Issue 40 Four Tactical Rimfire Trainers Compared Rob Curtis 1 Comments, Join the Conversation This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 40 Shoot More, Save More There are few pursuits in life more costly than boat ownership and equestrian competition of any sort. Somehow, precision rifle competition feels like it’s a not-so-distant third place in that ranking of activities. It’s not uncommon to see Precision Rifle Series competitors pulling $5,000 worth of gun and glass from hard cases and shooting $250 worth of ammo during a match weekend. Add travel costs, a weather meter, ballistic computer, shooting bags, ear pro, and on and on. All that and we haven’t even covered the cost of practicing with your 6.5 Costmoor. In an effort to avoid selling plasma, many PRS shooters practice with 22LR ammo. To get the most practical training value out of the .22 round, some competitors build custom guns with rimfire actions mated to centerfire stocks that mimic the handling characteristics of their competition guns. More so-called tactical trainer options have come to market lately with manufacturers offering versions of their bolt-action rimfires in tactical stocks. These factory options might not be clones of a game day gun, but they’re cheaper than cloning one while getting the job done. Testing We picked up four rimfire tactical trainers, all at different price points, and ran each through an identical evaluation process that included shooting about 600 rounds of Eley Club and 200 rounds of Eley Match ammo in each. We ran the guns as they were meant to run, from barricades, 50-gallon drums, and from every position we could improvise on and around a John Deere tractor. For accuracy testing, we wanted to do something different. 22LR is inexpensive, so why stick to our normal five-shot group test protocol? We called up Hornady ballistician Jayden Quinlen and asked what constituted a statistically meaningful round count for an accuracy test. His initial answer was, predictably, “all of them.” Eventually we arrived at 30 rounds as an effective sample size. So, we gave the middle finger to all the three-round groupers and shot 30-round groups at 50-yards. So don’t be alarmed when you see larger than expected group sizes. We Love Cans Aside from the reduced cost of training, 22LR match ammo is pretty quiet. Most, if not all, 22LR match ammo is subsonic to avoid accuracy-robbing instability as the bullet transitions from supersonic to subsonic velocity. So, it makes sense to pacify the neighbors and train suppressed. Ergo, all of the guns we’re looking at have ½-28 threaded muzzles and we put our Thunder Beast Arms 22 Takedown on all of them for most of the evaluation. As noted below, we shot groups with and without the can. CZ 455 Varmint Precision Trainer CZ 455 Varmint Precision Trainer Barrel length: 16.5 inches (1/2-28 threaded) Twist rate: 1:16 Weight: 7.17 pounds (w/ 10-rnd mag) Length: 38.5 inches MSRP: $940 URL: cz-usa.com Notes The 455 VPT was CZ’s astute offering to the practical precision community when it came out less than a decade ago. Up to that point, guys who wanted a 22LR tactical trainer had few choices. So when CZ USA mated its venerable 455 barreled action to a Manners Composite T4 stock, it was an instant hit. The precision world has since moved on to chassis setups, so even with the cutting edge (at the time) carbon fiber and fiberglass composite stock, the 455 VPT almost seems dated. Almost, because the rifle still shoots extremely well. Accuracy The 455’s 30-shot group using Club ammo was within a fly’s breath of the most accurate rifle in our guide, the V-22. Ammo sensitivity is a real thing, and the 455 gave the higher-end Eley Match ammo the Heisman. CZ 455 Varmint Precision Trainer Reliability The 455’s bolt and chamber gave us no problems. Ejection was Metamucil strong and consistent. Bolt guns are much more tolerant of rimfire fouling than semi-autos, but some are more tolerant than others. We didn’t clean need to clean the rifle, even running it with the silencer for 90 percent of our 800 rounds. CZ 455 Varmint Precision Trainer Stock Out of the box, it lacks provision for a full-length bottom rail for barricade stops, tripod plates, and bipods. You can stick some Pic rail on the end using the existing sling stud holes with B&T Industries’ BT017 4-inch rail, as we did. But, if you want to add anything else, you’re heading to drill press city. Action This is where the 455 and I don’t get along. The bolt knob on this thing is for tiny people with tiny hands. The bolt is also the stiffest of the crew. The bolt knob needs some extra oomph to drive it past the halfway mark of its rotation. We found ourselves thumbing the bolt knob, reaching below the trigger guard with our fingers and levering the bolt closed … not ideal. Fortunately, the aftermarket provides. $60 for extended bolt handle improves leverage and allow the gun to be run without breaking your cheekweld to curse. CZ 455 Varmint Precision Trainer The 455 VPT version includes a bridged Picatinny scope base that slides on to the 455’s 11mm dovetail rail and is fixed by four set screws. It’s not a confidence-inspiring setup, and we have to wonder if the thing will ever be level back-to-front. On the plus