The 1516D Classic is at the top of the heap in accuracy, looks, and features; we’d pick it over the Ruger K77/22VMBZ and Marlin 882L rifles.
To say that many varminters and plinkers have recently become unabashed fans of the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire cartridge is an understatement. The reason? Many hard-headed shooters have noticed that new guns and loads make this old round perform at levels never dreamed of in the past, and they’ve learned that the .22 WMR’s accuracy has been wrongly maligned, and that it offers hunters a massive gain in performance over the standard .22 Long Rifle. In fact, the high-speed, 30-grain loads offered by CCI and Federal make the rifle almost on par with the classic .22 Hornet in the field.
Over the past two years, I have been shooting a lot with a .22 WMR and found that not only was it powerful enough to anchor small game at 150 yards, but I could predictably hit game at that distance because of the gun’s accuracy. In fact, I have made some shots beyond that distance. The standard .22 Long Rifle’s effective range is substantially less, and its killing power leaves a lot to be desired. For this test, we wanted to see how a price cross-section of the current crop of .22 Mag rifles would perform with the latest ammunition. We acquired a Ruger K77/22VMBZ, which retails for around $490, the Anschutz Model 1516D Classic, which retails for $633.58, and the Marlin Model 882L, which costs under $200.
Based on our test results, we think shooters may reconsider their misconceptions about the .22 WMR’s lack of accuracy and realize rifles that shoot this rimfire round have a lot to offer for varmint hunting, marksmanship training, and plinking.
This is the plain Jane of the .22 WMR bolt guns made today. The L version has a laminated birch stock in a two-tone color configuration and a rubber recoil pad. It measures 41 inches overall and weighs 6 pounds. The barrel is 22 inches long and contains Marlin’s Micro-Groove rifling. It comes with a semi-buckhorn rear sight and hooded ramp front sight, which we thought were horrible. We took them off. That cleaned up the looks of the gun, and it gave us room to mount a scope.
The Marlin’s seven-shot clip, which extends well below the stock, is released by pulling back on the lever just behind the clip. The clip pops free easily, and we found it easy to load. We noticed no feeding problems.
The nonadjustable trigger was mushy with lots of slip and creep. However, once we became accustomed to the way the trigger pulled (a big creep up to a smooth peak and then a quick slip to let-off), it was shootable. Also, the let-off weight was heavy at 41/2 pounds, which we measured on a RCBS Premium Trigger Pull Gauge. The safety is on the right side behind the bolt. It is easy to reach and operate.
Since this gun’s destiny was to shoot varmints, we mounted a 2- to 10-power variable Weaver scope in standard 1-inch tip-off Weaver scope rings. At the range, the first 50-yard group we shot shocked us. It was only .75 inch—with four shots inside a half-inch. Of the five different types of ammunition we shot, three of them shot averages of an inch or under at 50 yards. The CCI Maxi-Mag 40-grain hollow point produced one group that was 0.63 inch, but it was a toss-up between the Winchester Super-X 40-grain hollow points and the CCI loads for accuracy.
PFS Recommends: We were surprised by the Marlin 882L; we didn’t expect it to shoot as well as it did. But it couldn’t match the performance of the Anschutz. For serious shooters, we wouldn’t recommend it—the other two guns are much better overall.
However, if we needed to buy a .22 WMR for a youngster, we would consider the 882L because it sells for less than $200. At that price, it is a lot of gun for the money. We suspect that if Marlin comes out with a heavy-barreled edition (as it did with its Long Rifle version of the same rifle, the Model 880SQ), we might see even better accuracy from a very inexpensive gun.
This is the sexiest version of Ruger’s Model 77/22s. The VMBZ model comes with an attractive laminated stock with a rubber butt pad. The action has a stainless-steel finish that Ruger calls “target gray,” which has a nice matte look to it. The action is beefier than the other two guns in our test, giving the rifle a feel of a larger-caliber rifle. The barrel is 24 inches long and comes without iron sights, but Ruger includes a set of its integral scope rings that clamp right into the top of the action. The magazine is Ruger’s rotary clip design that holds nine .22 WMR cartridges. It is released from the rifle by pressing upward on a latch underneath the gun. With the magazine completely housed in the stock, the gun has a clean appearance, but it does make the magazine more difficult to remove and replace than with the other two guns.
