Aging Gracefully: Browning’s Buck Mark Rimfire Review
The Browning Buck Mark is more than merely the company’s antlered deer-shaped logo. In fact, it’s the namesake of not just Browning’s most successful rimfire pistol but one of the longest-standing and varied models of semi-automatic .22 Long Rifle rimfire handguns. Here’s a glimpse into the history, inner workings, and allure of the Buck Mark.
The age of repeating rimfire handguns was thriving through the 1970s, but most of the designs – and the marketing to match – were finding they’d run their course by the early 1980s. That’s when Browning, fresh off the move from Belgium to Utah, took to the drawing board for a serious redesign of the Challenger. By 1985, the gears shifted, and Browning’s Buck Mark was born.
Meet the Buck Mark
Advancements over previous in-house designs were destined to set the Buck Mark apart. When all previous contenders were built of steel, the Buck Mark shifted to a frame and slide fashioned from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy. The once relatively stout triggers were remedied, and target-quality sights replaced fixed or otherwise lesser versions. The Buck Mark is fed by a 10-round, single-stack magazine with an assist button for easier loading. There’s also a magazine release button at the rear of the trigger guard and a slide safety.
The greatest design changes are evident in the outward engineering. The revamped Buck Mark’s barrel mates directly to the frame, remaining stationary during firing. The slide went from a beefy affair to a more minimalized style, and the striker-fired, blowback action became standard. Instead of a single side opening as the ejection port, the Buck Mark action opens clear through both sides, theoretically decreasing carbon fouling. All those design changes would be moot, however, if the rimfire didn’t shoot and do so reliably.
The Buck Mark quickly proved its capability to cycle all types of ammunition and with accuracy to boot. We ran through every type of .22 LR on our shelf, including CCI, Remington, Federal, Blazer, and Aguila. There was a mix of hollow points, round nose, and varying speeds and load types. There was not a single failure of any kind.
While the Buck Mark is certainly more than capable in the accuracy department, especially the heavier-barreled target models fired from the bench, we opted to do more old-school testing by shooting offhand at paper and reactive targets. The Buck Mark more than held up its end of the stick, shooting respectable groups from distances up to 25 yards. The controls are intuitive and easy to operate. Magazines load easily – though the gun is such a pleasure to fire that we’d recommend stocking up on extra mags so you can shoot more and load less while on the range.
Our Guns.com Vault Buck Mark
We were pleased to get our hands on one of the many different Buck Mark variants available at the Guns.com Vault. They’re light shooting, devour almost any ammunition, and can be dialed in with adjustable sights. Our test gun is a testament to the adaptability and level of customization allowable on the platform. This particular rig has been re-dressed.
In addition to the original 4-inch factory bull barrel, it is now fitted with a Tactical Solutions lightweight fluted one that is 5.5 inches. There’s an added Tandemkross Halo charging ring that aids with quick racking, though the Buck Mark is easy to work as it is. All the magazines have been fitted with Tandemkross base pads on the magazines.
At heart, though, it’s still a Buck Mark and runs with ease, accuracy, and pure fun. It retains the company’s gold trigger. The iron sights are all black yet simple to use with the factory rear being fully adjustable.
Who Shoots Buck Marks?
The beauty and longevity of the Buck Mark platform is due in large part to its wide appeal. With dozens upon dozens of different models, finishes, barrel lengths, and options, Buck Marks have a mass audience. There are choices for hunters, others are suppressor-ready for quieter shooting, defined target guns bent on cutting out the “Xs” in targets, and plenty of more affordable standard lines for backyard plinkers.
The Buck Mark’s modularity, evidenced in our test gun from the Guns.com Vault, suits the modding crowd with simple barrel swaps along with ample optics choices, grips, upgraded triggers, and accessory rails. The short answer to the question is – everybody and anybody can shoot Buck Mark pistols. While they are certainly not the only option on the market – with solid choices from the likes of Ruger and S&W – Buck Marks continually remain near the top of every rimfire pistol conversation for good reason.
Variants and Collectibility
Counting all the various model variants over the last 37 years would generate a laundry list. Yet, some remain of lower production and higher appeal than others. One is the Buck Mark Silhouette model with stout wooden target stocks, finger-groove forend, 10-inch heavy barrel, and adjustable target sights. There was even a 14-inch barreled Unlimited Silhouette, which is a certain collector’s piece. Believe it or not, all Buck Marks are not pistols.
In fact, the company launched a Buck Mark rifle that essentially looked like a long-barreled pistol in 2001 with a permanently attached buttstock. The best part of the whole usability versus collectibility deal is that the Buck Mark has been around long enough and in such a variety of grades and models that there is pretty much one for every price point and feature wish list.
There are integrally suppressed barrel options on the open market, though Browning produces plenty of suppressor-ready choices in Camper, Field, Target, and UFX. Several of the most eye-catching selections were launched at SHOT Show 2022 in Las Vegas. The Buck Mark Plus Vision series includes both an Americana and Black/Gold variant, each fitted with the lightweight Vision barrel, muzzle brake, optics rail, and suppressor-ready setup in addition to eye-popping color aesthetics. No matter the choice of exterior dressings and features, the Buck Mark remains a Buck Mark – and that’s a darn good rimfire pistol.