Weatherby Mark XXII .17 HMR Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The arrival of our new Weatherby (www.weatherby.com) Mark XXII bolt action rifle chambered for the potent .17 HMR rimfire cartridge was an eagerly awaited event here at Guns and Shooting Online. Regular Guns and Shooting Online readers know that we dominate the web when it comes to covering .17 HMR rifles and ammunition. In addition, practically everyone on the West Coast staff of Guns and Shooting Online owns and shoots Weatherby rifles and has a lot of respect for Weatherby products, which we have extensively reviewed. (See the Product Review Page for other Weatherby reviews.) Consequently, a new .17 HMR rifle bearing the graceful Weatherby flying "W" on its trigger guard bow just naturally piqued our interest.
We well remember the previous Mark XXII, a very classy .22 autoloader with a stock derived from the famous Weatherby Mark V centerfire rifle. The autoloading Mark XXII was introduced in 1961 and remained in the line until 1988. Weatherby was forced to use a number of suppliers over those years to build the actions for the autoloading Mark XXII, a regrettable situation that did nothing for the rifle's reputation, nice as it was. Also, by 1988 the bolt action had become the overwhelming choice of consumers buying deluxe rimfire rifles. For the next 18 years Weatherby left the rimfire rifle market to others.
This time, for the new bolt action Mark XXII reviewed here, Weatherby went straight to the top for barreled actions: Anschutz of Germany. That's right, the new Weatherby XXII is built on an Anschutz Match 64 barreled action. We have previously had the opportunity to review three models of Anschutz .17 rifles (see the Product Review Page) and have developed tremendous respect for what we consider to be the Rolls Royce of rimfires.
Combine a Weatherby designed stock with an Anschutz barreled action and chamber it for the .17 HMR cartridge and the result is practically guaranteed to get the staff here at Guns and Shooting Online salivating. So it was with considerable excitement that Shipping/Receiving person Kathy Hays, Engraving/Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays, Technical Assistant Jim Fleck and Owner/Managing Editor Chuck Hawks gently opened the cardboard carton containing our long awaited Mark XXII test rifle.
First impressions are lasting, and our first impression when we raised the lid of its box was that this is one beautiful rifle. The new XXII is definitely a knockout. The barreled action is highly polished and deeply blued. No matte black economy finishes for this rifle! The one-piece machined steel bottom iron and trigger guard are also high luster blued and the graceful trigger guard bow bears a gold inlaid Weatherby "W." The bolt body is polished and left in the white. No iron sights mar the length of the 23" barrel. Iron sights would be redundant on this rifle.
The barreled action is precisely inletted into a select walnut stock that gleams with a flawless, synthetic high gloss finish that brings out the striking figure of the wood. This stock is decorated with a rosewood forend tip and pistol grip cap separated by maple line spacers. The forend tip is set at a rakish 45-degree angle in the Weatherby manner. The bottom of the grip cap is decorated by the signature Weatherby diamond inlay, also in maplewood. These contrasting woods fit so seamlessly that they look as if some sort of hybrid tree grew them that way.
Such attention to detail is truly rare in today's rifles. This is a rifle that can hold its own in a gun rack dominated by Weatherby Mark V Deluxe and Vanguard Deluxe rifles, or any other deluxe rifle that you can think of. Before we even got the bolt into the action Rocky had claimed the XXII as his own, with Jim already vigorously disputing that claim!
Packaged along with the rifle are a trigger lock, owner's manual and a test target shot at 55 yards. The 5-shot group shot with this rifle measured about 0.4" center to center, well under 1 MOA. Outstanding accuracy, of course, is one of the many reasons that knowledgeable rifle shooters have so much respect for both Weatherby and Anschutz rifles.
Closer inspection revealed details that separate the Weatherby XXII from ordinary rimfire rifles. The supplied magazine, for instance, is the ultra-precise Anschutz single stack, detachable box that holds 4 Magnum cartridges. This magazine is formed from heavy gauge sheet steel with a red plastic magazine follower. The magazine will drop free without assistance when the release button, located just behind the magazine well, is pressed forward. The black plastic magazine floor plate protrudes just far enough below the belly of the stock to provide finger tip purchase to aid removal, if required, without interrupting the lines of the rifle. The magazine precisely angles the cartridges for feeding so that the bullet tips never touch steel as they are fed into the chamber.
