February 2007

Pricey .22 Plinkers: We Favor Browning’s Buck Mark Sporter

Lighter and quicker, with a better open-sight system, the Browning Buck Mark semiauto edged the space-age Walther G22 in a test of two firearms designed for fun shooting.

Just about anyone who has ever pulled a trigger will admit that there are times when their goal is to send a lot of lead down range with a minimum of effort and a maximum of fun.

Browning Buck Mark Sporter

Our testers thought the Browning Buck Mark Sporter (bottom) was both attractive and easy to handle. The rifle weighs just under 5 pounds with an 18-inch barrel and an OAL of 33.5 inches. Big plus: Bringing the fiber optic sights on target was very easy. Our first observation about the G22 was that the 28.75-inch rifle was heavy at 6 pounds with a 20-inch barrel. Other negatives included trig-ger creep and hard-to-see sights.

Call it "Rock and Roll" or just plinking, this type of shooting can be accomplished with about any firearm, but is best suited for what can be described as a cross between handguns and rifles.

Two models that fall in this category are the Browning Buck Mark Sporter, which lists for $572, and the Walther G22, available for $399. The Browning is more of a traditional cross breed in that the firearm is basically a version of the manufacturer’s popular handgun that has been adapted with a rifle stock and barrel; while the Walther features space-age technology in a "Bullpup" design that drastically changes the balance and handling capabilities of the little .22-caliber.

Both firearms utilize easy-to-load 10-round magazines and are capable of semiautomatic rapid fire favored by plinkers trying to punch holes in a target.

These two models both lend themselves to duty (where there are no legal prohibitions in place) as firearms that can be carried in ranch or farm vehicles for quick service as varmint eliminators. Optics such as red dot, laser or even a standard scope can be easily installed to improve their point-and-shoot capability.

To review the test firearms’ handling ability of a variety of ammunition, we selected several brands of .22 caliber long rifle bullets for our review. The ammo included CCI Standard Velocity and Federal Gold Medal 40-grain solids, and Punta Hueca 39-grain hollowpoints made in Argentina. The muzzle velocity of each of the rounds was about 1,200 feet per second.

Walther G22, Browning Buck Mark Sporter

Our two test plinkers were the bullpup-style Walther G22, $399, fore-ground; and the Browning Buck Mark Sporter, $572. The Browning is basically a Buck Mark handgun that accepts a rifle stock and barrel. Both firearms use 10-round magazines and are capable of semiautomatic rapid fire.

Targets used in our test were the Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C bull’s eyes and saltine crackers (birds and other varmints enjoy cleaning up the pieces). Here’s our test report:

Browning Buck Mark Sporter

.22 LR No. 021026102, $572

Other than the space-age look of the grip, this quick and light rifle features a classic appearance of a quality firearm with its lightly oiled walnut stock and forearm and matte-finished barrel and action.

Both attractive and easy to handle, the Browning was the immediate favorite among the old-school members of our test team.

The rifle tips the scale at just under 5 pounds, and though its 18-inch barrel is shorter than that of the other test rifle, the overall length of 33.5 inches provided a quicker pointing platform, we thought.

The large opening between the pistol grip and the stock and the slight rise in the comb of the stock caused our team slight problems in measuring the stock dimensions. We settled on a drop at the comb of 1 1/2 inches and drop at the heel of 1.25 inches.

Bringing the fiber-optic sights to bear on targets was easy for all our team members, a big plus for snapping off a quick, accurate shot.

The rifle’s length of pull of 15.25 inches was satisfactory for each of our shooters, and we liked the wood feel of the comb of the stock. Breaking at just over 4 pounds, the trigger pull was a little heavy for our tastes, but falls within the parameters of the standards found in most out-of-the-box rifles.

We were also particularly pleased with the accessibility of the action that allowed single shot loading with ease. We experienced no malfunctions with any of the ammunition, but removing a jammed round would have been easily accomplished.

