Browning’s Miniature Rimfire 1911-22s—New Gun Review

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browning 1911 2227By David Higginbotham
Browning Arms Company
http://www.browning.com/products/catalog/firearms/finder.asp?f1=028B

What happens when you shrink a 1911 down to 85% of its original size and optimize the new gun to fire .22LR? What once was a serious fighting tool becomes a stellar fun-gun. Not to take anything away from Browning’s new rimfire series. These are capable, accurate pistols. Yet there’s something novel about shooting a small 1911. It makes me smile. So how did they manage to produce such a spot-on homage, and how does the 1911-22 line stack up with the rest of the rimfires?

Let’s start with the obvious technical mastery. Arriving at a model wasn’t as hard as it could have been for Browning, thanks to computer modeling. Still, the design team prototyped several sizes to insure that they had a consensus about a just-right-size. Steel would have been overkill for a rimfire, so the frame is made of an alloy. The slide is machined from aluminum. The two are finished in a phosphate that echoes the look of the martial 1911s of years past.

The full sized 1911 and the Compact. When placed together like this, it makes the reduction in size look almost insignificant.

The full sized 1911 and the Compact. When placed together like this, it makes the reduction in size look almost insignificant.

Inside, the blued steel barrel sits in a stainless block. To protect the rifling, the barrel has what Browning refers to as its Target Crown, which is a recess at the end that leaves a protective lip (or crown) around the end of the barrel. The 1911-22 A1 has a barrel that’s 4.25 inches. The gun is just 7.125 inches. It weighs in at 15 ounces. This mirrors the later A1s, and even has an arched mainspring housing.

The Compact model’s barrel is just over 3.625 inches long. The whole pistol is just 6.5 inches overall, and it looks more like a Commander-sized replica. It takes down and cleans up just like a 1911. The parts are all analogous, down to the (plastic) guide rod. The spring tension is tight, and the smaller tolerances make it harder to manipulate. Perhaps if my fingers were 15% smaller, I wouldn’t feel so oafish. It feels like I’m trying to take down a 1911 while wearing winter gloves.

Magazines are steel and plastic and similar in construction to the mags currently in use with the Buckmark line. It is a solid, spring-fed design that feeds reliably and is easy to load. They do like to be kept clean, though, so insure that that is part of your process. If not, they get a bit sticky. This doesn’t mean that they jam, but they get harder to load.

The safety on the 1911-22 is easy to manipulate. If you’re used to dropping the safety on a 1911, you may fumble with the reduced size, at first. Like anything, though, it becomes habitual quickly.

The safety on the 1911-22 is easy to manipulate. If you’re used to dropping the safety on a 1911, you may fumble with the reduced size, at first. Like anything, though, it becomes habitual quickly.

The 1911 has some standard safety features. Both the A1 and the Compact have right-handed safeties. In addition, they have grip safeties. They will not fire when the magazine is not in the gun.

The sights on these two are also an homage to the original 1911s. The front is less of a traditional steel blade. It is polymer and angular. The rear sights are black with a micro notch that can be challenging in low-light situations. Even in full light, the sights are functional but not ideal. Yet this is a tribute, of sorts. If you want more versatile sights, the other models of the 1911-22 have other options.

Shooting
The Browning 1911-22 is scaled down by a thin 15%, yet the size is what defines it. The pistol is a rimfire, obviously, and the smaller round performs exceptionally well in the gun.

Shooting the 1911-22 couldn’t have been any more enjoyable. The longer of the two was exceptionally accurate. There is almost no muzzle rise. The pistol snaps back, but the weight of it helps hold it in place. The trigger breaks are clean and very 1911-like. The A1 broke at 5 pounds, even. The Compact broke at 4.25 pounds. Clearly it isn’t an exacting science, or a match grade trigger, but they were both functional.

This is how our targets turned out. I could get the bull’s-eye reasonably well, but only after I’d had a shot or two to close in on where it was hitting.

This is how our targets turned out. I could get the bull’s-eye reasonably well, but only after I’d had a shot or two to close in on where it was hitting.

