April 09, 2014
By Frank W. James
The term "modern sporting rifle" (MSR) is important because it denotes the progression of the semiautomatic rifle. For close to a century manually operated rifles dominated sport shooting whether it was competition or hunting, but a lot of shooting consumers in the 21st century are not interested in designs with origins from more than a century ago.
Some really do want a modern sporting rifle, and while Americans tend to think the term describes the classic AR-15/M4 style of semiauto rifle, Anschutz believes it is the perfect term to describe the company's .22 Long Rifle semiauto that was designed for club shooting in Germany. Fortunately, it is also being imported into the United States, and Shooting Times obtained the review sample carbine through Steyr Arms Inc
Called the MSR RX22, this .22 LR rifle is like nothing Anschutz has previously brought to the U.S., yet it remains a high-quality .22 rimfire sport rifle. The big difference is that it mimics in appearance and layout another well-known rifle that was originally developed as a military centerfire rifle: the SCAR-16 from FNH.
The MSR RX22 is a joint development of three companies: Anschutz, German Sport Guns, and ESC Ulm. ESC Ulm is a division of ISSC, an Austrian firm that specializes in high-quality rimfire firearms. ISSC developed the gun, but it is manufactured in Germany for Anschutz. I first noticed a sample of the MSR RX22 during a visit to the Anschutz booth at the 2012 IWA trade show in Nuremberg, Germany. It caught my eye because it looked so much like the SCAR-16.
The RX22 Up Close
Like all .22 rimfire semiautomatic rifles, the RX22 is blowback operated. However, it follows the shape and overall design of the SCAR-16 in terms of format and several operational features. Though the RX22 uses many synthetic components in its construction, it is neither lightweight nor flimsy in its heft or feel. It weighs a reasonable 6.94 pounds, and that helps maintain the "feel" of a centerfire rifle.
Two key design features of the RX22 are the Anschutz sport barrel, which is 16.5 inches in length, and the trigger system. The trigger is adjustable in pull weight from 3.3 pounds up to 5.5 pounds. The gun comes out of the box with the trigger set at 4.0 pounds. In terms of trigger movement and "feel," it is a single-stage trigger with a very short take-up before the sear is released. For a rimfire semiauto this combination of an Anschutz barrel and an adjustable trigger enabled me, with the right ammunition, to get what I thought were admirable groups at 50 yards. More about that in a moment.
The RX22 offers what many purchasers of centerfire modern sporting rifles have come to take for granted. It has a fore-end with three Picatinny rails, with a top rail that runs the length of the receiver and fore-end. It comes with rail-mounted "iron" sights that fold down when an accessory optic is mounted. (The sights are not iron in composition, but rather made from a very durable synthetic material.) The front sight is adjustable for elevation, and the rear sight is adjustable for windage. These sights are spring-loaded and when folded down will spring into position upon release with a push of the restraining tab. The rear sight comes with two apertures; the back aperture has a very large opening for fast-acquisition, close-range shooting, and the second, smaller aperture, which when deployed fits snugly next to the first, is for distance shooting. There is also a U-notch in the top of the second aperture for quick transition to longer-range targets.
The three accessory rails on the right, left, and bottom are standard Picatinny rails and will accommodate all kinds of accessories like tactical lamps, lasers, vertical pistol grips, or even a bipod.
The RX22 also follows the FNH SCAR in that it offers multiple ambidextrous features in its layout. The safety is ambidextrous and located just above and slightly behind the trigger on both sides of the lower receiver. It is easy to operate with the shooting thumb. When the lever portion of the safety is up, the gun is on"Safe." When the lever is pushed down, the trigger mechanism is in the "Fire" mode. The lever has a yellow indicator at its forward edge, and the "Fire" position has a counterpart red plastic indicator, thus when the two colored dots are next to each other, the gun is ready to fire.
The cocking handle can be mounted in three different locations on either side of the gun. Below the full-length top rail are three elongated slots that will take the handle. I chose the left side and tried two locations: first at the back and then later at the most forward slot. I found the most forward position to be the one that worked best for me.
The rifle locks open on an empty magazine, but unlike the counterpart centerfire example, there is no manual bolt release. Once the bolt has locked open, the magazine must be removed and the cocking handle pulled to the rear to release and close the bolt.
