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22 LR Bolt-Action Rifles: We Test CZ, Savage, and Marlin

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 the Savage Mark II F 26700, $231; the CZ-USA CZ 455 American 02110, $400; the Marlin XT 22RZ 70763, $220; and the Savage Mark II BTV 28750, $390.

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.

Rimfire Field-Rifle Shoot-out: Marlin, Mossberg, and Ruger

In this installment, we test three rimfire rifles from three makers. The genre is the very popular and flexible field-gun description. The 22 LR rifle is an excellent trainer, a favorite recreational shooter, and a great small-game rifle. The rimfire is the one rifle every rifleman must have. The field gun is by definition, and the definition is liberal, a versatile go-anywhere get-anything shooter. Informal practice and small-game shooting are great pastimes. And while we are not focusing on personal defense, we should note that a good quality 22-caliber self-loader is a formidable firearm in skilled hands. Is a 22 LR a self-defense chambering we'd recommend? No. Have untold numbers of bad guys been deterred by being hit with a 22 LR round fired from a pistol or rifle? Yes. So reliability is important as well.

The rifle we are looking for should be light but not too light. It should be light enough for carrying for a day in the field, but it should have sufficient heft for good offhand shooting. While we carefully measure accuracy by firing from a solid bench rest, we also want a rifle that retains a good portion of its accuracy in offhand fire. Thus, a good balance of weight and a decent trigger action are desirable traits.

Historically, probably more 22 LR rifles have been set up as bolt actions, but because of their light recoil and shot-to-shot speed, self-loading rifles are the biggest sellers today. To keep prices in check, we selected a mix of readily available used and new firearms as well as optics for greater coverage of the best choices. As noted above, reliability is always important, but in this test, we allowed that if the firearm occasionally ties up and we lose a squirrel, we were more willing to give a gun a pass than if we were testing personal-defense firearms. It is almost a given that a 22 self-loading rifle malfunctions from time to time, and the fault is more often due to the construction of the 22 rimfire cartridge than any other single variable. We searched for ideal rifles and found some good picks. All had good points. Here's how they performed on a gun-by-gun basis.

We Take a Close Look at a Rare Springfield M2 22 LR Bolt Gun

The great Springfield Model of 1903 saw service in the first World War, and was upgraded along the way to many types and model variations. Around 1918 or ‘19 it was first made in 22 caliber, when Springfield brought out the predecessor to the Model 1922. That first effort apparently was not a great job. Then along came Julian Hatcher and some other designers, who modified the early efforts into what became known as the Model 1922 Springfield. This was a five-shot, magazine-fed 22 LR with a stock that did not have an upper hand guard. In 1937 the rifle was again redone and renamed the Springfield M2, 22LR. These were manufactured until 1942. If you're interested in adding a collectible to your armory that has plenty of history, but which can still shoot, here's what you need to know before you begin searching for one.

Historic Bolt-Action 22 Rifles: Remington Versus Winchester

For this test of vintage bolt-action 22 rifles, we had the loan of two old-timers, a Remington Nylon 12 and a Winchester Model 69A. We tested with three types of ammo, Wolf, CCI Velocitor, and Blazer, all in Long Rifle persuasion. Both rifles were supposed to handle Shorts and Longs too, so we also tried a few of them. Both rifles fed Long Rifles, Longs, Shorts and also CB caps perfectly. The Winchester's longer barrel made lots less noise with Shorts and especially the CB caps than the Remington. The report of CB's out of the long-barreled Winchester was just a click. Are these old rifles worth looking into? Let's see what we found.

Firelapping an Ancient Marlin

Our recent report on firelapping in the June 2012 edition ended with a note that the process can also be applied to 22 rimfires, but we had not yet tried that. Soon after publication of our report, reader John B. sent us an email wondering if we were interested in firelapping his old 22 rifle. John had an ancient Marlin lever-action 22 that no longer shot well, he said. He offered to send it to our Idaho office to see if we could resurrect its bore. We had just experienced a disaster testing a modern Marlin 39A (August 2012). We thought this would be a good opportunity to examine an old Marlin to see what they used to be, and maybe we could even help its bad old bore. We were having fits trying to get publishable results firelapping any of the 22 firearms we had on hand. They were in excellent condition, and we were stymied trying to make excellent guns shoot even better. We decided to give Johns questionable 22 a shot, so to speak, and asked him to send it along.

22 LR Takedowns: Browning, Ruger, Marlin Go Head to Head

We recently had the pleasure of testing one of the first copies of Ruger's just-announced new 10/22 Takedown, $389, and as is usual in this magazine, we wanted to test it against other takedown rifles. To that end we organized the simultaneous testing of the age-old but still in production semi-auto Browning SA-22, $700, and the even older lever-action design by Marlin, the 39A, $702. All of these rifles come apart easily for storage or transportation. Other than that feature, the rifles were miles apart in design and also in overall weight. However, considerations of not only weight but also shortness, ease of disassembly, and retained accuracy when reassembled, have major effects on the choices of one or the other of these for boat, off-road, or light-aircraft use. We kept that in mind as we examined each one. We tested with Federal AutoMatch, Eley Match EPS, CCI MiniMag solids, and Winchester Power Point HPs. Here's what we found.

