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An increasing number of younger shooters and gun owners − who probably shot more guns on the PS3 or the XBox than they did in real life − may not like the kind of item we talk about in this article, just because it's small, it's single-shot, and it's chambered for the "puny" .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge. If you're part of the category, you may find yourself offended by what I'm going to tell you right now: get a real life, shoot some real guns, and then come back and speak for what you've learned. .22 rimfire guns are still the best tool out there to introduce newbies to the basic handling and marksmanship techniques, and although you may not get the thrill of high recoil with such a small caliber, by using a .22 you're definitely more likely to understand what kind of discipline and concentration it takes to become a real shooter than with a .44; here at ALL4SHOOTERS.COM we do still think that rimfires have an important place in the lives of everyday shooters, and sport a plethora of advantages: they're cheap to purchase and to use, they're fun, they're versatile as they can be used from varmint hunting to pest control to training. Truth is, having the .22 caliber and .22-chambered firearms been around for over a century now, it's difficult to find a rimfire gun that stands out above all others in terms of originality and versatility.
Or is it?
The Chiappa Firearms company − headquartered in Azzano Mella, a small town in the northern province of Brescia, the heart itself of the Italian arms industry − begs to differ. Founded in 1958 by Ezechiele Chiappa as the Armi Sport company, long time global leader in muzzle-loading and breechloading replicas, it was taken over in 1987 by one of Ezechiele Chiappa's sons, Mr. Rino Chiappa, and for a couple of years now it has been undergoing a decise modernization process that led to the launch of several exciting and incredibly successful new firearms on the global market, ranging from semi-automatic, rimfire versions of modern military pistols, rifles and carbines to a line of 12-gauge lever-action and pump-action shotguns for sports shooting, hunting, and defense, not to mention the world-famous RHINO line of space-age-looking, technically innovative revolvers, available in different calibers, finishes and barrel lenghts. The "new wave" of the Chiappa Firearms company also corresponded with the foundation of a north American branch, headquartered in the city of Dayton (Ohio, USA), to better answer the needs and requests of the American and Canadian markets.
One of the last chapters in Chiappa's "new history" − first seen as a prototype last January, at the Las Vegas 2013 SHOT Show, and now finally available for purchase − is something actually we never saw coming, even though Chiappa has a long history in rimfires. Folding survival rifles are not something we see everyday, let alone from the Italian arms industry. As a matter of fact, survival-type carbines were once quite popular, with models such as the ArmaLite AR-7 and the Ithaca Gun Company/Springfield Armory M6 "Scout" being hot sellers on the north American market and even being issued, at a certain extent, to Air Force pilots to hunt for food and provide limited self-defense capabilities should they ever be downed and forced to survive behind enemy lines while awaiting extraction. Most survival rifles, manufactured up to fairly recent times by several US-based and European arms makers, had indeed being conceived following the lessons learned after the experiences of downed pilots from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam war, and back then, they were seen as good alternatives for military survival roles as they could be made compact enough to fit into the very small survival packs issued to Air Force pilots.
In real life, the military issue and use of this survival-type rifles and carbines quickly proved its limitations: the usual .22 rimfire (and limitedly, smoothbore .410 gauge) chamberings proved largey ineffective for most of the intended purposes, and issuing military personnel with non-conventional firearms could put them in an odd condition if captured by the enemy, as they could be considered as non-conventional warfare personnel, thus not protected by the international conventions concerning prisoners of war. On the other hand, the same designs were found to be much more apt for a wide array of civilian applications, including, but not limited to, pest control, varmint hunt, recreational shooting, basic marksmanship training, and even as a self-defense weapon for outdoorsmen and backpackers when traveling in remote areas of the north American continent and many other Countries, particularly when a ride into wilderness means camping hundreds of miles away from the closest civilized outpost and where encounters with potentially dangerous wild animals is all but unlikely. A .22 carbine may be not enough to kill, or even cause severe injuries to, a Grizzly bear, a wolf, a wild boar, or an Australian Dingo (okay, maybe that will bring a Dingo down!), but that's more than enough to let the animal understand that humans are not going to be easy prays, and to scare it away. That's the main reason why most wilderness areas in north America − particularly in the United States − are regulated so that campers may bring firearms along for self-defense and emergency purposes.
Even outside of the U.S. market, there's a potentially very high demand for this kind of sporting-purpose-only firearms. The current global economic crisis calls shooters to go for cheaper arms and ammunition, as practicing with full caliber guns is getting increasingly expensive and some Countries are facing a shortage of some calibers; .22 rimfires are available to civilians even in the most tightly gun-controlled Countries and jurisdictions (United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, to name a few); and, as stated above, there's nothing better than a .22 rimfire carbine to introduce youngsters and beginners to the basics of safe firearms handling and marksmanship, so to raise them as the shooting champions of tomorrow. That's why the Chiappa Firearms company launches today the Little Badger − a nomer that was patterned the small, yet brave and stubborn animal known as the Ratel, or "Honey Badger" − as an essential, simple, reliable and affordable shooting tool.
Even for an untrained eye, it shouldn't take much more than a quick glance to realize how close the design and ratio of the Chiappa Firearms Little Badger rimfire are to those of an already-mentioned very popular survival carbine from the second half of the 20th Century − this being, the M6 "Scout", manufactured by the Ithaca Gun Company for the U.S. Air Force as the "Aircrew Survival Weapon" during the Vietnam War and then lately for civilian sales by CZ in Czech Republic, distributed by Springfield Armory.
