USFA Zip 22: How a Garbage Gun Destroyed A Good Company

USFA used to be the producers of probably the best Single Action Army reproductions on the market – but then the company owner decided to pursue a crazy whim and embarked on the Zip 22 project. This was to be a very modular and very inexpensive little pistol with lots of cool possibilities. Problem was, the thing was a malfunctioning piece of junk that handled like a lumpy 2×4.

To make it cheap and easy to make, Donnely (owner of USFA, and apparently the actual designer of the Zip) eschewed the use of either an extractor or ejector. Furthermore, the bolt is a roughly 1″ (25mm) cube of polymer and is a consumable part like the recoil springs. The combination of a short bolt travel, very light mass of reciprocating parts, and lack of traditional parts to ensure extraction and ejection resulted (not surprisingly) in a notoriously unreliable firearm.

While each individual Zip is very cheap, this is only possible through the use of polymer molds, which are very expensive to create. Apparently USFA sold off all its traditional machine tools (ie, the Single Action Army production capacity) to finance the various molds for the Zip 22 project. Donnely thought that the massive profits form the Zip would allow him to purchase new tools and restart SAA production after a two-year hiatus. However, the massive problems with the Zip destroyed the company’s finances. It was only in production for just about a year, and by January of 2017 the company was formally dissolved, with no assets remaining.


  1. I was working in the firearms industry in 2014 and saw one of these at a SWAT show and shoot in FL. The dealer salesman I was hanging around with had one mounted, as Ian mentioned, under an M4 barrel, like a masterkey or a 203. Plus, he had hung a can on it, making it a two tax stamp item (registered both as dealer samples which the sales group paid for, no doubt).

    The idea that had come from the manufacturer (or perhaps him) was to develop a market in Israel for troops like Sayeret Matkal and the like to hang them off of their rifles with cans to shoot dogs, lights or sentries when raiding in denied territory.

    I didn’t get the chance to fire it, unfortunately, and I left the company i was working for shortly thereafter and haven’t had any contact with the salesman since, but it was certainly an, um, interesting idea…

    • “it was certainly an, um, interesting idea…”
      Under-barrel pistol? I doubt in usefulness of such solution, additionally I think it should be possible to adapt existing automatic pistol design for such application, maybe even patent particular solution as “Appurtenance of automatic pistol” or something like that.

      Though considered they have know-how regarding production of Single Action Army they might “invent” under-barrel revolver. Hmm… this would looks at least… eccentric.

  2. A joke of modern technology and material which could not even be thought a century ago. However, screwing the moving parts should not be an application for the joining pieces but also doing the same for the design.

    2.6 grams of .22 bullet in 10 santimeters of barrel needs some 25 grams of breechbolt and that polymer piece seems not weight such a mass. Great dare for an enterpriser thinking for long range production. Besides, importance of finger protection should not be underrated.

    Overall, with some clever corrections, the concept seems hopefull. lMHO.

    • “2.6 grams of .22 bullet in 10 santimeters of barrel needs some 25 grams of breechbolt and that polymer piece seems not weight such a mass.”
      This lead to question what would be cyclic Rate-of-Fire of full auto version? states that:
      …weapon uses Ruger 10/22 magazines. It works best with BX-1 10-round magazines and has issues with using the BX-25 25-round magazine, which feeds too slowly. ZiPFactory manufactures the ZX-30 Reliability Upgrade upgrade kit that improves the spring inside the BX-25.
      Which suggest that time of one cycle is so small that normal magazine has problems with reliable feeding of cartridges. BTW: What is reliability of BX-25 in other fire-arms?

      • Reliable feeding should be accompanied by correct linear motion, sufficient transmit of moment coming from decompessing spring, good contact of case back with breech face and etc., which seeming absent in this design and its working. Ruger’s magazine looks not get along with these needs included in this construction.

      • This should be done for the easiness of both hands using. But in a pistol with such width, there should be found many other cocking aid locations providing this requirement.

    • I don’t know but I bet this gun would lose a fight with a soup ladle! Even the late production Japanese last ditch rifles and Type 94 pistols would outperform the Zip22 in durability and effective lethality! Did I mess up?

