Monday, August 27, 2018

TCR22 Cleaning and Speed Tests

True to form, 22's are dirty guns.

I hate cleaning guns.  I suspect that's a contrarian response to the anal retentive nature the military has towards cleaning firearms.  Nonetheless, it's a necessary chore.

A I mentioned in my last post, I broke down and cleaned the TCR22 at the 599 round mark because the groups in my informal accuracy tests were spreading and drifting.  There was a fair bit on the crown.  At a guess I'd say it was excess wax that was used to lubricate the various bullets.  On a slight tangent...

22 ammo, especially with lead bullets requires lubrication.  The manufacturers address this by coating the bullets with wax.  This helps with lubrication, cuts down on lead build up in the bore, and helps with the gas seal.  The downside of this was discovered during the recent ammo crunch when manufacturers were cranking out 22 ammo to the tune of millions of rounds per day.  Due to the huge demand for 22 ammo and the resultant rush to match demand QC did suffer somewhat.  I can personally attest to pulling new ammo from a box, loading it in the magazine and having to wipe to wax buildup from the feed lips before inserting the magazine in the firearm.

22's are inherently dirtier than most centerfire firearms.  This is directly related to the direct blow back action that virtually every semi auto 22 uses.  That results in quite a bit of unburnt powder and other residues finding their way into the action, bolt face, firing pin channel, magazines, magazine well, and so forth.  I am both surprised and pleased that the TCR22 has run quite reliably up to this point.  One of the idiosyncrasies of 22's is they require a bit more maintenance than most centerfires to remain reliable.

A close up of the receiver and chamber after 599 rounds.

A look at the bolt face before cleaning.

Thompson Center advertises a fully machined, stainless steel bolt.
Another unique feature to the TCR22 is the ability to clean from the chamber.

I came across a bag of Swab-Its bore cleaning tips that I had in a bag of half forgotten match swag.  They screw directly to the cleaning rod and are much easier to use that patches and the traditional eyelets or jags.  They can be washed and reused.  If these hold up well I am going to invest in some for my field kits.

Cleaning the TCR22 was no different than cleaning any other standard 10/22 or clone.  Make sure the gun is unloaded.  Loosen the take down bolt, verify the safety button was pushed in halfway, rotate barrel and receive from stock, remove bolt and trigger group from receiver, clean.  Then reverse the steps. Easy peasey.  The only thing that is easier in my opinion is cleaning one of the take down models.

Let's face it folks.  Cleaning guns is BORING.  I can post 100 photos and it's still boring.  The process is however, necessary to an evaluation of any firearm.  Field stripping, cleaning, and reassembly are all important to keeping our guns up and running when we need them.

The final phase of my initial evaluation is what I like to think of as drag racing with guns, shooting steel plates in a manner similar to the RCSA.  Running guns hard and fast will find failure points that we may never see in casual shooting.  For instance, I started off shooting Steel Challenges with a Ruger Mark 2.  There came a point where I could outrun the gun in it's stock configuration.  With that example in mind, I'll attempt to describe what I did with the TCR22.

First of all, the scope came off.  This is relatively short range shooting that requires the ability to rapidly transition from one target to the next to the next, etc.  Using the iron sights and my standby of Federal Red Box ammo and the Reger BX15 magazines, I started off slow with a drill that requires shooting a steel silhouette, a 6" plate on a rack, back to the silhouette, next plate, until all six plates were down and finished with a 'head shot.'  I timed these drills with an average of 11 seconds from beep to last shot, starting from a position of Low Ready.

From there I ran two magazines (thirty rounds,) of starting from Low Ready and placing one shot on a silhouette, average was .52, which is pretty slow by steel challenge standards, lest anyone think I have an inflated opinion of my...abilities.

The final drills were either Bill Drills, which starts from Low Ready and place six rounds on a silhouette as rapidly as possible without sacrificing accuracy, or a five shot variation which I used to mimic The One Second Challenge, three targets, five shots, hopefully in less than one second.  The average for the Bill Drills was 1.10 and the five round version averaged at 1.1 with a couple of .93 runs.  First shot was still at .5.  Unless my math and shot timer are misleading me that means the bolt is cycling extremely fast.  I didn't pick up on that until I started looking at the numbers.  I'll have to test that further at a later date.

At this point I'm starting to feel like a broken record.  The speed tests put another 197 rounds through the gun, 17 or which were CCI Mini Mags guessed it, no failures.  I did have a couple of issues.  First and foremost was the rear peep tended to slow down target acquisition.  If I were to use this as a steel gun I'd remove the rear peep and either use the rail as a gutter type rear sight or go with a red dot.

