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Mitchell arms AK-22.

Some guns are readily recognized by their silhouette. Even to a person unknowledgable in firearms, the Colt Single Action Army and P-08 (Luger) are standouts. And while they may not know its name, the Soviet-designed AK-47 assault rifle's exposure on news reports featuring stories about Afghanistan and South America have also made it something of a celebrity.

This highly successful 7.62x39mm auto has been used around the globe, and is clearly one of the world's most successful military rifles. Many are now being offered in full military (albeit semi-auto) fig by a number of importers, and despite the relative scarcity of ammunition, the guns are finding a ready market.

Of course .22 LR versions of military arms are nothing new, so it should come as no surprise that Mitchell Arms, 19007 S. Reyes Ave., Dept. GA, Compton, CA 90221, is importing an Italian-made sub-caliber ringer for the Russkie rifle.

The AK-22 (as it is appropriately dubbed) apes the lines and general dimensions of the original to a considerable degree (35 inches overall; 18-inch barrel). This is apparently the result of more than just Walter Mittyism, for according to the tri-lingual instructions, the gun "is ... utilized by military training units in various countries as an introductory firearm to the actual version."

Instructions are quite detailed and include illustrated assembly (the gun comes packed with the butt detached), firing, takedown and troubleshooting directions. There is even an exploded parts diagram. I wish that some other .22s came with such complete information.

Mitchell's AK-22 comes supplied with a "long" 29-round magazine and 15-shot "short" mag. The kit also features a military-style nylon sling, sight adjusting tool, Allen wrench for tightening the front sight unit, magazine loader and buttstock setscrew wrench.

Stocks, to include the butt, grooved pistol grip, fore-end and handguard, are European walnut. Other parts are steel and where less stress is expected, alloy.

As might be expected, the gun is a good deal lighter than the original, though this is not the least disconcerting, and naturally does not affect shooting a whit. The rear sight is a military "ladder" style, adjustable for windage and clevation from 50 to 100 meters. The front sight is a simple ramp-mounted post.

Fieldstripping (a welcome feature not found on a number of .22 semi-autos) the AK-22 is slick and sure. First, remove the magazine and ensure the rifle is unloaded. Then, press in on the sear lever pin (which protrudes from the rear of the upper receiver cover) and remove the cover. Push the recoil spring-limiting collar forward and detach and remove the sear lever pin. The recoil spring unit can now be removed from the action, and the breechblock slipped rearward, free of the receiver rail. Reassembly is in reverse order. This simple disassembly greatly facilitates cleaning and allows complete access to the remainder of the action.

The AK-22's safety is a long sheet-metal lever which also acts as a bolt hold-open. Located on the right side of the receiver above the trigger unit, it is easy to flip on and off and, in the safety mode, is quite positive.

A notch in the top of the safety lever fits over the bolt handle to constrain the bolt. Some flimsiness in the lever made this feature less than sure, so I would definitely not recommend the hold-open be used as any kind of safety.

A spring-loaded cleaning rod is located beneath the barrel. Though it is threaded to take the female-type Parker-Hale style brushes and tips, a brass adapter is supplied to handle the standard American type accessories.

A trip to our test facility at the Angeles Ranges in Tujunga, California, showed that the gun performed as neatly as it looked. Using the magazine loader allowed us to insert 29 .22 LR cartridges in almost as many seconds. The magazine snaps into its well with a resounding click, and pulling back and releasing the bolt efficiently chambers a round.

The trigger pull, keeping in character, was your basic creepy military two-stage species. It was not prohibitive in the least, however, and we were still able to produce a 25-yard, 7/16-inch benchrested group (using Federal Silhouette ammo), which spread to 7/8 inch at 50 yards. Long distance shots at marauding rocks, bushes and potholes invaribly produced hits, even out to past 200 yards.

The gun pointed as naturally as any military carbine I've ever held. From the hip I was able to skip empty ammo boxes all over the range, even past 50 yards.

Switching brands and types of ammo presented no problems either. The gun handled Remington Yellow Jacket, Winchester Super Max and Super-X, and Federal Champion and Silhouette with non-parital alacrity. Out of close to 350 rounds expended, we experienced only three failure-to-feeds.

I must admit, in the past I have been somewhat underwhelmed by many of the .22 lookalikes offered to the shooting public. I can gladly say, however, that the AK-22 seems to have broken this tradition. While the suggested retail of $225 is not exactly in the economy class for a .22 rifle, neither is it excessive. When one adds on the supplied accessories, includes good looks and reliability and interpolates a "fun" factor, the little AK-22 is certainly worth looking into.
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:James, Garry
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Nov 1, 1985
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