Browning BL-22 Grade II Lever Action .22 LR
The Grade II is one of five BL-22s offered by Browning for 2008. The Grade II is scroll engraved on the receiver and has a gold-colored trigger. The Grade I tested in December 2006 lacks the II’s scroll engraving and checkering on the walnut, but the Grade I MSRPs for a lot less, $494. Browning’s most expensive lever rimfire is the BL-22 FLD Grade II Octagon, $786, which a silver-nitride finish, octagonal barrel, and a front gold bead. Because the Grade II comes at a $150-ish premium to the Marlin and Henry, we wondered if those extra dollars would turn into enthusiasm in our evaluation.
Our Grade II test gun came with a Western-style straight-grip walnut stock with grip and fore-end checkering and a high-gloss polyurethane finish. Wood-to-metal fit was excellent on the gun’s two-piece stock. Elsewhere on the gun, we noted that all the blued metal was highly polished and looked great.
Reloading all three guns was a common and easy process. Each magazine tube had a catch (a pushbutton for the Browning and twist-catches for the Marlin and Henry guns), which when released, allowed the shooter to pull the tube out of the gun and open a slot in the magazine so rounds could be fed in. All three were equally fast and trouble free, we thought, but we really missed slapping a rotary magazine in, like on Ruger’s 96/22.
The 20-inch barrel’s muzzle OD was 0.530 inch at the crown, which was recessed, a feature that the Marlin and Henry lacked. Open iron sights, with a sight radius of 15.4 inches, were included. The rear sight was screw-adjustable for elevation, and the rear-sight base was dovetailed in and would have to be drifted for windage changes. It can be folded down to ease scope installation in the integral rimfire grooves (3/8 inch Weaver rings) on top of the receiver—an invitation to a lightweight optic like a dot sight, for those of us who can’t make out the sliver of a front sight.
The slim forend, with its front barrel band, was comfortable to use. The Browning BL-22 had a 13.5-inch length of pull and a 0.25-inch-thick black-plastic buttplate. We preferred the Marlin’s rubber buttpad because it stuck in the shoulder better.
The trigger pull was creepy and heavy at 6.7 pounds, which undoubtedly affected the gun’s accuracy, along with the very thin front sight, which was all one medium-gray color (where’s the Grade II Octagon’s gold bead!). It was very hard for some shooters to make out, but testers with good eyes had no trouble. In rough terms, we think of the Browning as being a 2-inch iron-sight gun at 25 yards, shooting two 2.0-inch group averages and one 2.3-inch average.
The lever’s short-throw 33-degree movement allows the shooter to eject and reload cartridges without dropping the gun off the shoulder then having to realign the gun sights, but the slippery buttplate hindered this feature. Also, when shooting lots of rounds, we noticed the lack of pitch and drop at heel made us want to put the toe of the stock into the shoulder to get the gun up to the eye. If we didn’t do that, then having to sit down on the stock caused some discomfort in the lever hand, because of the odd angle the head/stock/hand alignment caused.