Wednesday, August 22, 2018

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.

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