A Classic Revisited:
By Chuck Hawks with Jim Fleck
The Browning A-Bolt .22 Rimfire was manufactured in two versions, Grade I (1986-1996) and Gold Medallion (1988-1996). Back then we both wanted one in the worst way. The biggest problem was that it had to be a used rifle, since neither of us could afford to buy a new one. The remaining question was: ".22 LR or .22 WMR?" The A-Bolt Rimfire .22 was available in both calibers.
I managed to waffle until the rifles went out of production and subsequently pretty much disappeared from the used market, while Jim had the good sense to buy a used .22 LR Medallion in good condition at a gun show while he still could. So guess whose personal rifle is featured in this review?
This rifle's high gloss finished walnut stock is checkered, comes witha fluted comb, and wears a rosewood pistol grip cap and forend tip. The butt plate is checkered black plastic. The barreled action is highly polished and finished with a high luster blue, and the receiver is grooved for tip-off scope mounts. It is obviously a premium rifle.
This is a smooth, fast operating bolt action with a 60-degree bolt rotation and the signature Browning A-bolt knob. It cocks on opening and locks with 2 rear lugs. The bolt release is The grooved, gold-plated trigger is user adjustable and the trigger guard/bottom iron is made of aluminum. The barrel is free floating. The standard detachable box magazine holds 5 cartridges, and a 15 round magazine was available as an accessory.
The idea to write this review came about because Jim was preparing for a varmint hunt and wondered if his beloved Browning A-Bolt .22 would shoot accurately enough with CCI hyper-velocity Stinger .22 LR ammunition to warrant taking it along. This rifle is a known tack driver with high velocity CCI Mini-Mag HP and Remington Golden Bullet HP small game hunting ammunition, but had not previously been tested with Stingers. The Stinger was the natural choice for a varmint hunt because (A) there are few .22 LR varmint loads to choose from, and (B) CCI Stinger ammo is readily available in Jim's home town of Eugene, Oregon.
Stinger .22s are loaded in slightly lengthened nickel-plated cases, which along with their 32 grain copper-plated, hollow point bullets makes them easily recognizable. CCI ballistics tables credit the Stinger bullet with a muzzle velocity of 1640 fps and muzzle energy of 191 ft. lbs. from a rifle barrel. At 50 yards the catalog velocity is 1352 fps and remaining energy 130 ft. lbs.; at 100 yards the velocity has dropped to 1124 fps and the energy to 90 ft. lbs., about that of a high velocity .22 LR bullet at the muzzle. The maximum ordinate (the bullet's max rise above the line of sight) is given as 2" at 100 yards.
Jim's Browning A-Bolt .22 wears a Bushnell .22 Rimfire 3-9x32mm scope. These inexpensive scopes are designed to be parallax free at 50 yards. They feature 3" of eye relief, 1 inch tubes, fully coated optics, and finger tip 1/4 MOA windage and elevation adjustments. The Bushnell comes with a Tip-Off mount that clamps to the Browning's grooved receiver, and that is how the scope was mounted on the little A-Bolt rifle.
As usual, our test shooting was done at that Isaac Walton outdoor gun range located south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility offers covered shooting benches and target stands at 25, 50, 100, and 200 yards. Jim did the bench rest shooting resting the forend of the Browning over a wooden rest padded with a folded towel. There was a variable wind gusting at an estimated10 to 15 mph that required Jim to try and shoot between the gusts. The temperature was in the low 60's and sunny.
Jim started with 3-shots at 25 yards in an attempt to get an idea of how the rifle liked .22 Stingers. The result was a group that went into one elongated hole that measured only 3/32 inch center to center. That question answered, Jim moved back to 50 yards and zeroed the rifle to hit 1.5" high at that range with the CCI Stingers. Then he shot some 50 yard, 5-shot groups for record. Here are the results:
Those results were so outstanding that, just for fun, Jim decided to shoot a 5-shot group at 100 yards. That group measured 2 7/8", spread laterally by the wind, and was centered about 1.5" low. That gives the Stinger a maximum point blank range (+/- 1.5") of approximately 100 yards from the Browning A-Bolt Rimfire rifle. All in all, a very credible performance on a windy day.
The combination of the Browning A-Bolt Rimfire .22 rifle and CCI Stinger ammunition surpassed our expectations. For 2006 Browning reintroduced the old T-Bolt .22 rifle. The straight pull T-Bolt is a good rifle, but it is not a deluxe rimfire. Compared to the A-Bolt Medallion it is a rather plain .22. We wish that Browning had brought back the A-Bolt Rimfire Medallion.
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