October 2007

Heavy-Barreled Autoloaders: TC Benchmark Classic Rates A-

Thompson Center’s R-55 .22 LR shot well, had a great trigger, felt good in the hands, and cost less than Ruger’s K10/2T. Remington’s 597 LS HB might be a budget choice for some.

Whether the handler is into hunting, plinking or target shooting—and the majority of .22 owners probably venture into all three areas—there is a rifle style to suit their fancy. The semi-serious will likely own a bull-barreled version at some time in their lives—a step above the standard model with an implied accuracy advantage that appeals to both hunter and target shooter.

To see how bigger, heavier fancier .22s performed, we shot and [IMGCAP(1)]compared three heavy-barreled versions of longstanding .22 LR autoloaders. All featured bull barrels with recessed "target" crowns and blow-back bolt cycling designs, 10-shot detachable magazines, heavy laminate stocks with no checkering, sling swivel studs, and were packed with keyed locking devices.

No such comparison would be complete without a Ruger 10-22, the most popular rimfire autoloader of all time, so we selected the 10-22 K10/2T, $495, to pit against the Remington 597 LS HB 26579, $337, and Thompson Center’s R-55 Benchmark Classic No. 6873, $455.

The barrels are the major departures from the base designs in each case. The Ruger 10-22 and Remington 597 feature 20-inch heavy (0.915- and 0.825-inch diameters, respectively) tubes, while the 18-inch Thompson Center barrel measures 0.880 inch. All were button-rifled at the classic .22 LR 1-in-16-inches twist rate.

The heavy tubes featured on the three test guns rather offer stiffness to aid accuracy and consistency; bulk to offset minor fluctuations in trigger pressure; and out-front weight to better steady one’s hold.

Barrel length also means very little. In a rimfire configuration, with a peak of 21,000-psi chamber pressure, the same velocities can be derived from a 12-inch barrel as from a 24-incher. Despite the industry’s insistence on longer barrels, .22 LR fanatics universally agree that peak accuracy comes from the civilian-minimum 16-inch barrels, which are stiffer and contain the bullet for a shorter period of time than their longer counterparts.

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