Five rimfires with little in common other than chambering fight it out for accuracy honors...
(Left to right): Browning T-Bolt, Cooper Model 57M, custom 1922 Springfield, Weatherby Mark XXII, Ruger Model 77/22.
My love of hunting began at an early age, back when the closest deer was a long drive over bumpy country roads to the opposite side of the state. Since there were no deer close to home, I spent all my spare time during autumn and winter hunting small game, especially squirrels. I started with a hand-me-down Remington Model 512, then graduated to a brand-new Marlin Golden 39A. While the Marlin was more accurate than my old rifle, I kept dreaming of what the old-timers described as tack-hole accuracy.
Then one day I met a gunsmith who shared my passion for squirrel hunting, and one look at his rifle had me hooked. A custom job built around a 1922 Springfield action, at 50 long paces it would put five bullets inside a circle much smaller than a gray squirrel's head.
It took a while, but I eventually had my own version of his rifle. In 1964 my wife, Phyllis, gave me a 1922 Springfield action, and I had P.O. Ackley turn its barrel to a lighter contour with a muzzle diameter of .550 inch. Dave Talley stocked it and Bob Cassidy checkered it. It averaged just under half an inch at 50 yards with Western Mark III Super Match.
Layne's custom Springfield turned in the second-best group average.
A few years back I rediscovered small-game hunting, and while shooting a few groups on paper with my Springfield recently, I began to wonder how its accuracy might compare with more modern rifles when all were fed some of today's ammunition. Here is a brief look at the rifles I chose to take a look at.
Today's T-Bolt utilizes basically the same receiver and straight-pull bolt as a rifle of the same name introduced by Browning during the 1960s, although the trigger guard/magazine housing assembly is now synthetic rather than steel. Twin extractors on the bolt do a good job of yanking spent cases from a dirty chamber. When the bolt is pushed into battery, opposite ends of its hinging crossbolt engage the full thicknesses of the left- and right-hand sides of the receiver wall, making this a very strong action.
Browning's Double-Helix magazine holds 10 rounds and is of rotary design. Unlike the rotary magazine designed by Ruger, Browning's version has two smaller rotating drums stacked one atop the other. Since it is about a quarter-inch narrower than the Ruger magazine, it makes for a trimmer stock and more comfortable one-hand carry.
Turning a small notched wheel at the rear of the magazine winds the spring as each round is inserted. It works quite reliably but may prove to be a bit difficult to load with cold, wet hands on a winter day.
The T-Bolt from Browning features a straight-pull action.
A Talley mount accompanying the rifle was used to mount a Bushnell 4-14X Elite 4200 scope for accuracy testing. While I could detect no creep or overtravel in the trigger, it was a bit heavy at 40 ounces.
A bit of muscle is required to push the bolt into battery because in addition to camming the locking lugs into engagement, the firing pin is also being cocked. But after shooting the rifle for a while, I found its bolt is quick to operate, and the more I shot it the smoother it became. The two-position, tang-mounted safety does not lock the bolt, and this brings up my only complaint: bump the bolt handle against something in the woods and the bolt will fly back and eject the cartridge, even when the safety is engaged.
The Sporter I shot weighed 51„4 pounds. Browning's straight-pull rifle is also available in .22 WMR and .17 HMR. Depending on variation, caliber and whether right- or left-hand action, retail prices range from $709 to $789
The Cooper rifle is pricey at more than $3,000 and proved to be the most accurate as well.
Cooper Model 57M Western Classic
The Cooper rifle included in this project was the Western Classic, and at $3,295 it is the most expensive Model 57M available. (Least expensive of the various grades is the Classic at $1,595.) Chambering options are .22 Long Rifle, .22 WMR, .17 Mach 2 and .17 HMR. A rifle in .22 rimfire does not leave the factory until it shoots quarter-inch groups at 50 yards on an indoor range. A test target is included with each rifle.
The Western Classic costs more--not because it is more accurate but due to more costly options such as a 24-inch octagon barrel, Turnbull case coloring of the receiver and bottom metal, and Talley scope mount.
The stock is AAA-grade walnut with 22-line fleur-de-lis checkering pattern, checkered steel grip cap and buttplate, ebony fore-end tip and Model 70 Super Grade-style sling swivel posts. The rifle weighs 71„4 pounds.
The Model 57M bolt has twin extractors and locks up at two points: on the root of its handle and on a lug positioned at the opposite side of the bolt body. The fully adjustable trigger broke crisply at 16 ounces with no creep or backlash. A two-position safety sits beside the tang, and the bolt release is located on the left side of the receiver.
The five-round magazine fed cartridges like grease on glass. The receiver is drilled and tapped, and the supplied Talley mount, which had been case colored to match the receiver, was used to attach a Nikon 4-16X Monarch scope.
The Weatherby Mark XXII boasts an Anschutz match action.
Weatherby Mark XXII
With its high-gloss wo
od and metal finishes, Monte carlo buttstock, white-line spacers between rosewood grip cap and fore-end tip--the latter fitted at a 45-degree angle--the Weatherby Mark XXII (pronounced "Mark 22") looks the way all Weatherby rifles used to look.
The barreled action is built in Germany by Anschutz and is basically the Match 64 action with Weatherby markings. The barreled action is shipped to Weatherby's California facility, where it is stocked in American walnut and test-fired for accuracy. A rifle is not shipped until it shoots five bullets inside half an inch at 50 meters indoors with match ammo, and proof of that is a test group supplied with each rifle. Unfortunately, the target did not indicate what ammo was used in the test.
