I must have been a good boy this year, although I don’t list my wife as a reference. But when measured on the naughty/nice scale and adjudged by Santa’s rewards, it looks like I’ve graded fairly well.

And that should have you wondering what the Jolly Old Elf brought me this year. I’ll get right to the point: it was a new shotgun.

 But don’t start thinking Benelli or Winchester 101 Pigeon Grade or any of like quality and usage. Instead, I’ve downsized this time. I received and test-fired a Henry lever-action Garden Gun in .22 Long rifle caliber – smoothbore! A .22 caliber shotgun.

You’re probably thinking, “Why?’

Well, it’s not named the “Garden Gun” without reason. You could, with accuracy, call it a varmint gun if you want to add a little romance to it. It won’t reach out and shake hands with a prairie dog at 200 yards and it would only annoy a coyote at 30 paces, but for the common pests and vermin found in your tomato patch or around your back yard bird feeder, it’s the coupe de gras for those aggravators.

Before I go any further, however, let me offer a disclaimer: most cities and other entities have regulations against discharging firearms within their domain, so you must use your head and obey the law.

It’s about 20-25 feet from our deck to the wood pile and bird feeder. My tests proved that any cotton rat within that range would easily become “dead meat” to this fine little firearm and “din-din” for the screech owls that frequent the rodent final resting place atop our owl house.

The gun itself is a superb little Henry lever-action .22 except it has a smooth bore instead of a rifled barrel like Henry’s other popular rifles. And to keep you from hurriedly reaching into your gun safe or closet and coming up with the wrong Henry, the company has stocked it with a darker wood whose grain feels different to the touch from their other fine rifles. It’s made in America to Henry’s impeccable standards and is a pleasure to shoot. 

I can’t say it’s quiet, but can say when shooting the CCI # 12 shot cartridges with the blue plastic shot cup it’s almost muffled compared to shooting the regular .22 shot cartridges with crimped brass shell that require more of a blast to propel the payload. My test assistant, seasoned shooter and wildlife biologist, Josh Turner, stood a broad jump behind me and compared the two. “The brass shells fired from the other .22 with the rifled barrel were about ten times louder,” he reported. Granted, that test was not a scientific one conducted with sound-rating equipment but was good enough to verify Henry’s claim that the Garden Gun is quieter.

The smoothbore Henry shot a decidedly tighter pattern, too. Fifteen pellets out of the Henry were in the black with a seven-inch pattern compared to five in the black on a 13-inch rifled-barrel pattern. 


John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.

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