WINCHESTER 9422 - 50 Famous Firearms You've Got to Own: Rick Hacker's Bucket List of Guns (2015)

50 Famous Firearms You've Got to Own: Rick Hacker's Bucket List of Guns (2015)


In the world of firearms manufacturing, there are few absolutes. However, one way to practically guarantee a new firearm will have marketing appeal is to make a .22 rimfire counterpart of a successful big-bore. Witness the Ruger 10/22, the Marlin 39, and the Ruger Single Six. Without a doubt, one of the most popular big-bore lever-actions is the Winchester Model 94. With more than nine million guns made from 1894 until the New Haven factory’s closing in 2006, the Model 94 was the most popular deer rifle in America. But .30-30 shells are expensive, and deer season lasts only a few months each year—and a lookalike Winchester lever gun using inexpensive .22 rimfire ammunition could be shot all year ’round. That was the thought process that undoubtedly swept through the Winchester R&D department, over 40 years ago.

Aptly cataloged as the Model 9422, this well-built rimfire lever-action made its debut, in 1972. Like its big-bore big brother Model 94, the 9422 featured a full-sized straight-grip stock, a 20-inch barrel (actually it was 2012 inches, but few people noticed or cared), open rear sight that was drift-adjustable for windage with a traditional notched sliding bar for elevation, dove-tailed hooded front sight, and the same large, classic, glove-friendly trigger guard and lever. Tipping the scales at six pounds, just a scant half-pound lighter than the Model 94, made it a perfect entry-level rifle for some lucky son, daughter, or grandchild. And fittingly, like the 94, it was initially designed as a basic working gun. In 1980, checkering was added to the previously plain black walnut stocks, but from there on, the 9422 was a different lever-action entirely.

For one thing, the Model 9422 featured a takedown action and—well before Winchester introduced its angle eject on the Model 94—the .22 version boasted side ejection and a solid-top receiver grooved to accept scope mounts. The tubular magazine was charged by withdrawing a spring-loaded brass plunger retained in a tube beneath the barrel—thus maintaining its Model 94 looks—and dropping the cartridges in one at a time through a cut-out loading port, a lá Winchester’s older .22 pump rifles. The 9422 held 15 .22 Long Rifle cartridges or 17 Longs; the rifle was not chambered for .22 Shorts. There was also a version that held 11 .22 WMR rounds. A later variation, the Model 9217, was chambered for the .17 HMR and held 11 rounds. The gun came with a hammer spur extension and, best of all for purists, retained a half-cock safety throughout its entire production run, rather than the mushy “no-cock” hammer that eventually found its way onto later Model 94s with push-button and tang-mounted safeties.

One of the most unique functions of the Model 9422 was its takedown capability, a feature that many owners were either not aware of or never took advantage of, judging by the “unbuggered” condition of otherwise well-used 9422s encountered today. To take the gun apart, a single takedown screw on the left side of the receiver was backed out, thus permitting the buttstock assembly to be pulled down, back, and away from the receiver. Next, the bolt slid out of the receiver and the bolt and bolt slide could then be separated. With the rifle in two sections, the barrel could be cleaned from the breech. The barrel half also retained the scope (if one was mounted), so zero wasn’t lost when the rifle was reassembled. When assembling the rifle, the hammer had to be brought to full cock before inserting the buttstock section into the receiver.

Winchester’s 9422 serial No. 1 went to long-time Winchester employee Bill Kelly, upon his retirement in 1972. By 1991, more than 600,000 guns had been produced, an indication of the rifle’s immense popularity. Winchester’s 2003 manual called the Model 9422 “… the premier lever-action rimfire rifle.”

Of course, nine years after the rifle’s introduction, it was no longer made by Winchester per se, but, rather, by the U.S. Repeating Arms Company, as licensed by Olin Corp., owners of the Winchester name. Under USRAC’s stewardship, a number of commemoratives were produced. One of the most notable was the Annie Oakley Commemorative in 1983, which featured fancy walnut stocks and a gold-plated and engraved receiver with a portrait of “Little Sure Shot,” as Sitting Bull called her, on the right side of the receiver. The lever and barrel bands were gold-plated as well. Another unique offering was a special Boy Scout Commemorative 9422 carbine with French Grey receiver, lever, and barrel bands, issued in 1985. An even rarer Eagle Scout Limited Edition rifle was offered that same year, featuring an engraved and gold-plated receiver with a special Eagle Scout medallion stock inset. It was allegedly only available for purchase by Eagle Scouts. Also in 1985, an XTR version was produced, which featured a high-gloss, fancy checkered stock and forearm and a lustrous blued finish. Doing a complete about-face two years later, a .22 Magnum WinCam version was offered with synthetic stocks, and, in 1996, a 1612-inch barrel Trapper version was brought out. Both guns were evidence that the admirable accuracy of the 9422 made it a serious contender as a small-game getter. Indeed, in spite of its rising collectability, this lever-action rimfire has always been held in high esteem as a shooter.

“The 9422 is the perfect combination of function and history,” I was once told by my good friend, firearms enthusiast and Hollywood screenwriter, the late John Fasano, whose motion picture and television credits include Another 24 Hours, Tombstone, Saving Jessica Lynch, and Stone Cold with Tom Selleck. “It’s the ideal gun to introduce children to gun safety with a lever-action. I bought one for my three children the day each was born.”

Indeed, in its 2005 catalog—the last year the 9422 was listed for sale—the company wrote, “More than just a rimfire rifle, it is a foundation for learning accuracy, safety, and building good memories … . The short, fluid action, special target crowns for improved accuracy and excellent fit and finish were all the evidence necessary to show that they were built to higher standards than other rimfire rifles. Now, after 33 years, production of the Model 9422 is ending. Tooling is being retired, and the production line at the New Haven, Connecticut facility will stop.”

For its final run, a special limited edition of 9,244 guns were produced in four different variations of a special Tribute Series, with various engraving motifs and the Winchester horse and rider on the right side of the blued receivers. There were also 222 Custom Edition rifles, featuring hand-engraved, silver-plated receivers, with a gold inlaid Winchester horse and rider on one side and a gold inlaid banner, bearing the words “Model 9422 Tribute” on the other. Final prices ran from $549 up to $2,313 for the Custom Edition.

The demise of the Model 9422 was a precursor to the fate of Winchester itself. One year later, the New Haven plant where the 9422 had been made closed its doors. Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine sold his plain, no frills Model 9422 for $1,000. Today, although the 9422 is no longer in production, it seems its legend is just beginning. Thus, as a .22 that many of us Model 94 owners just never got around to getting, it belongs on our bucket list.

While differing mechanically, the action of the 9422 looks and feels like its big brother, the Model 94.

This 9422, made in 1980, has been fitted with a Weaver Marksman 4x scope, which, while adding to its usefulness, detracts from its value.