Can a good varmint rifle also serve as a low-recoil starter bigger-game rifle? We test a Howa Model 1500 Youth, a Bergara B-14 Hunter short rifle, and a Browning X-Bolt Micro Midas to find out.
As we noted a couple of issues ago, the shooting community is seeing more and more factory-supplied threaded barrels on rifles to allow application of muzzle devices, including sound suppressors. In that previous test of 308 Winchester and 300 Blackout bolt rifles, we noted generally better accuracy with the rifles when fitted the cans, but we didn't cover how much more pleasant the centerfire rifles were to shoot. Our shooters noted a marked difference in recoil at the shoulder, and, perhaps more profound, the lack of muzzle blast and report created better shooter conditions behind the gun. A lot of things can contribute to flinching and missing, and noise and a sharp push into the shoulder are two of them.
This time, we cut way down on the noise — to practically nothing, which has its own appeal — by shooting three rimfire bolt-actions side by side with a suppressor. We realize one of the drawbacks of shooting quieter is the initial cost of the cans as well as the red tape. We can't do much about the red tape other than to say get yourself an NFA trust, depending on where you live. But we can offer a strategy for making the can work across many firearms, so you can amortize its cost per shot. But first, the rifles.
We ordered all three rimfires online. The rifles, a Ruger American Rimfire, a CZ-USA 455, and a Savage MKII FV-SR, were delivered in less than a week to 2nd Amendment Arms and Ammo in Katy, Texas, a preferred Bud's FFL who charges only a $10 transfer fee per gun with a Texas License to Carry and $20 per gun without the TLC.)
Our first test rifle was a Ruger American Rimfire Standard 8305 22 LR, $309. Ruger's American Rimfire line is already extensive, and new models will build it out further. The 8301 is similar to our test 8305 model, with the former having a barrel length of 22 inches rather than the 18-incher on our rifle. Other 22 LR chamberings in the line include the 8351, which has an 18-inch stainless tube; the Talo Distributor Exclusive 8331, which comes with a Muddy Girl Camo Synthetic stock; and The Shooting Store Distributor Exclusive Model 8334, which has an OD green synthetic stock that contrasts with the black comb modules. Other chamberings include 17 HMR (Model 8311 with a 22-inch barrel; Model 8312 with an 18-inch barrel) and 22 WMR (Models 8321 and 8322, with 22- and 18-inch barrel lengths, respectively).
Our second rifle was the CZ-USA 455 American Synthetic Suppressor-Ready 02114 22 LR, $373. Like the Ruger, the CZ 455 02114 is part of a sizable line of rimfires offered by the Kansas City, Kansas-based importer. Among the other offerings in the 455 line are the CZ 455 American Combo Package, which comes in 22 LR and also ships with a 17 HMR barrel, along with everything you need to make the caliber change. Other interesting models include the 455 American Stainless, which comes with a swappable 20.5-inch barrel finished in a matte bead blast. For those of you who don't foresee ever buying a suppressor, the American Synthetic is similar to our test gun but is not suppressor-ready. The price difference is so small, $421 for the threaded rifle and $385 for the non-threaded barrel, we don't see the value in the threadless version.
The third rifle was the Savage Arms MKII FV-SR Threaded Barrel 28702 22 LR, $248. The shooter may wonder if the $248 price suggests that this rifle is cheap. It is inexpensive, but not cheap. One example of value was the receiver-mounted Picatinny top rail, which allowed us to pop on a Nikon scope with ease and bore-sight the rifle in minutes. Very handy. Also, there's the adjustable AccuTrigger, which came out of the box at 2.4 pounds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.