The XXII's CNC machined receiver incorporates precise 3/8" dovetails for scope mounting. The top of the receiver is stippled to reduce glare, a nice (although unnecessary) touch. The top of the receiver is also drilled and tapped for Anschutz pattern scope bases. The two-position safety is located at the right rear of the receiver and blocks the sear. Back is "Safe" and forward is "Fire." The bolt can be opened with the safety on. We found the safety convenient to use and very positive in operation.
The bolt release is located on the left side of the receiver. To remove or replace the bolt the safety must be off; then press the bolt release forward and pull the trigger all the way back. The front part of the bolt rotates easily and must be correctly and carefully aligned before the bolt can be inserted into the receiver.
The CNC machined, cam cocking, full diameter, non-binding bolt cocks on opening. It incorporates a recessed bolt face and dual, asymmetrical, opposed extractors. A fixed ejector knocks out the fired cases when the bolt is pulled fully rearward. The rear of the firing pin is fully enclosed by a steel cap. A large, square lug at the base of the handle locks into a matching cut in the receiver to lock the bolt closed. This bolt easily disassembles into three pieces for cleaning.
The bolt comes with an adult size handle that is long and easy to grasp, unlike many rimfire rifle bolt handles, but it should be bent down more. When the bolt is closed the handle sticks too far out from the side of the rifle. The separate black bolt knob is press fitted to the bolt handle and is made of some kind of synthetic (plastic) material. We found this somewhat strange on a rifle of this quality and price, although this large, smooth, round knob is quite comfortable in the hand. The principle benefit of this synthetic bolt knob appears to be that it will not "silver" with use, as would a blued steel bolt knob.
The #1 contour (0.635" diameter at the muzzle) target grade barrel comes with a tight, match chamber. It is button rifled with 8 grooves and finished with a target crown. It is pure Anschutz. The barrel of our test rifle was free floated for its entire length.
The Weatherby Deluxe grade Monte Carlo stock incorporates a Weatherby style cheekpiece and a little cast-off for a right hand shooter. (Another nice Weatherby touch!) It positions the eye correctly behind a telescopic sight. The flattened underside of the forearm is intended to enhance stability when shooting over a rest. The rubber butt plate has a textured surface, is tastefully set off by a black line spacer and fits perfectly. Detachable sling swivel studs are standard. Inletting and wood to metal fit are excellent throughout. When we removed the stock we found that it is fully finished inside for protection against the elements and that the action is pillar bedded. Good Stuff!
Just about the only change that we would suggest to this stock is that the diameter of the pistol grip be reduced. The Weatherby stock is actually thinner through the grip than the pair of Anschutz Model 1717 rifles that we had along for comparison, so the grip diameter is certainly not excessive, but practically all factory produced rifles are too thick through the pistol grip area.
The stock's four-panel, machine checkering is cut at 18 lpi in a point pattern with zero overruns. This precisely applied checkering looks good to the naked eye and also feels good, but examination under magnification reveals a multitude of faint scouring lines. It's as if the checkering were somehow brushed into the wood. How this checkering was actually applied we do not know.
The trigger of the Mark XXII is one of its better features. The Anschutz Match 64 action uses a fully adjustable (from 2.0 to 4.4 pounds), single stage trigger. The grooved trigger blade is of medium width and has a comfortably curved face. The trigger pull of our test rifle came set to release at about 3 pounds according to our trigger pull gauge.
The trigger in our test rifle came from the factory with a small amount of somewhat gritty creep (unusual for an Anschutz trigger) as well as some over travel. The latter was not a problem, but we experimented on the spot with lightening the trigger using pull weight adjustment screw to see if that would reduce the grittiness. This small screw is located immediately in front of the trigger and can be accessed without any disassembly of the rifle. The result was not only a lighter trigger pull of about 2.5 pounds, but also the grit largely disappeared, leaving only a little smooth creep that we judged entirely acceptable. After returning from the range Rocky removed the stock and adjusted the sear engagement to eliminate the creep. Now our test rifle's trigger breaks at a clean, crisp 2.25 pounds. If only all rifles came with triggers this easy to adjust!
Here are some basic catalog specifications for the Mark XXII .17 HMR rifle:
We mounted a new Sightron SIIB Big Sky 3-9x42mm scope in Simmons rings on our Weatherby using the receiver's 11mm grooves. This fine scope offers brilliant optics, 1/4 MOA fingertip adjustments and proved to be an appropriate match for the Mark XXII. A rifle as good as the Weatherby deserves a scope as good as the Sightron. (A full review of this excellent scope can be found on the Product Review Page.)
