A Nurse with a Gun

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Browning 22 Auto

One of the last masterpieces designed by John Moses Browning was a humble sporting rifle. Unique among rimfire rifles, the The Browning 22 Auto was first produced by Fabrique Nationale in 1914. The proportions of the rifle are golden. Slender and light, it is easily handled by both young shooters and adults. A tubular magazine in the stock holds eleven long rifle rounds. A gold bead graces the muzzle with a simple flip up rear sight. The rifle quickly breaks down into two pieces for easy storage and transport.

Today, the Browning 22 Auto is manufactured in Japan. It is available in several grades, with different levels of finish and wood quality. Click to enlargeEven so, the Grade 1 version, with a relatively non-descript polished walnut stock bearing cut checkering and an engraved blue receiver stands out above other 22 rifles. Even in the least expensive version the craftsmanship is pure quality. The prices range from $500 for a new Grade 1 rifle, to the stratosphere for custom Belgium antiques.

Because of the price, the Browning rifle is not a common gun in the woods during squirrel season. That is a shame. The rifle is accurate and quick to sights, a perfect small game hunting companion. Modern versions have the barrel drilled and tapped for a scope mount. There have been copies of the take-down 22 available, most notably by Norinco, but they never had the fit and finish necessary for the design to function with long term reliability.

The Browning 22 Auto ejects straight down. It chambers the next round as if by magic. For the unwary, hot brass down a long sleeve can cause the once famous Browning 22 dance. In a lot of ways, the Browning 22 Auto is an aficionado's gun. There are less expensive 22 rifles available that are just as accurate, namely the Marlin Model 60, and others that are more versatile, namely the Ruger 10/22. For the small game hunter who wants a 22 that will last forever and hold it's value well, one that will break down for easy packing while maintaining accuracy after assembly, the Browning masterpiece can not be beat. I was fortunate to find one in good condition bearing a price of $129 on an unknowledgeable pawnbroker's rack. I have found it to be worth much more than I handed across the counter.

Browning 22 Auto Owner's Manual (pdf)



Anonymous Travlin said...

Thanks for good write-up, and the link to the manual. That covers the details well.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Isaac PC said...

Congratulations on your latest acquisition. I've gotten good deals here and there, but nothing quite like that. Keep the barrel warm!

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Billy Sparks said...

My Browning 22 Auto is one of the very few guns my father gave me for Christmas. He has been dead for 6 years now and I cherish the plain Grade I Browning as though it was embosed with gold and diamonds.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I purchase one of these rifles new a couple of years ago, and to say I was disapointed would be an understatement.

When I took it to the range, I quickly discovered the cut in the stock to feed ammunition into the magazine tube was not large enough.

I fed the ammo through the back of the stock and after about 50 rounds the gun loosened up at the retaining nut. Adjusting it made no difference.

Fortunately, I live close to the Browning warranty station. They fixed the cut in the stock, and replaced the lock nut, but it made no difference... after firing less the 50 rounds, the rifle would still loosen at where the barrel and receiver met.

Disgusted, the gun no resides in my gun safe where it looks nice, but is never shot. I'd sell it tomorrow if I could get what I paid for it.

In my opinion the best 300 dollar 22 rifle is the Winchester 94/22. If I could have only one 22 rifle it would be the 94/22. If you can find one for a reasonable price, I would encourage you to pick one up...very nice; much better than the Browning BLR (which feels like a toy to me) or the Marlin 39 (which doesn't have near as smooth action and that ugly checkering yuch!).

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Veovius said...

Nice write-up :) I just got my dad's sa-22 that he left in storage for 10 years. 3 range trips and I'm still getting used to it. I'm a new shooter, and with iron sights, I'm doing 1/2" to 1.5" at 25 yards. What can I expect accuracy wise?

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Keith said...

There is (or used to be) a .22 short version. You could not get .22LR to go into its mag. It was designed that way, to save frustration further down the line.

there are a few tricks to get the lock nut really tight, but don't over do it! remember that a lot of bench rest rifles just have the barrel screwed in by hand, no wrenches needed.

