The Savage Mark II BRJ in 22LR
The 22 Long Rifle has been around for a long time and most rifle shooters would have used one somewhere along the way, even they don’t have one, or more, in their gun safe. Only a couple of years ago, for no particularly good reason other than I had no current use for it, I got rid of the 22LR rifle in my gun safe. For the first time in more than 40 years I did not possess a 22 rimfire. That particular rifle I had owned for more than thirty years, and the kids had learnt to shoot with it. They were appalled when they found out I had sold off an old favourite with fond memories. To make amends I volunteered to put another 22LR rifle back in the gun safe as soon as possible. And, as so often happens, just after I got rid of the old 22LR, I chanced onto some good rabbit hunting access quite close to home. Suddenly, my interest in the 22LR had escalated significantly.
I dare say more rabbits have met their demise at the business end of a 22LR than any other calibre. The humble 22LR is considered by many to be The bunny cartridge. Target practice and plinking are the mainstay of the humble 22LR. Speaking of plinking, that is of course one of the 22LR’s great advantages. It provides invaluable practice at a modest cost and can really hone up your centrefire shooting skills. With due consideration for safety, impromptu targets such as pieces of cow dung, sticks or fruit make dynamic, responsive targets. An hour or so of plinking away a box or two of cartridges is both good fun and skill building.
The Savage Arms Company
The Savage Arms Company has a long reputation in the firearms business. It was established in the late 1890s by Arthur Savage who actually has an interesting Australian connection, but that is another story. The company has always been innovative and well appreciated for producing no-nonsense rifles that could be relied on for out-of-the-box accuracy. In recent years Savage appear to have gone a bit more upmarket with their 22LR rifles with the introduction of a number of innovations and more stylish designs. The MKII BRJ is a good example of that.
So, anyway, with a rekindled interest in 22LR rifles I was more than keen to test Savage’s MKII BRJ when the opportunity presented itself. The test rifle, with Leupold VII 3-9×33 AO Rimfire scope in low rise Warne rings, was supplied by Nioa Trading along with a plentiful variety of ammunition.
The style of the rifle is that of a varminter with a heavier than normal barrel and laminated wood stock that lends itself to bench style shooting from a rest. I measured the rifle as being 102cm in total length. On my scales, with scope mounted, bolt in place and a loaded five round magazine it was ready to go hunting and weighed 3.445 kilograms.
The Savage MKII BRJ 22LR has heavy, straight-taper, carbon steel barrel with a blued, satin finish. The barrel is also fluted with a rather eye-catching spiral twist. It is nominally 21 inches in length and I actually measured a precise 21.0 inches from the closed bolt face to the crown. The muzzle crown is neatly machined. The rate of twist is listed as 1 in 16 inches.
Receiver and Bolt
The bolt cocks on opening. Typical of most rimfire rifles, it is of a rear locking design. The firing pin travel is quite short and the spring is a strong one, for fast lock time. The extractor claws set into the bolt face provided reliable and emphatic ejection of spent shells.
The receiver is tapped and the rifle came fitted with Warne bases and rings.
The shell ejection port was good sized and made for easy loading of single rounds at the range. Presumably it is sized for use in magnum rimfire models.
The Trigger and Safety
The MKII BRJ features Savage’s AccuTrigger. A patented invention, the AccuTrigger is a clever design that allows a lighter trigger pull in a factory trigger. An unobtrusive blade set within the trigger itself must be pulled back before the trigger can be released. In operation it is completely unobtrusive and the shooter is unaware of any resistance or sensation other than a normal trigger pull.
The AccuTrigger is adjustable and I chose to set mine to minimum. The rifle comes with a small yellow tipped key for adjusting the weight of pull. Clear instructions are provided and it is a simple procedure to do that yourself. Note that the barrelled action needs to be removed from the stock to do that trigger pull adjustment.
I used my trigger scales to accurately measure the weight of the trigger pull. I found that it varied between 2.2 and 2.6 pounds, which many would consider to be about right for a hunting rifle. There was only a hint of creep and the trigger was very consistent, which makes for better accuracy.
Safety is a simple two position, on and off, located behind the bolt handle, on the right hand side, conveniently close to the shooter’s thumb.
The Savage has a pressed metal, detachable, five round magazine. The cartridge follower is of bright red plastic which aids in highlighting when the magazine is empty. The magazine was easy to load and there were no feeding issues with any of the variety of different rounds I put through the rifle.
The only minor issue I found was that when inserting the magazine into the rifle with a closed bolt in place I needed to give the magazine a firm seating push to catch its retainer. I attribute that to the rifle being new and would imagine after a bit of use that would no longer be an issue. Failing to firmly seat the magazine could easily result in its loss. Seating the magazine with the bolt open was easy and presented no problems.
The Savage MKII BRJ comes with a wood laminate Monte Carlo type stock. The Savage information does not say so, but I would think from the style and construction of the stock it is by Boyds, the well known stock maker. Laminated hardwood stocks provide a stable, durable, weather proof platform for any rifle. In hand, the stock feels reasonably slimline and not as chunky as the web site photos might suggest.
