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The .22 LR cartridge is nearly 160 years old, having first been
manufactured in 1858. To put that in context, on June 16 of that year,
Abraham Lincoln gave his "House Divided" speech at the State Capitol
in Springfield, Illinois on accepting the Republican nomination for a
seat in the U.S. Senate.
That year, Forty-Niners (not the team from San Francisco, the actual
Forty-Niners) streamed into the Rockies during the Pike's Peak Gold
Rush. And in September of that year Fordyce Beals patented his
rotating cylinder revolver, which would be produced by E. Remington &
Sons of Ilion, New York as the Remington Model 1858.

While in 2017 the cap-and-ball Remington 1858 has since become an


object for collectors, with modern reproductions relegated to use by
cowboy-action shooters, the .22 LR is still just as important a cartridge
as it ever has been. In fact, most of the durable, small-bore rifles on
this list are still in production today, and those that aren't are still in
the gun racks of many Americans...still shooting, still plinking, and still
helping new shooters learn the fundamentals.
Here's a look at some of the best and most important .22 LR rifles ever
made.

Marlin Model 60 / Model 795


If you learned to shoot after 1960 and used a .22, there's a good
chance you shot this rifle.
The semi-auto Marlin Model 60 is also widely known as the Marlin
Glenfield Model 60 or simply Glenfield 60.
Today, the gun is made by Remington Arms, but was originally
produced by Marlin Firearms Company in New Haven, Connecticut and
has been in continuous production since 1960. If you learned to shoot
on a .22 rifle as a kid in the years since, there’s a good chance you
shot a Model 60.
The rifle began as the Model 99, developed in 1959 by Ewald Nichol.
The internals were basically what would become the Model 60 the
following year, but there were some major exterior differences and the
99 was only offered until 1961.
The original Model 60 had a birch stock instead of the walnut used by
the 99, in order to keep the cost down. To address a rusting problem
with steel tubular magazines, Marlin used a brass inner tube on the 60,
making it extremely durable.
The Model 60's barrel uses the company’s trademarked Micro-Groove
rifling, developed in the early 1950s with a 1:16 inch RH twist. Micro-
Groove uses 16 small lands and grooves rather than 4, 6, or 8 deeper
grooves.
This rifling, along with the barrel’s precision-crowned muzzle, gave the
rifle a well-deserved reputation for accuracy over other rifles in the
same class using deep-groove rifling, which deformed soft lead bullets
more as they traveled down the barrel.
The action has a manual bolt that can be held in the full-open position,
and is a self-loading, straight blowback design with an ejection port on
the right side. The receiver comes grooved for a scope mount along
with an open rear sight and a ramp front sight.
A cross-bolt safety is located above the trigger, so it’s easy for
shooters with any sized hands to use , as long as they can reach the
trigger.
In 1985, the Model 60 began including a device that automatically held
the bolt open on the final shot in the magazine. The rifle originally held
18 rounds in its tubular magazine. Rifles with the combination of both
features are highly sought after by collectors, as they were only
produced for a brief time.
The magazine tube was redesigned in the late 1980s, reducing its
capacity to 15 rounds to meet recently adopted magazine capacity
limits in the U.S. This visibly reduced the length of the mag tube.
In the early 2000s, the barrel length was cut down from 22 to 19
inches to match the length of the shortened tube. Since semi-auto
rifles using non-removable tube magazines were not subject to the 10-
round capacity limit set by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (which
lasted from 1994 to 2004), the Model 60 didn’t have to be modified
further while it was in effect.
Though some parts are specific to various windows of production
years, many parts are backwards compatible all the way to the 1960
models.
In 1966, the retailer JC Penny listed the rifle as the Glenfield 60 with a
4x scope for $39.99. These days, they go for about $160, without
optics.
Marlin introduced the Model 795 in 1997, which is nearly identical to
the Model 60, but configured to accept a detachable box magazine
instead of the 60’s non-removable tube magazine, and was partly
meant as a replacement for the model 995. A target version of the 795
was simultaneously introduced with a heavy barrel as the Marlin 7000.
It was discontinued in 2007, but the 795 is still in production today,
along with the model 60.
In this story from guns.com, Marlin says the Model 60 has outsold the
Ruger 10/22 by more than double, with a total of more than 11 million
sold since 1960.

