Cool Belgian Classic: Browning’s Nomad .22 Rimfire Pistol Review
In these days of rapid internet research and savvy bargain shoppers, it is increasingly difficult to unearth underappreciated and undervalued classic firearms. Yet the Browning Nomad, built in Belgium and offering sleek looks, is just that. The company’s Challenger and Medalist steal the show, while the current-production Buckmarks remain a hot buy.
But here’s what you need to know about the blacked-out Nomad and why it belongs on your firearms wish list.
The Nomad is a semi-automatic rimfire pistol built by Fabrique Nationale in Herstal, Belgium. Though it was marketed as more of an entry-level or budget-priced rimfire repeating pistol, the Nomad has quietly held its own on the used market. While overshadowed by models like Browning’s own Challenger and Medalist of the same era – and now the current production Buckmark – those gun hunters looking for classics simply must consider the Nomad.
The semi-automatic Nomad was introduced in 1962 and saw a 12-year run, with the final pistols coming off the line in 1975, though several snuck out into the world as late as 1976. Barrel lengths include 4.5 and 6.75 inches. All Nomad pistols included the letter “P” in the serial number. The guns weigh in at 26 to 29 ounces, depending on barrel configuration. There’s a 10-round single-stack magazine that releases with the rear-mounted button.
Features & Shooting
Our test model from the Guns.com Vault is the longer, 6.75-inch round-barrel version. It wears the more common black grip panels with the Browning oval brand, though some also wear the brown-tone Novadur grips. The barrel flats wear the markings “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.
Because Nomads were on the lower end of the spectrum at the time of production, finding specimens in mint condition is more difficult than with other Belgian-made Brownings of the time, including the Challenger and Medalist. As a broad generalization, more buyers snagged Nomads as shooters rather than safe queens, though exceptions always exist.
To say the Nomads were more budget-friendly, however, certainly does not mean they were cheap. In fact, the cost to manufacture the Nomad was likely a good part of its demise. Early versions used an alloy frame, though the majority were steel numbers with a tight fit and finish.
Sights are comprised of a basic fixed, serrated ramp front mating with a fully adjustable rear. In the spirit of minimalism, the Nomad was designed with neither a slide release nor magazine hold-open/disconnect. Those features aside, the Nomad is a shooter, plain and simple.
One noteworthy feature of the Nomad, which is seldom seen on production rimfire pistols today, is a light and crisp trigger. That doubtlessly aids in accuracy, as do the adjustable irons. We cycled three different types of ammunition, including various bullet types and weights, with positive results each time.
The Nomad is a classic joy at the range, while moving further into the realm of collector interest with each passing year. In addition to an American market hooked on rimfire pistols at the time, the Nomad was also marketed on European soil as the Browning Standard. No matter where it was sold, however, the Nomad maintained a quiet reputation for reliability and accuracy.
Final Thoughts: Rich Browning Rimfire History
The history of Belgian-built Browning rimfire pistols is a rather extended affair. The deep roots in fine firearms engineering dates back to a John Browning design circa 1914, which became not only the Colt Woodsman but also a host of other similar semi-automatic rimfire handguns. By 1960, Bruce Browning was devising methods of modifying that original 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.
While all are long out of production, the trend of Browning building reliable rimfire pistols continues to this day with the modernized Buckmark family. If you’re a Browning fan after .22 LR repeating pistols, any one of these choices will more than scratch the itch, but the Nomad remains the least known and most underappreciated. Plus, in many cases, it’s a bargain steal for the savvy buyer.