side, polymer 10-round mags for the 455 are economically priced at $30 apiece. Trigger The adjustable, single-stage trigger comes in at 2 pounds, 13 ounces after dialing in its lightest setting. It feels a little heavy for super fine work, and there’s a few hairs worth of creep. PRO As accurate as guns thrice the price; good aftermarket support CON Small bolt knob and short handle combine with stiff bolt rotation to rob the fun from running this gun; sketchy Picatinny scope rail attachment Kelbly’s Incorporated Arcas .22 LR Rimfire Trainer Kelbly's Arcas .22 LR Rimfire Trainer Barrel length: 18 inches (1/2-28 threaded) Twist rate: 1:16 Weight: 7.1 pounds (w/ empty 10-rnd mag) Length: 36 inches MSRP: $2,600 URL: www.kelbly.com Notes Iain Kelbly wanted a trainer, so he made one. He worked with ze meisters off rrrimfire, Anschütz, to build the ultimate 22LR trainer. He started with the company’s intro-level barreled action, the 1416. It combines the Anschütz 64 Action, an Anschütz 18-inch, button-rifled, hand-lapped, ½-28 threaded barrel, Anschütz 5098 two-stage adjustable trigger and adds Kelbly’s carbon-fiber, centerfire KTS stock. Kelbly’s buys the barreled actions and sends them to Anschütz North America’s custom shop where extraction, ejection, and trigger are tuned to perfection. Kelbly’s sets the barreled action in its KTS stock and beds the action under the chamber and tang. Accuracy The Arcas grouped well enough at 50 yards, but we took it out to 100 yards and shot 20-round groups and logged a 1.8-inch overall group size, of which 2/3rds of the rounds grouped inside 0.93 inches. At 100 yards, a bird fart can ruin a tight 22LR group, so we’re impressed how well this rifle holds groups at practical training distances. Kelbly's Arcas .22 LR Rimfire Trainer Reliability Ian Kelbly sent us his own rifle and told us it’s been at least 3,000 rounds since its last cleaning. We logged another 800 rounds, around 700 of them suppressed, still without cleaning it and we experienced no malfunctions of any kind. We don’t know where the carbon and wax went, but it didn’t gunk up the bolt face at all. It’s bonkers. The dual extractors and mechanical ejector have something to do with it, as does the notch in the bolt face that gives fouling a place to collect where it can’t cause problems. Stock It’s funky looking, but we assure you Kelbly’s KTS Stock is a comfortable, stiff, and highly adjustable beast. It’s carbon fiber with a full length Picatinny rail under the fore end, QD sling studs, a three-way adjustable butt plate, 1-inch recoil pad, adjustable cheek-piece offset, adjustable comb height, and finish that looks to be somewhere between a planetarium and an aquarium. Kelbly's Arcas .22 LR Rimfire Trainer Action The Anschütz 64 action on the Arcas is the smoothest, fastest, snappiest action we’ve ever operated … and, eff us, but it’s considered the low end of the Anschütz line. This thing wants to run. We already talked about its ability to run dirty, but it’s absolutely shocking for an action this neglected to run so smooth, easy, and well. Mag changes are easy with the giant mag catch, but at $79 a pop, you’ll likely be babying those 10-rounders. Kelbly's Arcas .22 LR Rimfire Trainer Trigger The Anschütz 5098 adjustable trigger is 6.5 ounces of two-stage joy. It’s user adjustable, for pull weight, overtravel, sear engagement, length of pull, and shoe angle. We didn’t need to mess with any of that, though. The first stage feels like moving a thick blade of grass, the second is like pressing a key on an early ’80s, clicky IBM keyboard. Kelbly's Arcas .22 LR Rimfire Trainer PRO So much fun to shoot; adaptable; accurate; barely needs cleaning CON Magazines are pricey; stock finish is a conversation starter Ruger Precision Rimfire Ruger's Ruger Precision Rimfire Barrel length: 18 inches (1/2-28 threaded) Twist rate: 1:16 Weight: 7.31 pounds (w/ empty 15-rnd mag) Length: 35.13 inches (shortest config) MSRP: $529 URL: www.ruger.com Notes For RPR owners looking for a 22LR training surrogate, the RPRimfire is a no-brainer. While smaller and lighter than its big brother, the RPRimfire’s control deck is nearly identical to the RPR. The trigger guts are the same; only the housing is different, the grip is the same, the bolt handle is the same shape, and the bolt throw can better mimic the RPR by removing a clip on the bolt body, lengthening the bolt throw from 1.5 inches to 3 inches. It’s also got a modern fore-end and very adjustable back end. And it takes Ruger’s ubiquitous 10-22 mags. Accuracy The rifle popped our 6-inch steel from 200 yards using Club ammo in practice sessions, so we were surprised when we recorded a > 1 inch, 30-round group with the higher-end Eley Match. We shot a second round of groups with the Eley Club, and it produced a more competitive group with the less expensive ammo. Shoots well with cheaper ammo? Odd, but we’ll put that in the “win” column. Ruger's Ruger Precision Rimfire Reliability The rifle never failed to go bang, but we did have lots of ejection fails. Instead of taking flight, spent cases spun in the action to the tune of 2-3 per mag. There’s a fixed ejector in the action, but our cases were all ejected by a notch in the magazine top. When we switched from the included 15-round