Remington Nylon 66
A design truly ahead of its time, this rifle had a polymer stock AND
receiver back in 1959, but it wasn't a gimmick—just a very good gun.
When you think about what might be the first rifle with a synthetic
stock, you might not picture a .22 rifle from the late 1950s, though
that is certainly the case. And not only that, the rifle also had a
synthetic receiver.
In 1959, Remington Arms introduced one of the earliest mass-
produced rifles featuring a stock made from something other than
wood: the Remington Nylon 66.
It was a risky gamble for the gunmaker, which is evident from the color
and prominent diamond accent on the nylon stock, features meant to
evoke the look of traditional wood stocks.
At about the same time, the .22/.410 Stevens Combo gun was
released with a Tenite stock, but it didn’t achieve nearly the same
success as the Nylon 66.
At the time, Remington was looking to fill a gap in its catalog by
producing a mid-priced, semi-auto .22 rifle. Unable to find a way to
trim costs on barrels, they focused on stocks and receivers, asking the
engineers at DuPont (which had control of Remington since 1933) to
come up with a plastic to replace both.
The material had to be capable of forming any desired shape, had to
have a high tensile-impact and flexural strength, high abrasion
resistance, high resistance to heat distortion as well as cold, must not
continue to burn after being exposed to flame, must be impervious to
solvents, oils, mild acids, alkalis, fungus, rodents, and insects—plus it
had to be lightweight, hold colors well, and have a finish that’s easy to
repair—that’s a pretty tall order.
Four months later, DuPont delivered Zytel Nylon 101, a member of the
Nylon 66 family of plastics, the same polymer that was first used to
make women’s stockings.
Production-model Nylon 66 rifles were injection-molded in two halves,
the buttstock and the forend, with tongue and groove connections.
They were then bonded together with the receiver in the center.
The magazine was located in the buttstock and loaded through the
buttplate, holding 14 .22 LR cartridges. The steel striker and bolt ran
in grooves in the self-lubricating nylon receiver. Other parts, such as
the trigger and trigger guard, were stainless steel or steel stampings.
The rifle required little to no hand-fitting, which kept production costs
low. It weighed only 4 lbs. 8 oz. due to the polymer components, with a
19-1/2-inch barrel.
About 4,450 production Nylon 66s were made in late 1958 for retail
sale at $49.95 and billed as “The Gun of Tomorrow” in a huge media
blitz for the time, touting its dependability, imperviousness to adverse
conditions, and light weight as prime selling points.
The rifle was originally offered in two colors, Mohawk Brown and
Seneca Green. Later, Apache Black was added to the line.
In a famous display of the rifle’s durability, in 1959, Tom Frye, a
Remington field rep, set out to beat exhibition shooter Ad Topperwein's
world record set in 1907 of shooting 72,000 21/2 wooden blocks as
they were tossed into the air, while only missing nine. Frye used three
Nylon 66 rifles and maintained an average pace of 1,000 shots per
hour for 13 consecutive eight-hour days. When it was all over, he'd
shot at 100,010 blocks and hit 100,004, missing only six. The rifles
were cleaned only five times during the trial.
The Nylon 66 became the most successful .22 caliber rifle Remington
has ever made, with a total production of more than 1,000,000 by
1991 when it was discontinued.

Ruger 10/22
Valued for its affordability and reliability, the Ruger 10/22 is also one
of the most customizable rifles on the market. And more than five
million of them are out there.
In 2014, the Ruger 10/22 celebrated its 50th anniversary, with over 5
million rifles made since the first one rolled out of the factory in 1964.
It didn’t need much time to build a following, and quickly became
popular with shooters of all kinds, from small game hunters and
plinkers—plus it’s a great gun for young or inexperienced shooters
because of its moderate size, weight, and of course light recoil.
By the time the 10/22 was introduced, Bill Ruger’s young company
had found its footing, celebrating its 15th year since Sturm Ruger &
Co. launched with the Standard pistol, and the rifle was an extension of
a popular chambering for the company: the .22 LR cartridge. And like
the company’s other firearms, the new sporting rifle was made to be
reliable, aesthetically pleasing, comfortable to shoot, and affordable
for the average person.
The rifle was actually a companion gun to the Ruger .44 Magnum
carbine introduced in 1961, which was only produced for a few years,
and was never intended to be a flagship model—but shooters knew
better, and still do.
The rifle’s factory magazine was innovative for the time and has been
emulated by many gun manufacturers since. The standard 10/22 ships
with a 10-round rotary magazine that stores the cartridges in a
circular fashion instead of in a stack. Because of its shape, the
magazine fits flush into the rifle and doesn’t protrude, allowing a user
to carry the gun in the field one-handed at its natural balance point.
Currently there are many types of magazines for the 10/22, including
the basic five-round rotary mags. In 2011, Ruger introduced the Ruger
BX-25, a 25-round box mag with a composite frame and steel feed
lips—and there are many aftermarket options including 25-, 30-, and
50-round box magazines; 50-round teardrop-shaped rotary
magazines, and 50- and 110-round drum magazines like this one from
GSG. Other products, like this coupler, allow users to join three 10-
round factory mags together for faster reloads. Ruger also makes a
clear version of the 10-round factory rotary mag.

