The 22-caliber rimfire bolt-action rifle owns a warm sport in the heart of many shooters because they were often the first rifle that many of us fired. Many pleasant hours are spent with such a rifle. The experience unites shooters across a spectrum of lifestyles. But in the present, the bolt rimfire can also be an economical, accurate, and reliable firearm for plinking, small-game hunting, and informal target practice. The bolt action rifle has a reputation for superior accuracy over the self-loader, and, overall, our testing proves this out. In this report, we test a quartet of entry-level and higher-end rifles to see what it takes to get our money’s worth, however that is defined. Our test guns this round included:
1. the Savage Mark II F 26700, $231
2. the CZ-USA CZ 455 American 02110, $400
3. the Marlin XT 22RZ 70763, $220,and
4. the Savage Mark II BTV 28750, $390
|CCI Velocitor 40-gr. Copper-Plated HP||Marlin XT 22RZ||Savage Mark II F||Savage Mark II BTV||CZ-USA 455 American|
|Average velocity||1425 fps||1380 fps||1480 fps||1439 fps|
|Muzzle energy||180 ft.-lbs.||169 ft.-lbs.||194 ft.-lbs.||183 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1 in.||1.7 in.||0.9 in.||0.8 in.|
|Largest group||2 in.||2.5 in.||1.2 in.||1.3 in.|
|Average group||1.5 in.||2.1 in.||1 in.||1.1 in.|
|Fiocchi HV 40-gr. Lead RN|
|Average velocity||1280 fps||1262 fps||1297 fps||1268 fps|
|Muzzle energy||145 ft.-lbs.||141 ft.-lbs.||149 ft.-lbs.||142 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1.6 in.||1.5 in.||0.7 in.||0.65 in.|
|Largest group||1.9 in.||1.7 in.||1 in.||1.2 in.|
|Average group||1.7 in.||1.9 in.||0.9 in.||1 in.|
|Winchester M22 40-gr. Copper-Plated RN|
|Average velocity||1219 fps||1201 fps||1227 fps||1234 fps|
|Muzzle energy||131 ft.-lbs.||128 ft.-lbs.||133 ft.-lbs.||135 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||1.7 in.||2.1 in.||1 in.||1.2 in.|
|Largest group||2.3 in.||2.5 in.||1.4 in.||1.6 in.|
|Average group||2 in.||2.3 in.||1.2 in.||1.4 in.|
|To collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups off a bench rest. Distance: 50 yards. We recorded velocity with a Competition Electronics Chrony Chronograph. The first sky screen was set 10 feet from the muzzle.|
Accuracy testing was conducted with three loads. Winchester’s M22 loading came from SportsmansGuide.com ($75/1000); MidwayUSA.com supplied the CCI Velocitor ($7.40/50); and Fiocchi’s HV rounds ($6.50/50) originated from Bulkammo.com. We also conducted side tests with low-velocity subsonic loads, including the CCI Segmented load. For offhand shooting, we used Winchester M22 rounds to gauge the rifles’ smoothness and handling in firing at targets at known and unknown ranges.
There were no defects that made any rifle less desirable, when the price points were considered. The two inexpensive rifles gave a credible performance. For small-game hunting at treetop height and out to 25 yards, there would be little reason to spend a lot. In fact, you’d have to go out to 50 yards to see the Savage BTV was the most accurate rifle. In more detail, here’s what we thought about each rifle:
CZ-USA CZ 455 American 02110 22 LR, $400
GUN TESTS GRADE: A (Best Buy)
The CZ 455 exhibits European quality. It is also a rifle that features a distinctly American appearance, which was the intent. The rifle has great appeal for its fit, function,
accuracy, and smooth operation. The CZ 455 is our pick as the best all-round, go-anywhere, do-anything bolt-action rifle. It is noticeably more accurate than the inexpensive rifles tested, and was bested by the Savage BTV by the slightest margin. But the stock configuration and handling of the CZ 455 make it the more practical rifle.
