July 27, 2022
A good .22 rifle is the workhorse in the arsenal of every shooter, hunter, rancher and general outdoorsman. Rimfires are inexpensive to shoot, have virtually no recoil and are polite to neighbors’ ears. Most of us likely shoot a .22 LR more often than any other rifle in our safe. What makes little sense is that though many of us hunt larger game with premium centerfire custom rifles our rimfires are often utilitarian guns built to meet a tight budget. With the introduction of the Christensen Arms Ranger 22, that’s no longer necessary.
You might say that Christensen Arms was founded on innovation. The company’s history began in 1995 when the Christensen family of Fayette, Utah, put its aerospace engineering talents to work in the firearms world.
Most of us are familiar with Christensen Arms based on its pioneering in the world of carbon-fiber-wrapped barrels. And for good reason. That was founder Roland Christensen’s specific area of expertise. Christensen has four decades of composites engineering experience and holds a PhD in mechanical engineering. To say that he knows a lot about carbon fiber is an understatement.
The company’s first product, though, was not a barrel. It was actually a .22 LR rifle, and the new Ranger 22 takes Christensen Arms back to its roots. This bolt-action .22 incorporates many of the innovative features found on the company’s flagship hunting rifles but in a compact rimfire package.
We will start with the heart of the rifle: its action. The Ranger 22’s receiver is machined from aluminum and is anodized black. A two-lug steel bolt uses dual opposing locking lugs, so it’s of a traditional format. Dual extractors and a fixed ejector ensure positive and reliable removal of spent cases. An anti-bind rail on the left side of the bolt is an aid to smooth operation. The oversize tactical-style bolt handle is threaded onto the bolt handle. At this time, the Ranger 22 is available only with a right-hand bolt.
The action is a bit of a departure from the standard round action we see so commonly these days. The bottom of the receiver is machined flat to provide a solid bedding surface with the stock. A slot is milled longitudinally below the chamber, which intersects with an aluminum lug in the stock below.
The action’s footprint is reminiscent of that found on Accuracy International’s sniper rifles, which enjoy a world-class reputation for strength and precision. It is tougher—and more expensive—to build an action this way, but it’s difficult to argue with the results.
Given Christensen Arms’ leadership in carbon-fiber-wrapped barrels, it is natural that the Ranger 22 would be so-equipped, right? Well, yes and no. Unlike on the company’s centerfire barrels, where the carbon fiber is wrapped directly to the steel, the rimfire barrel is handled a bit differently.
The 18-inch barrel begins with a hand-lapped 416R stainless-steel blank that is turned down to a narrow profile everywhere but at the tenon. A carbon-fiber sleeve is then fit over the steel, with some airspace in between the two materials. Finally, a steel muzzle device is threaded on, which allows tension to be applied to the carbon fiber. The result is a barrel that is stiff yet lightweight.
Christensen Arms chose a Bentz Match chamber for the Ranger. The Bentz chamber was developed to increase accuracy while allowing for reliability in semiauto rifles. Its dimensions lie in between a standard and a match .22 LR chamber, and it strikes an attractive compromise of accuracy, ease of loading and extraction. Twist rate is 1:16. The muzzle on the Ranger 22 is threaded 1/2x28 and capped with a thread protector.
The use of carbon fiber on the Ranger 22 doesn’t stop at the barrel. Christensen Arms chose this lightweight and strong material for the construction of the stock as well. Overall, the stock shape mimics many of the modern semi-tactical stocks that have become popular as a result of long-range precision shooting.
The fixed comb is high to align the shooter’s eye with mounted optics while the vertical grip is well positioned for prone and supported shooting positions. The grip has a distinctive and comfortable palm swell, and though the rifle’s controls are not ambidextrous, the stock is. A palm hook at the bottom rear is handy for bench rest positions.
The fore-end of the stock is flat, which makes it ideal for shooting over a bag or pack. That said, it is narrow enough to wrap one’s hand around for offhand shooting. Stocks are textured and painted in one of two finishes: black with gray webbing or tan with black webbing. Aluminum sling swivel studs are standard.
To me, the inside of the stock is more interesting than the outside. Two aluminum pillars are bedded into the carbon-fiber substrate to provide secure contact with the action and prevent overtightening of the action screws. The aluminum lug that intersects with the slot in the underside of the action is glass-bedded in-place, and a touch of that epoxy ensures good contact between the flat receiver and the composite stock material. While all of this might seem like overkill on a rimfire, anything that provides rigidity without a trade-off is a good thing.
