November 15, 2021
One of a new breed of rimfires, Christensen Arms’s Ranger 22 features a carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel, a machined aluminum action geared for precision, a carbon-fiber stock, and other space-age features. In terms of ergonomics and accuracy, it’s on a different level than the .22 rimfires our grandfathers carried into the timber.
With all of that, plus Christensen’s reputation for high-end, high-performance firearms, you may expect the Ranger 22 to have a jaw-dropping price tag. Not so. Similar to nice-grade rimfires from Browning, CZ, Ruger, and others, the suggested retail price is $795.
That’s a lot of rifle for the dollars. Especially when you consider the match-grade trigger, the superlative engineering, and so on. Let’s dive in and take a close look.
A Close Look
One of the first things that savvy shooters will notice and appreciate is the Ranger 22’s magazine. It’s a Ruger 10/22 mag. One of the best ever designed, it’s a detachable, 10-round, rotary magazine that feeds wonderfully. Christensen’s savvy engineers know a good thing and wisely designed compatible bottom “metal” for the Ranger 22. And, yes, it’s compatible with all the original Ruger high-capacity versions as well as aftermarket magazines. Who doesn’t love a 25-round “banana clip”?
To keep weight light—a characteristic Christensen Arms is known for—the company opted to machine the Ranger 22’s action from high-grade aluminum billet. And no corner was cut in creating quality and reliability. The slender bolt has a steel body fitted with dual extractors and a fixed ejector. Dual, opposing rear locking lugs secure the bolt into battery. The bolt handle is threaded, and the knob theoretically may be exchanged. I don’t know why you’d want to—the original is a very nice spiral-grooved, teardrop-shaped knob.
Sporting a black anodized finish, the receiver is fitted with a Model 700-type TriggerTech “go-switch” and factory-mounted 0-MOA optic rail. The bottom “metal” is made of a high-impact polymer composite, which feels similar to the material in a Glock pistol frame. The trigger bow is generously sized, making it compatible with winter gloves. A magazine release lever is located just forward of the trigger guard, and finger-groove cutouts on each side of the magazine enable the shooter to grasp and pull the mag out, should it ever become stuck.
To secure the barreled action consistently in the stock, a robust square-bottomed groove machined across the bottom of the front receiver ring mates with a steel recoil lug permanently bedded into the stock. It’s a well-designed, proven system, and it works. More on that later.
The barrel is short and sexy. Just 18 inches long, its compact length keeps the Ranger 22 handy and maneuverable. Since most .22 Long Rifle bullets reach full velocity potential within the first 16 inches or so of barrel, the curtailed length is no disadvantage—rather the opposite. Inside, the barrel features handlapped rifling and a Bentz match chamber. Outside, it’s fitted with tensioned carbon fiber—a method believed to reduce accuracy-robbing barrel oscillations while keeping weight minimal. Up front it’s threaded 1/2x28, making it easy to install a suppressor, and it’s capped with a thread protector.
Christensen Arms is known for its innovative carbon-fiber work, and the Ranger 22’s stock shows it. Suitably petite and feathery for a lightweight rimfire, it sports all the features popular on modern precision-rifle stocks. A near-vertical pistol grip positions the firing hand torque-free, making it easy to achieve a clean trigger release. Palmswells on each side provide comfort and aid consistency.
Aft, the stock features a high comb that helps shooters gain a consistent, comfortable cheekweld. The buttpad is slightly grippy rubber, so it doesn’t slip from the shoulder. And a thumb hook on the toe line makes for superb control when shooting prone with a bipod.
The stock’s fore-end has a rakish nose angle and a flat bottom designed to ride stable and consistent on a sandbag. A slightly inward taper to each side as it rises up toward the barrel makes the fore-end easy to grip securely during dynamic shooting at moving targets.
Two stock colors are available: the black with gray webbing shown here and tan with black webbing. Proper sling-swivel studs are provided, making it easy to attach a carrying strap and a bipod.
Rangetime with the Ranger 22
With all the rimfire PRS-type matches and extended-range shooting opportunities these days, an accurate .22 rifle deserves a scope capable of stretching out. Using Steiner T-series precision rings with an onboard anti-cant level bubble, I installed a lovely Leupold VX-3i scope with a 30mm main tube and side-focus adjustable parallax (a requirement for close-to-far accurate sighting). It has a 4.5-14X magnification range and, more importantly, Leupold’s excellent CDS ZL elevation turret.
It’s a fairly robust scope for a lightweight .22, yet it is also the lightest of its type. At 15.6 ounces, no other that I’m aware of offers the same level and quality of precision features at a comparable weight. Most are much heavier.
