March 28, 2011

H&R 1871 Ultra Hunter No. SB2-808 308 Winchester

The concept of a single-shot rifle for modern usage goes back quite a few years. Despite the advent of repeating firearms, the single-shot rifle has always held its own, from the Sharps down to the H&R Ultra rifle tested here. Many makers have put together some very fine and also some not-so-fine single shots on a great variety of actions. We acquired one of the U.S.-made H&R 1871 Ultra Hunters in 308 (SB2-808, MSRP $374). We tested the 308 with three types of ammunition, Remington 180-grain Core-Lokt, Winchester 150-grain Power Point, and Winchester Supreme 168-grain HPBT match. Here’s what we found.

Harrington & Richardson, currently owned by Remington, still makes its guns in the U.S. Our 308 Ultra came with a sturdy laminated stock with a durable finish, thick but firm recoil pad, matte blued metal, and a 22-inch medium barrel. This was a no-frills package, though the stock was quite attractive with its non-glare finish and decent checkering. The gun opened by a press-down button to the right of the hammer. Opening and closing the action was a bit stiff, but it loosened somewhat during our test sessions. The barrel had a rail for Weaver-type bases, secured with three Torx screws. No scope rings were provided.

Not much came with the rifle but a padlock and a hammer extension for scope use. No sling, no scope rings. The instructions told us to be sure to mount the hammer extension before installing a scope. We tried, but failed. The 8-32 threaded hole in the extension was not tapped cleanly all the way through. We had to run a tap in there and only then could secure the extension to the hammer.

Although there's nothing fancy here, this U.S.-made rifle got our respect. About all we'd change would be to get the trigger about 2 pounds lighter. This is solid value in a no-frills rifle, and we came to like and respect it.

The hammer operated through a striker bar that was raised by pressing the trigger. The rifle could not be opened if the hammer were cocked, but it was possible to cock the hammer with the rifle open and then close the rifle on the cocked hammer. Because the rifle cannot fire unless the trigger is pressed, the latter situation is not as alarming as it might otherwise be.

We could not help but notice the stock felt clumsy in the controlling hand. The pistol grip was big and fat and not to our liking. We’re sure the H&R is very strong, and if you don’t like the stock you can opt for a thumbhole stock, for slightly extra cost. The company website ( indicates you can get a thumbhole stock on the blued Ultra test rifle, but doesn’t give prices for anything.

The metal finish throughout had a brushed look, or the result of surface grinding. This was pleasant, and provided a matte surface for the excellent bluing. The forend iron and trigger guard were hard polymer. The forend wood was finished internally, and was fitted around a stout stud that was spot welded to the bottom of the barrel. This stud accepted the single large Phillips-head screw that secured the forend to the rifle. The trigger pull was clean but way too heavy at 6 pounds.

We had a little trouble with the hammer extension, but got it mounted. It is reversible, so the rifle is ambidextrous. A low-powered, light scope sight would make this into a superb all-around rifle, wherever a single shot is appropriate.

We mounted our Leupold 16x tactical scope and headed to the range. We began with the Remington ammunition, and made some three-shot groups of around 3 inches. The Winchester 150-grain did better, around 2 inches. Finally the match ammo gave us the smallest group of this test, 0.7 inches, with an average of 1.4 inches. This rifle shot all three types of ammunition respectably, if not majestically. The trigger was a terror, and it needed to be several pounds lighter. We wonder how much better we might have shot with a better trigger.

Our Team Said: We thought the rifle needed an ejector, though picking the empties out of the H&R was a bit easier than with the CVAs. Some might want a mushier recoil pad, but we liked what was on it, and particularly liked the excellent fitting of the pad to the stock. Although we liked the feel and looks of the Apex and even the Scout more than the look of the H&R, we would buy this rifle over them in light of its reasonable performance. We thought it was a solid, sound rifle that didn’t ask for much, and gave plenty of performance for its modest cost.

Comments (8)

I have a 270, 45-70, and now a 35 Whelen. I too had problems with the 270 with the shell extractor. Sent it in, it came back no change. I traded it off on another one that doesn't have the problem. Great and "handy" rifles.

Posted by: Yoda | April 17, 2011 4:11 AM    Report this comment

Mauser Fan, was your 7x64 Bren rifle equipped with an ejector? Not all Handi-Rifles are equipped with ejectors, some have extractors. While an ejector forcibly removes the spent shell, an extractor only pushes the shell out far enough so it can be grasped and manually removed.

