Browning 1911-22 A1 Pistol

By Chuck Hawks and Gordon Landers

Browning 1911-22 A1 Pistol
Illustration courtesy of Browning North America.

Browning's entry in the rimfire 1911 trainer field is their 1911-22 A1, which is made in Utah, USA. Unlike the full-size SIG SAUER 1911-22 pistol that we reviewed concurrently, the Browning is scaled-down to 85% size. This is enough to qualify as "small," without being too little to shoot comfortably. The Browning's reduced size is more appropriate for a .22 rimfire pistol than a full size 1911 and will be appreciated by those with smaller hands or anyone who buys one to carry in the field. As it happened, the Browning and SIG 1911-22's arrived at the same time, so the staff examined them together, straight out of the box. The Browning is supplied with a carrying case, but not a spare magazine, while the SIG comes with both.

Frankly, our initial impression of the two was that the Browning was the more desirable pistol, based mostly on its petite size. The full size SIG seemed very big for a .22.

However, being smaller and lighter than centerfire 1911 pistols also makes the Browning less desirable as a sub-caliber trainer for centerfire Government Model 1911 owners. Life is compromise.

As you might expect with a pistol bearing the prestigious Browning name, the 1911-22 A1 appears to be a well made, high quality pistol. Except for its checkered polymer grip panels, it is an all metal pistol. All functions and controls operate as per a standard 1911 pistol and the disassembly routine is the same. (Push the slide stop out from the right side and then pull it clear from the left side of the frame to remove the slide.) As the little Browning's nomenclature suggests, the grip's back strap is the curved "A1" type with a short reach trigger.

This is a traditional, John Browning type pistol, almost devoid of modern 1911 "enhancements." (Generally, in our opinion, this is a good thing!) The slide has a smooth, round top. The original style hammer has a cocking spur, which is the kind of hammer we prefer. It makes the Browning easy to cock with one hand. The typical 1911 grip safety, however, means that two hands must be used to de-cock the pistol. This grip safety, shaped like that found on an original A1, lacks any sort of beavertail spur. The pistol's controls, including the magazine release button, thumb safety, slide stop and grip safety are all of traditional form, without extensions. Except for the grip safety at the rear of the pistol, all other controls are located on the left side, as per John Browning's original design. Ambidextrous controls are eschewed.

The 1911-22 A1's Patridge fixed sights are low and simple, with a square notch rear and squared front blade. The rear sight is dovetailed into the top of the frame, allowing crude "drift" windage adjustment. The Patridge configuration is an improvement over the original 1911 sights, being somewhat more visible and easier to align than the sights on a vintage 1911 A1, but not by a lot.

The magazine release button is located in the customary 1911 position behind the trigger guard. The magazine drops free when the release button is depressed. The magazine is easy to load and interesting in that the cartridges are staggered when the magazine is fully loaded, which is unusual for a .22 pistol.

We didn't approve of the Browning's heavy, 6.5 pound trigger pull. The combination of a light gun and a heavy trigger pull makes this pistol difficult to shoot accurately. A trigger job is definitely required. Another improvement would be laminated or hardwood grips. The brown plastic grip panels are acceptable, but wood grips would be more attractive. This Browning is, after all, not a budget priced pistol.

While the gun is disassembled for a trigger job would be a convenient time to disconnect the magazine safety. The magazine safety means that the magazine must be inserted to operate the action when practicing, which makes us uncomfortable. We want the magazine removed from the pistol when it is handled and therefore a magazine safety has the effect of making the gun less safe. Since a lot of handling and "dry" practice at home is necessary for proficiency with any handgun, the magazine safety needs to go.

Specifications and Features

        Model - 1911-22 A1

        Item Number - 051802490

        Type - Single-action autoloading pistol

        Caliber - .22 LR

        Action Operation - Blowback

        Magazine capacity - 10-rounds

        Frame Material - Aluminum alloy

        Slide - Machined Aluminum

        Barrel Length - 4-1/4"

        Barrel Material - Stainless steel with target crown

        Finish - Matte blue

        Grips - Brown plastic

        Sights - Fixed Patridge type

        Sight Radius - 5-1/2"

        Safeties - Manual thumb safety, grip safety, magazine safety

        Overall Length - 7-1/8"

        Weight - 15-1/2 oz.

