This is the year.
State lawmakers removed the prohibition on hunting with semiautomatic rifles in Pennsylvania last winter. Game Commissioners established rules for their use this spring. Hunting licenses went on sale June 19, two days before the official start of summer.
Come July 1, the start of the 2017-18 hunting seasons, hunters can carry them into the woods.
So, will you be using one this fall?
These three semiautomatic rifles all performed well on the test range.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
There are various models out to choose from.
We took a look at three: the Savage A22, the Mossberg Blaze and the Ruger 10/22 Takedown.
All are slightly different. The Savage is the most traditional by first appearance. The Ruger is, as its name suggests, a rifle that can be broken into two pieces, while the Mossberg is tactical looking.
How did they perform in testing?
Here’s a look.
The A22 – the newest of these three, available less than a year — has the feel of a rifle meant for bigger game than squirrels.
At 40.5 inches long, with a 21-inch barrel, it weighs 5.63 pounds. This rifle has good quality sights front and rear, with the latter adjustable.
I added a Bushnell 3×9 rimfire scope – impressive in its own right – to the setup. That bumped up the weight to about seven pounds.
That’s certainly not heavy, but it’s hefty enough that you’ll appreciate the built-in swivel studs. You can outfit the A22 with a sling right from the get-go.
As for looks, the all-black stock has grooves on the pistol grip and forearm, so it’s not totally plain looking. But it’s not artsy either.
Your real respect for this rifle will come when you shoot it.
It comes with two 10-round magazines. They’re a little stiff and tough to load when you first pull them out of the box, but snap in with an audible click and, even better, pop out easily.
What’s nicer still is what happens when you send bullets downrange.
This proved to be the most accurate gun tested. We’re talking half-inch groups at 50 yards, with occasions of putting seven or eight shots out of 10 close enough together to create one penny-sized hole.
Part of the credit for that has to go to the rifle’s AccuTrigger. It’s adjustable – you can tweak it on your own without going to a gunsmith — though I found it functioned very well right from the box. There was little creep.
The Savage A22 has a suggested price of $281. Most retailers have it for less, though.
That’s not a huge investment as rifles go, but it is an investment. Based on how it shoots, though, it sure seems like a good one.
This is not a gun that wows you right out of the box.
But on the range? That’s another story.
The Blaze is short – a quarter inch shy of three feet – and incredibly light, weighing in at just 3.5 pounds. That’s because it’s mostly plastic.
Remember those squirt guns you played with as a kid, that were two mirror-image pieces of plastic glued together, with a visible seam running down the middle, all the way around?
The stock of the Blaze is likewise two pieces of plastic, or “polymer,” as Mossberg describes it. Rather than glue, though, the parts are held together by 16 screws.
The result is a rifle that feels, if not toy-like, not exactly like a serious firearm either. A plinker, perhaps, I thought, but no more.
Then I shot it.
On the range the Blaze reveals itself to be a really fun and surprisingly good firearm.
The rifle has a 16.25-inch barrel and comes with either 10- or 25-round magazines. It’s got adjustable sights, though with the Picatinny rail it’s also possible to add a scope.
The rifle I tested was equipped with the optional Dead Ringer holographic green dot sight. It features four reticle configurations – a dot, dot inside a circle, crosshair and a circle with a crosshair through it — in 11 brightness settings.
It shot very well.
The green dot was easy to see, even on sunny days. Once-inch groups were easy to hold at 25 yards. Things got a little looser at 50, but with a scope – the green dot offers no magnification – it might be possible to do even better.
Price is something else going for this gun. There are several varieties – differing really only in stock color, though there is a youth edition – but the base model typically sells for around $170.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
The 10/22 has been called the most popular .22 rimfire in the world. Certainly, Ruger has sold plenty – nothing short of millions – since its introduction in 1964.
Its legacy was assured long before 2012.
Then came this. The takedown model debuted, bringing to market something new and unusual.
And what is it? It’s a fun little gun and a real shooter, too, that’s what it is.
This rifle is short and light. It measures just 37 inches long, with an 18.5-inch barrel, and weighs just 4.6 pounds. Broken down to fit in its backpack-style case, it’s easy to see why people love it as a bug out bag-style firearm.
And indeed, its takedown nature is pretty cool.
The 10/22 can be broken nearly in half. It’s easy to do, too. Lock the bolt back, remove the magazine and disassembly is as easy as pulling one lever and twisting the barrel.
Re-assembly requires just putting the two halves back together and twisting the barrel a quarter turn.
Importantly, the rifle holds zero when pulled apart and put back together. At least it did for the 400 or so rounds I put through it.
If it develops some play – and it might – tightening the ring between the barrel and the receiver is meant to eliminate it.
Of course, for this rifle to be more than a fun gimmick, it has to shoot well, right?
That it did.
The 10/22 comes with an adjustable rear sight and bead front sight. For testing, I added a 3×9 scope. It fired 1-inch groups consistently at 50 yards. That’s hunting good, for sure.
You pay for what you get here. It’s more expensive – suggested retail is north of $400 – but it’s likely unlike anything else in your gun cabinet.
Fun, practical and different, that’s what it is.
So which rifle might you choose? One of these or another?
It figures to be fun no matter what, right?