For many generations, the .22 rimfire rifle has been a staple in the shooting world and the starting point of choice for teaching the youngsters of the next generation. And as a small-game and plinking tool, the .22 also remains popular with older and more experienced shooters. As the sophistication of this latter group of hunters has grown, their tastes for higher-end small bores has likewise increased, which has meant climbing prices for top-performing .22s. How much you spend on a .22 rifle is up to you—or at least up to the limits of your credit card. At the top of the price scale, $700 and up, are bolt-action rifles from manufacturers like Anschutz.
The appeal of these small bores is their supposedly better accuracy, good looks, and adjustability, especially in the trigger group. The .22 Long Rifle bolt-action rifles included in this test fall into the middle and upper end of the price scale. They are a Sako Finnfire, an Anschutz Model 1416D, and a Browning A-Bolt 22. Here’s what we found when we evaluated these long guns in contemporaneous field and range testing;
Anschutz Model 1416D
Though Anschutz is best known for its small bore target rifles, this German firearms manufacturer also makes sporting rifles in rimfire calibers, of which the Model 1416D is an all-steel .22 LR bolt-action rifle that comes in two versions, the Classic and the Custom.
The Classic features a straight comb and rounded forend, and it is the model we tested. The 1416D comes with the Anschutz Match 64 action and a free-floating barrel. These proven accuracy attributes produced the most consistent, tightest groups included here. Eley Benchrest Gold produced the best five-shot groups of the test, averaging 0.70 inches for 50 yards.
A left-hand action, extra magazines, and a single-shot adaptor are available. Except for its white bolt, all of our Model 1416D Classic’s metal parts had a uniform, polished blue finish. Metal-parts fitting was excellent. The blued-steel magazine, which featured a red-plastic follower and a black-plastic floor plate, was also expertly crafted.
The black-plastic butt plate and the steel swivel studs were skillfully installed. Checkering on the forend and grip was neatly cut. The Model 1416D’s open sights consisted of a hooded, front post with a bead-shaped top on a grooved ramp and a Lyman fold-down rear with a white triangle under its U-shaped notch. However, since the top of the receiver was grooved, we equipped the rifle with a Burris Fullfield 3-9x scope using Warne brand rings.
The Classic’s balance point was about a half-inch in front of the ejection port, providing reasonably good muzzle stability without slowing target acquisition. Due to this gun’s half-inch longer length of pull, we thought it shouldered more naturally than its competitors. Once shouldered, the checkering on the butt plate’s face kept it solidly in place. The straight comb, the 1.61-inch-wide forend, and the 1.32-inch-grip were the thinnest of the test. However, none of our shooters had a problem establishing a proper stock weld and a secure grasp.
Regardless of the ammunition used, this Anschutz’s feeding, ignition, and extraction were flawless. However, ejection was inconsistent. Though our shooters thought the bolt handle was a bit small, bolt movement was the smoothest of the test. The single-column magazine loaded to capacity easy enough, and it inserted and dropped readily from the well.
As set at the factory, we considered this rifle’s adjustable 1/4-inch-wide trigger to be the best of the test. Its pull had a small amount of creep, then let-off smoothly with 2.5 pounds of pressure.
However, this Anschutz’s wood work was only adequate for a $831 rimfire rifle. The one-piece stock was constructed of walnut-stained European hardwood (beech). Its satin finish was uniformly applied, but there were a few bubbles on the bottom edge of the grip.
Also, in our opinion, this rifle’s controls were the least convenient to operate.The bolt release was a small lever on the left rear of the receiver. Pushing it forward while holding the trigger to the rear allowed the bolt to be removed. The magazine release, located behind the magazine well opening, unlocked the magazine when it was rocked forward. This control’s low profile and heavy spring made it hard to manipulate.
The Finnfire, also known as the P94S, is a .22 LR bolt-action rifle intended to mimic the manufacturer’s centerfire TRG-S rifle. This Finnish rimfire features a clamped-in barrel, which is secured by two hex screws, and a 50-degree bolt throw. It’s bolt utilizes a claw extractor and, unlike the other guns in this test, a fixed ejector. A five-round detachable magazine is provided with the gun, and ten-shot mags are sold separately.
In our opinion, this Sako’s construction was disappointing. Its barrel had a uniform, polished blued finish, while the receiver was a dull, matte blue. The bolt shroud, trigger-guard/magazine-well unit and magazine were made of black plastic, a material that none of our shooters considered to be satisfactory on a rimfire rifle that retails for $715. The one-piece stock was made of European walnut with a matte lacquer finish and unattractive, speckled figuring. Its black-plastic butt plate was slightly undersized. Also, wood-to-metal mating wasn’t up to this manufacturer’s standards. The gap along the right side of the free-floating barrel was wider than the space on the left.
