Have you ever experienced severe buyer’s remorse as a gun owner?
As a hoarder of strange and unique firearms, I can usually find something to like about most of the weapons in my collection.
The exception? The USFA ZIP .22 LR.
That’s right. This article is about the space age-wannabe that made me experience the 5 stages of grief as a gun collector.
Buckle up, folks! Today, I’m going to review the hilarious origins of the USFA ZIP .22 LR and examine how it functions – or rather, doesn’t – as a plinker.
Table of Contents
USFA Tries Something New
Before closing its doors in 2017, USFA was a Connecticut-based firearms company that used to be respected for its ability to produce fantastic Colt revolver clones.
Yeah, yeah. I know. “Colt revolvers” is a loaded statement because there are so many of them.
But USFA earned a gold star for focusing on the classic Cowboy guns.
The USFA clones had three things going for them: they were high quality, manufactured in the USA, and affordable – especially when compared to authentic Colts.
These guns were quite popular in the Single Action Shooting Society and made for the perfect competition firearm.
In 2011, the owner of the company decided to go in a different direction. Instead of looking to the past, USFA chose to plan for the future.
Like, far into the future. We’re talking cowboys to aliens, folks.
It started with a weird YouTube video that claimed the gun was an “Unidentified Firing Object.”
As you can see, it was a little half-assed for a viral marketing campaign.
The video was shared by The Firearm Blog (TFB) on June 5th, 2012. According to YouTube, it was sent by “Doug” and uploaded by John Smith.
That was already pretty sketchy. But then a guy named Doug popped up in TFB’s comments and started shilling for the video.
“Doug” was likely Doug Donnelly, the former CEO of USFA and the designer of the ZIP .22 LR.
This was a relatively poor attempt at viral marketing, but strangely appropriate in hindsight, considering the ZIP’s performance issues.
Oh, don’t worry. We’ll get to that in a second.
The USFA ZIP .22 LR Hits The Market
The USFA ZIP .22 LR was officially announced on TFB in November 2012.
And yes, it was through a tip sent in by good ole Doug.
The USFA ZIP .22 LR is a bullpup handgun that uses Ruger 10/22 magazines.
With its bizarre and futuristic design, it would make the perfect prop weapon for movies like Starship Troopers and The Fifth Element.
Understandably, this little space plinker generated quite a bit of buzz when it was first announced: It looked cool, wouldn’t break the bank (gotta love that $200 price point), and used commonly available magazines.
I was certainly excited.
The gun also promised a unique aftermarket.
This included the ability to add an optics rail, a future stock to make your ZIP an SBR, and even a rail attachment to fasten your gun to another weapon.
It was silly but fun.
Was it going to be the future of gunfighting? Nah. But it guaranteed a good time.
Journalists and influencers got their hands on the USFA ZIP .22 LR for the first time at SHOT 2013.
It did not go well.
The gun had lots of issues that USFA blamed on the cold weather.
And wasn’t it suspicious when they packed up early and left Range Day without giving their golden child some much-needed exposure?
Unfortunately, USFA didn’t let that first sting of failure slow them down.
No, they ceased production of their replica Colts, sold the related machinery, and charged headfirst into manufacturing the unproven ZIP .22 LR.
10/10 for confidence and dedication. 0/10 for foresight.
I’ll be honest. I totally couldn’t wait to buy this UFO. My LGS called me right away, and I grabbed one for $175.
I’m not reviewing that lost soul today. Like most ZIP owners, I quickly learned that it sucked and traded it in for some ammo or an optic. I can’t remember.
Anyway, the ZIP failed, USFA is no more, and the gun community is saddened by the loss of their great revolvers.
Nearly a decade later, a friend who works at my local gun store told me they still had one lying around. He couldn’t sell it with a clear conscience – and kudos to him, that’s some moral fiber.
After a bit of pondering, I decided to take it as a weird collector’s item. I knew what I was getting into, so he sold it to me for $50 and a Coke.
This is the USFA ZIP .22 LR that I’m reviewing today.
If you’ve already had enough…check out some of our Best .22LR Pistols that are actually good.
Who Is The USFA ZIP .22 For?
The USFA ZIP .22 LR is a weird gun and beyond worthless for any practical endeavors.
Other .22 LR pistols can be used for training, hunting small game, and even competition shooting.
The ZIP seemingly exists for only one reason: To be a fun and unique little plinker.
But it fails in being anything but a unique conversation starter.
Its unique design makes it appealing to people who like weird stuff and don’t want to pay a ton of money. Both the gun and its ammo are pretty inexpensive.
From the outside looking in, some of the design influences make sense. The heavy use of polymer makes it cheap and light, and its compatibility with Ruger 10/22 mags is super convenient.
It even comes with two springs, so you can swap between normal cheap loads and hit Stinger loads.
