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Winchester Model 9422 - .22 Lever Action Rifle

When I was a kid, one of my friends had a Marlin Model 39.   I loved shooting that gun; it was smooth, accurate, and reliable - which was surprising because we usually shot the cheapest ammo we could get our hands on.   I started thinking about getting a lever action .22 a couple of years ago, and naturally went looking for a Model 39.   I looked at a new one but the pimpy gold trigger and current materials and workmanship left me unimpressed.   Instead, I figured I'd just pick up a used one that was made before the 1980's.   Talk about sticker shock!   The price for a decent used Marlin Model 39 was high enough for me to quickly put it on my "I'll-buy-it-only-if-I-stumble- across-a-good-deal" list.

I still wanted a .22 lever gun, so I looked at the Henry rifles.   The new ones in the store felt slick enough, built they also (to me) felt and looked cheap.   I had an opportunity to try out a well-used, three year old Henry and my first impression was justified.   The Henry might be OK as an occasional plinker, but I wanted an heirloom .22 that I could shoot often, and have it improve with use rather than wear out.

I was in my local gun store (Blue Northern in Ayer, MA) last week when I saw a used lever action .22 on the rack.   I asked to handle it and was impressed both with the construction and feel of the rifle.   It was a Winchester Model 9422 from the early 1970's.   Not knowing anything about it, I figured the price was right ($225) and bought it on the spot.   Here it is:

Click on the picture for a larger image

I did some research on it when I got home.   I found out that I did VERY well at that price.  I also found out that there are many versions of this rifle.   The one I bought was an early 70's carbine with a 20" barrel and beautifully-figured, uncheckered walnut straight stocks.   Here's what else I learned:

You may notice that when people sell Winchester rifles that they sometimes go out of their way to point out that the rifle is a "Pre '64" model.   The reason for this is that in 1964 Winchester dropped many of the old, labor-intensive models and introduced new models (and new versions of old models) designed for easier manufacture.   Although the new models actually sold quite well;   compared to the old ones they were crap.

Even a novice can tell that the rifles made between 1964 and 1972 are inferior.   Winchester soon realized they had imperiled the reputation of one of America's most respected brand names.

By 1972, the quality control, fit, finish, and appearance of all Winchesters improved considerably.   Still, it wasn't enough to fix the damage done to the Winchester name.   What was needed was something dramatic, an unmistakable message to the shooting world that Winchester quality was back.   The message came in the form of the rifle thousands of shooters wanted: a .22 that looked and felt like the famous model 94.

Winchester knew a lot was riding on the 9422; so they spared no effort to get it right.   These rifles feature a polished forged steel receiver, handsomely grained and tastefully finished walnut stocks, superb fit, and outstanding workmanship.   The action is as good as any lever gun ever - no play, no slop, just an oily-slick action with a rock solid feel.   Winchester needed a home run, and they hit it.

It's easy to tell that the Model 9422 is special.  Unfortunately, Winchester discontinued this model in 2005 (It feels like 1964 all over again).

Shooting it
According to the roll mark on the barrel, the Model 9422 shoots .22 Shorts, Longs, and Long Rifles.   After cleaning and inspecting the rifle, my son and I picked up a bulk pack of Federal .22 LR, a couple of boxes of CCI High Velocity Shorts, (do they even make .22 Long anymore?) and headed to the range.   The 9422 has a hooded front sight - which came in handy yesterday because it was sunny and there was a lot of glare from the snow cover.   It has a traditional buckhorn rear sight that is adjustable for elevation with the typical stepped wedge, and for windage by loosening two screws on the back of the sight and manually moving the blade.   Both sights can also be drifted side-to-side in their dovetail slots if necessary.   Fortunately for us, it wasn't necessary.

We loaded it up with .22 LR (it holds 15), and started blasting.   I let my son go first.  It turns out that it with a 6:00 hold, it shot to point of aim at 50 yards.   At this distance, my son (an experienced 13 year-old shooter) put 15 shots into a group about 6" in diameter.   The action was slick and flawless.   Sitting down with my elbow on a bench, I tried it at 100 yards with .22 LR (holding it a little high) and managed an 8" group slightly below and to the left of the bullseye.   The next time I tried it I used an improvised rest.   Applying Kentucky windage, I was able to tighten up the 15-shot group to about 5", peppering the 3" diameter bullseye.

We tried out some shorts (it holds 22) and it fed them flawlessly.   I found that I could get it to misfeed if I purposely short-cycled it, but even this was painless - on a short cycle, it would fail to eject the spent case, while trying to feed the next round.   All we had to do to clear the jam was to open the action, turn it so that the ejection port was facing the ground, and shake out the spent case and unfired round.   Cycle the action again and we were ready to go.   If memory serves me, we had to take down the old Marlin 39 when we had a jam like this.   As long as we fully cycled the action, this rifle would feed any combination of shorts and long rifles.

The trigger was OK.   Not great, but not bad.   The break was a little creepy, and the pull was a bit heavier than I would like, but it was not bad by any definition.   Although it might benefit from a trigger job, it's not bad enough for me to want to have it done.

We finished up two boxes of shorts and about 1/2 of the Federal long rifles (about 350 rounds total).   I'd love to try this side-by-side with a similar vintage Marlin 39.   I might be experiencing a bit of buyer's euphoria, but I think I like the Winchester better.   On the way back to the car, my son informed that the 9422 was his new favorite .22.   You probably cannot get a stronger endorsement that that.   I promised to will it to him.   (Although I'll probably give it to him when he gets his FID if he's not too much of a wiseass between now and then).

Report by EddieCoyle - 2/25/2007.

NOTE: Because I'm an honest guy, I should point out that I plagerized some of the descriptive sentences (the ones in blue) from an article somewhere because the author writes better than I can write.