SSAA: Australia’s best hunting and shooting magazines

.22 lever action rifles review

Official review in Australian Shooter September 1999

The range
Para - South Australia.
SSAA International 50 Metre Slow Fire targets.
All firearms were allowed five shots to clear the barrel.
Groups of five were shot for each rimfire by each of our experts.

Scoring procedure
Scores were given out of a total of 20 by each reviewer. The three scores were then averaged. Scores were given for value, design, weight, handling and maintenance. The highest score was given for accuracy. The scoring method and overall review procedure was designed in co-ordination with the three experts.

A Simmons bore sighter was used to assist in the correct and speedy mounting of the scopes. A Bushnell spotting scope was utilised for target viewing. Hammer spurs were required for the Marlin 39AS while the Annie Oakley was shot without a scope - due to concerns about damaging the valuable firearm while fitting the telescopic sight; the rear buckhorn sight would had to have been removed. It was a clear, fine winter’s day with little wind. Super Speed, Power Point and Laser ammunition was donated by Winchester. All accuracy shots were taken seated from the benchrest area. Winchester also supplied a 4x32 and a 6x42 Meopta æArtemis 2000Æ riflescopes to use during the review, together with a set of Millett 3/8" rings. The 6x42 was mounted on the Winchester Model 9422, the 4x32 was mounted on the Marlin 39AS with the aid of the base supplied by Marlin and the Simmons rings supplied by Raytrade. The Henry was scoped with a Bushnell Sportsview 4x. The Ruger was scoped with Nikko Stirling 1.5.

Browning BL-22
Browning BL-22
Calibre: .22LR 15-shot tube mag
Action: Short throw lever
Barrel: 20"
Weight: 5 lbs
Length: 36¾"
Stock: Selected walnut
Distributed by: Highland Sports
Score: 16/20
The Browning had a very smooth, short action and came equipped with a half cock on the hammer to aid safety. While not the cheapest or most expensive in the review, the panel agreed it offered good value for money and was well made and presented.
The trigger travelled well with the finger preventing finger pinch and had a traditional, exposed, three-position hammer. The tubular magazine also had a special loading latch at the end of the tube that assisted loading.

Henry rifle
Calibre: .22LR (15 rounds), .22 Long (17 rounds), .22 Short (21 rounds)
Action: Lever action with grooved receiver
Barrel: 18¼" with underbarrel full length tubular magazine
Weight: 5½ lbs
Length: 36½"
Distributed by: Frontier Arms
Score: 14.5
The Henry is an authentic reproduction of the original American 19th century lever action firearm. It is designed for off-hand shooting and features a half cock hammer safety. It has a smooth action with good accuracy and was by far the cheapest rimfire of the day. A smaller rifle, it was both light and easily handled when held in the standing position.

Marlin 39AS
Marlin 39AS
Calibre: .22 Short, Long, Long Rifle
Action: Lever with tubular magazine with patented closure system
Barrel: 24" with micro-groove rifling (16 grooves)
Weight: 6½ lbs
Length: 40"
Stock: Genuine American black walnut with fluted comb
Distributed by: Nioa Trading
Score: 16.7 Best Accuracy
A high score for a very impressive rifle. Nicely balanced, the Marlin lent itself to off-hand shooting and yet was also a good performer as a target shooter.
Good groups by all three men - Mike Papps shot a 50mm group using Winchester’s Super Speed ammunition. The Marlin came with a safety and was well designed, with few moving parts - very user friendly and great ease of cleaning and maintenance. The feed and ejection were very positive. The trigger was perhaps a bit heavy without adjustment for target shooting but fine for off-hand. The price in this instance reflected the quality.

Marlin 1897 ‘Annie Oakley’
Marlin 1897 ‘Annie Oakley’
Calibre: .22 Short, Long or Long Rifle
Action: Lever action with solid top receiver side ejection rebounding hammer deeply blued. Receiver roll engraved.
Gold Annie Oakley signature on bolt.
Barrel: 18½" tapered octagon with micro-groove rifling (16 grooves)
Weight: 5½ lbs
Length: 35"
Stock: Semi-fancy genuine American black walnut straight grip with cut chequering; blued steel fore-end cap; hard rubber buttplate
Distributed by: Nioa Trading
Score: 14.6
An elaborate rifle with great attention to detail in the engraving on the receiver and a genuine American black walnut stock. It came with a safety and performed well with open sights. The target was easily acquired and achieved a best group of 60mm with open sights.
Quite light and comfortable. Like the Marlin 39AS, it had good feed and ejection and was designed for easy cleaning and maintenance - readily dismantled. A handsome looking gun with a collector’s price. Not for everyone but surely a collector’s item.

Ruger 96/22
Ruger 96/22
Calibre: .22LR, 10-shot rotary mag, .22WMR 9-shot rotary mag
Action: Locked breech, internal hammer
Barrel: 18½"
Weight: 5 ¼ lbs
Length: 37¼"
Stock: American hardwood
Distributed by: Acacia Imports & Austral Gun Co
Score: 17 Best Value
The highest score for the day and quite a surprise to the expert panel. While not quite up to the Marlin 39AS in accuracy, it represented excellent value for money and displayed excellent performance with highly competitive off the shelf accuracy. It was the only lever action with a one-piece wooden stock and the only rotary magazine.
The rotary magazine was easily loaded, placed and removed and was seen as an additional safety feature as bullets could easily be seen and removed. It came with a standard safety. Comments were made that most would prefer that the slightly heavy trigger be adjusted, but this would depend on whether you were using the rifle for rabbit or target shooting. Good price and great value. Steve Nicholas achieved a mighty fine group with this lever action.

Winchester Model 9422 Walnut
Winchester Model 9422 Walnut
Calibre: .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle or .22WMR
Action: Side eject lever, grooved receiver
Barrel: 20½"
Weight: 6¼ lbs
Length: 371/8"
Stock: American walnut or laminated
Finish: Blue
Distributed by: Olin Australia Winchester Division
Score: 14.5
Quite accurate with all three versions of ammunition and a good short lever throw for loading. Half cock hammer safety. Smooth trigger actions with good traditional design and a single screw takedown.
It had an adjustable rear sight, grooved receiver for scope mounting and a satin finish with American walnut stock. A reliable .22 with a feel and look like its centrefire big brother. Prices can go up to $1250 for the 25th anniversary model.

Final comments
A good range of currently available lever actions - all performing well on the day. Thought should be given to the use of the firearms before buying, as features are quite different from firearm to firearm. Price didn’t always buy a more accurate firearm but those with a bigger price tag could well fall into the ‘collectors’ range. A rugged Winchester may be the go for those rabbit shooting, while the Annie Oakley could be the elaborate and ornate firearm you require. These results should be used as a guide only and when buying, always talk through your requirements with your local gun shop owner.