The following content is sponsored by Henry Repeating Arms.
When the original Henry rifle by New Haven Arms Company came out in 1860, it was the high-tech weapon to have. Twice the magazine capacity of the Spencer, it was also less ammo-sensitive and faster in use. For the first time, cycling a rifle also cocked the hammer. Only two factors kept the 1860 model from becoming the standard: a weaker cartridge than the Spencer and the inability to mount a bayonet. The unsealed magazine with an external follower went away in the following decade. Once ammunition advanced from rimfire to drawn brass centerfire, the Henry served as a basis for further development of the Winchester line with a side-loading gate.
By the end of the 19th century, stronger actions chambered cartridges like 45-90 Sharps. By then, the Henry brand was history and looked to stay that way until Louis Imperato and his son Anthony revived the name in 1996. This wasn’t the first gun-related business for the family, but it was to be more durable than those before it. “I wanted Henry to be the best long gun company in the firearms business. Period,” said Anthony, “At that time, cities were suing gun companies that made handguns, and getting into the handgun business wasn’t going to be an option. In short, being the best meant manufacturing a quality product, at a value to the consumer, backed by the best customer service in the industry.”
The first offering from the new Henry Repeating Arms company was the H001 Classic Lever Action, an alloy-framed .22 carbine that set new standards for accuracy and functionality at a price most people could afford.
Minding that the cost of the original Henry rifle, around $40 in the 1860s, was a contributing factor to limited post-war popularity, the Imperato family found a way to produce an affordable, quality product. From the start, the company motto was “Made in America and Priced Right.” Long work hours, often without days off, was the only way for this plan to succeed, so Anthony located the original headquarters right by the same family home that provided the equity loan to launch Henry Repeating Arms. Success has manifested itself in many ways, including high sales. One million of the original H001 .22 rifles alone were sold by 2017, with the one-millionth rifle donated to a charity auction and raising over $50,000 to benefit shooting sports heritage organizations.
Offered primarily to hunters and recreational shooters, Henry firearms started with rimfire and expanded to cover many calibers, including full-power.45-70 Gov’t.
From 1997, the company added the semi-automatic AR-7 Survival Rifle to its catalog. In the 2010s, the box magazine-fed Long Ranger lever action chambered for powerful rimless cartridges joined the product line-up, which extended the practical range of Henry’s catalog.
Right after that, they added tube-fed rifles that combined the original Henry’s easier front-loading (and safer unloading) design with the more defense-oriented side-gate loading. Single-shot break-open designs and lever-action small-bore shotguns rounded out the extensive catalog, which now boasts over 200 SKUs in more than 23 calibers and gauges.
The lever action still holds a special place in Anthony’s heart despite branching out. “The lever action is America’s unique contribution to international firearms design,” he said. “It was the dominant long gun of choice from the 1870s to the 1890s, and it put a lot of food on the table in those 110 plus years. I believe that Henry Repeating Arms can take at least partial credit for not only resurrecting the lever action market but taking it to new heights and bringing in a younger new generation of enthusiasts.”
Henry Repeating Arms expanded its operations in 2006 when Anthony Imperato acquired certain assets of a parts supplier named Wright Products, including their 140,000 square foot facility in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, which now serves as the company headquarters.
In 2021, the Wisconsin roots spread further with a new 85,000 square foot facility in Ladysmith. Now employing over 550 workers on a total of 335,000 square feet of production floor space, Henry is shipping over 300,000 guns annually, making it one of the largest American long gun manufacturers and the largest lever action producer.
The accomplishments have come despite massive challenges thrown up by nature. In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the waterfront Bayonne factory, causing incredible damage: a third of the roof blew off, and three feet of saltwater sloshed across 109,000 square feet of machinery and inventory. Yet, with determination and grit, the employees and several key vendors all dug in and got Henry back up and running in about three months.
