May 28, 2020
According to Weatherby, The Man. The Gun. The Legend. by Grits and Tom Gresham, Roy Weatherby started the Weatherby rimfire ball rolling in 1960. It had a long and angst-filled history. Based loosely on a Beretta design with several Weatherby-guided enhancements, the Mark XXII—as it was cleverly called—was initially built by Beretta in Italy.
Introduced at tradeshows during the winter of 1961–62, the Mark XXII garnered several thousand orders. Unfortunately, manufacturing never caught up, and the rifles that did make it to the United States had issues with function and finish. Eventually, the contract with Beretta was filled but not renewed.
Over the coming decades, manufacturing of the Mark XXII was variously contracted to KGT and Nikko in Japan (1967–80), then in the United States to Mossberg (1979–82), then back to Japan to Howa (1984–88). According to its serial number, the rifle shown here was made by Howa in 1988. Eventually, the Mark XXII was discontinued in 1989, but it was then resurrected in 2007 as a bolt action.
Two versions of the original Mark XXII autoloader were available. One fed via a tubular magazine; the other used a box-type, detachable magazine that held 10 rounds. The rifle reviewed here is of the latter type.
One of the hang-ups in producing the Mark XXII was that Weatherby refused to accept anything less than premium quality. Highly polished barrels featured the same rich, deep bluing as Weatherby’s premium big-game rifles. Stocks were of quality walnut glowing beneath a gloss finish. Makers just weren’t accustomed to holding rimfire rifles to such standards. Manufacturing costs continually climbed, and the profitability margins of the rifle suffered.
According to the Blue Book of Gun Values, only about 100,000 made it to market. Buyers typically regarded them as something special, and so they are often found in splendid condition. The one shown here is like new. Only the fact that the scope is sighted-in indicates that it was ever fired.
Weatherby also marketed a scope created specifically for the Mark XXII. Made in Japan, it’s a sleek little optic with an integral base that clamps directly to the dovetail rail atop the Mark XXII receiver, eliminating the need for scope rings. It’s a fixed 4X with a relative brightness of 50—according to some scale used at the time. It’s sleek, bright, and clear, and it works quite well.
Of blowback design, the Mark XXII autoloader features a round bolt in an alloy receiver. It operates much the same as others of its type, with a couple of exceptions. Most notably, there’s a lever at the right rear of the action that switches function from semiauto to single shot. The rearward position is semiauto. When switched forward, the lever stands straight up and activates an internal bolt catch. Pressing it forward releases the bolt, enabling it to feed a fresh cartridge from the magazine into the chamber, after which the rifle may be fired.
The safety is housed in the action tang and falls comfortably beneath the firing-hand thumb.
I found the rifle featured here on the used-gun rack at Gunnies in Orem, Utah. In like-new condition, the rifle was traded from a customer, so nothing is known about it aside from what can be deciphered from the rifle itself. Clearly, it was fired very little.
To my delight, the Mark XXII proved to be superbly accurate. Five-shot groups at 25 yards consistently clustered into ragged, dime-size holes. Even better, the rifle isn’t picky about ammo. Even high-velocity CCI 32-grain Stingers grouped beautifully.
Additionally, point of impact changed little between loads. I made a half-inch left correction to the scope, and after that, every load fired impacted close enough to the crosswire for head shots on cottontails destined for the stew pot.
Reliability, too, was good, although Winchester’s Super-X 40-grain HP cartridges tended to hang up on the feedramp when the 10-round magazine was loaded with more than seven rounds. Other brands ran flawlessly throughout.
While slightly spongy, the trigger pull was a light 2 pounds, 8 ounces.
With formal accuracy testing completed, my son William, who is nine and a passionate rifleman, put a couple of boxes through the Mark XXII. Shooting from standing-height sticks, he never missed his 6-inch steel gong from 50 yards. An old, shot-up 55-gallon drum on the far hillside berm beckoned from somewhere past 200 yards, but William held high and dinged it with his first shot.
Roy Weatherby clearly intended his Mark XXII rifles to be heirloom-quality firearms that look wonderful, shoot superbly, and run reliably. There’s no doubt it’s the best-looking rimfire I’ve ever owned, and I’ll be darned if it doesn’t shoot like a bolt-action match rifle.
Weatherby Mark XXII
- Type: Blowback autoloader
- Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel: 24 in.
- Overall Length: 42.5 in.
- Weight, Empty: 7.25 lbs. with scope and sling
- Stock: Walnut with rosewood fore-end tip
- Length of Pull: 13.75 in.
- Finish: Polished blued metal, gloss wood
- Sights: Folding, adjustable U-notch rear; brass bead front
- Trigger: 2.5-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Two position
- Manufacturer: Weatherby