Browning SA-22 Grade I Semi-Auto Rimfire Rifle
Browning SA-22 Grade I Semi-Auto Rimfire Rifle
Browning SA-22 Rifle– One of John M. Browning’s last designs, the Browning SA-22 Semi-Auto Rimfire Rifle has stood the test of time, providing shooters with a slim, lightweight, ultra-reliable, takedown .22 rifle with extremely innovative features. The SA-22’s receiver is machined from solid steel, and ejects cases out the bottom making it naturally ambidextrous. The receiver on the Grade I model is scroll engraved and has a high polished blued finish. The barrel also has a high polished blued finish, comes with a folding rear sight and a brass bead front sight, and is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. A gloss finished, checked walnut stock and forearm accentuates the SA-22’s fine lines, while bringing out the beauty of the walnut and protecting it from the elements. The Browning SA-22 Semi-Auto Rimfire Rifle breaks down just in front of the receiver without tools by turning a knurled barrel nut for convenient transport and storage. Once the barrel is removed, the trigger assembly can be slid out for cleaning and lubrication. The tubular magazine is loaded through a port in the side of the stock, and unloaded by removing the follower tube from the buttstock. This is a high-grade .22 rifle for serious small game hunting, as well as training and plinking, and because of its innovative takedown design it also doubles as a survival rifle that’s easy to take anywhere.
- Slim, lightweight, takedown .22 rifle
- Machined steel receiver
- Ambidextrous bottom ejection
- High polished blued barrel and receiver
- Folding rear sight and brass bead front sight
- Drilled and tapped for scope mounts
- Gloss finished walnut stock and forearm
- Breaks down without tools
- Tubular magazine
REVIEW: Browning SA-22 Rifle
When John Browning introduced his firearms company, he was looking for a medium to unleash his genius sporting designs. He was already an accomplished inventor, but after dozens of patents and military contracts, Browning wanted to focus more on his sporting weapons. Before his death, John began working on a revolutionary firearm which would see tremendous success for over 100 years. The Browning 22 Semi- Automatic Rifle (or SA-22 for short) was the first semi-auto rifle to chamber .22 long rifle ammunition. Since its debut, over 500,000 units have been sold. These rifles are incredibly easy to handle, making them the ideal starter gun for younger shooters. I’ve always had an affinity for Rimfire guns, so I naturally fell in love with SA22.
Browning’s other Rimfires are also noteworthy – check out our Browning Buck Mark 22 handgun review and Browning X- Bolt rifle review. The SA-22’s have become popular not only in use, but as collector’s items, especially in Belgium. One of the major reasons for this increased popularity is due to Browning’s several grade options which we’ll discuss more in depth below. Browning SA-22 Rifle
I remember when my dad first brought home an SA22; it was the first rifle I ever shot, and I’ve held onto it after all these years. That’s the kind of rifle these are –they are rich in history, crafted artfully and are more than just a machine. Let’s get down to business and review yet another Browning masterpiece here at Gunivore.
Browning SA-22 Rifle Specs
• Model: Semi-Auto 22 Grade I.
• Caliber: .22 LR.
• Overall length: 37″.
• Barrel length: 19 3/8”.
• Weight: 5 lbs. 3 oz.
• Capacity: 10.
• Twist Rate: 16”.
• Sights: Blade front/Folding leaf rear.
• Barrel/Steel material: Steel.
• Safety: Cross-Bolt.
• MSRP: $699.99.
The Browning Semi–Auto 22 rifles may not look like your run of the mill rifle, but that’s because they aren’t. In fact, I can’t think of a single weakness or flaw in the build of these rifles. These guns changed the industry when they were released and have managed to stay relevant even after all of these years. Their durability can be seen in their forged-steel receivers – their style in the gloss finish American Walnut checkered stock – their accuracy in their adjustable sights with a gold bead front – and their practicality in their auto-loading action and takedown design. All-around, it’s hard to find a more well-rounded rifle at this price level.
Yes, there are plenty of nicer firearms out there, but for the specific intended uses of the SA-22, I don’t think there are many better options. With this Browning, I know I have a weapon I can trust. With over a hundred years of engineering put into them, their functionality comes as no surprise. In all my years, I’ve never experienced any jamming or misfiring. Nevertheless, you must keep your gun clean – check out our overview of firearm maintenance.
One of my favorite features of the SA-22 is that it’s a takedown gun. This means that it was designed to be taken apart, significantly reducing its size and making it easier to transport. I love this because I’ve used my SA–22 for varmint hunting for years, and it packs up so easily. In short, you get the advantages of having a longer rifle without any of the burdens of carrying it. Additionally, the sleek and stylish forged-steel receiver and barrel break down into two compact units without any tools. If you weren’t convinced at this gun’s aptitude as a hunting companion, you certainly shouldn’t have any doubts now. Browning SA-22 Rifle
I’ve already discussed how well these rifles were built, but does that translate into an impeccable shooting experience? In short, I think the SA-22 is the easiest .22 rifle to shoot and definitely the easiest to carry. With one of the smoothest actions I’ve ever encountered, these rifles are as simple as point and shoot. Right out of the box, this is one of the lightest and easiest varmint hunters on the market.