The style of the stock is more that of a varmint, but with just enough sporter influence to be effective for both field hunting and benchrest shooting. The fore end is a semi-beavertail style with a flattened underneath area for stable shooting off a rest. The fore end also features two QD sling attachments to enable the rifle to fitted with both a bipod and a sling; very useful for a little varminting work around the paddocks.
Three vent slots on either side of the fore end provide for extra barrel cooling, in the unlikely event you could put that many rounds down the barrel in a short space of time. They look cool too and combined with the spiral fluting, present an appearance that will appeal to many shooters.
The finish of the stock is nice and smooth and the various coloured laminates present an eye-catching swirl of colours along the stock. The grip is quite full and sized for an adult hand with a pronounced bottom curve that makes for comfortable shooting off the bench. The barrel was free-floating without any pressure points from the stock.
Over the Bench
The test rifle came with a generous quantity of ammunition, to which I added numerous other makes. Over a period of several days at my local SSAA range I set up a series of 50 metre targets and also my chronograph. It was blustery weather, not ideal for shooting rimfire groups, but I persevered.
I had the Leupold scope set on 9x and adjusted the objective to be parallax free at the target distance, rather than rely simply on the 50m setting. There was only a minor difference which may well have been due to the actual distance not being the nominal 50 metres, a not uncommon situation. I always adjust AO scopes on the basis of eliminating the parallax rather than blindly following the distance increments.
My interest was mainly in hunting rounds which are typified by higher velocity and hollow point projectiles. Nevertheless I did test a variety of standard velocity solids as well. In the mix was some target ammunition to provide a measure of best possible accuracy to compare the hollow point hunting rounds with. I have summarised the results of that in Table 1.
A few comments are necessary. I have listed the ammunition is order of best accuracy. I omitted a couple of other target rounds that shot almost as well as the SK Target. The rifle seemed well behaved with target type ammo and shot it all to a good accuracy. I also omitted any ammo that did not achieve an average group size better than 30mm at 50 metres.
I was keen to test the CCI Velocitors as I had heard a lot of good reports about them. They proved to be in short supply however and the best I could manage was a single box from a country gun store in passing. With a plan to use the Velocitors in my field trials I only shot a few groups. There were a couple of good groups, then a rather erratic group which blew the average out to 30mm. Interestingly, the chronograph reported velocities over a hundred fps lower than the manufacturer’s nominal MV for the Velocitors. That was unusual given that the other rounds I chronographed all came in quite close to their respective nominal MVs. The data for that is shown in Table 1.
As it was I had heaps of CCI Mini-mags, courtesy of Nioa Trading, so I shot and recorded a lot of groups with those, particularly as they quickly showed themselves to be most accurate hunting cartridge. Interestingly, a couple of the smallest groups were shot with the Mini-mags. As I mentioned, it was windy weather during my range work. I had started first thing in the morning and had actually packed up ready to go home for lunch when the wind just died. I was merely waiting for a cease fire to go get my target. With the sudden onset of dead calm conditions I hastily un-bagged the Savage and unlocked my ammo box. I managed to shoot two quick five-shot groups before the Range Officer called a halt to proceedings. Both were excellent tight groups, the best came in at 8mm centre-to-centre.
While it can’t be considered over-whelming evidence it does provide a measure of how much windy conditions can affect a 22LR at 50 metres. It also gave me extra confidence in the CCI Mini-mags, especially for spotlight shooting at night when it is generally a lot calmer.[table “” not found /]
In the Field
Having satisfied myself on the accuracy and sighting of the CCI Mini-mags I sallied forth in search of Oryctolagus cuniculus. There were not a lot around, and those that were out and about were particularly skittish.
The accuracy, velocity and hollow point projectile of the CCI Mini-mags proved to be highly effective. The impact of the hollow points invariably produced a meaty whop that signals a good hit. A brace of bunnies were taken at distances of around 50 to 75 metres. Given that the rifle was sighted for the Mini-mags (at exactly one inch high at 50 metres) and I was in short supply of the Velocitors, I limited my hunting to the Mini-mags. A number of my hunting associates have adopted the Velocitors and swear by them as an excellent hunting cartridge; a claim I do not doubt but could not test for myself.
I thought the rifle was nicely balanced with the shorter rimfire bolt and 21 inch barrel delivering a carbine feel to it. Its handling was not in any way heavy or awkward when out and about in the bush. Off the bench it sat firmly and quite stable proving comfortable to shoot. I particularly liked the Savage AccuTrigger for its crisp, light let-off and inherent safety.
The accuracy with higher velocity hollow points was more than acceptable and I can see it being a deadly performer on rabbits, hares and the like.
The Leupold VXII 3-9×33 EFR Rimfire scope with its adjustable objective enhanced the accuracy and the crisp, bright optics were a pleasure to use, even at night over the spotlight.
The spiral fluted heavy barrel and eye-catching, vented, coloured laminate stock were soundly practical and effective and, on looks alone, will appeal to many shooters. The Savage MKII BRJ strikes me as a robust rifle that will take decades of hard use in its stride.