There is nothing like a good long gun. An appropriate rifle or shotgun can be easy to learn on, easy to use, and unquestionably effective on target. But they have the disadvantage of being bulkier to carry and to store compared to a handgun. A handgun is infinitely easier to pack but harder to shoot well, especially from a distance. The take-down is a class that splits the difference. You still get a long gun with all of its benefits, but one that breaks into its component parts for easy storage.
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In a bygone era, takedown rifles and shotguns in calibers big and small were popular with hunters and backpackers, but as long guns have lightened, so has the need for a takedown option. Most takedown rifles available today are rifles chambered in 22 Long Rifle. Some are new offerings, while others are designs that have stood the test of time for decades. Both have been a pursuit of mine for the last several years and I want to share my favorite picks.
Best Looking: The Browning SA-22
The Browning Semi-Automatic 22 was the first autoloading 22 rifle to see mass production and it just so happens to be a takedown. Introduced by the Belgian consortium FN in 1912, the SA-22 is still being made by Browning today with over a half-million units sold. For a time, Remington produced a licensed copy in their Model 24 and 241 series of rifles. The SA-22 was popular in 22 Short for many years, but in 2017, Browning discontinued the model but retained the same rifle in 22 Long Rifle.
The Browning SA-22 comes in a number of fancier variations, but the base model is a blued-steel rifle with a checkered walnut stock. This slender rifle has a 19 3/8 inch barrel and feeds eleven rounds of 22 Long Rifle (or sixteen rounds of 22 Short) from a tubular magazine in the buttstock.
The SA-22 is unique because its charging handle is mounted on the bottom of the receiver rather than the side and empty cases fly straight down out of the action after firing. When not in use, the Browning can be taken down. The barrel is secured in the action via interrupted threads and a spring-loaded latch. To break the rifle down, push the latch toward the muzzle, bring the bolt back a touch, and then twist the barrel off the action with a counter-clockwise twist.
The SA-22 comes with a pair of fine iron sights but can be scoped. Older Belgian guns have an optics dovetail on the receiver. The newer Japanese-produced rifles are tapped and drilled for a mount directly on the barrel. The SA-22, even in its modern configuration, is a rifle that oozes pride of ownership but at about $700 new, it might be more than you are willing to pay for a backpacking rifle.
Most Feature Rich: The Marlin Model 70 PSS
At this particular time, the Marlin Model 70 PSS has been out of production since 2020. That is a shame. Endearingly nicknamed by the company and by fans alike as the Model 70 Papoose, the 70 PSS got its start in the mid-1980s when it was introduced as a takedown version of the firm’s Model 70. The Model 70 was, itself, a box-magazine-fed version of the famous Model 60 tube-loaded 22 rifle. The Papoose is mechanically identical to a Model 60 and both spare parts, sights, and trigger upgrades abound. The rifle was available with a synthetic or wood half-stock and used blued steel or nickel-steel components and came in a foam-padded case.
The Papoose is a potato chip of a rifle, weighing in at only 3.25 pounds and sporting a sixteen-inch barrel. The aluminum receiver has a 3/8 inch. dovetail for a scope, but the rifle comes with a pair of useable iron sights mounted to the barrel. The barrel hangs exposed off of the receiver with no handguard and is removed from the rifle by unscrewing a threaded castle nut that mates with threads on the receiver. The front of the chamber is keyed so the barrel can only fit into the receiver one way with the iron sights level and visible.
From the factory, the Papoose was fed from either a seven-round or ten-round stick magazine. These are identical to those used by the Model 70 and 795 rifles and the capacity can be upped a bit if you want to try a ProMag 25-round banana clip or 70-round drum. Unlike some other takedown rifles, the Papoose came with sling studs and has a unique hold-open feature. On the last round, the Papoose’s bolt locks open completely. To reload, all you have to do is insert a loaded magazine and hit the bolt release on the left side of the trigger guard.
