town and pop glass bottles without having a gun strapped over their backs. Boaters, campers, and others saw the appeal in a rifle that could take up little space but come in handy in case of need. In other words–a survival rifle, one that can be used for signaling, dispatching small game for food, perhaps even for self-defense against predators, four-legged and otherwise.

The thoughts and theories of surviving with a rifle have long since been co-opted and spun into products to fit this niche need. Prepping and survival involving firearms is a trendy, mainstream subject today–hence the products to fuel it. While AR-15 and AK type rifles get most of the press, perhaps the most ideal choice for everyday survival in the absence of help is the .22 rifle.

I am in the .22 caliber camp for a number of reasons. I don't mean to turn this into a discussion of why one would select a .22 rifle but the fact remains that people do. Though any .22 rifle will work, products designed for ease of packing are ideal. So I got to asking myself that blanket question, what gun is better?

The two most obvious choices are the Henry Survival Rifle and the Marlin Papoose–two well-established rifles by well-established American brands. The Ruger 10/22 Takedown is a newer and perhaps stronger contender. Certainly, the 10/22 Takedown is better in many ways but it loses out to the other two rifles in size and weight. These are obvious factors when loading out for a weekend adventure but even more important once you found in a prolonged ordeal. So, in the end, the Ruger was off the list and I purchased both the Papoose and the Henry to see which one is better.

The Marlin Papoose and Henry Survival rifle broken down.
The Marlin Papoose and Henry Survival rifle broken down.

Marlin Papoose

Marlin came out with their Model 70 PSS in the 1980s as a take-down magazine-fed version of the firm's legendary Model 60–the most popular 22 rifle made. A Papoose you will find today will come with a fairly standard composite stock with sparse checkering at the pistol grip and on the butt. Otherwise, the rifle has a matte aluminum receiver and stainless-steel appointments including the bolt, the magazine release, cross-bolt safety, sling studs, and the barrel. The rifle packs disassembled in a soft, foam padded case with one seven-round magazine and a spanner wrench to tighten the barrel nut for assembly.

Note: I did not use the spanner wrench for assembly but snug fit the barrel nut finger tight.

The author holding the Marlin Papoose after a full day. 
The author holding the Marlin Papoose after a full day.

Henry Survival Rifle

The Henry Survival Rifle is an updated version of the famed Armalite AR-7 and from now on I will refer to this rifle as an AR-7.  Eugene Stoner initially developed a similar rifle for the United States Air Force in the 1950s and soon marketed a semi-automatic 22 LR version to the civilian market. After an unsuccessful stint with quality issues under Charter Arms ownership, the rights to the AR-7 passed to Henry Repeating Arms about twenty years ago. Their rifle has a composite stock where the guts of the rifle–the barrel, aluminum receiver, and up to three magazines may be stored. There are no extras to come with this rifle. The receiver is fastened to the stock via a captive bolt in the pistol grip. The barrel nut is screwed over exposed threads, like the Papoose and the rifle is ready to go. The barrel is made with a steel sleeve and a polymer shroud. The bolt, telescoping charging handle, safety, and trigger are made of a black-finished carbon steel. The AR-7 ships with two eight-round magazines.

Henry Survival Rifle
Henry Survival Rifle

Marlin Papoose Specs:

  • Weight: 3.25 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 16 1/4 inches
  • Capacity: 7 rounds standard, 25 rounds aftermarket
  • Fiberglass reinforced synthetic stock

Henry Repeating Arms Survival Rifle Specs:

  • Weight: 3.25 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 16 1/8 inch
  • Capacity: 8 rounds
  • ABS Plastic Stock

Pros and Cons Out of the Box

I went into this contest favoring the Marlin. Out of the box and assembled, the Marlin feels like a more substantial gun despite weighing as little as the AR-7.  The gun is packed in a navy-colored soft case. The barrel is about as long as the AR-7 but it is all stainless and utilizes Marlin's Micro-Groove rifling which should make it more accurate than the polymer shroud/ steel liner setup on the Henry. The Marlin rifle comes with sling studs while the Henry does not.

