Wednesday, March 21, 2012

.22 Shoot Out

Ruger, Higgins, Browning
After a brisk hell for leather and devil take the hindmost ride across the Waco countryside I got back to the manse to find my philisophic friend and all 'round sportsman, GWB, on the proverbial doorstep. With guns. .22s, in fact. After pounding the mahogany over curry we decided to take the guns out for a shoot the next day. Which .22 was best?

There were three contenders. A Browning take-down, a Ruger 10/22 carbine, and a J.C. Higgins tube fed bolt action, all with iron sights. The winning rifle would be the most accurate, most reliable, give the best bang for the buck and be the most fun to shoot. Look, feel and finish were also important. Ranges to be at 100, 50 and 25 yards, against a variety of targets -- a steel plate turkey, coke cans, a piece of aluminium scrap metal, a silhouette and steel plate spinners of various sizes (serving plate down to silver dollar). Shooting positions standing, kneeling and prone, no bench resting.

fix that gun
A great plan but when we got out in the field the wind was so fierce that it was hard to stand up, not dissimilar to shooting into a wind tunnel; accuracy was going to suffer. Still, you live in Texas, you want to shoot, so deal with the wind.

All the rifles did well. The Ruger came out tops for accuracy at 100 yards, which surprised me. The Higgins did best at 50 yards, making swift work of assorted soda cans  and the Browning was... OK. Reliability went to the Browning, which performed flawlessly. The Ruger was good for the most part, but suffered the occasional stove pipe, and the Higgins went down at one point with a malfunctioning bolt (fixed with a quick bout of field surgery). Word to the wise -- don't waste your money on a 30 round Butler Creek magazine with plastic lips for the 10/22. They're rubbish. At least the one we tested simply didn't work.

Bang for the buck? That has to go to the Ruger, which is hard to beat at $197 from Academy Sports. The Higgins came in second, with plenty of bang for around 100 pawn shop bucks, but it's a 50/60 year old rifle. The Browning has to rank third. This .22 is beautiful and you pay for it, at around $700+++ per gun and, go figure, it works well. Well it should at that price but is it any more accurate than the Ruger or the Higgins? I don't think so, maybe less. Still, it's a beauty.

Fun to shoot? I'd have to go for the Ruger because it's neat to blast off 30 semi auto rounds in no time at all. More exciting than the deliberation of the Higgins bolt and the stymied 10 round Browning magazine. As for look feel and finish, that depends on the shooter, but for me, the Higgins felt and shouldered best, followed by the Ruger. I didn't like the Ruger's cheap and nasty plastic butt plate and forearm band, and its inletting could've been better. But at $197? A deal. For overall appearance and total elegance, the Browning wins hands down. So it should, at its price.

The best gun, overall? The 10/22. It's America's favorite .22 for a reason. That said, don't scoff at second hand deals, like the Higgins. An accurate and well enough made rifle, but be prepared for the odd eccentricity. After all, it's an old gun. The Browning is great. If you have the $$$ get one. I shot my first rounds with one when I was 7 and enjoyed it then. I do now, even if the thing ejects hot brass into the sleeve of your coat.  

So. If you're a man of means, get a Browning. If you're on a miserable stipend get a 10/22, probably better value new and right out of the box than many slightly cheaper second hand bargains. Save up and get one.

Shoot straight,



bluesun said...

Might I recommend a lever action, such as the Henry I just bought? I love my 10/22, but for some reason I had, say, twice as much fun with the Henry the first time I shot it.

LSP said...

Good call, Bluesun. There's something about the lever action which I really like. Maybe it's the sheer mechanics of the thing and it's an interesting via media between bolt and semi...

Might just have to get one.

Silverfiddle said...

Excellent article, Parson!

I own both a Ruger 10/22 and an old JC Higgins handed down to me from my dad. The Ruger is clearly the superior rifle. The Higgins shoots great, but I too had problems with the magazine, probably due to age.

And yes, those 30 round clips for the Ruger don't last long. Too much tension for the spring, I think.

Thanks again for the article. My family loves .22 plinking!

LSP said...

Thanks Silverfiddle.

To be honest, most of my shooting is .22 at the moment because it's fun and it's cheap. And, for sure, the 10/22 is a neat rifle at an incredibly good price.

Tempted by .204 though -- for plinking enjoyment and small game (rabbits etc).

Safe shooting with the family!

Mattexian said...

Good comparative review. The only .22 I have at the moment is a Remington Fieldmaster pump action, which I someday hope to remedy, but I wish the pawn shoppes near me didn't think so highly of their used guns as to hang new prices on them! Right now my next big gun-related purchase plans are for a can of ammo for my AK, that I can stick in the back of a closet *just in case!*

LSP said...

I know exactly what you mean Mattexian -- the pawns tend to be strangely pricey. Saying that, I understand there's a good one on NW Highway in Dallas. LE visits it for deals on pistols etc.

Good call on the AK ammo; I must do the same for the AR and, er, .303(!).