The Perfect Kid’s Rifle: The Browning BL-22

I can still remember the days when I longed for my first rifle; the thought of a long shiny blued steel barrel and glossy walnut stock of my very own almost more than I could stand. Now I saw the same look in my little son Josiah’s eyes as he stood, hands shoved deep in his pockets, gazing with earnest shyness into my face as he answered my question. I had asked what he wanted more than anything for his upcoming ninth birthday. His answer? “A gun!”

That was the right answer.

The Browning Lever-Action is the perfect .22 for kids (adults too).

I was in good shape, already having a brand-new Browning BL-22 sequestered away for his birthday. I could hardly wait to see his face when he opened that long, mysterious package. The day finally arrived and his smile lit up the room as his friends Ooo’d and Ahh’d in envy. That night at bedtime he approached me, rifle clutched tightly, and asked if he could take the rifle to bed with him.

“Well yes, son, of course, you can.”

That’s what I wanted to say.

But instead, I advised him to keep the rifle stowed carefully in his room, and to double check that it was empty.

Starting Your Child Right

Safety when shooting is of paramount importance. Train your youngsters to always maintain good muzzle control.

Most kids love to shoot, and given the right guidance can develop a lifelong interest in the shooting sports and hunting. Who knows, that youngster may turn into your best hunting or shooting buddy. Here are some things to consider when introducing your child to the wonderful world of firearms:

Choosing The Right Firearm For Your Youngster

It’s super important to start your kid off shooting a gun that fits him or her, and is fun for them to shoot. Too often an over-ambitious dad will hand his youngster a 12-gauge shotgun or 30-06 deer rifle for their first shot. “I wanna start him off right! He’s tough, he can take it!” Regardless of how tough a kid is that’s pure stupidity. It’ll install a flinch with an unconditional lifetime warranty right then and there.

The best firearm to start a youngster on is a compact, well-balanced 22 long rifle, in either single-shot or manual repeater configuration. Recoil is minimal, the “bang” isn’t too intimidating, and ammo is cheap.

Make shooting fun. A solid rest will improve a young shooter’s accuracy dramatically, enabling them to hit more targets. More targets equal more fun.

So why a single-shot or manual action, but not a semiauto? The answer seems obvious, but I’ll elaborate. I can’t count the times I’ve watched a kid with a semiauto .22 make a good shot, then turn to their parent or buddy and excitedly ask “did you see that?” Meanwhile, their gun is pointed at their parent or buddies belly, finger still on the trigger, and a hot round – courtesy of the semiauto action – ready in the chamber. Kids, especially when they are excited, aren’t really good at remembering that their gun gets loaded all by itself.

Test your youngster by having them look through a hole formed by their hands to determine which is his or her dominant eye, and then teach them to shoot with that eye. A right-handed person with a dominant left eye should shoot left-handed, and vice-versa.

I start my little ones off at a pretty young age, using little bitty single-shot rifles of various make and model. Josiah passed his hunter’s safety exam last spring with flying colors, outshooting all 18 other students including four adults that were in the class, with his little single-shot rifle. The rifle fits him, he’s been well trained to use proper position and trigger control, and he’s not afraid of it.

My favorite type of 22 to get my children once they are larger, to keep for their own, is a lever-action. Not only are lever actions safe and reliable, they are also fast, easy to work, and ambidextrous. One of the finest available – the Browning BL-22 – is what I got Josiah for his birthday. (I’ll give a full review later, once I climb off this instructional soapbox.)

Safety, Safety, Safety

The bottom line when it comes to safety is instilling the understanding that anything a firearm points its black muzzle at is at risk of being destroyed. It doesn’t matter if the gun is empty, or on safe. I’ve seen empty guns shoot more than once, and safeties fail. Train your youngsters to always maintain good muzzle control.

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Fun Fun Fun!

Next to safety, your most important job as a parent/mentor/teacher is to make every shooting excursion fun. Keep it relaxed, use reactive targets (balloons are great) and have ready snacks. Snacks make everything fun.

Hearing protection will increase every shooter’s accuracy.

