Friday, October 26, 2012

Feddersen 10/22 Tennessee Ridge Runner Rifle Barrel Review

Feddersen 10/22 Tennessee Ridge Runner Rifle & Barrel Review

Let’s face it, quality costs money and in the world of $1300 match grade 10/22 rifles it would seem that you had to spend a lot of money to get a great shooting rifle.  This generally has lead to people buying an entry level base factory Ruger 10/22 and then upgrading the stock, barrel, trigger, bolt, and sometimes even the receiver to elevate the accuracy or to build a custom rifle from the ground up.  

Feddersen of course offers their barrels separately to do just that, but some of us don’t want to play gunsmith and just want to buy a rifle ready to shoot that does not cost an arm and a leg. This is where the complete Feddersen 10/22 Tennessee Ridge Runner Rifle makes so much sense for the 10/22 fanatic, avid hunter, target shooter, and/or common sense survivalist. The rifle delivers sub-1/4” groups at 50 yards out of the box with a decent powered optic all for $549; it is without a doubt the best accuracy deal for the dollar of any ready to shoot 10/22 rifle package I have yet to test.
 

ABOUT FEDDERSEN
The company is known by many names; Feddersen, R4, 1022rifle.com, and Gunbarrels.net.  Even with that identity crisis, Feddersen is a name people know. The company was founded in 1979 by Fred Feddersen and has become rather famous for his world record breaking patent pending R4 .50 BMG gun barrels.  The company’s barrels are so well regarded that they do also have several military contracts for their proprietary barrel designs.  Fred has been making gun barrels for quite some time and knows that there is more to making match quality gun barrels than just drilling a hole in a steel rod and pulling a rifling button through it.  Each and every step of their in house barrel production is unique and in fact their entire process is patent pending and trade secret process.

Unlike many barrel or firearms manufacturers, Feddersen is not buying pre-rifled blanks and just finishing them to their own specs, they are producing 100% of their barrels in house from solid round bar stock.  They have a special drilling process, a patent pending ultra-sensitive lapping/honing process, unique, patent pending and proprietary SEPR - Single Edged Polygonal Rifling, and one of the few companies in the world which offer a barrel with near perfect centricity and straightness between the bore and profile. Amazingly enough their 10/22 barrels start at only $145.

FEDDERSEN 10/22 BUILD
Normally this section of the article has a list of upgrades included in the build especially when it comes to tack driving 10/22s, but in this case it is a very short list. I personally talked with Fred and Gary at Feddersen and they had this insane idea to showcase and prove how great their barrels were.  

Tennessee Ridge Runner -  They thought why not just slip their 16.25” barrel on bone stock 10/22 action with a Hogue stock and offer that for sale to the public. No special receiver, tweaked bolt, match trigger, or fancy free float stock; an idea I though would have never worked until I shot the rifle. They call this rifle the Tennessee Ridge Runner 10/22 and is available from them directly for only $549 shipped to your local FFL dealer.  

Scope - Nikon P-22 2-7x32 BDC scope.  Although this scope lacks parallax adjustment, it is a blast to shoot with because the BDC (Bullet Drop Compensating) reticle makes it easy to start plinking at 100, 150, and even 200 yard targets. The optic is very clear and the resettable zero turrets are simple and easy to use and were very handy when switching between loads.It is also $180 retail which is an attainable price after you just spend your house payment on a custom 10/22.

All I added was my Harris bipod and my Nikon P-22 2-7x32 BDC 150 scope... actually for accuracy testing I didn’t even use the bipod and employed a used Simmons 4-12X scope for just a bit of extra power and parallax adjustment for accuracy .

FIT, FEEL, & FINISH
The barrel is made from premium chrome-moly steel and finished with deep bluing. To add a little style and lighten the barrel up just a bit, the Feddersen barrel features shallow flutes the length of the barrel. Personally I believe plain bull barrels look a little too… well, you know “plain”, so I think the fluting dresses up the barrel a bit.  For some time I have been a huge fan of short 16.25” bull barrels for a number of reasons.  I have found that they can often deliver accuracy which usually matches and sometimes surpasses longer barrels; smart metallurgist will rationalize the accuracy to a length to strength ratio and/or harmonics.  Whatever the reason, across a variety of platforms in a variety of calibers they always shoot well for me.  My favorite attributes are that they are much more maneuverable, provide improved off hand shooting stability, and when fluted are usually only marginally heavier compared to a 18”-22” standard profiled barrel. For a 10/22, loosing 2” off the end of the gun makes it infinitely easier to get in, thought, and out of brushy woods and thickets.

The order process is simple.  Call Feddersen, order and pay for the rifle, have it shipped to your local FFL deal, and then pick it up after completing the transfer paperwork and usually a small transfer fee. The rifle arrived at my local FFL dealer packed in the original Ruger 10/22 box. According the original model number on the box, I deduced these rifles apparently arrive at Feddersen as bone stock basic 10/22-RB harwood carbine format rifles where the stock and barrel are removed and replaced with the Feddersen barrel and Hogue rubberized stock, test fired and returned to the box for shipment. As business grows for Feddersen, I wonder what they will do with all those original Ruger carbine stocks and barrels?  