The Marlin has the refinement of the famous Model 60. A crisp action, a bolt release, and a natural cross-bolt safety.
The Marlin has the refinement of the famous Model 60. A crisp action, a bolt release, and a natural cross-bolt safety.
The sights are dovetailed onto the barrel and feature a rear notch and an orange plastic front post protected by a hood.
The sights are dovetailed onto the barrel and feature a rear notch and an orange plastic front post protected by a hood.
Marlin Papoose orange plastic front post protected by a hood.
Marlin Papoose orange plastic front post protected by a hood.

The Marlin has the refinement of the famous Model 60. A crisp action, a bolt release, and a natural cross-bolt safety. The sights are dovetailed onto the barrel and feature a rear notch and an orange plastic front post protected by a hood.

The one big upside of the Henry is the ability of the AR-7's parts to fit inside of the buttstock. Also, there are no extra tools included nor needed to assemble the piece when needed.

The one big upside of the Henry is the ability of the AR-7's parts to fit inside of the buttstock.
The one big upside of the Henry is the ability of the AR-7's parts to fit inside of the buttstock.

It does not hurt that the Henry comes with two eight-shot magazines instead of the single seven-rounder shipping with the Marlin.

The sights are crude and consist of a leaf peep rear sight built into the receiver and a front sight made of orange polymer.

The action has only one control, a safety catch behind the bolt.
The action has only one control, a safety catch behind the bolt.
The sights are crude and consist of a leaf peep rear sight built into the receiver and a front sight made of orange polymer.
The sights are crude and consist of a leaf peep rear sight built into the receiver and a front sight made of orange polymer.
The sights are crude and consist of a leaf peep rear sight built into the receiver and a front sight made of orange polymer.
The sights are crude and consist of a leaf peep rear sight built into the receiver and a front sight made of orange polymer.

The action has only one control, a safety catch behind the bolt. Otherwise, the gun relies on a simple blowback action, like the Marlin, except the bolt of the AR is huge by comparison and uses a charging handle that folds into the bolt for storage.

Both rifles have built-in 3/8 inch scope rails for mounting optics, however, the Henry cannot be stowed with the optic attached while the Marlin can.  Eight round magazines are standard for the Henry and finding larger magazines has been downright difficult. However, ten and twenty-five round magazines for use with the Papoose and other 795 generation Marlin rifles has been easy.

Both rifles have built-in 3/8 inch scope rails for mounting optics, however, the Henry cannot be stowed with the optic attached while the Marlin can.
Both rifles have built-in 3/8 inch scope rails for mounting optics, however, the Henry cannot be stowed with the optic attached while the Marlin can.

On The Range

For several months I tested both rifles under a number of different weather conditions and with a variety of 22 LR ammunition to include:

  • CCI Blaser 40 grain lead
  • CCI Mini Mag 40 grain HV
  • CCI Stingers 32 grain HV hollow-point
  • Winchester Western 36 grain HV hollow-point
  • Federal Automatch 40 grain lead

Accuracy

Take-down rifles are a compromise. A solid rifle will be more accurate, mechanically. But that doesn't mean a take-down isn't capable of great accuracy–or at least accuracy in terms of what is needed to accomplish a particular goal. I set the goal as small game hunting or defense while doing such things inside fifty yards. I stayed at this range because the Henry cannot be stowed with a scope so both rifles were shot with the stock sights. At twenty-five yards, I was shocked that the Henry easily outshot the Marlin in seven-shot groups. The margin wasn't large, especially with CCI Blaser ammunition, but it was noticeable. Both rifles grouped at an inch or under at twenty-five yards and three-four inches at fifty yards. However, the Marlin initially grouped to the left after a sight-in only a few days earlier. I found that the rear sight, which lay exposed on the barrel with no handguard, had been knocked out of alignment somehow–likely on the car ride to the range. A few taps of a hammer and I was back hitting the bullseye, but that flaw was worth noting and one I could only find while at the range.

A pair of seven-shot groups posted at twenty-five yards using CCI Blaser 40 grain round-nosed lead ammunition. Both are good, but it is clear the Henry has an edge.
A pair of seven-shot groups posted at twenty-five yards using CCI Blaser 40 grain round-nosed lead ammunition. Both are good, but it is clear the Henry has an edge.