The number of magazine options for the 10/22 only hints at the
customization options for the popular rifle. An incredible amount of
aftermarket stocks, sights, and other parts exist for the inexpensive
rifle that, when utilized, can drastically change its looks. Additionally,
there are a number of companies that manufacture 10/22 rifles that
are produced to a much higher standard than factory guns, with
match-grade components.
Have one of those 110-round drum magazines, but don’t feel like
pulling the trigger that many times? The BMF Activator will let you
crank that little rimfire like it’s a Gatling gun, pulling the trigger four
times for each rotation. Want you 10/22 to look more like an AR, and
use your AR components on it? There are a number of kits that let you
do just that, like this one ProMag Archanger Rifle ARS Package. For an
even more tactical setup, ProMag also makes the Nomad stock, which
converts the rimfire into a folding-stock tactical rifle with accessory
rails. And the best part is that almost all of these aftermarket stocks
are drop-in designs, requiring no gunsmithing.
Ruger produces the 10/22 in 11 variants, not counting distributor-
exclusive models. The 10/22 Carbine Standard model has a 18.5-inch
barrel with a hardwood or black synthetic stock, and a black alloy or
stainless steel receiver. A model is also offered with a laser sight
included.
The 10/22 Takedown model was introduced in 2012, which
disassembles into two parts: the barrel and action, and the buttstock.
No tools are required. It comes in a backpack style case with room for
the broken-down rifle, ammunition, and accessories.
The Target, Compact, and Sporter versions are basically the same with
different barrel lengths. The Target has no iron sights and the sporter
comes with a checkered walnut stock and sling swivels. The Tactical
model comes with a flash suppressor and is available with a heavy
target barrel and a Hogue OverMolded stock and bipod.
The 10/22 Takedown Lite is a more recent addition. It comes with a
short 16.12inch barrel and an aluminum alloy barrel sleeve with a
threaded muzzle and thread cap for use with a suppressor.
In 2009, Ruger got in on the customization game and released the
SR-22 Rifle, which is a 10/22 receiver embedded in a chassis
mimicking the dimensions of an AR-style rifle, like the company’s
SR-556, with the position of the magazine release, safety, and charging
handle more similar to a 10/22 than an AR.

Marlin Model 39A


The rifle represents the oldest and longest continuously produced
shoulder firearm in the world. It's still made today in Ilion, New York.
When the first Marlin 39A lever-action rifle was made in 1891, it began
a production history that would continue unabated for 126 years with
a rifle that people would use and depend on for generations.
The 39A started as the Marlin Model 1891, the first lever gun ever
chambered in .22 LR. The tube magazine was loaded through a loading
gate on the side of the receiver, as with most centerfire lever-actions.
With the Model 1892, the tube mag became a front-loader because the
previous model had trouble feeding the small rimfire round through the
gate without binding up. The Model 1897 was introduced a few years
later, and that became the Model 39 in 1921, and eventually the Model
39-A in 1939. In 1983, the Golden 39A was introduced (so named for
the rifle’s traditional golden trigger), and is still produced today.
However, among all these models and years, the changes remained so
minimal that the rifle is considered to have been continually produced
to the same basic specs for over 100 years. The biggest difference is
the Model 39-A did not have a cross hammer safety, which has always
been standard on the current Golden Model 39A.
Since the early 1950s, Marlin has used its proprietary Micro-Groove
rifling in the the Model 39A.
All the rifle’s components are forged steel and the stocks are made
from American-grown black walnut. The rifle was inherently easy to
takedown, requiring only the use of a coin to remove one screw. The
rifle has a solid-top receiver and a side ejection port, which has always
made mounting optics easy, whereas it’s quite difficult and
cumbersome on top-ejecting rifles. It can handle .22 Short, .22 Long,
or .22 LR rounds, with a capacity of 26-, 21-, and 19-rounds,
respectively.
One of the most famous shooters to use one of these Marlins was the
sharpshooting Annie Oakley. On March 10, 1893, Oakley used a Model
1891 to put 25 rounds through one jagged hole in 27 seconds at a
distance of 36 feet (12 yards) with .22 Short cartridges. On the same
day, she produced another jagged one-hole group with the rifle
through the center of an Ace of Hearts playing card, shooting off-hand.
In the years since, Marlin has made two special-run commemorative
39A rifles honoring Oakley’s achievements. In 1998, 500 39A rifles
were offered to the public, with another 100 offered only to Marlin
employees. in 2000, another run of special Annie Oakley guns was
made for Davidson’s Gallery of Guns and sold to the general public.

