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Old 01-01-2011, 04:38 PM
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Browning T Bolt Review

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I've been wanting a nice little bolt action 22LR for hunting tree rats and just plinking with. I have had a few different 22s over the years and currently have a Ruger 22 Target model which I have done a bit of work to. It is a great gun but it weighs in at about 9lbs and really not my idea of a walking around rifle.

So, I began my search for a nice light rifle I could hunt with and carry in the woods all day. I researched the CZs, Weatherby XXII, Anschutz, Browning T Bolt, and a couple of others. I decided I wasn't willing to spend the money for a Weatherby or an Anschutz so they were dropped from my list. I was really intrigued by the T Bolt but had never put my hands on one. So, I went to my local shop and they had one left on the rack and they offered it to me for a price I just couldn't pass up.

I brought the rifle home and mounted a Leupold VX-I 2-7x33 on top in a set of Talley rings and bases. For anyone not familiar with the rifle it is a straight pull bolt reintroduced by Browning a few years ago. It has an adjustable trigger and a "double helix" 10 round magazine somewhat similar to the Ruger rotary magazine but slimmer allowing for a slimmer stock design. This is my observation on this rifle.

First off it is a very nice looking design. The fit and finish is very good and the machining of the metal parts is well done and finished. The stock is walnut with a satin finish. It is checkered around the pistol grip and also in the forearm area. The forearm checkering wraps around underneath the bottom of the forearm not just along the sides. I thought this was a nice touch and feels real nice in my hands. All of the checkering is very well done. It is pretty deep and sharp allowing for a good purchase. The action is glass bedded at the factory and the barrel is free floated. The barrel itself is a thin sporter profile at 22.5" long with a recessed crown. The blueing on the metal is very nice. The trigger group housing is made of plastic, which I could do without, but it seems plenty study enough to do its intended job.

The trigger on this rifle is adjustable. I believe Browning advertises it at 3.25 to 5.25 lbs. I adjusted mine down all the way and was able to get it to 3.5 lbs. However, it may have loosened up a bit after shooting it some but I haven't put a scale on it again. The trigger is quite crisp with almost zero take up and it breaks clean. One problem I see is that the rifle is so light that even a 3lb pull is too heavy for my taste. I plan to cure this problem but that is another subject.

The straight pull bolt action is a nifty concept albeit nothing new to the market. The bolt has two round lugs that lock into recesses in the receiver behind the chamber when it is pushed forward. The bolt handles cams back when you pull unlocking it from the receiver as the lugs are shifted to the right. It cams forward as it reaches the recesses in the receiver and the lugs are shifted to the left locking in. The action is quick but was a little rough at first. It has smoothed up a bunch after about 150 rounds and I am really taking to it.

The Leupold 2-7x33 is just about a perfect match for this rifle. With it in place the rifle handles very well and it nicely balanced. The only issue is the parallax on this model is set a 150 yards which causes some correction errors shooting off the bench at 25 and 50 yards. However, this rifle is not made to shoot off a bench anyway, it is made for the field and I think it will be great for it's intended purpose.

Now for the accuracy. I took it to the range and zereod it with Wolf MT at 35 yards. I then ran some groups at ranges from 25 yards to 50 yards using CCI Standard Velocity, CCI Sub-Sonic HP, Wolf MT, and some older Eley Match, which I can't seem to get to shoot well in anything.

I really had a hard time making a definitive distinction between the accuracy of any of these rounds. They all shot pretty well but the CCI SV turned in the best group of the day, which was also the last group of the day. It was just slightly larger than one bullet hole at 25 yards. All the groups pictured below are five shots each shot off of sand bags. I really think the gun and I both are capable of shooting better groups with a trigger in the area of 2lbs and a scope with a parallax correction for the ranges I am shooting. The rifle is so light that it makes it hard to pull the 3.5lb trigger without moving the crosshairs off target. The gun did seem to shoot better as the session went on, or maybe I was getting more comfortable with it. Of course, it could have been a little bit of both. All in all I really like the rifle and think it will make an excellent field gun. There's no doubt it is plenty accurate enough for field use and should be a nightmare for the tree rats.

