If you’re like me, then you love shooting and the great outdoors. One of the best things ever is combining the two with a little backpacking and/or camping. Maybe you’re the type that likes to take a rod and reel or a good .22 rifle to bag yourself some grub for the trip. As has been said before by many, you can’t go wrong with a quality little .22lr. One of the most important features that I look for in a backpacking rifle is the ability for it to break down to easily fit into a pack. I’m going to run down a short list of some great options for lightweight, packable, and very handy firearms that fit this role. And one that you may have never heard of before.
Starting with one of the classics, for you curmudgeons out there, we have the excellent Browning SA-22. This little gem was designed back in 1914 by none other than John Moses Browning (THE best firearms designer to have ever graced the world with his presence). And his genius clearly shows through here by pairing beauty and innovation.
Here are the quick specs: Weight: 4.75lbs Length: 37″ Barrel length: 19.25″ This rifle has a very sleek look to it, no extra bells and whistles. It is a Semi-automatic with a bottom ejecting design, and it’s magazine is hidden in the butt of the rifle utilizing a tube system very similar to the Spencer carbine of Civil War fame. The rifle takes down by manipulating a small latch under the receiver, holding the bolt back and twisting the barrel 1/4 turn to pull it off. Very simple and very consistent which is key to accuracy. Speaking of accuracy, the sights are a simple but effective gold bead front and adjustable fold down leaf rear. Both are on the barrel and it gives you a setup that is very similar to the 10/22. The action is manipulated by pulling the small machined protrusion on the bolt to the rear and releasing. The safety is your generic cross bolt style on the front of the trigger guard. Now, some will argue that this gun is too pretty to take knocking around the woods, but that is what it was really designed for and it fills the role very well.
Moving on to another semi auto, we have the AR-7. I did not state the manufacturer because it has been made by several over the years. Armalite was the first, then it switched hands to Charter arms, and now Henry owns the rights to it. It was originally designed in 1959 to be used as a small game getter for downed US airmen. The coolest thing about this gun is that it breaks down and fully fits inside the butt stock, leaving you a very small and buoyant package.
In its current manufacture, its receiver is aluminum, stock is ABS plastic, and its barrel is a steel lined plastic as well, although I have seen carbon fiber versions. It weighs next to nothing at 3.5lbs, is 37″ long and fully broken down it is only 16.5.” It utilizes 8 round magazines that you can store in the stock and from what I’ve heard, it really likes to use the high velocity stuff, CCI Mini-mags work great. The bolt handle on the receiver slides freely right to left in the bolt to facilitate storage. To use, pull it out and manipulate it like any other semi-auto bolt. The safety is on the rear right side of the receiver and can be actuated by the thumb. The sights are decent, the rear being an adjustable aperture and the front is a simple blade. The barrel screws onto the receiver with a barrel nut and is aligned with a small notch and post at the receiver end. The stock slides onto the receiver and is held tight with a thumbscrew at the bottom of the grip. Not the most accurate or reliable one out there, but I think the coolness factor makes up for it. Besides James Bond used it as a “sniper rifle” once in From Russia with Love.
A more refined version of the AR-7 can be found in the Marlin Papoose rifle. It breaks down at the receiver with a similar barrel nut configuration. It is 3.25 lbs, has a 16.25″ barrel and is 35.25″ overall.
It comes with 7 round magazines and features a last round bolt hold open device. The sights are barrel mounted with a hood protected front post and elevation adjustable rear notch. It even comes with a floating carry case. I have nothing against it, it works well, I just personally don’t like it.
Before the AR-7, the survival rifle of choice for the Airforce was the M6 scout made by Springfield and then CZ. Unfortunately, this great firearm is no longer made but is still in high demand driving the prices up to $800 or more. This was a very simple design, made mostly of stamped steel. It is an over/under .22/.410 configuration and came in several .22 flavors, .22LR, .22 WMR, and .22Hornet.
A really nifty feature that I like, is the ammo storage compartment. Pushing a button allows the cover on the comb of the stock to hinge upward, revealing holes for 15 .22 rounds and 4 .410 shotshells. It breaks open with a latch on top of the receiver that allows loading/unloading and even folds almost in half. You can fully separate them if desired for an even more compact profile. She weighs 4.7 lbs, is 32″ overall, and 18″ broken down (stupid ATF regulations on shotgun barrels). A great piece, especially since you’re getting 2 for 1. It’s just too bad no one is bringing this gun back into production.
Stay tuned for Part II …..