GUN TESTS GRADE: F (1st Sample)
GUN TESTS GRADE: C (2nd Sample)
The U.S. Carbine, Caliber .30, M1 is one of the iconic weapons fielded by the U.S. Army in WWII. Designed as an intermediate arm between the issue 1911A1 pistol and the M1 Garand, the semi-automatic M1 was intended as a lightweight, defensive arm for support troops and specialist front line troops (tankers, radiomen, paratroopers, and officers). The M1 Carbine fired the .30 Carbine round (7.62x33mm) with 110-grain FMJ bullets at a velocity of 1990 fps with 967 foot-pounds of energy out of an 18-inch barrel. In comparison, the 1911’s 45 ACP produced 356 foot-pounds of energy and the M1 Garand produced 2656 foot-pounds of energy. The 36-inch 5-pound M1 Carbine is very handy, and the light recoil makes it easy to shoot. These traits make the M1 Carbine a favorite among modern-day shooters and collectors. This popularity, and the age of the platform, also makes buying a historical M1 Carbine an expensive proposition. An unaltered vintage piece in good condition will likely cost more than $1,000, and one in excellent condition can costs two to three times as much. What is a shooter to do if he wants to enjoy the M1 Carbine experience, but not spend thousands of dollars?
That is where the Chiappa M1-22 comes into play. A blowback, semi-automatic 22 LR replica of the famous M1 Carbine, the Chiappa certainly looks the part and is much more affordable at $249, a recent price at BudsGunShop.com. Our M1-22 came in a simple cardboard box with two 10-round magazines, a chamber flag and a basic manual with very few illustrations. A minor gripe about the manual is that the opening historical note clearly confuses the M1 Garand with the M1 Carbine.
The Chiappa M1-22 weighed 4.7 pounds, about half-pound lighter than the real thing, and at 35 inches long overall, it was very close to being a historically accurate sizing. The magazines are made of a sturdy polymer and could be loaded to capacity, but they lacked any kind of thumb assist to facilitate easier loading. The wooden stock is of the later “low wood” configuration and include the classic oiler sling-mounting system (though an oiler is not included). While fairly well fitted, the wooden upper handguard rattled. The stock was simply finished but could have used additional sanding.
The 18-inch barrel had a flat crown that might be vulnerable to damage. The metal elsewhere was well finished; however, we believe there is a lot of cheap, low-quality plastic on this gun. Plastic parts include the bayonet lug, front barrel band, operating rod, trigger group, and sights. The last two items raised a concern. The sights are adjustable and could see a lot of wear over the years. In particular, the rear sight caused concern because the windage screw was metal fitted into plastic, and the peep sight slides up and down a ramp with plastic detents. This will almost certainly wear poorly.
A bigger problem is the trigger group, or more specifically, the controls that are part of the trigger group. The safety is flimsy and does not inspire confidence, our testers said.
Our sample rifle was actually the second rifle procured for the test. The first rifle suffered a failure of the magazine release button. As a result, the first gun was inoperable and it was removed from the test. While this would likely be fixed under warranty, we have an obligation to provide full disclosure of our testing experience. As owner disassembly is not advisable, we recommend the use of a pull-through cleaning rope to clean from the breech.
Once we had procured a usable sample, testing began with an enthusiastic testing group. Everyone commented on how light and handy the M1-22 was to hold. Our smaller shooters really liked holding the Chiappa. While not as exotic as the StG44, the M1-22 still got a lot of interest on the firing line. Working the action was light, but a little notchy. The sights were easy to use and adjust, with protective ears for the front post. The peep-style sights made target acquisition quick and accurate, with a long sight radius of 22 inches. The single-stage trigger on the Chiappa was surprisingly good at just under 7 pounds, with little take up, a crisp release, and little overtravel. The later-style lever safety swings 180 degrees, with Safe being in the forward and down positions and Fire to the rear. While there is a discernible click at the bottom position, the firearm is historically accurate with no markings to indicate firing readiness. The magazine inserted easily but did not drop freely when released. The magazine reliably held the bolt open when empty, but the historically accurate bolt-hold-back button did not consistently continue to keep the bolt open. In fact, the bolt would usually close as soon as the magazine was released. Still, the magazine-bolt hold open prevented dry firing, which is important to preserve the firing pin and chamber in a rimfire. The rifle was accurate, with hits on the 50-yard gong easy to secure. The Aguila and Federal ammunition proved very reliable, but the Winchester suffered about a 30% jam rate. This pickiness is common behavior for a semi-auto rimfire. Because the other two brands encountered no issues, this was not considered to be a critical fault.
In formal accuracy testing, the M1-22 performed very well with the Aguila 40-grain RN ammunition, with 0.7-inch average groups and Federal 40-grain RN with 0.9-inch average groups. This rifle did not perform well with the Winchester 36-grain HP load, averaging the worst group of 1.6 inches and frequently jamming. This specific rifle did not care for the Winchester ammunition in any way. Again, this sort of ammunition preference is common behavior for a 22 LR semi-automatic firearm. Still, the Chiappa proved to be very accurate with the loads it preferred.
Our Team Said: The older testers appreciated the historical accuracy of the Chiappa M1 Carbine replica. The rifle found favor with our smaller shooters due to the petite dimensions. It had a good trigger and was very accurate with the ammunition it liked. However, quality issues are a serious concern. Poor material choices in the name of economy prevent this carbine from meeting expectations. Research also uncovered multiple reports of earlier versions of the rifle suffering catastrophic action failures. While these were evidently covered under warranty, we strongly recommend caution if buying an early example. Our own experience with the magazine release of the first sample also concerned us. While the gun had much potential, safety and quality issues prevent us from recommending the Chiappa M1-22.
Written and photographed by David Tannahill, using evaluations from Gun Teststeam testers.