We ran several flavors of .22 through the 1911-22s. Everything worked well. High-velocity CCI Minimags were the best for the long-range accuracy, but even the subsonic rounds fed and ejected well. This is a helpful feature, as .22LR is still inexplicably scarce. Even with the wide fluctuation in fps between the top end and the subsonic, the blowback action worked perfectly.

The targets for this review show some of what the 1011-22 line is capable of. I want to be clear about the intended use of these guns. They’re plinkers. These are fun guns. There’s no need pretending that they’re meant for competition. The accuracy they are capable of is admirable. Look at the target strings. We were shooting from close distances, anywhere from 10 to 25 yards, but the ragged groups are respectable. And the guns are capable of really reaching out. At one range session, we were hiding from a driving spring rain, and I took aim at a 12-inch steel torso more than 70 yards out. I missed the first three rounds, and one of the last ones, but dropped six on the plate. And I could repeat that magazine after magazine. 70 yards. With a 3 inch .22LR. In the rain. This is a fun gun.

The magazines are as easy to load as on any standard 1911. They drop free and are marked so you won’t mix them up with other rimfire mags.

The magazines are as easy to load as on any standard 1911. They drop free and are marked so you won’t mix them up with other rimfire mags.

After determining that the guns worked, we tortured them a bit. We ran them without any lubrication, and later in the pouring rain. We dropped it in the mud at the range, rinsed it in a gutter, and kept on shooting. When I finally broke it down, it was in bad need of a good cleaning, but the gun never faltered. Once cleaned and greased up, the guns look like it did out of the box.

The only aspect of the design that I don’t favor (though I completely understand it) is the magazine disconnect. The 1911-22 won’t fire if the magazine isn’t in the gun. It is a safety feature, I’m told. When I’m locking up my single actions, I will drop the mag, rack the gun a couple of times to make sure it is clear, point the gun in a safe direction and pull the trigger one last time. I’ll get used to the disconnect, I guess.

More on the philosophy

Here’s an amusing anecdote. When I was at the range, zipping little bits of lead against a steel plate that was almost completely obscured by the front site of the 1911 22, I could see that my cameraman was getting agitated. We’d been shooting for a couple of hours, but he was getting visibly miffed.

See that white plate at the berm? That’s 70 yards or so from the muzzle of that .22LR. And you can make it sing, even from that far out.

See that white plate at the berm? That’s 70 yards or so from the muzzle of that .22LR. And you can make it sing, even from that far out.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It isn’t fair!” he said. “That gun is perfect. It is the perfect gun to teach a kid how to really shoot.” He picked up the A1, lined up on the plate at 70 yards, and pulled the trigger. Pop. Pause. Ping. “Now there are going to be generations of shooters who learn on single actions.”

I knew what he meant. He’s not a single action man. He can run a 1911 like a champ, but there’s a polymer framed pistol on his belt. He is very brand loyal, and yet there’s not a scaled down polymer trainer available from Austria.

Let’s go back a bit. I learned how to shoot with a Savage Model 101, which is a diminutive Peacemaker copy. Though it looks like a revolver, it isn’t. It is a single shot. As such, I consider it one of the absolute best handguns for teaching kids some basic handgun skills. It is dedicated single shot, which cuts out that much more potential for error. When my son’s ready to shoot handguns, he’ll start with the Savage. I’ll follow it up with a 1911-22. No question. When he’s ready to learn how a pistol works, this is where he’ll start. Talk about cornering the market.

I can’t decide which one I prefer. The A1 shoots a bit better, but the compact has a great balance, and a lighter trigger.

I can’t decide which one I prefer. The A1 shoots a bit better, but the compact has a great balance, and a lighter trigger.

Yet, even though it is small, it is not so small that you can’t get a good grip on the pistol. It fits in my oversized mitts quite nicely. Not as well as a nice single stack 1911 with thin grips, but close enough. I feel a bit larger than life when I’m holding the Brownings, like the gun is actual size and I’ve inexplicably grown. That said, the feeling wears off quickly. After a magazine or two, I stopped thinking about the novelty of the gun’s size and began shooting. Once I began hitting what I was aiming at, I forgot all about the teaching potential. It was just like any other gun.

