Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Featured Gun: Jennings J-22

This featured gun is one of those pistols that would be categorized as a "Saturday Night Special" by the hoplophobes. A Saturday Night Special is an affordable gun, sometimes of dubious quality that has been vilified by the leftist media and their minions.
I did a write up regarding the history and reality of the Saturday Night Specials, see it here.

The pistol we are examining today is the Jennings J-22.

The Jennings Arms Company set up shop in Los Angeles (Chino) in 1978. The founder was a guy by the name of Bruce Jennings. 
Bruce is the son of George Jennings, who you may know as the man who started the "Ring of Fire" gun manufacturing in Southern California (see my write up on the ring of fire here).

His Father had copied some of the European guns (that were no longer being imported), to produce his Raven P-25.

Bruce also copied a European pistol (at least in part), the Walther PPK, which incidentally was also banned from importation by the '68 Gun Control Act. The Jennings, however, was considerably smaller than the PPK. 

Here are the two guns for comparison:

 The Jennings J22

 The Walther PPK

The early guns even had a PPK type grip panel

Jennings also produced a model chambered in .25 ACP (called the J-25).

The company logo was a swash buckling pirate (I'm sure there is a story to that....) and the guns were shipped in a blue cardboard box measuring 3 5/8" x 5 1/4", which perfectly fit the gun, spare magazine and the owner's manual....no wasted space.

The parts for the Jennings, Bryco and Jimemez arms pistols are cast from a zinc alloy, called Zamak (or Zamac). 

Zamak gets its name from the alloy Zinc, Aluminum, Magnesium and Copper (Kupfer in German), although it is 99.9% zinc.
This is not your typical pot metal, it is actually very well suited to this type of manufacturing (although not the best material for guns). There is one notable advantage of zinc construction: no rust.

The guns came in three finishes: Black (I'm not sure if the finish was paint or some sort of black chrome), satin nickel and bright chrome. The grip choices included black plastic (called "combat"), faux ivory and walnut. Giving a customer nine different combinations to choose from.

Bright Chrome with faux ivory
 Bright Chrome with walnut
 Black with walnut
 Black with plastic
 Satin Nickel with plastic

Construction of the guns was pretty straight forward. The zamak frame had a hole cast in the top of the frame for the steel barrel to be fitted and pinned into. The barrel remained fixed like a Walther PPK. The recoil spring slid over the barrel (also like the PPK) and the slide went on from the front, lined up in the rear with a keeper that also captured the firing pin spring as well as guided the firing pin when cocked.
The action was blow back and the trigger was single action only.
The magazine release was the simple "European style" by means of a catch at the heel of the grip frame.
The magazine held 6 rounds and the gun was usually shipped with two magazines.
The safety blocked the rearward movement of the slide and prevented the trigger from releasing the sear.

Here is a picture of the gun disassembled:

And the exploded parts diagram

Apparently the factory had some slides engraved, I don't know if these ever made it to production, but Gun Parts Corp was selling them for a while, but they are sold out now.

in 1985 Bruce, facing a felony assault charge, sold his business to a friend and former co-worker Gene Johnson. The new company was called Calwestco. After a plea bargain allowed Bruce to maintain his Federal Firearms Manufacturing License, Bruce created a new venture called Bryco Arms. Bryco Arms made the guns and Jennings Firearms became the distributor. Bryco was named for Bruce Jennings's son Bryan. The company eventually became owned by Janice Jennings, Bruce's ex-wife.
In 2003 Bryco lost a product safety lawsuit and went bankrupt. The assets were sold at auction to Paul Jimenez a former foreman at Bryco for $510,000.
Jimenez Arms relocated to Nevada and continues production today.

Virtually every "budget" priced gun has had detractors and the Jennings is not immune to the vitriol. 
Many have complained of issues ranging from the sear not catching if the slide is not pulled far enough back (causing a slam fire), to the gun going off if dropped.
I wont go into detail about all of the various claims.

I purchased this particular gun in 1991 from a home based FFL dealer. The finish was satin nickel, grips were of the combat variety and the price was only $49.99.

I also owned this black one for a short time, which I got as part of a trade.

My Father also ended up buying one of these.

When firing a Jennings you must use high velocity ammo and keep a stiff wrist. This is typical of any blow back operated pistol. 
When we followed these guidelines the guns did work most of the time. 
You could not expect Colt or Sig reliability from a $50 gun, so we didn't. The guns were just for fun, we never carried the guns for self defense.

My opinion on this gun (if you care): 
If you can afford a better quality gun, then by all means go that route, but if you simply cannot afford anything more than a $100 Jennings/Jimenez J-22, follow these guidelines:
  • learn to shoot it
  • learn to dis-assemble and re-assemble the gun
  • learn its idiosyncrasies
  • use high velocity ammo like CCI Stingers
  • ALWAYS follow the four rules of gun safety

We'll finish this post with a little Jennings Gun Porn

I was surprised to find so many examples of suppressed J-22s

These pictures were found freely on the world wide web and are used under the guidelines of Fair Use, per Title 17 of the U.S. Code.
If you own the copyright to any of these images and wish them to be credited or removed, please contact me immediately.