September 2, 2016 at 00:07 #636supercSpectator
The Jennings Firearms Company J-22 .22LR pocket pistol.
A notorious pistol introduced in the late 1970s and still being made today with minor design and a name change. Available in several finishes this gun, because of ready concealability combined with low price along with such guns as the Raven and the and the Davis figured prominently in the so-called ‘ring of fire’ spate of gangland killings in the LA area during the mid 1980s. At the same time it acquired a reputation as being a fun gun for the fishing tackle box or as an all around plinker. Because of low quality manufacture and a poor choice of materials (to minimize weight the gun frame and slide were made of zinc alloy and not steel, and the steel of the barrel was softer than that of the firing pin, etc.) the gun also quickly acquired a reputation as being highly unreliable with an ability to jam at least once every magazine of ammo.
These pistols are striker fired and are of straight blowbak design. The recoil spring is overly stiff, consequently the guns work best with high velocity ammunition. A flier packaged with the pistols specifically recommends the use of CCI Stingers or Remington Hi-Velocity ammunition. This particular pistol works best with CCI Stingers and often jams with any other type of ammunition.
Although at least 4 different plants manufactured this pistol, none of them spend the money to make a 100% reliable version. They can all be counted on to jam or misfire sooner or later with more jams as the soft parts wear down.
What makes these guns popular with sportsmen as a camp plinker is the small size coupled with the discovery that in the hands of a good shooter 1 inch groups are quite possible out to 20 yards or so. The frequent jams and misfires make these very good first semi automatics to learn on for individuals transitioning from a revolver to a semi-automatic pistol, the theory being learn to cope with malfunctions with the small gun before dealing with them on the bigger gun.
All persons should be aware the small size of the pistol coupled with a striker mechanism and sloppy manufacturing can also make these pistols unusually dangerous. The safety sometimes disengages by itself in the pocket or the holster. If dropped sometimes the striker bounces free of the sear and the gun fires. There have been instances of the extractor becoming stuck in the inwards position (usually caused by a piece of debris lodged in the slot) and thereby acting as a second firing pin and causing a discharge when the slide picks up the next round and closes.
When Bryco took over manufacture of the J-22 from Jennings Firearms they re-designed the safety. Nevertheless a lawsuit involving an accidental discharge and a dead child forced Bryco out of the J-22 world. Other manufacturers soon stepped into the breech.
Some individuals build collections solely around the different J-22 versions and colors available. Different manufacturers place different markings on the pistol. Initial retail price of these pistols was about $45.. Today in 2016 due to their horrid reputation and low manufacturing cost they are often still available N.I.B. for only about $60. There are probably about a quarter million J-22s sitting in desk drawers, fishing tackle boxes, glove boxes and field jacket pockets.
The J-22 is not a reliable pistol. The caliber, .22 Long Rifle, is not a good choice for defensive use. However the .22 rimfire has killed more humans than all other pistol cartridges combined. It has also been known to kill tiger, lion, elephant and rhino. In many cases the death occurs days after the shooting, sometimes weeks after (infection). For that reason of very slow demise one should not choose a .22 as their defensive round. But if you just want a low cost small pistol to shoot empty soda cans and paper targets with, or to chase groundhogs from your vegetable garden with, the Jennings is a decent choice.
At the Range
Bringing the old Jennings to the backyard range we see at once that the reputation for frequent jams of various types is well deserved. We also see that the .22LR cartridge is not a toy but a potentially lethal bullet capable of easily blowing through an inch and a half of wood and making large exit wounds on the backside of the wood. The Jennings is a pistol that manages to convey to one who shoots it frequently that if it had just been a little better made, then it would be a great pistol. Sadly no one ever tweaked the design towards reliability.
The Zinc alloy frame and slide keep the weight and the cost of manufacture down, but at the expense of reliability. The too soft Zinc wears out of specification or flexes where steel wouldn’t. Better perhaps the weight of steel at slightly more cost to the consumer if it resulted in a better pistol. The barrel’s tendency to peen at the chamber mouth, coupled with the inability to de-cock the pistol means sooner or later the chamber mouth will deform and extraction and feed difficulties will ensue. Quality of magazines varies greatly from pistol to pistol. After a few hundred rounds the soft Zinc of the feed ramp begins to groove, which causes it’s own feeding issues. This is a pistol one should just skip the ‘break in’ period of. Again from gun to gun, year to year the recoil springs seem to be of varying strength. This means each gun has to be fed many different loads of ..22 cartridge before the best one can be identified. Although the sights of my own J-22 seem to be in line with the barrel, other owners have reported the pinned in place barrel of their gun does not line up with the sights. Some report barrels that are only loosely pinned so that the barrel actually wobbles in the frame if the slide is removed. It is a shame. The gun was a great concept design, but poorly executed in the factory.
I have owned, carried or used this pistol for about 35+ years. I have had a lot of fun with it. I have also had a lot of frustration with misfires, failures to extract, stove pipe jams, double feeds, and a host of other annoyances. I only wish that someday someone buys the design then does it right in steel instead of Zinc,
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