October 16, 2020
By Brad Fitzpatrick
My son is a rather jaded firearms enthusiast. At three (almost four, he’ll tell you) he’s seen many guns pass back and forth between my office and the gun safe in our house. Exhibition-grade walnut does nothing for him, and he has no appreciation for the classics. The very Colt that Wyatt Earp carried into the famous dustup at the OK Corral could pass under his nose without a second glance. But when I walked by him with Browning’s new Limited Edition Buck Mark Plus Vision pistol in blue, the kid almost fell off his chair.
“Dad, what is that?”
I explained, and he asked if he could see it. I held the gun while he looked over every inch of it.
“That’s the coolest gun I’ve ever seen,” he said matter-of-factly. “I want one.”
I heard many older and more experienced shooters utter those exact same words while I lingered around the Buck Mark display at this year’s SHOT Show. Introduced way back in 1985, the Buck Mark remains mechanically very much the same pistol it was back when Dire Straits was topping the charts with “Money for Nothing.”
At its heart is a direct-blowback action that harnesses the .22 LR’s mild recoil to cycle the action. The Buck Mark, like the Ruger Mark series and Smith & Wesson’s famed Model 41, uses a reduced slide. When firing, only a portion of the slide moves; the sights and barrel stay fixed.
That means better shot-to-shot consistency and a reduced cycling load. It’s also no coincidence that these three pistols are well known for their accuracy and reliability. The design is extremely simple yet effective.
The Buck Mark’s slide is outfitted with a sturdy extractor on its right side that’s durable enough to remove cases from the chamber. When the slide moves forward, the extractor extends into a cutout in the barrel sleeve and bites on the rim of the cartridge.
Each Buck Mark Plus Vision pistol comes with two 10-round magazines equipped with a thumb tab that makes depressing the spring and loading rounds simple and hassle-free. The open windows on the sides of the magazine offer a view of how many cartridges remain on tap.
Like other members of its family, the Buck Mark Plus Vision Blue uses an alloy frame that is plenty durable for .22 LR ammunition yet lightweight and affordable. There are three different Vision models this year—in blue, black and red—and all of them come with a tensioned aluminum outer sleeve that surrounds a 5.9-inch steel barrel insert. This allows the barrel to be tensioned fore and aft and offers improved accuracy at a lower cost.
Plus, and perhaps most importantly—to my son, anyway—the aluminum barrel sleeve allows for some very cool upgrades to the pistol in the form of barrel cuts. The Swiss cheese barrel design of the Buck Mark Plus Vision Blue I tested wouldn’t work with a one-piece barrel, but it’s easy to do with a two-piece barrel.
What’s more, each of the three Vision Buck Mark guns gets a unique sleeve design exclusive to that color. The blue version I tested comes with a honeycomb pattern; the black model comes with sawtooth cuts; and the red version receives lateral barrel cuts. The exterior of the aluminum surfaces is anodized with the respective color of the gun, and the barrel sleeve cuts retain their shiny silver look. It offers a bit of contrast that certainly adds to the Plus Vision’s wow factor.
The Buck Mark’s inner barrel is equipped with 1/2x28 threads, and the gun comes equipped with a muzzle brake. The brake gives the gun a unique look and helps the pistol balance well in the hand, although the threaded muzzle also begs to have a suppressor added.
All Buck Mark Plus Vision pistols come with white outline Pro-Target 16-click adjustable rear sights and a Truglo/Marble Arms fiber-optic front sight. The rear sight is fixed to the receiver, which also includes a six-slot Picatinny rail that offers more sighting options.
The front sight is attached to the barrel sleeve while the rear sight and rail are secured to the receiver with a pair of hex screws. Removing the top rail provides access to the mainspring and allows for the removal of the slide for cleaning and maintenance.
All of the Vision Buck Mark pistols come with Browning’s Ultragrip FX (UFX) molded grips with finger grooves and a tacky exterior surface. Shooters with large hands will appreciate how much real estate the Buck Mark pistol grip offers, but thanks to the liberal use of lightweight alloy materials and the gun’s excellent balance just about anyone—even young or small-handed shooters—can make this gun perform.
The controls are what you’ll find on any other Buck Mark gun. On the left side is a round magazine release button located aft of the gold-plated trigger, a paddle-type thumb safety that pivots at the front and a slide stop.
Both the slide stop and safety protrude noticeably from the frame, and while that might be a problem on a carry gun, it’s a welcome feature on a target pistol. You won’t find yourself hunting for the controls on this gun. In addition to the thumb safety, the Buck Mark features a magazine disconnect safety.