To The Range…Or, The ZIP’s Fatal Flaws
Plinkers are fun because they go bang, and they do it well. You can shoot cans, bust clay pigeons, and have a fun day at the range.
When it comes to .22 LRs, most of the fun comes from blasting away and emptying magazines as quickly as possible.
And that’s where the USFA ZIP .22 LR broke my heart.
The ZIP’s fatal flaw is that you’re lucky to get 5 rounds in before suffering a complicated malfunction.
I can get maybe 2-3 rounds off before I have to remove the magazine and press the charging handle while shaking the cruel UFO and pleading with it to drop the empty shell.
“Frustrating” is the word I would use to describe the ZIP. This gun has many problems, but I could forgive most of them if the gun actually worked.
I don’t need a plinker to win a competition; it just needs to plink!
I’ve once again come to the acceptance stage of the ZIP grieving process.
Nothing can redeem this gun.
I’ve tried using a variety of .22 LR ammo – Remington Golden bucket, Federal Automatch, CCI Mini Mags, and Winchester bulk pack – and multiple magazines, including standard 10-rounders from Ruger, BX 25 magazines, and even some Butler creek mags.
Swapping the springs? Didn’t work. Cleaning and lubing the gun? Tried it.
I could never get this gun to fire. It just doesn’t want to work. And I can’t even pretend that it’s a faulty weapon, because my last USFA ZIP .22 LR had the same problems.
The USFA ZIP .22 LR lacks many of the qualities that make a gun “good,” or at least functional. Hell, even mediocrity is better than this garbage plinker.
But let’s start with the two charging handles. They are located very close to the muzzle, which is extremely unsafe.
One charging handle ejects and loads the chamber, while the other serves as a restrike rod.
Theoretically, you should be able to push the restrike handle to reset the striker without ejecting the chambered round.
Nope. It always strips the next round and leaves me to deal with a nice double feed failure.
The trigger also sucks. It’s long, heavy, and reminds me of a double-action trigger.
Plus, the gun kind of jumps when it fires.
The sights are simple, but that’s not a bad thing for this firearm. Oddly enough, when the gun does fire, it’s quite accurate. The fixed barrel probably deserves that credit.
A red dot would increase this weapon’s range, and conceivably make accurate, long-range shots possible.
Ergonomically, the gun is a mess. But what can you expect from a Men in Black reject?
It has a weird configuration. The low recoil of the .22 LR keeps things comfortable, but the ass end is quite large and, well, let’s just say small hands need not apply.
The gun lacks a proper grip, so I ended up using an extended magazine as a replacement.
It’s not a comfortable set-up, and I would consider it a major issue on any other weapon. But with the ZIP, it’s just the cherry on top of a problem sundae.
The cross-bolt safety is easy to access, so that’s great. There is a rail on the bottom of the gun that’s super short…you might be able to attach a small laser?
That could make it fun if, you know, this gun worked.
By The Numbers
It will probably fire 2-3 rounds before giving you a headache. The longest I’ve been able to fire a ZIP reliably is 8 rounds.
It jams, fails to eject, double feeds, and is just a mess. And trust me, fixing these malfunctions is a complicated endeavor because the gun has such a funky design.
Surprisingly, this gun is pretty accurate.
It has a 5.25” barrel, which is concealed by the bullpup design. With better sights and an upgraded trigger, this ZIP could turn into an accurate little blaster.
Having odd ergonomics is one thing, but there is no excuse for the dangerous placement of that charging handle.
It looks cheap, but it was also a cheap gun.
As much as I (rightfully) complain about the ZIP, I do like its cyberpunk design. Sure, it’s just a polymer shell over a gun, but I consider myself to be a collector of strange weapons.
Surprisingly, USFA didn’t entirely lie about the customization options.
One upgrade allows you to convert the .22 LR into a single shot .22 Magnum, which I highly recommend. You can also attach scope mounts and a stock to the Picatinny rail.
Bang For Your Buck: 1/5
It was cheap, sure, but all you’re buying is frustration.
Overall Rating: 1/5
Unless you are a weirdo like me who enjoys strange weapons, I would never suggest buying a ZIP. I keep one as a curiosity, and that’s it.
I felt ripped off the first time I purchased one, but I’m satisfied with my $50 failure.
I’m not mad at the USFA ZIP .22LR, just disappointed. It could have been a silly, fun gun that made for a cool plinker. Now it exists solely as a hilarious conversation starter. It was both ahead of its time and the victim of a premature release.
Alas, the ZIP is as dead as my dreams of being in the NFL. I would like to say it was a fun ride while it lasted, but we all know I’d be lying.
Think the USFA ZIP .22 LR is a wild ride? If you want to keep the party going, check out Crazy Guns That Never Were and 8 Gun Products I Thought Were April Fool’s Jokes…But Aren’t.