In my own shooting, the Papoose is more than light enough for a pack but not so flimsy that it becomes tricky to hit targets with. It may be the best balanced on the list and can be had on the used market for a few bills, if someone is willing to part with it!
The Quirkiest: The Henry Survival Rifle/AR-7
The AR-7 goes back to Eugene Stoner and the Armalite company in the 1960s. It is very loosely based on the bolt-action AR-5 in 22 Hornet then fielded by the USAF as a bail-out rifle. The AR-7 is a blowback 22 autoloader whose most interesting feature is its ability to break down into three pieces: barrel, receiver, and buttstock. The barrel and receiver could then be stored in the buttstock. In the decades since, Charter Arms produced a poorly-made version before Henry Repeating Arms bought the design and produced it as the Henry Survival Rifle.
Henry’s version is probably the most reliable, but it also has the most polymer. The Henry Survival Rifle feels like a toy in the hand. It almost does not feel like a real rifle, but it is! Unpacked out of the buttstock, the Henry sports a two-piece sixteen-inch barrel (a polymer sleeve over a rifled steel insert), an aluminum receiver, and up to three eight-round magazines.
The receiver is as plain as it gets. It houses a massive bolt and spring, all managed by a telescoping charging handle that can be pushed in or out for storing the rifle in a buttstock. It is fastened to the buttstock by a thumbscrew in the pistol grip. The barrel is then screwed on by a castle nut in the same fashion as the Marlin Papoose.
The Henry has a 3/8-inch rail on the receiver for a scope, but if you choose to use one, the rifle can’t be stored in the buttstock. When used as a takedown rifle, you have to make use of an aperture rear sight and a blade front. This sight setup is surprisingly crisp, but with a weight of less than three pounds, the Henry can be challenging to steady.
Most Up-and-Coming: The Savage Model 64 Takedown
I grew up training on a Savage Model 64 rifle. It was a budget gun with a plastic stock, but it was still a Savage and more accurate than I could ever be. A few years ago, Savage announced the take-down version. The Model 64 takedown uses the same action as its predecessor but uses a shortened synthetic half-stock and detachable 16½-inch barrel that threads on and off in the same way as the AR-7 and the Papoose. The rifle is appointed in blued steel and uses an anodized aluminum receiver that is grooved for an optic. The Model 64 comes with a bog-standard, but reliable, ten-round magazine and ships from the factory with a bug-out bag.
Weighing in at 4.5 pounds, the Model 64 is on the heavier side. On the other hand, it is the most accessible rifle on the list with an MSRP of $269.
Most Modular: The Ruger 10/22 Takedown
It is no surprise that modularity and the Ruger 10/22 rifle are in the same sentence. The Ruger 10/22 is a dandy semi-auto 22 LR carbine that feeds from a detachable rotary magazine. First introduced in 1964, the 10/22 has become one of the most prolific 22 rifles out there, if not the default many will think of first.
Several years ago, Ruger introduced the 10/22 takedown. The base rifle is among the heaviest on the list, coming in at 5.2 pounds unloaded with a synthetic stock and stainless-steel appointments. It breaks in two in front by pushing a spring-loaded catch, allowing you to twist the lugged eighteen-inch barrel off the receiver. The iron sights are a fine brass bead front and a rear folding notch.
Some people love them, and some hate them, but the 10/22 takedown comes in a soft padded case with a Weaver scope base included. Like all other 10/22s, the Takedown is imminently accessorial and takes the endless assortment of ten-shot rotary magazines, as well as extended 25-round magazines, and higher-capacity drums. In the years since its introduction, Ruger has introduced models with heavy barrels, hardwood, and a lightweight Backpacker stock that allows the two halves of the rifle to be kept together. The base 10/22 takedown has an MSRP of $559, but it can be found on the street for quite a bit less.
The field of takedown rifles has narrowed to mostly rimfire rifles, but there are still plenty of options to choose from. There are bolt actions and single-shot 22 rifles that are takedown and will be perfect for the kit. But semi-auto 22 takedown rifles are, by far, the most popular. Which one is your favorite?