The Little Badger has a lot of points that remind us of the M6 "Scout": first of all, it's al made of metal, and almost spartanly built − this, not meaning that it's low-quality, but simply that it has been conceived to be idiot-proof and adamantly easy to operate. More technically speaking, the Little Badger is a single-shot rimfire carbine with a top-break open breech and a single-shot trigger, featuring an external hammer that mast be cocked manually before every shot. The entire manufacturing process is carried on by the Chiappa company itself in its Italian manufacturing plant. The frame is machined out of carbon-reinforced stainless steel, and so is the wire metal stock, featuring a polymer buttpiece and spare shellholder, which can host up to twelve rounds of .22 caliber ammunition, ready to use.
The 419mm/16.5"-long barrel is button-rifled and features six right-handed grooves with an 1:16 pitch − a standard for .22 rimfires. Iron sights are... not iron, but polymer, and will also remind shooters of something they already seen: that's right, they are M1 Carbine style, and most notably these are the same sights that Chiappa Firearms already uses for its M1/.22 semi-automatic rimfire clone (also sold in the U.S. as the "Citadel M1"). Apart from being made out of polymer rather than steel, there's nothing major that makes them different from the original: the front post sight is fixed and features protective fins on both sides, while the rear sight is totally adjustable for windage and elevation up to 300 meters (328 yards approximately). It may be a little difficult for some shooters to get accustomed to the classic military-style peephole sights, conceived in the late 1930s, but once you get used to it, you'll be able to get the best out of this small carbine in terms of accuracy, albeit maybe 300 meters may be somewhat an exaggeration for leisure shooting with a .22 rimfire.
The Chiappa Firearms' Little Badger single-shot carbine also features a very short handguard, conceived as a polymer quad-Picatinny rail, located right in front of the receiver; another smaller, polymer MIL-STD-1913 "Picatinny" rail is installed under the frame, right behind the trigger guard, so that the owner may install an aftermarket pistol grip for further shooting convenience − although we don't really feel like it's needed at all. The Chiappa Firearms Little Badger carbine has been conceived with care, and despite its short overall lenght, small-handed and big-handed shooters alike will have no problem in embracing it like a traditional stock rifle and quickly reach the hammer, the trigger, and the breech opening lever. Operatiion procedures for the Little Badger are elementary, which make this design one of the most perfect basic trainers we've seen in a while.
The Little Badger carbine is available in .22 Long Rifle and .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire variants; in both cases, the shooter needs to open the breech in order to load every single shot, which is done by pushing the curved lever located in front of the trigger guard. The Chiappa Firearms Little Badger carbine features no automatic or manual safety whatsoever: once the round is manually inserted in chamber and the breech is locked, the shooter will need to cock the external hammer manually before pulling the trigger, otherwise the gun won't fire. Once the trigger is pulled, the hammer will activate a classic rimfire-type spring-loaded striker, well dimensioned and solidly built to ensure a uniform and energic ignition, bringing the risk of duds to a minimum, although users should refrain from dry-firing this gun without at least a snap cap in chamber in order to prevent damages or premature wear to this component − although dry-firing with an empty chamber should be avoided on all rimfires. Once the breech is opened again, an energic spring-loaded extractor will automatically clear the chamber to allow a quicker reload.
As lightweight and elementary as it can be, the Chiappa Firearms' Little Badger single-shot carbine is a good performer at the range, particularly in the 50/100 meters range − once again, the typical range for a rimfire sporter − and while some shooters may find themselves somewhat uncomfortable with the military M1 Carbine-style sights, they are still quite easy to adjust according to the shooter's needs, and however the quad-Picatinny railed handguard allows the installation of any commercially-available Red-Dot sight or long eye relief optic, which would be particularly useful for those shooters (such as myself) suffering from visual impairments that will make it difficult to align sights on a gun with a long sighting line when shooting indoors with less than ideal environmental lighting conditions. Last, but not least, the Chiappa Firearms' Little Badger single shot carbine can be folded in a totally open position, which makes it 16.5 inches (42 centimetres) long overall, perfect for backpacking or long-term storage in small safes.
The manufacturer's suggested retail price is however the cherry on the cake. The Little Badger is already in full distribution in Europe and the United States, and while in Italy and the rest of EU the .22 Long Rifle version goes for 170.00€ and the .22 WMR version goes for 185.00€, in the United States its price will range from $165.00 to $179.00; fair for the quality, and definitely more than just affordable: a true must-have for all shooters and gun enthusiasts! Of course price may vary on different Countries, and perspective buyers should contact directly their local retailers or distributors: a comprehensive list of global authorized Chiappa importers is available on the company website.
Chiappa Firearms Little Badger
|Costruttore||Armi Chiappa S.n.c. |
Via Milano, 2
25020 - Azzano Mella (BS)
|Caliber||.22 Long Rifle, .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire|
|Working system||Top-break opening, single-shot|
|Feeding||Single shot to be manually inserted in chamber|
|Trigger||Single action, releasing a manually loaded hammer|
|Stock||Wire metal stock, synthetic buttstock|
M1 Carbine style: fixed front post, peephole rear adjustable for windage and elevation
|Safety||No manual safety - hammer must be cocked manually before firing|
|Overall weight||3.5 lbs. empty|
|Overall lenght||32 inches open, 16.5 inches folded|
Carbon steel (Barrel, frame, stock), reinforced polymer (buttstock, shell-holder, MIL-STD-1913 "Picatinny" rails)
|Manufacturer's suggested retail price|
Depending from caliber: up to 185.00€ in Europe, around 155.00US$ in the United States of America