The Mark XXII has a fully adjustable, single-stage trigger, and the one on the rifle I worked with left the factory weighing 37 ounces with a pull-to-pull variation of two ounces. Creep was absent, but overtravel was there. A two-position safety lever is located on the right-hand side of the receiver, just back of the bolt handle.
Breech lockup is on the root of the bolt handle. A large black knob on the bolt handle is not as attractive as the rest of the rifle, but it feels extremely comfortable in the hand when operating the bolt. The bolt release is located on the left side of the receiver.
The button-rifled barrel is 23 inches long and is also available in .17 HMR. All metal is blued over a satin finish, and the stock has contrasting grip cap and fore-end tip, a raised cheekpiece, rubber butt pad and quick-detach sling swivel studs. Magazine capacity is five rounds.
The receiver is both grooved and drilled and tapped, and a Tally lightweight mount was used to attach a Bushnell 4-16X Elite 4200 for my accuracy tests. There were no malfunctions, but a lack of lubricant on the cocking cam surface of the bolt made bolt lift extremely difficult after about 100 rounds were fired. I had no oil on hand, but the lube from a bullet in one of the match loads got the rifle back into action.
The Ruger 77/22 has a big game rifle feel and features the firm's excellent rotary magazine.
Ruger Model 77/22
While the Ruger Model 77/22 was initially introduced in .22 Long Rifle, it takes no genius to see that its action is far stronger than it has to be for that cartridge. That was probably no accident in design since the same rifle was later chambered for cartridges loaded to higher chamber pressures such as the .22 Hornet and .44 Magnum.
The bolt body is of two-piece design with twin extractors housed at the face of its non-rotating front section. As the action is closed, large opposing locking lugs on the rotating rear section engage shoulders inside the receiver ring. The Model 77/22 may have been introduced as a rimfire, but it locks up like a centerfire.
Possibly the single greatest feature of the trim little Ruger is a rotary magazine that first appeared on the 10/22 autoloader. No other design feeds those tiny little cartridges smoother or more reliably. On top of that, it is durable and easy on the fingers when pushing in 10 rounds.
From there on out, the Model 77/22 looks a lot like a scaled-down Model 77. The two rifles share a three-position safety as well as an integral scope mounting base that eliminates screws and are difficult to check for tightness. During my accuracy test, the rifle wore a Leupold 6.5-20X Vari-X III scope.
The Model 77/22 weighs 61„4 pounds. Quite thin at the muzzle its barrel is 20 inches long. It had the heaviest trigger of the bunch at 51„2 pounds, and while I could detect no overtravel, there was a considerable amount of creep.
Wood to metal fit was quite good, as were the blued finish on its metal and the nice satin finish on its lightly figured and neatly checkered American walnut stock. In addition to .22 Long Rifle, this same basic rifle is available in .22 WMR, .17 HMR, .22 Hornet and .44 Remington Magnum.
Stock options are American walnut (tested), black synthetic and laminated wood in brown or gray. It's also available in stainless steel. Prices range from just under $700 to just over $800.
With the rifles ready to go, I turned my attention to ammo. High-velocity ammunition with hollowpoint bullets is used by many hunters, but since standard-velocity ammo is sometimes more accurate (and match-grade almost always is), some choose it instead. So to keep everyone happy I decided to shoot both types of ammunition in the five rifles.
One of the match loads chosen was Match Xtra Plus, which is loaded for Remington by the English firm of Eley. I am told it is nothing less than Eley Tenex in a different box, which may be true since my Remington 40X and Anschutz 54.18 shoot the same averages with both.
Federal also went outside the country and worked with RWS to come up with its Gold Medal UltraMatch ammuniton. Based my experience with both, I suspect it is pretty much the same as R50, which is the premium target load manufactured by that German company. From Finland, we have Midas Plus. Loaded by Lapua, it is a favorite of many who are seriously into BR-50 competition.
The remaining test ammunition consisted of three high-velocity loads from Remington, CCI and Winchester.
In addition to doing most of the shooting quite early in the morning, I positioned a couple of wind flags between rifle and targets, waited for a condition I liked, and did my best to quickly squeeze off five shots before it changed.
Any time a wind shift caught me just as I was sending a bullet downrange, I scratched that group and waited for my condition to return before rapid-firing more lead toward yon target.
|.22 Rimfire Shootout Specs|
|1922 Springfield|| Browning T-Bolt||Cooper M57M || Weatherby XXII|| Ruger M77/22|
|Capacity || 5 ||10 || 5 || 5 || 10 |
|Mag Type || single stack ||double helix || single stack || single stack || rotary |
|Mag Construction || steel ||synthetic || steel || steel || synthetic |
|Barrel/OAL (in.) || 23/42% ||22/40% || 24/42% || 23/41% || 20/39% |
|Weight (lb.) || 7% ||5% || 7% || 6% || 6% |
|Finish || blue ||blue || blue || blue || blue |
|Stock || walnut ||walnut || AAA walnut || walnut || walnut |
|Buttplate || steel ||plastic || steel || rubber || rubber |
|Trigger pull (oz.) || 20 ||40 ||16 || 37 || 88 |
|Safety (position/type) || 2/lever ||2/slide ||2/rotary || 2/lever || 3/lever |
|Price (as tested) || N/A ||$709 ||$3,295 || $999 || $777 |