A rimfire rifle in .22 Long Rifle is one gun everyone should have. Thankfully, we have choices upon choices, and there’s a gun for every budget. The bolt action is a natural understudy for the hunting rifle, and if you haven’t had the chance to shoot as much as you’d like, a rimfire allows you to tune up your eye and trigger finger inexpensively prior to picking up the main gun.
The .22’s lack of report and mild or nonexistent recoil help the new shooter focus on safe arm manipulation, trigger press and sight control. If you haven’t shot your boomer for a while, it will do the same for you, allowing you to perfect sight picture and trigger press before pulling out the $1 per shot (or more!) hunting loads. Let’s look at some of today’s rimfire offerings.
Mossberg 802 Plinkster
The Mossberg 802 Plinkster with factory-mounted scope is an inexpensive, reliable easy-to-manage little adult rifle. It’s one of those rifles you might like to have on hunting and camping trips for recreational shooting as well as camp meat. The Plinkster has a man-size stock with 14.25-inch length of pull, 18-inch barrel, and a compact overall length of 37 inches.
The receiver is grooved for 3/8-inch scope mounts, and the 802 Plinkster comes bare or with a 4X scope mounted to the receiver in addition to a set of fully adjustable fiber optic-illuminated iron sights. Weight without scope is 4 pounds, and with the factory-mounted scope only half a pound more. The scope is proportionally balanced to such a slim, lightweight rifle, yet the standard mounting system allows you to upgrade the optics easily.
The 10-shot stick magazine protrudes from the bottom, and the magazine release lever is just in front of the triggerguard. The safety button is mounted in the trigger guard, and when the bolt is cocked a red button protrudes for visual and tactile reference. While the large ventilated recoil pad is unnecessary for recoil, it will help keep the rifle from slipping on your shoulder.
The black synthetic stock is stippled for a sure grip, sling swivel studs are provided and the metal finished in blue. The Mossberg 802 Plinkster with scope is a reasonable $209. www.Mossberg.com
Browning T-Bolt Varmint
There’s no reason not to have a beautiful rifle, and the Browning T-Bolt Varmint satisfies on so many levels. The unique straight-pull action is fast, easy and sure, offering 10 shots from the clever, flush-fitting double-helix magazine. The magazine is easy to load and provides smooth feeding. With an length of pull of 13-5/8 inhces, the T-Bolt is adult sized for use in all climes. The stock ends in a hard plastic buttplate.
The richly blued metal is complemented by a satin-finished American walnut stock, with 20 lpi cut checkering, in a classic configuration with a Monte Carlo comb to position your eye properly for a scope and a wider fore-end for better control offhand or off of bags. Sling swivel studs are provided.
The Varmint’s 22-inch barrel has a little heavier profile than the sporter model but still only weighs five pounds five ounces (just seven ounces heavier than the sporter model’s four pounds 14 ounces). No iron sights are provided. The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts, the metal is highly polished and richly blued, and the alloy trigger is gold plated.
Several models are available, including one in a laminated stock with a heavy stainless steel barrel threaded for a suppressor, black composite stocks and even a left-hand sporter. A Browning full-line dealer should have the rifle, scope mounts and a nice selection of Browning slings and gun cases to go with your purchase. As shown, the Browning T-Bolt Varmint has a retail of $779. www.Browning.com
Savage Rascal Target XP
I enjoy single-shot rifles at the range. A single-shot allows me to slow down the pace of shooting and not bother with magazine management. For walkabout small game hunting, a single-shot ensures discipline as you concentrate on the shot rather than counting on a follow-up from, say, a semiauto. Single-shots are great when teaching young shooters, too, since there is less chance for mistakes about the loading and there is one less step to clearing the gun.
The original Savage Rascal has long been an inexpensively priced entry-level rifle for young shooters, and one of the best choices for beginners. The Rascal cocks on opening like its bigger centerfire brothers, the safety is alongside the right rear of the receiver and shows a red dot in the Fire position.
But the Rascal line offers models for serious shooters, too. The Rascal Target is one such and the 16-1/8-inch heavy barrel threaded for a suppressor ends in an 11-degree target crown. A one-piece Picatinny rail is mounted to the receiver, and the action is fitted in a black-finish, non-adjustable hardwood target stock with high comb, close pistol grip and wide fore-end designed for shooting off a rest. Savage’s well-proven AccuTrigger is user adjustable from 2.5 to six pounds, and the rifle itself weighs only 4.5 pounds without optic.
