When I decided to buy a new .22 LR (22 Long Rifle) pistol, I knew exactly what I was looking for. I wanted something well-built with a decent sight radius that would eat range ammo all day long. A .22 semi-automatic rimfire pistol that’s like a Leatherman multi tool, good for just about every job. Self defense (yes), practicing shooting fundamentals, target work, plinking or helping a new shooter get started. The obvious choice: A Ruger 22/45.
The Ruger 22/45 is almost universally praised as a nicely designed, heirloom-quality gun. Sure, the magazine disconnect thing is a PITA. And the Ruger will never win any awards for ease of takedown. But those were compromises I was willing to make to save some ammo coinage while sending a lot of lead downrange.
But a funny thing happened after leaving the forum. When I picked a 22/45 up it felt wrong in my hand. Not at all comfortable. Admittedly, I have small hands. But I’ve shot Beretta 92s that felt good and they have grips with the approximate circumference of an oil drum. I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger, so to speak, on the Ruger.
Seeing my disappointment, and sensing a lost sale, my friendly retailer handed me another gun. When I picked up the Browning Buckmark Camper, I’m pretty sure I heard angels sing and sunlight showering down from the heavens on the gun counter. Which was a hell of a feat as this shop had no windows.
The Browning Buckmark Camper was made for my hand. It has pretty much everything else I was looking for, too. A 5 ½-inch bull barrel. A reputation for shooting pretty much anything [ED: he means cartridges.] And I’ve had great experience with Brownings (OK, it’s an over/under trap gun, but it’s still a Browning.) So I plunked my dinero on the counter and off I went.
Fit and Finish
I own a Kel-Tec P3AT. It’s reliable as all get-out, but the gun looks like it was crafted by the third period shop class. The Buckmark pistol, on the other hand, is nicely assembled and immaculately finished. I’m not saying it’s got tighter tolerances than a Catholic school, but Sister Mary Elephant would have nothing to scream about.
The Camper’s Parkerized bull barrel is substantial, in a good way. The molded synthetic grip has a rubberized feel to it, but it isn’t tacky. It’s every bit as comfortable from either the right or left hand, though the slide lock, safety and magazine release are all set up for righties only.
And the Buckmark is no lightweight. At 2 lbs. 2 oz., the babe will know that yes, that is a pistol in your pocket. Not that the Camper is — in any way — a concealed carry gun. But it’s certainly tenable as a nightstand gun for someone who can’t handle higher-caliber ballistics.
You won’t be surprised that this is an American-made standard blowback gun with a single-action trigger. As with almost every .22 LR pistol out there, the Buckmark has a 10+1 capacity and comes with one magazine.
And this is where Browning nicks you. Buckmark magazines are a good $7 to $10 more than Ruger Mark III mags, depending on the retailer. That’s a fair bit of change that could be much better spent on ammo.
The Buckmark’s sights are standard black and adjustable for windage. Many Campers seem to come equipped with Hi-Viz fiber-optic sights. Both rear and front sights are easily swapped out for aftermarket alternatives.
While not quite in the Ruger’s league in terms of accessories, the Buckmark still has a wide variety of rails, replacement triggers, grips and more that can be used to customize the gun in any number of ways. In fact, one of the first things I did after a few weeks with the gun was to pick up a scope base and Tasco 1×30 red dot. This was $60 well spent and greatly adds to the fun of shooting the gun.
Oh, and about that red dot. It gives you a very easy to see 5 MOA dot with 11 different brightness settings. Coated optics, easy to zero and amazingly well made for a mere $32.
The Browning Buckmark Camper’s best feature is the trigger. It has a light, crisp break that’s unusual for a gun at this price point. Combining a quick re-set with a .22’s soft recoil, the Camper’s incredibly easy to keep on target shot after shot.
The Camper doesn’t seem to like every brand of ammo quite as much as others. But misfeeds have been very few and far between. In about a thousand rounds, I’ve never had a single failure to extract.