It should come as no surprise that outside of the barrel and stock, that the rest of the rifle is a bone stock 10/22 with the same fit and finish I have pontificated on in previously articles. Nothing special or “match grade” anything, but it works.

The Hogue rubberized stock is a standard upgrade for 10/22 upgraders which has had hundreds if not thousands of reviews and definitely stood the test of time.  The weather-proof stock features a plastic base skeleton with a rubber overmolding which is wonderful to hold.  The stock has been so popular that Ruger has a “target” version of their venerable 10/22 with the stock included.  For an easy and inexpensive upgrade to host a match bull barrel, this would be my choice for a working rifle that will get knocked around.

The entire package makes for a fast shouldering which is in my opinion the perfect off the shelf squirrel gun as it points naturally, is stable for offhand shooting and is stunningly accurate.  

BARREL FEATURES & FUNCTIONS
Obviously I am not going to rehash the intricacies of reviewing a bone stock 10/22 action or the world’s most popular aftermarket 10/22 stock, but the barrel is something special. The chamber is Feddersen’s own proprietary modified/tweaked SAMI spec Benz type match chamber.  According to Fedderson, it is within SAMI spec, but on the tighter side of the tolerance range. I have had zero issues with feeding and functioning all grades of match to bulk pack ammo.  This reliability tells me they are not using a super tight match chamber which frequently causes functioning issues and drives more frequent cleaning intervals.

While we are on cleaning, Polygonal rifling such as Feddersen’s SIPR - Single Edge Polygonal Rifling requires less cleaning, and in fact I was told not to worry about cleaning the barrel for at least 500 rounds. What, isn’t it a crime punishable by death if you don’t clean your match barrel every 20-50 rounds. Actually, every barrel manufacturer I have ever talked with says the less cleaning the better, because most damage to the barrel chamber, rifling and crown occurs during the cleaning process or in some cases by aggressive over cleaning; but its your barrel, you do what you want. 



Gary noted all that is recommended to clean the barrel, if only lead bullets are shot, is just a couple passes of a lightly oiled pull through BoreSnake cleaning rope from breach to muzzle. With copper plated bullets, he noted you may need to use some solvent as well. The SIPR and Feddersen’s lapping/honing process delivers a very smooth surface which reduces bullet deformation  and fouling and of course increases accuracy; the result is a cleaner running more accurate rifle with less maintenance.  Polygonal rifling generally does not use hard edges to form the rifling, but more of a wavy pattern.  Feddersen’s version only has a single edge which apparently helps up accuracy considerably.

The Tennessee Ridge Runner 10/22 rifle has a modified 90 degree recessed match crown which seems to really maximize accuracy and the recessed crown will help protect it as you hammer through brush on your next hunting trip.

At some point I will have to write an article on the gathered opinions of how to break in a barrel according to the manufacturers, however Feddersen recommends no break-in what-so-ever... just go out and start shooting it like it was twenty years old.

Three shots
two card slices at
50 yards Lapua Center-X

ACCURACY
The barrel is gorgeous, however the rest is just a basic 10/22 in a Hogue stock. Yawn, however I FREAKING LOVE THIS RIFLE.  You can and I have won bets with this thing with sick little accuracy tricks like slicing  cards at 25,  40, and even 50 yards with the right ammo, because it appears to be Jo Bob’s typical slap on a bull barrel upgrade, ohhh but looks are very deceiving. In my case the scratched and well worn Simmons scope really helps me suck my buddies into a bet.
  Load up some Lapua Midas or Center-X and start taking your friends' money.

Because I do not want to drive myself totally insane updating countless 10/22 articles with the latest accuracy data, I have posted them HERE on a Google Docs spreadsheet.


When you look at the accuracy result data, what you will see is that the barrel shot all ammo very consistently compared to other 10/22 barrels.  Obviously the barrel had its favorites, however the extremes from the largest to the smallest groups had a smaller variance than almost all of the other 10/22 barrels I have tested. 

My best group so far is a 5-shot .136” group at 50 yards with Lapua Midas ammo (yes those numbers are correct) which is just .002” shy of matching my $1400 Kidd 10/22 build with the same ammo. I would say not to bad at all, however this would be the firearms understatement of the century.  The fact that a $549 rifle is a non-free-floated stock can come close to the accuracy of the top 10/22 in the business is an amazing testament to the SEPR - Single Edged Polygonal Rifling and all the other patent pending processes that go into making the barrel.

In a follow up discussion with Feddersen on the Tennessee Ridge Runner 10/22 Rifle and how stunned I was, they also told me they are working on Ruger Charger barrels as well.... can you image the bets you could win with one of those.  Gary indicated he actually randomly samples tests barrels from each lot and assured me that although he would classify me as a good shooter, those groups were very typical with optics in the 15x+ range.  He actually notes that with a 40X scope, that much smaller groups are possible; so exciting to think about that I have a very high powered optic on the way.