I’ve grown to love the bottom eject that Browning incorporated in these too; the SA22 ejects spent cases downwards to keep gasses and projectiles from hitting the shooter’s face while firing. By the way, this feature makes it a great option for lefties and righties alike. Last but not least is the trigger; the Grade I’s blued trigger is crisp and clean even after firing thousands of rounds. It’s hard to beat the Browning Semi-Auto .22.
Browning SA-22 Rifle Accessories
It’s worth it to pick up a good scope for your SA-22. I recommend checking out the Nikon Prostaff 3-9X5 scope or EOTECH Vudu Scope; check out our review of EOTech’s line of optics. Interestingly, I’ve seen a few guys throw on a red dot sight on their SA-22’s –if that’s your cup of tea, then check out the Burris Fastfire III
Browning SA-22 Rifle Grades Explained
If you look at the Browning Catalog, you’ll note that there are several different grades of the classic Semi-auto 22 rifle. First and foremost is the difference in price! For example, the Grade I goes for a modest $700 and the Grade VI can go for an average of $1600! Besides for their price tags, the real differences between the grades are the types of engraving on the receiver and types of wood used in the stock/forearm. The higher the grade is, the higher the quality the engraving and wood will be. The Grade VI has a beautifully designed game scene engraved with 24 karat gold accents. For the most part, the Grade I is the weapon of choice and the higher grades are more like collector’s items.
Browning SA-22 Rifle vs. Ruger American Rifle
I’ve seen experts compare the Browning SA-22 to the likes of the Ruger American Rifle, but I’m not sure if it’s a fair comparison. For starters, they appeal to very different types of shooters. Namely, the Ruger is a bolt-action and is much less expensive compared to the Browning. Also, the Ruger is a relatively new weapon; part of what makes the SA22 so great is the history that comes with it. Furthermore, the Browning has a much larger capacity. Nevertheless, the Ruger is capable of chambering nearly a dozen different cartridges (some of which have higher capacities) which is a huge plus. Both of these guns are incredibly lightweight and accurate, but besides for that, I don’t think it’s a fair comparison.
It’s hard for me not to love these rifles. I grew up shooting the Browning SA-22 and I plan to carry on that tradition with my children. They are the perfect gun to introduce to new shooters, especially younger children. Besides for the great history, the 100 years of SA-22 production has culminated in a weapon that is the perfect balance of sturdy and elegant. It shoots accurately and even looks good while doing it. If you can afford the Browning SA-22, I don’t see any reason not to add it to your collection. Browning SA-22 Rifle
REVIEW: Browning SA22
By ALEX LUFFO FROM gunsdiscreetsupplies.com
When I was a kid I used to go to the fun fair for two reasons; 1 – the dodgems and 2 –the 22 rimfire shooting gallery; you can proberly guess which I preferred? It was just a case of getting rounds down range; equipment choice generally consisted of the Winchester Model 62 pump-action and the Browning SA22 semi-auto rifles . If ever there where a pair of classic rimfires these were it!
Both guns are still available today – A Winchester copy is made by Taurus of Brazil and the SA22 still by Browning/Miroku and it’s this that’s on test. Back then the guns were loaded by the stall owner and handed over for us to shoot, so I had no knowledge of the workings – just butt in the shoulder and pull the trigger. Though aware of the SA22 I have never shot one since and more out of nostalgia I thought it was about time I did! However the design does offer some interesting, unique and unusual features.
Like so many inventions of John Moses Browning (JMB) the SA22 was a first, being the first production 22 semi ever. It rolled off the line at FN Herstal in Belgium in 1914 until production was shifted to Miroku of Japan in 1976 where it’s still made today as are a number of Browning/Winchester rifles and shotguns. It’s estimated that over ½-million guns have been sold since its inception. Build is 100% old school with an all-steel receiver and walnut furniture only and chambered in 22 Long Rifle (LR). Feed is from a 10-shot tube magazine, which is mounted in the butt as opposed to under the barrel like the Winchester 62.
