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Big Game Rifle
Rifle Magazine
September - October 2001
Volume 33, Number 5
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 197
On the cover...
The Zeglin takedown Winchester (USRAC) Model 95 has interchangeable barrels for the .375 Hawk/Scovill and the .411 Hawk. See "Spotting Scope" for details Photo by Gerald Hudson. Whitetail deer photo by John R. Ford.
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Browning’s involvement in the Buckmark series of pistols goes back to the old Medalist days. Back then target shooters could have a finely crafted Medalist target gun complete with fancy target grips, weights to enhance the balance and a fitted compartment case, or the sportsmen could purchase the Challenger or Nomad, both dependable handguns that for the most part were only separated by minor features and a difference in barrel lengths.

Until 1974 you could still purchase a high-quality Browning rimfire pistol, but in 1975 the catalog failed to include these very desirable rimfire semiautomatics. In 1976 most of the fancy, engraved and tuned target guns were gone, and one page was devoted to the Challenger. Half that page was copy and one photograph that described the Challenger II; half of that again helped to promote the 9mm Hi-Power. The word “new” was never used in any of the hype, instead one model was featured in .22 rimfire complete with a barrel length of 6 3/4 inches. Gone were the checkered grip panels, instead “Impregnated Hardwood” (read laminated) was furnished at a retail price of $134.50.

Many years went by, and obviously Browning was not that interested in the .22 rimfire pistol market. In fact, year after year the same copy ran in all the ads until 1982 when the first change was made in the pistol lineup. The new Challenger III was offered complete with a bull barrel, new lightweight frame and laminated grips. This was the start of what we now call the Buckmark series of .22 rimfire pistols.

In 1985 a Buckmark was formally introduced on the pages of the Browning catalog. Coined as a low-end gun - in price - the Buckmark featured a bull barrel, plastic grips and no-nonsense sights, which added up to a value package for budget-minded shooters. Over the years the line has expanded to over 16 models that encompass target, plinking and hunting pistols in just about every conceivable configuration. One look at this extensive lineup and you would think Browning had reached the end of the road on model variations - until now.

In the spring of 2000, we learned of a newer and very unique variation of the Buckmark. To quote some text from Browning’s initial ad sheet, “No, it’s not your favorite .22 pistol. It’s your new favorite .22 rifle!” Over the years I’ve certainly had my share of very different rifle designs, but I can’t remember anything like this. In short, what Browning has done is combine its best selling Buckmark frame and action with a larger barrel and a unique buttstock. Almost out of the pages of the Wild West but with a twist toward the future, this new variation will surely please .22 rimfire buffs countrywide. To add even more temptation, this new rifle is made in the good ol’ U.S.A. for Browning by Arms Technology of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Presently, Browning is making two different models. One, called the “Sporter,” is equipped with an 18-inch tapered sporter-weight barrel. Complete with open sights courtesy of Hi-Viz, this Buckmark Sporter checks in at a handy 4 pounds, 2 ounces sans scope, rings and ammunition. The other model, called the Target, has a .900-inch heavy bull barrel, no sights and weighs in at 5 pounds, 4 ounces. In the hand it feels right and for long-range shooting at ground squirrels is perfect for the task. The Target model is the one received for evaluation.

My first impression was the rifle reminded me of something everyone should have considered during the Y2K fiasco. Short and very handy, this Buckmark rifle can be carried about the house and down narrow hallways without even knowing it’s in your hand. After about an hour of using this Buckmark on the range and in heavily saturated ground squirrel country, it soon became apparent it is truly a rifle for the serious rimfire hunter.

The rifle is comfortable to hold and shoot. Some have a love-hate attitude with thumbhole or shoulder stocked rifles, and so be it, but this one might change a few minds. The area behind the rear part of the grip frame is wide open to allow instant access to the rifle even with gloves on. There are no add-ons to attach or misplace, and the buttstock, complete with a moderate monte carlo, fits every shooter I gave it to.

Because the buttstock is a forged part of the grip frame, it is rock solid. In picking up the Buckmark rifle, your hand naturally goes into this opening and around the pistol grip without hesitation. Following that, the gun is raised to the shoulder, the finger placed on the trigger and the sights lined up for a quick dispatch.