S&W MP15-22
A thoroughly 21st-century rifle, this affordable AR-platform rimfire
from one of America's greatest gunmakers quickly found a lasting
home with modern shooters.
The popularity of the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22, and similar modern
rifles, proves that the long-lived .22 LR cartridge is still extremely
popular into the 21st century.
A variant of the S&W M&P15 line, the .22 version has a simple
blowback action, rather than a direct impingement-operated action,
with a polymer upper and lower receiver, instead of with aluminum as
is used for centerfire versions.
The rifle was introduced in 2009 as a less expensive alternative for
training with an AR-15 style rifle, the popularity of which was surging
powerfully.
Because the rifle is far less expensive than a centerfire rifle, and shoots
relatively cheap .22 LR ammo, yet is still an AR made by Smith &
Wesson—it didn’t take long for shooters to snap up the dependable,
easy-to-use carbine.
As it’s designed, the M&P15-22 is a great rifle for training new
shooters, not only because of its ease of use and negligible kick, but
also because the controls will be in the same place when that new
shooter graduates to a centerfire AR-style rifle.
The disassembly process is also very similar to an AR-15, with the
lower receiver detaching from the upper via two captured pins. The
M&P15 trigger assembly is compatible with most AR-15 trigger
groups, allowing for some upgrading.
S&W also makes a Sport II version of the M&P15-22 outfitted with
Magpul furniture, MBUS sights, and a threaded barrel. The base rifle is
also available in a number of finishes and camouflage colors, including
Kryptek Highlander and Muddy Girl, in addition to flat colors like tan,
black, and olive.
The gun comes with a 16-inch carbon-steel barrel with a 1:15 twist
and an overall length of 33.75 inches with the adjustable stock
extended, and 30.5 inches collapsed. It weighs in at 5.5 pounds
unloaded and comes with a 25+1 round magazine. Smaller-capacity
magazines are also available for states in which they are restricted.
Real-world price is about $450.

Winchester 1903 / 63
The first semi-auto gun ever made by Winchester, the 1903 and later
the Model 63, bridged a gap into a new century.
If for no other reason, the Winchester Model 1903 holds an important
place in history because it's the first commercially available semi-auto
ever made by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, marking a new
era.
Designed by T.C. Johnson, the Model 1903 entered the Winchester
catalog in its eponymous year, and was first chambered in the .22
Winchester Automatic cartridge. In 1919 the Model 1903 monicker
was shortened to Model 03, and then after a partial redesign in the
1930s, it was renamed the Model 63. In addition to other changes, the
Model 63 was chambered for .22 LR, which was far more popular at the
time than the .22 Win Auto cartridge.
The Model 63 was first available to the public on 1933 and it remained
in production until 1958, with about 126,000 Model 1903 rifles and
about 175,000 Model 63s produced.
The rifle featured a 20-inch round barrel, with a 23-inch barrel
available in 1933. The 20-inch barrel was discontinued in 1936. A
tubular magazine was located in the butt stock. It held 10 rounds,
loaded through a slot in the stock’s right side. Like the Model 39, both
the Model 1903 and 63 were takedown rifles. The 1903 required the
user to press the takedown screw-lock through a slot in the tang to
release the lock from the ratchet. The Model 63 featured an improved
mechanism that only required the user to turn the takedown screw to
the left until the mechanism released.
The autoloader used a simple blowback operation with a balanced
breech bolt, meaning the bolt’s mass was proportionate to the weight
and velocity of the bullet. This ensures the breech bolt won’t move
rearward until the bullet has left the muzzle. This design caveat is what
forced Winchester to design its own .22 cartridge for the rifle.
When the gun was re-chambered in .22 LR for the Model 63, the
mechanism had to be redesigned.
The Model 1903 was available in a standard and deluxe version, the
former with a plain walnut stock and plain straight grip, the latter with
a checkered walnut pistol grip stock and a checkered forearm. The first
5,000 rifles were produced without a safety, after which a cross-bolt
safety was added.
The last 10,000 Model 63 rifles made until the end of 1958 had
grooves in the receiver tops for mounting scope rings.