Hearing Protection

It’s a common mistake to let children – or anyone for that matter – shoot a .22 without hearing protection. Yeah, a twenty-two isn’t real loud, but it’s a fact that a 22 report will cause hearing damage. It’s also a fact that the sound of a gunshot – be it a .22 Long Rifle or a .300 Win. Mag. – contributes significantly to the tendency to flinch. So if you want your kid to be able to hear a turkey gobble or an elk bugle, protect his ears. If you want him to be a crack shot, protect his ears.

Two Elements Of Good Shooting

Besides making it fun, two things should be incorporated into your shooting adventures with your little sidekick. First, teach him good shooting positions, so he’s able to hold his gun steady. Second, train him to squeeze the trigger. Do that, and he’ll be outshooting you before you know it.

Prone; the steadiest position. Teach your youngster to relax flat on the ground, spread his feet, and place his off hand (left, for a right-hand shooter) under the rifle butt to steady it. Then squeeze.

The BL-22 (Browning Lever-Action .22)

The BL-22 Grade I has a short lever throw, walnut stock and secure and fast magazine tube lock. Photo Courtesy: Browning Firearms

One of the finest lever-action .22 rifles on the market today, Browning’s little lever-guns is well balanced and finely crafted. The BL-22 comes in several iterations including a super-tiny model called the Micro Midas, which features a 16 ¼ -inch barrel, and a 12-inch length of pull – perfect for little-bitty shooters. I purchased the full-sized model for Josiah, knowing that he would grow into it, and it would serve him well for a lifetime of shooting and small-game hunting.

Kneeling; fast, not quite as steady. Only one elbow gets to rest on a knee, so this position is more like a bipod than a tripod. Still, the kneeling position is great for certain situations.

This tight folding rear sight is adjustable for elevation via the slide, and for windage by drifting.

SPECS Browning BL-22 Grade I

  • Type: Lever-action rifle
  • Cartridge: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 15 rds.
  • Barrel Length: 20 in.
  • Overall Length:  36.75 in.
  • Weight: 5 lbs.
  • Stock: Walnut
  • Receiver: Polished blue
  • MSRP: $620
  • Manufacturer: Browning

The Browning Lever-Action .22 is capable of shooting tight groups, like this .700-inch example.

The BL-22 Grade 1 rifle features a 20-inch barrel with a 13 ½ inch length of pull. A short 33-degree lever throw makes the action super fast to cycle. The easy-to-load tubular magazine locks securely shut, with a capacity of fifteen .22 long rifle rounds, and the rifle will accommodate .22 short, .22 long, and .22 long rifle ammunition. The fine front bead and adjustable flip-up rear sight enable a fine bead, while the receiver is dovetailed to accept scope bases. A blued-steel barrel and nicely finished walnut stock round out the package at a handy five pounds.

We took Josiah’s new rifle to the range, testing three different loads and performing several shooting drills without a single malfunction. I used the iron sights for the accuracy tests, my 40-plus eyes still managing respectable grouping at 50 yards. The tightest 5-shot group measured a diminutive .70 inches. They probably all would have looked like that, had I been using a riflescope instead of iron sights.

Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups fired from a sandbag rest at 50 yards. Velocity is the average of 10 shots measured by a Shooting Chrony chronograph set 10 feet in front of the muzzle.

For more information about the Browning BL-22, click here.

To purchase a Browning BL-22 on GunsAmerica, click here.

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Tom Freyslaben September 27, 2017, 11:18 pm

    I disagree with the statement of a person needing to shoot with the hand that matches the dominant eye, I have been shooting cross dominant for years, handguns I can do with both eyes open, rifle/shotgun I do need to force my left eye closed to shoot right handed, I compete on a regular basis, so far so good 😎

  • FirstStateMark September 25, 2017, 10:15 pm

    Great video! I like to see the youngsters take aim with a nice rifle. Little guy had the hat , boots and the nice lever action western gun. Ya can’t beat that. Must drive the liberals crazy! 🙂

  • Kb31416 September 25, 2017, 9:00 pm

    Nice article. Reminds me of training my daughters, starting at 18 months while sitting in my lap, with a Cricket single shot 22. We shot big balloons filled with confetti using CCI shot loads. We had lots of fun for all of five shots, then quit and did something else.
    Now, 20 years later, the Cricket is in the back of the gun cabinet, having been traded in for AR15s, and waiting a bit for grandkids.
    As mentioned, safety is the most important training topic, emphasized by shooting a watermelon with my deer rifle. Big unforgettable impression of what happens to targets when hit.

