Ever since the Armalite M16/AR15 series rifles came on the scene in the 1960s they have been a novelty. While the 5.56mm/.223 is no recoil beast by any means, there has been a steady market in .22LR rimfire AR-style rifles. One of the latest and greatest of these seems to be the Chiappa M4-22.
The rimfire AR has a neat little niche in the gun world. Even the cheapest 5.56mm rounds, typically Russian-made Wolf/Tula etc. run you at least $4+ a box or about a quarter a pop. Rimfire 22LR, when bought in bulk, runs closer to $10 for 500 rounds, or about two-cents per round. This makes a day at the range or local informal 'shooting dump' an inexpensive experience. The low recoil of the pipsqueak round allows young or inexperienced shooters to ease into the fundamentals of the firearm before moving to a full-size AR platform. In addition, the caliber enables the handy little rifle to become a go-to gun for both squirrel and rabbit hunters and varmint shooters. In the 70s and 80s, the Philippine-based Armscor Arms produced and sold a visually similar .22LR semi-auto that from the International Space station resembled an AR. Don't confuse the M4-22 with the Armscor M16 22.
I give you the 1980s Armscor M16 22, also known as the M1600.
The Chiappa M4-22 is constructed of a polymer upper and lower with a mil-spec hand guard and very similar controls to an actual M4 rifle. They sell a 3.5-pound upper that you can use to convert your standard AR lower to a .22LR semi-auto for $349 if you don't want an entirely new weapon. If you do buy the full firearm keep in mind that you cannot take your M4 lower and use it with any other upper, as it will not accept it.
Chiappa's M4 22LR Upper
The M4-22 Specs
- Mechanism Type: blowback operated, semi-automatic rimfire rifle.
- Caliber: .22 long rifle only
- Overall Length: 34.5" (870 mm), which is slightly shorter than the real thing.
- Barrel Length: 16"
- Weight: 4 lbs., 7 ozs.
- Magazine Capacity: two 28-round mags come standard, unless you are in Kalifornia where 10-rounders are all their subjects are allowed.
- Rifling: six-groove; 1:16" RH twist
- Trigger: single-stage; 5-lb., 8-oz. pull
- Sights: front sight adjustable for elevation, M1913 Picatinny upper
- Stock: black or desert tan polymer with a 13.5-inch length of pull
- MSRP is $469 but you can find them on Gunbroker and other outlets for closer to $350.
Who in the world are Chiappa firearms?
The Dayton, Ohio-based company, while new to the US dates back to Italian replica firearm maker Ezechiele Chiappa who founded Armi Sport in 1958. Still owned by the same family, Chiappa firearms make the Rhino revolver, M1-22 carbine and others. MKS Distributing runs their Dayton operations. You may notice that MKS also distributes Beemiller and Hi-Point products. However, do not confuse the distributor with the manufacturer in this case. Old world craftsmanship and European quality shine through and the M4 feels nice and solid.
You can tell Chiappa started as a replica maker, as their M4-22 looks just like the real thing. On the downside, several parts are non-functional including the compensator (not threaded), the forward assist (not needed), and the bayonet lug (bummer.) Nevertheless, these features are not needed on a .22LR plinkster, so you have to give the company an A for effort. Its next closest competitor is the Smith and Wesson Model M&P15-22 Rifle that retails for $529. Like the Chiappa rifle, it has both a polymer upper and lower but a slightly smaller magazine capacity.
Sounds like a contender.