Browning BL-22 Grade I 024100103 22 S/L/LR

The Browning BL-22 rifle is iconic and delivered on its reputation. The short-stroke lever makes follow-up shots fast. The fit and finish was superb, and that is reflected in the cost. Accuracy was the best of the three rifles tested. Trigger pull could have been lighter.

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Rimfire rifles are a lot of fun to shoot, with minimal expense, recoil, and noise. As one of our testers said, we believe in recycling plastic water bottles, but only after they has been properly perforated. Banging away at filled water bottles with 22 rimfires offers some exciting impacts and a lot of fun for novice and experienced shooters. We’ve had quite a few email requests to test 22 rimfire rifles, and we were specifically asked to test a Henry Classic Lever 22 and Browning BL-22 head-to-head. We also threw in the mix a Taylor’s Scout. With this match-up of 22 rimfire lever actions, we held our own against those pesky polymer water containers and discovered the reason we have so little 22 rimfire ammo on hand. The ammo shortage is not because we can’t find ammo to buy, it’s because we use up so much ammo in testing.

Besides plinking and fun, we feel that any of these rifles would also make great small-game hunting rifles or pest-control choices. Common features of these rifles include straight-grip wood stocks, exposed hammers, 14- to 15-round-capacity tube magazines, adjustable open sights, the ability to mount an optic, plastic buttplates, and no manual safeties. The rifling twist rate in the three rifles was 1:16 inches, which is the typical 22 rimfire rifling rate. The Henry and Browning offer a bit more versatility because they are compatible with Short, Long, and Long Rifle 22 rimfire cartridges.

How We Tested

Besides shooting the aforementioned plastic bottles, we performed our accuracy testing on ultra-bright fluorescent-yellow-and-red bullseyes on Thompson Target paper targets set at 25 yards. The black open sights on the rifles are easier to see on these targets. Ammo used included Remington Thunderbolt with a 40-grain lead round-nose bullet (LRN), a CCI Blazer 38-grain LRN, plus Winchester Xpert high-velocity rounds loaded with a 36-grain HP bullet. The latter is a hunting round. Using our range bag as a rest, we were able to shoot some nice groups with these rifles. In some cases, the group were one ragged hole. For our speed-shooting test, we placed White Flyer clay trap/skeet targets in various spots on a dirt berm at 35+ yards. The intent was to fire offhand and see how fast we could fire follow-up shots to pulverize the clay pigeons. As far as speed is concerned, the Browning stole the show with its short-stroke lever. We did notice the Henry took a bit longer to cycle, but its silky-smooth lever was still fast. We also noticed that we short-stroked the Taylor’s in the beginning after shooting the Browning and initially thought it was dud ammo. More on that later.

Loading the tubular magazines on these rifles takes more time when compared to a box-magazine-fed rifle, but the tube magazines offer four to five extra rounds. When we load these rifles, we do not fully remove the inner brass magazine tube. We just extend it to open the loading port. This way it does not get handled, so it does not corrode or get dirty.

After all the plinking and target work, in our opinion, the Taylor’s Scout, Henry Classic Lever 22, and Browning BL-22 Grade I all check the boxes for a fun-to-shoot rimfire. Still, we started to favor one over the others during our range sessions.

Gun Tests Grade: A- (OUR PICK)

$700

The BL-22 is one of Browning’s most classic and iconic rifle designs. It was introduced in 1969, originally manufactured in Belgium. Production moved to Miroku in Japan in the 1970s. Our sample is a new model Grade I, which means it has a deeply polished blued metal finish and high-gloss stock — typical Browning aesthetics. You can shave in your reflection in the stock and receiver finishes. The trigger is blued — gold triggers and checkered stocks come with Grade II variants — and it has a tasteful Buckmark logo engraved on the lever. Over the years, Browning has offered a variety of blinged-out BL-22 models depending on the bulge in your wallet.

Action TypeLever-action, exposed hammer
Overall Length36.75 in.
Barrel/Twist Rate20 in.; 1:16 RH twist
Overall Height6.87 in.
Weight Unloaded5.0 lbs.
Weight Loaded (22 LR)5.6 lbs.
Sight Radius15.25 in.
ReceiverSteel
Action FinishPolished blue
Barrel FinishPolished blue
Magazine Capacity15 LR/17 L/21 S
Magazine TypeTube
StockSmooth walnut
Drop at Comb1.75 in.
Drop at Heel2.25 in.
BeddingNone
ButtplateSolid plastic recoil pad
Length of Pull13.5 in.
Front SightPost w/brass bead
Rear SightFolding adjustable blade; receiver grooved for optic mount
Trigger Type/Pull WeightTwo-stage, 5.8 lbs.
Manual SafetyNone
WarrantyNone written
Telephone(800) 333-3288
WebsiteBrowning.com
Made InJapan (Miroku)
The Browning’s muzzle has a deep crown. Note the button on the inner magazine tube (arrow). Just press it and pull it out. No need to rotate. The Browning’s front sight is a small black post with a brass bead.

