October 2001:

Browning High Power .22 LR Conversion Unit from JLD Enterprises

Browning High Power .22 LR Conversion Unit from JLD Enterprises
MACS Browning High Power .22 LR Conversion Kit
There really isn't much of a secret to pistol marksmanship.  It boils down to a combining the fundamentals, such as trigger squeeze, breath control, sight alignment, and grip with copious amounts of practice.  While most crufflers don't have to be encouraged all that much to shoot more often than they already do, several factors enter into the equation other than desire.  Not the least of these is cost.  With prices ranging from $9.00 to $17.00 per box of fifty cartridges, the fiscal factor alone is more than enough to dampen the ardor of all but the most well heeled shooters.

Cost cutting options include handloading, using reloaded ammunition, or simply shooting less often.  Each of these courses of action has drawbacks, however.  Handloading requires a significant initial investment, and carries with it  the potential of a careless moment leading to

disastrous results at the range.  Using reloaded ammunition runs the risk of substandard components and unknown ballistic performance.  Cutting down on one's shooting significantly lowers the training effect.  What then is a cruffler on a budget to do?

One of the most cost effective compromises available is the .22 LR conversion kit.  These kits have the advantage of firing inexpensive .22 ammunition (as little as two cents per round), requiring the shooter to pay attention to the shooting fundamentals, and using the original grip and fire controls.  Consequently, the converted pistol duplicates the weight, trigger pull, safety and firing characteristics of the original configuration, but at a fraction of the cost per shot.  For a self loading pistol, the .22 conversion kit usually consists of a replacement slide/barrel unit and a replacement magazine.

The conversions operate on the blowback principle.  That is, there is no mechanical interlock between the slide and barrel, and the only forces keeping the breech closed during firing are the weight of the recoil spring and the mass of the slide.  This system works very well for relatively low powered cartridges like the .22 LR, and has the benefit of simplicity.  Additionally the relatively violent blowback action offers a good approximation of the firing sensation of the original cartridge.

Conversion kits have been available for the Colt Government Model and its military analogs for quite some time, including kits offered by Colt and several aftermarket manufacturers like Jonathan Arthur Ciener, Inc.  Interestingly, there have been few, if any, kits offered for what may be the world's most popular self loading pistol, the Browning High Power.  That is until recently.  JLD Enterprises of Farmington, Connecticut is now importing a .22 conversion kit for the High Power trade named the "MACS" and manufactured by Moya Ruby y Cia of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Moya Ruby is an arms manufacturing concern owned by Mr. Nestor Zungri that specializes in investment cast gun parts.  Moya Ruby had been producing the MACS kit for several years for domestic consumption in Argentina when an enterprising mutual acquaintance of both Mr. Zungri and Jose Diaz of JLD Enterprises suggested that there might be an interested market in the United States for the MACS kit.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The kit itself comes in a fitted plastic box and consists of a replacement top end, a replacement slide stop, a replacement magazine and a disassembly tool.  The top

MACS .22 LR Conversion Kit Box
MACS .22 LR Conversion Kit Box
MACS Kit Components
MACS .22 LR Conversion Kit Components
end consists of an investment cast steel housing shaped to resemble the High Power's slide, inside of which fits a forged and milled barrel unit and breechbolt.  The barrel unit, whose extension is milled so as to serve as an ejector, is fixed to the housing by means of muzzle threads which engage a detented steel barrel
MACS .22 LR Barrel and Bolt Unit
MACS Conversion Kit Breech Bottom
MACS .22 LR Conversion Kit Internals:  Barrel and Bolt Assembly (Top) and Underside of Breech (Bottom) 
MACS Barrel and Bolt Disassembled
MACS Conversion Kit Breech Top
MACS .22 LR Conversion Kit Internals:  Barrel and Bolt Disassembled (Top) and Breech Top, Showing Firing Pin (Bottom)
bushing.  The bolt, which includes the floating firing pin, trigger bar and extractor is held to the barrel  by means of interlocking mortises and grooves coupled with the pressure of the captive recoil spring.  The whole unit is nicely finished with smooth black parkerizing, with the exception of the mating surfaces of the bolt, which are polished bright in an effort to enhance operational smoothness.  Barrel and bolt are serial numbered to one another.

