Out of a huge selection, Bruce Potts takes a look at a few of the best rimfire rifles on the market
Remington Mod 597
A light semi-automatic rimfire rifle provides speed and agility, which is perfect for shooters tasked with volume vermin control, lamping and squirrel duties. The Remington Model 597 is a lightweight synthetically stocked rifle, designed certainly for sporting use but has the ability to transcend target, plinking or hunting duties.
Its design utilises a 'blow back' system where the recoil from the cartridge case is used to cycle the action. It is manufactured from alloy, while the pressure or securing points are made of steel. The bolt is smooth as it runs on two guide rails that are sprung from back to front and located in the action face, helping to stop bolt twist/binding. There is a single extractor claw and the case is ejected via a static ejector that protrudes from the base of the receiver through the bolt on the back stroke.
Accuracy is good, partly due to the barrel to receiver fit that solidly locks the two together, yet allows the barrel to be removed very easily if desired. The whole union is secured by a separate block that effectively wedges the two together. Matt blued, the tube is 16.5” with a 21mm diameter and straight taper, making it shorter/stiffer thus aiding consistent accuracy and to some extent eliminating the need on this rifle to free-float the barrel.
The stock is injection moulded and includes re-enforced areas in the forend to eliminate flexing. Length of pull (LOP) is 14”, while the comb a little low, showing a 2.25” drop. It has a hard plastic recoil pad and no checkered panels. The sculptured pistol grip and scalloped forend are ample, but no sling swivels is awkward for field use.
The trigger mechanism is in a polymer housing with the salient parts such as the sear and hammer being Teflon/nickel plated for smooth operation. Its single-stage pull is good for a semi-auto rimfire at 3.5 lbs. The safety is a cross-bolt at the rear of the trigger blade, blocking its travel, but only when the action is cocked. The magazine is an alloy construction with 10-round capacity, it proved reliable, but 8-rounds loaded fed better. Once depleted, the magazine follower blocks the bolt to show empty.
Being a semi-auto you are obviously always conscious of reliable feeding. It liked all but the slow sub 975 fps RWS. From 50 yards supported, Eley Subsonic hollow points showed a 0.65” group, 1010 fps and 91 ft/lbs. RWS HV (highvelocity) were superb as usual with 0.55” groups, the best, a velocity of 1207 fps and 129 ft/lbs energy.
The Remington 597 is one of the best semiautomatic rimfires. It needs no upgrades, as it's reliable and accurate with a practical stock for vermin control with light and quick handling. While other semi-auto's need aftermarket upgrades, the Remington is pretty unique in that it shoots as it should straight from the box with both subsonic and HV ammo with no problems.
Name: Remington Mod 597
Overall Length: 34.5”
Barrel Length: 16.5”, threaded ½” UNF
Finish: Blued steel
Stock: Green injection moulded
Safety: Cross-bolt type
Scope mounts: One-piece Weaver base, low profile
Magazine: Detachable 10-shot
Contact: Raytrade UK Ltd www.raytradeuk.co.uk
CZ 457 Royal
The Model 457 is a new style of CZ rifle, the action is completely different from the older 455 models with new bolt system, action arrangement, trigger and brand new walnut stock design. The 457 Royal is available in .22LR, .17HMR and .22WMR. The new action is longer at 6.25” and has a squarer appearance. The bolt is dog-legged with a nice rounded bolt knob, is 5.25” long with a low bolt lift of 60°, and has a short operating length of 1.75”. At the rear is a 2” bolt shroud incorporating the red cocked-action indicator. When the bolt is opened there is a large bolt guide rail that runs and locks into the rear section of the action. It has a double claw extractor for reliable case removal which is then ejected by a floor mounted steel spur. The trigger is adjustable for weight, pull and has a fast lock time for better accuracy and here broke at 3.45 lbs. The tried and true CZ magazines come with a 5-shot capacity but 10-rounders are available.
Spot the difference
Noticeably different from the 455 model is the safety position that sits on the side of the action and not on the bolt itself, Forward - FIRE (red dot) and Rear - SAFE (white dot). The barrel was 20.5” long on this .17HMR and has a ½” UNF thread and sporter weight hammer forged profile. The overall finish of the metal parts is a tough semi/matt blueing.
The stock is very nice with a traditional long slender forend but with modern laser-cut logos and checkering. Walnut quality has good colour, a lovely fiddle back striping to the butt section and a semirubbed oil finish. The pistol grip has laser cut checkered panels on both sides, a small fleur-de-lys accent, double palm swell and a small cheekpiece. Internally the stock has a steel inset recoil lug to engage with the action for better bedding, and each stock screw is supported with its own aluminium pillar.
The CCI TNT 17-grain loads performed the best, velocity was 2592fps and energy 254 ft/lbs. They were also the most accurate, at 75 yards I had all five shots in 0.366 “, a superb load this one. The heavier CCI 20gr Game Point shot consistent 0.695” groups at 2422 fps and 261 ft/lbs.
There is no doubting the accuracy and consistency of this Royal model with great looks, apart from laser-cut logo, perfect balance, good trigger and value for money too.
Name: CZ 457 Royal
Overall Length: 38.5”
Barrel length: 20.5” (16” available)
Weight: 5.95 lbs
Finish: Semi Matt blued
Magazine: 5-shot standard, (10-shot option)
Sights: None furnished, scope dovetails
Trigger: Single-stage, adjustable
Calibre: .17 HMR on test, .22LR or .22WMR
Contact: Sportsman Gun Centre www.sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
Ruger American Target
The American range of rifles from Ruger incorporates both centrefire and rimfire rifles and their little .22LR version is pretty nice for the money. This model is made even better with an 18” varmint/target profile barrel and sporter-type laminate stock making the American Target perfect for range or field use.