mag to one of our own 10-rounders, the issue went away. Stock We’ve heard the complaints about the RPRimfire’s “cheap plastic stock,” and frankly we don’t get it. OK, it’s plastic, but it’s solid and the LOP and comb height adjust enough to fit angry old men and elementary school kids alike … without tools. The fore-end takes all the M-LOK-ness you can mount on it, and it holds our bipod just fine. Ruger's Ruger Precision Rimfire Action The action is a little clicky, but it never hung up. After about 300 suppressed rounds, it did stiffen up until we wiped down the bolt and brushed the action path, breech- and bolt-face. Up top, it comes with a 30 MOA rail, perfect for reaching deep with the fast-dropping 22LR round. Trigger Trigger Pull Weight is adjustable and came set at 2 pounds, 0.8 ounces. Pull weight is set using an Allen wrench without taking the rifle apart. The trigger is heavy and a bit creepy, but breaks crisply and predictably. Ruger’s commitment to safety is on display with the tabbed trigger safety that we could do without. Ruger's Ruger Precision Rimfire PRO Plenty of magazine options; great ergos and highly adjustable stock; good surrogate for the RPR; includes 30 MOA optic rail CON Ejection issues; highly sensitive to ammo in terms of accuracy Vudoo Gun Works V-22 Barreled Action Vudoo Gunworks V-22 barreled action in Magpul Pro 700 Chassis Barrel length: 16 inches (1/2-28 threaded) Twist rate: 1:16 Weight: 5.25 pounds (Barreled action only, no thread protector) Length: N/A MSRP: $1,770 ($2,954 as shown) URL: www.vudoogunworks.com Notes For folks who want a turnkey 22LR trainer as similar to their centerfire setup as possible, there’s only one choice. Vudoo Gun Works’ V-22 barreled action drops into any Remington 700 footprint stock or chassis that uses AICS pattern magazines. The V-22 also accepts R700 pattern triggers and even 5⁄16-24 threaded bolt knobs, allowing you to build a true 22LR surrogate for your competition rifle. Mike Bush, the guy who engineered the V-22, came to this design after performing and selling his own Remington 40X repeater conversions. He identified all the pitfalls of the endeavor and designed the V-22 system as a purpose-built rimfire repeater. We say it’s a system because the magazine Bush made for the action is really the heart of the V-22. It presents the rounds to the controlled round feed bolt face nearly in line with the chamber. The feed path is also as short as possible. This means the delicate bullet is fed directly into the chamber without the chance for accuracy reducing dents and scratches along the way. Vudoo Gunworks V-22 barreled action Accuracy Vudoo makes its own barrels. They start by cutting an undersized bore in the blank, hand lap it, then single point cut the rifling, and hand lap it again to its final dimensions. Vudoo uses a match chamber and proprietary six-groove rifling, and the result, they say, is a barrel capable of 1 MOA groups at hundreds of yards. In addition to the 30-round groups we shot at 50 yards, we logged a 1.4-inch group at 100 and 2.1-inch group at 200 on a breezy day. The V-22’s 0.57-inch group was the tightest of the guns we shot. Vudoo Gunworks V-22 barreled action Reliability The V-22’s Achilles’ heel is fouling. Like clockwork, the bolt throw begins to stiffen around 100 rounds of suppressed shots. At 150-180, the bolt gets so hard to rotate that it might as well be Loctited in place. With this comes failure-to-fire issues we think are caused by the combo of a tight chamber and fouling buildup that increases headspace to the point of inducing light primer strikes. We’re not blaming the ammo, because we had no issues with the other guns, and misfired rounds worked in the other rifles. The gun runs 100 percent when it’s clean, but if it isn’t kept that way we get one or two light strikes per mag after about 100 rounds. We mentioned the sluggish bolt and FTF malfunctions to Vudoo’s Paul Parrott and he said he wasn’t surprised. We have one of the early barreled actions, he said. They began coning the breech face slightly on later barrels to displace fouling and increase the action’s reliability. Stock Run what ya brung. We pulled the action from our competition rifle and dropped the V-22 into our Magpul Pro 700 chassis with no issues. Action We’ve covered the salient points of the V-22 action, but we’ll point out that it’s offered right- or left-handed with your choice of a 0, 20, 25, or 30 MOA optic rail (ours had the 30 MOA), and a Melonite finish with the option of Cerakoting. It includes one mag and extras cost $40 each, or $99 for a three-pack. Vudoo Gunworks V-22 barreled action in Magpul Pro 700 Chassis Trigger Since the V-22 takes any R700 trigger, we dropped the Triggertech Special from our comp gun in there. It’s set at 1 pound 11 ounces. PRO As close as you can get to making a 22LR version of an R700 match gun; accurate CON Action must be kept clean for reliable operation Explore RECOILweb:SBR: The Arbitrary Infringement on a Short Barreled RifleGriffin Armament Bushwhacker 46 Review: Calming the Big Bores"Pound of Flesh" Giveaway: Where's my kidney?Big 3 East Tactical Training Center NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. 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