Military Replica Rimfire Rifles: Mossberg, Citadel, and ISSC

One reason to produce rimfire replicas of military weapons is to help familiarize the shooter with how each gun operates at a fraction of the price of buying and feeding the corresponding centerfire model. If this isn't fun enough, then consider the history and the innovation that each rifle offers the shooter ahead of simpler rimfire designs. We last tested military-replica semiautomatic rimfire rifles in the February 2010 issue ("Tactical-Style 22 LR Carbines: Ruger, S&W, Legacy Duke It Out"), with the majority of the roster being taken up by the AR-15 design. In this test we will evaluate only one such rifle, Mossberg's $276 715T Tactical 22. Our second replica rifle represents a bygone era and the third a modern design. Our old-timer was the $399 Citadel M-1 22 Carbine made in Italy by Chiappa. The $609 German-made ISSC MK22 Desert Tan rifle with folding stock was a replica of the SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle). Both the MK22 and the M-1 Carbine are imported by Legacy Sports International of Reno, Nevada.

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For accuracy tests, we fired from the 50-yard line with support from the Caldwell Tack Driver sandbag rest. Test ammunition was the same 40-grain assortment we used the April 2012 test of more traditional semi-automatic rifles. Two rounds featured copper-plated bullets. They were CCI's Mini Mag and CCI's AR Tactical 22 ammunition. We also fired Federal's Auto Match rounds, which launched a lead solid bullet. We also tried a variety of hollowpoint ammunition to assess versatility, but elected to fire shots of record with our roundnosed selections so we could compare results directly with our earlier tests.

Each one of our test guns arrived with open sights. In fact, the MK22/SCAR offered two aiming solutions in one set of fold-down sights. We wanted to know how well all of these sight packages worked. In addition, each rifle offered a way to mount a scope. We wanted to know how efficiently this option could be accomplished and its effect on accuracy. We began our accuracy tests using only the supplied open sights. Then, we mounted the same variable power 1-4X power scopes used in last month's rimfire rifle tests. Firing only the most accurate round per each gun, we then recorded additional 5-shot groups from the 50-yard bench. All three rifles fired at least 300 rounds over three days of testing with no more maintenance than an occasional spray of Rem Oil into the chamber and on the bolt. Let's see how they scored.

Semi-automatic Rifles: We Test CZ, Remington, Savage Rimfires

As centerfire-rifle ammunition prices jump up and down, many shooters get more interested in accurate rimfire rifles that shoot affordable, available 22 Long Rifle cartridges. We recently tested three semi-automatic rifles chambered for 22 LR that showed promise of being more than just plinkers: The $325 Savage Arms model 64 TR SR V Savage, CZ-USA's $465 model 512, and the $595 Remington 597 TVP. Each gun fired from a detachable magazine, but offered different profile stocks. The Savage resembled a precision rifle that might be used for tactical applications or benchrest competition. The Remington stock was a thumb-through design fully relieved to offer a full pistol grip to the shooter. The CZ offered the most traditional outline with a somewhat rectangular receiver mated to a fine wood stock. All three rifles came with scope mounts in place, and only the CZ rifle was equipped with sights.

To test for baseline accuracy we fired each rifle from the 50-yard line utilizing benchrest support. For optics, we chose low-power variable power scopes with circle-X reticles for rapid target acquisition. Test ammunition consisted of three high-velocity rounds topped with 40-grain bullets. Both our CCI Mini Mag and AR Tactical rounds were copper plated. Federal's new Auto Match fired a solid lead slug with a smooth gleaming finish.

What we found were three very good rifles. Each one deserved an A rating, in our view, with downgrades that may or may not apply, according to the individual. By the end of our range days, the only job left was to accurately describe each gun in print so that our readers could choose which rifle would best meet their needs or suits one's tastes.

Smallbore Accuracy Shootout: CZ, Browning, Anschtz Duel

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 Anschtz 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 Remingtons 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 weve 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 wouldnt 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. Were 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 Houstons 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. Lets review which rifle was the most interesting, accurate, and fun in the judgment of our testers.

Smallbore Accuracy Shootout: CZ, Browning, Anschtz Duel

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 Anschtz 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 Remingtons 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 weve 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 wouldnt 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. Were 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 Houstons 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. Lets review which rifle was the most interesting, accurate, and fun in the judgment of our testers.