  • DrThunder88 September 25, 2017, 8:16 pm

    Nice article.

    I hadn’t considered the safety aspect of a bolt, lever, or single shot rifle when teaching a child. However, couldn’t this be remedied by single-loading a semi-auto?

    • Ituk Uppoo January 15, 2020, 11:05 pm

      Yes, this can be done. Sepending on the rifle, it would be hard to do based on the size of the ejection port and how deep the chamber is in the reciever such as the 10-22. Ive tried doing that to put in short rounds, fumbling them often. Pulling the magazine over and over becomes a chore making shooting boring to children with a 10-22 as an example.

  • Guido September 25, 2017, 7:51 pm

    Hello, Clay
    Great write-up.
    I don’t know if the youngster in the photo’s are of your boy Josiah, but from where I’m sitting he already looks like an operator.
    Thanks for reminding us of one of the essential joys of shooting, namely sharing it.

  • Edgar September 25, 2017, 3:22 pm

    of all the knuckle heads who complained about the Dangerous Lever Action Rifle….I am surprised no one came up with some other cock-a-mamy criticism of shooting while bare footed. Honestly I had a great laugh and enjoyed the \”The Perfect Kid’s Rifle: The Browning BL-22\” very much. reminds me of my youth. I still have my 1970\’s Marlin 39A Golden. I have 6 boys now and they all started with .22 rifles. Lever actions are about as safe as you can get. The best safety is in TEACHING your children proper gun handling edict. Teaching your children proper gun handling edict will transcend to good handling skills for all fire arms and archery in their future. Its all about being with your kids…at the range and in the field, watching them mentoring them. Too many children today lack this. I loved this Article, the pictures and the videos were great. It is our legacy as Fire Arms enthusiast to ensure the 2nd Amendment has enough supporters and enthusiast to continue through the next generation and beyond. Introducing Children into shooting is the best medicine for this……and the best investment we can ever make in our children.

  • Tug September 25, 2017, 1:49 pm

    I own one and it is a Hoot To Shoot! It is one of my all time favorite .22\’s

  • Campbell King September 25, 2017, 1:43 pm

    Beautiful rifle ~Only problem is it doesn’t seem to be as accurate as the Marlin 39A ! Owned two 39A’s and they would do 1/4″ all day….Not knocking it but I don’t care for ‘shiny’ on a rifle to be used..To hard to cover inevitable scratches

    • Edgar September 25, 2017, 3:30 pm

      Let them scratch it….let them get dings in the stock, Every one of those scratches and dings …..if they are noticed…will bring back memories of times in the field or range doing something I hope they enjoyed. The Value of a pristine unused rifle will never be worth the value of time in the field with your kids. If they want a rifle… it blued shine, matte or stainless…let them have it, let them use it. When they scratch it or ding it….they learn to use a little more caution…they learn..things can and do happen. Let them learn. To hell with the finish of the gun…enjoy the time you get to spend with them because of the rifle ! The time will be gone far quicker than you realize.

      • Karl Joost January 28, 2019, 10:08 am

        Edgar- thank you, my thoughts exactly!

  • charles graham September 25, 2017, 1:01 pm

    I have one and I’m not a kid. It’s a fantastic rifle, 1″ @ 50 yrd

  • Jim September 25, 2017, 12:48 pm

    I will have to disagree with your choice of first firearm for a beginning shooter. Having seen two lives cut short with lever action hammer guns and knowing that accidents can happen to people no matter how safe you are (or think you are). not sure about this rifle but it does not appear to have an extra safety. if so I would consider almost anything over this rifle.