|OVERALL LENGTH||38.2 in.|
|BARREL LENGTH||20.5 in.; 1:16 twist|
|OVERALL HEIGHT (w/ scope)||5 in.|
|LENGTH OF PULL||13.2 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||5.9 lbs.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||6.1 lbs.|
|WEIGHT SCOPED||7.1 lbs.|
|MAGAZINE CAPACITY||5; 10-rd. optional|
|ACTION||Bolt; integrated 11mm dovetail on receiver|
|BARREL||Cold hammer forged steel; black finish|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||2.5 lbs., adjustable|
|MADE IN||Czech Republic|
The CZ 455 is the latest generation of the CZ bolt-action rimfire. The 455 model will eventually consolidate all of the receivers currently used in the 452 line into one common platform. This, combined with the new interchangeable barrel system of the CZ 455, will allow the user to easily change the stock configuration as well as the caliber of the rifle. The 455 retains the accuracy and quality of the adjustable trigger, hammer forged barrel, and billet-machined receiver from the CZ 452.
Also worth noting is the CZ 455 American Combo Package is now available. The package features the new CZ 455 in 22 LR and a 17 HMR barrel, along with everything you need to make the caliber change. The CZ 455 eliminates the need to spend the extra expense on a second rifle when you want to add another quality shooter to your rimfire battery.
The CZ 455 is a traditional rifle in styling, with a well-figured wood stock mated to a nicely finished receiver and barrel. The wood stock showed excellent figure and was chosen from a number of rifles on the rack. While the figure and appearance did not enhance accuracy, pride of ownership was enhanced. The stock configuration represents a true adult-sized 22-caliber rifle. The action is smooth and very short and was arguably the smoothest action tested. Fit, finish, and final polish of the metal parts were all topnotch. The barrel channel and stock inletting are excellent. The polished bolt features dual extractors. There is no problem with scope clearance.
The rifle was fitted with a Vanguard 3-9x40mm riflescope, the same scope used in several other Gun Tests rimfire articles (Vanguard RS 41240 BDC, $360 from OpticsPlanet.com.) This is an expensive scope, perhaps, compared to the rifle, but it always gives good results. The 455 models feature an integral 11mm dovetail for scope mounting and a 5-round magazine.
With the action separated from the stock, you may adjust the trigger-action pull weight. The bolt cannot be operated when the safety is on. The trigger action was smooth enough as delivered at 3.5 pounds; we adjusted the action to 2.5 pounds for the test. The safety is mounted on the bolt shroud. The operation is opposite from the other rifles, with Safe being forward. This simply demanded attention to detail. We are more used to the American standard of Safe to the rear and Fire forward.
We ordered several 10-round polymer magazines ($32 from Brownells.com) to make the test go faster. During firing tests, the rifle exhibited excellent balance for most shooters. The rifle was smoother than the others in offhand fire and delivered hits on call. In the strictest mechanical sense, the Savage BTV is more accurate. The CZ 455 is just as accurate in offhand fire and was a bit easier to use well and was faster with follow-up shoots due to the traditional stock design. When fired off the bench rest, the CZ455 demonstrated excellent accuracy. The rifle is more than accurate enough for small-game hunting and target practice. While the Savage MK II BTV was slightly better in the accuracy department, the difference was small.
Our Team Said: In the end, we liked the CZ-USA 455 American rifle a lot. It is accurate, smooth in operation, and offers good appearance. For most shooters, this will be the rifle to buy.
Marlin XT 22RZ 70763 22 LR, $220
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
The Marlin is delivered without sights. It has the advantage of a barrel threaded for suppressor use. The Marlin is accurate for the price, more accurate than the economy grade Savage rifle, but not as accurate as the two more expensive rifles tested. The Marlin is a credible rifle.
|OVERALL LENGTH||41 in.|
|BARREL LENGTH||22 in.; 1:16 twist|
|OVERALL HEIGHT (w/ scope)||4.8 in.|
|LENGTH OF PULL||13.5 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||6.5 lbs.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||6.6 lbs.|
|WEIGHT SCOPED||7.8 lbs.|
|MAGAZINE CAPACITY||7+1; detachable box|
|ACTION FINISH||Blued metal|
|ACTION||Bolt, receiver drilled and tapped|
|BARREL||Micro-Groove rifling; 1/2×28 muzzle thread w/ cap|
|STOCK||Black synthetic w/ palm swell; molded-in swivels; stippled grip areas|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||2.9 lbs.; Pro-Fire adjustable|
|WARRANTY||5 year limited|
This was our price from GanderMountain.com. The Marlin rifle is similar in appearance to the Savage. The Marlin isn’t supplied with sights. There is an advantage in the Marlin’s threaded barrel, so if you are planning on adding a sound suppressor, this rifle is about as affordable a choice as you can find the feature. At an average price of $240 across several retailers, if you are going to use a suppressor, this is the better buy than the Savage. If not, and you want to use a rifle with iron sights and not ante up to add a scope, the Savage would have more appeal, in our estimation.
