If you are in the market for a .22 LR semi-automatic rimfire, Savage's thumbhole offering is a rifle well worth considering, says Bruce Potts
Here in Britain we are a little thin on the ground when it comes to good semi-automatic .22 rimfires for vermin control. The old stalwarts were the Ruger 10/22, the odd smattering of Anschütz and CZ models and the excellent Remington 597.
Savage’s new range of A22 semi-auto rimfires, available in .22 LR WMR, has several options and offers a decent .22 semi-auto. I tested the Target model with varmint-profiled, short-fluted and threaded barrel and laminate thumbhole stock, imported by Edgar Brothers.
- When you pick up the A22 it is instantly recognisable as a Savage as it has that characteristic longer-than-average action, circular barrel tightening nut and Accutrigger systems.
- It is quite a handy rifle despite the long action, as the overall length is 35.5in — this is largely due to the shortening of the barrel to a sensible 16in and a length-of-pull of 13.75in.
- It is not too heavy either, at just over 7lb, and with the laminate wood stock it handles well whereas the light synthetic-stocked versions are decidedly muzzle heavy.
- The overall finish is matt blue — hunter-friendly, non-reflective and easy to clean.
- The action is carbon steel and drilled/tapped for separate scope bases. I had the standard two-piece Weaver type for universal fitting, but a one-piece better suited to night-vision kit can be used.
- At 5½in, the action seems unnecessarily long, but there is a large polymer rear section or bolt shroud at the back where the trigger engagement and sear operation takes place from the reciprocating bolt action on this semi-auto rimfire blow-back operating design.
- The right side of the action is milled away for 4.75in, allowing easy access to the breech, and the hard-chromed bolt itself is 3.5in long. You have a spindle-type profiled blued bolt handle and hollowed-out end with a single claw for extraction. A small sprung-steel ejector set in the action base goes through the bottom of the bolt as it moves rearward and hits the spent cartridge’s rim to eject.
- I have reviewed Savage’s Accutrigger system many times before. It is a good trigger, both adjustable and safe to use with the inset extra trigger-blade that needs to be depressed at the same time as the main trigger to fire the A22. It is crisp with little drag and broke at 3.55lb on test. The safety catch is set into the polymer trigger-guard and is the typical cross-bolt “block the trigger” unit, which works fine.
- As it is a semi-auto, you need a few more rounds to the magazine, and so Savage has opted for a 10-round rotary magazine system that means the magazine is small and does not project under the belly of the A22. It is a bit fiddly — you have to push down hard to load the rounds and the magazine release catch, which is part of the magazine itself, needs a healthy shove to get it to click into place.The small lever in front of the safety holds the bolt open when depressed.
- The barrel is perfect for a semi-auto hunting arm as it is fairly short at 16in with a 20mm diameter at the muzzle, so quite heavy. This is compensated for by six shallow flutes cut into the barrel surface that run 5¼in along its length. These are more decorative than functional though. The muzzle is threaded for ½in UNF and has a nice undercut and slight tapered crown which are good for accuracy.
- The laminate thumbhole stock is my favourite and recognisable as a Boyds’ design. This US maker supplies a lot of brands with its stocks. The laminate is highly practical as it has the feel of wood with good balance but does not suffer from warpage. It is also sturdy, being made from epoxied layers of laminated black and grey wood strips.
- There is no chequering but it is not needed as the thumbhole design offers a good hold and the fore-end is wide and flared to accommodate the supporting hand well. There are also three vents cut through the sides that reduce weight.
- With semi-autos you not only need to test accuracy, the most important factor — you can’t eat what you don’t hit — but also functionality and reliability, which are key to the operating mechanism of any semi-auto.
I gathered all the types of rimfire ammo I could muster. First up was the reliability test, as most semis can hang up from the magazine when chambering another round, or fail to eject due to less inertia to fully cycle the action.