Fit and finish on the Buckmark rifle is excellent, as it should be in this modern age of CNC machines and strict quality control. All metal parts mate without undue gaps around the receiver and frame. The complete rifle is finished in a satin blue that compliments the wood parts perfectly. Finish on the wood could also be termed as satin, while it lacks the high brilliance usually found on higher-grade Brownings.

Length of pull is longer than usual, 15 1/4 inches, but doesn’t come across as being this long simply because of the thumbhole configuration. Wood I’ve seen on more than a random share of samples is quite good, about “select” in grade, all with better than average color and overall grading. There is no pistol-grip cap because of the magazine, and the forearm is long and slender, which could lead to a wider or beavertail design as an add-on later. A cheekpiece is absent and a plastic buttplate completes the new stock work. Wood grip panels are standard, match the other woodwork very closely and are fitted with a Browning deer medallion. Browning seems to have gone to great lengths making sure all three wood parts (forearm, buttstock and grip panels) match in color and grain.

The action is the Buckmark pistol adapted to a rifle configuration. Blowback in operation, this semiautomatic rifle will fire one round at each pull of the trigger. The magazine holds 10 rounds, and when the last round is fired, the action will remain open. Removing the magazine only requires a touch of the magazine release that is located at the rear of the trigger.

Additional operational controls include the slide release and safety, both located on the left side. Designed for ease of operation, the safety locks the trigger and slide when in the up position. To fire, simply flip it downward. For convenience, there are twin tabs located at the end of the slide to facilitate pulling the slide even under the   tight confines of a scope and bases. Trigger pull on the sample broke at 4 1/2 pounds with a minimal amount of creep.

In the field or at the range the only operational glitch I found was that it was nearly impossible to reach the slide release due to the thumbhole configuration. The bulk of your hand is blocked by the thumbhole itself as you stretch for the slide release, thereby limiting your reach to this important lever. The remedy is simple - move your left hand back from the forearm and push down on this lever releasing the slide. One other thing. For those who are thinking of replacing the 18-inch barrel with a shorter barrel from your Buckmark pistol, forget it! Not only is it illegal, but also Browning engineers have designed the new rifle with just enough of a difference in the frame area to not accept pistol barrels.

Before departing for the range, I mounted a Leupold 3-9x Compact Rimfire scope that is made for moderate rimfire distances. Most of us consider the rimfire a close-in cartridge, and that’s perfectly acceptable.

I ran through a number of .22 Long Rifle ammunition brands, and although temperatures varied 30 to 40 degrees between the Browning- sponsored hunt near Elko, Nevada, and at the range near my home, the rifle and ammunition performed without a hitch. All groups were shot at 25 yards, and while the rifle is designed to shoot .22 Long Rifle ammunition for the best in operation, I spoon fed some .22 Shorts and Longs. Five-shot groups with Remington .22 Short and CCI Long ammunition never strayed over 2 inches, which is not bad, but with the preferred .22 Long Rifle ammunition groups were better than average, much better.

Remington standard High Velocity .22s registered one-inch groups at an average of 1,258 fps. Winchester Super-X made 3/4-inch, five-shot groups at 1,142 fps - a 25 percent smaller group size. So-called hyper .22s have been my choice lately as they reach a bit farther and are more efficient on “larger” small game like close ranging woodchucks and gray squirrels. A box of older CCI Stingers hit the screens at 1,569 fps with 1 1/4-inch groups. Finally, Federal Spitfires clocked 1,380 fps with a one-inch group, followed by Remington’s popular Viper delivering a 1 1/4-inch group pushing 1,318 fps.

In this day and age of the same type rifle designs being seen in every gun rack, the Browning Buckmark is indeed a breath of fresh air. The rifle is very practical and would suit those needing such a gun on a roving trap line. With a retail price set for around $518 and with two versions available, the shooter can choose to fit his specific purpose. Using the Buckmark rifle on the range and in the field for extended periods proved it deadly, very accurate and really fun to shoot.

For more information contact Browning at One Browning Place, Morgan UT 84050.

Awesome Art
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