February 2009

Toss-Up: 22 WMR Bolt Rifles from CZ, Ruger, and Browning

Our test team said the $729 Browning T-Bolt, CZís $527 452 Varmint, and the $812 Ruger K77/22-VMBZ varmint guns were separated more by shooter preference than by performance.

Shortly before the Christmas holiday, members of our staff were contemplating a return to North Dakota for a prairie dog hunt. One of our concerns, however, was the cost of ammunition. The last time we traveled to the Bismarck-Mandan area, (discoverbismarckmandan.com), game was so plentiful we expended a huge amount of ammunition. Our .204 Ruger bolt-action rifles proved to be an excellent choice, but if we were going to make the trip again, we had to find a way to cut costs. We considered a change to rimfire rifles. Our first impulse was to load up on 17 HMR ammunition. But after checking prices and availability, we decided on a more traditional round that was cheaper and easier to find, 22 Winchester Magnum Rifle, or 22 WMR. Itís been a long time since we tested varmint rifles chambered for 22 WMR, so we rounded up a representative trio. The three rifles we chose were the $729 Browning T-Bolt Target/Varmint No. 025176204, the $527 CZ 452 Varmint No. 02041, and the $812 Ruger K77/22-VMBZ Target Grey Magnum Varmint Rifle. Each rifle offered at least one substantive feature that distinguished it from the others. Our tests would determine if one gun was superior to the others or simply more suitable for one individual or another. Our ammunition costs ran from $8.99 per 50-round box of Winchester 40-grain JHP from Walmart to $11.95 per 50 rounds of 50-grain Federal Game-Shok hollowpoints purchased at our test site, American Shooting Centers in Houston. The Winchester rounds were tipped with exposed lead, and we think they probably should be listed as semi-jacketed hollow points. We also shot some $9.99 CCI 40-grain Maxi-Mag JHP rounds that we found at Academy Sports and Outdoors. We could have purchased more exotic rounds, but we decided to stay within a price range that was more typical of readily available 22 WMR ammunition.

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