CZ Model 452
The full-sized bolt gun from the former Soviet Bloc feels and shoots
like a military-grade rifle at .22 LR prices.
Ceska Zbrojovka Uhersky Brod, or simply CZ for American shooters,
has been making sporting and military rifles since they started back in
1936, though today they are better known for their CZ-75 family of
handguns.
Americans didn’t know much about CZ firearms before 1990, when the
Iron Curtain fell. Indeed, their firearms weren't available to Americans
through normal channels until 1991, when the Czechoslovakian
gunmaker created a U.S. subsidiary once it became a private company.
CZ-USA, located in Kansas City, also owns Dan Wesson Firearms,
operating out of Norwich, New York.
The CZ 452, introduced in 1954 as the Model 2, is a fairly simple but
reliable repeating bolt-action rifle that feeds from a 5-round
detachable box magazine. It's unique because, unlike many other bolt-
action .22s, this gun isn't a youth model or a scaled down version of
another firearm, but a full-sized rifle chambered in .22 LR, so that it
could function as a true training rifle. The 452 has also been
chambered in .22 WMR, .17 HMR, and .17 HM2.
The preceding rifle, the Model 1, was built at the request of the
occupying German authority in 1943-44 during WWII, but many
weren’t assembled due to the greater need for battle rifles, leaving
many parts stockpiles that were used after the war to make the Model
1.
The CZ 452 American was introduced along with the creation of CZ-
USA, and became a popular and affordable rimfire bolt gun on this side
of the pond. It shoots and feels like a military-grade bolt action, not a
light, shrunken down trainer.
The American model had a straight-combed Turkish walnut stock
intended for use with a telescopic sight, as the rifle did not come
equipped with iron sights of any kind. The 22.5-inch barrel came
threaded for a compensator, muzzle brake, or suppressor and the top
of the receiver is machined with a 3/8” wide dovetail groove for
installing scope mounts.
Currently, all but the left-handed version of the CZ 452 American are
out of production, the rest having been replaced by the CZ Model 455
around 2011. You can see a detailed comparison of the differences
between the two models here.
The CZ 452 has also been made in a Varmint version with a 21” heavy
barrel and grooves for sight mounts. The stock is equipped with a flat-
bottom forend for use with a sandbag rest.
The CZ Lux and Trainer models came with a walnut European-style
stock with an arched comb, and a tangent rear sight marked in 25-
meter increments that's adjustable for windage and elevation. The
front blade sight can also be adjusted for zeroing in elevation.
The Ultra Lux model came with a long, 28.6-inch barrel and a
beechwood stock and a rear tangent sight calibrated from 25 to 300
meters.
The Scout model is a compact, single-shot version intended for young
shooters with buckhorn sights.