Accuracy with the Buck Mark, using the open sights and a steady rest, was not as good as we had hoped. Our best 10-shot groups at 50 yards were about 1.5 inches in diameter and the rifle seemed to favor the CCI Standard ammunition.

As noted earlier, there were no malfunctions of any kind with the Browning. All of our shooters were right handed, so we found the magazine release and safety on the right side of the pistol grip were easy to use and very effective.

The magazine drop was smooth and quick each time it was released.

Because of the Buck Mark’s balance, shooting from the hip (always make sure you are firing in a safe direction) was both fun and acceptably accurate.

Overall, the Buck Mark fit all of our requirements as a fun gun.

Walther G22 .22 LR

No. WAR22000, $399

For the shooter with high-tech tastes, the Walther fills the bill with its space-age design and function.

Our first observation was that the 28.75-inch rifle was surprisingly heavy weighing in at 6 pounds with at least three quarters of the weight in the stock.

The action, magazine and spare magazine are all located behind the thumb hole in the stock, which accounts for much of the weight distribution. A little time was required for some members of our test group to adjust to this non-traditional operation of the rifle.

The blue steel barrel of the rifle is 20 inches long, despite the firearm’s short overall length, and the length of pull is 15 inches

The drop at the comb and the drop at the heel were exactly the same at 1 inch and this was within the comfort zone of our shooters after our adjustment time.

While we were pleased with the trigger pull of only 3.5 pounds, there was at least a quarter inch of creep before the trigger began to engage. We would recommend a trip to a gunsmith to remedy this situation.

The slide-up, rotating rear sight and high front sight, both solid black in color, did not provide a very acceptable sight picture. A base for installing optics on the rifle should be utilized if the shooter is interested in quick and easy target acquisition.

We were pleasantly surprised at the 10-shot groups produced with the Walther. The smallest group from a bench rest at a 50-yard target was 1.25 inches. Shooting the rifle from the hip, we found that the Walter was a little more difficult to put on a target than the Buck Mark, probably because of the Browning’s more traditional handling ability.

We encountered several malfunctions with the Punta Hueca ammunition when firing the Walther, which seemed to favor the Federals.

Bullpup Design

The bullpup design of the G22 meant that a lot of stuff was packed into the stock. The action (top center arrow), magazine (lower right arrow) and spare magazine (lower left arrow) are all located behind the thumb hole, which accounts for much of the weight distribution. A 20mm extension (top left arrow) adjusts length of pull.

The large, ambidextrous safety on the Walther is a very nice touch, as is the spare magazine in the stock. However, we did not find favor with the manner in which the bolt and action are located in the top of the stock. Access to any jam or malfunctioning shell is limited in this model, we feel.

Gun Tests Recommends

Browning Buck Mark .22 LR No. 021026102, $572. Our Pick.Although a little more demanding on the pocketbook, this is a quick-handling plinker that sports a very nice set of open sights. Acquiring the target, whether it was paper on the shooting range or small game, was very easy, and the Browning was a pleasure to carry and handle.Walther G22 .22 LR No. WAR22000, $399. Don’t Buy. We wavered in not recommending this gun, but compared to the Buck Mark, it has a comparably ineffective sighting system, a butt-heavy stock and trigger creep. Installation of a red-dot or telescopic sight would greatly improve this rifle’s target acquisition ability, and we think the G22 will need optics to compete heads up with the Buck Mark, which makes the out-of pocket price closer.

Some shooters, however, can correctly argue this gun should be a Conditional Buy, arguing its drawbacks wouldn’t keep them from seeing this firearm as a good, inexpensive plinker for those favoring its space age design. Our arms could be twisted on that point, but if it were our money, we’d still buy the Buck Mark hands-down.


Browning Buck Mark Sporter .22 LR

Walther G22 .22 LR

Gun Tests .22 Rifle Recommendations

Accuracy & Chronograph Data