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We think the Montana manufacturer’s Model 36 topples turkeys and rims rams better than models from Anschütz and Kimber—but you pay for what you get.

 

Smallbore Hunting Silhouette Rifle competition is a deceptively difficult sport. To begin, hunter-rifle silo shooters must use tapered-barrel, sporter-style rimfires with single-stage trigger pulls no lighter than 2 pounds, whereas bullseye position shooters can essentially compete with anything they can carry. Also, silo adherents note, their entire event is shot in the standing position without the benefit of a supportive leather coat, and they fire under compressed per-shot time limits. And though they admit their targets seem to be big enough to topple easily, they point out that at corresponding distances, the metal chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rams would equate to about an 81/2-ring hold on conventional 50-yard or 100-yard paper targets.

Nonetheless, some aficionados of siluetas metalicas believe they don’t get their due as good shooters, even though some of the best .22 rifle competitors, such as Lones Wigger, and topnotch highpower shooters, such as David Tubb, enjoy and participate in .22 silo rimfire matches. Some silo shooters also believe they get the short end of the stick when it comes to equipment, pointing out what they perceive as a lack of good, lightweight rifles capable of making the 81/2-pound weight limit (with scope) for the hunter-class guns.

However, a recent test we conducted at the outdoor offices of Performance Shooter magazine suggest that this last complaint isn’t true. We acquired three expensive .22 rifles that make the weight and design restrictions imposed on hunter-silo guns and tested them head to head in a metal-banging showdown. Overall, we found well-made products ranging in price from about $800 suggested retail up to $1,600.

The trio of high-end products we tested were the Cooper Model 36 Featherweight, which carries a suggested list of $1,595 dollars; the Kimber Model 82C Classic, which widely retails for $785; and the Anschutz 1416D Classic, which lists for $785. Of the set, we preferred the Cooper overall because it shot very accurately and showed superior mechanical assembly and feel. Following are more detailed criticisms and insights about the rifles.

Anschutz 1416D Classic
We bought this detachable box–magazine bolt-action .22 LR for $785. It has a blued 221/2-inch barrel with a 1-in-16.5-inch right-hand twist. It comes with swivel studs on the forend and buttstock and open sights. It weighs 51/2 pounds unloaded and without a scope and mounts, leaving plenty of room for the judicious placement of barrel-stabilizing weight on the front of the rifle. It measures 41 inches in overall length and has a length of pull of 14 inches. Drop at the comb is 11/4 inches and drop at the heel is 11/2 inches. The gun comes with a hardwood stock. The grip and the forend are checkered. The receiver is grooved to accept target sights, a handy addition not seen on the other guns. The trigger is a single-stage model, but is adjustable for weight, sear engagement, and overtravel. The safety is located just behind the bolt groove in the stock. The barrel is free-floated in the stock.

We mounted a Nikon 6.5- to 20-power X 44mm AO Lustre riflescope on the receiver using Weaver 1-inch see-through tip-offs. To get the big objective lens to mount, we had to remove the rear sight from its slot in the barrel. We left the hooded, ramp front sight on because it added a little steadying weight to the front of the gun. We also left the swivel studs in for this test.

Evaluating guns for silo use is straightforward: They must feel right in the hand, they must break the shot cleanly, and they must be accurate.

Taking the last point first, the gun grouped well on paper. It shot just under 0.7-inch groups at 40 meters (chickens) and between 0.8 to 1.2 inches on the pigs (60 meters). At 77 meters, turkey groups hovered around 1.2 inches. Ram groups (at 100 meters) fell between 1.3 and 1.9 inches. All of these groups would keep bullets on the steel animal plates when the shooter aimed for the middle of the silhouettes.

As the gun came from the factory, it comfortable to shoot in the standing position. It had enough drop in the stock to allow the shooter to hold an erect head position. However, the grip checkering didn’t do much to help the shooter grasp the rifle, and the satin finish became slick when the shooter’s hand was sweaty, we thought. The gun, while balanced properly for field shooting, was too light out front to slow the muzzle appreciably, we thought. Also, the gun’s black-plastic, checkered butt-plate didn’t afford as good a shoulder grip as the other plates, in our opinion.

The trigger-pull weight out of the box was set at 2.5 pounds. It broke shots unevenly, we thought. On some shots, the trigger showed creep before let-off, and on others, the single stage released the shot crisply. Also, we noted some side-to-side play in the shoe that we couldn’t remove.

We adjusted the trigger to clean up the creep, fine-tune the sear break, and lighten the trigger pull to 2 pounds. Though it appears that some of these adjustments could be made without taking the action out of the stock, we found that course to be impractical. There’s an external adjustment screw in front of the trigger shoe but no hole drilled through the guard that allows access to the screw. The grooved 1/4-inch-wide steel trigger shoe offered a positive gripping surface for the trigger finger, we thought.

