Winter, the 8-month rainy season, is coming to Oregon. During the dry season, I do most of my informal target shooting at our gun club’s outdoor action pistol ranges, practicing for USPSA matches by shooting Glocks (usually…) at cardboard and steel targets. For those of us not inclined to conduct our informal target shooting while standing in a puddle of water, it’s nearly time to move to the indoor ranges for recreation. Luckily, our club has a beautiful indoor .22 rimfire range, so I plan to be spending some time there, banging away at paper targets while remaining dry.
My favorite .22 pistol for informal indoor shooting is the Browning Buck Mark featured in this post. Although I own the Ruger Mk III in a couple of configurations, I prefer the Buck Mark for informal shooting because it is accurate, reliable, and much easier to clean and maintain. You don’t need to be a three-handed magician with a keen sense of humor and a knack for problem solving to put this pistol together after stripping it for cleaning, as you do for the Ruger Mk III.
My Buck Mark is the standard model, with a 5.5” barrel, decent adjustable sights, and surprisingly good ambidextrous target grips. It weighs 36.2 ounces empty, and came out of the box with a crisp, clean 3-pound trigger pull. This pistol has received exactly zero modifications or upgrades, I shoot it exactly as it came from the factory, which is something new for me. This model has a matte finish on most parts, with the exception of some nicely executed polishing on the sides of the slab-sided barrel. In my opinion, the Buck Mark is built to a higher standard of fit and finish than is the Ruger Mk III, although the Browning is usually a bit more expensive.
Part of the charm of this pistol, I admit, is the ease with which it can be stripped for cleaning:
1. Make sure the gun is empty; remove the magazine.
2. Remove the two sight base screws and lift the sight base from the frame.
3. Pull the slide back about an inch and lift the recoil rod upward from the slide.
4. Lift the slide from the frame.
That’s it. With the Buck Mark's slide removed, you still can't clean the barrel from the breech with a cleaning rod because a part of the frame obstructs the path of the rod (Buck Mark | World's Largest Supplier of Firearm Accessories, Gun Parts and Gunsmithing Tools - BROWNELLS). You can insert a rod carefully through the muzzle, or you can use a Hoppe's Bore Snake to clean the barrel.
Browning even provides the one hex wrench you need to remove the sight base screws. If you are a compulsive gun cleaner and maintainer, think about how important this simplicity might be to you.
A word of warning is due, however: don't take the grips off without a really good reason. The grips hold some action pins in position just like they do on the Ruger Mk III, and if they fall out you are in for a challenging little reassembly session (see above, "three-handed magician"). This design quirk was apparently inherited from the 1911 and passed on to the Ruger Mk III and the Buck Mark. Since the name of the 1911's designer is on the side of the Buck Mark (that would be one Mr. John M. Browning...), I guess that shouldn't be too much of a surprise.
I have seen the Buck Mark in use in our local steel matches, usually with open sights. If I was to shoot a steel match with an open sight .22, this is the gun I would use.
The Buck Mark does not have a firing pin stop, and after some searching on the web and in the manual I cannot find clear authoritative guidance about dry-firing the Buck Mark, so I don’t do it except after cleaning the gun, just to drop the firing pin to take pressure off the spring. By contrast, the Ruger Mk III does have a firing pin stop, and it is safe to dry-fire.
Without further comment, here is the gun:
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