Fred and Gary proved their point about how good their barrels are and I am sure they will sell large volumes of these rifles, however many will want to drop in their own barrel and stock to save a few dollars. Feddersen has the same barrels ready to bolt onto your existing 10/22  starting at only $145, it makes me wonder how others in the Match Quality barrel business will compete with this barrel.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This rifle made me reconsider everything I ever believed about what affects accuracy.  Here we have a bone stock 10/22 which would have been lucky to deliver 1/2” groups at 25 yards now delivering groups of nearly under 1/4” at 50 yards with nothing more than a barrel and stock change. No special anything other than the barrel.  It makes one wonder what will this rifle deliver with a higher magnification clearer optic and a match grade trigger. I have not seen this impact on accuracy due to just a barrel swap on any other 10/22 build.

For those who are intending to build or buy a tack driving 10/22 and are only concerned about accuracy, I would recommend they just start here with a lowered powered optic.  In this case the  Nikon P-22 2-7x32 BDC 150 gives you a low power for close running game, higher power and Bullet Drop Compensator reticle for accurate shots out to 150 yards and re-settable targets turrets which makes tuning for ammo or wind a breeze. The used 12X Simmons scope did not provide the magnification for real benchrest group shooting, if that is your only goal a 32X+ magnification scope would be the best choice.  

In my opinion, the only thing that could make this Feddersen rifle shoot any better is a match grade trigger and obviously the best optic you can afford. I love the shiny, pretty, and fancy 10/22 builds, after all I have like six of them. That noted you owe it to yourself to pick up just one of these Tennessee Ridge Runner 10/22 Rifles for only  $
549or just one of their barrels as I believe it will deliver accuracy beyond the competition for years to come... and of course there is something special about ripping $20 out of your buddy’s hand after splitting a playing card at 50 yards.

SPECS
Feddersen Tennessee Ridge Runner 10/22 - $549

Features - Stock 10/22 action, trigger, and receiver, Hogue Rubberized stock, (bipod optional)

Optics Featured - Nikon P-22 2-7 Scope with BDC reticle, Used Simmons Prohunter 4-12X scope with adjustable parallax. 

SOURCES
FJ Feddersen, Inc.
http://www.1022rifle.com/
http://www.1022rifle.com/rifle-ruger

Nikon Hunting Optics
http://www.nikonhunting.com

Monday, October 22, 2012

ASA - American Spirit Arms Side Charge 16” Bull Barrel Review

ASA - American Spirit Arms Side Charge 16” Bull Barrel Review

Admittedly I have an addiction and somehow convinced myself that I needed a short bull barrel upper for maneuverable precision varmint hunting. For some time I have been eye balling the ASA 16” bull barrel which they claim should deliver sub-MOA accuracy and I have also been curious about their side charging handle receiver as well.

ABOUT ASA AMERICAN SPIRIT ARMS
ASA has a bit of a storied history as does its new second owner Joe Sirochman. The company originally had a bit of a rocky past under the initial ownership, however everyone loves a great turnaround story and this is one of them due to the new owner.  


A couple months ago. I did schedule a factory tour which went sideways when some schedules were mixed up.  The outcome of that was that Joe reached out directly to me, profusely apologized for the mix up and ended up providing me with quite a bit of background that you just will not find on their site. Again in this case good things came from a challenging situation.

After American Spirit struggled under the founding ownership, Joe Sirochman stepped in and purchased the company and brand, but the reasons why were particularly interesting to me.  Joe came from a background of automotive manufacturing and machining and in fact founded JPS Manufacturing and JPS Motorsports.  Today American Spirit Arms is part of that manufacturing family.

Some people buy companies because they just want to make make money other a specific passion about the product, however during our conversation Joe was clearly passionate about the well being of his employee family, the product, and brand.  He explained that his father spent his entire career at Bethlehem steel only to be laid off suddenly without warning because the factory outsourced to China.  

The event devastated their family. Joe vowed that any business he owned would use American labor and materials and most importantly care about it’s employees. Joe is also a patriot and bought the company in part because of the name, “American Spirit Arms”. 

This passion and commitment recreated and resurrected a company based on ethics, attention to detail, refusal to us any imported materials, and an ISO-9001 Certified Aerospace manufacturing and quality process.  This means along with the usual attention to detail, there is a paper trail and documentation at each and every step in the manufacturing and inspection process. All materials are certified domestic sourced and each and every part is actually hand inspected by Joe himself before they leave the factory and stamps off on each and every invoice.  This is both an impressive personal dedication and expensive attention to quality.


With all this background, you can understand why I was excited about adding a ASA 16” Bull Barrel Side-Charging Upper to my Liberty Safe.



THE BUILD
For this build, I set up the ASA Side charge receiver including a chrome carrier and topped it off with a Young Manufacturing bolt.  The big fat 16” ASA .223 Bull Barrel was slipped into the receiver with a low profile ASA gas block and White Oak stainless gas tube.  I am a fan of long handrails because they give loads more room to find a comfortable handhold or support in less than optimal situations. 



