Building an NRL22 Base Class Rifle

  • Not sure if anyone had noticed, but I have not had much to say around here for a while. Without getting into much detail here, in short, I lost my primary spot to shoot. Since I live in a large city, shooting spots are not easy to come by. Last year I put less than 400 rounds down range as a result.

    But things have changed a bit recently. A new range focused on long range opened, with multiple ranges up to 1 mile. Also, I had been on a waiting list for 4 years to join a well-established local gun club with some great facilities. And last month, I finally got in the club. The facility is top-notch and they have, among other things, a dedicated rimfire range as well as tons of rimfire competitions.

    So I am seriously considering throwing together a 22LR Base Class rifle to see if competitions is something I really want to do, and have time to do, before dropping money on a better rig. If you are not familiar with the Base Class rules, basically it boils down to the MSRP of the scope and rifle combined can't exceed $1050. Cheek weld devices and bedding is allowed, not included in the price limit. Accessories like scope rings, rails, bipods, etc don't count in the price. Also trigger work and even aftermarket triggers are allowed with no cost considerations. It really comes down to the MSRP of the rifle and scope, period.

    Looking at some rifles that may be feasible within this restriction it seems that the Tikka T1x MTR at $499 is about the upper limit of price, and I would expect about the best rifle that can be had. I am familiar with Tikka, having had 2 myself plus my friend has one. All of them are excellent rifles in their price range. If I were to buy something without any other trusted info, the Tikka would be it. My experiences with them would make it tough for me to go anywhere else. But this only leaves $550 for a scope.

    The CZ 457 Varmint is $522, but I have no experience with any CZ products. Several of the National competitors use this rifle, for what that is worth. But it leaves even less for the scope, though quite a few $500 scope options are out there.

    Ruger Precision Rimfire is $529, but I can't see myself taking the Ruger over a Tikka. Ruger has some lesser models in the $300-450 range, but again, unless it would open up a better level of glass, I can't see me going Ruger.

    At the other end is the Savage Mark II FV, strategically priced at $251. Why is $251 strategic? Because it leaves exactly $799 for a scope. This weird price is no accident. Never had a Savage, but the reputation is not the greatest. There are, however, quite a few National competitors doing well with them. But I know how it goes when you play the mass-production lottery. These dudes might buy 10 of them, then see which one of the 10 will actually shoot.

    Anyway, if anyone has any feedback here, it would be appreciated. And not just on the ones I listed, anything in the price range included. I have never touched any of the rifles that would work for this class. I actually think the tougher choice is picking the optic. But this post is getting long already, so I will put up my observations on that in a later post. Probably in the optics section.

  • Running out of time here tonight, but I'll give this a good reply tomorrow!

  • @orkan That would be great. You are one of the few people on the planet that I can 100% trust to give BS-free, factual, experienced feedback.

  • Ok, so here's how I see things. I haven't spent much time with any of these, as the lower end stuff just doesn't appeal to me much... however, here's my opinion based on factors I see. Also, I don't recommend any of these rifles, but when base class is a thing... there are factors to consider.

    The primary goal is getting something setup to be shootable and forgiving. So, you want something as heavy and with as long a barrel as you can get.

    The Tikka T1x is a large format action that is compatible with all the rest of the tikka centerfire accessories. Being that you will not be able to replace the stock, you'd need to add a karsten style cheek rest of some kind, because the tupperware stock it comes with is pretty bad. The weakest point of the entire rifle, in my opinion. Trigger is not unshootable. If you could stick it in a KRG Bravo, that would be a winner... but cost rules prohibit that in your situation. Bad stock, relatively lightweight barrel, and overall not very heavy at all. The bolt is a 60 degree throw, which can be a little weird if you aren't used to that motion. It also makes the bolt a bit stiff at times, depending how you do on the rifle lottery.

    Ruger or savage - I feel like you should just forget them. Put them out of your mind.

    The CZ 457 has quite a lot of aftermarket support and has proven to shoot well if you do good in the rifle lottery. It too has a 60° bolt lift... so it isn't as if either this or the t1x will feel like "normal" bolt guns. There is one factory configuration called the CZ 457 Varmint AT-ONE®, 24" with an MSRP of $660. You could pair that up with an Athlon Talos BTR 4-14×44 APLR2 FFP with an MSRP of $374.99 for a grand total of $1035 MSRP. Another option would be to go with the CZ 457 Varmint at $522 MSRP, and use that extra money to get a Vortex diamondback tactical 6-24x ffp and it's $499 MSRP would put you at $1021. The extra magnification can be nice, but I wouldn't call it a deal breaker for base class. I'd confidently say the diamondback tactical is a nicer scope than the athlon... but a $499 MSRP limits your rifle options a bit. You're not going to want to touch the turrets on either one. Zero it, zero the caps... and use holds.

    The At-One stock on the previous model gives you an adjustable cheek. You will have to deal with something of a compromised cheek weld on the regular varmint, but that extra magnification the scope gives you might help you get a few more hits on the smaller targets. However, keep in mind that most of the targets are quite large. 14x magnification is definitely enough.

    The long heavy barrels and rifles that CZ offers would really have me going that direction vs tikka, as the CZ's are coming in at roughly 2lbs heavier. That's a big deal when shooting positional. I'd also recommend going with a nice set of kelbly's 11mm dovetail rings to keep those scopes low. I would not recommend a big picatiny rail at all.

    Let me know if there are any other specific questions I can help with.

  • @orkan That is great information, just the insight I was looking for.