Different yes; but it also means you can easily fit a moderator unlike the Model 62 and similar as the mag tube gets in the way when loading. Another advantage is the ability of the rifle to use any mix of 22 rimfire ammo – Short, Long and of course the longest – LR! Due to the straight-line feed system where cartridge overall length (COL) is not critical unlike a box mag system. Though the LR seems to be the standard for modern 22 rifles, the ability to drop down to say a 22 Short sub-sonic for certain roles is attractive. Browning SA-22 Rifle
DOWN AND UNDER
If you’re not familiar with the layout the SA22 can be a little initially confusing as it appears to have no cocking handle or ejection port. Crafty JMB placed this all on the bottom in a bid to reduce gas and debris being blown into the shooters face; we’ve all been there on side ejecting guns and it’s annoying! This also means that empties eject downwards, which can be a mixed blessing as hot 22 shell casing are not the sort of thing to be rolling around your shirt! The cocking handle is simple; a cross-lug at the front of the bolt, which is easily operated by either trigger finger. The outcome of this design is very much an ambidextrous layout, which would bring a smile to confirmed lefty Jules Whicker’s face!
Now a feature I’m not really sure is required is the fact that the SA22 has a quick removable barrel. Sounds cool I admit and on such a diminutive design it breaks down into a very compact package. Saying that it’s a tiny little rifle anyway with a 20” barrel, a length of 37” and weighing 5lbs 3oz; petite might be a better word. The barrel is retained by an interrupted thread with a sprung catch at the front of the receiver keeping it in position.
This is not a switch barrel as say a Blaser R8 and it does bring its own problems and solutions to the party. First there’s no provision for fitting a scope mount on the receiver, which is the most logical location for it short of gunsmithing. Second; iron sights are fitted to the barrel and they are basic with a windage-adjustable blade up front and a folding U-notch at the rear. Good enough for shorter ranges but not precise! OK I accept that the SA22 was made in a time when scopes did not exist as we know them today and .22 rimfire hunting was a much shorter range affair.
There is however a solution as you can get a cantilever scope base that screws onto the rear of the barrel. Which means and oddly like the Blaser R8; optic and barrel come OFF/ON as one. However, at the time of testing Browning could not provide one, so all shooting was within the limitations of the irons! Browning SA-22 Rifle
The rifle is well blued and the sides of the receiver on this the standard (Grade 1) model are lightly engraved. The walnut is of good quality and finished in a heavy varnish, which can get dinged all too easily. The butt shows a rounded pistol grip and the forend is bulbous, both areas being nicely chequered. At the rear is a slim, steel butt plate with a cut-out in the middle so you can access the magazine follower.
From the box the rifle needs assembling, which is easy enough though you must bear in mind it has an adjuster collar to ensure the most secure barrel lock up and engagement. It locates by an interrupted screw thread. Holding the rifle with the ejection port upwards slide the barrel assembly into the receiver at 3 o’clock position when it’s fully flush rotate it to 6 o’clock until the catch at the rear of the forend engages with the cut-out in the receiver. If it’s too tight or loose then you have to rotate the adjuster collar accordingly until it’s snug. I did find the rifle had the tendency to slack off a tad with repeated removal and replacement of the barrel. Though a take-down 22 semi is probably a clever idea I’d just as soon as have a fixed version for simplicity and certainty, plus it would mean a scope over receiver option too!
To load; the muzzle needs to be pointed down at an angle of at least 45° so that gravity assists the rounds dropping down into the tube magazine. Rotate the lug at the rear of the follower tube in the butt plate and pull it out until it stops. This opens up the tube for insertion, now drop the ammo, nose-first through the aperture in the right side of the butt. Once full (don’t forget to maintain the angle) push the follower back in and lock it, occasionally I found the tube stuck, which might have been down to a rim hanging up inside, but pulling it out and returning it sorted that. Browning SA-22 Rifle
As can be visualised the column of cartridges goes up and over the bolt and feeds from the roof of the receiver. It is a very practical and natural design with no worries about rounds being pushed rearwards to be picked up by the bolt or box mag issues.
For the test I used three types of Winchester 22 Long Rifle, I don’t use or have any 22 Short but it would have been nice to see if it worked the action, which I think it would. There were X-Pert (match), good old Sub-Sonics and the high velocity Lasers. Reliability was 100% with these three different loadings! It was quite odd to not see fired case pinging off to the right but instead bouncing off the shooting bench. Accuracy; well out to 50-yards the front blade is slim enough to drop a round in a rabbit’s chest but you’d be luckier than certain on a head shot. Though easily capable at 100 yards the irons are just not up to it for a certain humane kill every time. But like I said a rifle made in a time where irons were the only equipment and ranges were close. Browning SA-22 Rifle
The compact weight and size of the SA22 endear it to me no end as it’s sweet and handy, and its integral tube magazine feeds reliably and in truth is good enough for a rabbit gun, plus it’s hard to lose! However there’s no automatic last round or manual hold open facility, nor sling swivels and you need a dedicated scope mount. Doubtless symptoms of the age it was designed in! However, the price is excellent given the build quaoity and materials used!