The trigger was slowing down splits as well.  Remember when I mention it was crisp but heavy?  That tends to affect shooting fast as well as shooting accurately.  I'll take a look at that when I have an opportunity to test with the Ruger BX trigger.  On another of my slight tangents, outside of gun games I don't think about splits.  It's a meaningless increment of measurement for most practical applications.  No offense to my gun gaming brethren intended.

If I were to be asked my thoughts on a 22 rifle that would be suitable for a multitude of applications and a broad range of skill levels, I'd most certainly recommend the TCR22 with the caveat that Thompson Center maintains the same level of quality that I've encountered with my example.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Catching up with the technology.

I was a little freaked out when a couple folks asked me if there was a way they could receive updates to my blog.  As it appears I've grown from two followers to five I felt as if I should provide the readers with what they wanted.  There is now a banner at the bottom of the blog so that you can receive blog updates by email.   I won't sell, share, or use your email addresses for any nefarious purposes, mainly because I don't know how. :-D

Thompson Center TCR22 Testing

The 50 yard rimfire range as seen through the lens of an iPhone.
It's been quite some time since I've found a rifle that I have really enjoyed shooting.  The past couple of weeks reminded me of when I was kid and deemed responsible enough to take a .22 out back of my parents house so I could murder some soda cans and old shotgun hulls without direct supervision.  This little rifle has been fun to shoot.

Here's how the testing started.

I unboxed at the range and started running rounds through it with minimal inspection.  Ammo used was the Federal Red Box that is sold exclusively at Walmart.  At 3.6 cents per round it's about the best value going for bulk ammo.  It's also pretty decent stuff.  After running a few rounds through the rifle I had a friend shoot it as well.  I managed to shoot the below ten shot group off a rest using the iron sights.

Ten shot group from 30 yards with iron sights.
To clarify a couple things, I wear bifocals and could barely see the highlighted eyeballs at thirty yards.  I felt as if this was a good enough group with my limitations to justify putting s scope on it and seeing what sort of accuracy I could get.  Which brought us to this:

Ten shot group from 30 yards with scope.

I felt as if this was accurate enough to stretch things out to fifty yards.  For all practical purposes, that's the furthest I'd intend to use a .22 rifle in the capacity of a critter-gitter.  So I planned another range trip with a couple of additional pieces of gear.  I picked up a Magpul M-Lok rail and an inexpensive bipod.

The installation of the rail was a bit of a pain, mainly because I didn't have my normal compliment of tools available at the range.  With a fair bit of profanity interspersed with furtive looks to make sure none of the other folks at my range could see my struggles, I got the rail on and tightened.  For those folks that have a kitchen table, decent overhead light, and basic hand tools, this installation should present no problem at all.

I proceeded to zero the rifle at fifty yards once again using the Federal Red Box.  I pasted up some fresh targets for Federal AutoMatch, MiniMags, and Federal Game Shok and things immediately took a turn for the negative.  My groups started to drift to the left.  Every ammo change created a larger drift until I was six to eight inches to the left of my point of aim.  Even after rezeroing the groups would continue to drift left.  At this point I decided to pack it up and talk to a couple of very knowledgeable friends.

As we discussed the various possibilities I brought the TCR22 out and started to inspect potential failure points.  The scope used was a Simmons 22 Mag Riflescope that I had acquired in a purchase of another rifle.  We decided the best option was to use a known good scope and start over.  When I went to remove the scope I discovered what I'm pretty sure was the real culprit.

A loose scope ring is a surefire way to lose zero.

Another trip to the fun store, another set of rings, and I went ahead with a different scope, A Bushnell 3x9 Sportview with a one inch tube, because the eye relief worked out a bit better for me.  After all that, the fifty yard groups with various ammo that I've found to be readily available.  All groups are five shot groups.

2 1/4" group with Federal Red Box.

1 1/16" group with CCI MiniMag 40 grain.  The flyer is all mine.
1 11/16" group with CCI Quiet.  It also dropped 7 1/4" from the PoA.
1 1/2" group with Aqula Super Extra 40 grain.

1 1/2" group with CCI Blazer.

2 7/8" group using Remington Golden Bullet.

Federal Game Shok provided a 1" group.

At this point I finally had to stop and clean the rifle.  I had fired 599 rounds of various ammo and the groups were starting to spread and drift.  I took a quick look at the muzzle and there was quite a bit of goo on the crown.  I'll go through some of the details of what I found during cleaning in the next post.  Meanwhile, back to the groups I really wanted to see.

CCI Stingers impressed me with a 7/8" group.

CCI Velocitors with a 1 7/16" group.