All the high-velocity ammunition cycled flawlessly. The best round was the Remington Cyclone, followed by CCI’s Velocitor and Stingers, Federal HV 31-gr and then finally RWS HV. Velocity and energies were, respectively: 1,192fps/123ft/lb, 1,341fps/160ft/lb, 1,563fps/173ft/lb, 1,372fps/130ft/lb and 1,244fps/138ft/lb. Best accuracy, hands down, went to the RWS HV ammunition, which shot 0.65in groups at 50 yards.
However, most end users will be using this Savage with subsonics and with sound moderator fitted. Again, I selected a good range of ammunition to reflect what is available and what works best. Semis and subsonic loads can be fickle partners due to the lower energy generated which may not cycle the action reliably.
I was amazed at how reliable all but the low-velocity RWS subsonics were. These shot 967fps for 83ft/lb energy with 0.95in five-shot 50-yard groups but suffered several non-loadings, which was a shame.
The other subsonics functioned fine — Savage has set the recoil springs for the bolt at a weight to suit these rounds as well as the HV rounds.
Best accuracy from the subsonics went to the Winchester 42-gr Max at 0.65in at 50 yards which, for a semi, is very good. The round also reliably achieved a velocity of 1,074fps for 108ft/lb.
Eley’s Subsonic with 38-gr lead hollowpoint bullet shot 0.75in groups at 1,028fps and 89ft/lb.
Finally, the CCI Segmented ammunition was reliable with a consistent 1,082fps velocity and shot 0.80in 50-yard groups.
As with any semi-auto rimfire, you need to keep the A22 clean as the action can become gummed up with lead, unburnt powder and residue.
- Manufacturer: Savage
- Mode:l A22 Target Thumbhole
- Type: Semi-auto
- Overall length: 35.5in
- Barrel length: 16in, threaded ½in UNF
- Calibre: .22 LR, 22WMR option
- Finish: Blued steel
- Weight: 7lb
- Magazine: Detachable 10-shot rotary
- Stock: Black/grey laminate thumbhole
- Length of pull: 14in
- Trigger: Accutrigger
- Safety: Lever type
- Importer: Edgar Brothers, tel 01625 613177
Savage always seems to be a bit OTT, with its rimfire action sizes being disproportionate to the round it uses, but the handling and build quality are good, helped by the AccuTrigger system and decent button-rifled barrel. The generic Boyds thumbhole stock can be seen on many rimfires, both American and European. It is a firm favourite and certainly boosts the A22 Target Thumbhole with regards to handling, feel and usability out in the field.
Overall, it is a nice rimfire and reliable with the test ammo, which is unusual. If you are in the market for a semi-auto rimfire, it is worth considering the A22.
- Accuracy: Handled a variety of ammunition well 17/20
- Handling: Felt solid in the hand 17/20
- Trigger: Accutrigger system helps here 16/20
- Stock: Laminate and thumbhole design is practical 17/20
- Value: Nice alternative to the norm 17/20
In the field
I loaded up with the Winchester 42-gr Max subsonics for field work because these have proven to be good in the rimfires I have tested of late and their large hollowpoint expands well.
First, I had several friends shoot the A22 to get a more rounded idea of what was good and bad. All said they liked the stock and overall size of the A22, but many weren’t keen on the magazine and AccuTrigger. However, everyone was impressed with the way the A22 digested a variety of subsonic and high-velocity ammunition — this is important if your local gunsmith does not stock a particular brand.
I fitted a Bushnell BM350 4-12x40mm scope with bullet drop compensating reticle, which is useful when shooting a .22 LR with subsonic ammunition. Rabbits are my usual quarry for this type of rifle, but the wet weather had kept them indoors, so I headed for the woods for a spot of grey squirrel and corvid shooting.
I did not have to worry about the wet leaves and raindrops as the A22 shrugged them off. Taking care to ensure a safe backdrop, I dropped a squirrel with a headshot and the A22 had its first kill.
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If you are in the market for a semi-auto rimfire, it is worth considering the A22.