Available models

Browning debuted with a traditional 1911-22. The A1 model will be instantly recognizable. As interest in the gun has grown, so has the available product line. They now offer models that are tricked out like more custom 1911s (with skeletonized hammers and beaver tailed safeties). They have recently launched a polymer-framed version that is even lighter than the originals. It shaves off a whole ounce, and comes in a desert tan.

The A1 and the Compact side-by-side. The extra length on the A1 may be responsible for the increased accuracy we saw from the longer gun.

The A1 and the Compact side-by-side. The extra length on the A1 may be responsible for the increased accuracy we saw from the longer gun.

There are a lot of really good rimfire pistols these days. The prices on these range from $599 to $669 (if you want a slick version, with a rail). As all of us who want one get one, the prices should settle in a bit lower. I’d expected them to come in a bit lower than this.

How will the 1911-22 do in the market? We can only watch and see. There’s a sweet spot in the .22 market that is decidedly less than $600. While many of us will pony up for a 1911 that’s made in America, we (most of us) seem to be less picky about the national origins of our rimfires. Yet the Buckmark, which is an exceptional gun, is holding steady in this price bracket. And there are other American-made guns that have carved out a niche with similar pricing.

In the end, I think this pistol will appeal to a wide variety of shooters. It would make a fine teaching tool. It is a fantastic bit of nostalgia for 1911 fans. With a decent load in the gun, there will be some who would say it could make a passable carry gun for someone with arthritic hands. I think it is a good candidate for either a toolbox or a tackle box. Since I received these two in for review, I’ve shown them off to all of my local shooting friends. Two have already placed orders. They pick them up. They look down the sights and pull the trigger. The smile widens. That right there is just about as honest as a review can get.

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • marc May 11, 2017, 4:35 am

    i purchased with expectation to have a lightweight fare accuracy coat gun. the browning 1911 .22
    Inspections did notice plastic parts poor fit . One feature the beaver tail would not depress the trigger safety , so i stacked tape so palm would disengage the grip safety feature . For the money I expected weapon of quality which escapes this pistol. the impact is impossible to have sufficient adjustment to print at any range…. while i am sure there is good shooters < i did not have such luck. I have a ruger Mk2 which with a rest 30 feet 9 out of ten touch…..I would be lucky to get this browning to hit a gallon can. I reworked jennings that shoot under inch groups at 20 feet…

  • Michael Tgibides December 2, 2016, 1:37 pm

    Is this Browning .22 1911 3/4 scale handgun Mass compliant

  • Greg Meyer November 11, 2016, 10:10 am

    Steel would have been overkill, so the frame is made of an alloy.??? Um, hello, steel IS an alloy. Look it up.

  • John Todd October 28, 2016, 11:57 am

    The Browning 1911-22 WILL FIRE WITH THE MAGAZINE OUT OF GUN. just put a single round in the chamber push and hold in the mag release button remove the thumb safety and pull the trigger. So be careful out there. I just wanted to pass that info to yall. Please be safe if you try this on your gun.

  • Beth April 10, 2016, 11:14 am

    I’m looking @ the 22 , I just read they are good for ppl with arthritis?? That’s what I’m looking for something light and a easy trigger pull ….

  • Jon December 29, 2014, 10:49 am

    I’ve owned this pistol since it was first offered and mine is great and I love shooting it. It has only one problem: The sights, though true to the original, suck and for older eyes, such as mine, sighting this gun is a hit or miss event. The gap in the rear sight is tiny and the front sight is practically impossible to see unless you are shooting in intensely bright sun light. Browning or some after market company should offer illuminated sights for this pistol. And, as someone pointed out above, a .22 WMR version would be snapped up in a second.

  • Valerie April 23, 2014, 7:58 pm

    Bought my 7 year old daughter one of these not too long ago. We love it, and it is just the right size for her to be learning on!

  • Ron Isbell April 23, 2014, 2:45 am

    Great idea. I had a Star 45, and the smaller size was great for cc.

  • Philip April 21, 2014, 12:51 pm

    And, don’t overlook the sig 1911-22.

    • Kevin Cotton April 21, 2014, 7:26 pm

      Well, the Sig after all, is just a glorified GSG with a Sig Sauer rollmark. Still a great gun.

