Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! In this weekly series, we continue to discuss, explore, review, and remember the various firearms and trends surrounding the rimfire firearm world. This week I’m going to focus on some blasts from the past that I wish would come back with more popularity – the pump action 22LR rifles.
The Rimfire Report: Showing Some Love for Pump Action 22LR Rifles
Despite generations of advancement in the firearm world – going from cap and ball all the way up to electronically fired multi-barreled cannons, one type of firearm, in particular, has always held a special place in my heart – pump actions. There is just something very visceral about manually cycling a firearm that makes it all that much more satisfying to shoot – especially when doing some casual plinking.
Pump actions or “slide actions” have been around since the late 1800s with the first slide action patent being issued to a British man named Alexander Bain in 1854. The English gunmaker actually patented his design before the first-ever centerfire cartridge was even invented, however, Bain’s design never got past the patent and the first-ever pump action firearm can be attributed to American gunmaker Christopher Spencer and his Model 1882 shotgun.
With the invention of the 22LR cartridge just two years later it is only natural that inventing minds would consider bringing the two technologies together for hunting and pest control duty. In 1890 the world got its first taste of pump-action 22LR goodness – the Winchester Model 1890.
Winchester Model 1890
The Winchester Model 1890 can trace its heritage back to the rimfire version of the Model 1873 rifle. Although the Model 1873 in its various larger sized calibers was a massive commercial and military (The Gun that Won the West) success, the 22LR version of the rifle never quite sold so well and as a result, Winchester asked John Moses Browning to design a rifle to replace the not-so-successful rimfire 1873.
The result of this request was the pump-action 22LR known as the Model 1890. The Model 1890 was capable of not only firing 22 Long Rifle but also 22 Short, 22 Long, and 22 Winchester Rimfire. The rifle was fed from a very generously sized 22-round tubular magazine that sat beneath the barrel as with most traditional pump actions.
Thanks to the genius design by Browning, the pump action .22 LR Model 1890 went on to become the most successful repeating rimfire rifle ever made by Winchester with a whopping 849,000 rifles produced in three different configurations. In just 42 years, Winchester had completed almost every thinkable upgrade possible to the rifle including the addition of pistol gripped versions until Winchester replaced the Model 1890 with the Model 62 rifle in 1932.
Pump Action 22lr Trombone
The Winchester Repeating Arms company saw very little in the way of competition throughout the early 20th century with only one notable competitor in the rimfire pump action market cropping up from none other than John Moses Browning himself – the man who invented the Model 1890. John Browning produced his own pump-action rifle with the help of Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal resulting in the creation of the FN Browning Trombone.
The Browning Trombone featured an 11-round tubular magazine, 24-inch round barrel, a semi-pistol gripped stock, and even an elevation adjustable rear sight. The dovetail of the rear sight could also be replaced with a mount for a scope adding to its versatility.
The Trombone was never nearly as successful as the Model 1890 as customers found that many of the wood components of the rifle were susceptible to cracking and easily worn out. Naturally, not many of the rifles made their way back to the United States with only a handful to have reportedly returned with United States service members and a few private importers.
Recently, the Henry Repeating Arms company revived its 22LR Pump Action Octagon rifle. Henry has been doing a lot of the groundwork with reviving many traditional firearms with modern technology. Luckily pump action 22LR rifles were on that list of things to revive. The resurrected Henry Pump Action Octagon 22LR features an Octagonal 19-3/4″ barrel, blued steel receiver and hardware, and a snappy looking American walnut stock and pump action grip.
The rifle features a brass bead front sight and a semi-buckhorn rear sight which give it a more traditional appearance and the sights are replaceable by the end-user if they feel the need to add a scope or other sights. Although it’s not quite the 22-round tube of the Model 1890, the Octagon rifle can hold 15-rounds of 22LR and even more 22 Short giving it an adequate magazine capacity.
New production Henry pump action 22LR rifles can be had for less than $500 and there are even 22WMR versions available for those looking for a bit more of a sting to put on their targets. Personally, I think one of these would be great for on the farm or in the back of the truck. With a wide variety of ammunition out there, you won’t have to worry about cycling issues with a pump-action giving it a bit of an edge over semi-auto 22LR rifles.
Old But Good
I think there is a lot to be said for some older designs, in particular, pump actions. Although we’ve progressed significantly in the realm of firearms technology and development, there should always be a good amount of respect given to the predecessors that paved the way for our modern guns. Manually operated firearms are fast becoming my favorite plinking guns just for the pure joy of operating a real piece of machinery.
What are your opinions on pump action 22LR rifles? If you own one, what drove you do buy it and how does it perform compared to your more modern semi-auto and bolt action rimfire rifles? Comments welcome below and as always thanks for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report.
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