Out of the box, we saw that wood-to-metal fit was well executed. The rifle is lithe in hand. What sets the BL-22 apart from other lever-action rimfires is the short-throw lever. The BL-22’s lever arcs only 33 degrees to fully eject a spent shell, and the trigger pivots with the lever. Depending on your hand size and strength, you can cycle the action by opening your shooting hand and closing it. We found it super fast, and in fact, it spoiled us when we went back to the other lever actions. After using the BL-22 then the Henry or Taylor’s, we found we short-stroked the more traditional rifles. Because the trigger also travels with the lever, there is no fear of pinching your trigger finger during cycling.

That’s the fully open arc of the Browning lever. Note that the trigger travels with the lever.

The top of the receiver is grooved for mounting a scope. The iron sights are made of steel, and the front-sight base is dovetailed into the barrel. The rear sight has a notched insert that is adjustable for elevation with white-hashmark indicators. For windage adjustments, you need a hammer and punch to tap the sight over. Fortunately, the sights were dead on and did not need adjusting. The rear sight also folds to allow for scope clearance.

The Browning’s rear sight folds, and there is an insert that can be adjusted for elevation after loosening a small screw (arrow). For windage, you will need a punch and hammer.

The Browning sports a 20-inch barrel — the longest in the match-up — but it was also the lightest rifle by nearly a quarter of a pound. The extra barrel provides slightly more velocity, though this wasn’t significant, and a slightly longer sight radius. The BL-22 is chambered for not only 22 LR but also 22 Short and 22 Long cartridges. We function-tested with these shorter cartridges, though we did not have enough of these ammo lengths on hand to collect data. We loaded an assortment of Long Rifle, Long, and Short cartridges and ran the rifle, encountering no jams. The only thing we noticed was the difference in recoil and report with the rounds. We like this multi-round ability because we can load 22 Shorts for novice shooters to acclimate them to operation and firing and not distract them with the reports. Please note that if you do use Long and Short cartridges often, carbon will build up at the end of the shorter cases. This can cause extraction problems with the longer Long Rifle cartridges. The fix is simple: Remember to clean the chamber after using shorter cartridges.

The Browning had the longest barrel. Note the receiver is grooved for mounting claw-style scope mounts.

The hammer is wide, but smaller than the other rifles, and well textured. It also has a half-cock position and was easy to cock and uncock. The forend and barrel bands are polymer. Also, the interior of the receiver is polymer, to reduce weight and corrosion.

To load the BL-22, press the button on the inner magazine tube and withdraw it to open the loading port on the bottom side of the outer magazine tube. The loading port is shaped like a 22 rimfire cartridge to show the proper orientation to insert rounds. The end of the inner magazine tube is knurled so it is easy to withdraw it from the tube. We like the button that locks the inner tube in place. It is easier to snap the BL-22’s inner magazine tube in place than it is to twist the inner magazine tube on the Henry and Taylor’s.

With the Browning’s hammer fully forward, the shooter can still use the sights.

The trigger has a two-stage pull, with the first stage being a bit of take-up then a clean break. The trigger-pull weight measured 5.8 pounds, and we thought that was way too much. Despite this, the Browning proved to be the most accurate of the rifles, but as we said, that is splitting hairs. We did shoot a group with Remington Thunderbolts that measured 0.48 inches. The Winchester and CCI Blazer ammo had best groups that measured 0.58 and 0.74 inches, respectively. Average groups measured 0.6 to 0.7 inches. While speed shooting, we noticed we needed to place the toe of the stock in our shoulder to more comfortably operate and fire the rifle. If we didn’t, we had to bend our necks down so we could view the sights.

We did need to work the lever smartly and vigorously to ensure proper loading. When we babied the lever, we did have a few jams. When we worked the lever fast, we had no jams, even with a mix of 22 Short and Long Rifle ammo.

Our Team Said: The BL-22 was the most accurate of the three rifles, though not by much. If you are a Browning fan, then the BL-22 is your lever gun. We liked the short-stroke lever, but didn’t care for the trigger pull, which cost it a half grade. The high price is reflected in the exceptional fit and finish.

22 LR Range Data

CCI Blazer 38-grain LRNTaylor’s & Co. ScoutBrowning BL-22 Grade IHenry Classic Lever Action 22
Average Velocity1231 fps1285 fps1225 fps
Muzzle Energy128 ft.-lbs.134 ft.-lbs.127 ft.-lbs.
Smallest Group0.80 in.0.74 in.0.49 in.
Average Group0.86 in.0.77 in.0.76 in.
Winchester Xpert HV 36-grain HPTaylor’s & Co. ScoutBrowning BL-22 Grade IHenry Classic Lever Action 22
Average Velocity1179 fps1216 fps1267 fps
Muzzle Energy111 ft.-lbs.127 ft.-lbs.128 ft.-lbs.
Smallest Group0.93 in.0.58 in.0.59 in.
Average Group1.06 in.0.62 in.0.87 in.
Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain LRNTaylor’s & Co. ScoutBrowning BL-22 Grade IHenry Classic Lever Action 22
Average Velocity1173 fps1216 fps1214 fps
Muzzle Energy122 ft.-lbs.131 ft.-lbs.131 ft.-lbs.
Smallest Group0.35 in.0.48 in.0.64 in.
Average Group0.48 in.0.59 in.0.82 in.
To collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups from a bench using a rest. Distance: 25 yards with open sights. We recorded velocities using a ProChrono digital chronograph set 15 feet from the muzzle.