Balancing about one-inch in front of the ejection port, the Finnfire was more muzzle heavy than the other guns in this test. Consequently, during aiming, it afforded the best muzzle stability. However, the butt plate’s smooth face was slippery, making it difficult to keep the gun tucked securely into the shoulder. The 1.64-inch-wide forend afforded more than enough gripping area, but those with small hands found the 1.54-inch-wide grip to be overly wide.
One of this rifle’s safety features was a very small cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt. Since this red tab could be seen at all times and protruded only about 1/16 inch when the action was cocked, we found it difficult to tell whether the indicator was protruding or not at a glance. In our view, the gun’s status should be instantly understood. The Finn fire’s bolt had a shorter throw than that of the other two guns included here. But, loaded or empty, this rifle’s bolt was also the hardest to push down into the locked position.
On the plus side, all of this Sako’s controls worked smoothly. Functioning was 100-percent reliable with the three kinds of ammunition we used. Inserting rounds into the plastic, the single-column magazine wasn’t a problem, and it slid in and out of the magazine well freely.
Though the grooved 1/4-inch-wide trigger was adjustable, its movement was excellent straight out of the box. After a minuscule amount of creep, its pull let-off consistently at 2.75 pounds according to our self-recording trigger gauge.
This Sako didn’t come with open sights, but there was an integral dovetail on the top of the receiver for scope mounting. From a sandbag rest, we felt accuracy was acceptable for a rimfire rifle in this price range, as the accompanying table relates. The smallest five-shot average groups, 0.80 inches at 50 yards, were obtained using Eley Benchrest Gold ammunition.
Browning A-Bolt 22
The A-Bolt 22 is a rimfire bolt-action rifle with a 60-degree bolt throw, an A-shaped receiver and a free floating barrel. The Grade I model, which we tested, has plainer wood and metal finish. Our Grade I sample had a steel barrel and receiver that sported a brightly blued finish that matched the aluminum trigger-guard/magazine-well unit’s black finish.
The magazine was made entirely of steel with a flawless, blued finish. The metal-to-metal fit was above average. Our A-Bolt .22 came with optional open sights. The front was a 3/8-inch-tall blade with a bead-shaped top. The fold-down rear had an elevation-adjustable blade with a white triangular and a U-shaped notch. Both were dovetailed to the barrel. This set up afforded an adequate sighting reference, but we used a Burris Fullfield 3-9x scope installed with Weaver tip-off rings for record firing.
As for accuracy, this Browning’s performance earned it a last-place finish in this test. The gun’s tightest five-shot average groups, 1.30 inches at 50 yards, were obtained with Eley Benchrest Gold. In our view, that’s limited accuracy for some small-game hunting, such as treetop squirrel hunting. Other problems included the gun’s one-piece stock, which was made of nicely-grained walnut with rosewood forend and grip caps.
It was nice looking, but its high-gloss finish is impractical for hunting, we believe. Also, it wasn’t equipped with swivel studs.
Nonetheless, the A-Bolt earns a few check marks. Balancing near the front of the ejection port, this Browning’s weight was more evenly distributed than the other guns. Although this afforded the least muzzle stability, shouldering and target acquisition were the fastest.
The flutes (relieved areas) at the front of the comb allowed us to establish a comfortable hand position on the pistol grip. The moderate size of the 1.49-inch-wide grip and 1.61-inch-wide for end enhanced our ability to grasp the gun firmly.
Of the rifles in this test, the A-Bolt 22’s controls were the easiest to reach and operate. Also, this .22 didn’t malfunction, and the bolt had a handy, flattened knob and a shorter-than-normal throw that made it easy to open and close. It operated smoothly with two of the three loads we used. However, when using CCI Stinger ammunition, extra muscle was needed to lock the bolt. Trigger movement was clean but a little heavy. The adjustable, gold-colored trigger itself featured a grooved 3/8-inch-wide face. Its pull had no creep or over travel and let-off crisply at 4 pounds.
Field Tests Recommends
Though the Model 1416D Classic is one of the cheapest Ansch tz rifles available, it is still expensive. This model’s hardwood stock doesn’t make its high price any easier to swallow, but the manufacturer didn’t scrimp on artistry and field performance. We recommend this rifle.
The Sako Finn fire’s accuracy and trigger were more than satisfactory. However, due to its plastic parts and below average wood work, we think this rimfire rifle is overpriced. In our opinion, your money would be better spent on the Ansah tz.
We like the Browning A-Bolt .22’s good looks and ease of handling. However, since its accuracy was marginal in our tests, this rimfire rifle doesn’t merit our stamp of approval.