Chris Parkin takes a look at six of the latest precision .22 rimfire rifles suited to pushing the distances beyond normal hunting ranges
BERGARA B14R CARBON RIFLE
Bergara essentially built a rimfire to fit into their current Rem 700 derived action/stock range and use deliberately large AICS sized, .22 rimfire magazines to fill the hand for mag changeover practice, giving this gun the true feel of its larger siblings in all but bolt travel. You get all the fantastic free-floating traits in handling and shooting dynamics with fast bolt operation and the option to not only tune but specify triggers identical to the centrefire options.
The stock is one of the best in the business, combining low weight, a butt hook and length of pull as well as cheekpiece adjustability, to help tailor the rifle to you. This Bergara is also available with a plain steel barrel and in true left-handed format. At 18”, the barrel delivers the right internal ballistics. The single-stage adjustable trigger has a crisp, 700-gram pull weight on its smooth, gently curved steel blade. Rem 700 Short Action compatibility also applies to scope mounting atop the action, a 20 MOA rail is no problem for longer range.
A 90° bolt lift and twin opposing lugs might seem unusual for a rimfire, but it's mandatory in order to retain a consistent Bergara operation feel. They have been innovative with the internal mechanical packaging, to make the bolt suitable for an offset firing pin on the rim, while retaining the overall length of a full-sized action and its footprint.
A mottled black/grey finish to the polymer of the stock shows hard-wearing character and it’s not too heavy to hunt with, so a rare true crossover rifle to beat.
Price: From £1290
Contact: RUAG Ammotec UK - www.ruag.co.uk
BLASER R8 ULTIMATE .22 RIMFIRE
Blaser’s .22 LR option for the revolutionary R8 action is certainly expensive, but as an additional calibre kit for a current Blaser owner, it’s a fine option. The rifle/magazine system is refined for the tiny cartridge, with seamless loading and lightningfast straight-pull bolt operation. Complete modularity means the Blaser can be tailored to your heart’s desires and stock options include sporters, thumbholes, carbon and walnut, with corresponding prices.
The rifle is fundamentally no more accurate and is reliant on ammo consistency but Blaser’s hammer forged barrels are a delight in operation and the point is perhaps more for this calibre to be an addition to the Blaser owner’s current fleet, rather than a stand-alone rifle.
This rifle truly showcases the thorough nature of thinking ‘outside the box’ to make the tiny .22 work in an R8. It has a class-leading trigger with 650-gram pull weight and if you want lighter, the ATZL is breathtaking at 250-grams! The 22.8” barrel is a bit too long and although similar to the centrefires for handling, it’s not really necessary for a rimfire, unless using iron sights. Mag capacity is 6+1 and you have a de-cocker for safety as well as full mag lock capability.
I’d say this is perhaps the wild card entry on this list but with perfect return to zero, quick-change scope mounts, the Blaser concept is a very different rifle for those attracted to something totally revolutionary in concept, and almost perfectly executed engineering that is ‘reassuringly’ expensive.
Contact: Blaser - www.blaser-group.com
RUGER AMERICAN RIMFIRE LONG RANGE TARGET
Ruger’s American rimfire has been a pleasing design to me and with the long-range format in a heavier, precision rifle-type stock, it’s got a lot going for it. The long, 22”, hammer-forged barrels shoot well but are perhaps longer than necessary. It’s good to see that the manufacturer supply a 20 MOA rail for long range target use.
The black/tan stock is attractive and of a composite build, it avoids rattles and clunks with no firing resonance. The butt pad features spacers and the cheek piece is adjustable. A tactile, stippled finish provides a good grip and a fulllength, aluminium M-LOK accessory rail is embedded into the underside of the forend for accessories, with three solid Allen bolts locking it to the stock.
The 'Marksman' trigger features an inner blade safety and gives a very consistent 1260-gram (44oz.) break, with minimal creep and no discernible grittiness, plus it can be adjusted up to 2200-grams (80oz).
When released, Ruger's BX-10 rotary magazine will drop freely into your hand and reinsertion is similarly unhindered, with mispositioning being impossible. All of Ruger’s high-volume mags are compatible, like the 25-round B-25.
The bolt handle is the single lug of the rear locking action’s 60° lift. There is a 2-position tang safety catch, with forward for FIRE and rear for SAFE. Ruger’s 'Power Bedding, integral bedding block system' is featured within the stocks machined inlet and tubular pillars prevent stock compression.
Overall, a great value rifle. It has all the looks and function on a budget, not quite as slick as some, but certainly just as much fun to use.
