Could this heavyweight semi-auto have what it takes to succeed the Ruger 10/22 as the go-to rimfire? Bruce Potts finds out.
The Savage A22 Pro Varmint semi-automatic rimfire rifle is Savage Arms’ answer to the Ruger 10/22, which has long dominated this area of the market. The A22 is available in many guises but here we have the Pro Varmint stock version, giving a distinct heavy varmint profile.
Like the Ruger 10/22, the A22 has a 10-shot rotary magazine. While it is a different design, it still offers a reliable feed mechanism dependent on the ammunition chosen.
Better still is Savage Arms’ AccuTrigger system, which is safe and superior to many American rimfire triggers, and the action utilises the easy clean blowback/inertia-type operating system.
The A22 Pro Varmint weighs 7.2lb, which is quite heavy, and the 22in barrel is excessively long, especially when a sound moderator is fitted. However, the barrels Savage uses are always accurate.
Overall, while it is a little ungainly and heavy, the Pro Varmint stock is well designed and feels like it will handle all the abuse that this rimfire hunter will no doubt take in the field.’
Need to know
- Manufacturer Savage Arms
- Model A22 Pro Varmint
- Action Semi-automatic
- Magazine 10-shot rotary
- Calibre .22 LR
- Barrel 22in fluted, ½ UNEF thread
- Stock Wood with black, textured coating
- Finish Matt blued
- Trigger Adjustable AccuTrigger
- Weight 7.2lb
- Overall length 41.45in
- Price £734
- Importer Edgar Brothers 01625 613177
Let’s address the stock first. Made by Boyds, which is famous for its laminate aftermarket stocks, it looks like a synthetic stock but is in fact wood coated with a tough paint finish. Subtly textured with a semi-matt black colour, this finish adds grip and totally weatherproofs the wood beneath — clever. It does make the A22 heavy and handling suffers, though the ergonomic design compensates for this. There is a typical square profiled rear section with underneath hook for additional grip and a thin rubber recoil pad that is non-adjustable but tactile. The length of pull is quite good at 14in and the pistol grip is very vertical, which I like as it gives a more natural, controlled hold.
Up front, the rounded semi-beavertail fore-end is long enough for a steady grip and a platform for a bipod if fitted. Action The semi-automatic action is all steel, which contributes to the overall weight, and has a non-reflective and hard-wearing matt blued finish. I like the one-piece Picatinny rail as it allows sufficient length for any scope or night-vision/thermal sight to be fitted, removed and refitted comfortably and accurately.
The action design is the universal inertia or blowback type where the bolt weight and spring pressure keep the action closed until firing, where the energy released is transferred into rearward movement thus cycling the action.
This the Savage does well and it has a bolt hold open catch sited just to the right of the trigger-guard that is handy for clearing a jam or for cleaning purposes. The bolt has a small but comfortable cotton reel-type operating handle; a slight enlargement wouldn’t hurt.
The 10-shot rotary-type magazine sits flush with the action and has an integral release catch at its rear that is easily accessed for removal. Loading is a little fiddly so I would have a spare already loaded in case you need one in a hurry.
The AccuTrigger uses a safety blade set within the trigger-blade that has to be depressed otherwise the A22 will not shoot. It is adjustable but factory set at 3lb so pretty good for a semi-auto rimfire. A cross-bolt safety — operational only with a cocked action — in the front of the trigger-guard completes the firing mechanism.
The 22in barrel is too long, in my opinion. A length of 16in to 18in would be better, especially as the barrel is threaded for the ½ UNEF thread pitch where a sound moderator attachment simply exacerbates the length issue.
Its heavy semi-Varmint profile helps steady the aim and heats slowly, though the flutes cut to the surface, while reducing weight a little, are cosmetic only.
This is definitely on the heavier side of rimfire semi-automatic rifles, with good reliability and accuracy when teamed with the right ammunition. It shot very well indeed. It still needs a trim down, and if you prefer a lighter rifle try the Savage A22 Pro Varmint in synthetic stock trim.
- Accuracy A tad fussy but good overall 16/20
- Handling Barrel a little too long 16/20
- Trigger AccuTrigger system is good for a semi-auto 16/20
- Stock Solid, rugged and weatherproof 17/20
- Value Reliable and very good in parts 16/20
- Overall score 81/100
Field testing the Savage A22 Pro Varmint
Semi-automatic rimfires are all about reliability. Accuracy is also key, but if they fail to reload you might as well buy a bolt action. I sighted in the A22 at 50 yards, initially fitted with the supplied Bushnell Compact scope and SAK moderator, and it was hefty but very steady to shoot. The A22 feels more like a centrefire in the hand, but that extra weight makes it feel totally dead to shot and you can see those slow subsonics travelling downrange.
Being primarily a hunting gun, use with a moderator dictates subsonic ammunition. Some semis struggle with low-velocity ammunition but the A22 was not fickle at all – even the slow RWS and Norma subsonics at below 950fps velocity were reliable.
Accuracy was a little pickier but the best of the bunch were the Winchester 42-gr Max and Eley 38-gr subsonics. Five-shot groups of 0.95in and 1in at 50 yards respectively was not too shabby, with an average of 1,031fps and 99ft/lb energy for the Winchesters and 1,007fps and 86ft/lb for the Eleys.
Loaded up with the Winchester Max loads and zeroed in at 50 yards, the A22 was used more off the bipod to ambush rabbits that emerged into the morning sunshine and clinically despatched a game bag full on its first outing.
Though it is a little heavy, the Pro Varmint stock is robust and well designed