The trigger guard/magazine assembly is made of injection-molded polymer, which provides plenty of strength and durability without adding weight or excessive cost. The Ranger 22 is designed to accept the ubiquitous 10/22 rotary magazine, so you’ll never have a problem finding a spare mag. The magazine’s lockup is positive and repeatable. The action’s fixed ejector is actually pinned into the trigger guard assembly, which is something that I’ve not seen previously. It works.
The controls on the Ranger 22 are simple and well executed. A TriggerTech Field trigger designed for the Remington 700 comes standard. That product alone retails for $189, so it is a really nice upgrade. TriggerTech has built a reputation for some of the finest triggers on the market, with a unique roller system that eliminates creep.
This trigger is user-adjustable from 2.5 to five pounds, and my test rifle was set to break at a very crisp three pounds. For an added bonus, the Ranger is compatible with any Remington 700 trigger on the market, so if you prefer another brand such as Timney or Geissele, it can be easily swapped.
The magazine release is a paddle style that is actuated from the rear. The bolt release is mounted at the nine o’clock position on the receiver, making removing the bolt for cleaning or maintenance quick and simple. Finally, the safety lever is located on the right side of the tang, exactly where you’d find it on one of Christensen Arms’ centerfire bolt-action rifles. Pressing the lever forward puts it into the Fire position.
No iron sights are available for the Ranger 22, but it has an integral zero m.o.a. Picatinny-style rail for simple and rigid optics mounting. The rail section is secured to the receiver with a series of oversize hex fasteners, so it is plenty secure, especially for a .22.
I mounted two optics to the Ranger 22 for my testing: an Aimpoint H2 Micro red dot for plinking and my infallible 1980s-vintage 16X Leupold Mark 4 for shooting groups. With the target scope mounted, I headed to the test range. None of the cool features of the Ranger 22 would matter much if the rifle wouldn’t shoot. Starting out with Winchester’s Super Speed copper-plated roundnose load, I settled into the bench with the target at 50 yards. Fifty-yard groups with a rimfire are roughly comparable to 100-yard groups with a centerfire, with anything averaging under an inch being a good benchmark. The RifleShooter rimfire rifle testing protocol calls for five five-shot groups with three loads at that distance.
High-velocity .22 LR loads rarely achieve a rifle’s accuracy potential in my experience, and these were no different. It was only when I loaded the Ranger 22 with Norma USA’s target-velocity Match-22 load that I really saw what this rifle was capable of.
Group after group stacked into tiny ragged holes, no matter how sloppy I was with the trigger. The best of these groups measured just 0.09 inch! The rifle liked the CCI standard velocity 40-grain lead roundnose target load nearly as much as the Norma. This was the most accurate .22 LR I can recall testing, with performance on par with or better than many of the heavier target/trainer rifles I commonly shoot.
Overall, the Ranger 22 does a great job of mimicking the features and handling characteristics of a premium centerfire rifle, but in a handier package. I am a big fan of shooting such “understudy” rifles throughout the year so that when fall rolls around, my skills are ready for the field. After all, why practice with a rifle that is vastly different than what you hunt or compete with? Although the Ranger 22 acts like a big rifle, it is still compact and lightweight enough to be ideal for backpacking or small game hunting.
If you use a Christensen Arms centerfire rifle for hunting, competition or just plain shooting, owning the Ranger 22 would create a great pair of rifles that complement one another. This rifle is more than a little brother, though, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a premium .22 LR. Its outstanding accuracy, quality construction and innovative features make it a very attractive little rifle.
Christensen Arms Ranger 22 Specifications
- Type: bolt-action rimfire
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Capacity: 10+1, detachable box magazine
- Barrel: 18 inches, 1:12 twist, threaded 1/2x28
- Overall Length: 36.25 in.
- Weight: 5 lb., 2 oz.
- Finish: Anodized
- Stock: Carbon fiber
- Sights: None; 0 m.o.a. rail for scope mounting
- Trigger: TriggerTech single-stage, 3.0 lb. pull (measured)
- Safeties: Two-position
- Price: $795
- Manufacturer: Christensen Arms, ChristensenArms.com