Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pack Rifle Review .22LR

Pack Rifle Review .22LR

I will admit that as a guy who actually owns the guns he reviews, it can be challenging to get excited over what can seem like yet another rewarmed version of a gun that has been on the market for years... and then I saw the Pack Rifle.  At first gaze, it appears that someone had stolen Scaramanga’s Golden Gun and was selling off the movie props for James Bond’s the “Man with the Golden Gun”.  It is however a unique single shot .22LR take-down rifle and without a doubt the most interesting firearm I have ever pulled the trigger on.

Mountain View Machine and Welding and its ownership are behind the new Pack Rifle company. As you would guess MVM has a history of high precision machining. Jason Crook, Owner and General manager and Rob Crook, Assistant Manager have over 38 years of machining experience and also happen to have a love of all things firearms.  The Pack Rifle firearms manufacturing business is one which the Crook family has been talking over for years and in 2011 began producing the Pack Rifle after a number of iterations.

Pack Rifle, inc. is at the moment a small US home grown business with Jason’s daughter handling phone duties, sixteen additional dedicated employees providing manufacturing capabilities and of course Jason and Rob.  Pack Rifle and Mountain View Machine are both family businesses and Jason’s mother-in-law actually makes all the Pack RIfle fabric cases, by hand with love. Even if the Pack Rifle was a kludgey mess of a single shot survival rifle, the company oozes so much family and love that you cannot help but love it, however the rifle is a stunning engineering design which belongs in a museum somewhere.  

From my perspective the Pack Rifle is a “just in case” type firearm which with proper planning you should never have to use in a survival situation. If in bear country I would probably pack a shotgun, however for the 95% of outdoor venues a .22LR cartridge is plenty.

Once you start putting one foot in front of the other to add up miles, you learn quickly that weight is your enemy. If that wonderful 8lb 10/22 match rifle with a brick of 500 rounds is logically too much to carry as a survival rifle, then why do you need a 3lb rifle with 200 rounds? Wouldn’t a 15oz rifle with a couple dozen rounds be a better option?  The Pack Rifle is the firearm equivalent to carrying that 1.7oz Titanium Kinetic Stove vs. a 2lb Coleman. Your pack is lighter and you are happier about carrying something you might in a worst case use.

In the words of Jason, “It is was it is...a lightweight take-down utility rifle and  if you expect it to serve as an ultra-light packable survival rifle, you will be pleasantly surprised, if you expect it to be a Ruger 10/22 of durability that you can sit on then you are buying the wrong rifle.”

The owners are outdoorsman and are constantly hunting, camping and hiking and have tried about every firearm imaginable as a survival rifle. They knew there could be something simpler and lighter for a true survival backup rifle to just stick in a pack.  Even the Henry AR-7 is over 2lbs and still takes up more room than necessary.  

Jason kept asking himself questions based on his real outdoor experience; why do I need a 2lb, 3lb, or heavier rifle, and why do I need multiple rounds when game scarcely provides the opportunity for more than one shot. He worked to refine the rifle concept and even now continues to tweak and update the design with each new release.  The result is a truly innovative diminutive single shot .22LR take down rifle, which is designed to be as light as absolutely possible, and be completely weatherproof while still delivering accuracy.

It is not a rough and tumble truck rifle, match grade bench gun, or meant to take the place of an everyday plinking gun.  If you are heading out into the wild to hunt squirrels, by all means take a standard rifle, but if you need something just in case, 15oz will buy you a lot of piece of mind in a very accurate capable little rifle.

This rifle is light, feathery light actually compared to any other rifle.  If you have ever handled a stunningly light AR-7 then divide that weight in half again. The Pack Rifle feels and looks more like a fine quality carbon fiber fishing pole than a rifle, but is built to fine detail watch-like precision like Scaramanga’s Golden Gun. The primary materials are carbon fiber and billet aluminum which contributes significantly to this minimalist designed rifle all while still delivering a sturdy strong rifle despite its weight.

The fit is so perfect that the keying post pops a bit from air suction when it is removed from the receiver for disassembly. The rifle includes a rubber cover for the post just to prevent any nick because of the fitment. As you would imagine, once assembled it locks up tight and feels solid without any flex.  Although it looks delicate, structurally the rifle is actually very strong and the carbon fiber and aluminum can take a substantial amount of abuse.  Pack Rifle is also using some aerospace epoxies to hold and reinforce certain parts and according to the company's tests, the epoxies are actually stronger than the carbon fiber or aluminum. The only semi-sensitive part of the rifle is the carbon fiber sleeved match grade steel barrel liner. The two are bonded together and have tremendous strength, however I would not suggest sitting on it to test it out.  Rest assured this rifle will handle the normal bumps and bangs of an outdoor hunt with ease despite its weight.

Survival rifle or not, this is a stunningly machined and designed rifle.  It is available in a variety of anodized colors, which all make the wrapped carbon fiber barrel’s pattern really stand out.  Consider this a handmade custom gun, because the quality, fit and finish is impeccable.

I always say that the better the engineering, the simpler the product and the Pack Rifle is a good example of that philosophy in action. The receiver and most primary parts such as the forend tube and stock “pad” are machined from high strength aluminum.  Parts which see wear and fasteners are constructed of stainless steel.  The barrel is a precision match grade button rifled Cro-Moly liner with a carbon fiber composite outer. The same type of carbon fiber is used for the butt stock tube of the rifle.  It is simple and elegant all while being nearly totally weatherproof.

In addition to being insanely light, the Pack Rifle is a take down design which stows in only 17” of space; perfect for packing.  The handle and stock are also hollow which will allow you to store a little survival kit in there and/or extra ammo. Between the stock and handle I stowed nearly 30 rounds. The stock tube does require a hex wrench for removal however I was able to modify a small hex wrench to fit in the handle and the rifle does include a full set of hex wrenches. Other features include storage in the handle and butt stock tube of the rifle.

