Henry Garden Gun

By Jeff Johnston, FE Hunting and Shooting Editor

Instinctive wingshooting is becoming a lost art. I’m betting most of us know plenty of gurus who can run a pistol or shoot a rifle like Keanu Reeves in character. But if you invite these same guys to a round of sporting clays, they’ll either embarrass themselves or they’ll give you three excuses why they can’t go.

That’s because true instinctive shooting flows in the subconscious—like throwing a football to a sprinting receiver—and can only be mastered via repetition so that the hands, via the brain, can direct the shotgun’s pattern to a point where the target is going, not where it is. The trouble is, it’s a whole lot harder to build a trap and skeet field than a basic rifle range.  Also, upland bird hunting used to be commonplace for rural boys after school. Now it’s almost nonexistent in many parts of the country. It boils down to a lack of opportunity. 

So that’s a big reason why I ordered Henry’s smoothbore .22 LR “Garden Gun.”  In the summer there is no lack of flying vermin including grasshoppers, garage-infesting dirt dobbers, red wasps, June bugs and a terrifying creature called a dobsonfly that if it were 10-inches bigger I’d never leave shelter.

The Garden Gun is nearly identical to Henry’s classic .22 LR rifle, except the smoothbore barrel is meant to be used with 22 shotshells, of which it holds 15 in the tubular magazine. Winchester’s Super X 22 No. 12 shot cartridges are $17 for a box of 50. With them this 18 ½-inch-barreled lever action prints roughly a 6-inch pattern at 5 yards, or a 9-inch pattern at 10, giving you just enough leeway to actually some hit winged critters if you’re good, but not enough energy past about 15 yards to do any real damage to property if the dobber decides to zig. For this reason, I believe that after a couple modifications such as shortening the stock and removing the sights, the setup might be perfect for teaching kids the concept of wingshooting. At the very least, it could offer a young entrepreneur a job as an exterminator, all while honing his or her shooting skills. I figure this is better than watching Blippi on the I-pad. Or at least that’s my theory.

I say “theory” because the guns just arrived, the grasshoppers haven’t reached their summertime plague level numbers yet and my particular kid is about a year from being fully trusted with a real gun of any kind on his own. So for now I’m dusting centipedes, scorpions, wasps, fire ants on the mound, rats and the occasional copperhead that slithers too close to the porch. And I’m having a ball doing it.

Cost: $490

Pros: If you’ve ever tried shooting a snake with a handgun, you’ll appreciate the one-shot calming nature of the Garden Gun.    

Cons:  It should have come with a simple bead front sight. 

From the FE Films Archive

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