While new company president Andy Wickstrom was announced in 2021, Anthony Imperato remains heavily involved in the business and its direction as the CEO. Representing the company is a passion for him and often a pleasant surprise to the customers who don’t expect replies directly from the founder. “The brand has been very personal for me since day one,” Anthony said. “If someone spends their hard-earned money on a Henry, we make certain that they are satisfied no matter what it takes. I would feel embarrassed if it was anything less than that. I have empowered our entire staff to do what is needed, and I don’t play Monday morning quarterback. When consumers tell us that they are so pleased with our customer service, we reply that if they are happy, we are happy. We were obsessed with customer service starting from the get-go. Not only did we set the bar in our industry, but I could confidently say our level of customer service can stand on top in any industry.” Excellent quality of the initial manufacturing allows for such policies to be sustainable.
Henry advertising and marketing were a complete departure from what was the norm 25 years ago, including TV commercials and infomercials long before the rest of the industry embraced mass media. On the internet, numerous grassroots fan and user groups sprang up as Henry built followings on Facebook, Intagram, and YouTube. Looking at the forums and discussion groups that focus on Henry’s firearms, a high degree of brand loyalty is evident.
A person buying just one Henry is relatively uncommon; more often, several Henry guns follow the first. Henry rifles and shotguns are also quite popular for special occasions and birthday gifts to spouses, kids, and relatives. This loyalty probably comes from two major factors. The first is the high quality and distinctive appearance of the products. A person gifting a Henry .22 to a teenager or a .44 Mag to a hunter friend can be confident that the recipient isn’t getting a lemon. That confidence is based on personal experience with the highly effective quality control backed by very eager and rapid customer service in the rare instance that it is actually needed. The other factor is the deliberate and close alignment of Henry’s corporate values with mainstream American values.
From the beginning, Anthony Imperato followed the idea of “Made in America or not made at all.” American designed and manufactured, Henry Repeating Arms employs many and provides firepower for many more. The most important American product Henry invests in is skilled labor. So when Wright Products, a key parts supplier from Wisconsin, planned to close domestic manufacturing, Henry absorbed their factory and part of their staff. That kept the brand all-America, and then-General Manager Andy Wickstrom eventually became the company president of Henry. And, speaking of presidents, George H. W. Bush once placed a personal phone call to commend Louis and Anthony for all they have done.
Henry Repeating Arms has long supported traditional American institutions in the sincerest way possible, with direct, highly efficient charitable donations benefitting organizations and individuals. Commemorative series and product donations to fundraisers have paid for urgent medical needs for kids, veterans’ associations, youth shooting s ports programs, civic organizations, and emergency services.
The total donated exceeds tens of thousands of rifles and millions of dollars. Conducted with minimal overhead expenses, these initiatives set Henry apart even in a firearms industry already known for civic virtue. “I grew up in my family’s police equipment shop,”Anthony said. “The store was directly across the street from the back of the NYPD headquarters. I saw and heard firsthand even as a youngster how tough it was to be a cop, and I have respected that ever since then. And even more so today. So honoring law enforcement, 1st responders, and some charitable endeavors for families of fallen officers is part of Henry’s DNA. We have also been honored to have created special editions marking the 100th anniversary of the Michigan State Police, the New York State Police, other anniversaries such as Kansas Highway Patrol, and special projects with the Las Vegas Metro PD, the Maricopa County Sheriffs Department, and many others. My vision is to one day return to the law enforcement business; I love it that much.”
Henry is a staunch defender of the Second Amendment. A strong supporter of youth shooting sports programs such as the Youth Shooting Sports Alliance, NRA Youth Programs, International Hunters Education Association, the Boy Scouts, 4-H, they have donated over 10,000 guns to teach youngsters firearms safety and competency.
Wildlife conservation is supported through partnerships with Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Rocky Mount Elk Federation, Pheasants Forever, the Mule Deer Foundation, Whitetails Unlimited, and many others. Perhaps most of all, Henry values and supports members of America’s armed forces, both active duty and veterans.
“Life is short, but your name and reputation live on forever,” Anthony said. “We treat people right, better than they expect, and do our best never to let them down.” Business is about relationships with customers and employees. It’s also about vision and problem-solving. After twenty-five years, the innovation at Henry is kicking into high gear.
Learn more about Henry Repeating Arms here.
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Writer Oleg Volk is a creative director and advertising photographer based near Nashville, Tennessee