SHOT Show 2011: Primary Weapons Systems introduces its T3 Summit Rifle, a 10/22-based, .22 LR rifle with a really slick toggle action (think biathlon gun). It is one of the coolest, sexiest looking rifles anywhere with its carbon fiber tension barrel and sculpted, laminated stock. It’s lightweight, lights out accurate, and whisper quiet when suppressed. Yet, fast forward to a couple months ago and I picked up serial number 495 fresh off the production line. Seriously, WTF? This thing is freaking sweet. PWS should sell that many every month! Why aren’t they? Let’s go in for a closer look . . .
Easily one of the greatest things about the T3 Summit is that it isn’t just a rifle, it’s also a line of components that are available separately. Right on the T3 website you can order only the receiver, the barrel, the trigger, or the stock, or you can order some combinations of parts like receiver + trigger, or receiver + trigger + barrel. Actually, one of my go-to FFLs is one of PWS’ top 5 stocking dealers in the country, so if any of these parts or the whole rifle suits your fancy they’ll have low prices and free shipping on anything PWS (ask for Jeremy Ball or Nick Brown).
As the T3 follows the geometry of the most prevalent .22 LR in the country, the Ruger 10/22, all of its components are compatible with any other 10/22 components. For instance, get the receiver and use any 10/22 barrel, trigger, magazine, and stock you like.
Options. I like options. Ultimately, despite my true affinity for custom configurations and the gazillions of available 10/22 parts to choose from, I really couldn’t think of anything more awesome than the complete T3 Summit Rifle, so I got the entire shebang.
Why yes, that’s correct. The T3 Summit receiver may be 10/22 in every other way, but it ain’t no semi-auto. And it isn’t a bolt action, either. It’s a straight-pull toggle action, like what’s used in biathlon competitions (pro tip: don’t wear a ski mask while carrying a rifle unless you’re at a sanctioned event).
Lever forwards to chamber a round and lock the action. Lever back to eject the empty.
It’s compact, relatively light, and as fun to operate as it is novel. If you’re a dude, you’ll probably be able to fully cycle the action with only your trigger finger. Smaller folks will likely need to throw a middle finger into the mix or operate it more like a simplified, quicker bolt-action.
A manual action comes with a handful of benefits over a semi-automatic. To name just a few:
- It allows for a tighter, shorter chamber. The bullet can actually be pressed into the rifling a bit when chambered. These things up the accuracy potential.
- It’s quieter when suppressed, with no blowback whatsoever.
- It’s almost certainly more reliable.
- It stretches your dwindling, worth-its-weight-in-gold, .22 LR ammo supply.
Carbon Fiber Tension Barrel
I’d be interested in testing some different barrels on this action — Lilja, TacSol, Volquartsen, etc. — but absolutely wanted to run PWS’s carbon fiber tension barrel right off the bat. I mean, come on, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome looking. The gray/black carbon fiber looks great on its own, but it looks even better paired with the gray/black stock, black receiver and trigger, and gray bolt. It’s also much lighter than a bull barrel-diameter steel barrel would be.
To be clear, there is a narrow steel barrel inside of that carbon fiber sleeve, which adds rigidity and strength to what would otherwise be a very thin, pencil barrel. What makes this a “tension barrel” is the nut seen above at the muzzle and a similar, fixed block at the chamber end. As the nut threads onto the barrel and clamps the carbon sleeve in place, it effectively pulls the barrel and puts “stretch” force on it. Keeping it under constant tension is supposed to improve accuracy and consistency, and astounding accuracy was definitely my expectation.
A diameter-matched thread protector guards the 1/2×28 muzzle threads, and the tension nut provides an excellent shoulder for whatever accessory you might want to screw on there. Many .22- or rimfire-specific suppressors will be very close in diameter to this bull barrel, like the AAC Element 2 seen below:
It seems that people either really like or very strongly dislike laminate stocks. I love the look — same story with G10 laminate like my CZ’s grips — the light weight, and the lower cost as compared to stocks made of a single piece of wood. PWS has offered a few different laminate stocks for the T3 Summit over the years, but there are dozens of different shapes and styles of these stocks on the market, each in a dozen or so color patterns. At the time I got this T3, PWS was offering them with the Raptor stock and it’s an excellent choice for a right-handed shooter.
There’s a great palm swell on the pistol-style grip.
An ideal place to rest your thumb.
And a comfortable cheek rest at the right height for a low-mounted optic.