Even with the ongoing ammo drought, I managed to scrape together five different .22 LR loads with which to wring out the Ranger 22. With targets posted at 50 yards, I bore-sighted the Ranger 22 and went to work. My first few strings weren’t too promising, but they served to get the scope zeroed.
It was cold, the mercury hovering somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and that wasn’t helping my ability to shoot precisely. For one thing, it made the slightly heavy pull of the TriggerTech trigger seem heavier than it probably was. Thankfully, it’s user adjustable. I didn’t have the small hex-head wrench I needed to perform the adjustment without removing the barreled action from the stock, so I spun out the action screws and pulled the Ranger 22 apart.
The adjustment screw has a detent, making it click adjustable, and pull weight lightened up nicely as
I backed off screw tension.
I adjusted the trigger pull to measure 2 pounds, 14 ounces.
When I went to reassemble the rifle, I noticed a spot in the bedding just behind the recoil lug. Examining it narrowly, it appeared to be a slightly high spot in the epoxy bedding material that secures the steel recoil lug into the stock. Torqueing the action screws down had compressed it a bit, and it had taken on a trace of milky color.
I set the action back into the stock. A bit of rotational play was discernible, which is unusual in an action with a square-bottomed slot that interfaces with a square-topped lug. I gently scraped the high spot in down, leveling it with the rest of the bedding. Once that was accomplished, the action fit with minimal rotational play. I went back to shooting after torqueing the action screws home, and not only did the trigger feel much better, but voilà! group size tightened up to well under an inch. Clearly, that little high spot in the action bedding had caused some issues. At least the fix had been simple.
Feeling rather self-satisfied, I started over to give each ammo type a fair chance and ran three consecutive five-shot groups with each type through the Ranger 22. The cold temperature kept the barrel cool, and I was able to shoot groups with clock-like regularity. Impressively, every one of the five different .22 LR loads shot three consecutive five-shot, 50-yard groups that averaged less than an inch.
Two of the loads surprised me. Inexpensive American Eagle ammo pushing a 38-grain hollowpoint bullet shot wonderfully, posting a 50-yard average of just 0.69 inch. It’s great when cheap rimfire fodder shoots brilliantly in a rifle.
While not inexpensive, CCI’s zippy 32-grain segmenting hollowpoint Stinger load shot even a trace better, averaging 0.67 inch and producing an impressive 1,577 fps of velocity. This is a superb small-game-hunting load, so it was gratifying to see it produce such accurate results.
The load I’d expected to shoot best, SK’s Standard Rifle with a 40-grain roundnose match bullet, wasn’t as impressive as I’d hoped. It’s a modest standard-velocity round, and I suspect the cold didn’t do it any good. Velocity deviations were higher than usual, and group size strung a bit vertically on the 50-yard targets. It averaged 0.84 inch.
The Ranger 22’s action wasn’t smooth as silk, but that will likely come as the contact surfaces burnish with time and a few thousand rounds. However, even in the cold, with fumbly, gloved fingers, ice buildup, and crystalized snow here and there, the rifle functioned with perfect reliability.
I found one interesting irregularity with ejection. After firing the last shot in the 10-round Ruger magazine, the final empty fired case wouldn’t eject like the others. It extracted but did not eject, simply lying atop the magazine. It never jammed the rifle; rather, it served as a boltstop and let me know the magazine was empty. It always fell out conveniently when I dropped the magazine. I doubt that it was designed to function that way, but it didn’t bother me.
With formal accuracy testing completed, I stepped away from the benchrest and shot casually. I ran the action hard and fast, and slow and tentative. I snapped the Ranger 22 to my shoulder and fired quickly, contrasting its fast-handling abilities to the precision-assisting ergonomics that impressed me at the bench.
Kids like cool-looking .22s, and back home, both my boys asked to handle the Ranger 22. Even Henry, who is just six years old, easily functioned the bolt and manipulated the rifle—a testament to the versatile nature of the very lightweight, precision-capable design.
Christensen’s .22 LR Ranger 22 is not a sleek, running-rabbit slaying wand like the classic Winchester Model 1906 pump-action rimfire rifle. Nor is it a smallbore match-winning rifle like a tricked-out Anschutz target rifle. But the Ranger 22 ably bridges the gap between those two types of rimfire rifles. It “plays” capably in both fields, and it’s lightweight enough for a youngster to pack all day long during an outdoor adventure.
Christensen Arms Ranger 22 Specifications
- Manufacturer: Christensen Arms; christensenarms.com
- Type: Bolt-action repeater
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel: 18 in.
- Overall Length: 36.3 in.
- Weight, empty: 5.13 lbs.
- Stock: Carbon-fiber composite
- Length of pull: 13.75 in.
- Finish: Matte black barreled action, black with gray webbing stock
- Sights: None; 0-MOA optic rail included
- Trigger: 2.88-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Two-position
- MSRP: $795