Samson offers a unique and lightweight option in the Evolution Series and of course I chose the long 12.37” version.  This handrail comes with 2 - 2” picatinny rails which provides mounts for my Atlas bipod and and extra rail for hopefully a laser designator down the road.  For testing, I mounted the upper to my Holding Precision billet lower and clipped on my Nikon Monarch 8-32X50ED scope with a PRI Gator Grip Platform Quick Release mount.

FIT, FEEL,  FINISH, FEATURES, & FUNCTION
The barrel finish is exceptional. Actually probably the nicest AR barrel finish I have seen especially when compared to the typical black rifle barrels. The only other AR barrel I have seen which has this level of attention is JP.  ASA starts with ER Shaw barrel blanks and then chambers to national match chamber dimensions, target crowns the barrels, and then turns and finishes the barrels to the selected profile. 


One of the interesting techniques is that they turn the barrel crown starting from the inside to the outside.  This assures the rifling has a burr free finish and maximizes accuracy. The recessed crown is ASA’s own proprietary design which they believe squeaks a bit more accuracy out of their barrels.

While the chamber is being cut, the bore is flooded with coolant from the muzzle end to assure chips flow away from the cutting edge.  American Spirit then hand laps each barrel for optimal accuracy... all little details which deliver a beautifully made barrel. The 16” barrel length itself has a few really interesting attributes such better maneuverability, as a higher potential rigidity and almost a 1lb weight reduction over similar 20-22” barrel varmint barrels. That is 1lb less weight to lug around in the field while you are varmint hunting.


The ASA patented non-reciprocating side charging receiver is unique for a number of reasons.  The upper receiver is made beautifully from 7075 T6 billet aluminum and is a little oversized and beefier than a typical Mil-Spec upper receiver and then Type III hard anodizes to a deep dark finish. ASA mills a small notch into a standard AR spec carrier; other than that modification the carrier is the same as any other AR carrier.  I slipped in a Young Manufacturing bolt, cam pin, firing pin, and retaining pin to complete the BCG (Bolt Carrier Group).  

The American Spirit Arms AR-15 M4 Side Charger Upper Receiver is compatible with any AR barrel and AR-15 Mil-Spec lower receiver. 
Of course if I would have had the extra cash, a matching ASA lower would have been the obvious choice.


In this case, I pinned the ASA receiver to my Houlding Precision billet lower receiver with Geissele trigger for testing.  The brilliantly simple ASA charging handle folds out of the way when not in use, but is easy to grab when you need to operate the bolt operation. 
I am sure retraining away years of grabbing a rear charging handle is possible for tactical work, however for more casual bench and varmint shooting this side charging feature is far more comfortable and convenient. Reach up with the left hand and pull back on the charging handle to slip a round in the chamber all without raising your head off the scope... way convenient on the bench punching groups or while laying prone with a critter in the crosshairs.  

The rear flip open carrier door at the back of the receiver locks closed when pinned to the lower receiver.  With the rear lower receiver pin out and the upper tilted forward the bolt can be removed just as any other can.  



The side charging components are removed from the rear as well.  Although about twice the price of a typical forged Mil-Spec upper receiver, the ASA side charge receiver is a pretty cool setup and definitely convenient for a hunting and target rifle.  


The question will come up regarding whether the side charge receiver affects reliability and I will say that it has not at this point and operated smoothly and flawlessly. The receiver arrived with the side charged parts well lubed and I have maintained it that way and have had no issued.  The mechanism itself is brilliantly simple so I would doubt any issues will creep up.


I am a fan of slim handguards and find them easier to handle, so it should come as no surprise that I really liked the features of the lightweight Samson Evolution series handrail chosen for this build.  Without a question, I would use this very sturdy rail again.  With the marginally fatter ASA upper receiver, you do need to use a file to trim just a bit were the Samson handguard keys into the upper receiver; on Mil-Spec upper receivers this is not required.  It was a simple modification that took only 5 minutes of file work and is hidden after installation.




ACCURACY
American Spirit Arms not only claims, but guarantees that each of their barrels are MOA capable. Some ASA barrels, including this 16” bull barrel, guarantee 1/2-MOA accuracy.  Accuracy guarantees of course mean a solid benchrest, with a decently powered optic, good ammo, and someone capable behind the trigger... they do not mean with iron sights, hand held over the hood of your truck, with randomly selected ammo, or with an inexperienced trigger jerker behind the rifle. 


MOA (about 1” groups at yards) is actually a good goal and most high quality AR barrels are capable of right round that goal; 1/2-MOA guarantee is another matter altogether.  My Nikon Monarch 8-32X scope, Geissele triggered Houdling lower receiver, and Atlas bipod did help me meet ASA’s MOA guarantee.



The first goal is to find ammo which the barrel likes best.  Generally I have found that the Hornady FPD TAP ammo line performs extremely consistent and started there however I was surprised to find that the barrel delivered tight sub-1” 100-yard groups with most quality ammo including my 62gr 3GunAmmo.com remanufactured rounds. Go figure a big fat heavy bull barrel made to precise tolerances will shoot well.

