Lever-action rimfires can be a lot of fun for kids or adults, whether it’s popping a can along the ground (with a safe backstop), punching holes in paper, or knocking a rabbit down at 100 yards. We recently tested a trio of entertaining lever-action rimfires to find out which one shot the best, operated most smoothly, and was easiest to carry. Our products were: Chiappa LA322 Standard Carbine 920.383 22 LR, $290; Henry Golden Boy Model H004 22 S/L/LR, $500; and a Rossi Rio Bravo RL22181WD 22 LR, $300.
Besides the straight-grip wood stock and exposed hammer, these rifles had other similarities, such as a 15+ round-capacity tubular magazine, adjustable open sights made of steel or plastic, and they came optics ready. Overall, our test guns delivered good accuracy at short ranges, and they delivered better firepower than bolt guns. Moreover, because they are manually operated, they can feed and eject more reliably than many semi-autos. Even so, one of the guns had some function problems, as we relate below.
The Henry gun will fire 22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle ammo. However, the shooter should use discretion when firing 22 Shorts in it. A continuous diet of this ammunition will cause carbon build-up at the end of the Short case, and in worse-case situations, they will cause a ring to form in the chamber. This ring will cause extraction problems when Long Rifle is later fired.
Accuracy testing was conducted using our range bag as a rest. We fired at black and red 3-inch bullseye Splatter Targets (10/$11; SplatterBurstTargets.com) placed at 15 yards. The black open sights on the rifles were fairly easy to see on these targets, and the range data attests to our ability to see the target and aim consistently. Ammo used included Remington Thunderbolts with 40-grain lead round-nose bullets, CCI Blazer 38-grain LRNs, and CCI “Stangers” with 32-grain copper-plated hollow-point bullets. The Stangers are a hot round, with a factory muzzle velocity of 1640 fps. In real life, it is a lot less. CCI doesn’t list the length of the test barrel in its data, but our data shows muzzle velocity in the range of 1435 to 1498 fps — less than factory data, but still cooking along. We also fact-checked the CCI Blazer’s factory muzzle velocity factory data, which states 1235 fps. Our data ranged from 1155 to 1229. Remington Thunderbolt factory data states 1255 fps, and we recorded 1111 fps to 1165 fps. Our test barrel lengths were 20 inches with the Henry, 18.5 inches with the Chiappa, and 18 inches with the Rossi. The Rossi, with the shortest barrel length, produced the most velocity with all the ammo. Accuracy was very good with these rifles, with 15-yard groups forming one ragged hole, in most cases. With an optic mounted, we know groups would be even smaller.
We also used our range bag as a rest to slice playing cards. We cut a vertical slit in the cardboard and inserted a card in the slit. Initially, it took a few shots to get our dope. The diameter of the 22 LR bullet is small, so if you are a bit off, you just nick the card. With all three rifles, we were able to hit the cards on their edges. Some cards we hit multiple times before a shot flicked the pieces onto the ground.
For our speed shooting test, we placed an 8-inch paper plate at 15 yards and ripped through a magazine as fast as we could manipulate the lever. We found some of the rifles were faster to operate than others, and with all three rifles, we found it easy to keep hits on the plate.
Tubular magazines offer extra rounds compared to a box magazine, but tube magazines take more time to load. We loaded these rifles by pulling out the inner brass magazine tubes just enough to open the loading port. All the loading ports are cut out in the shape of a cartridge, so loading should be idiot proof. We also mixed up ammo in the magazines to try and trip up these lever actions. All fared well except for the Chiappa LA322, which choked on ammo a few times and had a few soft primer hits.
We like this Italian version of the Marlin Model 39A, but we can’t say we have total confidence in this rifle. The Henry Golden Boy is good, but it is heavy and the pitch in the stock did not allow shooters to get a good cheek weld. We like the looks of the Henry, and you’ll pay for them. The Rossi Rio Bravo was a pleasant surprise, and it gets our nod as a Best Buy, even with some cheap-looking plastic parts. Here’s what we thought about this trio in more detail.
