February 28, 2019
By Philip Massaro
I don’t really know any shooter that doesn’t enjoy spending time with a good rimfire rifle; they’re easy on the shoulder, easy on the ears, and easy on the wallet. I use mine for good number of purposes, including hunting small game and predators, eradicating varmints, target work, and as a tool for training new shooters. While pacing the aisles of the 2019 SHOT Show, I kept an eye out for new rimfire rifles, and found a few that caught my eye.
1. The Ruger Custom Shop 10/22 Competition Rifle
The 10/22 platform is among the most popular rimfire designs ever sold, and has been used as the basis for many different models from Ruger, as well as other custom rifle makers. For 2019, Ruger’s Custom Shop offers the 10/22 Competition Rifle, a cool little rifle packed full of desirable features. A cold hammer-forged 16 1/8” bull barrel is mated to the 10/22 receiver, and set in a painted gray/black laminate stock, with a pebbled finished that is aesthetic as it is functional. The muzzle end of the barrel is threaded for a brake or suppressor, and a the action is dual bedded in the stock.
A 30-MOA Picatinny rail is mounted on top of the anodized receiver and a thumbwheel adjustable cheekpiece will align your eye properly with the largest of optics, to give the rifle more long range capability. Using a .22LR for long range shooting will quickly sharpen your eye and improve your technique at pennies on the dollar. A nitride bolt gives smooth autoloading performance, and the famous Ruger 10/22 rotary magazine and crossbolt safety are carried through from the original design, yet there is a breech port which can be accessed in order to clean the rifle from the rear. All in all, a cool setup for 10/22 fans. www.ruger.com
2. The Savage Model 64 Takedown
I like takedown rifles, and I love the idea of a compact takedown rimfire, especially for a canoeing or camping trip. Savage has added a takedown model to the 64 series of autoloading rimfires, and it’s simple, slick and accurate. Packed in an Uncle Mike’s Bug-Out Bag, the two piece rifle assembles in a matter of seconds by inserting the barrel into the receiver and screwing down the lock nut. The 16 ½” barrel is equipped with iron sights, and the receiver is drilled and tapped should you wish to mount a scope. A black synthetic stock terminates just in front of the front end of the receiver, and a ten-round detachable magazine is included in the package. A crossbolt safety is located at the rear upper portion of the receiver. Available in .22 LR only. www.savagearms.com
3. Browning SA22 Grade II Octagon rifle
John M. Browning’s designs are among the most revered and famous of American firearms, and the SA-22 rifle is no exception. I was first introduced to the rifle when my Dad’s mentor – Mr. David W, Miller – showed me how accurate an iron-sighted rimfire could be on squirrels, when I was a young man. I was absolutely intrigued when he started loading the cartridges through the rear stock, and never forgot the accuracy of that rifle. For 2019, Browning introduces the SA-22 Grade II Octagon, with an engraved satin nickel receiver and a – you guessed it – a blued-steel octagon barrel.
The high gloss finish walnut stock features 20-lpi cut checkering, and that famous Browning rear loading port. The trigger guard features an engraved gold BuckMark logo, as well as the signature Browning gold trigger. If you’re looking for a light and handy rimfire rifle that will become an heirloom, consider the SA-22 Grade II Octagon is worth considering. Available in .22 LR. www.browning.com
4. The Winchester Wildcat 22
Winchester releases an entirely new design for 2019, their autoloading Wildcat 22 rifle. With a space-age look – though I greatly appreciate the classic designs, I like the look of the Wildcat hollowed-out stock – and sensible features, the Wildcat makes a lot of sense. An 18” barrel is mated to an autoloading receiver with an integral Picatinny rail. That receiver is designed to use the Ruger 10/22 rotary magazine, yet Winchester provides its own design, which features two tabs on the sides to remove the magazine, in addition to the traditional forward magazine release under the action.
The lower receiver assembly can easily be removed at the push of the button, and a port allows the rifle to be cleaned from the breech. The striker-fired action is smooth and reliable; I enjoyed shooting the little rifle at SHOT Show’s Industry Day at the Range. A rear ghost ring sight and ramped post front sight make for fast target acquisition and its crossbolt safety can be reversed for left-handed shooters. The Wildcat is an innovative new design, with sensible features that any shooter would enjoy.
5. The CZ457 American
New from CZ-USA is the CZ457 American, a solid package that offers a lot to the rimfire shooter. First off, CZ has installed a push-to-fire safety (many models are rearward-to-fire) so there is no confusion for new shooters who use other rifles made here in America. Secondly, CZ has shortened and trimmed the action, resulting in a smaller overall design. The bottom metal has been changed from the previous stamped design to a new interlocking metal system. The common 90-degree bolt throw has been revised to a 60-degree throw, allowing a riflescope to be mounted lower to the bore, and the 457’s trigger is adjustable for weight, creep and over-travel. The CZ457 has 11mm dovetails milled into the top of the receiver to attach scope mounts; I really like this design, and have used it on the CZ550 big game rifle and others, and have found it rock solid. The 24.8” barrel has no sights, and the 457 is designed to use interchangeable barrels, available in .22LR, .17 HMR and .22WMR. www.cz-usa.com
6. The Browning T-Bolt Speed
Set up with a Bronze Cerakote finish match-grade barrel and action, the T-Bolt Speed straight pull rifle is a classy-looking rimfire. The A-TACS AU camo stock and ergonomic appointments make for a slick rifle, whether in the hunting field or on the target range. The tang-mounted safety sits comfortably under the thumb, and the perpendicular bolt handle requires a simple pull and push to cycle the action. A 10-round magazine (Browning provides a spare magazine) feeds a steel-receiver, drilled and tapped for a riflescope, and the 22-inch fluted match barrel gives excellent accuracy. The T-Bolt’s stock has textured grip panels on the pistol grip and on the forend for a good hold on the rifle, and the action cycles both quickly and smoothly, providing a very rapid succession of shots, without the issues associated with the autoloaders – being manually cycled, the action isn’t reliant on specific pressures. I really like the T-Bolt Speed; it’s one of those rimfires that feel right the first time you shoot it. www.browning.com
7. The Mossberg International 702 Plinkster
For the shooter who wants to own a rimfire rifle for very little investment, yet have the features they need, the Mossberg International 702 Plinkster represents an incredible value, with its MSRP of just $139.00. The semi-auto rifle has a synthetic stock, an 18-inch barrel with adjustable iron sights, and a ten-round magazine. A crossbolt safety is located on the forward side of the trigger guard, and textured areas on the pistol grip and forend give a firm grip from any shooting position. For those who want the first time shooting experience, the Mossberg International 702 Plinkster makes a lot of sense. Available in .22LR, .17 HMR and .22WMR. www.mossberg.com
8. The Savage Rascal Target XP
I saved the most fun for last, as I found the Savage Rascal rifle to be just plain cool, and the Target XP variation even cooler. This bolt action micro rimfire comes with a bipod, Picatinny rail, a 16 1/8” threaded barrel, and a mounted and bore-sighted 4x32mm scope. The little single shot rifle cocks on the uplift of the bolt, and the 11 ¼” length of pull is perfect for the youngsters. Imagine how wonderful it would have been if you could’ve had a scaled-down rifle like the Rascal Target XP when you were young; I know I kind of want one now. www.savagearms.com