Since almost all silo shooters would support the rifle with an ungloved fist, split fingers, palm, or finger bridge in front of the trigger guard, we carefully examined that area to assess how it would affect shooter comfort. The 5/8-inch-wide, fairly flat trigger guard was comfortable to shoot bridge style or resting the gun on the bottom of the palm. But because metal edges on the magazine and the plastic magazine-release button protrude from the bottom of the gun, the gun was uncomfortable to shoot on top of the shooter’s fist, we thought.

The gun fired and positively extracted all the ammo brands we shot. We recorded no misfires with the Anschutz. The single-column five-shot magazine accepted rounds easily and went into battery and released smoothly and consistently. The action fed rounds from the magazine flawlessly. The short, stainless-steel bolt handle, which featured a small bolt-handle ball, was stiff. It caused a sore spot in the shooter’s palm after several dozen rounds.

Cosmetically, the gun was well finished. Its bluing was deep and even, and though the beech stock was unremarkably figured, we found no blems in the clearcoat or problems in the wood itself.

PFS Recommends: There are many things to praise about the Anschutz 1416D Classic. Its Match 64 action shot almost all the ammo brands accurately, and it fed and extracted rounds and hulls consistently. Its light weight (a little over 6 pounds with the scope and rings) gives the shooter plenty of room to modify the gun by adding weight in the stock exactly where he wants it. It was also fairly comfortable to shoot. We recommend the 1416D.

Kimber Model 82C Classic
We bought this clip-fed bolt-action .22 LR for $785, the same price as the Anschutz. It has a blued 22-inch barrel with a 1-in-16 twist. It comes with swivel studs on the forend and buttstock. It weighs 61/2 pounds unloaded and without a scope and mounts. Rigged and ready for action, it weighed 71/2 pounds. It measures 401/2 inches in overall length and has a length of pull of 131/2 inches. Drop at the comb is 1/2 inch and drop at the heel is 1/2 inch. The gun comes with a beautiful claro walnut stock. The grip and the rounded forend feature deep and sharp 18 lines-per-inch checkering. The receiver is drilled and tapped to accept Warne two-piece scope mount bases (WAR5091), which can be difficult to find.

The trigger is a single-stage model, but is adjustable for weight, sear engagement, and overtravel. The rocking-lever safety is located just behind the bolt groove in the stock. The barrel is free-floated in the stock. The action is pillar bedded. The company says the barrel is an air-gauged match-grade tube, and it is screwed into the receiver. There’s also a coil spring–actuated, independent bolt stop and other niceties, including a polished steel grip cap and a red rubber buttplate.

We mounted a Bausch & Lomb 6- to 24-power Elite 4000 riflescope on the receiver using the Weaver bases and Tasco rings. This put the line of sight about 11/2 inches above the centerline of the bore, right at the legal maximum. We also left the swivel studs in.

Based on the data we collected, we can only say we were disappointed in the Kimber’s accuracy. The gun shot Eley Tenex superbly (0.43 inch groups) at 40 meters, but we could get no better than 1.5-inch groups at 100 meters with the same ammo. The Kimber performed very poorly, in our view, with Federal Ultramatch, shooting 1-inch groups at 40 meters and 2.7-inch groups at 100 meters. Similarly, RWS R50 recorded .9-inch groups at the chicken distance and 2-inch groups at the rams. These accuracy readings were in marked contrast to the gun’s factory proof target, which showed that it shot .400-inch groups with R50 at 50 yards. We must acknowledge the possibility that the gun simply didn’t like the ammo lots we shot. Still, we assess accuracy performance on what we see, not what might be.

Besides not shooting particularly well, the gun’s straight stock, which makes the visual lines of the gun classic and attractive, impeded shooter performance, we thought. To get the gun butt to seat in the shoulder, we had to pull the rifle back, which made the trigger-hand sit too far forward on the stock. Also, it felt like the grip should be about half an inch longer to afford more grasping purchase by the trigger hand. To be suited for silo use, it needs more drop in the stock to allow the shooter to bring the gun up to an erect head position without stressing the rest of the position, we thought. When we brought the gun up to natural eyeline, the heel of the rubber buttpad wouldn’t touch the shoulder. To make contact, we had to roll the shoulder forward and up to make contact with the gun. Also, the satin finish became slick when the grip hand became sweaty. The gun, while balanced properly for field shooting, was too light out front to slow the muzzle, we thought. We did like the gun’s rubber buttplate.

As it came from the factory, the trigger was nearly competition ready. It had a crisp break and a trigger-pull weight of 2.5 pounds. With the barreled action out of the stock, we turned one screw on the trigger to take the pull down to the 2-pound lower limit. The 3/8-inch-wide, polished steel trigger shoe offered a positive gripping surface for the trigger finger, we thought.

In the crucial area in front of the trigger guard, we thought the Kimber was more comfortable than the Anschutz. The 7/16-inch-wide, elliptical trigger guard was comfortable to shoot bridge style or on the palm. Also, the magazine sits flush in the magazine well and the front edge of the magazine-release button sits nearly flush, making the gun fairly comfortable to shoot on top of the fist. If we were shooting the gun extensively, however, we would file the raised corners off the magazine release button.