Gun Tests Grade: B
The LA322 looks a Marlin Model 39/39A and breaks down like the Marlin, but internally, they are different guns, and the receiver of LA322 is made of a cast non-ferrous alloy. The Marlin was made of steel. The forend ring and the front-sight assembly are made of polymer. The hammer was in-the-white steel.
|Action Type||Lever action, exposed hammer|
|Overall Length||35.5 in.|
|Barrel||18.5 in. long; 1:16 RH twist|
|Overall Height||7.2 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||5.5 lbs.|
|Weight Loaded (22 LR)||7.3 lbs.|
|Sight Radius||15.5 in.|
|Magazine Capacity||15 LR|
|Drop at Comb||1.6 in.|
|Drop at Heel||2.3 in.|
|Length of Pull||13.7 in.|
|Front Sight||Black polymer post w/hood|
|Rear Sight||Adj. steel semi-buckhorn rear; optics ready|
|Trigger Type/Pull Weight||Single-stage, 2.1 lbs.|
|Manual Safety||Half cock|
The right side of the receiver features a captured take-down screw. The screw can be loosened and tightened without the need for tools because the edge is knurled for a sure grip. A slot is also cut into the take-down screw to use a coin, knife spine, or standard screwdriver to loosen the screw if you gorilla it too tight.
To take-down the rifle, ensure it is unloaded and swing the lever into the open position. Then loosen the take-down screw and pivot the shoulder stock up and away from the barrel assembly. The rifle breaks down into two pieces, though the firing pin may fall from the bolt. The take-down makes it easier to store the rifle, but note the mechanism is now exposed and could be a magnet for dust and dirt. We would stick the exposed ends of each half into a clear plastic bag before stowing them into a backpack or duffle bag. The biggest advantage of this take-down feature is that it allows the rifle to be stored in a smaller space. Also, this take-down design provides access to the chamber end for easier cleaning.
We felt the fit and finish were okay. The wood overlapped the tang of the receiver by an eighth of an inch. There was also a gap between the barrel band and the forend. The hammer had a fine serrations to confidently cock it back without slipping. The trigger is smooth-faced and made of steel, while the lever is made of aluminum. The lever loop was small compared to the Henry’s and Rossi’s. The entire receiver wears a matte-black finish.
The iron sights feature a hooded plastic post front sight and a fully adjustable steel notch buckhorn rear sight. The top of the receiver is grooved to accept 3⁄8-inch base rings for mounting an optic. We thought the front sight was a tad too wide, but that didn’t stop us from nicking the five of clubs.
The LA322 uses a half-cock safety position for the hammer. When the hammer is at half-cock, the hammer is blocked until the hammer is thumbed all the way back.
The magazine inner tube uses a rubber gasket to secure the tube in place. Just rotate the inner tube a quarter turn. A pin in the inner tube mates with a notch and groove in the outer tube to lock the two pieces in position. The loading port is cut for a 22 WMR, and we worry if some “rocket scientist” would try to load the longer shell. We suggest Chiappa decrease the size of the loading port so only 22 LR or shorter rounds will fit in the slot.
Shouldering the LA322, we found it to be very comfortable. The rifle is also lightweight at 5.5 pounds and short, only 35.5 inches long. It is lively in the hands. We thought this rifle would be well suited for small-stature shooters.
However, things started to go sideways with the Chiappa LA322 with the first magazine. We had two failures to feed that required using our EDC knife to dislodge the jammed up cartridge. We tried to narrow down the issue to one cartridge, and it happened more often with the Remington Thunderbolt ammo with a 40-grain bullet. We had two more additional failures to feed, but we also were able to run the rifle with numerous magazine reloads with no issues. We also experienced a few soft primer hits with all three ammo types, but we did not have the same issue with the other rifles. Last, the ejected empty cases were bulged at the base, which tells us the cartridge is either not fully supported in the chamber or the head spacing is off.
After some fits and starts, we were able to get the Chiappa running and collect data. We found it shot 6 inches low at 15 yards. We adjusted the rear sight higher, and we were dead on afterward. We worked the lever vigorously, and it ran well. Our best group measured 0.35 inches with the Remington ammo, and next best was the CCI Blazer, measured at 0.65 inches. On average, the LA322 shot from 0.59 to 1.16 inches across all ammo. During speed shooting, the rifle ran like a champ. We nicked playing cards with the rifle. The trigger had no creep and broke at 2.1 pounds. There’s no wonder why we shot tight groups with the LA322 — the trigger was light, and the rifle was easy to aim. We did notice the trigger guard and loop were small. Forget about shooting the LA322 with gloves, unless they are made of latex.
