Folks collect guns for any number of reasons – history, esthetics, practical shooting, nostalgia, and last but certainly not least – financial investment. We’ve been spending a goodly amount of time recently examining classic rimfire pistols, and few out of production families of repeating pistols draw more awe than the earlier Brownings, especially the Belgian-production guns. Here’s a closer look at what a certified firearms appraiser looks for – and avoids – when shopping for Browning rimfires

Defining Belgian Rimfire Pistols…and Beyond

What exactly do we mean when we say “early” Browning rimfire pistols? That’s a reference to the holy triumvirate of the Nomad, Challenger, and the Holy Grail that is the Medalist. All are .22 LR semi-automatic pistols. In the hierarchy of original price, Browning pricing and build levels started on the more budget-friendly end with the Nomad, stepped up to the Challenger, and maxed out with the fully featured, artful Medalist. 

The history of the Browning rimfire pistols is a storied and extended one with deep roots in fine firearms design. The basis reaches back to a John Browning design around 1914 that became not only the Colt Woodsman, but also a whole host of other similar rimfire handguns. By 1960, Bruce Browning found ways to modify the design for a then-modern market while simultaneously saving on production costs. Those changes gave birth to a trio of still-beloved Browning and FN pistols – the Nomad, Challenger, and Medalist. 

Browning Rimfire Pistol
Whether you are a hard-core collector or just a practical Browning fan looking for unique plinking guns, there are some great classic rimfires still around if you act before they are gone. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

All are based on the same basic design, but each shows unique features and changes. All were initially built by FN in Europe for Browning. Each had models built for both the American and European markets. Generally speaking, though there seem to be exceptions to everything in the firearms design world, the U.S. market versions were marked “Browning Arms Company” and “Made in Belgium.” Meanwhile, European versions were stamped “Fabrique Nationale” and “Herstal Belgique.” 

All the early models were produced in Belgium, with later iterations of the Challenger II and III seeing a stateside production move to Utah.  Of course, all three are long out of production. Buyers seeking a current factory Browning rimfire plinker must look at the long and varied list of Buck Mark repeaters. 

Now, let’s dive in and take a look at the guns that have collectors on the hunt.

Browning Nomad

Nomad Pistol
It may have been more affordable, but the Nomad was still a quality-made gun. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

While the Nomad was initially marketed as more of an entry-level or budget-priced rimfire repeating pistol, it has quietly held its own on the used market. Though overshadowed by both the Challenger and Medalist, for astute collectors seeking a hidden gem – especially those desiring perfectly shootable classics – the Nomad is a must-look option. Barrel lengths are twofold, with both a 4.6 and 6.75-inch option. 

The Nomad was introduced in 1962 and saw a 12-year run. The final pistol came off the line in 1975, but several snuck out as late as 1976. Of the trio, it’s the most basic in looks but remains a practical plinker. The Nomad wears common Novadur grip panels with the Browning oval brand, though far fewer numbers wear the brown tone. The barrel flats wear the markings, with “Made in Belgium” and “22 Long Rifle” on the right and “Browning Arms Company” on the left. Serialization is found at the front of the grip strap. 

While other models wear a gold-plated trigger, our Nomad shows the standard blued steel. Though the pistols blacked-out look speaks for itself in terms of identification, all Nomad pistols included the letter “P” in the serial number. The Nomad can be found today at the most reasonable price. 

Because Nomads were on the lower end of the spectrum at the time of production, finding specimens in mint condition is more difficult than its pricier cohorts. To say the Nomads were more budget-friendly, however, certainly does not mean they were cheaply made. In fact, the cost to manufacture the Nomad likely contributed to its demise. Shooters looking for a classic pistol should take a long look at the Nomad, while collectors on the shopping circuit would be wise to keep an eye out for higher-condition specimens, especially those retaining their original packaging. 

