Photos: Browning .22 Semi-Automatic

The .22 Semi-Automatic is arguably one of John Browning’s most elegant designs, its balance and handiness is immediately apparent to anyone who has handled or shot one. In our latest video we examined the history behind the design and looked at its features in-depth. You can check out the video and full blog here.

Here are some additional photographs of the rifle:

DSC_0522
Right side view of the SA .22 (Matthew Moss)
DSC_0519a
Left side view of the SA .22 (Matthew Moss)
DSC_0518
The .SA .22 is a takedown rifle and splits into two pieces making it more compact for transport (Matthew Moss)
DSC_0528
Here we can see the rifle’s sight, barrel takedown tension ring and notches cut into the top of the receiver for mounting a scope (Matthew Moss)
DSC_0527
The rifle’s FN Herstal markings (Matthew Moss)
DSC_0541
The rifle disassembled with the magazine tube removed and bolt and trigger assembly removed from the receiver (Matthew Moss)
DSC_0536
The trigger group and bolt slide into the receiver on a pair of internal rails (Matthew Moss)
DSC_0535
Close up of the right side o the bolt and trigger group (Matthew Moss)
DSC_0533
Close up of the left side o the bolt and trigger group(Matthew Moss)
DSC_0530
The butt plate and magazine follower (Matthew Moss)

John Browning’s Semi-Automatic .22

The .22 Semi-Automatic was John Browning’s third .22 calibre rifle to enter production following the extremely popular pump-action Winchester Model 1890 and the beautifully simple Winchester Model 1900 single shot bolt action rifle. Since its first appearance 100 years ago the .22 Semi-Automatic has been sold by three manufacturers; Remington, FN Herstal and Browning themselves.

Browning FN 22-SA
Right-side view of a FN .22 Semi-Automatic (Matthew Moss)

The .22 Semi-Automatic (SA22/.22 SA) is radically different from Browning’s earlier .22, whereas the Model 1900 had been simple and inexpensive the .22 SA is a masterclass in balance, ergonomics and operation. It feeds from a tube magazine located in the rifle’s butt and is blowback operated.

Browning's Patent for his .22 SA
One of the patent drawings for Browning’s .22 SA (US Patent Office)

The most interesting aspect of the SA .22’s action is that the bolt is at the base of the receiver with the cocking handle protruding downwards.  This makes the rifle truly ambidextrous as the spent cartridge casings are ejected straight down rather than up or to the right of the receiver as in most contemporary rifles.

Browning with Model 24
John Browning poses with what appears to be a Remington Model 24 (source)

The rifle is one of the most balanced of Browning’s designs and it can be balanced on a single finger placed just in front of the trigger guard behind the bolt handle.  Ergonomically the rifle is extremely pointable with an easily acquirable sight picture.  Another interesting feature is the rifle’s takedown mechanism.  Once the bolt is retracted a small catch in the base of the forestock can be pushed forward allowing the rifle’s barrel to be unscrewed from the receiver.  This makes the rifle extremely handy and easily portable weighing just 4.75 lbs or 2.15kg.

DSC_0539
Browning’s .22 semi-automatic disassembled (Matthew Moss)

Browning originally designed the rifle in 1912 with the patents being filed in March 1913 and granted in January 1914. At which time the production rights were immediately taken up by Browning’s European partners FN Herstal of Belgium who sold the rifle throughout Europe. Production was interrupted by the outbreak of World War One and the subsequent German occupation of Belgium. However, production began again in 1919 and continued until it was again interrupted by World War Two. Initial FN models had a small loading port located on the wrist of the stock in contrast to later models which located the loading port on the right side of the butt-stock.

Remington Model 24
Remington Model 24 (Rock Island Auctions)

Production rights in the US were taken up by Remington who began production of what they designated the Model 24 in 1922, four years before Browning’s death. The Model 24 initially was only chambered in .22 Short but was modified to chamber .22LR as well. Up until this point the T.C. Johnson-designed Winchester Model 1903 had dominated the .22 semi-automatic market.

The Model 24 remained in production until 1935 when it was replaced by a the Model 241 ‘Speedmaster’ which built on the original design but introduced a longer 23.5-inch barrel and was heavier, weighing 6 lbs or 2.7kg. Developed by Crawford C. Loomis, the Model 241, had a tilting cartridge guide and a slightly different take down system – moving the take-down catch from the bottom to the left side of the receiver.

Remington Model 241 Speedmaster
Remington’s slightly larger and improved Model 241 (Rock Island Auctions)

Around 100,000 Model 241s were made before Remington ended production in 1949 and sales of the rifle ended in 1951. At which point the Browning Firearms company moved to reintroduce the rifle in the US, marketing it as the Browning .22 Semi-Automatic in 1956. Initially the rifles were produced by FN in Belgium however, all Browning production shifted to Japan in 1976. China’s Norinco have also produced the JW-20/ATD22, a direct copy of the SA .22.

John Browning’s .22 Semi-Automatic has been in almost continuous production for 100 years, another fine example of Browning’s enduring legacy of timeless firearms designs.

Specifications:

Length: ~36 inches (91 cm)
Weight: ~4.75 lbs (2.15 kg)
Action: Blowback
Calibre: .22 Short & .22LR
Feed: 11-round tube magazine


Bibliography:

‘Firearm‘, J.M. Browning, US Patent #1083384, 06/01/14, (source)

The History of Browning Firearms, D. Miller, (2014)

John Browning: American Gunmaker, J. Browning & C. Gentry (1987)

‘Remington Model 241 Autoloading Rifles’, Remington Society Journal, (2) 2010, J. Gyde & R. Marcot (source)