Three new rimfires from Anschutz, CZ and Tikka offer slick actions and superb accuracy. But which is best? Chris Parkin sets to find out
During the past 18 months, three completely new rifles with action designs set to reinvigorate the rimfire market have been launched. Each is available in .22 RF and .17 HMR to suit the needs of users with an ascending desire from workmanlike utility to deluxe pride of ownership.
Choosing the best new rimfires
All were tested in .17 HMR and share common features such as studs for bipod and sling mounting; short-throw bolts with sub-60° lift angles and stroke close to 40mm for slick operation; detachable magazines; and smooth functionality with ballistic-tipped and hollowpoint ammunition from Hornady.
Testing showed all to perform exactly as advertised in the field so rather than reiterate the features, I’m going to pick out key differences and significant benefits of the different designs. When the mechanics of the rifle show equal capability, it’s accessing that intrinsic accuracy that flatters or frustrates shooters.
All three show a slim comb for ideal vertical head position and ball-bolt knob handle with a left-side release catch, but none yet have left-handed variants. Similarly positioned two-position safety catches nestle in a cut-out on the stock behind the bolt handle, with controlled feed driving each centrally exposed round from the magazine. They all feature 11mm dovetails for scope mounting and ½in UNF threading at the muzzle for a sound moderator.
Tikka T1x MTR
- I first tried the Tikka T1x MTR, designed to seamlessly blend mechanically with Tikka’s T3x polymer stocks and modular accessories.
- A detachable almost flush fitting magazine is a key benefit, with 10-round capacity rather than the five rounds as standard on the other two.
- A crisp, single-stage trigger offers 1kg to 2kg adjustability, with fast handling from the light injection-moulded stock, balancing neutrally with an 18.5mm diameter, 406mm/16in barrel that makes the rifle compact even with a moderator fitted — perfect for shooting from any improvised position and convenient in the cab of a vehicle.
- After long-term use, I have judged this rifle and its price as the benchmark around which others now have to be judged. One downside was the short length of pull in the stock with a smooth hard polymer butt-plate, yet the compatibility with the Tikka range allows thicker rubberised replacements to be screwed in their place for a better fit.
- The flip side is that, without any irreversible mechanical changes, this rifle is without doubt the most suitable for smaller and/or younger shooters looking for serious capability to grow with them and last a lifetime.
- It has worked flawlessly in all seasons and weather conditions, retaining good grip on the stock’s moulded stippling. The magazine is the easiest and fastest to load, with double the capacity. Crucially, it slots into place in the underside well with the least amount of fumbling.
- The matt finish blued barrel has kept its sheen with an oily cloth wiped over it and fended off short term exposure to moisture from each outing. It is no deluxe ‘safe queen’ but the looks and durability at low cost take the hard knocks and keep on kicking.
- Average muzzle velocities of 2,548fps for the 17-gr and 2,462fps for the 20-gr maintained consistency after 100 rounds of running in, with no problem maintaining sub-MOA performance on target and no drifting as the barrel fouled. It preferred a light cleaning every 50 rounds but wasn’t disappointing if it was missed.
- The 7mm wide vertically ribbed steel trigger-blade was utterly effective bare handed or in gloves to maintain feel in cold conditions and the bolt will not jam when handled at speed.
- Tikka highlights: Magazine capacity, durability, compact handling.
CZ 457 Royal
- Many shooters will have cut their teeth on a CZ 452/3/5 or Brno rifle, whose pedigree is shared. But now that CZ has launched its fundamentally new 457 action, only echoes of the past remain. Other than the interchangeable barrel system that appeared in the 455 — requiring five minutes to remove the barrelled action from the stock — everything has been updated with a slicker bolt and safety catch with forward for fire like almost every other rifle.
- A totally new trigger unit hides within the stock with no more need to tweak and tune them with Heath Robinson shims and spacers. This adjustable unit shows a clean break, with up-to-date machined sears and precise engagement.
- Calibre options cover the main bases, with .22 LR and . 22 WMR fitting the same action and bolt, with a range of stock options that will no doubt increase as time goes by.
- The Royal model is a lightweight Sporter with a slim 14mm diameter, 525mm/20.7in barrel and a full-sized 14in length of pull that gives similar balance, feel and handling ergonomics to a full-sized, if not quite full weight, centrefire.
- Plenty of scope mounting space atop the action and underneath, CZ’s familiar steel five-round magazine is supplied with 10-round extended units also available.
- Fit and finish on the walnut stocks have been significantly improved, with the barrel central to the free-floating fore-end and far greater attention paid to the action seating, with bonded pillars positioned precisely within the neatly machined inlet.
- This rifle sits well at a midpoint between its two peers, delivering similar capability on target and reliable accuracy in the field.
- It has better usability thanks to the stiffer stock layout than older CZs, which were a little prone to the action shifting in the inlet.
- The straight-grained walnut with tiger stripes was the prettiest on test and suited the graceful lines of the rifle, with a delicate Monte Carlo cheekpiece to add to the looks, if of no particular ergonomic benefit.
- CZ highlights: Fantastic looks, completely new and improved action and trigger, with pillars in the stock.
A: The conventional hollow point lead bullet fired by the .22 rifle has stood the test of time and is still immensely popular. However,…
You’ve finally decided to buy a high-powered rimfire rifle, but which one’s best for you?
Anschütz 1761 Classic
- The 1761 is available in 18in and 20in (457mm or 515mm) barrel formats with either the standard stock here or a thumbhole. Though costing almost double the price, the subtle details are here, particularly a symmetrical three-lug bolt.
- This balance has been deemed crucial to the brand’s highly successful competition history.
- The single-column magazine is significantly longer, even though of the same five-round capacity as the CZ. With a release button inside the front of the trigger-guard, unlike the other two, it isn’t quite as easily accessed with a single hand when changing magazines.
- The bolt’s steel arm is capped with a warm-to-the-touch 25mm polymer knob, directly above and to the right of where your index finger sits in the front of the trigger-guard, for fantastically slick performance on the reload.
- A central position for the bolt handle along the length of the shaft — similar to the CZ’s — balances exerted forces to minimise the chances of leverage and friction interrupting the silky operation. Jamming the bolt on its 39mm travel is impossible and it complements the thorough integration of its underside profile with the magazine’s feed lips.
- It seems odd having the long polymer extension on the magazine without using the opportunity to store extra ammunition within that space, but the operation of the bolt with its QPQ coating — quench, polish, quench, a type of nitrocarburising case-hardening that minimises corrosion — has that little touch of outright winning magic.
- The trigger also shows the best feel and adjustment capability, but I will reserve my greatest compliment until last. As can be seen from the data, barrel length on the .17 doesn’t seem to have a critically significant effect on muzzle velocity, but in my experience improves consistency in the powder burn for better accuracy with fewer fliers.
- Though all rifles have preferences as to brand and specific bullet type, .17 HMR always shows defined fliers compared with centrefire calibres.
- The Anschütz held a slight edge, with core groups on paper of sub-10mm at 100m, with less susceptibility from fliers. The gun is available chambered for .22 RF and WMR as well as the .17 HMR seen here, and the barrel can be removed or replaced, though using a gunsmith is recommended.
- Anschütz highlights: The slickest mechanics, and a slight edge controlling fliers from the intermediate-length barrel.
None of these rifles will disappoint any owner, it's simple a case of balancing your own needs and requirements with some subtle benefits not easily seen when they re alone. For a working tool the Tikka is faultless, but the other two bring more graceful joy and mechanical delight to the party.