Hornaday .223 TAP FPD 55gr    0.41”
Hornaday .223 TAP FPD 75gr    0.57”
Hornaday .223 Superformance Match 75gr 0.71”
Hornaday .223 Varmint Express 55gr vmax 0.38”
Hornaday 5.56 Superformance 55gr   0.65”
Hornaday .223 Match 75gr    0.35”
Hornaday .223 Brass 55gr    0.82”
Hornaday .223 Steel Case 75gr   0.79”
3GunAmmo.com .223 Reman 55gr   0.81”
3GunAmmo.com .223 Reman 62gr   0.74”

Winchester .223 60gr .67"
FINAL THOUGHTS
This upper combo is an outstanding supplement to someone who already has an AR and wants a dedicated precision upper for varmint, predator, and benchrest shooting.  Although the high powered Nikon Monarch optic enabled impressive accuracy, I would probably scale down the magnification a bit to one of Nikon’s 3-12X models to provide a lower power magnification setting to hit targets on the move.
Generally a forged Mil-Spec receiver is about the same as any other forged Mil-Spec receiver, however ASA Billet receiver is clearly upping the game.  


This is a beautifully crafted upper receiver with a really convenient side charging feature... super convenient actually while in prone position. The barrel is gorgeous and the Samson handrail brought it all together into a nice tight compact package. I can see that this will be a well used set up for years to come that will put many a destructive/invasive critter in thier place.



SPECS
16 Inch Stainless Steel Bull Barrel - $349

  • 16 Inch 1:8 Twist
  • Stainless Steel with Target Crown
  • Barrel Extension has been cut with M4 Feed Ramps
  • .223 Caliber
  • National Match Chamber

ASA AR-15 M4 Side Charger Upper Receiver with Modified Carrier - $450

  • PATENTED
  • 7075 Billet Flat Top Side Charger Upper Receiver (Incorrectly listed as Forged)
  • Mil-Std 1913 Rail
  • Assembled with the highest quality mil-spec components
  • Includes Modified Carrier with Gas Key
  • Lifetime Warranty

ASA Low Profile Gas Block -$48

White Oak Armament Gas Tube - $10.50

Samson Manufacturing 12.37” Evolution Series - $185

  • Length: 12.37"
  • Weight with Bushing: 11.5 oz
  • The thermal bushing locks onto the stock barrel nut
  • The inside diameter is large enough to fit most suppressors (1.56”)
  • Continuous mil spec top rail
  • Dual anti rotation tabs
  • Thermal Bushings helps reduce heat transfer to hand guard
  • Supplied with 2x 2” rail kits and 1x 4” rail kit
  • Tube Matl 6010 T6, Bushing Matl. 303 Stainless
  • Mil-spec Hard coat Anodized

Nikon Monarch 8-32x50ED Scope - $669.95

Precision Reflex - Quick Release Gator Grip Platform with 1" High Rings - $190

SOURCES
ASA American Spirit Arms
http://www.americanspiritarms.com

Samson Manufacturing
http://www.samson-mfg.com

White Oak Armament
http://www.whiteoakarmament.com

Nikon Hunting Optics
http://www.nikonhunting.com


Precision Reflex

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

WhistlePig 10/22 Barrel Review

WhistlePig 10/22 Barrel Review
So there I was, buying and reviewing all manner of 10/22s, and then I started getting emails about whether I had tried this or that barrel.  Then someone noted that I should review a barrel manufacturer with funny name; WhistlePig.  


Oddly enough I knew what a Whistlepig was.  A whistlepig is a nickname for a rather invasive and destructive ground squirrel which emits a high pitched whistle as they communicate. Although I was not raised out in Idaho, we still called our ground squirrels by the same name.

ABOUT WHISTLEPIG GUNBARREL COMPANY
The idea of the company when founded in 2001 was to develop a lighter, better balanced, and more accurate tool to help in the disposal of these destructive little bastards.  


WhistlePig was actually the first company to develop and produce aluminum sleeved 10/22 barrels. 

WhistlePig’s barrels all feature 4140 stainless steel barrel liners with Benz .22LR chambers sleeved with 6061 T-6 aluminum which both reduces weight and increases overall barrel stiffness. This design delivers barrel which is up to 70% lighter and a rifle which is up to 50% lighter than comparable bull barrel 100% steel barrel rifles. In addition to the light weight, the match Benz chamber and precision rifled barrels deliver outstanding accuracy.

Over the years, people started asking WhistlePig for various barrel lengths, then different anodizing, and even different profiles like octagonal barrel profiles, integrated compensators, and graduated anodizing for a true one of a kind custom 10/22 rifle barrel.  Without a doubt, no other manufacturer offers more custom barrel options than WhistlePig; literally 1000s of combinations.  The company offers 16.5”, 18”, 20”, and 22” barrel lengths, matte, satin, brushed, aluminum finish, polished, fading/rainbow and marbled anodizing, round and octagonal profile, fluting, and even a whole bunch of muzzle options.  WhistlePig offers threaded, compensated, or target crowned muzzles.  They definately have perfect personal option to make your 10/22 truely custom. Depending on features selected the barrels range from $182-$357.