Reliability

While both rifles did fine in terms of accuracy, but what about reliability? I had a few light strikes using CCI Stingers in the Marlin while the AR-7 choked several times per magazine with Federal Automatch. Both rifles cycled the flat-nosed Winchester ammunition perfectly and I ran through a box of relatively low-powered CCI Suppressor 45 grain subsonic ammunition to see if these auto-loaders would choke. They did not. The use of subsonics may be useful in a scenario where it is undesirable to hear the crack of higher-powered 22 ammo. Both rifles were relatively trouble free, but the Marlin had fewer malfunctions overall.

Floatability?

This isn't a practical category of testing but the AR-7 is famous for its ability to float. The buttstock has many hollows and is relatively water tight so if the gun goes into the drink for a moment, it could be retrieved. I threw the assembled AR7 into the drink along with the Marlin in it's case. Both floated but if that Marlin were assembled and without its case, it would surely sink. Both guns were soaked and muddy. That made for another category of testing–field stripping for cleaning.

Disassembly

Two after a date with a not-so-friendly drainage pond left the AR-7 with spots of rust on the bolt and charging handle. It was a gritty mess but thankfully all one must do to field strip the gun is to put a finger against the bolt from the inside the chamber, yank out the charging handle, and dump the bolt, recoil spring, and the polymer guide out. The Marlin requires an allen wrench to loosen the bolts sandwiching the receiver and stock together. From there the charging handle is pulled back and the bolt lifted up with the fingers. Then the handle is pulled away so the recoil spring, rod, and bolt can come out. This is a little more involved than the AR-7 but the Marlin had no rust to worry about despite still being soaked.

No, this is not the drainage pond. But it makes for a good photo. 
No, this is not the drainage pond. But it makes for a good photo.

And the Winner Is?

Like I said previously, I went into this little test expecting the Marlin Papoose to win. I put seven hundred rounds between both rifles, tested them in hot and humid conditions–and later at freezing with plenty of water, cow dung, and who knows what else. In the end, the Henry Survival Rifle despite its uninspiring feel and lack of features is the winner by a small margin.

The most obvious advantage of the AR-7 is it's ability to collapse and store into its own buttstock. Whether this takes up less room than the padded case arrangement of the Papoose is up for debate  The actual weight difference between the two rifles is marginal. The sights on the AR-7 are a little easier to read, especially in lower light and are not as prone to being bumped out of alignment, which is what happened with our Papoose. I would make the case for some Locktite after sighting in on either rifle, but the fact remains that the sights on the AR-7's sights are simpler. The AR7's trigger is more predictable and has a loud audible reset, while the Papoose has a little bit of take-up.

Both rifles were more than ample in the accuracy department but I did feel the Papoose should have done better. The only knocks on the AR-7 are two: the manual safety and the number of malfunctions. The safety catch was prone to going on without a touch when reloading the rifle. I have taken aim only for nothing to happen and then I realized the safety is on. A minor inconvenience here but a game-costing mistake in the field. My general experiences with Henry's AR-7 have been warm. These guns are far more reliable than their Charter Arms predecessors and the AR had fewer malfunctions right until it met many failures to feed from Federal Automatch. This is offset by the fact that the Marlin had fewer malfunctions overall. The lesson is to pick your ammo wisely as not all 22 LR ammo is created equally. They also don't print as tightly or in the same place. Testing ammo has to happen before heading out, not during.

I like the AR-7, but that doesn't mean the Marlin has no merit. Getting extra magazines and accessorizing is easier. The inclusion of sling studs is a nice touch along with good, proven controls. It helps that the gun can be disassembled with an optic attached, if you so feel inclined. There were fewer malfunctions with the Marlin overall and I would feel better about having a Papoose stowed aboard a boat as it's stainless steel construction wards corrosion better. The few steel parts in the AR-7 can rust if neglected.

In summary, the Marlin Papoose is a good choice but the Henry Survival Rifle came on stronger than expected. Both rifles are excellent products and worth your consideration. Like with all platforms, each has certain advantages and disadvantages that are worth noting and I hope that I laid out the good, the bad, and the ugly for your own edification. Chances are, however, if you bump into me out in the middle of nowhere you can expect me to have one or the other.