    • Nick Carroll September 26, 2017, 7:39 am

      I have to say I agree with you. A hammer can be seriously dangerous for a young shooter without the physical coordination to drop the hammer while pulling the trigger to make it “safe” after loading it. Honestly I would start them off with a bolt rifle. They have a manual safety that allows them to be ready to shoot with one in the chamber and the safety on. A quick flick of that and send one downrange without the concern of having to cock it. Just my take on the matter. I love levers, but a youngster could run into problems.

  • James Fisher September 25, 2017, 12:27 pm

    I am a great fan of the .22 cartridge. I own about 35 firearms at any given time and right now eleven of them are .22’s in both rifle and pistol. I am also a great fan of lever guns and currently own four of them. One of the best of both worlds, lever gun and .22, that I own is the Winchester 9422. It is the nicest, smoothest, best looking .22 rifle I know of (my opinion of course). Mine was made in 1972, the first year and when Winchester was still Winchester.
    Looks great, shoots great and has that Winchester history and legend.
    By the way, great article on teaching kids to not only shoot but become life time fans of guns and shooting.

  • Mike Cornett September 25, 2017, 12:07 pm

    The lever action is pretty good for a first firearm. I’m a total safety guy. I am a big believer in a
    single shot rifle. First, after the shot everyone knows the rifle is empty (no. We never consider a gun empty)
    Secondly, The young boy or girl knows they only have one chance to hit the target and not a bunch of
    back up ammo. They will make them really concentrate and make the single shot their best effort.
    I also notice this rifle doesn’t not fit the boy very well. Too long. Get a used single shot 22 and cut it
    down or a bolt action rifle where you can feed the action one shell at a time. You can teach gun safety to a
    child, Till the cows come home, but he will get excited and make an error. The last thing in the world you want to do is hurt a child, or have him/her hurt someone else. The child would never get over it. Good luck
    and safety to everyone.

  • Norm Fishler September 25, 2017, 11:55 am

    I hate to be the lone dissenting voice in this review, but knowing what I do, I simply must speak out. I consider any and ALL tube fed .22 rifles as perhaps the most unsafe firearm available for sale. I grew up on a Marlin Golden 39A in the 1950s and have owned countless other tube fed .22s in all configurations from bolt to semi-auto and I have yet to own one that after clearing the firearm in preparation to going home after a shooting session RE-cleared it and found one or even two cartridges hiding in the action or tube . . . somewhere . . . It didn’t happen every time, thank God, but often enough to where they made me very uneasy. About ten years ago I got tired of it and sold every tube-fed .22 I had and have stuck with single-shots and detachable magazine fed .22 rifles and couldn’t be happier. One of my most favorite .22s ever is the magazine fed Browning A-Bolt so don’t feel like I’ve got it in for Browning, ‘cuz I don’t. Youngsters just starting out, need to begin with the safest of firearms available, and any tube fed .22 is not it. Just my $.02 worth.

  • Sam L Bishop Jr September 25, 2017, 10:02 am

    I was lucky as a youth, my father bought a Browning BL-22 for me on my eleventh Christmas. My brother received Dad,s hand me down Winchester bolt action. I was raised in rural Alaska and thus spent countless hours shooting and hunting with that rifle. There are several features the author fails to mention in this article. I think the most impressive feature of the Browning is the short 33 degree lever throw. With that short throw even a youth can maintain a grip with their shooting hand. The Browning will handle the .22 shorts, longs, and long rifles in any order, without a hiccup. I have run thousands of rounds through my rifle and the only problem I have had in 45 years of ownership is a broken firing pin. My brother always coveted my rifle and admittedly, I probably shot four or five times as many rounds as him. I could load fifteen rounds and shoot them faster than he could load five in his magazine. I can speak from experience, the BL-22 is absolutely the best youth rifle ever invented.

  • Griffendad September 25, 2017, 9:55 am

    I own two Henrys and love them! When it comes to that .22 I had the chance to hold and work the action side by side. I own the Browning and paid the extra $$ for it. There’s a very big difference as the Henry throws the lever almost 90 degrees, the Browning is only about 30. There’s also almost no effort to throw it and the trigger moves down with the lever. It disengages it for safety and there’s no worry about even moving your finger or pinching it. I know Browning is licensed but the Muruko barrel is top notch and more accurate than I can shoot. The finish work is as close to perfect as I seen. Hope that helps anyone.

