Rimfire lever-action rifles seem a dime a dozen nowadays, yet the overall quality runs from sketchy budget options to classic premiums. Meanwhile, Browning’s BL-22 keeps clicking along – getting little fanfare – and continually puts out serious performance. What's kept this short-throw rifle in production for over 50 years? 

Let’s get down to business with this Japanese-built lever-action rimfire gem. 

Table of Contents

Video Review
Intro: Meet the BL-22
Buying a BL-22 Today
Specs Overview
Shooting & Accuracy
Conclusion

Video Review
 


Intro: Meet the BL-22

 

Browning BL-22 Lever-Action Rifle
This trusty lever gun often flies under the radar, but few who buy it seem willing to part ways over time. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


While sister company Winchester steals the lever-action limelight, Browning is surely no slouch. In addition to the longstanding centerfire BLR platform, Browning built exceptional reproductions of famous designs like the Models 1886, 1895, and 71. Thus, it should come as no surprise that its own rimfire cowboy action is a stud. 

Browning debuted the BL-22 in 1969. Manufacture has remained at Miroku, Japan, like the company’s related levers. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the BL-22 line grew with the increase of an improved Grade II, in contrast to the original, known as Grade I. 

Though a few details may have changed over the years, most features of the BL-22 remain static. The guns are built with a machined steel receiver, forgoing cost-saving alloys. The incredibly short, 33-degree throw lever is fast cycling and easy to operate. Walnut furniture wears a glossy finish partnered with the blued steel. The tubular magazine uses a quick lock system. While the guns are lookers, they are certainly built for practical use. 
 

Buying a BL-22 Today

 

Browning BL-22 Lever-Action Rifle
While not common on the used market, because it seems to stay in personal collections, this classic is still in production today. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


Though the BL-22 has been in production for five decades, it remains rather uncommon to find these rifles on the used market. That speaks to the tendency of owners to treasure these levers. Those looking for a new issue will find plenty from which to select. 

At the time of this writing, Browning’s catalog lists five variants: a standard BL-22 Grade I, the downsized Micro Midas, the Grade II, a pair of nickel-finish Full Line Distributor (FLD) selections, and an outstanding Grade II Octagon variant with engraving and checkering. 
 

Specs Overview


Our test BL-22 comes from the Guns.com Vault. When we saw it appear in the used section, we simply had to get our paws on it. Though wearing a few nicks and scuffs indicating light use over the years, the BL-22 came out firing. There’s a 20-inch round barrel with quality iron sights.  Walnut stocks are free of checkering and culminate in a polymer butt plate wearing the Browning name. 
 

Browning BL-22 Lever-Action Rifle
The stock culminates in a polymer butt plate with Browning's name on it. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


The standard model, which we have here, is known as the Grade I. The Grade II adds checkering, engraving, and a gold trigger, among other upgrades. Stocks are straight grip, English-style black walnut with a gloss finish. The rear sight is a flip-up style, which matches with a dovetail front. 
 

Browning BL-22 Lever-Action Rifle
Here you can see how the trigger actually moves with the lever. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


The rifle weighs in at 5 pounds and is well balanced. The receiver is dovetailed for optics mounting, though we didn’t feel the need for a scope. There’s even a cocking indicator at the rear of the receiver. Trigger pull is crisp, but a little stiff at 5.75 to 6 pounds. 
 

Shooting & Accuracy
 

Browning BL-22 Lever-Action Rifle
The BL-22 can host an optic, but we rather prefer the classic irons on guns like this. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


A unique feature of the BL-22 is the trigger mechanism moving with the lever rather than remaining static with the receiver. What simply must be felt to appreciate is the super-short lever movement. Working the action really only takes extending the forefingers out and back to eject the spent round and chamber the next.
 

Browning BL-22 Lever-Action Rifle
The unique lever system offers a very fast and short throw for easy follow-up shooting. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


Like most quality lever guns, the BL-22 will easily handle .22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle rounds. While our test gun came topped with a red-dot optic, we simply enjoy going back to basics on old-school platforms. Though we would likely do better with an optic, the BL-22 proves time and again not only its aesthetics but its accuracy. 

Thus, we shot our accuracy groups from the bench with the factory irons and were all around impressed with the feel, fit and finish, reliability, and class of the BL-22. 
 

Conclusion: Another 50 Years?

For the most part, the BL-22 stands out more as a classic than a modern rimfire lever gun, with most models foregoing things like optics rails and threaded muzzles. Yet the nature of the action makes it suitable for the young, old, and every age in between with its ease of use, accuracy, and quality. 

The BL-22 remains in production for folks like us who dig old-school quality, bread-and-butter features, and class. Cost keeps it a premium product, but those willing to pay the premium seldom part ways. Whether hunting, plinking, or collecting, we can only hope it remains in production for another 50 years. 

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