About Terril Hebert:Terril Hebert

Terril Hebert is a firearm writer native to south Louisiana. Under his motto-Guns, Never Politics-he tackles firearm and reloading topics both in print and on his Mark3smle YouTube channel, where he got his start. Terril has a soft spot for ballistics testing, pocket pistols, and French rifles. When he is not burning ammo, he is indulging his unhealthy wildlife photography obsession or working on his latest novel. Scourge of God, published in 2017. See more from Terril on youtube under Mark3smle

  • 19 thoughts on “Battle of the Best 22 Survival Rifles: Henry AR 7 vs. Marlin Papoose

    1. First AR7 I saw was by Charter Arms, liked it then but didn’t get one. About 20 years ago stopped in a local gun store and he had one. Just looking for nothing in particular until I saw it was a Henry and it went home with me. I pull it out now and again and run a few rounds though it and it’s never failed. I use CCI mini mags and they feed great. Both my son’s and myself have enjoyed it ( girls also) now I’ve some grandsons wanting to shoot it. Time to pull the Henry out again.

    2. Loved the article ! My early Henry made AR-7 did not feed reliably so I sent it back and in less than a week it came home and worked beautifully ever since ! Fastest service I ever got ! It has aged better than I did and i’d like to put a scope on it now, but not enough to trade it in for a newer one !
      Stoner apparently made a gun in .22 Magnum for the Air Force, and the issue over and under .22 Mag and .410 under folder would be a hit on the civilian market as well . I’d like to find a Kel-Tek P-30 with a light stock in my survival pack . I love that light weight beast too !

    3. The 10/22 takedown is heavier, yes. However it is much more accurate, and I can stow it with a scope on, in the bag along with 2 25 rnd mags, 3 10 rnd mags, an SR22 pistol with 3 10 rnd mags, a substantial first aid kit, small tool kit, and over 100 rnds of ammunition, with room for a suppressor should I ever opt for one. All within the footprint of two shoe boxes.

      My bag lives in my vehicle. If the SHTF I’m gonna want a little more than the 16 rnds available with the AR-7 storage stetup.

      Then if you consider aftermarket support it becomes a no brainer. All of my firearms are customized to one degree or another. The 10/22 is second only to the AR when it comes to aftermarket/upgraded parts availability.

      1. I can’t disagree with anything in your post. Your statement, however, that everything fits in two shoeboxes makes me wonder about the size of your feet.

      2. If SHTF .I want more than a 22LR no matter what kind it is. I’ve had issues with my two(I’ve had Many) 10/22’s I just got one back because the sights were so far off they couldn’t be adjusted…. Now the second Laminate stock/ chrome bolt/ comes with a black/red sling..Also has similar problems. Good news, I got the first one back and it’s a tack driver. Problem is, it shouldn’t have happened to either much less both.

    4. I had not heard anything about the Marlin Papoose until I read this article. I had read several articles on the Henry/AR7 and the jamming issue raised it’s ugly head in all of them. I recently bought a Ruger 10/22 takedown and like it very much. But, if push came to shove, I would grab my Marlin Golden 39 takedown before any of my other rifles. With it I can put a FULL BOX of 50 rounds into a 1″ bull at 50 yards, scoped or iron sights. The takedown/reassembly is not as easy as the Ruger, but it holds 16 rounds of .22 LR in it’s tubular magazine. The uger holds 10 rounds in it’s rotary mag, or 25 if I use the extended mag, but the marlin is easier to reload in my opinion. If I have the scope mounted it remains on the receiver when taken down, thus insuring accuracy. Yes, the Marlin is longer and heavier, but I can sling it easily and carry it all day. Plus, I love the way it looks, which I cannot say about the 10/22, Papoose or AR7.

      Phil in TX

    5. I keep an old Garcia Bronco .22/.410 over/under survival gun that lives in a padded case, in my car, or strapped on the pack on hikes. It’s accurate out to 50 yards and relatively lightwt, breaks down into a compact size, and has the option of all kinds of modern defensive .410 loads in addition to the.22 ammo. It certainly won’t float but that is not a concern for me.
      The single shot breakdown .22 only version of the Bronco is also a great choice for a very ltwt survival rifle, if only limited by it’s single shot design.