Posted by: Mister E | April 2, 2011 1:06 PM    Report this comment

I bought one of these sleepers decades ago (Handi-rifle - same except walnut stock with schnaubel forend) in 30-30 to complement my Winchester 94. Reloaded my own spire point bullets (carefully segregated from the 94 ammo!) and got amazing accuracy out to 300 yds, which is really pushing a 30-30. Liked it so much I sent the receiver back to H&R to be fitted with .357 iron sighted barrel and a .223 which is bored in the same blank creating in effect a heavy barrel.
At the same time they offered to do a trigger job at no extra charge - something to do with a youth marksmanship program they supplied rifles for way back then where it was part of the standard prep. Pull is now a clean 2 lbs.
The .357 is an outstanding centerfire plinker and a great training piece for a newbie, but the .223 has never lived up to my somewhat lofty expectations. The experimentation with different loads may occupy me for many years. This article has me thinkin' about getting it fitted with a .308 barrel, hmmm...

Posted by: Dragonchow | March 31, 2011 3:04 PM    Report this comment

have 4 handyrifles.had problems with one in 7X64 Bren.--would not eject. returned to company and advised I was using Rem 175 grn ammo. a month later I got it back stating they replaced the ejector and polished the chamber (it was blued inside and still blued when returned). Fired cases still would not eject. Overlooking the blued receiver/deciever crap I emailed them and asked what kind of ammo they test fired. I was advised PMC, Federal, and Hornady. Called Federal to locate a dealer that would carry this caliber and was advised they had not made 7X64 in 20 years. I called Hornady and they advised they had never ever made 7X64. By now Im pissed and called H&R service dept and the then Manager hung up on me. A letter to the CEO was not answered. I waited about 5 years and sent the rifle in again but did not mention the earlier fiasco. It was returned in good working order and no BS about polishing the chamber. This transpired about 2001-2006. All my rifles shoot reasonably well especially the 45/70 which is exceptional.

Posted by: mauser fan | March 31, 2011 2:23 PM    Report this comment

I got 3 of these: A 45-70 wood stock, Iron sights, 17HMR, wood, straight stock, peep sights, and a .223, wood stock, Reflex sight. Each has it's own personality, and I love them all. They have grown to be my favorite guns, and all shoot extremely well. I do like the old beaver-tail fore-end over the newer design though.

Posted by: Mister E | March 31, 2011 12:58 PM    Report this comment

I own this rifle, or variations of it in calibers from .17MachII all the way up to .30-06, with about about seven different ballistic variations along the way. It has become my only hunting rifle of choice, even though I have a safe full of other options. It is so nice to be able to get a receiver set up the way you want it, including some trigger polishing if you like, and then just change out the barrels to suit the conditions or game du jour. I will often select the .30-06 for brush stalks for deer, then switch to the .270 should my afternoon hunt take me to a stand that overlooks a broad open field. I even have different scopes on my two .30-06 barrels to allow me to fine tune my gear to the conditions, game, and field of fire. I LOVE these guns. The only trouble I have ever had is with the ejector on one barrel, and I'm pretty sure it's dirt down in the ejector hole that I have not gotten out yet. Never a misfire, and I've never needed the second shot.

Ed Clark

Posted by: Edward C | March 31, 2011 10:50 AM    Report this comment

I haven't shot the 308 but have shot H&R's version chambered in 45 Colt. 50 yard accuracy through factory installed irons with mild lead reloads was superb, 50% better than my 45LC Rossi lever action. The 45 Colt version for a range toy. Is great way of sharpening one's shooting skills with iron sights. Guns, like tires, you get exactly what you pay for. The economical cost of the entire H&R line are all simply an excellent value. Paper targets never return fire or run away so an immediate follow up shot is never necessary.

I'm still anxiously awaiting the arrival of H&R's 45/70 Buffalo Classic. If you see the Buffalo Classic available via Davidson's jump on it as they go quick. I got the email notification from Davidson's early in the morning while I was at work. By the time I got home to place my order they were all gone.

Posted by: zivendine | March 31, 2011 10:42 AM    Report this comment

My understanding is that, unlike most manufacturers, H&R does not stress-relieve the barrels of their rifles.

Posted by: Gregory D | March 31, 2011 10:02 AM    Report this comment

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