John Moses Browning invented yet another in the long list of firearms to his credit in 1914. This one was a semi-automatic rimfire pistol design, the Colt Woodsman, that lives on to this day in the form of the updated Browning Buck Mark. It was Colt’s Manufacturing that introduced the original to enthusiasts in 1915 and the company continued to produce the Woodsman until 1977. Nearly 700,000 were made, and the .22 LR-chambered pistols are considered a classic.
The Buck Mark isn’t quite identical Browning’s original design, for good reason. The last 100 years have seen a lot of improvement in materials and manufacturing, after all. The straight-blowback method of operation, abbreviated slide length, versatility and performance all remain, however.
The versatility never changed, a fact made obvious by Browning offering no less than 36 models today, each wearing features that make them ideal for different pursuits—five are new for 2022. MSRPs run from $469.99 for the Standard Micro URX to $1,029.99 for the Buck Mark Vision Black/Gold Suppressor Ready, which comes with a factory-mounted Vortex red-dot sight.
The look is distinctive, with a slide roughly half the length of its contemporaries behind the barrel/chamber, and timeless. Hard work and innovation on the part of Browning's designers have allowed it to survive and ultimately evolve into a modern-day favorite. The number of models available from the factory—more than double available in 2000—confirms the pistol’s unfading popularity.
Browning launched its Challenger variant in 1962, based on the original John M. Moses design (with the earliest models often referred to as the Nomad). Production was expensive and competing with the still-available Colt Woodsman was a serious challenge. The Challenger II and Challenger III followed, but production halted in 1975.
In 1985, the Buck Mark as we know it today first appeared. It’s now 37 years old and, like the original design, shows no signs of aging or slowing down. Manufacturing of all current models begins with a solid piece of aircraft-grade 7075 aluminum alloy that is CNC-machined to tight tolerances.
Features include a hand-reamed chamber, target crown on the barrel, single-action trigger, finger grooves and laser stippling. Standard on all models is a 16-click per revolution Pro-Target sight.
In addition, there’s a manual thumb safety, 10-round magazine, aluminum frame, magazine release next to the trigger guard (where North American shooters prefer) and enough versions, finishes and configurations to satisfy almost every enthusiast’s tastes. It’s little wonder it continues to be a popular choice for target shooters, small game hunters and plinkers.
Browning even dabbled with Buck Mark rifles wearing 18" barrels for a short period. The response wasn’t the same, and they’ve been discontinued for some time. There are a few available on the used market, and a quick search on GunBroker.com turned up one for just under $1,400. Original MSRPs the last year they came from the factory ran about $700.
Interestingly, the Browning Buckmark logo was introduced by the company in 1978, seven years before the Buck Mark pistol was unveiled. In 2007, the firm launched the “Show us your Buckmark” campaign soliciting photos from the brand’s fans who, more often than not, submit photos of the pistol. Call it ingenious marketing or confusion, either way, there’s no denying Buckmark and Buck Mark have grown to become nearly synonymous with the Browning name today.