Value Guide: 22 Rifle Rankings

Gun NameIssueGradeComments
Savage Model 64 Takedown 40207 22 LR, $212Sept. 2020ABest Buy. Basically a Model 64 barrel and action attached to an abbreviated polymer stock.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown 11100 22 LR, $372Sept. 2020AOur Pick. This has all the performance the iconic 10/22 is known for in a compact package.
KelTec Model SU22CA 22 LR, $373Sept. 2020A-While not a true takedown rifle, the folding stock on the SU-22CA makes it easy to stow and go.
Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 22 LR, $500Mar. 2020ABest Buy. The Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 operated as we wanted and shot well. It won’t break the bank.
Walther Arms HK416 D145RS 578.03.01 22 LR, $583Mar. 2020BIf you’re looking for an M27 clone, it’s worth thinking about.
Anschütz MSR RX22 22 LR, $900Mar. 2020CThe Anschütz RX22’s trigger wasn’t the best, its buttpad fell off repeatedly, and no one liked its open sights.
ISSC MK22 ISSC211000 22 LR, $270Mar. 2020FShowed ongoing failures to feed and extract. The blems on the sides of the receiver put us off.
German Sport Guns GSG-StG44 GERGSTG44 22 LR, $330Feb. 2020AOur Pick. The action had very similar stampings to what you would find on the historical firearm.
Walther Arms Colt M4 Carbine 5760300 22 LR, $350Feb. 2020BThe Walther Arms Colt 22 LR M4 looks almost identical to the standard-issue Colt centerfire rifle.
Walther Arms HK MP5 A5 5780310 22 LR, $390Feb. 2020CAs tested, the stock limited the enjoyment of the firearm and was completely unacceptable for the price.
Chiappa Citadel CIR22M1W 22 LR, $300 (Two guns)Feb. 2020F, CWhile the Chiappa looks very similar to a classic M1 Carbine, too many of the parts were made of plastic.
TPS M6 M6-100 22 LR/410 Bore, $487Jan. 2020AOur Pick. The M6 follows in the footsteps of the previous M6 design and does it it better.
Rossi Matched Pair 22 LR/410 bore, $182Jan. 2020AWe liked the sights, the ease of disassembly, and handling of this gun. You get a lot of gun for the price.
Savage Model 42 Takedown 22440 22 LR/410 Bore, $425Jan. 2020B+The gun has some fine attributes: accuracy and simple disassembly/reassembly.
Hunting Tactical Super Sixty HTSSA1 22 LR, $500Nov. 2019AFrom the extended bolt release to the super-sharp 3.8-pound trigger, the Super Sixty is an exceptional rifle.
Adaptive Tactical Ruger 10-22 Build 22 LR, $635Nov. 2019AWe would have liked a better trigger, but we didn’t feel limited by it, as the accuracy results show.
Thompson Center T/CR22 12299 22 LR, $350Nov. 2019A-Reliable, accurate, and light. If we were grading for best truck gun, one of the raters said this is it.
Mossberg 715T 37209 22 LR, $254Nov. 2019B-Reliable, but the least accurate rifle, and the plastic shell didn’t look very good against the nicer rifles.
Savage MKII FV-SR Threaded Barrel 28702 22 LR, $248Jul. 2018A-Affordable and a great shooter. Shot lights out with the Eley subsonic load.
Ruger American Rimfire Standard 8305 22 LR, $309Jul. 2018B+This is a well-thought-out rifle with a lot of flexibility. We liked its cheekweld best.
CZ-USA 455 American 02114 22 LR, $373Jul. 2018B+Clean lines and the best shooter with the suppressor on. Would have liked a slightly higher comb or less pitch.
CZ-USA CZ 455 American 02110 22 LR, $400Jun. 2017ABest Buy. The CZ 455 is our pick as the best all-round, go-anywhere, do-anything bolt-action rifle.

1 COMMENT

  1. Your comments about only some of the lever guns being able to shoot .22 shorts, longs, and long rifle cartridges puzzles me. Unless there is a problem with the feeding why would they care? My old Marlin 39A will shoot them all. Comment: I have a Browning BL-22 and find it easy to bump the release button for the magazine follower and have it pop out unless I rotate it to where it is protected directly under the barrel.

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