    6. Survival? Travel by canoe or floatplane, even walking or driving and crossing a stream? Flotation matters.

    7. A resurrection of the M6 survival O/U combo is the ticket, but with adjustable sight, a proper trigger (not a “squeezer”) Picatinny rail, in .22lr over .410 bore. Light ammo load, quiet signature and great versatility in the boonies under survival conditions. I would buy one as soon as announced.

    8. I researched these prior to purchasing for a BoB. It was between the Henry and the Ruger, didn’t look at Marlin. I was first leaning to the Henry, but after inspecting it, went with the Ruger. The Henry’s front sight was a toy. It could be moved with little effort, completely unacceptable. The magazines’ construction has faults. Stamped and clamped steel, prone to rust. No bueno if it were dropped, left out, etc. Lastly, the mechanism for attaching the barrel is suited for ease, but not to maintain zero.
      Now, the ruger is more expensive and heavier, but… absolutely reliable. The mechanism for detachment is rock solid and retains zero. Add the magpul x22 stock, and you have a winner! Mine came with four 10 round mags. I have two packed along with some loose ammo and some cleaning materials in the stock. It is deadly accurate, good sights, light with the magpul stock and compact. It is also fairly quiet with high velocity cci stingers and mini mags.

    9. I have 10/22 takedown. I also own an early Marlin Papoose(red Bag). Accuracy its a toss up. ( I just got back a 10/22 for accuracy problems, & sending another in soon). The papoose has an early variable scope which fits in the bag great.
      Which one do I grab & throw under the seat? The Ruger, it’s worth a lot less.

    10. My wife gave me an early version AR-7 two or three decades ago. It’s a fun little gun, which has never failed to go bang when I pressed the trigger and minute-of-rabbit accurate at distances within the capability of my eyes. Floatability is also nice, should I ever need it. Love my little AR-7!

    11. Purchased an AR7 for shits and grins – wanted one “just because” and the price was great. Took it home, safety check, and put 5 rounds into a dime sized hole at 25 yards. Put it down, went back to the store and bought another one with the same check and about the same results. Maybe I was just lucky? We have them in emergency bags in the car for whenever we are traveling; survival against the any predators regardless of two legged or four.

    12. If I really thought my “survival” would ever depend on a .22 LR, I’d bet it on a Ruger 10/22 take down, despite its additional size and weight. At least it’s a real .22 LR rifle with no practical compromise over a standard 10/22 Carbine. No, I don’t own one (yet).

      But an itch I’ve never scratched is the AR-7. Ever since I started seeing them in “Gun Digest” annuals back in the ’60s, I couldn’t shake the coolness factor. I really don’t think they’re very useful for anything, including survival but they’re just so damn cool. Then, seeing James Bond assassinate a bad guy in one movie and then shoot down a helicopter in another movie and I was sold. But the uselessness has always prevented me from pulling the trigger and there’s always something higher up on my wish list.

      1. Possibly cool “looking” is all the AR7 has over the Papoose or 10/22, I don’t even really like the looks of it. RELIABILITY is it greatest downfall, I had one (yes, I bought and tried various new FACTORY mags) that was a continual jam fest, a true P>O>S> ! Too much plastic and cheap parts. I would NEVER stake my life on an AR7, sorry Eugene, love your AR15, but I believe Stoner was worn out designing the AR15, the AR7 was his get it over with EDSEL.
        I would go with the 10/22 first them the Marlin….. NEVER an AR7 !

        1. Stoner actually developed the AR-5 before the AR-15. I don’t know if he was directly involved with the AR-7, which came later.

          By all accounts, Henry has solved most of the reliabilty issues with the Armalite and Charter Arms versions. Did you actually expect to catch fish with your Ron Popeil Pocket Fisherman?

        2. Yup ! I had that same experience but I sent mine back and got complete satisfaction in about one week ! Mags do look cheap but once my gun was fixed they give no problem. understand I don’t shoot this little specialty item a lot , so it hasn’t had more than 2-300 rounds put through it. As for betting my life on it , it ain’t my first choice either , but I do believe it will be a lot better than a sharp stick or pepper spray.

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