Looking closely at the rifle, the Marlin’s stock has molded in, rather than removable, sling swivels. They will always be there, and they won’t rust or snag as much as metal swivel attachments. We found the fit to be good. The magazine holds seven rounds, two more than the Savage economy rifle. The bolt action is smooth enough. The safety is mounted on the receiver and operates in the same manner as the Savage, forward for Fire and to the rear for Safe. There is no red dot to indicate the safety’s position. The cocking bolt, however, shows a red ring when the rifle is ready to fire.
The Marlin trigger allows setting the trigger for a light let off. We chose to put the trigger at a 2.5-pound let off and tried to stay close to this trigger-pull weight with all of the rifles. The rifle chambering is marked for 22 LR only. So of course we tested the rifle with the 22 Short cartridge and learned it would not feed properly. When loaded in the magazine, the round looked okay, but when the bolt was pressed forward, the 22 Short cartridge jumped out of the magazine and out of the ejection port. Is this a demerit for a bolt-action rifle purchased for economy and versatility? Not really. But it would be handy just the same, even though few shooters will be able to find 22 Short ammunition.
We mounted a 6x vintage Redfield on the Marlin. This is the type with the old TV-screen-shaped objective lens. We like this scope, and while it was overpowered for the task at 50 yards, it gave very good results. It isn’t feasible to mount one optic on all four rifles, although this levels the playing field—and vastly increases the time needed to pull together data because we fire the rifles as a set and turn them over to the next rater. Each rifle was fitted with a scope that could be used by an individual purchasing the rifle for a specific task with a specific budget.
Fired off-hand, the Marlin handled well. The operation was smooth enough. After the test and with the rifle’s performance fresh in their minds, the raters preferred the action of the Savage, however, because it was not only smooth, there was less effort on closing than with the Marlin rifle. The Marlin proved more accurate than the Savage off the bench rest. The difference was not great, but it clearly exists.
Our Team Said: The Marlin is worth its price, and we would purchase the Marlin for use with a suppressor first, but our shooters preferred the performance of the more expensive rifles.
Savage Mark II BTV 28750 22 LR, $390
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
The Savage BTV is a racy-looking rifle. The action is rock solid and proved smooth in operation. We like the safety and the adjustable trigger. The stock was surprisingly comfortable and was an aid in getting accurate fire off the bench. The Savage MKII BTV is the most accurate rifle tested. The only downside is the thumbhole stock, which in offhand fire, limited fast follow-up shots.
|BARREL LENGTH||21 in.; 1:16 twist|
|OVERALL HEIGHT (w/ scope)||4.8 in.|
|LENGTH OF PULL||13 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||6.5 lbs.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||7.05 lbs.|
|WEIGHT SCOPED||7.9 lbs.|
|MAGAZINE CAPACITY||5+1 detachable box|
|STOCK||Wood laminate; right-handed|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||2.5 lbs.; adjustable Accu-Trigger|
At $390 and change from CheaperThanDirt.com, this is the second-most expensive rifle tested—and easily the most distinctive. The Savage MKII action is the same here as on the less expensive Savage, but this rifle features a heavy barrel—the “V” in the name is for “varmint,” according to Savage’s nomenclature. As such, this rifle tipped the scales at 8.0 pounds with a Nikon scope. The rifle features a five-round magazine. Though the rifle is marked for 22 LR only, the action functioned with the 22 Short cartridge as well.
The thumbhole stock is attractive wood that is well finished and which was very nicely fitted to the action. The thumbhole stock proved to be surprisingly comfortable, and it afforded an excellent platform for viewing the scope. We think the thumbhole stock is a bit slower when firing off hand and making follow-up shots, but that isn’t what this rifle is about. The BTV is for shooting accurately from a braced position.
The rifle was fitted with a Nikon Buckmasters 4.5-14 40mm rifle scope ($108.57 from CheaperThanDirt.com). This scope affords excellent clarity. While we feel that testing a 22-caliber rimfire rifle at 50 yards is ideal, the Nikon and Savage combination, along with the CZ 455/Vanguard duo, were also fired at 100 yards in a side test. The powerful rifle scopes afforded excellent results out to that distance. The Savage trigger was easily set to a crisp 2.5 pounds.
