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: A (OUR PICK)
The Golden Boy looks like a scaled-down Winchester Model 1866, also known as the Yellow Boy. This is an adult-sized rifle with heft and length. It weighs 6.7 pounds unloaded and is 38.5 inches long. The Golden Boy is a bit muzzle heavy, but that helps when shooting for speed. Shouldering the Golden Boy, we noticed immediately the drop of the comb on the stock did not allow for a cheek weld. We needed to rest the edge of our jaw on the comb. If this were a centerfire rifle with more recoil and this drop and pitch, we’d look like Mike Tyson sucker-punched us, but in 22 LR, rimfire recoil is was very tolerable, and we learned to shoot it that way, and quite frankly, we had a ball with the Henry. The lever cycled smoothly and nearly effortlessly, and the weight of the rifle allowed us to stay on target in speed shooting. We also nearly split the king of clubs with it, too.
|Action Type||Lever-action, exposed hammer|
|Overall Length||38.5 in.|
|Barrel||20 in. long; 1:16 RH twist|
|Overall Height||8.7 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||6.7 lbs.|
|Weight Loaded||8.6 lbs.|
|Sight Radius||17.0 in.|
|Magazine Capacity||16 LR|
|Drop at Comb||3.1 in.|
|Drop at Heel||4.3 in.|
|Length of Pull||14.0 in.|
|Front Sight||Brass bead post|
|Rear Sight||Adj. semi-buckhorn rear; optic ready|
|Trigger Type/Pull Weight||Single-stage, 3.5 lbs.|
|Manual Safety||Quarter cock|
|Warranty||100% satisfaction guarantee|
Out of the box, the wood-to-metal fit was excellent. It sports a shiny brass finish on an alloy receiver that attaches to the carrier with slotted brass-finish screws. Henry does a much better job with cosmetics than Rossi. The lever, trigger, hammer, barrel, and magazine tube are blued. The stock and forend are American walnut. A brass buttplate is fitted to the stock, and a brass-colored barrel band held the wood to the octagonal steel barrel.
The iron sights are made of steel, and the front blade with a brass bead is dovetailed into the barrel. The rear sight has a notched step that allows for adjusting elevation. For windage, you need to loosen the set screw and use a hammer and punch to knock the sight either left or right. The rear sight can be removed to allow a cantilever scope mount ($27.50; HenryPride.com). We liked these iron sights, and, in fact, we did good target work with the Golden Boy.
The Golden Boy 20-inch barrel was the longest in the match up, and we assumed the extra barrel length would provide slightly more velocity. We found, however, the Rossi’s 18-inch barrel bested the Henry and Chiappa with higher velocity and energy.
The hammer is wide and well textured with serrations. It also has a quarter-cock safety position that locks the trigger. The trigger is also serrated.
Loading the Golden Boy was the same as the others, with a brass inner magazine tube and steel outer magazine tube. It also used a rubber O-ring to snug up the inner tube. The loading experience was the same across all rifles. Unlike the other rifles, the Henry is compatible with 22 Long and 22 Short ammo. Though we kept the playing field level by just using one caliber with all three rifles, we approve the fact that the Henry is compatible with other 22 rimfire ammo.
The one-stage trigger had no take-up, then broke cleanly at 3.5 pounds. The range data stands on its own. A 0.35-inch best group with CCI Stangers, 0.50 inch with Remington Thunderbolt, and 0.62 inch with CCI Blazers. Darn good shooting. During speed shooting, we welded the side of our chin on the comb to comfortably operate the rifle. The aforementioned paper plate didn’t have a chance. We were able to easily keep groups inside 8 inches.
Our Team Said: The Golden Boy shines for a lot of reasons: good looks, smooth operating lever, nice trigger, good sights — we can go on. The Henry was the most expensive in the test, but we really like this rifle. It is Our Pick.
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.|