I hope this helps someone else who might be looking to buy one of these rifles.
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Old 01-01-2011, 07:59 PM
Beartooth Regular
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 10,041
Last year I handled one of the T-bolts. Didn't know it had all the features you mentioned but liked it anyway.

The one I looked at was priced higher than the Ruger 77/22. The Ruger is the rimfire that looks and feels like a centerfire and would have been the one I'd choose. Since you have both I'd value your opinion.
Still Learnin' as I go!

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Old 01-01-2011, 08:14 PM
Beartooth Regular
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Arkansas
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The Ruger I have is the 10/22 Target Model. It is the heavy barrel with a laminated stock. It is a fine shooting rifle and great off a bench but too barrel heavy for much else. Sorry, I should have been more specific.
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Old 01-02-2011, 04:26 AM
Gil Martin's Avatar
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Schnecksville, PA
Posts: 2,861
Interesting review

Range Junkie,
I have a Browning TBolt heavy barrel (which is really not all that heavy and more like a sporter) and agree with your assessment. These are fine rifles and a joy to shoot. All the best...
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Old 01-02-2011, 12:43 PM
Rangr44's Avatar
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 2,718
I own, shoot & hunt both a Ruger 77/22 and a Browning T-Bolt (among others )

My 77/22's a Sporter with a 4x Leupold RF Compact scope; my T-Bolt is the earlier Belgian (not later Japanese) version from the 1960-70's, with a 2-7x28 Leupold RF Compact scope.

The Ruger is slightly heavier, and is more in line with being a good RF substitute for a CF rifle, since it has a standerd turnbolt action.

The T-2 deluxe that I have is almost twice as accurate as the Ruger, on paper - but both are about equal for hunting.

I like each, for what they are - just as I also like my various RF leverguns.

You might say that I'm an equal opportunity shooter..........

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Old 01-02-2011, 02:40 PM
Beartooth Regular
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Arkansas
Posts: 815
You might say that I'm an equal opportunity shooter..........

I can relate to that. Two years ago you would have not seen me shoot a 22 unless it was a pistol. In the past year or so I have bought three 22 rifles, one pistol, built a 10/22 for my father in law, and have one other I'm working on now. I just can't get enough of them. Maybe I'm reliving my childhood. Of course, I also like the fact that I can shoot for hours and it doesn't cost a fortune. I reload for most of the calibers I shoot but I like to spend more time shooting and less time loading and the 22 really helps out with that.
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Old 01-08-2011, 05:36 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Fort Wayne, IN
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Good analysis of the T-bolt. I picked up my T-bolt (varmint model) in early 2010 when the distributor for my dealer had a special on them. I topped mine with a Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40 scope, which is a bit of overkill, but works pretty well at 50 yards. At closer distances you can detect some parallax issues, but not enough to be a problem. One of my sons has the Ruger 77/22 Target/Varmint, and the other has a CZ 452 American. I wasn't able to compare with the 77/22, but I think the T-bolt is more accurate (and has a better factory trigger - we've since added after-market springs to clean up the 77/22 trigger). The 452 has a lighter trigger when adjusted all they way down (but with more take-up) and a small accuracy edge, at least with the ammo we've tried to date. I haven't tried the CCI-SV's. I'll have to give them a shot (literally). As I've used the T-bolt more I've become quite enamored with it. The action, which at first felt stiff, has been getting much smoother with use and I find it to be a fast action to operate (it feels quite natural now). It also seems to eject and feed quite reliably. I also like the 10 round double helix magazine a little better than the Ruger rotary magazine (I like the ability to see the rounds through the translucent cover, and the thumb wheel that helps compress the spring as rounds are added).
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Old 01-24-2011, 11:53 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 63
glad to see the review... I was always interested in the T Bolt
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