The cracker-crisp trigger and the gun’s heft means minimal, Airsoft-caliber recoil. With the Camper’s long sight radius, a reasonably experienced shooter can achieve 1-inch groups out to 15+ yards.
Here’s an area where the Buckmark gets, um, marked down. Not only is field stripping a minor adventure, it requires tools. Allen wrenches, to be specific. Two different sizes of Allen wrenches. Is it difficult? No, it’s not. But it’s not something you’ll want to do in the field.
To clean and lube the slide, you have to take the slide bridge off. This you do by removing two screws with one of the Allen wrenches. (Make sure to keep ‘em straight because they’re different lengths.) Not satisfied running a BoreSnake through the barrel? If you’re going to run a cleaning rod through it from the rear, you have to use a different wrench to remove the barrel.
The Browning Buckmark Camper’s grips are attached to the gun with two flat-head screws. The grips also hold the mag release spring and part of the trigger assembly. Tip the gun the wrong way and out they come. In short, replacing the Camper’s grips is not exactly like putting a new set of Cocobolos on your 1911.
Again, it’s more of a hassle than an invitation to an armorer’s course. Lots of folks, me included, like to futz with their firearms. But the Buckmark’s design seems needlessly complex.
Face it: Everyone needs a .22 rimfire handgun. The Browning Buckmark Camper is no race gun, but it’s a lot of fun in a well-built package at a nice price ($300 +/-). How great is that? Great.
Specifications: Browning Buck Mark Camper
Action: Blowback action, Single-action
Caliber: .22 LR
Barrel Length: 5.5”
Overall Length: 9 1/2″
Magazine Capacity: 10+1 (10-round magazine)
Safety: Thumb and Magazine
Grips: Synthetic (Browning’s Overmolded Ultragrip FX grip, ambidextrous with very slight finger grooves)
Sight Radius: 8″
Sights: Adjustable Sights (Rear Sight Pro-Target, Fiber Optic Front Sight)
Frame: Aircraft grade 7075 aluminum alloy
Trigger Guard Finish: Matte Black
Barrel Finish: Matte Blued
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
Receiver Finish: Matte Black
Weight: 34 oz.
Finish: Black Parkerized
Ratings (out of five)
Style * * * *
It won’t win any beauty contests, but it has a certain utilitarian je ne sais quoi.
Ergonomics * * * * *
It’s the reason I bought the gun. Extremely comfortable to have to hold and to shoot.
Reliability * * * *
Find its favorite brands of ammo (and there seem to be a lot of them) and it’ll run all day long.
Customization * * * *
Plenty of plug-and-play options out there to make it in your own image.
Overall * * * * *
Unless you need a super-accurate target gun, a .22 pistol should, above all, be fun and reliable. Mission accomplished.
Editor’s Note: Current Buckmark models include: Buck Mark Medallion Rosewood, Buck Mark Plus Camper UFX (Ultragrip FX) Suppressor Ready, Buck Mark Plus Lite Flute UFX Suppressor Ready, Buck Mark Plus Stainless UDX, Buck Mark Plus Rosewood UDX, Buck Mark Plus UDX, Buck Mark Plus Practical URX, Buck Mark Lite UFX, Buck Mark Field Target, Buck Mark Field Target Suppressor Ready, Buck Mark Lite Gray URX 5 1/2, Buck Mark Lite Gray URX 7 1/4 Barrel, Buck Mark Lite Green URX, Buck Mark Challenge Rosewood, Buck Mark Camper UFX, Buck Mark Standard URX, Buck Mark Camper Stainless URX, Buck Mark Standard Micro URX, Buck Mark Contour Stainless URX 5 1/2, Buck Mark Contour Stainless URX 7 1/4, Buck Mark Contour URX 5 1/2, Buck Mark Contour URX 7 1/4 Barrel, Buck Mark Hunter