Browning Challenger


Browning Challenger
The Challenger upped the bar in quality, but it also created a class of guns that drew owners who were more inclined to preserve the guns. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

The Challenger was introduced to the American market in 1962, seeing a 23-year run with the final specimens coming off the production line in 1985. The Challenger showed two barrel lengths, coming in both 4.5 and 6.75-inch lengths with heavier options than the Nomad. Most wore wood grips, and some models were plain while others were checkered. We have also seen some with Novadur grips similar to those found on the Nomad. 

There was a slide-hold-open latch, final-shot hold-open, as well as manual thumb safety. The Challenger made the move to a gold-plated trigger. Speaking of triggers, the Challenger allowed for user adjustments to both the trigger pull and trigger backlash, all features that carried over to the Medalist.

Challenger Pistol
The Challenger generally shows less wear than the Nomad, which was often purchased for a life of regular shooting that often created some signs of wear. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

The Challenger did not remain static. In fact, it saw several evolutions over the years, eventually becoming the Challenger II and III. The original guns used a “U” as part of the serial number. Though all Challengers are fine guns, the earliest versions carry the greatest degree of collectibility – outside of special versions, of course. 

Though we’ve yet to admire either in person, Browning offered a deeply engraved version of the Challenger known as the Renaissance. With a satin-silver finish and lovely scroll grips, the Renaissance is a real collector’s gem. It is believed fewer than 500 of these were produced, automatically driving consumer demand. 

In addition, there was a special variant with lines and scrolls of gold inlay that has come to be known as the Challenger Gold Line. Both, naturally, command a serious premium, though astute buyers will want to find them in higher condition with their original housing. 

Browning Medalist

Browning Medalist
The Medalist took it to a new level entirely, with a refined, precision gun that offered quality and unique looks. (Photo:

Perhaps the most desirable, beautiful, unique – and at the time, the most expensive – of Browning’s trio of rimfire pistols was the Medalist. These handguns were produced from 1962 through to 1974. Because they were a pricier build from the assembly line to end-user cost, it is more common to find Medalist pistols in higher conditions, though it’s becoming a rarity these days to find Medalists hitting the open market in general. More buyers, making a greater investment at the initial purchase, took better care of a Medalist than they would a Nomad. 

Medalist rimfires used a “T” as part of the serial number. Medalist stocks are something to behold, especially when compared with its own internal and external competition. The barrel length was 6.75 inches, and the steel-framed pistols wore higher-grade walnut grips. Some of the most desirable models showed a ventilated-rib-style barrel and what amounts to a forend in addition to target-style hardwood grips. 

Like the Challenger, the Medalist also saw some special runs. But with the Medalist’s custom quality, its limited runs draw the greatest interest from serious collectors. The Gold Line Medalist saw a production believed to be just over 400. That’s roughly the same count as the Renaissance Medalist with its chrome-plated satin finish and hand-fit build. 

Condition, Condition, Condition


Browning Rimfire Pistol
Some collectors want guns that are basically unfired and still in the original box, and some want guns that they can still take to the range for fun. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

Condition is everything in the world of firearms collecting, but especially when we are considering items like the Belgian Browning rimfire pistols, as they’re from a relatively modern era. Pricing can – and should – vary wildly based on the condition and extras included. While the majority have surely been fired, those purchasing purely for investment value should closely examine the specimen at hand. 

When considering conditions, we must also account for the most common grades of each model. For instance, it is far more common to find high-condition Medalist models than Nomads, for the simple reason of the initial cost. Even today, the average end user will take better care of a gun that costs $1,000 than another that costs $100. 

Collecting for major investment, buyers would seek the highest condition – likely unfired – and the rarest specimens. In that case, a collector might hunt for a boxed Renaissance Medalist. But those are not the only kinds of collectors, far from it. A lot more collectors appreciate both having a classic gun and also firing it. In those cases, a clean Nomad can be a boon at a considerably lower price. Knowing what to look for can lead to some real steals whilst avoiding pitfalls. 

What to Look for?


Browning Challenger
Snagging a gun with original mags will also increase the value. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

What should we look for when collecting Browning rimfires? Several factors remain constant. In terms of condition, inspect the outside of the gun for things like holster wear or bluing loss. Are the original sights present? Best of all, having a clean gun that includes the original box, presentation case, or soft case is always a boon. When looking at a model like the Medalist, having the factory case, paperwork booklet, and tools is always desired. 

