This review of the Savage B22 VFSS was first published in the SSAA magazine in early 2018.
When I was a young fellow, shooting pests with both air rifle and an old Lithgow single-shot 22LR, I was envious of my cousin and his 22WMR. I cannot now remember what make and model it was. Nevertheless, when we occasionally hunted together, I was impressed by his 22WMR’s range and authority.
The review rifle was a Savage B22 VFSS, supplied by Nioa. It came fitted with a Leupold VX-3i 4.5-14x40mm CDS 30mm side focus Duplex scope which made the most of the rifle’s ability. The package also came with a generous variety of ammunition that allowed extensive range testing and hunting. Before I extoll the virtues of the Savage B22 VFSS, I must deliver a short sermon on the 22WMR versus the 17HMR.
The 22WMR v the 17HMR & 22LR
The 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (22WMR) is a calibre that has taken a back seat to newer offerings over the last few decades. Nevertheless, the humble 22WMR has a lot to offer and it stills fills an important niche. The 17HMR certainly took the limelight from the 22WMR and it is unquestionably a terrific calibre. However, despite the 17HMR’s unsurpassed performance on small game, I hold a strong opinion that it reaches its limit with hares and foxes and should not be used on anything larger.
It used to be common practice for property owners to keep a 22WMR and a 410 shotgun behind the kitchen door. The 410 was for dealing with dangerous snakes around the house while the 22WMR was for dealing with any foxes, wild dogs, feral cats or pigs that turned up in the chook pen and veggie garden. These days, of course, the law requires firearms to be secured, but most farmhouse gun safes would have such firearms right in front for ready access.
The 22WMR has also been widely used by farmers over the years for putting down injured stock, and every country butcher I ever met had one for killing beasts. One of my old cronies did an apprenticeship at the family’s country butcher shop before moving on to other fields of employment. Some years ago, in Arnhem Land, he took his 22WMR out to hunt a small wild pig for the approaching Christmas pork roast. While sneaking about the edge of a swamp, the pigs had eluded him. Suddenly however, he found himself being observed by a yearling buffalo, a mere five metres away! Having a great familiarity with his rifle, and a wealth of experience shooting cattle in the yards, he did not hesitate to put a 50 grain solid through the curl on the buff’s forehead, killing it instantly.
Obviously, I am not advocating folks should ever hunt game that size with a 22WMR. But, it does demonstrate that, in the right hands and circumstances, the 22WMR can deliver a lot of authority. You would never want to use a 17HMR for head-shooting any stock animal prior to slaughter, let alone a wild buffalo. Likewise, as much as the 17HMR kills small game like a thunderbolt out to 150 metres or so, it does not have the mustard for dealing with wild dogs, pigs and the like. The 22WMR, however, can handle these larger more robust animals as well as the small. If you refer to the trajectory and energy graphs for the 22LR, 22WMR and 17HMR you will see how the 22WMR holds its own out past the 70 metre mark.
The rifle was one of Savage’s new rimfire B-Series. The metal was stainless steel with a black synthetic stock, making for a robust, all-weather rifle that can take some rough handling. There were no open sights on the medium weight varmint profile barrel; this rifle deserves a good scope to showcase its talents. The ten-shot rotary magazine fits snug in the stock, providing ample ammunition with no protruding parts to catch or hinder the hunter. Accuracy potential is enhanced with Savage’s Accutrigger. Bare, the rifle weighs 2.7 kilograms (6 pounds) and is under a metre at 99 cm.
The Savage B22’s barrel is 53cm (21 inches). It is a medium weight varmint profile barrel made of stainless steel. The twist of the button-rifled barrel is a 1:16” and it also has a nicely recessed, target style crown to protect the muzzle. The heavier barrel does not detract from the balance and handling of the rifle at all.
Receiver and Bolt
The stainless steel bolt features a floating bolt head. This design simplifies mass production issues around full contact with the cartridge base and is also considered to contribute to better accuracy. Another contributing factor there is the mounting of the barrel to the receiver with a threaded lock-nut. The breech is cone type, without the extractor grooves seen in flat-faced breeches. In fitting the bolt into the receiver, you will need to be aware of the floating bolt head and make sure that it lines up with a mark on the rear section of the bolt. There is no separate bolt release. Simply squeezing the trigger tightly allows the bolt to be withdrawn, as is common on many rimfire rifles. The bolt handle features a large, knurled knob for secure grip and operation. A cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt provides clear evidence at a glance as to the state of the rifle. The bolts cocks on opening. The receiver is one piece stainless steel and comes with factory-fitted Weaver type bases.