Contact: Viking Arms - www.vikingarms.com
SAVAGE B22 PRECISION
Savage was one of the first to get into the chassis rifle centrefire market with rifles like the BA10, and now the B22 is here for rimfires. Their trusted AccuTrigger shows an orange inner blade, enabling assured safety and 99% crisp pulls with about 2mm of overtravel beyond the 600-gram break. The tang mounted safety, below the bolt shroud, pushes forward for FIRE and rear for SAFE.
The button-rifled, 1:16” twist rate barrel is ideal at 18” long, with a chunky 20.3mm muzzle completing the parallel profile. It's finished matte black and is fitted to the receiver via a headspace controlling barrel nut. The cone-shaped breech face directs ammunition lead and lubricant smears away from the bolt face.
Savage’s MDT aluminium chassis fully floats the barrel. The pistol grip shows a medium, ambidextrous palm swell, plus is spaced for better reach away from the trigger group, offering better comfort. The cheek piece is adjustable and so is the length of pull (12.75-13.75”). The firm recoil pad shows ribs for grip, that comfortably seats the rounded profile securely into your shoulder pocket. A bag rider/butt hook underneath offers the required functionality and location for additional accessories. No rear sling point was evident, not even moulded in, which might be the only caveat of the whole rifle.
Savage has supplied an ergonomically superb rifle, modest in dimensions but wide-ranging in capability, with a good grip and quiet bolt operation if hunting. Like its Ruger countryman, the Savage is an excellent entry-level precision rimfire and for those loving the chassis looks, it's a good choice, with a reliable rotary magazine and supplied Picatinny rail for mounting large, long-range optics.
Contact: Edgar Brothers - shootingsports. edgarbrothers.com
CZ 457 LONG RANGE PRECISION
The new CZ 457 impressed me. The fundamentals of the rear locking action are that it can accept interchangeable barrel kits in any rimfire calibre as the 455 did, but the bolt handling dynamics themselves and adjustable trigger are a step straight to the future. That aside, the availability of multiple stock formats allows the action and barrel to become suited to your needs and geometry for sporting needs, yet the LRP was breathtakingly eye-opening as a precision long range rimfire. I found the inherent design and innovation incredibly pleasing and somewhat inspiring, in a world where technological improvement and modest pricing rarely coincide.
The rifle comes with a match chambered fluted barrel, a muzzle brake and a 25 MOA rail, which are required features for realistic long range shooting. The stock shows an adjustable length of pull and the angular position of the recoil pad can also be altered. This rimfire is not designed for the obsession of 'accuracy' on paper, but ergonomic application to the human controlling it.
The bolt shows a 60° lift and an oversized rubber ball tip. The striker weight has been reduced 33%, to minimise discernible momentum when it fires and there's no bolt handle jump either. The firing pin’s chisel tip shows a flat 'brow' to interface with the outer breech, limiting travel and likely extending the firing pin’s life. Bolt manipulation is light and fast, with zero disturbance transferred into the rifle’s point of aim. The ability to reload quickly without disruption was appreciated, allowing shot strings to be performed more rapidly between wind intervals.
Contact: Sportsman Gun Centre - www.sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
ANSCHUTZ 1761 RIFLE, WALNUT THUMBHOLE STOCK
Anschutz’s latest 1761 is a premium walnut stocked rifle. It shows a long forend as well as length of pull, making it ideal for taller shooters and precision shooting from prone.
The bolt shows three symmetrical lugs and a ‘QPQ’ coating for one of the smoothest actions on the market, with superb, fingertip light bolt handling and controlled ammunition feed to the chamber. The 18” barrel choice is optimum for the .22 LR cartridge at longer ranges.
One downside is the smaller mag capacity at 5-shots, from what is quite a large, polymer base magazine, whose external dimensions don’t continue internally. However, if you want the finest, modern, straight-grained walnut stock layouts and blued steel, the Annie is hard to beat.
A lighter sporting stock variant is available at a lower price and doesn’t sacrifice left side geometry. It would be my preference as it allows ambidextrous shooting from the best available support position at the time of the shot. There isn’t a dedicated left-hander.
Anschutz match triggers are of a high, competition standard and fully adjustable. Here, weighted at 815-grams, with single-stage pull, I had no desire to tinker with perfection on this gloriously predictable unit. The reach to the vertically grooved, 8mm wide blade within its spacious guard, was excellent.
The free-floating barrel remains so in all conditions, but the lightly oiled stock finish showed water spots and swelling after trips out in the rain, so would benefit from beefing up from the factory.
Overall, a definite go-to gun for precision prone rimfire and taller shooters wanting classic materials with updated styling, combining old and new.
Contact: RUAG Ammotec UK - www.ruag.co.uk