BUILD SPECS
Tactical Innovations Purple CH22 Top Charge Receiver with Machined Bolt Assembly, Tactical Innovations Gold Trigger Guard and bolt buffer, Ruger Stock trigger internals, WhistlePig Gun Barrel 18" Ported Octagonal barrel, Boyd Evolution Royal stock, Leupold V2 3-9x33mm Rimfire Scope. $950.98 as equipped.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, & FEATURES
For my WhistlePig barrel order, I wanted something that would look nice contrasting against my royal purple anodized Tactical Innovations CH22 top charge receiver with gold anodized trigger group nested into a purple Boyd’s Evolution stock.  After cruising the WhistlePig sight, despite the wild and crazy options, I thought the octagonal profile made enough of a statement that the clean satin finished 18” barrel with integrated compensator was the right choice for my build.  Though the .22LR hardly needs a compensator, it looks cool and mitigates any remnants of 
recoil.


All of their barrels are a standard .920” bull barrel profile which allows it to fit any bull barrel profile or fully floated stock such as a popular Hogue Overmolded, Boyds Tacticool or Evolution, Bluegrass Stock, or other free floated 10/22 stock.  The barrel receiver shanks are .001” oversized to allow a tighter fitting than stock barrels.  On the TI CH22 receiver, the barrel slipped in tightly without modification, however WhistlePig does includes a little strip of sandpaper should you need to sand the barrel shank down to tweak the fit.

When comparing to even a 29oz stock carbine barrel, as you would expect, the 18oz barrel is surprisingly light and when mounted, delivers light and fast handling rifle.  I tested the barrel on a number of the above mentioned stocks and the octagonal barrel profile fit the same as any bull barrel profile. 




As noted in my Ultimate 10/22 Shootout, the Boyds stock and Tactical Innovations components add beautiful custom touches to the rifle.  To be up front, I built this rifle for Mrs. Pandemic whose favorite color is purple.  She loves all the custom touches and immediately commented on the lightweight, cool octagonal barrel and integrated compensator.

ACCURACY & FUNCTIONALITY
Though the WhistlePig barrel line can be showy, they are designed first and foremost for accuracy.  With my Leupold V2 3-9x33mm scope topping the rig for testing, I managed a nice tidy .207” 5-shot 50-yard group with Wolf Ammo.  Averaging all the ammo tested delivered a .694” average for the twelve 5-shot 50-yard groups .  



I will keep my ever growing Google Spreadsheet with accurate results however one of my favorites was CCI Standard Velocity ammo which consistently delivered groups around .5” group.  From my perspective this is very good and highly accurate barrel.  Take a look at this barrel compared to the other rigs tested during my Ultimate 10/22 Shootout review.  Accuracy results are posted here to my Google Accuracy Spreadsheet .



FINAL THOUGHTS
An important note is that this barrel has consistently outshot my Tactical Solutions barrel all while being as problem free.  In addition, the WhistlePig barrel offers a huge variety of length, profile, finish, and muzzle options.  Will it match the accuracy of the super premium match barrels like Fedderson, Kidd, or Force? Really...really close. In fact so far I printed a .207” and .253” 50-yard group which is definitely in that Super Premium Match range and given time, I may be able to tighten those WhistlePig groups up even more. 


After testing with the quite wonderful Leupold VX-2 3-9 EFR scope, my wife decided to mount a Bushnell TRS-25 red dot.  


Although this 1X red dot by no means maximize the accuracy of the WhistlePig barrel, she has been having fun plinking with the rifle and is easily able to hit the 2”-3” spinners at 50 yards, keep Coke cans jumping at that distance, and most importantly take out raccoons on the run... we have a serious nuisance issue with raccoons surrounding our house. The great thing about customizing a 10/22 is making it yours. For Mrs Pandemic, she loves to look and the lightweight and quick shooting that the TRS-25 provided, but will certainly slip on a variable powered scope if we head out to shoot squirrels.

The WhistlePig barrel certainly does the job that is was designed to do which is deliver exceptional accuracy in a lightweight package to put bullets accurately on target.  Extended offhand shooting is far less painful than with a long heavy bull barrel and less weight mean less pain when carrying the rifle all day.   Let’s face it, there are a lot of great accurate barrels out there, but what sets WhistlePig apart is their lightweight barrel design and the huge custom array of barrel options.  Nowhere will you find more options to build your perfect custom tack driving 10/22.

SPECS
18” Octogonal 10/22 Replacement Barrel
Gun Barrel Stock: 6061 High-Quality Aircraft Aluminum

Barrel Lengths Available:  
16.5”, 17”, 18”, 20”, 22” Barrel Lengths Available in all Calibers (22 L/R, Mag, .17HMR and .17HM2) … Some without Compensator.
Rifle Liner Ends ¾” from the Muzzle End in Barrels with Compensator.  
Rifle Liner Runs the Full Length in Barrels without Compensator.
Factory barrel is 18.5" in length

Diameter:
.920 Bull Barrel Style

Shank Size:
.001 Oversized  (May require minor hand fitting)

Chamber:  
LR Bentz Chamber * (standard)
* 22 LR Bentz Chamber: Can use standard or match grade ammunition. Hypervelocity ammo (such as CCI Stingers) are not recommended.

