With that first hunt, I grew up , in more ways the one, having learned and watched and waited, until I was ready to handle my firearm, ready to use it as a responsible steward of the land, looking at the deer on the ground, the first worthy blood I had been worthy to take. Sacrifice with grace, for which we are both thankful and repentant and respect for those things which are passed down from one generation to the next.
Today, there was no hunt, but there was still the excitement of holding something in my hand designed by John Moses Browning, himself. The Browning 22 Semi-Auto rifle, also known as the Semi Automatic 22 or SA-22, is a take-down produced by FN Herstal based on the John Browning patent. Still produced by Browning as the Semi-Auto 22, production began in 1914 and continued through 1974 in Belgium.. After 1974 they are produced by Moriku in Japan. In addition to the quality that is the trademark of Browning, the SA-22 itself is well known as the first production semiautomatic .22 rifle with some half a million produced since 1914.
Having hunted with a Browning firearm, myself, I had high expectations.
It has been offered in several "grades" of engraving and gold inlay with the collectors being the Belgium models (I saw a fairly plain one at an Indiana gun show that was over $1000 FIRM). If you can find a Belgium one with a price that's not in the stratosphere, grab it, but don't overlook it's descendant.
These are sometimes found with a carry case, very nice leather that hold the rifle in its take-down form and some ammunition and which also adds value to the firearm.
You may also see some slightest of variances in the wood-tone on the later Japanese models, with some a bit lighter in color than older ones, at least in my opinion. They are all still tight grained and lacquered to a ultra-high gloss, certainly not like that light colored stuff that was plastered on some guns back in the "gun bling" era, where I first heard the term "Balsa Wood Wetherby".
This firearm is certainly not a collectors edition and has some some gentle wear from the field. But this is a firearm, you CAN take out in the field. Unlike some firearms which act like spoiled debutantes when faced with some dirt, hard work and rough handling, the Browning will remain a trusted friend in the field, a favorite with small game sportsmen. Given its light weight, it would be an excellent choice for something to take along in the wilderness, not for large bears or the rabid Winnebago, but for when you might need something dependable for small game.
The butt plate is metal and is a comfortable fit whether you are man, woman, or youth starting out in the shooting sports. Certainly if one wanted to gently introduce a young or first time shooter to rifles, with the recognition and means to purchase quality, this would be a great choice. There is really no recoil and the report is no louder than a high powered pellet rifle. You're not going to spook cattle OR Aunt Marge with this firearm.
Golden Trigger - Not just Roy Rogers horse any more. If you get a Grade VI .22 the trigger is gold. On this particular grade it's blued, and feels as nice as it looks with a light trigger pull that can be pulled quickly and repeatedly.
The sites are adjustable, the front one being a gold "bead" type that's highly visible in daytime and can be adjusted for windage.The adjustable folding leaf rear site also easily folds down for a slightly lower profile.
Take me down to the gun range. The Browning auto is one of the quickest .22 repeaters to take-down, though there are other single shot .22s that come apart easily as well. The classic Marlin Model 39A comes apart by removing the large knurled screw head - so did over a million of Remington's M-12A pump. But I found the Browning .22 particularly easy, even for a first timer, adding a portability feature that's handy on any .22 rifle.
At the range At 5.2 pounds (2.4 kg) this is a lightweight rifle, one easily handled by all sizes and builds of shooters. At 37 inches of length (94 cm) with 19.24 inches of that being barrel, it's not cumbersome in the field. What struck me most about it was how perfectly balanced it was, making for a totally enjoyable shooting experience, sitting OR standing.
When I think of hunting, I think of big guns and bigger game, the heft of the firearm, the knockdown power of a .30 cal carbine. Certainly the memories of those first hunts and the skills I learned will stay with me always. But don't dismiss this as a "beginners" gun for adolescents, even if small rimfires don't get the appreciation they deserve among some rifle aficionados. It is deadly accurate and a joy to shoot (even if fuzzy squirrel target looks suspiciously like hairy bad guy target).