Since its introduction in 1887 by Stevens Arms, what is now the .22 Long Rifle has become a staple for American shooters and outdoorsmen. The “22” rifle is undoubtedly one of the most popular training, plinking, and small game hunting tools in existence, and there is hardly a hunter who doesn’t own at least one. One would only guess at the number of hunters and shooters who were brought up shooting Dad’s “22.” Despite its age, the demand and innovation for .22 LR chambered firearms is as strong as it’s ever been, and this quaint little cartridge has been the driver for many iconic models and families of firearms over the years.
Savage’s A22 line of rifles has a somewhat different story in its development than a typical rimfire rifle. Usually, a rimfire rifle will first be developed for the .22 LR cartridge, then further engineered and expanded to offerings in other rimfire chamberings like .22 WMR, .17 HMR, and .17 Mach 2 when possible. Many semi-autos have been plagued with problems in these expansions of their lines because they were not designed for the pressures that more powerful cartridges produce. However, the A22 is actually an offshoot of another design, the A17.
The A17 was released in 2015 as the first safe, reliable solution for a semi-automatic rifle chambered in .17 HMR. Adaptations of designs for .22 LR and .22 WMR rifles were plagued with issues and never really gained enough traction to warrant widespread production. Savage designed the A17 specifically to handle the extra pressure of that hot little rimfire by using a delayed blowback action, which kept the bolt locked until enough pressure had been lost to allow the action to safely cycle using the remaining pressure. The A17 is still the powerhouse when it comes to a reliable and safe 17 HMR semi-auto.
Naturally, seeing the design’s potential, Savage quickly developed a .22 WMR chambering. Then it introduced the A22 Mag, followed by the A22 in .22 LR. Although the process by which we arrived at the A22 is a bit backward, it’s a natural conclusion of where to take the platform. Unlike other models that are complicated by an upgrade in chambering, the A22 was simplified into its .22 LR form. The action, like many other .22 LR’s is straight blowback operated. The lower pressure negates the need for a more complex delayed-blowback action. The magazines and some other parts needed a simple downsizing, but it’s given us a very reliable, robust, and pretty accurate .22 LR as a result.
The BNS-SR is a new variation of the A22 for 2020, and brings a modern but warm, “real-rifle” feel to the table. The most notable feature of this model is its timber hardwood laminated stock, layered in shades of green and brown. A good laminated stock brings both the durability and weather-resistance that a normal wood stock won’t, and it also has a heft to it that gives you the feeling of toting and shooting a real rifle. The stock incorporates modern lines and efficiency, and the ergonomics are wonderful. Savage isn’t historically known for the most high-quality or comfortable synthetic stocks, but the fit and feel of this stalk is a world apart. The fore-end is widened out (perfect for shooting off bags or a bipod), smoothly transitions to the action with smooth natural lines into the magazine, a thick, well-contoured pistol grip, cheek-piece, and a nice butt pad. Although you’ll find no hand-checkering here, the mechanical texturing of the fore-end and grip provide great traction.
The “SR” portion of this model is a suppressor-ready, ½”x28 threaded muzzle that comes with an endcap/thread protector. This is popular feature is quickly becoming the standard for both rimfire and centerfire rifles as the use of suppressors continues to grow. The barrel is button-rifled carbon steel, with a traditional blued finish, as is the receiver. You’ll notice the absence of any iron sights in the current A22 lineup , but the BNS-SR comes with 2-piece weaver-style bases that can accommodate traditional-style scope rings and other compatible optics.
The rifle also features Savage’s Accutrigger, which is a system standard to many of their rifles, and extremely handy. The trigger is externally adjustable with a supplied wrench, through a hole in the trigger guard. The shooter can easily adjust the breaking weight of the trigger to suit his or her tastes, something that can make a big difference when it comes to accuracy and breaking clean shots.
Overall, this rifle is a slick, robust looking, feeling, and performing rifle. One feature, though, that will catch any scrupulous shooter’s eye is the plastic on the rear end of the receiver. Aesthetically, I feel like it shoots the “real rifle” feel and look of this gun in the foot, but it helps to understand what it is. What appears to be a cheap plastic piece on the back of the receiver is actually just a dust cover, in some ways, very reminiscent of an AK-47 action. The rear of the recoil spring assembly has a button the protrudes from the rear of the dust cover, and when depressed, the cover can be lifted off of the back of the receiver. Again, similarly to the AK family of rifles, the recoil spring assembly can be pushed forward, then removed from it’s retaining slot in the receiver, making the rifle very simple and easy to field strip for cleaning. As dirty as .22 LR ammunition is, this is a very useful feature. Although that plastic dust cover might not clash with the aesthetics of the receiver if it were metal, it is actually a very robust piece of polymer, and I wouldn’t worry about it breaking.
The rifle shoots well, and cycles pretty darn reliably, even dirty in cold weather. I spent quite a bit of time shooting in temperatures down to -20F, and had very few malfunctions. Like any semi-auto, it might be picky on the type of ammo it likes, but considering the conditions, I was very happy with the cycling and feeding of CCI standard velocity ammunition, and the hot CCI stingers ran flawlessly. I think it’s safe to say that the A22 is here to stay.