Pack rifle has designed in a forend tube which provides extra support to the barrel, increases overall strength, and also provides a mount for the custom LED flashlight.  The flashlight head is turned on with a ½ turn of the head and was more than adequate for 15-20 yards shots at night and features a replaceable lithium battery.  As noted previously, the camouflage fabric cases are made by hand “with love” and provide a tool-roll style case for the rifle and are secured closed with the four sewn in lashes.

At first the lack of a finger guard and any safety is a little odd at first, however shooting the Pack Rifle is a lot like shooting a lever action like a Henry Golden Boy. When you are ready to shoot, you cock the hammer versus walking around with a single action triggered gun loaded with the hammer back. The rifle does feature a unique chamber lock/safe notch where the bolt operating knob moves straight up 90 degrees to the uncocked position to block the sight view - providing a visible cue that the gun is on safe and uncocked if it is shouldered for a shot.  

Elevation is set at the factory however I found it right on the money, however windage is adjustable in two ways.  The rear sight is windage adjustable however if that is not enough the front sight set screw can be loosened to rotate the front sight left and right. The rear sight is a tiny little peep sight with an even smaller 1/16” hole.  Jason and company have gone back and forth on the size of the peep sight with some customers wanting a large peep and others a small.  They figured that it was really easy to enlarge a hole with a drill bit, so they left it as a tiny hole for more accuracy. After initial testing I opened mine up with a ⅛” drill bit and find it perfect.

Pack Rifle also has a number of optional accessories including a mini laser, scope mount, scope mount/4X scope combo, and even a fishing pole attachment.  Maybe a follow up review later on those accessories.

Assembly and loading involve approximately the same steps.  The barrel portion keys into the receiver upside down and then swings up until the barrel lock between the barrel and forend locks in place.  Push the barrel lock forward and the barrel can be swung clockwise until about 2 o’clock where the manual extractor can be pushed forward if needed and a new round loaded.  Close the mechanism, and pull back on the bolt handle until it clicks to cock the rifle.

Assembly and reloading can occur in about 2 seconds and the manual extraction snaps out the shells right out of the chamber and I rarely had to finish pulling out a round. Even though the stock pad is small it is more than sufficient for accurate shots.

The trigger and sights were my two issues. The trigger is crisp once it actually goes off, however in this 15oz gun the heavy trigger feels like a 10lb trigger with a very long single stage trigger pull. For safety reasons and because of the lack of a trigger guard, Pack Rifle decided on a safer trigger action, however in future revisions I hope they drop the pull a bit. Zeroing required me to use up 100% of my rear sight’s adjustment without tuning the front sights course windage adjustment.  The problem for me is that it would be tough to pick up a front sight that is a little off kilter, so I set the rear sight all the way to the left and was lucky with my zeroing.

I was shocked and stunned on the recoil a .22LR round has in a 15oz. gun; peppy would be a good term to describe the recoil. Something I had never thought about and had a tough time wrapping my mind around the first couple shots. Physics is physics and the .22 round is not pushing a lot of weight and is in now way painful to shoot, it is just surprising and makes you respect the delivery end of the .22LR.

With most “survival rifles” fun shooting is not the primary benefit of the gun, however with the Pack Rifle, I plinked through a couple hundred rounds... yes, loaded one at a time. Accuracy usually also suffers on take down guns, however my best group with the peep sight was .6” at 25 yards with just using my range bag as a rest.  Of course that group was with Wolf ammo, however a little more time and some assistance with a scope would probably reveal other ammo that shoots well in the rifle.  A simple red dot would also pull those groups in a bit as well. CCI Mini-Mags delivered consistent 1”’ish groups however CCI Velociter consistently delivered groups under 1”.  

The consistency is there, so maybe I can find a high velocity round that comes close to that Wolf .6” group however that Wolf round is plenty effective on small game and because it is subsonic, it is about twice as quiet as a high velocity rounds.  Overall, the accuracy was impressive for this take down rifle that weighs less than my survival knife.

As a fun and unique firearm, the Pack Rifle is a truly amazing piece of engineering which is an accurate rifle very capable of taking game reliably on a daily basis.  It is also a fun plinker and from and accuracy perspective, I would expect the rifle is even more accurate with a light low power scope attached.  

The Pack Rifle is also quality built to support everyday use it will hold up to lifetimes of use like any other fine firearm.  For a realistic survival rifle the pack rifle is the ultimate lightweight take-down rifle with the only limitations being it is single shot. Honestly if Pack Rifle would reinvent the M6 Survival rifle and add a .410 barrel under the .22LR, I think they would have the more orders than they know what to do with in this configuration.

Currently I own a number of take-down or folding firearms which fit into that preparedness and survival category, however none are this light, simple, or accurate and most importantly this fun to shoot even if you are not in the outback of nowhere or simply just pretending you are a James Bond villain.

Pack-Rifle Specifications
Weight: 15.5 oz
OAL: 33"
Take-Down Length: 17"
Width: 7/8"
Height: 4"
Caliber: .22LR
Sights: Adjustable Peep
MSRP: $425.00*

Pack Rifle


Unknown said...

I have been trying to get my hands on this rifle.I love the concept of light weight and pack worthy. I do however have one question... How long is the barrel alone? This along with the twist will help me decide before I actually get my hands on it what ammo I have already that will fire accurately. Thanks again for an awesome review on this rifle!

Major Pandemic said...

It is a 16" barrel 1:16 twist.

Unknown said...

Thank you sir! That helps a lot!

Unknown said...

I agree with you If a .410 barrel was added this gun would be invaluable. Thanks for the great review!