Liner:
4140 Steel
.050 Thickness on LR & WMR Liner, 6 Groove
.065 Thickness on .17HMR & .17HM2 Liner, 6 Groove

Rate of Twist:
1:16 - 22LR and WMR
1:9 - 22LR Sub-Sonic (40, 50, 60 grain ammo / accuracy range 25-50 yds. max)
1:10 - .17 HMR  
1:9 - .17HM2

Weight:
18 ounces - 18" LR Fluted & Compensated Barrel (1 oz. per inch)

Caliber:
22 Long Rifle, 22 WMR Magnum, .17HMR and .17HM2

Compensator:
Standard Feature - Built-in, Non-Threaded Style
Fluted Barrel: Standard Feature


SOURCES
Whistle Pig Gun Barrel Company
http://www.wpgbc.com/


Tactical Innovations
http://www.tacticalinc.com/

Boyd Stocks
http://www.boydsgunstocks.com/


Leupold Optics
http://www.leupold.com



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Magnum Research MLR22AT 10/22 Review

Magnum Research MLR22AT 10/22 Review

As noted in my Ultimate 10/22 Shootout, “..and then the Magnum Research rifle shows up at about half the price of any of the rifles here. Kinda like the guy in the tweaked Nisson 300Z who can keep up and occasionally beat the guys in $1 Million sports cars.”  It does it all at a $599 MSRP.

For the price the Magnum Research is one hell of a head turner.  As my buddy finished off a couple hundred rounds of bulk ammo without a failure and then drilled a set of near single hole 50-yards groups with CCI Standard Velocity ammo, he turned to me and asked “why would I buy anything else?”

ABOUT MAGNUM RESEARCH
If you have watched ANY action movie in the last decade you know Magnum Research.  Their giant semi-auto Desert Eagle pistol in powerful .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .50 AE (Action Express) calibers are often nickel or gold plated and are the kick butt feature firearm of more than a few action heroine and villain.  What you may not know about Magnum Research is that they have a unnoted goal of producing unbelievably accurate firearms.  

This accuracy goal is nothing new, I owned a .22LR Mountain Eagle pistol and it was amazingly accurate... kinda sick about selling it.  Today, Magnum Research’s proprietary graphite barrels have become know as tack drivers from this 10/22 line to their new Blueprinted 700 bolt action rifles.


Magnum Research is also famous for their strategic industry relationships focused on making good production products better than ever.  Recently, a relationship with Walther to produce their MR9 pistol has made a Walther influenced design even better than the original design.

Their Remington 700 blueprinted action centerfire rifles have transformed a standard 700 into an ultralight stunningly accurate big game rifle.  In a similar strategy, Magnum Research has transformed the stock Ruger 10/22 into a price leading custom rifle for just $599 MSRP which should scare the heck out of competitors.

THE MAGNUM RESEARCH MLR22AT BUILD SPECS
The Stock MLR22AT is only $599.  My build included a stock Magnum Research MLR22AT which comes with CNC billet upper receiver, billet machined match bolt, custom charging handle, lightweight stock, and proprietary graphite match barrel with Benz target chamber. I added Bushnell Banner 3.5-10x36MM Rimfire Scope to complete the build; the total build as equipped was only $695 with the optic.  This is about half the price of the top end 10/22 builds I tested.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, & FEATURES
Honestly I was pretty blown away at the capabilities of this rifle considering its price and weight.  Actually the rifle is stupid crazy lightweight.  That crazy light 16" graphite barrel is amazing. A primary feature of graphite is that it delivers near instant heat transmission from the stainless barrel liner. The result is that the barrel runs super cool and maintains accuracy even after lots of sustained fire because of a huge reduction in any heat distortion. The graphite barrel sleeve also adds significant stiffness which further improves accuracy all while drastically reducing weight. This is one barrel and bolt combo I would use again and again on any build.  

It is also by far the lightest of any 10/22 rifles made at an insanely light 4.5lbs and the Banner scope I used only adds another 15 oz.    If you want to keep the weight super low, consider a Bushnell TRS-25 Red Dot sight for around the same price as the Banner scope which will deliver around a 4.7lb rifle.

Showy, the MLR22AT is not, however it is subtlety cool all dressed up in black. The billet machined receiver is every bit as nice as any of the other custom receivers I have tested and contributes overall to a very well made rifle, however the other components do not have the same custom finish and touches of the other custom rifles and components previously tested.

The trigger is a stock Ruger 10/22 unit which means it is far from a premium match trigger, however the “new version” Ruger 10/22 stock trigger is not bad. The fact that the stock MLR22AT could be even better by dropping in a match trigger gets me a bit excited. But as is, this rig can still get you into the .1xx’s" range groups at 50-yards.  