Thompson Center advertises the TCR22 with a "crisp trigger" on their spec sheet.  I will concur with that with the caveat that it is heavy for precision shooting.  As time permits I intend to install a Ruger BX Trigger and see if I can tighten up some of those groups.  I'm not sure if the installation of the BX Trigger will affect the bolt hold-open feature.  That's a non issue for me personally but it's a good data point to track.

A quick note.  At this point in testing, evaluation, and just plain having fun I have put 754 rounds through the TCR22.  I've had five failures to fire with the Federal Red box and one Failure to Extract with the CCI Quiet.  That is a .7% failure rate.  While not empirical data it does call into question the sage wisdom of keyboard commandos everywhere that pontificate on the unreliable ignition of .22 rimfire ammo.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Thompson Center TCR22 Overview

In a market saturated with a particular product I question when a company brings forth their version.  The Ruger 10/22 is the second most produced .22 rifle with the Marlin Model 60 having the honor of first place.  Ruger makes quite a few variations of their signature product as well as a host of accessories.  Other companies such as Magnum Research, Volquartson, Kidd, Tandemkross, and Tactical Solutions or TacSol make rifles or aftermarket accessories for the 10/22.  So the question that I first asked myself when I came across a TCR22 in a local Enabler Store...err...gun store is.  "What makes you guys think your product is worth my money?"

Most folks think of the Contender line of single shot rifles or perhaps the newer Encore series when Thompson Center is mentioned.  When I type in Thompson Center in Google, this Wikipedia excerpt popped up.

"Thompson/Center Arms is an American firearms company based in Springfield, Massachusetts. The company is best known for its line of interchangeable-barrel, single-shot pistols and rifles."
As it turns out they have made quite a variety of rifles including the R55, which was an extremely well made semi automatic .22 for what one would consider a production rifle.  As of this writing, the R55 is not shown on the Thompson Center website.

So what does a 10/22 clone made by a company that specializes in single shot, convertible rifles have to offer?  I'm glad you asked.  

The immediately recognizable feature is the re-branded Magpul stock.  TC's version of the Hunter X-22 is a stripped down version.  There are swing swivel mounts on the foregrip and butt stock, slots for an M-Lok rail on the bottom of the foregrip, and the butt pad is removable, which could be a handy storage spot for those who lean towards the survivalist potential of the rifle.

The most advertised feature of the rifle is the last shot hold open when using the Thompson Center magazines.  It is a partially clear, ten round magazine that looks exactly like Ruger's BX1 with one notable difference, a small lever located on top.  That lever must be pushed down before the first cartridge is inserted, which is a bit of a trick.  Once the first cartridge is inserted correctly the remaining nine can be loaded in the same manner as OEM Ruger magazines such as the BX1, BX15, and BX25.

The TCR 22 comes with a machined 6061 aluminum receiver with an integral picatinny rail.  I had to look up what made 6061 special.  In short, it's easy to work and is quite durable.  It is used a lot in bike frames, firearms parts such as AR lower receivers, and aircraft parts.  It is not as strong as 7075 aluminum but is well suited for the use of a firearm receiver that is not receiving direct stress from cartridge ignition pressure.

The bolt is fully machined stainless steel with an oversized bolt handle.

The barrel is 17" long with a 1:15 twist and button rifling.  I had to look up what 'button rifling' is to satisfy my curiosity.  The grooves are 'ironed' in the bore with the use of a button that is ran through from either the muzzle or breech end, depending on the preference of the manufacturer.  More accuracy records are held with rifles that have button rifled bores than any other type.  You can read more about the various Rifling processes at the NRA Family website.

The barrel is threaded with 1/2"x28 threads and comes with a thread protector.

Sights are a non adjustable blade with a green fiber optic insert at the front and a rear peep that is windage and elevation adjustable.  The peep is mounted at the rear of the receiver providing the longest possible sight radius.

One of the most attractive features of this rifle is the weight, or rather the lack of.  According to the Thompson Center Spec Sheet the TCR22 weighs 4.4 pounds.  That is in direct competition with Ruger's new line of lightweight take down rifles that are specced at 4.5 pounds.

I'll go into specifics in the next installment but I wanted to share a couple of quick observations.

  1. Accuracy is very good.  
  2. I usually have to run 500-1000 rounds through a 22 to get consistent reliability.  With the exception of some bulk ammo related malfunctions, this rifle has been utterly reliable to date with about 500 rounds through it at this point.  I have not cleaned the rifle.
  3. More to follow in the next post.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

What the hell Photobucket?!

As most folks know, Photobucket has gone Full Retard with their 3rd party hosting.  When I go to their site it's so ate up with pop up ads that I can't even navigate to see what pictures were linked.

I'm in the process of shuffling things over to imgur.  Any new images will of course be hosted there as well.  Photobucket, you suck.  AMF.