February 2017

Mid-Caliber Bolt-Action Rifles From T-C, Browning, and CZ USA

Could these purported tack-drivers hit small critters in the next holler? Range time would tell the tale when we shot these 22-250 Rem., 243 Win., and 6.5 Grendel chamberings.

Mid-Caliber Bolt-Action Rifles From T-C, Browning, and CZ USA

The Thompson Center Compass may not be much to look at, but its $399 price tag wasn’t the only thing that stood out. Chambered for 22-250 Remington, our Compass not only outshot the competition at half the price (or more), but also produced 5-shot groups measuring between 0.6 inches and 0.8 inches across all shots fired from the 100-yard line. The Compass was also the only rifle in our test roster with a threaded barrel for attaching a brake or suppressor.

Recently, we assembled a panel and arrived at what could be described as a list of practical considerations for choosing an all-around rifle. Not a specialty piece, mind you, but a “daily driver,” so to speak. Our test team came up with three considerations we wanted: power, accuracy, and portability. We agreed that in terms of power, we’d like to be able to hunt at least some deer-sized animals, but not with so much power that the rifle was too heavy to carry or generate so much recoil that it was unpleasant to shoot. To us, this meant short-action calibers greater than 223 Remington but less than 308 Winchester. In terms of accuracy, it wasn’t long ago that producing a 1-inch group at 100 yards (1 minute of angle) was a high standard. Certainly 1 MOA is still a benchmark, but recent state-of-the-art machinery has made it possible to buy such guns over the counter. And last, but certainly not least, there’s portability. Today, that is just as likely to mean aboard an ATV as it is over the shoulder. Either way, slender and compact is still the desired profile. Thus, the focus of this test became four bolt-fed short-action rifles in medium or midrange cartridges. The lineup was as follows:

We had intended to keep the maximum length of our rifles to less than 40 inches, but we decided to include the 41.5-inch-long Thompson Center Compass because we were eager to find out if this $399 rifle chambered for 22-250 Remington had recovered since its sudden recall for safety issues. Adding to its appeal was its threaded barrel, ready for a suppressor or muzzle brake.

Our shortest rifle was also chambered for 22-250. The $859 Browning X-Bolt Micro Midas offered a Grade 1 satin-finish walnut stock with 12.5-inch length of pull and about one additional inch of stock spacers. The Micro also weighed the least, as little as 6.1 pounds unloaded.

In the middle we chose the newest model 557 from CZ USA. The Sporter Short Action chambered for 243 Winchester was perhaps the most traditional rifle, with a checkered walnut stock.

The least traditional rifle, at least in terms of appearance, was the Howa Mini Action rifle from Legacy Sports International. Its multi-cam finish, 6.5 Grendel chambering, and 10-round detachable box magazine set it apart from the others. The right size overall, we hoped the big magazine sticking out the bottom would not make the Howa too difficult to pack.

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