Trigger and Safety
Savage’s Accutrigger is a definite feature of this rifle. It is adjustable and crisp. Out of the box, I measured 2.4 pounds weight of pull. I played with the adjustable setting and found that I could adjust the trigger a bit either way from there, over a range of 2.2 to 2.6 pounds. I found the trigger excellent off the bench and in the field. The safety was my preferred type; a sliding thumb tang directly behind the bolt on the pistol grip. It was nicely grooved and raised for positive feel and operation. It had two positions, fire and safe, and a large red indicator bead to clearly identify the fire position. The safety functioned flawlessly, as it should.
The Savage B22 has a 10-round, flush-fitting rotary magazine. I reckon that is the perfect magazine on any rimfire rifle. It provides ample back-up capacity for a hot bunny-bashing session and, if you run a spare magazine, it will be a rare day when you run short of ammo. The flush fit of the rotary magazine makes for comfortable carry and use in the field. I found the magazine to be a bit fussy about orientation when feeding rounds into it, however, with repetition, loading became second nature and was not a problem. When walking about the paddock at night, spotlighting bunnies, you need to be able to load your magazine by feel alone. The magazine functioned flawlessly over more than a thousand rounds, without any jams or misfeeds.
The stock is of moulded synthetic material, in a black matte finish. The trigger guard is integrally moulded into the stock. QD studs are fitted fore and aft. The stock has good ergonomic design, with a raised Monte Carlo style cheek combe, and is comfortable to use. I took it out for a stroll on a drizzly day, and the grip was good despite the wet conditions. The butt plate is held on by two screws. The butt pad is fairly hard and smooth; a little care is required if leaning the rifle up against a wall on a hard floor.
The rifle came fitted with a Leupold VX-3i 4.5-14x40mm CDS 30mm side focus Duplex (170703) scope. Parallax adjustment is essential for rimfires in order to get the best accuracy. Just plonking a scope designed for centrefire rifles on a rimfire is a disadvantage in that it can create a significant parallax error in the 50 to 100 metre rimfire range. The side turret on the VX-3i allowed me to adjust the parallax error to zero at 50 metres, which contributed to some of the excellent groups the rifle delivered. The Leupold had good light gathering for dusk and dawn hunting, plus spotlighting at night. The optics were crisp and left nothing to be desired. I liked the duplex reticle. The 4.5 minimum power was ideal for a 22WMR rifle being used for small game hunting. The higher power of 14x, combined with parallax adjustment, made for no excuses when shooting off the bench.
Off the Bench
With a wide variety and plentiful supply of 22WMR kindly provided with the Savage B22 I enjoyed many sessions at my local SSAA range. Weather conditions varied quite a bit over these different days, from calm and clear to windy and wet. I fired at least a thousand rounds in total over many sessions across a couple of months. The results of the range testing are listed in the table below. Given the number of rounds fired and the varying weather conditions, I reckon the test data is highly indicative. The chronograph showed that most makes of ammo were close to their nominal velocities.
The stand-out for me was how the Savage B22 VFSS performed so well with the CCI V-Max 30gr Polymer Tip and the Federal Game-shok 50gr HP. These two cartridges shot very accurately and neatly cover both ends of the spectrum for what you would want in a 22WMR. Remember that MOA at 50 metres is 14.5 mm which is half the diameter of a 20c coin.
In the Field
The Savage B22 FVSS Varmint is made for hunting. Having done extensive range work, I took it afield, loaded up with the CCI 30 grain Poly Tips, chasing bunnies. I did some early morning and sunset hunts, as well as walk about spotlighting at night. Several dozen bunnies met their maker in the course of my field testing, and I had a lot of fun along the way. Most of the shooting was off-hand, at ranges from 10 to about 70 metres. The design and balance of the B22 was everything it should be, making such hunting a breeze. The 30 gr Poly Tip is an explosive performer on bunnies, delivering emphatic kills. One point to be aware of, for meat hunters, is that it creates extensive bruising and damage unless you take very carefully placed headshots.
Next, I loaded up with the 50 gr Federal Game-Shok HPs and headed off to a close-by farm on the edge of town. They were suffering attacks of wild dogs that had killed several of their pet dogs and cats, plus attacks on some penned calves. It was not the location to be letting loose with my usual Weatherby Magnum, but was an ideal venue for a 22WMR. I had arranged a precise field of fire out to a maximum of 40 metres and was totally confident in my ability to instantly kill any wild dog that presented in that zone. Unfortunately, over several visits, the wild dogs did not reappear, so I was unable to fulfil that test.
The Savage B22 VFSS in 22WMR offers a lot of appealing features at a very competitive price. (Jennifer can you please confirm indicative RRP at publishing). Available from most gunshops the retail price varies but seems to be from about the $540 mark. For a farm pest rifle, it is, with the right choice of ammunition, capable of putting down stock and humanely dispatching the larger pests within about 70 metres. For recreational hunters, it is a great entry point into varminting and meat hunting small game, without the extra fuss of centrefire rifles. I found it reliable, without a single malfunction in over a thousand rounds fired. It is light and pointy, a joy to carry and use in the field.
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