With the Sightron Big Sky scope mounted our Mark XXII weighed in at 7-1/2 pounds empty. Add a sling and 5 cartridges and you're looking at a field weight of about 7-3/4 pounds. This is a nearly ideal balance between portability for carrying and steadiness when the time comes to shoot. The rifle balances well and is comfortable to carry in the hand or slung over either shoulder.
A brief comment about the .17 HMR cartridge for which our XXII is chambered. This little speedster has basically replaced both the .22 LR and .22 WMR for varmint and small game hunting among members of the Guns and Shooting Online staff. The .22 LR is still probably the best (and certainly least expensive) choice for target shooting and plinking, but for use in the field the rimfire .22's have been rendered nearly obsolete by the exceptional accuracy and flat trajectory of the .17 HMR. Hornady's .17 Magnum Rimfire cartridge is that good.
Descriptions and specifications are fine, but the fun part of any .17 HMR rifle review is the shooting. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck and Chuck Hawks were joined by their shooting buddy Jeff Johnson to put the Mark XXII through its paces at the range. Unfortunately, unacceptably high winds forced cancellation of our first scheduled range day with the Weatherby, so we returned to the rifle range 5 days later to try again.
The Izaak Walton outdoor range offers covered shooting positions and solid shooting benches with 25, 50, 100 and 200 yard target distances. Except for the preliminary sighting-in done at 25 yards, which consumed only 5 rounds, we did all of our shooting for record with the Weatherby XXII at 100 yards. The summer weather was mostly sunny with a high of about 81 degrees F. Unfortunately, we were again plagued by gusty and unpredictably variable winds of up to an estimated 15 MPH, which tended to raise havoc with our groups. Still, in order to complete this review in a timely manner we pressed ahead.
Wind sensitivity is the greatest weakness of the .17 HMR caliber, as its light bullets are very susceptible to even a light breeze. A 10 MPH crosswind will blow a 17 grain HMR bullet 3.3" laterally from the point of aim at 100 yards. This must be taken into account when evaluating the accuracy results below. Naturally, we tried to shoot between gusts, but inevitably our groups were larger than they would have been on a calmer day.
We used a Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest weighted with a 25 pound bag of shot for stability. The .17 HMR cartridge is extremely accurate, very quiet and has practically no recoil. Nor does it severely heat rifle barrels. The barrel or our Mark XXII was warm for most of our shooting, but never got really hot.
We fired 5-shot groups with five different brands of ammunition at Champion Score Keeper targets. These included CCI (Speer TNT bullet), Federal (Speer TNT bullet), Hornady (V-MAX bullet), Remington (Accu-Tip bullet) and Winchester (V-MAX bullet). All of these are 17 grain varmint bullets at a catalog muzzle velocity of about 2550 fps.
Here are the shooting results, measured center to center:
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE, ALL BRANDS OF AMMUNITION = 1.32"
This time out Chuck posted the smallest single 5-shot group. These are very good shooting results, particularly with the Hornady brand ammunition that this rifle favored. Keep in mind that they were achieved by four different shooters at an outdoor range subject to the vagaries of the wind. This Weatherby Mark XXII test rifle is included in the article ".17 HMR Rifle Accuracy Test Results," which can be found in the "Rifle Information" section of the Rimfire Guns and Ammo Page. There you can compare its accuracy results with other .17 HMR rifles.
During the course of our testing we found that the magazine was easy to load and also easy to insert into the rifle. The loading/ejection port is big enough to allow cartridges to be single loaded directly into the chamber and this is easy to accomplish. It is a pleasure to operate the exceptionally smooth and wobble free bolt. The stock is very comfortable and fit all of us well, which is not always the case. Overall, the ergonomics of the Mark XXII are excellent.
We discovered that the bolt must be operated smartly for the fixed ejector to flip the fired case clear of the action. If the bolt is operated too slowly the case will often fail to clear the ejection port. Once we understood that the bolt should be operated briskly all cases were ejected well away from the rifle.
The beauty of the Weatherby Mark XXII is truly more than skin deep. It is a high quality product that will provide a lifetime of shooting pleasure and pride of ownership. While the Mark XXII is not inexpensive, you are getting more quality and sophistication than can be had from most rimfire rifles regardless of price. It is probably too expensive to be chosen by most purchasers as their first rimfire rifle, but for those who have learned from experience with lesser rifles it could certainly be the last rimfire hunting rifle that they need to buy.
Note: This review is mirrored on the Product Reviews page.
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