If an old school plinker is your desire, the Browning Challenger III could be the gun for you. Made between the 1960s and 1980s, the Challenger was created in response to the Ruger Mark II. Up until that point, .22 LR pistols were primarily made for hunters; but the Ruger Mark II and Browning Challenger changed that, marketed towards recreational shooters.
Browning Challenger III Specs
In looking at the aesthetics, one can see an attention to detail in its styling — a contrast to predecessors. Rounded beavertail, curves cut in the slide, and a unique stepped sight all lend to a more pleasing appearance. In true Browning style, it also has the iconic gold trigger and medallion.
The 5.5-inch bull barrel is coupled with target sights while the rear sight is adjustable. It’s worth noting, the front sight is stationary. Interestingly, the rear sight is attached to the barrel to improve accuracy, which does make racking the slide very awkward. The bottom-fed magazine is true to its era with 10 rounds. The alloy frame, however, was innovative for the time. Hefty in the hand at 35-ounces, the weight does help when steadying on distant targets and transitions.
Shooting the Browning Challenger III
How was it on the range? The Challenger feels nice in the hand and the grip angle is natural. I tested the Challenger on an array of steel plates and noticed that transitions and precision shots were easy. It felt like an extension of the hand.
The trigger has a long pull and is on the heavier side, compared to other .22 LR match pistols. I adapted to this quickly and feel this pistol would be a great one for beginners. In fact, there are endless stories about the Challenger being the first pistol for many.
For all its perks, the Challenger is ammo sensitive. I had to go through a variety of ammunition to find what worked best. Keep in mind, though, .22 LR is notorious for being finicky so this was no surprise. I started with my trusty ole Remington Bucket O’ Bullets, which is a less expensive high velocity round. Unfortunately, Remington didn’t work so well. I bumped it up to high-velocity CCI rounds which didn’t yield different results.
Moving down in velocity to 1,240 FPS with Federal helped smooth out some issues but it wasn’t perfect. Finally, I discovered with standard velocity 1,200 FPS Federal ammo, the Challenger performed best. It seems this gun prefers standard velocity rounds, most likely because when the pistol was first introduced high-velocity rounds were not prevalent.
This classic .22 LR pistol is sure to please. The Browning Challenger III is a staple in the plinking world, capable of sporting, hunting, and bullseye shooting. Replaced eventually by the popular Buck Mark, the Challenger is still a fun throwback living up to its name.