The whole action has been thought out with precision and accuracy in mind, with machined alloy steel which is both durable and strong with a nice blued finish too. There are no iron sights so the top is dovetailed for scope mounts and this version comes with a single full-length Weaver rail for universal scope fitment and removal. The bolt is smooth and has a short 60° lift with a tactile large teardrop knob for easy manipulation. The single claw extractor has a sprung clip to locate the round in the head and then gives a positive ejection via a static action located spur.
Best of all is the 'Power Bedding Block' that the action fits to form a good bedding platform that allows the barrel to free float for consistent and good accuracy. The hammer forged barrel has a target type crown, 1:16 twist rate, 0.87” muzzle diameter and a ½ UNEF thread for a sound moderator.
The Marksman trigger unit is a good all-round trigger providing safe operation from 3-5 lbs. There is an extra safety inner trigger blade that has to be depressed as you pull the trigger before the sear is operated. The safety is placed on the tang behind the bolt and can be easily accessed with the thumb and slid back and forth quietly. Feed is from Rugers BX-1 rotary magazine system, holds 10-rounds and sits flush to the stock. It is easily removed via the enlarged magazine release lever in front of the trigger guard. This version has a superb, strong, ambidextrous, weather-resistant laminate stock with a sporter style but higher/straighter comb for fast scope acquisition. It has no cheekpiece and twin palm swells on the pistol grip. No checkering though, so a little more slippery than usual, but two sling swivel studs and a soft ventilated recoil pad finishes off a good stock with a LOP of 13.75”
Best results were the Winchester 42-grain Max load. It generated 1074 fps and 108 ft/lbs and at 30 yards printed one big hole, increasing to 0.45” at 50 yards. High Velocity wise, the RWS HV with their 31-grain hollow point lead bullet achieved 1251 fps for 108 ft/lbs with amazing consistent 0.5” at 50 yards and 0.85” at 100 yards.
Ruger's American Target has a good trigger, the whole bolt operation is excellent and reliable while the rotary magazine means more shots before re-fill. The stock is sturdy and well balanced. The rifle is well priced and not ammunition fussy.
Name: Ruger American Target .22lr
Barrel length: 18”, threaded UNEF
Overall Length: 37”
Calibre: .22lr (.17HMR and .22WMR Available)
Stock: Black and grey laminate
Weight: 6.8 lbs
Trigger: Marksman adjustable trigger
Safety: Tang mounted
Scope mount: One-piece Weaver
Magazine: 10-shot rotary
Contact: Viking Arms www.vikingshoot.com
This is the first time Tikka have ventured into the rimfire market and wow what an entrance. Their T1X rimfire is designed to mimic the proportions of the T3X centrefire rifles and thus has the same action profile so can accept a degree of T3 accessories and stock alternatives. It is available in either .22LR rimfire or .17HMR with a threaded 16 or 20” barrel. You have no open sights, a detachable 10-shot magazine and synthetic stock, so definitely a sporting rimfire. Owners of Tikka T3 model rifles will find the new T1X very familiar with the operating and handling of the rifle, trigger and safety being the same. The injection moulded stock is a new design and overall quality/fit represents good value. It has a full rifle sized feel to it but lightweight handling.
It shows a smooth, black finish and moulded in checkering on the forend and pistol grip. As with the T3X rifles the pistol grip can be removed and an alternative can be fitted. There is no cheekpiece and a small plastic butt plate but despite this, the stock handles well and is actually pretty much ambidextrous.
The T1X uses the basic T3X action form but heavily modified to shoot rimfire. The front of the action has been cut away so the top half has gone but the bottom half still has the T3X profile to fit the stock correctly. Due to the smaller profiled rimfire barrel, the stocks barrel channel includes a polymer insert to take up the excess space.
The all steel action has a matt blued finish and the bolt is made from stainless steel with a non-rotating bolt that locks at the rear and has a large single claw ejector spur or spring, aka Finnfire type in the action wall. There is a full length 11mm dovetail rail and additional screw fitments so any scope mount can be fitted. The one-piece bolt has a short throw at 1.46” and low 60° lift. The bolt handle is secured to a straight handle via a screw. It handles well and despite the plastic bolt shroud where the cocking indicator protrudes when cocked, it’s a nice and reliable system.
The barrel is cold hammer forged, has a 1:16.5 twist and the same finish as the action. It is mostly free floated and shows a semiweight profile with a 0.73” muzzle diameter, ½” UNF thread and concave crown. The 10-round detachable, polymer magazine protrudes from the stock for a better grip. The adjustable, single-stage trigger broke very cleanly at 4.25 lbs.
At 50 yards the Eley Subsonics 38-grain bullets shot 0.65” groups and achieved 1047 fps and 93 ft/ lbs energy whilst the RWS subsonics shot amazing 0.40” groups with 984 fps for 86 ft/lbs. The CCI CB long reduced loads grouped five shots into 0.75 “ at 20 yards and achieved 761 fps and 37 ft/lbs energy from its lighter 29-grain bullet.
Tikka has a winner here as at £575 retail it has fast become 'THE'rimfire to buy. It is very accurate, lightweight, reliable, has a good stock and can be accessorised with T3 add ons.
Name: Tikka T1X .22lr
Overall Length: 33.75”
Barrel Length: 16”, threaded ½” UNF
Finish: Blued steel
Weight: 5.3 lbs
Magazine: Detachable 10-shot
Stock: Black moulded synthetic
Safety: Lever type
Sights: None, 11mm dovetails for scope mount
Contact: GMK Ltd www.gmk.co.uk