We recorded half a dozen misfires with the Kimber when R50 was used. In all these instances, the firing pin didn’t strike the rim of the cartridge hard enough initially. Recocking the bolt and pulling the trigger again did fire the rounds, however. The single-column four-shot magazine accepted rounds easily and went into battery and released smoothly and consistently. The action fed rounds from the magazine flawlessly.

Cosmetically, the gun was beautifully finished. Its bluing was immaculate, and the walnut stock was nicely figured. The flawless satin clearcoat job had the even sheen of a hand-rubbed oil finish. Unquestionably, the Kimber was the most visually attractive of the firearms in this test.

PFS Recommends: In our view, the Kimber 82C Classic we tested is a Marilyn Monroe gun: Solidly built, looks great, but performs erratically. Still, we appreciate how well the gun is put together: pillar bedding, free-floated barrel, massive, stiff receiver, adjustable trigger, fantastic cosmetics. There is a lot to like about this product.

However, we simply weren’t happy with how it shot. Perhaps the owner could lot-test ammo and find fodder that would shoot in the gun. But in our comparison, it fired 11/2 and 2-inch groups at 100 meters, which isn’t good enough. For hunter-rifle silhouette shooting, we don’t recommend the Kimber 82C Classic.

Cooper Model 36 Featherweight
This clip-fed bolt-action .22 LR retails for around $1,595, more than the Anschutz and Kimber combined. It has a matte-black chrome moly 233/4-inch barrel with a 1-in-16 twist. The barrel has a target-style step crown. The barrel tapers from 0.960 inch at the receiver to 0.650 inch at the muzzle. It comes with swivel studs on the forend and buttstock. It weighs 7 pounds unloaded and without a scope and mounts. Rigged and ready for action, our test gun weighed 8 pounds. It measures 421/2 inches in overall length and has a length of pull of 131/2 inches. Drop at the comb is 1 inch and drop at the heel is 11/2 inches. The gun comes with a matte-black plastic stock with a cheekpiece and raised comb. The grip and the rounded forend feature molded checkering. The receiver is drilled and tapped to accept Millett and Warne two-piece scope mount bases, which can be ordered from the factory. The single-stage trigger is adjustable for weight, sear engagement, and overtravel. The safety is located just behind the bolt groove in the stock. The barrel, which is screwed into the receiver, is free-floated in the stock. The gun’s black rubber buttplate is made by Pachmayr.

We shot the gun using a Leupold 36-power riflescope with an 1/8-minute dot. As the data reflects, we were pleased with the Cooper’s accuracy across the board. The gun shot better at every distance than any of the other guns. Particularly good was its performance at ram distance. The 36 notched 1.03-inch average groups with that ammo at 100 meters.

Darth Vader would like the gun’s utilitarian, black stock and black barrel, but cosmetics mean nothing in competition guns. What counts is how a gun shoots, and in that category, the Cooper had a number of edges.

First among them was the stock. The 11/2 inches of drop at the heel allow the shooter to seat the rubber buttplate comfortably yet firmly in the shoulder while keeping the head erect. No other gun felt as natural in the hands as the Cooper, we thought. The grip was long enough and low enough for the hand, wrist, and arm to line up naturally, and the plastic stock surface afforded a better grip than the Anschutz, we thought. The thickly-tapered gun was muzzle heavy, which most silo shooters prefer.

Out of the box, the trigger was competition ready. It had a crisp break and a trigger-pull weight of 2.2 pounds. It is possible to adjust the trigger by taking the barreled action out of the stock, but we saw no need to do this. The 3/8-inch-wide, polished-steel trigger shoe supplied a positive gripping surface for the trigger finger.

In front of the trigger guard, we thought the Cooper was less comfortable than the Kimber. The magazine doesn’t sit flush in the magazine well, and the edge of the magazine and the magazine-release button protrude out the bottom of the gun. It was very uncomfortable to shoot on top of the fist, in our opinion.

The gun fired all the ammo brands we shot, but its dual extractors didn’t extract them very well. Shooting off the bench, the hulls would wind up spinning around and sitting on top of the magazine ramp. We had to use forceps to pull the loose hulls out after most shots. However, extraction wasn’t a problem in standing. With the butt held down, the hulls would spin out of the receiver opening and fall to the ground. The single-column four-shot magazine accepted rounds easily and went into battery and released smoothly and consistently. The action fed rounds from the magazine without incident.

PFS Recommends: In our view, the Cooper Model 36 Featherweight is pricey, but worth it. In terms of accuracy and shootability, it was the best in this trio, we thought. Its factory stock seems designed to approach the maximum limits in terms of drop, weight, and comb design. Likewise, its barrel has the contours of a sporter, as required by the rules, but the heft of a competition tube.

For hunter-rifle silhouette shooting, we recommend the Cooper Model 36 Featherweight over the Anschutz and Kimber rifles.

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