Rim-Tac Rifles, Round II: The SIG 522 Edges Umarexs M4

In February 2010, we began evaluating tactical or military-style carbines chambered for the 22 LR round, and we continue to find new guns in what we call the "rim-tac" category. Previously, we looked at one AR-15 derivative, one tac-styled 10/22, and another carbine that more closely resembled a 1941 Russian machine gun. Our test guns were the Ruger SR-22R No. 1226 22 LR, $625; Smith & Wesson's M&P 15-22 No. 811030 22 LR, $569; and the Legacy Sports Puma Wildcat PPS2250S 22 LR, $550. In that test, we narrowly liked the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 the best, giving it an A grade compared to the Ruger's A- tally and the Wildcat's Bgrade.

Along the way, we had a heckuva lot of fun with the rifles without breaking the ammo bank. So, we gathered up two more rimfire samples from Umarex and Sig Sauer and wheelbarrowed bricks of 22 fodder to the range and had at it. Our test guns this round were the very different Colt M4 Carbine No. 2245050 22 LR, $576; and the Sig Sauer Sig522 Classic No. SIG522001 22 LR, $572.

The Colt has a complicated background. Carl Walther Germany entered into a licensing agreement with New Colt Holding Corporation, in which Carl Walther will produce these 22 rifles in Germany under the Colt brand. Umarex USA is responsible for importation, sales, marketing and service for the Colt tactical replicas.

Two tactical styles are being offered, each modeled after a Colt original—the M4 and M16 rifles—and both are available in two variations with 30-round 22 LR magazines along with a variety of accessories. The M4 version that we tested is a blowback semiauto with a barrel length of 16.2 inches (412 mm), overall length of 31.1 to 34.4 inches depending on the adjustable stock length, and iron sights, with the rear set into a detachable carry handle on a metal flat-top receiver.

Likewise, the Sig522 has lineage worth noting. According to Sig Sauer, the 522 has the "…look and feel of the Classic SIG556. Featuring SIG556 parts, including a Swiss-type folding stock and polymer forend on a durable metal receiver with integral Picatinny rail." We evaluated a 556 in the March 2010 issue, grading the 5.56mm rifle highly with an A-, but dinging it for its weight and cost.

Those aren't such factors with the 522, whose price tag is a few dollars below the M4 rimfire and whose weight is 6.4 pounds empty. Its overall length is 35.1 inches with the stock fully extended, 33.6 inches with the stock collapsed, and 26.1 inches with the stock folded.

Rim-Tac Rifles, Round II: The SIG 522 Edges Umarexs M4

In February 2010, we began evaluating tactical or military-style carbines chambered for the 22 LR round, and we continue to find new guns in what we call the "rim-tac" category. Previously, we looked at one AR-15 derivative, one tac-styled 10/22, and another carbine that more closely resembled a 1941 Russian machine gun. Our test guns were the Ruger SR-22R No. 1226 22 LR, $625; Smith & Wesson's M&P 15-22 No. 811030 22 LR, $569; and the Legacy Sports Puma Wildcat PPS2250S 22 LR, $550. In that test, we narrowly liked the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 the best, giving it an A grade compared to the Ruger's A- tally and the Wildcat's Bgrade.

Along the way, we had a heckuva lot of fun with the rifles without breaking the ammo bank. So, we gathered up two more rimfire samples from Umarex and Sig Sauer and wheelbarrowed bricks of 22 fodder to the range and had at it. Our test guns this round were the very different Colt M4 Carbine No. 2245050 22 LR, $576; and the Sig Sauer Sig522 Classic No. SIG522001 22 LR, $572.

The Colt has a complicated background. Carl Walther Germany entered into a licensing agreement with New Colt Holding Corporation, in which Carl Walther will produce these 22 rifles in Germany under the Colt brand. Umarex USA is responsible for importation, sales, marketing and service for the Colt tactical replicas.

Two tactical styles are being offered, each modeled after a Colt original—the M4 and M16 rifles—and both are available in two variations with 30-round 22 LR magazines along with a variety of accessories. The M4 version that we tested is a blowback semiauto with a barrel length of 16.2 inches (412 mm), overall length of 31.1 to 34.4 inches depending on the adjustable stock length, and iron sights, with the rear set into a detachable carry handle on a metal flat-top receiver.

Likewise, the Sig522 has lineage worth noting. According to Sig Sauer, the 522 has the "…look and feel of the Classic SIG556. Featuring SIG556 parts, including a Swiss-type folding stock and polymer forend on a durable metal receiver with integral Picatinny rail." We evaluated a 556 in the March 2010 issue, grading the 5.56mm rifle highly with an A-, but dinging it for its weight and cost.

Those aren't such factors with the 522, whose price tag is a few dollars below the M4 rimfire and whose weight is 6.4 pounds empty. Its overall length is 35.1 inches with the stock fully extended, 33.6 inches with the stock collapsed, and 26.1 inches with the stock folded.

Cut The Fat, Not The Meat

At this magazine, we do something that a lot of other magazines and websites do — recommend firearms that our readers might like to...