We put 50 rounds through the rifle in offhand fire and learned that it tracked well and gave good results; however, it is slower to make a follow-up shot with than the conventionally stocked rifles, we thought. Fired from the bench, the Savage gave superb results. The heavy barrel and nice trigger, along with good optics, made for an accurate combination. When fired from the bench, the Savage rifle was more accurate than the two economy rifles, as expected, but it also shaded the CZ 455 in accuracy, which wasn’t expected.
Our Team Said: The heavy barrel of the Savage BTV is a real advantage in accuracy. Along with the stock and nice trigger, the rifle is a great choice for longer-range accuracy. However, be certain you are willing to accept the weight of the rifle and the handling of the thumbhole stock to gain that advantage.
Savage Mark II F 26700 22 LR, $228
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
The Savage rifle is smooth in operation, and we liked the action better than the Marlin’s. As delivered in the box, the Savage rifle provided an excellent trigger and could have been adjusted even more. The Savage feeds 22 Short ammunition, which may be important to some shooters. It suffered in accuracy compared to the more expensive rifles.
|OVERALL LENGTH||39.75 in.|
|BARREL LENGTH||21 in.; 1:16 twist|
|LENGTH OF PULL||12.8 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||6 lbs.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||6.1 lbs.|
|WEIGHT SCOPED||7.2 lbs.|
|MAGAZINE CAPACITY||10+1, detachable box|
|RECEIVER||Satin blued carbon steel, drilled and tapped for scope mounts|
|BARREL||Satin blued carbon steel|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||2.9 lbs., adjustable Accu-Trigger|
This was a recent retail price from CheaperThanDirt.com. The Savage MKII is an entry-grade bolt-action rifle. This rifle is supplied with standard leaf adjustable sights. The stock is black synthetic. The stock fits the rifle action well. The stock was scuffed up out of the box, below and behind the bolt, but this did not affect its shooting quality. A large oval of the metal receiver is fitted into the action, and it accepts a five-round removable box magazine. The stock features checkering on the forend and pistol grip. The butt plate is removable. The Savage emblem is featured on the pistol-grip’s bottom. Metal swing swivel studs are screwed into the stock. The safety is mounted on the receiver. Press the safety to the rear for Safe and forward to Fire. The bolt action is very short and fast, which is to be expected with a 22 rifle.
The five-round magazine comes out of the action by pressing the magazine release to the rear. The magazine loads easily. We found the Savage rifle would feed, chamber, fire, and eject 22 Short, 22 Long CB Cap, and 22 Long Rifle ammunition. We feel that one reason the 22 bolt action is desirable is that the rifle does not rely on high-speed ammunition to function, such as some semi-autos require. Also, by removing the magazine, you have an easy-to-use single-shot rifle for training purposes.
The rifle had a crisp 2.9-pound trigger out of the box. We did not adjust it, as our shooters found the trigger to be quite good. The magazine was easily loaded with five cartridges. The rifle fired high at the initial sight-in range of 25 yards. We were able to adjust the sights using the leaf, and had no trouble switching from 25 to 50 yards. The crisp trigger and good sights gave good results on small targets out to 25 yards.
At 6 pounds, the rifle is the lightest in the test. It handles well and would be a good squirrel rifle or all-round plinking rifle. We did not have enough 22 Short for a firing test, but we confirmed that the rifle would feed these short cartridges just fine.
As noted, we fired the rifle for accuracy at 25 yards with the supplied sights, but to keep a level playing field, we added a Simmons 3-9x riflescope for the 50-yard firing evaluation ($50 at AcademySports.com). The nice trigger and clear optics gave good results; however, the light weight and thin barrel may have played against the Savage. While we recorded several 1.5-inch groups with it, the F rifle was the least accurate of the four tested. Still, it is more accurate on average than the semi-automatic rifles we have tested in the past.
The length of pull is slightly shorter than on the Marlin XT, and our smaller raters liked this, although they handled all the rifles easily enough.
Our Team Said: We rated the rifle down based on its trailing accuracy numbers, but we think the Savage rifle is worth the money.
Written and photographed by Bob Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.