The stock trigger assembly comes with the flat circa 2000 magazine release however a $3 extended Ruger replacement part can solve that issue.  A couple sling studs would have been appreciated, but are $10 and easy enough to drill for and attach yourself.  In reality the only potential show stopper is that that the barrel is not threaded and suppressor ready for those owners.

The bolt is not showy but is an in house precision billet machined part which has all the extra tuning features such as pinned firing pin and correctly dimension-ed face. It is a well finished part, however it does not include the extra little decorative cuts like you see on some other custom 10/22 bolts. The charging handle is big, however perfect for a working mans rifle; I love it.  You can even work the bolt with big heavy mittens in the bitter cold or in my case taking a shot out of the garage at a target of opportunity with welding gloves on.

The Banner 3.5-10x36mm scope is really a perfect magnification range scope for this .22.  Of course it does not have the optic clarity the high end optic, that would be an unfair comparison, however it gets the job done all for under $100.  The scope has features such as an adjustable objective and bullet drop compensating scope turret with various turrets for different rounds to put shots on target all the way out to 150 yards. Once you find the ammo that shoots well, find it on the printed turret chart in the box and drop in the corresponding turret for fast and easy shots at extended ranges.

The stock itself was light and sturdy and an excellent interpretation of a Boyds Evolution stock but far lighter and due to the weight, I like it better on this rifle. The Magnum Research MLR22AT packs a lot of great components into this rifle that I would use in future builds, however they are already conveniently packaged into an affordable ready-to-go rifle. This is a scary efficient rifle that puts the upgrades where they matter.

ACCURACY
My opinion on the accuracy of this rifle has changed since my initial accuracy testing. In my first fourteen recorded groups, the rifle preferred non-match grade ammo and shoots its best groups with the quality HV stuff like T-22, Mini-Mags, and CCI Standard Velocity.  


This rifle delivered a personal best .167" group at 50-yards with inexpensive T-22 ammo. Actually it delivered a .211" group and I found that hard to believe and then shot the smaller group on the re-shoot.  Although the MLR22AT produced the best groups of all rifles in my initial testing, it also delivered groups which were larger than the other 10/22s within this class of accuracy. Maybe I started recording groups too early before the rifle had broken in, however as I shot groups with the rifle informally over the last couple months I have noticed that the initial groups I have recorded in the below spreadsheet do not tell the entire story. As I add more groups to the spreadsheet, you will start to see a rifle that shoots well with a broad range of ammo including the match grade stuff. Has it shown to be "the" most accurate 10/22 I own? No, but really freaking close and it does not complain and shoots well even when I feed it bulk ammo.

The widely available CCI Standard Velocity rounds have become my favorite round as they consistently deliver 10-20 shot groups of only .5” at 50-yards.  Rejoice and do a little dance, you don't need to buy expensive .22 ammo to have a rifle that shoots well. Accuracy Results were posted here in this Google Docs spreadsheet.

One thing I liked best was that I have yet to have a non-ammo related malfunction with this rifle which I cannot say with some of the other super tight chambered match grade 10/22 barrels.  


The question you have to ask yourself is whether you want a custom $1200 showy match rifle that shoots match ammo really well or two rifle for $1200 which are light, includes most of the asked for features, shoots Mini-Mags and CCI Standard Velocity ammo really well, and is ready for the next level trigger upgrade whenever you are.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Top to bottom this is an awesome super accurate and reliable setup, however it does not have the finish quality and refinement of the Force or Kidd custom 10/22s. It is clear to me that Magnum Research wanted to produce a competition killer at a very competitive price and they did.  It makes you wonder why you would buy a heavy cumbersome expensive rifle. For a first 10/22 for especially for kids this would be top of my list.  


Generally new shooters have a tough time managing heavy rifles anyway, so this makes it just that much more friendly for new shooters. The MLR22AT is far from a beginners gun and will hang with the top end rigs almost shot for shot and do it will less expensive ammo. It packs everything on an owners ultimate 10/22 wishlist with the exception of a match trigger all in a $599 rifle. When you have the money, add a match trigger and it is everything you need in a package you will not be terrified to use.

Generally I say that a trigger is one of the top accuracy upgrades, however they pretty much proved me wrong with the capabilities of this stock trigger equipped gopher getter. Though the trigger is stock, the rifle still delivered some outstanding groups and continues to do so. I believe Magnum Research has chosen a sweet spot that lives in an area where a rifle gets used, scratches, scraped, bumped, and flogged in the field, on the range, and even serve as a light training rifle youngsters. This rifle has proven its accuracy potential can hang with the big names of 10/22 precision all in a package you are not afraid to use. The best part is that if you are dead set on spending $1200 for precision 10/22s, then you could buy a set of these...


SPECS
Stock Magnum Research MLR22AT comes with CNC billet upper receiver, billet machined match bolt, custom charging handle, lightweight stock, proprietary graphite match barrel with Benz target chamber. Bushnell Banner 3.5-10x36MM Rimgire Scope - Total $695 as equipped with optic.  

SOURCES
Magnum Research
http://www.magnumresearch.com