I'd better add, my experience was with the Belgian made rifles.


11:13 AM  
Anonymous Engraved Pens said...

I have browning.22 rifle is in near perfect condition. I’d call it 98%, only because it is used. I do not have the box or the manual, unfortunately i have to part with it because i am going overseas. Its a early Japan grade II which is hand engraved. Both metal and wood are near new one very very light mark on left side of stock

5:24 PM  
Blogger Meagan and Ryan said...

How do you lock the action or bolt back on this rifle?

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My grandfather bought a new Belgium model in the mid 60s, it's manuf. date was in 1964. I learned to shoot on the rifle and can't wait for my dad to finally decide to hand it down to me. This is an amazing firearm, and I proud to say it's still in use in the woods from time to time.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Belgian made .22's are a class rifle, just handle and shoulder a fine example of one and you will understand the quality that is in them. Complaints seem to be about the Japanese made ones. Kind of a luxury item but you are getting something special if you can find one in at least near-excellent condition. Do not buy a beater one. You will regret that when you realise what a nice one could be.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Elk Killer said...

My great grandma had one that she cherished dearly it was an honer to my dad and uncle to touch it let alone shoot it. Two years ago he picked one up at the Local gun store for $675 it is a blast to shoot I used it shooting jack rabbits in eastern Oregon and was knocking them dead. This is definentally a great gun for thoughts of smaller stature, but fits me just fine.

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the Japanese built model and have hauled all over
Alaska and it's been a great little gun , recently however
My dad passed and I inherited his Belgium made one
And it has quickly become my favorite . But I have not been able to determine the date of maufactor , the serial number
Is stamped on the bottom of barrel just in front of the
Forpiece .

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I picked up a used Browning .22 automatic rifle this past weekend at a local swapmeet for $320, I got to shoot the weapon yesterday, a great little gun and you definately see the quality compared to the China made copies, the gun had belonged to a senior in a retirement home, which I could believe as I don't think the gun internally had been cleaned in ages, gun patch was pitch black !The Browning is great, but for the best dollar value today, I still say the Ruger 10/22 is the best for your average person, target, small game hunting and survival, thats only my opinion !

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today i purchased a Browning SA22 grade II. It is new and had been sitting on the dealers wall for i guess ages. Anyway, I have not shot or handled a gun since i was in basic training over 45 years ago. I started with pistols about three months ago and decided to try a rifle. My Uncle gave me a Ruger 10/22 and it has been sitting in my closed for years. But, for some reason, after reading all of the reviews i decided on a Browning. It was expensive, but i thought since i was only going to buy one rifle and i wanted a 22, i would go for it. I went to my buddy's house and we went out and took both my Ruger and Browning. I shot the Ruger first. It had never been fired except for one shot, i guess at the factory. It was nice. Comfortable. Nice. Then i used the Browning. OMG. What a masterpiece. It just feels so good in your hands. It just does. It is comfortable, very well balanced and shot sos perfectly. I think this gun is the gold standard and i may just not ever be able to get another like it. if you are thinking of a 22lr, look no further. Go try this out. Get to feel it in your own hands because until you hold one you just won't understand.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Bushman said...

I bought my Belgian made Browning in 1967 for $97. I have used it on jackrabbits and other animals in Ohio, California and Arizona. It has performed flawlessly in all conditions. I would not part with this beautiful piece.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous ggrimes2 said...

I presently have 3 of these rifle in my collection. One example is a very rare gallery model .22short only in VG condition. The second is an late 50's productiion standard model both of these are Belgium made. The last is an older Jap Grade II. All are some of the best shooting and handling of the .22 rifles. I love these guns and even at the price they are am excellent value. Just try to find one used: most folks (myself included) will not part with one. As always fit, finish and function are perfect the only problem I ever heard of is in this forum from a single blogger. I also have a Marlin model 70, Remington Nylon 66, 541T and 550A, Winchester 77-22, Ruger 10-22, DCM purchased target rifle, Walther G-22 (a pos), and a springfiled semi-auto I's sure I missed a couple BUT my fav remains the little Browning.

10:56 PM  

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