July 2011

Smallbore Accuracy Shootout: CZ, Browning, Anschtz Duel

The CZ 452 Silhouette was a steal, our testers said. Because of its unusual action, Browning’s T-Bolt Target Varmint was perhaps the most fun. But the ‘A’ grade goes to the Anschütz 64 MP R.

About a hundred years ago Townsend Whelen, noted soldier and hunter, coined the phrase, "Only accurate rifles are interesting." But many really interesting rifles come with price tags much larger than most shooters can afford. That is, unless you are willing to downsize. Not in actual size, but in caliber. Some of the most accurate rifles being fired today can be found at your local smallbore silhouette match, where only inexpensive 22 Long Rifle ammunition is allowed. The game is to stand and shoot offhand at steel replica profiles of chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rams. The object of the game is to knock them over. Regulation distances are 40, 60, 77, and 100 yards (or meters), respectively. Any type of scope may be used. Smallbore silhouette rifle competition is so well established that several manufacturers offer models built to meet the standards of the sport. That would be the case with our first test rifle, the $414 CZ 452 Silhouette. Our second rifle was the $1399 Ansch tz 64 MP R or Multi Purpose Rifle, sometimes advertised as an effective training rifle for high power shooters. Our third rifle was the $750 Browning T-Bolt Target Varmint, aimed at producing accuracy at the match or in the field.

All three of our test rifles were bolt-action models with detachable magazines, a configuration that dominates the sport. Given that the ammunition played no part in cycling the action, we were free to choose a variety of ammunition. Our three test rounds consisted to two well respected target rounds from Lapua and Remington’s Golden Bullet, a popular budget-priced ammunition sold in 525-round boxes. The Remington ammunition powered a 36-grain lead brass-plated hollowpoint. Both the Lapua Midas+ and Center-X ammunition drove slickly coated 40 grain roundnosed slugs. Serious competitors are mindful to note individual lots of ammunition in order to find the best ammunition. So we’ve listed the lot numbers of the Lapua target rounds on our accuracy chart.

For our tests we mounted a Swarovski Z5 3.5-18X44 LBT scope with plex reticle and the Ballistic Turret option. This scope offers up to four preset zeroes. That meant in competition we wouldn’t have to count clicks when changing target banks or rely on a variety of holds. With the presets easily in hand, we were free to concentrate on the center of each target instead of aiming low on the 40 yards chicks, dead center on the pigs, high on the turkeys and above the rams. Our next step was to choose the most accurate ammunition for each rifle and shoot groups from the 100-yard line. In each case our rifles were fired supported from a model 500 Rifle Rest ($280 from www.targetshooting.com), and we used the RT-073 target from www.OutdoorProducts.com. We found that each of our test rifles were so accurate that with a little effort the average shooter could be crowned top gun. In addition, we thought these rifles were good enough to be training devices for any shooting discipline, including long range prone. We’re not talking about making actual long distance shots, but working in scale with smaller targets to replicate greater distance.

Our last test was to fire each rifle standing unsupported. With some mighty small groups achieved from the bench, we could honestly say that accurate rifles were the most fun. With access to the Rimfire Ranch at Houston’s American Shooting Centers, (www.AmShootCenters.com), our enjoyment shot off the scale. With each hit the steel prairie dogs were sent back into their mounds only to rise again. The mechanical dogs placed 40 to 70 yards downrange outlasted our supply of ammunition, but we vowed to return. Let’s review which rifle was the most interesting, accurate, and fun in the judgment of our testers.

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