  • Rien April 21, 2014, 10:53 am

    I don’t see what your cameraman’s so worked up about – most .22 handguns have been single-action: Browning Buckmark, Ruger Mk III & 22/45, Beretta Neos, S&W .22A & 22S and their predecessors…

    But now he can get the Ruger SR22, Walter P22, Sig Mosquito, and probably a couple other mini-ish .22s in addition to .22 versions of full-size M&P22 and so on.

    • Mike June 19, 2016, 3:08 am

      Sig mosquito is junk. Worse pistol I’ve ever had. CCI Stinger ammo is only ammo this pistol will shoot reliably. Anything else you get one maybe 2 shots before gun jams. Found out Sig had farmed production of this pistol out to another company.

  • noel p. mellen April 21, 2014, 10:50 am

    When you love the 1911, as most of us do a small model in .22LR is a fun gun. Long before the arms makers started being gimmicky there existed the Llama in .22LR and it is a near exact 1911 in real miniature form. I’ve had mine forever and when kept clean it is a great weapon. It’ll fit easily in an overcoat pocket with room to spare. It can take abuse better than most and is not all that inaccurate given that it is not a target weapon. My problem was finding spare magazines. They still can be found in NRA VG-Ex condition for around $300.00.

  • Jim April 21, 2014, 10:36 am

    I would rather shoot a full size 1911 with a .22 conversion.

    • Jon December 29, 2014, 10:51 am

      That is certainly an option….if you own a pistol that offers a conversion kit.

  • PeterC April 21, 2014, 10:11 am

    I’m not in favor of the magazine safety, particularly in a kit gun; if you lose the magazine out in the woods, you’re screwed. There is a way to fire the 1911-22 without the magazine, however. Simply depress the magazine release as you’re pulling the trigger.

  • Andrew Sylvester April 21, 2014, 10:01 am

    For a glock trainer you can always pick up an issc m22.

  • Allan Menkin April 21, 2014, 8:47 am

    A smaller frame .22, based on the 1911, is nothing new. The Spanish company who made the ill fated LLAMA handguns, made a very similar handgun in .22 and .380 for years.

    • Charlie Kay October 7, 2016, 4:16 pm

      I owned one of those LLama .380’s. Couldn’t shoot worth a damn. Mine was stainless with gold trigger & hammer. Plastic grips. Finally got rid of it t a dealer who had a customer that loved fancy guns.

  • shootbrownelk April 21, 2014, 8:33 am

    Browning should have come out with a full-size .22 1911 first. I’d have bought one in a minute. This 3/4 scale that they came up with is stupid. It feels like a kid’s gun. Is there any company producing a .22 1911 that’s made in the USA, and not an imported piece of crap?

  • David Hayward April 21, 2014, 6:59 am

    I like the 22-1911! Do you have to order them from the factory? If so, how? How about 22WMR??

    • Dave Higginbotham April 21, 2014, 7:04 am

      You can pick them up from any stocking store, if they’re in stock. Or order through them. Shouldn’t be too hard to find, but I’ve only seen one in stock locally, and it lasted about five minutes on the shelf.

      Dave

  • David Hayward April 21, 2014, 6:53 am

    I like it alot!! How about 22WMR???

    • Dave Higginbotham April 21, 2014, 7:03 am

      Despite being small, it feels more like 1911 than the GSGs, which have always felt less substantial to me. Not to knock the GSG. Many of their .22s are solid performers. Not sure about plans for other calibers. I will check.
      Dave

  • Bill April 21, 2014, 6:44 am

    How does it compare to the GSG 1911-22?

  • Naturalist April 21, 2014, 3:45 am

    I would take an older High Standard over any of the newer .22 semi-autos any day.

  • greg edwards April 17, 2014, 1:52 pm

    i bought a tavor and setting it to shot a 1000 yds. i bought scope for shooting a 1000yd. targete. it has a 18″ barrel.
    what do you think?

    • Palos Art April 21, 2014, 10:33 am

      Mr. Greg Edwards; What is the weight of the trigger pull on your Tavor?

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