With the muzzle brake in place, the Buck Mark measures about 11.5 inches long and has a height of roughly 5.5 inches from the top of the rear sight to the base of the grip. Across the controls the gun measures about 1.5 inches.
Each new Buck Mark Plus Vision Blue pistol comes with a pistol rug and two magazines and carries a suggested retail price of $700—not a bad price for the coolest gun ever.
I’ve tested and owned a few Buck Marks. All were shooters, and the Plus Vision Blue model is no exception. That accuracy potential is due in large part to the fixed barrel and sights, and the gun’s relatively long, 8.25-inch sight radius. But as good as the fiber-optic adjustable sights on the Buck Mark are, I couldn’t help but make use of that rail space and mount an optic.
I did the accuracy testing with a Steiner DRS1X I had on hand, and it worked fine, although aesthetically it’s too big for the pistol. I later shot the pistol with a Sightmark Mini Shot, and a sight of this size is just about perfect.
Of the five loads tested, three consistently produced groups around an inch at 25 yards, and the other two weren’t far behind. The very best group of the day came courtesy of SK Pistol Match Special 40-grain target ammo and measured 0.91 inch for five shots.
The Buck Mark’s trigger is great. It broke at an average of 3.6 pounds for 10 shots measured with a Wheeler gauge, with just a little creep before the sear drops.
Like the Smith & Wesson Model 41 and the Ruger Mark IV, the Buck Mark pistols have a crescent trigger, and I believe the Buck Mark’s trigger is the most deeply curved of the three. You may or may not like that—I actually prefer the flatter profile of the company’s Feather rifle trigger—but there’s no denying that this gun has a great trigger. It’s smooth and crisp and allows you to print small groups consistently.
On the whole, the Buck Mark Plus Vision’s reliability was pretty good. I intentionally threw in two very light target loads—SK’s aforementioned Pistol Match Special and Remington Eley Club Xtra ammunition—just to see how they would perform. I had some failures to eject spent casings early on, but those problems seemed related to ammo selection more than mechanical issues.
Rimfire ammo runs in a relatively wide range of velocities and pressures, and many of the insults hurled against gun makers regarding jams are really issues with gun/ammunition compatibility. I ran CCI’s hot Mini-Mag ammunition through the gun without a hiccup. What’s more, I realized the slide wasn’t moving with as much authority as I felt it should, so I lubricated the action and removed the red dot. Voilà.
Even the slow stuff ran much better, and the three faster loads—Winchester Wildcat, Federal Target and the CCI—all purred through the gun. There were a handful of occasions when the firing pin struck the primer but did not ignite the propellant. The strikes looked good to me, so that may be an issue with the ammunition. But if I kept the gun lubed and fed it ammo that made more than 900 fps, the Buck Mark had no issues.
Browning may be leading the class for rimfire pistol grip design. The UFX system is comfortable and offers a secure and consistent hold on the pistol.
Everything about the Plus Vision Blue pistol feels like it was made to the highest standards, from the fit of the frame to the grip to the slide machining to the trigger. There’s no doubt it’s one of the most striking .22 rimfires on the market. The anodized finish seems durable, and throughout testing I never saw any wear or chipping.
Looks and build quality aside, there’s something to be said for a gun that’s just fun to shoot. I think we reserve too much space in our gun safes for guns that serve a higher purpose—competition, hunting, self-defense and so forth.
But the Buck Mark is just lots and lots of fun to shoot. It gobbles up inexpensive ammo, it doesn’t generate painful recoil or daunting muzzle blast, and it is capable of printing tiny groups. It’s a hoot to shoot whether you’re spinning steel or knocking tin cans around, and it’s accurate enough to be a functional pest control gun should the need arise.
Above all else, the Buck Mark Plus Vision Blue grabs attention. It won my son’s heart, and it did the same for the folks shooting beside me at the range. The man in the next bay’s first words to me were, “Cool gun.” Yes, it is.
Browning Buck Mark Vision Blue Specs
- Type: Direct blowback semiauto rimfire
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Capacity: 10+1
- Barrel: 5.9 in., muzzle brake, threaded 1/2x28
- Overall Length: 9.9 in.; 11.5 in. w/muzzle brake
- Weight: 27 oz.
- Grips: UFX rubber overmolded
- Finish: Anodized blue
- Trigger: 3.6 lb. pull (measured)
- Sights: Click adjustable Pro-Target rear, Truglo/Marble Arms fiber-optic front; Picatinny rail
- Safety: Manual thumb safety
- Price: $700
- Manufacturer: Browning, browning.com
Browning Buck Mark Vision Blue Accuracy Results