January 14, 2022
By Joseph von Benedikt
Called by some “the best rifle Winchester has made since 1964,” the rimfire Model 9422 XTR lever action was introduced in 1972. Engineered to utilize a modified version of Winchester’s super-reliable Model 61 slide-action rimfire mechanism but mirror the look and feel of the legendary Model 1894 centerfire lever-action rifles, it was a rip-roaring success.
The Model 9422 was intended—and by many accounts succeeded—in reestablishing Winchester’s reputation as a premium firearms manufacturer. Frames were forged and then milled. Internal components were of top-shelf quality—no pot metal or stamped parts. Stocks were nice walnut and were well-fitted and beautifully finished.
The standard model featured a 20.25-inch, round barrel and a straight-grip stock with a shotgun-type buttplate, but myriad variations were made. While official production numbers are not available, an estimated 850,000 were made before being discontinued in 2004.
Like the ancestral Model 61, all 9422s were takedowns, although that’s not visually obvious. By removing a large screw from the left rear side of the action, the front and rear halves of the rifle may be separated.
Original actions were easily adapted to fire .22 Magnum cartridges and required just a few small internal changes. Standard models fed .22 Short, .22 Long, and .22 Long Rifle. Eventually, the internals were modified so that the same parts could be used in the Magnum and standard versions; as a result, later standard rifles like mine do not function with .22 Short cartridges and are marked “.22 L–LR” on the barrel.
From the get-go, Model 9422s proved to be wonderfully reliable. The mechanism controls each cartridge as it is fed from the magazine up and into the chamber.
Receivers are solid-topped and grooved for scope rings. Because the ejection port is high on the right side, the action is an angle-eject design that doesn’t interfere with mounting an optic—the first lever action of its type from Winchester.
Early versions had steel magazine tubes. Occasional issues with rust eventually inspired a change to brass tubes. Like most tube-fed rimfires, the 9422 loads through a cartridge-shaped port near the front of the magazine tube housing.
A robust semi-buckhorn rear sight came standard. Not only does it have a traditional stepped elevator, the sight blade itself is vertically adjustable on its leaf-spring base, enabling the owner to zero the rifle properly without having to file on the sights. A bead-type front sight is housed in a removable hood.
No modern safety is present. Instead, the 9422 relies on the time-honored halfcock notch as a safety.
To load, fill the magazine tube with cartridges. Working the lever forward runs the bolt rearward and pushes the hammer back to full cock, simultaneously extracting and ejecting any fired cartridge case in the chamber. Closing the lever activates the lifter, which presents a loaded cartridge to the chamber, and runs the bolt forward, which chambers the round. Just as the lever closes completely, it cams the bolt up into the locking recess. Squeeze the trigger to fire, then repeat.
The Model 9422 XTR shown here was my first repeating .22 rifle. I purchased it more decades ago than I care to admit, after much research exploring the best lever-action rimfires on the market. I bought it as a training tool for cowboy-action shooting. At least, that was my rationale. In truth, I just really wanted one.
Because the 9422’s tang is not drilled and tapped for a traditional tang sight, I installed a William’s receiver-mounted aperture sight so as to practice with a ghost-ring rear like the one on my .44-40 competition rifle. And because I’ve never been able to shoot precisely with bead front sights, I replaced the 9422’s with a straight, square-topped post.
That year, my practice with the little rifle helped me take second place at the “Utah Territorial Championships.” For years the 9422 rode the crease in the back seat of my Jeep, always ready. It was the first firearm that my English girlfriend (now my bride of many years) handled and fired. Eventually, a friend unknowingly sat on the rifle and cracked the buttstock at the tang. I was able to repair it, but at that point
I quit leaving the 9422 tucked into the Jeep’s back seat.
During a recent emigration from Utah to my new home state of Idaho, I collected the Model 9422 and put it through its paces for this report. Shooting from a sandbag benchrest, I achieved very good accuracy. Winchester and Browning hunting loads averaged less than 1.25 inches at 25 yards, and SK’s “Magazine” standard-velocity target ammo posted an impressive 0.56-inch average. Those are for three, five-shot groups with each load. And that was without installing a scope.
Perhaps courtesy of the thousands of rounds I put through the 9422 in the past, the trigger is burnished to a clean, crisp pull and measures just 2 pounds, 12 ounces on my Lyman digital trigger scale. That certainly makes it easy to shoot well.
These days, Winchester 9422 rifles bring a premium on the used-gun market. Even though they’ve been discontinued only for a little over 16 years, they’ve generated a burgeoning interest among collectors. High-grade versions and Trapper models with 16.25-inch barrels are particularly sought after, along with any in new-in-the-box condition. Solid used examples of the more common versions bring north of $600.
I say they are well worth the price.
Winchester Model 9422 XTR
- Manufacturer: Winchester/USRAC
- Type: Lever-action repeater
- Caliber: .22 Long, .22 LR
- Magazine Capacity: 15 rounds of .22 LR
- Barrel: 20.25 in.
- Overall Length: 37.4 in.
- Weight, Empty: 6 lbs.
- Stock: Walnut
- Length Of Pull: 13.75 in.
- Finish: Polished blue
- Sights: Adjustable semi-buckhorn rear, aftermarket Williams aperture peep, aftermarket post front
- Trigger: 2.75-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Halfcock notch