Norinco JW-25A, 22 rimfire
It’s a Mauser Jim but not as we know it. Pete Moore checks out a modern Chinese copy of the K98, KKW, rimfire trainer
Given the more fun side of sports shooting is being taken over by hi-capacity and military, look-a-like 22 semi-autos; here’s what must be the granddad of them all; well a copy of it anyway. But first a history lesson. After the Germans were beaten in WW1 the treaty of Versailles imposed severe restrictions and reductions on their military might. One was the limitation of fullbore ammunition production, so to get round this for training purposes the Germans produced a single-shot, 22 rimfire copy of the Mauser Kar 98K service rifle.
Called the Kleinkaliber Wehrsportgewehr (small calibre military and sporting rifle) it was known as the KKW and produced by various manufactures up to 1939, when it was discontinued. Historically theses rifles are very collectable with good condition examples commanding prices of up to $1200. What I have here is a revelation as Norinco of China has seen fit to recreate the KKW but with a 5-round magazine as one of the cutest, military bolt-action copies I have seen for some time.
Called the JW-25A; sounds more like an airplane designation, the rifle is in fact a copy of a copy as the base action is in essence that of the Czech CZ 452-2E. I have seen these before and owned a sporter version and all Norinco has done is to use this in conjunction with a very realistic, 98K exterior build and cosmetics. Far from original it does however offer a very different take on military-style rimfires and one I reckon that could prove popular, given the price. Compared to the real 98K the Norinco gives away two pounds in weight and three inches of barrel, which is no big deal…
For the purists major differences are the detachable, 5-shot magazine (a la CZ), the clean receiver with integral 11mm dovetail and the 452-2E lever-style safety catch. All of that I can happily live with; in fact the added capacity in a DM format is to be welcomed. It would also seem likely that the original CZ mags might fit too.
The stock looks like stained beech and shows a near identical 98K layout with full, rounded grip, sling slot and security bar hole and steel plate at the rear. Up front it flows into the short handguard forward sling slot/barrel band, bayonet lug, half-section cleaning rod and foresight protector. Iron work consists of the typically large trigger guard. The overall package is most pleasing!
Controls are simple with the safety located flat on top of the bolt that pushes forward to the right to set and pulls back to FIRE. Typically it’s stiff, but then again it is on the original CZ. The mag catch is a slim, pull-back lever at the front of the well and the magazine a steel, single-column, 5-round box. The bolt cycle is surprisingly smooth and the trigger pull a soft and not too long 5 lbs.
Sights go for the V-notch, elevator wedge at the rear graduated in 25 metre increments out to 200. The front is a tall, inverted wedge that’s adjustable for windage by drifting and the pressed steel hood is removable. Basic equipment no doubt, but also primary equipment for this sort of rifle. The glass option is none the less available with the 11mm integral dovetail on the receiver bridges allowing scope mounting. The only problem is the rear sight, which gets in the way of anything more than a 24mm objective in standard rings and either needs to be removed or high mounts used. However this is essentially a 98K so why bother?
I was struck by the good looks and feel of the Norinco from the box, as I think the Mauser 98G and 98K are possibly the best looking service bolt-actions ever built. However, this 22 rimfire KKW copy solves the problems of expensive centrefire ammo and heavy recoil of the original 7.92x57mm calibre rifles. This is without doubt a fun gun though accuracy is serious enough and I had a great afternoon on the range feeding it standard velocity, round-nosed ammo. Where it showed no problems in putting up decent, 50-yard iron sight groups of one to two inches and also was more than capable of bouncing fired, 12-bore cartridge cases around the back stop too. Even at 100-yards performance was pretty good with four inches being the norm.
Obviously in comparison to the near mandatory scoped 22 rimfire sporting rifles we all use; the Norinco is in a class all its own. However, you can opt to fit a scope, and when you do groups tighten up accordingly. Though far from traditional I fitted a red dot sight, which if anything improved accuracy due to the parallax free single aim point offered. It looked a bit odd but works.
Speaking to the importers (Henry Krank) they tell me the JW-25As are generating a lot of interest, which does not surprise me. The unique aspects of this little rifle really appeals at many levels and it would be nice to think that you could even write a dedicated competition around them. But as a doubtless unusual, affordable and fun-type plinker this baby Mauser 98K clone is hard to beat. If you like your rimfire shooting then add one of these to your collection; you will not be disappointed!
• Super and unique little rifle
• Great club trainer
• Well worth a look
|Calibre||22 Long Rifle|
|Integral||11mm scope rail|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates