Long-Term Gun Test: ATI VK-22

Back in September I tried to review the VK-22, a rimfire M4 clone that seemed to wear itself out after just a few hundred rounds of .22 long rifle. Its ATI-sourced lower receiver had a soft steel hammer which went full-auto on me, and the Chiappa-sourced upper had a floppy barrel and a weak bolt. After yet another catastrophic failure, I now declare this long-term gun test officially finished . . .

After a short day of shooting last weekend, the straight-blowback bolt assembly broke itself to pieces again and dumped most of its guts out the bottom of the mag well. The picture shows the entrails I could find in the gravel of the shooting pit.

Among the scores of guns I’ve shot, owned or tested, the VK-22 easily takes the gold medal for Worst Gun Ev-ar. After less than 1,200 rounds of .22 long rifle fed through it, here’s how it has fared:

Original Parts Broken and Replaced/Repaired

  • Bolt (broke and replaced)
  • Bolt (then it broke again)
  • Trigger/hammer assembly (went full-auto, replaced with Armalite 2-stage)
  • Barrel mounting (came unscrewed, returned to factory and repaired)
  • Buffer tube (not properly made or installed, fixed myself with a rat-tail file)
  • M4 stock (fell apart while shooting, replaced with fixed A2 stock)

Original Parts Still Functioning After Less Than One Year

  • Stripped lower receiver (with factory cosmetic blemishes)
  • Magazine catch
  • Bolt catch
  • Uncomfortable GI pistol grip (still works, but replaced by Magpul MOE)
  • Carbine-length handguards (no heat shields)

Almost every moving part has had to be replaced in less than a year. In fact, the retail cost of the replacement parts alone easily exceeds the purchase price of the gun by now. And the gun still doesn’t work even as a .22 range toy.

I guess it’s okay, because it’s given me the chance to build myself an accurate and utterly reliable AR with components and accessories from Magpul, Leupold, and ArmaLite. And now the broken remnants of the Chiappa-sourced upper will give me a little bit more shooting fun.

A Source Of Innocent Merriment, or, To Let The Punishment Fit The Crime (with Apologies to Gilbert & Sullvan):

The VK-22 stands accused of deserting us under fire. The verdict has been rendered, and the sentence shall be death by firing squad.

We’re going to tie what’s left of it to a post, give it a blindfold and a cigarette and shoot it. The polymer upper receiver won’t last long, but I’m curious to see how the barrel steel stands up to hotter rounds like jacketed 5.56, steel-core 5.45, and armor-piercing 7.62x54R bullets.

Any better ideas out there? We could probably think of something interesting involving Tannerite. If RF foots the bill (hint, hint).

16 Responses to Long-Term Gun Test: ATI VK-22

  1. avatarChainsawWieldingManiac says:

    I’m thinking that dumping some birdshot into it might prove interesting.

    It’s a shame this didn’t work out, because I am a big fan of .22LR AR-15s. I had an ST-22 that was just phenomenal once I ground down my stock bolt catch a bit (out of spec BC), and the CMMG Revo uppers/guns are almost legends unto themselves. I even went with a dedicated lower for my .22LR AR-15, so that I could run a Catch22 bolt catch and a folding stock.

  2. avatarfeffrey says:

    You should get a Sig 522. I have sent over 5000 rounds of 22lr down range and not a single part has needed replaced or worked on.

  3. avatarjcc1138 says:

    I bought a S&W 15-22 for my wife for Christmas 2011- she and I have put @ 5,000 rounds through it (and working on the second 5,250 now) and it has been a champ. I got two 25 round magazines for it (since I am in MD) and it is impossible to keep up with my wife’s shooting speed. I find it great for training her on how a AR15 works without the cost of the rounds. This is the basic version, not the MOE edition. Highly recommend it, it seems to be the one our beginning shooting buddies flock too.

  4. avatarHal says:

    Dip that POS in liquid nitrogen for 5 minutes then take it out and shoot it with m855 ball.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      I can think of sooooo many things to do with liquid nitrogen, but storage and handling are such a bitch…

  5. avatarBradley Tucker says:

    I second the S&W 15-22. It’s a great AR trainer, lightweight, and (after a few problems with the first one’s made) are reliable to a fault. I’ve personally gotten up to around 8,000 rounds, everything from benchrest to steel challenge and everything in-between.

  6. avatarMatt in FL says:

    “Its ATI-sourced lower receiver had a soft steel hammer which went full-auto on me”

    You call it a bug, I call it a feature.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      It’s not a feature you’d want to blog and advertise to the whole Internet. I got rid of those parts like they were radioactive.

  7. avatarTR says:

    Thermite is always a happy exercise in destruction…

  8. avatarracer88 says:

    Another shout out for the M&P 15-22. I am reluctant to recommend any particular gun to any particular person. There are so many variables and predilections from person to person. But, I dare suggest that the M&P 15-22 is a rifle that everyone could own and enjoy.

  9. avatarTom says:

    Seems like a POS. I think the gun manufacturers put out too much crap in general.

  10. avatarDan says:

    should have got a 15-22… bad decision to go with the VK-22.

  11. avatarfrankgon4 says:

    I recommend the use of 10 gauge slugs.

  12. avatarbontai Joe says:

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t think I have ever in my life of reading 35 plus years of gun reviews in many different magazines, read a review that told just how bad a piece of crap a particular firearm was. I mean I’ve read of other guns being flawed but this gun really seems to be trying to achieve the prize of worst weapon ever built in a factory to shoot bullets. In fact, I’d bet that there are some homebuilt “zip-guns” that might surpass this one for durability.

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