Our Team Said: We liked the way the LA322 shouldered and handled when it was running. It also had good accuracy. The bulged cases make us suspect the rifle is out of spec. We decided to ship the LA322 back to the Chiappa for repairs. We’ll keep you posted. We can’t recommend this rifle due to its malfunctions.
22 LR Range Data
To collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups from a bench using a rest. Distance: 15 yards with open sights. We recorded velocities using a ProChrono digital chronograph with the first screen set 15 feet from the muzzle.
|CCI Blazer 38-grain LRN||Rossi Rio Bravo||Chiappa LA322||Henry Golden Boy|
|Average Velocity||1229 fps||1155 fps||1198 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||127 ft.-lbs.||113 ft.-lbs.||121 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||0.78 in.||0.65 in.||0.64 in.|
|Average Group||0.96 in.||0.88 in.||0.72 in.|
|CCI Stangers 32-grain CPHP||Rossi Rio Bravo||Chiappa LA322||Henry Golden Boy|
|Average Velocity||1498 fps||1435 fps||1483 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||159 ft.-lbs.||146 ft.-lbs.||156 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||0.33 in.||0.93 in.||0.35 in.|
|Average Group||0.49 in.||1.16 in.||0.50 in.|
|Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain LRN||Rossi Rio Bravo||Chiappa LA322||Henry Golden Boy|
|Average Velocity||1165 fps||1140 fps||1111 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||121 ft.-lbs.||115 ft.-lbs.||110 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||0.55 in.||0.35 in.||0.50 in.|
|Average Group||0.61 in.||0.59 in.||0.64 in.|
Value Guide 22 Rifle Rankings
|Browning BL-22 Grade I 024100103 22 S/L/LR, $700||Sep. 2021||A-||Our Pick. The fit and finish were superb, and that is reflected in the cost. Accuracy was the best of the three.|
|Henry Classic Lever Action 22 H001 22 S/L/LR, $386||Sep. 2021||A-||Best Buy. The Classic 22 Lever Henry is well made, fun to shoot and inexpensive. Accuracy was good.|
|Taylor’s & Co. Scout RIF/2045 22 LR, $594||Sep. 2021||A-||Styled after a resized Winchester Model 1873. We liked the option of adding an optic. Silver finish is striking.|
|Savage Model 64 Takedown 40207 22 LR, $212||Sep. 2020||A||Best Buy. Basically a Model 64 barrel and action attached to an abbreviated polymer stock.|
|Ruger 10/22 Takedown 11100 22 LR, $372||Sep. 2020||A||Our Pick. This has all the performance the iconic 10/22 is known for in a compact package.|
|KelTec Model SU22CA 22 LR, $373||Sep. 2020||A-||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, $500||Mar. 2020||A||Best 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, $583||Mar. 2020||B||If you’re looking for an M27 clone, this one is worth thinking about.|
|Anschütz MSR RX22 22 LR, $900||Mar. 2020||C||The 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, $270||Mar. 2020||F||Showed 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, $330||Feb. 2020||A||Our Pick. The action had very similar stampings to what you would find on the historical firearm.|
|Walther Arms Colt M4 Carbine 5760300 22 LR, $350||Feb. 2020||B||The Walther Arms Colt 22 LR M4 looks almost identical to the standard-issue Colt centerfire rifle.|
|Walther Arms HK MP5 A5 5780310 22 LR, $390||Feb. 2020||C||As 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. 2020||F, C||While 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, $487||Jan. 2020||A||Our Pick. The M6 follows in the footsteps of the previous M6 design and does it it better.|
|Rossi Matched Pair 22 LR/410 bore, $182||Jan. 2020||A||We 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, $425||Jan. 2020||B+||The gun has some fine attributes: accuracy and simple disassembly/reassembly.|
|Hunting Tactical Super Sixty HTSSA1 22 LR, $500||Nov. 2019||A||From 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, $635||Nov. 2019||A||We 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, $350||Nov. 2019||A-||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, $254||Nov. 2019||B-||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, $248||2018-07-01 00:00:00||A-||Affordable and a great shooter. Shot lights out with the Eley subsonic load.|