    I spent some more time last night internet cruising, and had somewhat come up with the same potential combos. I really looked at CZ for the first time, and saw both of the models you are taking about. On paper, they seemed like good choices. But spec sheets are nothing compared to someone that has actually used them.

    So let's say we wipe out the Tikka for now. The plastic stock I had already figured was going to be the big limitation on that package, but I had not really considered the overall weight and barrel weight concerns. I already was not too keen on the Ruger or Savage idea, so that leaves CZ. I see three models that are even a possibility, two of which you already mentioned. Just so I and others can quick reference, here are the basics:

    CZ 457 Varmint AT-ONE®-24" Heavy Barrel, laminate stock with adjustable cheek and LOP. 7.73lbs, $660 MSRP.

    CZ 457 Varmint-20.5" heavy barrel, walnut stock (no adjust.), 7.08lbs, $522.

    CZ 457 Pro Varmint Suppressor-Ready-16.5" heavy barrel, threaded. Laminate stock with improved grip angle and raised cheek weld compared to standard Varmint, but not adjustable. 7.30lbs, $588.

    Looking at the Varmint AT-ONE® you mentioned. If you went this route, I also only came up with the Athlon Talos BTR 4-14×44 as a possibility. It is the only FFP scope with at least 14x, other than something from Primary Arms, that I found to keep things under $1050. In fact it is the only one I found under $450 period. You have thoroughly covered the plus/minus of this setup and scope limitations, not sure what else to add to this one.

    Dropping down to the standard 457 Varmint at $522, and a lot more scope possibilities open up. There are several scopes on the market at $450-500. You mentioned the Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24x as the frontrunner. Any thought about the Bushnell Match Pro 6-24x50, a scope specifically built to fall into this category? Also, the Athlon Argos BTR Gen 2 6-24x50 checks all the boxes at $450, and has been popular in this category.

    Going deeper into the standard Varmint model, is seems that they are now giving a lot of leeway as for modifications to improve LOP and cheek weld. I can't find real specific details of can/can't do, this is the entirety of the wording in the rulebook:
    "Adjustments to the stock to get proper cheek weld, trigger jobs, and bedding of the stock are also allowed"
    Exactly what does this mean? Everyone is drilling stocks to install cheek risers, but how far can one go and be legal? What about devices to alter the grip or other areas? Anyway, there seems to be at least some room within the rules to at least partially correct the disadvantages of the standard stock.

    I also included the Pro Varmint model because it has a much better stock than the Varmint. But what about the 16.5" barrel? I see so much unsubstantiated talk about barrel length on rimfires that I have no idea where reality lies. The $588 price also excludes the Vortex DB Tactical, but the Athlon Argos BTR at $449 and the non-illuminated version of the Bushnell Match Pro at $459 are still within the limit.

    One thing to consider is that my eyes at 53 are not what they used to be. Still good for the age, but not what they were at 33. So while the stock on the AT-ONE is appealing, the better glass available with a different model may be something I need to consider.

  • Go watch my recent 22lr videos on YouTube.

    If you have barrel length questions after that... I probably can’t help. 😉

  • @orkan I thought I had seen all of them, but somehow I missed the one about the barrel length comparison. Now I know why you excluded the Pro Varmint and its 16" barrel.

  • @flyinphill Yeah... my 40x repeaters are the best shooting 16" setups I've ever owned... and despite the fact that they will shoot very well, they don't hold a candle to that 26" benchmark on my primary RimX.

  • @orkan I was just looking and I can get the Athlon Argos form Dvor for $300, and the Vortex Diamondback for $360 from Optics Planet. I might get one or both of them and test them out on something else to get a feel first for what will work scopewise for me. Maybe my 223 Howa might make a good test dummy.

    Or......I have never put any glass on my 40x. And while these scopes are a bit low-end for what feels like a 40x deserves, a 22LR rifle would be a better testbed in this situation than a 223.

  • @flyinphill Update:

    I have not moved on from this, it is just that with such a run on gun stuff, things have been sold out. I didn't really care whether I tried the Varmint/Vortex or At-One/Athlon combo, it really depended on what I could get at the best deal. As it would be, the Vortex scope has been sold out for a while, and so has the long barrel version of the At-One. So I could not put together either combo with what has been available.

    That changed last night when I found an off-the-beaten-path sporting goods site with the Vortex scope. At a $399 advertised, plus a 15% off coupon, I got it for $340. I am probably going to stick it on my 40x for now, and pick up the CZ maybe next month.

  • First time on site as a user
    I have also been thinking about getting into the NRL22 game. Since base class is based solely on list price of the gun/scope combination. I went with what I had on hand prior to seeing what the NRL 22 is all about

    I had a ruger precision rimfire $525 MSRP and a 6-24x50 vortex DB tactical $500 and made the $1050 cutoff. Shoots very accurately, sub-minute 50-100yds off bench. Need to really practice, prone, off hand sling etc

    You can spend $4k on a Vudoo and still not be able to hit a 6” plate at 100yds Lol

    If I’m not mistaken, Base class allows for new trigger assembly etc. However I was raised on trigger control and consistency coupled with practice, practice, practice. And by the way NRL22 is based on numerous shooting positions and movement; not a bench. And yes at my age I cringe watching the stages where you are prone then get up do a jumping jack and go back prone

    NRL22 looks like a blast and looking forward to the fun and will have my grandson in it with me. Hell I’ll need someone to help me walk back to the truck when it’s all over
    Enjoy the sport