      • Well, it is supposed to be less lethal!

        Seriously though, calling .22 lr “less lethal” is an idiotic claim. I believe the consensus opinion is that .22 lr has killed more people globally than any other non-military cartridge.

  3. It looks to me exactly like it was designed to be fired left-handed.

    The right hand is holding the grip, with the right trigger finger ready to fire the service round. The left hand is used to fire the .22 round.

  4. Madness to the next highest power of ten! I’d rather have a good bamboo spear!
    You could have lost a finger to that obscene p.o.s.!!!

    • There is or was a review vid on YouTube where the reviewer shot him self in the web of the hand trying to clear a jam out of one of these things. Your finger in the way of the muzzle when charging the pistol is asking for trouble. I can’t believe they rushed this dangerous piece of trash to the market so fast.

  5. By the way: what happened with the .410 bore USFA M4-410 revolver []? Has it ever left the prototype stage and entered production?

  6. Yuck
    It’s even cheaper and nastier than a Remington 66 nylon.

    If the owner had been trying to make battery powered auto pilot cars*, he might have received several very generous grants of other people’s money, before he went bust.

    But he wasn’t and he didn’t.

    * you may think that you know who I am referring to

    But I couldn’t possibly comment 😉

    • Hold on! I’ve owned several Nylon 66s over the years and continue to shoot them. A very successful .22 auto rifle design!

      • Please be very careful with your 66

        Their trigger mechanisms are fatal accidents that are just waiting to happen

        Check out Jack Belk’s book “unsafe by design” for a detailed explanation and discussion

        You can download it free from Jack Belk’s page

        Or as pay for kindle and dead tree versions on Amazon.

  7. I think it would be pretty simple to mount a Picatinny rail to a Cobray Terminator, and then mount the ZIP to the Terminator.

    Well worth the $200 it would cost, and as a side benefit, one could shorten the Terminator barrel to whatever length they prefer.

  8. While the gun itself may lack an ejector, the Ruger 10/22 magazine left feed lip acts as the ejector when a 10/22 is fired with a magazine in place. The stamped steel ejector in the Ruger trigger housing is only there to eject when fired without a magazine in place. Assuming the ZIP has the bolt fit to the magazine as in the Ruger, the magazine would be acting as the ejector. Easy way to tell would be to load a round and remove the magazine before firing. repeat enough times to detect a trend. If you get better ejection with the mag in place the mag is the ejector as in the Ruger design. No change, the bolt is not fitted close enough to the magazine and the striker is ejecting it.

  9. lt seems the firing pin tip works as an ejector which was a common application at the early blowback pistol production era. Like, FN 1905,1910/22, MAB model C,D and even Mauser 1910 which contained a separate ejector lever actually working as a slide stop. But this pistol seems having no extractor as well which sacrificing the ability of drawing out a stick case out from the chamber during rearward bolt travel and retaining the case back in contact with the breech face for reliable feeding at forward travel of the same. These should be not negletable items for such a pistol of questionable working.

    • I just gave the idea of using the firing pin tip as ejector in a .22 rf a little bit of thought

      I guess that even without an extractor, you probably could do it

      But whether you would want to?

      Is a different question

      It would need to be positioned on the opposite side of the bolt face to the ejection port

      And touching would be faced with a dilemma;

      Either have a look firing pin tip protrusion for positive ejection, and risk peening the hell out of the breech face if the chamber when the rifle gets dry fired

      Or, limit firing pin protrusion to save the chamber, but then have only marginally reliable ejection

      Something like a gevarm does very nicely using one lip of the magazine positioned slightly forward of the other

      Being open bolt, a gevarm isn’t going to be fired without a magazine in it

      That can’t always be said for a closedbolt semi auto

  10. lt should be very interesting that, this radically different handgun could not be covered by a patent. Application US 20150323267 A1 seems remained at this stage without been granted. Patent office examiners should be die hard.

  11. 15:40- “little plastic retaining piece”

    “Hey, engineers! We need you to make a pistol with one really, really easy to lose component that the gun is useless without!”
    “Gotcha covered.”
    “can you put it at the end of a spring, so the owner can launch it all the way across the room?”
    “No problem, fam.”

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