The factory trigger had some creep but broke at about 31/2 pounds. The whole gun, without scope, weighs in at about 7 pounds with an empty clip and no scope.
Most of the Ruger’s ammunition testing was done with a Pentax 6- to 18-power variable scope in high rings we special ordered from Ruger, but we also used a Redfield Widefield Low Profile 2- to 7-power variable with a nickel finish when hunting with the gun. The nickel finish complemented the gray stainless steel finish on the action and barrel. and the scope worked in the rings supplied with the rifle.
One of our biggest complaints about the whole 77/22 line is that the bolt will bump most scopes. If you mount a junker 3/4-inch tube scope on the gun, it clears fine. But shooters today mount 1-inch-tube scopes; unless you use high mounts, the scope may prevent the bolt from operating properly. Even scopes that allow the bolt to function get dinged up by the bolt rub. Ruger obviously recognizes this design problem because it supplies the new Model 77/22 in .22 Hornet with high mounts. Why the company doesn’t fix the bolt throw instead is a mystery.
In accuracy testing, the new Federal Premium ammunition, loaded with a special Sierra 30-grain jacketed bullet, shot the best in this gun.
PFS Recommends: In some ways, the Ruger K77/22VMBZ is our favorite of the three rifles. Its heavy barrel made offhand shooting in the field a joy. The magazine capacity means we had to load less often when we were in the middle of a ground squirrel or prairie dog shoot. We like the looks of the laminated stock, and the fact that it comes with a clean barrel and Ruger’s integral scope mounts. It was very accurate with the Federal Premium 30-grain ammunition, and it’s less expensive than the Anschutz. However, because the Anschutz shot so well with so many brands of ammunition, we would pick the German product over the Ruger.
Anschutz 1516D Classic
A nearly identical counterpart to the Anschutz 1416D Classic tested with other .22 Long Rifle silhouette guns in the April issue of Performance Shooter, the 1516D Classic is in a completely different league from the other two rifles in this test, both in terms of price and quality.
The rifle has a detachable box magazine. It is released by pressing forward on the lever just ahead of the trigger guard. It holds only four rounds of .22 WMR ammunition. This is the fewest of any of the guns we tested. But the short magazine smoothed the gun’s visual line and added little to its bulk. It weighed only 5.5 pounds. Unlike the Ruger, which has a fat forend to accommodate the rotary magazine, or the Marlin, which has a long magazine that protrudes well below the wood, the Anschutz magazine can barely be seen below the stock. It is a perfect complement to this trim field gun, and yet is very easy to insert and remove from the gun.
Its 221/2-inch barrel carries a nice set of iron sights with a hooded ramp front sight and a folding, U-notch adjustable rear sight. While we assume that most shooters will mount a scope on this gun, which is grooved for tip-off scope rings, these are useful iron sights, unlike those found on the Marlin. The action was set into a piece of walnut that was perfectly checkered at the pistol grip with no overruns or flattened diamonds.
The adjustable trigger has weight and sear engagement screws. As the gun came from the factory, there was a fair amount of creep just before the trigger broke. It was also set at about 3 pounds. We were able to adjust the pull weight lighter and eliminate the creep. The pull weight can be adjusted without removing the action from the stock, but to tinker with the sear adjustment, you must disassemble the gun.
We fitted the Anschutz with the same scope and mounts that we used with the Marlin, the Weaver variable in Weaver tip-off mounts. As you can see by the chart, the gun shot almost all ammunition brands well and some loads extremely well. One 1/4-inch group mandated a walk downrange to look at the target in person. None of our testers could believe what they were seeing through the spotting scope.
PFS Recommends: A .22 WMR that shoots 1/4-inch groups: Who would believe it? If price is no object, the Anschutz 1516D Classic is clearly the .22 Magnum of choice in our three-gun test. It was the most accurate rifle, it looked great, had first-class wood-to-metal fit and checkering, and featured an adjustable trigger. We would buy the 1516D Classic.