The forend sports a flat bottom, which is ideal for shooting from a rest, but also works nicely for offhand use. My only gripe about the stock is that I wish it had a sling swivel stud up front. The T3 Summit screams for a bipod. As it’s also pretty light and definitely an excellent choice for varmint hunting, another stud on the rear would be nice for those who’d like to add a sling to it, too.
BX-1s — the factory 10/22, 10-round mags — fit flush, and a scooped-out section in front of the mag allows it to be plucked out forcibly if the need arises. BX-25s and aftermarket, 10/22 magazines work as well. Normally, even a BX-1 will simply drop free. Push forwards on the ambidextrous T3 magazine release lever to make that happen.
That mag release lever is included as part of the trigger group. Speaking of which. . .
You want this trigger. By showing the entire travel distance between completely off the trigger and hard against the travel stop after firing, this picture says at least a thousand words about the quality of the trigger pull.
Complete travel distance from zero to fire, according to the entirely amazing Dvorak TriggerScan that I’m playing with now (and hope to somehow afford so I can include TriggerScan data for all future gun reviews. TriggerScan review coming soon, too.), is just 0.028 inches. That’s 0.711 millimeters.
I can’t detect any overtravel whatsoever manually. The TriggerScan measures 0.014″ of overtravel, but it was also set to keep pulling until it hit 8 lbs of force. Since my trigger adjustment efforts have it breaking at about 1.9 lbs, when actually shooting the gun there’s no way I’m approaching anything close to 8 lbs of pressure after firing and any overtravel is entirely imperceptible.
Although this trigger is easily one of the shortest, crispest, cleanest [consumer-level] triggers imaginable, its coolest feature may be the ease with which it can be adjusted. A set screw in the trigger shoe allows for this adjustment. . .
by varying the amount of overlap between sear and hammer as well as the amount of compression on the trigger return spring. This affects both trigger travel distance and trigger pull weight, apparently allowing for adjustment between approximately 1 lb and 2.5 lbs. That isn’t the best part, though. The best part is a window in the housing that provides a full view of the sear engagement, making the tuning process dead-nuts simple.
On The Range
It may look like a heavy, benchrest sort of a rifle but it’s actually lightweight, well-balanced, and very maneuverable. Let’s call it nimble. Despite this, the excellent stock still allows the shooter to lock it down effectively from just about any position, supported or not, to make precision shots. And thanks to a 20 MOA cant on the integrated Picatinny rail, you can really stretch the range of those .22 LR pills.
We’ll look at accuracy targets shortly, but my first outing with the T3 involved some plinking at 50 yards out in the woods of N’Idaho. Shooting off a sandbag with a 4x scope that literally cost me $22 including rings, hitting shotgun hulls at this range was much too simple.
A dozen in a row and it was time to up the challenge, so the hulls were laid down and I started plugging them in the base.
Shot the primer clean out of a couple, but also missed a couple. I drilled .223, 7.62×39, .40 S&W, and even 9mm cases at that range, mostly through dead reckoning as the fairly thick crosshair completely obscured those small targets when they were even visible at 50 yards in the first place. Heck, I even hit a couple horseflies that made the mistake of climbing around on my target.
The toggle action is a ton of fun to operate. It’s faster and slicker than a bolt action, but still solid and satisfying. I find it enjoyable to be more engaged with operating the rifle as compared to shooting a semi-auto .22.
Subsonic ammo is very quiet through this gun when suppressed. From behind the rifle, the bullet impact on objects 50 yards and beyond is noticeably louder than the gunshot itself.
Although the trigger travel is so incredibly short and the break weight so very light, it was easy to acclimate to thanks to its smoothness and complete consistency. I had no issues taking up the first stage and stopping against the sear, then rolling in just a few more ounces of pressure to break the shot. This rifle is a joy to shoot.
I headed to a local range with targets at distances out to 1,000 yards, but since this is a .22, I chose a stand at 50 meters (54 and change, according to the laser rangefinder) to shoot accuracy groups.
As this is supposed to be a supremely accurate rifle and I had already been enjoying good results with American Eagle Suppressor ammo, which is actually extremely consistent stuff, I dropped some coin on a few brands of match-grade .22 LR fodder and upgraded the $22 optic to a LUCID L5.