  • Charlie September 25, 2017, 9:21 am

    The Browning is easier to function than other lever action .22 rifles.Got the browning for my grand children. Have experienced this with them shooting the Browning and the others. (Marlin,Winchester,Henry) The Browning is not the easiest to keep clean and maintain.This does not have any bearing on the fact that all three of the children prefer the Browning.

  • Frank September 25, 2017, 7:05 am

    My first rifle was a ?Marlin .22 bolt action — still have it after 42 years (got it when I was 14… maybe 13?). My older brother got his two years earlier (he’s two years older), and got a Marlin Glenfield semi-auto. We had single lever action BB guns then pump pellet rifles to “train” with well before the “real” guns. I remember squirrel hunting with him as he followed a squirrel, squeezing off shots as he went instead of waiting for a good one, carrying my pump pellet rifle. When dad asked me what rifle I wanted I told him “bolt action”. When he asked if I was sure, I told him about my brother. With a bolt gun I’d have to wait for a good shot before squeezing off, instead of wasting a lot of ammo like Fred. Don’t regret that decision, though I do have a Glenfield auto and an old Iver Johnson auto now. My favorite .22 is still that bolt gun, it’s the only one with a scope for that reason.

  • Lloyd Dumas September 25, 2017, 6:31 am

    If it’s lever action, it’s got to be a Henry.

    • Mr. Charles September 25, 2017, 9:45 am

      I have owned several BL-22’s, however The Henry has a much smoother action than the Browning. Try and compare for yourself.

    • MP Kiker September 25, 2017, 12:34 pm

      I have 5 Henrys,the tunes in themail want stay lock in,the center fire kicks like hell ,I am retired from wildlife dept, and I am 72

      • MP Kiker September 25, 2017, 12:35 pm

        This correct spelling isn’t working right

  • wRecKaGe September 25, 2017, 5:15 am

    While my father taught me on .22LR Mossberg semi-auto back in 1975, I personally taught my youngest son, also starting at 5 years old, on a Henry Classic .22 lever action rifle. I also chose a full size rifle for my son for the same reasons as the author. Thus far he’s fired his Henry, our M1 Carbine (his favorite overall), both of my Father’s M1 Garands, as well as our Enfield Jungle Carbine, and a few of my Dad’s Luger 9mm pistols, plus our .45ACP 1911. Suffice it to say starting him early gave him the same love for firearms and shooting that I’ve always enjoyed.
    While this article didn’t specify whether or not the Browning can chamber .22 Long and .22 Short as well as the states .22 Long Rifle, that “extra” feature is just one reason I chose the Henry over the Browning. First and foremost for my own purposes was the interchangeable cartridge capability as being able to practice with cheap CB rounds is fantastic when just poking holes in cans or paper. Equally important to me though was the fact that every part of the Henry rifles is 100% American made. It is a value I grew up and wished to pass on to my sons.
    Now I am not unwilling to purchase certain firearms made in other countries, but they must be stellar examples of the craft or unimaginably reliable, as is the case for my Glock 19.
    I built my own AR-15 using American parts and if I learn that the Browning rifles are all American I might consider one for the next young shooter I’ll be training in our family, my Grandson. Though seeing as he just turned one I do unfortunately have a few more years to wait for that opportunity. However if it isn’t I’ll stick with the tried and true offerings from Henry, rifles that are not only accurate and incredibly well made, but also versatile, and beautiful examples of the gun makers art.

  • Don Mei September 23, 2017, 3:23 pm

    That Browning looks very nice. But this review is incomplete without a direct comparison to the Henry line of rifles. I just bought a small game carbine for my daughters and I’d be curious to see how the two compare. One thing I like about this particular henry is that it comes standard with the excellent Skinner aperture sight.

  • Gaston September 20, 2017, 9:04 am

    Where are the safety glasses? Eyes are even more important than hearing to protect.

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