        2012 MSRP - $599.99

Like John Browning's original 1911, but unlike most .22's, the Browning 1911-22's barrel is not fixed in the frame. We anticipated that this would result in inferior accuracy compared to most .22 autoloaders, which proved to be the case. The low profile sights are hard to align and the trigger pull is too heavy. Taken together, these negative features insure that most .22 autoloaders (excluding sub-compact "pocket pistols") will deliver better groups than the 1911-22 A1 from the bench. If accuracy is an important consideration, you will be happier with a new Browning Buckmark, or one of Browning's discontinued Nomad, Challenger or Medalist pistols.

We did our shooting for this review at the Izaak Walton outdoor rifle and pistol range south of Eugene Oregon, our usual venue. The weather was typical for springtime in Western Oregon, which is to say overcast with impending rain showers. Wind was not a factor. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Gordon Landers, Rocky Hays and Jim Fleck did the shooting for record. We fired 5-shot strings (obvious flyers were excluded from the scoring) from a shooting bench using a Pistol Perch rest at 25 yards. Slow-fire pistol targets were used throughout our range sessions.

We normally shoot high speed, copper plated ammunition in our .22 pistols, so that is what we used for this review. The brands we tried included Federal American Eagle (38 grain HP), Remington Golden Bullet (36 grain HP), Winchester Super-X (37 grain HP) and CCI Mini Mag (40 grain RN). Unfortunately, the low priced and lower velocity American Eagle ammo proved unreliable in both the Browning and SIG SAUER 1911-22 pistols we were reviewing, as well as very inaccurate, so testing with this load was discontinued. We recommend using only first quality, high velocity .22 LR ammo in these pistols. Here are the shooting results:

  • REMINGTON Golden Bullet HP - Smallest group = 1-1/8", Largest group = 3-3/4", Mean average group = 2.6"
  • WINCHESTER Super-X HP - Smallest group = 1-3/4", Largest group = 4-1/2", Mean average group = 3.0"
  • CCI Mini Mag RN - Smallest group = 2-5/8", largest group = 4-1/2", Mean average group = 3.25"


This time out, Chuck shot the smallest groups, using Remington ammunition. Gordon's friends John and Tani, who are not experienced handgunners, also got some range time with the Browning 1911-22, although they did not shoot for record. Tani is a lady who has very small hands and her shooting was done off-hand. As an inexperienced female shooter with small hands, we were interested in her impression of the 1911-22 A1, since we suspected it would appeal to just such a shooter. Aside from being unfamiliar with the multiple buttons, switches and levers found on 1911 pistols, and the Browning's heavy trigger pull, Tani liked shooting the little gun.

During the course of our range time, we discovered that when the slide is locked back, it is 3/16 (0.188) inch short of fully retracted. The very first magazine load had a failure to feed the first round. The bullet nose caught on the lower edge of the chamber mouth. Chambering the round had been attempted by releasing the slide stop with the slide locked-back. The jam was cleared and the second attempt to load was done by manually pulling the slide all the way back and releasing it to slam forward. This worked and all further loading was done in this manner, with no more failures. In the course of our test shooting this problem seemed to disappear, apparently cured by the break-in process. No other problems were experienced, except with the afore-mentioned American Eagle brand ammunition, which proved to be ammunition (not gun) related.

This pistol does not have a beavertail grip safety. Chuck found that he had to be careful not to hold the pistol too high on the grip with his strong hand to avoid "hammer bite" on the web between his thumb and forefinger. No one else reported this problem.

We all agreed that the low profile sights are not fast to acquire or easy to see. Although of the Patridge type preferred by most target shooters, they are simply too small and too fine. The rear notch is too low and leaves an inadequate amount of space on either side of the front blade. We felt that the Browning's small sights and heavy trigger pull enlarged the size of our recorded groups and prevented us from doing our best shooting.

In order to reduce the trigger pull weight, Gordon went to work on the 1911-22 A1 the day after we returned from the range. Gunsmithing the little Browning was both easy and difficult. Eliminating the magazine safety will be easy for any competent gunsmith. Tuning the trigger pull requires closer attention. The normal 1911 trigger job is quite common in today's shooting world, but this gun's scaled-down size makes the job more delicate. Our end result was gratifying though, with a reduction from a 6.5 pounds trigger pull to 3.75 pounds. That is a reasonable figure for this Browning 1911-22.

We view the recently introduced, .22 caliber, 1911 pistols primarily as understudies for centerfire 1911 pistols. They offer the possibility of extensive practice at far lower cost, without the time consuming need to reload thousands of rounds of centerfire ammunition. Despite the fact that some areas need improvement (principally the sights, magazine safety and trigger), we found the Browning 1911-22 A1 to be a tidy and well made little pistol that should be a serious competitor in this new market niche. With a trigger job, it should do well.

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