Almost all of us have at least one .22, and many of us have several. Back in 1979 when I interviewed for my first job with Petersen Publishing, the late Howard French at Guns & Ammo asked a bunch of questions. One of them was, “Do you own a .22?”
Fortunately, I had a couple; he told me later that he wouldn’t hire anyone who claimed to be a shooter but didn’t own a .22. Exactly which .22(s) we own depends somewhat on budget, taste, and what hand-me-downs we might have. My mission here is to offer my picks of the five greatest .22s of all time.
I will tell you up front that I don’t own one of each, but these are all great rifles that have had significant impact in the shooting world.
I’m curious to see if you agree.
- Designed by John Moses Browning in 1914, this slick little .22 celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. This alone would be significant, but Browning’s SA-22 is just plain cool. It was not the first practical .22 semiauto; that honor goes to Winchester’s 1903 (which later became the 03, and then the 63). However, the Winchester, though well-remembered, is long gone. The SA-22 is still with us, and although always a fairly costly .22, more than a half-million have been sold. The SA-22 is extremely slim and trim and quite a bit different from most. The tubular magazine is carried in the buttstock, with loading through a port on the right side of the stock (as with the Winchester.) Thus, quite uniquely, the Browning operates and ejects through the bottom of the action. This keeps empties out of the way, although there is some chance for a hot case to go down your shirtsleeve. The lines are clean and unencumbered, and the lack of a side loading port offers a lot of surface for embellishment. As is customary with Browning over the years, numerous grades have been offered with engraving and spectacular wood, including the most recent Centennial edition with scrollwork, gold inlay, and an octagonal barrel…a fitting tribute to yet another of John Browning’s lasting contributions.