|September - October 2001
Volume 33, Number
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.
Brownings 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 Brownings
initial ad sheet, No, its not your favorite .22 pistol. Its your new
favorite .22 rifle! Over the years Ive certainly had my share of very
different rifle designs, but I cant 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 its 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 doesnt come across as being this long simply because of the
thumbhole configuration. Wood Ive 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
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.