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H&R Handi-Rifle .500 S&W Magnum

Webster defines the words ubiquitous and venerable as follows: existing or occurring throughout a specific period and deserving of respect. Both terms aptly describe Harrington & Richardson's Handi-Rifle. Break-open, single-shot shotguns and rifles have been offered by dozens of arms makers for more than a century. And, quite often, they are a youngster's first firearm.

I recently traded for a Handi-Rifle chambered in .500 S&W Magnum. Before you ask why, let me tell you how this situation transpired.

It started last spring when Steve Johnson, Hornady's media relations rep, invited several writers to hunt hogs at a lodge near Kosse, Texas. Cabela's and Marlin Firearms co-hosted the outing.

Mike Martin is Marlin's regional rep. He admirably performed his marketing function one evening after we'd returned from the blinds and brambles, cleaned up a bit, and had a scrumptious supper. As we perused the various product catalogs, I asked if the single-shot long guns were still as popular as they were when I was a kid.

"Absolutely!" he responded. "Actually, considering how inexpensive they are compared to most other rifles and shotguns, they may be even more in demand today." He pointed out that H&R's lever-actuated, break-actions were suitable for safely firing many of today's modern, high-intensity rounds. However, with only one shot, you'd better be able to put the bullet in the kill zone.

About then, I noticed the calibers listed included really big-bore rounds like the old .45-70 Government and even the .500 S&W Mag. When I pointed that out to the others, Martin responded, "They just changed the primitive hunting regulations in Mississippi to allow use of any single-shot rifle chambered for cartridges larger than .38 caliber that's also at least 100 years old. Fortunately, they didn't specify it had to be loaded with blackpowder. We could probably make only .45-70 Handi-Rifles and sell all of them down there."


I chuckled and said, "I've fired several X-Frame Smith revolvers that all kicked a lot. Are you sure a Handi-Rifle can handle that much power?" Martin affirmed that it could, and I concluded either of the two rifle/cartridge combos should be formidable hog killers. I didn't think about that conversation again until months later when I dropped by my dealer's shop and noticed the half-dozen new Handi-Rifles on the gun rack awaiting purchase for the upcoming deer season. Of course, one was chambered in .500 Mag. With another quarry in mind, I quickly struck up a mutually satisfactory deal.

As soon as I returned home, I called Johnson and requested some Hornady Custom ammo. Handi-Rifles are drilled and tapped to accommodate a Weaver-style base, so mounting optics was readily accomplished. Because reliable terminal ballistic performance is best limited to 100 yards or less, I decided to try a Bushnell HOLOsight instead of a scope. Of course, I also test-fired the rifle using the fiber-optic sights, too.

Range Results
I quickly accumulated five types of factory ammo to test. Because this ammo's so expensive--and not because the rifle kicks like a mule--I limited the shooting to three or four three-shot groups both with and without the HOLOsight. However, after shooting a few test targets, I decided my aging eyes weren't up to shooting at 100 yards with no magnification, so the accompanying chart reflects the subsequent 50-yard groups.

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H&R Handi-Rifle

Model:Handi-Rifle (tested); Compact, Handi-Mag and Shotgun Slug Combo models available
Manufacturer: H&R 1871, LLC
60 Industrail Rowe
Gardener, MA 01440
Action type:Thumb-actuated lever break-open, single shot
Receiver/barrel material:BLued chrome-moly (as tested) or matte stainless steel
Calibers:.500 S&W Magnum (as tested), .204 Ruger, .233 Rem., .22-250 Rem., .243 Win., .25-06 Rem., 7mm-08, .280 Rem., 7mm Rem. Mag., .30-30, .308 Win., .30-06, .300 Win. Mag., .444 Marlin, .45-70 Gov't., .357 Mag., .44 Mag.
Barrel length:22 inches (as tested); 26 inches (.280 Rem., .25-06)
Rifling:Eight grooves; 1:18.75 RH twist (.500 caliber)
Sights:TRUGLO fiber optic (at tested); drilled and tapped for scope mount
Finish:Blue (as tested), stainless
Safety:Manual cocking hammer with trigger-actuated transfer bar
Trigger:5.25 pounds (as tested)
Length of pull:14.25 inches
Stock material:Walnut-stained birch (as tested); black synthetic with molded checkering; some models have Monte Carlo-style stock
Stock finish:Satin
Recoil Pad:Ventilated recoil pad
Sling studs:Two fixed; one front; one rear
Overall length:38 inches (22-inch barrel0
Weight (empty):7 pounds (as tested)

Hornady's 350-grain XTP/MAG .500 S&W Mag. ammo delivered spot-on 50-yard accuracy in H&R's Handi-Rifle.

Using reactive paper targets with 8-inch bullseyes, I could easily center the illuminated red ring and dot before squeezing off each shot. The line of sight looking through the HOLOsight was about 21/4 inches above the bore. It took several rounds to convince me the hologram didn't have to be perfectly centered in the sight picture to achieve an accurate shot. And, because this model does not have a Monte Carlo stock, my face just touched the wood when I fired.

I removed the optical sight and shot a few rounds using the factory-installed TRUGLO sights. With my face supported by the stock, it was much easier to align the red fiber-optic front sight between the pair of green tubes on the rear sight. However, for the same aging-eyes reason mentioned earlier, my groups nearly doubled in size.

As it turned out, my rifle preferred the Hornady XTP/MAG factory ammo, but I have tried a couple of handloads with promising results. So, simply due to the economics, I'll be doing plenty of handloading for this big-bore rifle.

Many of us started out hunting with a simple break-action, single-barrel gun. I toted a Bay State Arms 12 gauge afield many times when I was a kid. H&R's Topper shotguns continue that tradition. The Handi-Rifle (centerfire) and Sportster (rimfire) models provide today's novice and even more experienced riflemen with an excellent and attractively priced choice for both plinking at targets and hunting.

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