If the gun springs from special ownership or historical significance, having provenance is a must. The exterior is only half the equation in collectibility condition. If you want to know how much one of these rimfires has truly been fired, you must inspect the internals. Some of that can be accomplished without full disassembly. If the gun is yours, tear it down and get a good look. Check the bolt face for wear from the cartridge head and, if possible, the slide rails. A gun that is unfired will show essentially no wear, while a low round count will have a similar effect. 

If the gun is not yours, always ask before even considering disassembly, or simply request detailed photos from the seller. If you have it in hand, get a feel for the gun. Is it still tight? Does it appear to function as it should? As a sidebar, never dry fire any rimfire and use snap caps if testing. Lastly, inspect for dings, uneven wear, or even chipped/cracked grips. A gun that has been re-blued, which generally has a negative impact on the value of the gun on the American market, will often show fainter or filled-in engraving. Guns that are untouched originals almost always retain greater value. 

The Importance of Originality

Browning Nomad
Original grips, magazines, sights, and other parts all impact collectibility. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

The importance of originality extends beyond having the correct factory parts and encompasses accessories as well. In the case of these pistols, examining the magazine is a must. As for the Brownings, and most older guns, it’s incredibly important to have the original magazine. 

Buyers can often snag a too-good-to-be-true deal on a Belgian rimfire pistol only to find it housing a later, aftermarket mag. Locating a true original can cost from $85 to close to two bills. While there are fine-functioning aftermarket magazines, many shooters experience feeding issues. The fact is that they’re simply not correct when reaching for maximum value potential and collectibility. 

The same holds true for grips, sights, and finishes. Get a peek in the gun vault of a hardcore collector, and you’ll almost certainly find original boxes, hard cases, presentation boxes, and paperwork. Snagging a gun with any of these items in tow automatically adds to the value. 

Why We Collect, and Why Now is the Time to Shop

There are few cases – especially these days – of guns depreciating in value. We must take into account that the current market is unseasonably high with no change in sight. Many guns are selling for double the value they carried only a handful of years prior. That said, there still remain dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of solid pieces sure to gain in value over the coming years. 

While that value is most often financial, there are other considerations to consider, like shooting, having, sharing, and building history. We all collect for different reasons, but at the end of the day, it’s the shared appreciation for firearms, history, the art of gun building, and ultimately freedom. Knowing what to look for and buying at the right price is the name of the game. 

The Pricing Caveat


Buck Mark Pistol
Newer browning rimfires are still coming out to this day, but the original classics are a thing to watch. Those are becoming more and more scarce as the prices grow to compete. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

We’re not throwing out actual current values for several reasons. One, the market is fluctuating rapidly these days. And two, condition dictates financial value. Becoming familiar with actual condition grading is a must for collectors. 

As an appraiser, we use a multitude of resources – printed price guidebooks like the “Blue Book of Gun Values,” “Gun Digest Annual,” and “Standard Catalog of Firearms.” Online sales records from auction sites will provide a helpful guide to current sales numbers. As always, we keep an eye to auction house sales prices from locations like Rock Island Auction, Morphy, Cowan’s, and Amoskeag. Considering all these sources against a gun’s condition will give you the most accurate estimation. 

One of the most important value factors to consider is that appraisers do not go by asking prices – anybody can ask anything. Rather, they look at actual selling prices. Remember that most auction houses also charge a buyer’s premium, so that should be factored in as well. 

Happy Browning Shopping

No matter where you research, put in a little leg work, learn about your chosen target gun, and the results will pay off in the end. Besides, sometimes the process of seeking the gun you want is almost as enjoyable as finding it. I know I was pretty tickled to finally come across a couple Belgian Browning gems buried among the many newer rimfire pistols at the Vault. With the rapid turn of inventory these days, checking back there – and everywhere else you search – as often as you can is a must.