I’m sure that just about every one of us owns at least one .22 rimfire rifle, but with most of our attention being focused on big game hunting, sooner or later our little .22s are relegated to gathering dust at the back of our gun safes. And that’s too bad, really, because for most of us these guns were the catalyst for developing our passion for hunting in the first place.
Among our domestic manufacturers, Ruger has always been fairly well represented in the .22 rimfire market, but as the years have passed, the prices for those guns has increased to where there is no difference between the price of their Model 77/22 and their Model 77 Hawkeye centerfire rifle. In fact, the least expensive model in the 77/22 series in .22 LR carries an MSRP of $899; the other five models go for $969! In contrast, there are four Model 77s in the Hawkeye series that are genuine big game rifles in every sense of the word, yet cost no more than the least expensive 77/22.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the 77/22 and 77/17 series rifles aren’t worth those prices, for they were designed and are built to the same high standards as Ruger’s centerfire rifles. However, I think most people find it anomalous that a manufacturer’s rim and centerfire rifles are priced the same. I don’t think that situation exists with any other gun manufacturer.
Anyway, two years ago Ruger decided they could no longer ignore the much larger budget/entry level centerfire rifle market. After all, Remington has its Model 770, Savage it Axis, Mossberg its ATR, Marlin its X7, all of which are priced in the 400-dollar range. So two years ago Ruger introduced the American, a bolt-action centerfire rifle that carries an MSRP of $449.
It proved to be a highly successful decision for Ruger, enough so that this year they’ve done the same thing in the bolt-action rimfire field. Called the American Rimfire, the new gun carries a strong family resemblance to its centerfire big brother. The bolt shroud and the rear of the receiver slope gently to the rear to blend seamlessly with the top of the grip to create a silhouette just like that of the American CF. It’s the same with the stock; it’s a black, injection molded job with the same lines and grip panels of its big brother. It also employs the same steel V-block system that provides consistent bedding dynamics for the receiver, while the barrel is free floated. The two-position safety is conveniently located on the tang.
The American Rimfire will be offered in .22 LR and .22 WMR. Whether it’s stout enough to digest the .17 HMR and the new Winchester .17 WSM that operate at 26,000 and 33,000 psi, respectively, we’ll have to wait and see. If it is, we’ll surely see these super .17s added to the list of the American Rimfire’s chamberings.
The example sent us for T&E was the Standard model chambered in .22 LR, and as it came from the box measured 41 inches in overall length with its 22-inch barrel, and weighed six pounds on the nose. There are several salient features that distinguish this rifle. For one, the gun comes with two butt section stock modules, one with a comb height meant for use with the open sights provided, and one with a higher, Monte Carlo-style comb for use with a scope. There is also a Compact version of this gun, which comes with a stock module that has a 12-1/2-inch pull, an 18-inch barrel and weighs just 5-1/4 pounds. For $19.95 an accessory stock module is available that enables one to have all four of the possible options. All that’s required to switch modules is to remove the rear sling swivel, pull the one off and replace it with the other.
The receiver is grooved to accept standard 3/8-inch tip-off rings for scope mounting, but is also drilled and tapped for Weaver #12 bases, so scope-mounting options are virtually unlimited. Also standard is the same user-adjustable Marksman trigger as found on the CF version that can be set from 3 to 5 pounds. It also uses the same flush-fitting rotary magazine as Ruger’s semi-auto 10/22 and 10/17 semi-auto rimfire rifles.
Bolt rotation is only 60 degrees, so there’s plenty of clearance for the hand if a scope is mounted. Unlike most .22s, the bolt is removed via a separate release that doesn’t require pulling the trigger to withdraw it. Iron sights consist of a Williams fiber optic front, and a folding, fully adjustable “V” notch rear.
The American Rimfire carries an MSRP of $329, which is approximately one-third the price of Ruger’s Model 77/22.
Set Trigger. The gun is based on the recently introduced Model 455 action, which features barrel interchangeability between .22 LR, .22 WMR and .17 HMR. The barrels, which slip fit into the receiver, are secured with two rearward-angled hex-headed machine screws. A flat milled into the breech end just below the chamber must align with a corresponding shelf in the receiver for the barrel to fully seat and allow the locking screws to engage, so barrel switching is virtually idiot proof.
The stock is of a tri-color wood laminate of alternating brown/green/black veneers, which CZ calls Forest Camo. It’s quite attractive, and like all TH stocks, highly functional. The forend is a nice, hand-filling flat oval in cross section and vented with three elongated holes at either side of the free floating semi-bull barrel. There are two swivel studs up front for simultaneous attachment of a sling and bipod. The stock, along with the fluted, semi-bull barrel that measures 20-5/8 inches long and .865-inch at the muzzle, give this gun a highly distinctive can-do look.
We had the opportunity of examining this particular model chambered in .17 HMR, with an accessory barrel in .22 LR. Switching barrels took about three minutes, and point of impact changed less than 1-1/2-inch at 50 yards. The single set trigger was a joy to use, but to set it took three men and a boy. In fact, I couldn’t set it by simply pushing forward with my trigger finger, as is customary. It was just too stiff, so I had to place my thumb behind it to muster enough strength to push it forward. Once set, however, it took a mere five ounces to light the fire, and it broke like a glass sliver.
This model joins eight other models in the 455 line, which next year will grow to 11, once the transition from an earlier model is complete. Like all CZ firearms — rifles, shotguns and handguns — they are a product of Ceska Zbrojovka located in Uhersky Brod, Czech Republic, the largest small arms manufacturing facility in the world. The buildings alone occupy over 200 acres! If you’re not familiar with their products, check `em out at www.cz-usa.com. This company produces one of the best and most affordable dangerous game rifles on the market today in the form of their CZ 550 Safari Magnum.– Jon R. Sundra