In many ways, a .22lr bolt action rifle is the perfect firearm. Ammunition is cheap and plentiful, recoil is almost nonexistent, and the gun is inexpensive enough that any mistakes in care and maintenance are easily forgiven. It’s perfect for new owners, occasional shooters, and even those of us who are on a first name basis with the RSO at every local range but want to save some money. One of the finest examples of a bolt action .22lr rifle I’ve ever fired is the Zastava MP 22 R, also produced for a time by Remington in the United States as the Model Five.
Most of the guns in my collection were new when I bought them, but this one has a bit of a sordid history with a happy ending. The previous owner was a friend of a friend and a bit of a drug addict. And by “a bit of a drug addict” I mean he snorted his life savings up his nose in a single night. Broke and scared, the very next morning he decided to sell off his firearm collection in order to finance a trip to rehab. I handed him $250, he handed me a .22lr rifle the make and model of which I had never heard of before in my life, and he’s been clean ever since. If memory serves it’s been about three years.
After giving the rifle a VERY thorough cleaning, the next thing I did was start to look up exactly what this thing is.
The MP 22 R is made by Zastava Arms, a Serbian arms manufacturer, and imported by KBI Imports in Harrisburg, PA for Charles Daly. After 2006, remington Arms started importing the barrels and actions from Zastava and slapping on an American made stock, selling it as the “Model Five.” While the stock changed between the models, the action, barrel, and even magazine are almost identical to the MP22R.
Remington discontinued manufacture of the Model Five within the last few years, and Charles Daly hasn’t restarted their importation yet. In other words, there aren’t really many of these guns out there.
The scarcity of these firearms really is a shame. Everything about this rifle is polished and sleek, from the polished blue barrel to the absolutely beautiful stock. Even the triggerguard is smooth and aesthetically pleasing. The quality reminds me of the Weatherby Vanguard, a highly polished and sleek appearance at a cheap price. The only differences are the caliber and the fact that the MP22R’s stock is wood (and less craptacular).
The action itself is, to me, perfect for the .22lr caliber: cheap and simple. The firing pin is cocked as the bolt is pushed forward (much like the Lee Enfield series rifles), meaning that the “forward and down” motion is a little tougher than normal. Ejecting a case, however, can be accomplished in one fluid movement of the weapon hand. The action is so smooth that it feels like I’m back behind my 1960′s era Anshutz target rifle.
The other reason this feels like my old Anschutz is the heavy barrel. Despite being a .22lr rifle, the thing weighs as much as the Weatherby Vanguard’s .30 cal barrel. It gives the rifle a little more heft compared to something like the Marlin 980, which decreases recoil, increases accuracy, and in my opinion makes for a better balanced and more solid firearm.
Something that separates this rifle from my “college sweetheart” is the trigger. Which sucks. There’s a very noticeable “stack” in the trigger, and by that I mean it hits the stack and then acts like a set. It doesn’t move forward if you release pressure on the trigger, instead it just sits there and waits for you to continue your pull (if those terms confuse you, check the Trigger Terminology article for some help). The look and feel of the actual trigger paddle is very nice and smooth, but the mechanical bits could use some TLC.
The rifle ships with a set of iron sights (IRON SIGHTS!) already in place, but these are pretty clunky to use. The rear sight is a flip-up square notch that the shooter can adjust by loosening two screws and then moving around. There’s no nice and simple adjustment screw (like on most rear sights), just a bit of metal with some lines on it. The front sight is a hooded post, easy to see but fixed in place. The iron sights aren’t horrible, but they’re no “globe and diopter” setup.
Thankfully the rifle also has a weaver style rail milled into the receiver so a scope can be mounted on top. With a good scope, this thing is an absolute tackdriver (well, at least as far as .22 rifles go). At 50 feet it’s almost as accurate as my old Anschutz, putting one tiny jagged hole in the target. At 50 yards the pattern opens up a little, but it’s still probably 1.5 MoA at most.
The rifle comes with a 5 round detachable magazine, which is a nifty feature but causes the vast majority of my complaints with this rifle. Beyond the standard “cycling the action shears off some of the bullet!” complaint (which is inherent with staggered magazines, rimmed ammunition and non-jacketed bullets) more often than not the bullet will fail to properly feed into the chamber from the magazine and instead faceplant directly into the top of the receiver. This is why, when training new shooters with this rifle, I usually have them load one round at a time rather than worry about the magazine and its special issues.
Despite the issues, loading from the magazine is definitely faster than loading each round by hand. The small cutout in the receiver makes cycling the action a little easier, but makes loading a lot harder. The squared off edges don’t help much either, as it reduces the visibility of the chamber and feeding areas. Most times, when feeding the chamber by hand, I just have to do it “blind” and hope for the best.
Everyone needs a good cheap .22 rifle, whether for keeping the cost of a range trip down, keeping the noise to a minimum, or training new shooters. And for that purpose the Zastava MP22R is the perfect rifle. The sad part is that the only sites I found that still sell these rifles are in French, so the used gun market is your best bet in the States to find one.
Zastava MP22R (Remington Model Five)
Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
Weight: 6.2 lbs.
Operation: Bolt action
Finish: Glossy blue
(Rifle DOES NOT come with bipod or scope)
MSRP: $525 (EU Price, used USA price about $200-$250)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Accuracy: * * * * *
For a .22 caliber bolt action rifle that I picked up for $250, this thing is remarkably accurate. Like, “minute of G.I. Joe figure at 50 yards” accurate.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
I have no complaints whatsoever. The stock puts your eye at the perfect position to look down a scope, and everything about this rifle feels solid and smooth.
Ergonomics Firing: * * *
The awful trigger and the finnicky magazine feeding issues led me to mark it down a little. In terms of recoil and “feel,” however, it’s just dandy.
Reliability: * * * *
There aren’t many things to go wrong with a bolt action. Except the feeding issue (which knocked off a star).
Customization: * * *
Other than putting a new scope on top, there’s really nothing to do.
Overall Rating: * * * *
It’s not the best .22 rifle I’ve ever fired, but it’s amazing for the price I paid. If I could only have one gun this would probably be the one I choose. Cheap to buy, cheap to operate, easy to clean, accurate, and so fun that even my anti-gun sister loves to shoot it.