Unfortunately, my groups with the AmEag Suppressor ammo were only barely tighter than in the woods with the 4x scope. And while nothing to sneeze at, I have not yet found this rifle’s “lights out accurate” ammo brand. Maybe the expectation of one-hole groups at 50 yards was a bit much. At any rate, the most accurate round was Federal’s Gold Medal UltraMatch, which turned in multiple, 5-shot groups at about 3/4″ or 1.3 MOA:
Runner up was the AmEag Suppressor ammo, which was no surprise as I have chronographed it a few times and seen standard deviations of around 8 fps, which is crazy consistent for .22 ammo.
Then the rest of the match-grade field followed:
Worth noting: I ran into three duds in the first 25 rounds of Eley Club that I tried to shoot, and every single 5-shot group had at least one “flyer” in it. The group above was the best one. Not sure what happened to this box of ammo, as Eley’s a fairly highly-lauded brand, but was a total sh*t show that day.
I also shot Winchester bulk (555 box), Federal Target Grade Performance bulk, Blazer bulk, CCI Stinger, CCI Mini-Mag, Remington Subsonic, and Aguila Super Maximum through the rifle. None of these grouped as well as the American Eagle Suppressor ammo, and all came in between 1.25″ and 2″ at 50 yards.
For the record, at 100 yards I turned in some 0.6 MOA groups with another rifle immediately after shooting the T3, shot 1 MOA dead-on with my base model Adams Arms 5.56 piston upper, and then proceeded to hit steel targets out to 1/2 mile (880 yards) with that same upper shooting cheap .223 through 6x glass. It was a good shooting day, and it mirrored the results I had with the T3 on a few previous excursions with it.
Again, while this is solid accuracy, I have to say this rifle didn’t turn out the shoot-the-nuts-off-a-fly accuracy I was hoping for. There are plenty of semi-auto .22 LRs that can achieve this level of accuracy or better, and what I saw wasn’t up to the T3 Summit Rifle’s accuracy reputation. It’s possible that my barrel has a little flaw or something, and if I have the opportunity to try a different one on this action I’ll follow up with the results of that in a separate post (and will link it here).
Admittedly the T3 Summit complete rifle is one of the more expensive .22 LR options out there, but I’m still perplexed as to how it’s possible that only ~500 receivers — whether attached to other PWS parts or on their own — have been sold (at least in the U.S., as I know they’re quite popular in Australia but am not sure if those actions are serialized differently) over the course of 4-or-so years. I really cannot express how much that surprises me and, in a way, saddens me, because this toggle action is just so much damn fun to shoot. With its full 10/22 compatibility, I’m shocked that we aren’t bumping into herds of franken rifles built on the T3 Summit action.
Although a franken gun is my usual M.O., in this case I dismissed the idea right away. The look, feel, and balance of the complete T3 Summit Rifle couldn’t have been more to my liking. It’s my new, go-to .22 LR rifle and I’m very glad I’ve added it to my safe.
Specifications: Primary Weapons Systems T3 Summit Rifle
Caliber: .22 LR
Action: Biathlon-style toggle action
Weight: 5 lbs
Overall Length: 34.75″
Magazine: Any 10/22 magazine will do the trick
MSRP: $799.95 for the complete rifle, $399.95 for just the receiver with bolt
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
Better than your average .22, but my example isn’t doing what it’s cracked up to do.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
The stock is spot-on in every way, the rifle’s balance and handling are great, the ambi mag release is just right, and the toggle action is simple and intuitive.
Reliability: * * * * *
Zero malfunctions that weren’t due to primerless cartridges. One benefit of a manual action, especially in a rimfire, is that it’s less finicky. Do your job and the bolt cycles completely to the rear every single time and locks fully forwards every single time. I felt instances where the feed angle out of the magazine wasn’t ideal and I’m positive it would have jammed up a semi-auto, but driving the bolt home by hand — I didn’t even have to smang it (giiiirl) — meant no issues overcoming that type of little hangup.
Customization: * * * * *
Entirely 10/22 compatible. The toggle action T3 receiver will accept any 10/22 barrel, trigger, magazine, and stock on the market. The integrated Pic rail leaves optics options wide open. If you go full-PWS like I did, the trigger is adjustable and the carbon fiber tension barrel is threaded 1/2×28 for the muzzle bling of your choice.
Overall: * * * *
I love this thing. Still, I’m docking it a star because it’s pretty dang expensive and it isn’t as accurate as I expected. Frankly, it seems like my particular example may be a slight outlier there (or maybe I just suck). Hopefully I can test a different barrel and see if that might be the culprit. Then again, I’m hitting flies and 9mm cases at 50 yards with a decent success rate, so how much more accurate does it need to be?