Recently I came to the conclusion that having a takedown .22 autoloading rifle that uses a tube magazine could come in handy. Most .22s with tubular magazines have them mounted under the barrel, with a few notable exceptions such as the Remington Nylon 66, some older Winchesters, and the Browning Semi Auto .22, all of which have the magazine concealed within the butt stock.
The Browning SA-22 was introduced in 1914 and produced by FN in Belgium until 1976, when production was moved to Miroku in Japan. It was also produced in the United States by Remington, as the Model 24 and Model 241. Finally, it's also been made by Norinco in China as the ATD and JW-20. Interarms imported the ATD into the US in the late 1980s/early 1990s, until all Norinco imports were banned by Clinton in 1994. Canadian shooters can still buy the JW-20 (see Marstar.ca).
Having researched a number of the older tube-fed .22 takedowns over the past week, today I picked up a NIB Norinco ATD at Sarco in Easton, PA.
Apparently, Sarco found a bunch of Norinco ATDs in their warehouse last Fall. I found about them from a link to Sarco's website on Slickguns.com. I called Sarco Friday afternoon and they had one left in the showroom. The salesman I spoke with agreed to set it aside for me. Yesterday morning I drove up to Easton and bought it. After getting it home, I field stripped, cleaned, and oiled it. It was pretty clean, without too much oil or grease.
The Norinco is a very close copy of the FN and Miroku-made guns. From what I've read, most Browning parts are interchangeable, although some fitting may be required. Compared with a Browning, the Norinco's fit and finish is much cruder, but by most accounts they work well. My rifle's blueing is well done and the wood is decent, if not up to Browning's standards.
Aside from the tubular magazine which is protected within the butt stock, the Browning/Norinco has a few features which made it desireable for me:
First, the bottom ejection means that as a lefty, I don't need to worry about getting empty cases or gas in my face. My daughter and wife are also left eye dominant, so even though they are right handed they shoot portside. Last weekend my daughter shot my Remington Apache 77 and called it quits after getting hit on the cheek by an unburned powder granule. (This is one reason why we all wear safety glasses when shooting.) Also, the crossbolt safety is reversible for left handed operation. I'm still figuring out exactly how to do this, since the manual merely states that you can have a gunsmith perform the switch.
The gun takes down into two halves less than 20" long in just a few seconds, with no tools. I may pick up a cheap camera tripod case to hold the rifle when broken down. I got one for my Stoeger coach gun and it's great for holding the gun, a Boresnake, and some ammo.
Likewise, field stripping the rifle requires no tools. Finally, it weighs less than five pounds, which makes it easy to pack, and easy for my daughter to hold up.
To load the rifle, you twist the end of the magazine tube insert (accessible via a hole in the buttplate) and pull it out until it stops. Then, with the rifle pointing muzzle down, drop up to 11 .22 LR rounds into the funnel-shaped port on the right side of the butt. Then push in the mag insert and twist about a quarter turn to lock it in place. Finally, charge the rifle by pulling back the bolt handle and letting it go.
Last night I was able to shoot the Norinco on an indoor range. I put about 245 rounds through it, with a few malfunctions. So far it seems to prefer CCI Mini Mag solids over Federal 550 pack HPs. There was one failure to eject with the CCIs between the 40 and 50 round marks, but several with the Federals. .22s in general can be finicky when it comes to ammo, and semiautos in particular may have a strong preference for one kind or another, so this came as no surprise. I'm also hoping that once I get a few hundred more rounds through the gun it breaks in better, and functions better with the Federal ammo.
I also tried some CCI CB Longs, to see if the Norinco would handle them if manually cycled. No joy. With any of the CB Longs in the mag you cannot pull back the bolt. OAL must be jamming the feed mechanism. Once the first round gets into the chamber it'll fire and eject though, which surprised me. Last week I tried the CB Longs in my Remington Apache 77. They fed and ejected fine from the Remington's box magazine when manually cycled.
One thing you need to be careful of with these bottom ejectors is having hot brass eject out of the gun and go into your sleeve. Move your hand forward on the forearm to avoid this. I'd also avoid shooting one of these while wearing sandals. Hot brass between your toes will leave a scar.
The Norinco's trigger is good. There's little takeup, no grittiness, and the weight is probably 4 to 5 pounds.
The Browning and Norinco copies lack any kind of a bolt hold open device. So, if you're on a range that requires actions to be locked open during ceasefires or when the rifle is benched, you'll need to either use a chamber flag or stick and empty case in the ejection port so as to hold it open.
The bead front sight + rear open sights weren't working so great with my middle aged eyes, so I'm going to look into a barrel mounted red dot. Something like a Bushnell TRS-25, Primary Arms Micro Dot, or a Burris Fast Fire would greatly improve the sighting arrangement without messing up the svelte gun's balance.
I like the Norinco a lot. Once I improve the sights, I'll like it even more.