The left side of the slide is marked:

MACS Slide Markings, Left Side
MACS .22 LR Conversion Kit Slide Markings, Left Side

The right side of the slide is marked:

MACS Slide Markings, Left Side
MACS .22 LR Conversion Kit Slide Markings, Right Side
Sights are the familiar military fixed notch and blade style that faithfully recreate those found on Mk. III High Powers.  The rear notch is drift adjustable for windage.  Fire controls (trigger, hammer, safety) all function as normal.

Installation is simplicity itself and takes less than thirty seconds.  The original slide is retracted, and the safety pushed upward into the disassembly notch.  The slide stop is pressed out to the left, the safety is lowered, and the slide eased forward off

MACS 22 Conversion Kit Muzzle Bushing Threaded Barrel of MACS Conversion Kit
MACS .22 LR Conversion Kit Muzzle Bushing (L) and Threaded Barrel (R)
the frame.  The replacement top end is then slid on to the frame rails, and the replacement slide stop slide home to lock the assembly in place.  The barrel bushing is then tightened or loosened to ensure the proper fit of the top end on the frame.  This final step is the key to the MACS conversion unit's astonishing versatility.  By allowing for relatively loose tolerances on the slide to frame and barrel to frame fit, and then taking up the slack with a mechanical adjustment, a 
"drop-in" fit on virtually any High Power variant.  We tested the unit's compatibility with a number of High Powers, and this is what we found:
Belgian Late Model Commercial
Drop-In Fit
Belgian Israeli Contract
Drop-In Fit
Argentine Military
Drop-In Fit
Argentine Commercial
Drop-In Fit
Belgian Military Contract - Pre 1950
Drop-In Fit
Hungarian FEG Clone
Drop-In Fit

Preparation for shooting the conversion kit starts with loading ten rounds of high velocity .22 LR ammunition (the owner's manual is very specific about using high velocity loads) into the surrogate magazine.  The magazine itself is an interesting assembly.  It consists of a stamped steel single column .22 magazine inserted into a

plastic housing that mimics the contours of the original 9mm magazine and held in place by a single transverse steel pin.  While it was durable and reliable enough, it was also one of the most painful magazines we've ever loaded.  The contours and edges on top of the feed lips are quite sharp, and none of the testing staff really wanted to load more than five iterations of ten rounds.  From a purely ergonomic view, this magazine could benefit enormously from the inclusion of a thumb actuated follower depressor such as those found on Ruger
MACS Conversion Kit Magazine Components
MACS .22 LR Conversion Kit Magazine Components
Mk. II magazines.

Once the rounds are loaded, the magazine is smartly inserted into the butt, and the hammer cocked. Next, the bolt is grasped by the cocking serrations at the rear, pulled back to the furthest extent of travel and released.  A round is stripped from the magazine into the chamber, and the pistol is ready to fire.
Firing the pistol is very interesting.  To begin with, it's not just a suggestion when the manual says to fire only high velocity ammunition, and that a minimum of 200 rounds should be fired in order to properly break in the conversion.  Our test unit would function with standard velocity ammunition, but only when the magazine had six or fewer rounds loaded.  Even with high velocity ammunition there were numerous failures to feed or eject over the first two hundred rounds.  However, as we drew closer and closer to the magical 200 rounds, the number of rounds between failures began to increase, eventually ceasing entirely.  After the 200 round break in, the conversion was entirely reliable.

Accuracy was very good with fifteen yard groups of an inch or so being the norm rather than the exception.  The training value of the conversion is enhanced by the blowback "jump" that induces a bit of muzzle flip and forces the shooter to concentrate.  We've no doubt that with a longer barrel and finer, adjustable sights, accuracy would improve dramatically.

The MACS .22 conversion unit for the Browning High Power is, at $195.00, priced competitively with other conversion units.  It's also the only game in town for the High Power at the moment.  It's also very well engineered, very well manufactured, accurate, and after a break in period, reliable.  Despite all these positives, the kit is not perfect.  We'd like to see the following improvements (stress on the word "improvement" - these are most emphatically NOT problem fixes):

These shortcomings are minor, however and do not detract from the kit's inherent utility, or for that matter, from the sheer fun it offers.  While plinking with a MACS equipped High Power is great fun, and while we think that anyone who owns a High Power will thoroughly enjoy one of these kits, we offer this warning:  The purchase of a MACS kit may very well cause the owner to engage in suspicious and compulsive behavior centered around the obsessive hoarding of empty twelve ounce beverage containers and the subsequent .   But then, when you've got to plink, you've got to plink!

And now, our Buy-O-Meter rating for the MACS .22 Conversion Kit for the Browning High Power:


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