The magazine releases are located on both sides of the lower receiver, and this makes it easy for the operator to remove the magazine with either hand. The right-side magazine release is very similar to the AR-15/M16/M4 style release, being a push button that is surrounded by a frame "fence." The left-side magazine release is a slightly larger elongated tab with a protective guard above and below the front of the tab.
The RX22 has a folding stock that when released folds to the right of the receiver. The right side of the upper receiver sports a simple hook arrangement that secures the stock and enables the shooter to operate the gun quite easily with the stock folded and the shorter overall length of the firearm. The RX22 has an overall length of 34.38 inches with the stock fully extended and a length of only 24.75 inches when the stock is folded. The buttstock is adjustable to three lengths of pull. It also has an adjustable comb height. When in the raised position, the comb adds 0.38 inch to the height of the cheekweld, according to my measurements, but I found I actually preferred this adjustable comb to be in the lowered position.
There are five attachment points for a carry sling. The first is found on the toe of the buttstock. Two are at the left rear of the upper receiver. The final sling attachment points are on either side of the most forward portion of the upper receiver. The nice thing about this setup is that if you use a cross-body sling on your centerfire modern sporting rifle, you can duplicate the same arrangement on this .22 LR counterpart. All of which makes it easier for your training needs.
My MSR RX22 came with two magazines of different capacity. The shorter one held 10 rounds, and the longer held 22 rounds of .22 LR ammunition. Both magazines are made from a synthetic material and consist of two halves that are held securely to each other by screws. A follower tab travels down a slightly curved slot in each, with a round count index number next to this slot marked on each half of the mag body. The round count in a loaded or partially loaded magazine can be determined by the bottom edge of the tab's position in this slot.
Shooting the RX22
Before shooting the RX22 for accuracy, I mounted a Trijicon Ruggedized Miniature Reflex (RMR) sight with a 3.25-MOA dot on the top rail just forward of the rear sight. Most of my centerfire modern sporting rifles use a red-dot sighting system of one make or another, so I thought it was proper to mount the same type of sight on the MSR RX22. Unfortunately, while red-dot sighting systems are becoming almost required on most all modern sporting rifles, a red-dot sighting system with only 1X magnification is still not the best for shooting extremely small five-shot groups.
I used five different types of .22 LR ammunition in accuracy testing. Two yielded results better than I had expected, while the remaining three did not come close to my expectations.
CCI Green Tag gave the best performance: 990 fps for 10 rounds and an average group size for the five groups of 1.52 inches. The next best group was achieved with Winchester Power-Point with an average velocity of 1,216 fps and an average group size of 1.91 inches.
The highest average velocity was set by Remington Viper ammunition at 1,244 fps for 10 rounds. Unfortunately, it also had the widest five-shot group average (3.70 inches).
The MSR RX22 and the Trijicon RMR were extremely fun to work with shooting paper and reactive targets.
I think there is a great need for guns like the MSR RX22 if you own the centerfire equivalent. Most who live in high-population areas have a hard time finding a place to shoot, and few urban shooting centers offer the facilities necessary for most centerfire rifles. Firearms like the MSR RX22 allow their owners to practice and improve their manual skills of arms on indoor pistol ranges simply because they are rimfire firearms. That's a huge advantage in terms of learning the gun and dealing with magazine changes and other skills needed to become proficient in the operation of modern sporting rifles.
Modern sporting rifles are popular because they best address the current interest in modern rifles. The Anschutz MSR RX22 enables those who are restricted by location and population density from enjoying their own modern sporting rifle to have a gun that is truly state-of-the-art and practical.
Besides, it's an extremely fun gun to shoot.
The stock folds to the right of the receiver, and the right side of the upper receiver sports a simple hook arrangement that secures the stock and allows the gun to be fired with the stock folded.
Before shooting the RX22 for accuracy, I mounted a Trijicon Ruggedized Miniature Reflex (RMR) sight with a 3.25-MOA dot on the top rail just forward of the rear sight.
The RX22 comes with two synthetic magazines of different capacities. The shorter one holds 10 rounds, and the longer holds 22 rounds of .22 LR ammunition.
The flip-up rear sight comes with two apertures; the back aperture has a large opening for fast-acquisition, close-range shooting, and the second, smaller aperture is for distance shooting.