The Rascal Target comes without scope for $314, but also comes in a range-ready version topped with a 4x32mm scope and the inclusion of a folding bipod attached to the forward sling swivel. Even all tricked out the Rascal Target XP only weighs 5.9 pounds and is a compact 30.6 inches in overall length. Better still, the Racal Target XP comes in right-or left-hand models. The XP has a suggested retail of $405. www.SavageArms.com
CZ 457 American
As an understudy to a hunting rifle, the CZ 457 American offers the look and feel of a big-game rifle but in a rimfire. This rifle is equally attractive as a stand-alone small-game rifle, too. CZ-USA has redesigned the rifle to make it more appealing here in America. Best news is the new push-to-fire safety at the right rear of the receiver just before the bolt. The bolt throw is now 60 degrees rather than the old 90 degrees, so bigger scopes can be mounted lower to the bore line. The polished-blue action has 11mm dovetails for the rings, and it is set in a handsome classic American-style stock in Turkish walnut with classic checkering.
Accentuating the classic good looks is the 24.8-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel without iron sights. The rifle is fitted with nicer bottom metal than previously, has an adjustable trigger, and is fed from a five-shot detachable magazine. The whole package weighs just 6.17 lbs and retails for $496. www.CZ-USA.com
Ruger American Rimfire Target
Few rifles have built such a reputation for accuracy and affordability as the Ruger American in both centerfire and rimfire. The rimfires start at a base price of $359, making it one of the best values on the market, and it available in a wide array of sporting and target models.
Let’s take a look at the Model 8360 from the Target line of rifles. One of the more unique offerings, this model is fitted in a black laminate thumbhole stock with close pistol grip for bench or field with a matte-blue action and barrel. The barreled action is Power Bedded with Ruger’s integral bedding block, and the barrel is free floated. Length of pull is 13.75 inches, and quarter- and half-inch spacers are included to lengthen pull. Sling swivel studs are installed, and the fore-end is wide for bench use. It has five slots for ventilation, giving the rifle a “racy” look.
The straight, heavy .860-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel is 18 inches long and threaded 1/2x28 for a suppressor. (Side note: Ruger also offers its proprietary Silent-SR suppressor, which is CNC machined, lightweight, strong and easy to disassemble and clean. The body is titanium with aluminum end cap and stainless steel threaded mount.)
Bare weight of the rifle is 6.7 pounds, and overall length is a compact 37 inches. A Picatinny-style scope base is installed on the receiver.
The Ruger Marksman trigger is adjustable from three to five pounds, an easily accessible tang safety is provided in the center of the action behind the bolt. The bolt throw is a quick 60 degrees, and the rifle has a 10-round payload in the long-proven, flush-fitting BX-1 rotary magazine.
Even with all these extras, the Ruger American Rimfire Target is $559 ($20 more for stainless steel). I’ve picked the middleweight target rifle. For those interested in long-range rimfire, check out Long Range Target for only $40 more. It comes with a longer barrel in a synthetic stock with an adjustable comb. www.Ruger.com
Finnish maker Tikka has developed a fine reputation for wonderful accuracy, and whether centerfire or rimfire, it’s a rifle designed by a hunters. The receiver and barrel are matte blue in a black synthetic stock of classic design. The trim, flat angles of the receiver have a small ejection port, leaving little room for entry of debris or weather.
The bolt is of stainless steel , and bolt lift is 60 degrees, with a sculpted metallic bolt shroud adding to the classy good looks ending in a cocking indicator showing a red dot when cocked. The two-position safety is on the right side behind the bolt handle.
The barrel is cold hammer forged, 20 inches in length and threaded for suppressor in either 1/2x20 or 1/2x28 threads. Overall length of the rifle 39.6 inches with a weight of just 6.4 pounds. The T1x comes with a single-stage trigger.
The black synthetic stock has optional inserts to change the angle of the pistol grip for different shooting positions or styles, as well as inserts to adjust the width of the fore-end giving the rifle built-in cross-over potential. The 10-shot magazine protrudes from the belly of the stock but is round, sculpted ensuring it won’t snag.
The receiver is grooved for 11mm Tikka rings. Those and extra magazines are available from www.BerettaUSA.com. Brownells offers a 30 m.o.a. Picatinny rail for those desiring the ultimate in long-range scope mounting versatility.
While it will likely be more useful on the T1x UPR (Ultimate Precision Rifle) with its carbon fiber/fiberglass tactical/target-style stock with adjustable cheekpiece, many hunters may opt for the versatility the Pic rail offers in scope selection. The T1x is available in a left-hand version, too. A pictured, the T1x retails for $529. Expect to pay more than twice that for the UPR. www.Tikka.fi