Browning SA-22
The first semi-auto .22 LR rifle ever made, the John Browning-
designed SA-22 has been made by several companies over the past
century and is still available today.
The first semi-auto .22 LR rifle ever produced is still in production. If
that's not a mark of success, what is?
The Browning 22 Semi-Auto rifle, or the SA-22, is a takedown .22 LR
rifle first produced by FN Herstal based on John Browning’s patent in
1914. Over a century later, the rifle is still being made, sold by
Browning as the Semi-Auto 22, and over 500,000 have been
manufactured in that time.
FN Herstal produced the SA-22 through 1974 in Belgium. Production
continued afterward by in Japan by Miroku. Though it was designed by
Browning, Americans didn’t get the opportunity to own a true SA-22
until 1956 when FN began exporting it for the American market,
though there were other options.
The Chinese firearm company, Norinco, made a close copy that was
imported into the U.S. by Interarms as the Model ATD. Remington also
manufactured a lighter weight version under license from 1919 to
1935 as the Remington Model 24, which was replaced with the
Remington Model 241 in 1935. Save for the barrel locking mechanism,
the Model 241 is very similar to the Browning SA-22.
A famous photograph of John M. Browning holding an SA-22 is thought
to actually be a Remington Model 24.
Through the years, the SA-22 has been offered in several grades of
engraving and gold inlays and is widely collected, especially the model
years produced by FN in Belgium.
The rifle is made from blued steel and walnut, and ejects spent casing
downward, making it friendly for left-handed shooters (it was designed
as a feature to protect shooters’ faces). The fact that it had no ejection
port on the side of the receiver lent the rifle to elaborate engravings,
done by hand at FN Herstal. Engraving work today is done by lasers
with hand finishing at the Miroku plant.

Winchester 1890
Nicknamed the “gallery gun,” the workhorse pump .22 was a staple
at shooting galleries around the country and was Winchester’s most
successful general-purpose rimfire rifle.
When Winchester Repeating Arms asked John M. Browning to come up
with a replacement for the unpopular Model 1873 rimfire rifle, John
teamed up with his brother Matthew and patented the design for what
would become the Model 1890.
It was the first successfully developed and manufactured repeating
slide-action .22 rifle ever made, and proved to be Winchester’s most
successful repeating general use rimfire rifle of all time. About
849,000 Model 1890 rifles were made between 1890 and 1932. From
then on the Model 1890 was replaced by the Winchester Model 62 rifle.
The Model 1890 was a slide action, top ejecting rifle with an 18-inch
magazine tube topped with a 24-inch octagonal barrel. It came with a
plain walnut stock and weighed about 6 pounds. While the gun has
been chambered for .22 Short, .22 Long, .22 LR, and .22 Winchester
Rimfire, it can only operate with .22 cartridges for which it is
chambered, unlike some other rimfire designs, which can feed
cartridges of multiple lengths. The .22 LR version was added in 1919.
The rifle was produced in three versions distinct for reasons other than
caliber. The first had a solid frame, a case hardened receiver, and a
fixed rear sight. About 15,000 of these were made from 1890 to 1892.
The second version was a takedown rifle that also had a case hardened
receiver, but an adjustable rear sight. About 100,000 of these were
made. In 1901, the case hardened receiver was changed to a blued
version, with about 200,000 produced.
The third model was also a takedown rifle, and had a modified receiver
allowing the breech bolt to lock externally. It was offered in a deluxe
edition with a checkered walnut stock and either a straight or pistol
grip.
For a number of years, the robust, easy-to-use rifle, capable of firing
countless rounds without the need for maintenance or even frequent
cleaning, became a standard for use in shooting galleries and garnered
it the nickname of “gallery gun.”
For those too young to even imagine the concept of a shooting gallery
being a real thing: They were the equivalent of old-school arcade
games, springing up following the development of rimfire ammo in the
19th century. They were basically small, portable shooting ranges with
a bullet trap and a range of about 10 feet that became a mainstay of
Gilded Age amusement parks, fairgrounds, and traveling carnivals.
The targets were steel or cast iron and indicated hits by tipping over or
rotating downward on a horizontal mounting rod. The muzzle of each
gun at the firing line was often chained to a down-range attachment to
prevent the rifles from being accidentally aimed away from the bullet
trap. Injuries from ricochets led to the later development of frangible
bullets for use at shooting galleries.
In the late 20th century, the shooting gallery firearms were replaced by
safer air guns—and by this century, shooting galleries are mostly
gone, with the few remaining using electronic “firearms.” As for the
Model 1890, it was discontinued in 1941 with about 849,000 having
been produced.

Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle


Designed by AR-15 creator Eugene Stoner, this is the survival rifle
that wouldn't die. Made by five different companies, the latest
iteration of the gun that breaks down to fit into its own stock may be
the best.
To know where the unusual AR-7 semi-auto rifle came from, you have
to know the Armalite AR-5, which was a lightweight bolt-action rifle,
chambered in .22 Hornet that was adopted by the U.S. Air Force as the
MA-1 aircrew survival rifle in 1956.
Since aircrew members who manage to survive ditching a damaged or
incapacitated plane and parachute to the ground safely may have to
defend themselves and hunt wild game for survival until they can be
rescued or walk out, a firearm is a welcome companion in that
circumstance. it also has to be small enough to be stashed in the
close-quarters of a plane cockpit, and specifically under the aircraft
seats.
The AR-5 was developed by Eugene Stoner at ArmaLite, a division of
Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, and served the Air Force’s
need for a compact, lightweight, accurate rifle to include in the crew
survival kits on the new XB-70 bomber.
Even though it was adopted by the Air Force, funding was never
received to buy more than the original 12 test models, due to the
cancellation of the XB-70 fleet. However, it introduced ArmaLite to the
American military, a relationship that led to the adoption of the M-16
and creation of the AR rifle platform.
The original ArmaLite AR-7 Explorer was a semi-auto .22 LR rifle
developed by Stoner, the later designer of the M-16, from his AR-5
design. This rifle, however, was destined for the civilian market as a
backpacking rifle and a survival tool.
The rifle uses a blowback semi-auto action with a retracting side-
mounted charging handle. The ejection port is also located on the right
side and the rifle feeds from an 8-round detachable box magazine. It
also includes a simple manual thumb safety.
The rifle’s claim to fame is that it breaks down into four parts: the
barrel, receiver, stock, and magazine, without tools. Everything can
then be stored in the rifle’s hollow polymer buttstock for extremely
compact transport or storage.
The receiver is primarily aluminum with a plastic buttcap and recoil
spring guide and a steel bolt. The original barrel was aluminum using a
rifled steel liner insert.
When assembled, the AR-7 is 35 inches overall and breaks down to a
stout 16 inches and weighs 2.5 pounds. it comes with a fixed rear peep
sight that is adjustable for windage and a blade front sight.
Designed as a tool used dispatch for small game, it’s accurate out to
50 yards. While the original AR-7 was a dependable rifle, as long as the
magazines remained in good shape, the rifle was later made by a host
of other manufacturers, with varying quality and compatibility with
older magazines.
The magazines are such a factor on the AR-7 because a feed ramp is
located on each one, instead of being permanently affixed to the
barrel. If it doesn’t line up just right, cartridges won’t feed into the
chamber.
ArmaLite also made a variant sold to the Israeli Military for use as an
aircrew survival weapon.
ArmaLite produced the AR-7 Explorer from 1959 to 1973. Charter
Arms then bought the the production rights and made the rifle as the
AR-7 Survival Rifle until 1990. After that, Survival Arms of Cocoa,
Florida made the gun until 1997, when AR-7 Industries picked up
production until 2004.
However, in 1980, Henry Repeating Arms began producing the AR-7 as
the Henry U.S. Survival AR-7, and has continued to produce its version
with excellent quality and reliability, as long as you use new magazines
made by Henry that include an external wire spring to align the
cartridges. Henry made a few changes, including using an ABS
material to replace the original plastic stock, which was prone to
cracking.
The receiver recess on the Henry stock allows storage of the receiver
with a magazine in place, which earlier versions couldn’t
accommodate, as well as two additional magazines. The rifle typically
comes with two mags. The Henry AR-7 is also water resistant with a
Teflon coating on the entire outer surface. A 3/8 in. weaver tip-off
mount rail is milled into the top of the receiver for mounting a variety
of optics—but the receiver can’t be stored in the stock with an optic
attached.
When packed away in the stock, the rifle can also float for a time, as
long as air is held in the hollow space by the buttpad/cap.
It retains is operational and other features, and is available in various
colors. All iterations of the AR-7 use a bolt and dual recoil springs that
are heavy for a .22 semi-auto, resulting in the best functionality with
high-velocity ammo. However, it is possible to manually load a single
round in the chamber, so low-velocity or subsonic ammo can be used
as a single-shot if necessary.
Since the barrel and stock are both detachable from the receiver, a
bevy of aftermarket accessories are out there for the AR-7, much like
the market for 10/22 mods, including barrels, stocks, and grips. Some
make the rifle look a lot like an AR, others look like space guns from a
sci-fi movie. Of course, such accessories usually preclude the use of
the original stock.
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