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Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle

There are a lot of words to describe what it takes to go directly up against one of the all-time best-selling semi-automatic rifles in the world. Audacity, optimism, bravery, insanity, intrepidity, recklessness, cojones and chutzpah are a few that come immediately to mind. But whatever the motivating force at Thompson/Center (read: Smith & Wesson or American Outdoor Brands) was behind the decision to challenge Ruger’s mega-popular 10/22 platform with the T/CR22 .22 LR rifle, someone certainly did their homework.

As popular as the 10/22 rifles are (they’ve sold about eleventy-billion of them, one to me), no gun is perfect. I’ve owned mine for years and love it. But what I don’t love so much is the fact that there’s no bolt hold open on an empty magazine. And the rifle’s blade-like bolt release switch can be, shall we say, fiddly.

Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle

While we certainly weren’t in the room when T/C’s engineers and marketing mavens gathered around a white board and listed the distinguishing features their new rimfire rifle would have, we’d lay odds that adding empty mag hold open and a better bolt release were at or near the top of the list. Right below those two was, undoubtedly, 10/22 compatibility.

Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle

First, the bolt hold-open. If you use Thompson/Center’s 10-round rotary magazines, your T/CR22’s bolt will stay open after you’ve fired your last round. As an added plus, the T/C rifle will also happily accept and work flawlessly with any Ruger 10- or 25-round mags you may own (I fed the rifle about a dozen of them). The only hiccup is that the action won’t lock back when the mag is empty while using Ruger mags, just like it won’t on a 10/22.

Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle
T/CR22 magazine with hold open lever (L) and a Ruger 10/22 magazine (R)

Note the T/CR22’s magazine’s vertical bent lever in the photo above. That’s what actuates the bolt hold-open feature on an empty magazine.

Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle

One caveat…and I learned this the hard way. Pay attention. Like 99.9% of the world’s gun owners, I don’t bother reading instruction manuals.

And I payed no attention to the big billboard-like PRESS LEVER TO LOAD instructions molded right there on the magazine. Yes, I really am that thick.

So don’t just blithely start stuffing rounds into T/CR22 magazines. That’s a good way to jam them and make yourself very unhappy. Push the little lever down, then load the rounds. Do that and it’s just as easy as loading that other brand’s mags.

Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle

To close the action, just push that much more comfortable, easy-to-actuate lever that’s located just forward of the trigger guard. You drop a mag with a mag release lever that’s a dead ringer for the one on the 10/22.

The T/CR22’s trigger pull is short and fairly crisp, very comparable to that of a stock Ruger. If you want something more precise, the T/C will take aftermarket 10/22 triggers.

As for the rest of the package, it’s much the same as lots of 10/22 models…except. Except for the standard threaded (1/2×28) barrel. Except for the standard Magpul stock with M-LOK attachment points. Except for the Picatinny rail that’s machined onto the receiver. Except for the excellent adjustable rear peep sight and front green fiber optic sight. Except for the metal grooved bolt charging handle.

Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle

Oh, and unlike the 10/22, the T/CR22’s rear sight (windage and elevation adjustable) is located at the back of the receiver. That means you get about six more inches of sight radius for improved accuracy when shooting with iron sights.

Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle

Back to that whole compatibility thing. Thompson/Center built the T/CR22 to be as 10/22-friendly as possible. Which means most 10/22 accessories — and there are thousands of them out there for the platform — will also work with your T/CR22. That includes stocks, barrels, triggers and much, much more.

Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle

If that stock looks familiar, it should. Thompson/Center chose a Magpul stock that’s very similar (though trimmed of a few features, i.e. side M-LOK points and sling loops ) to the popular Magpul Hunter X-22 aftermarket stock.

Gun Review: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rifle

While this isn’t an optic review, after shooting the T/CR22 with irons, I mounted Leupold’s new(ish) 3-9×40 VX-Freedom Rimfire on the rifle for more precise work. This is an excellent scope at a very reasonable price point. Highly recommended.

The question then becomes, how well does this thing shoot? I tested the T/CR22 with all manner of 22LR ammo from the cheapest Remington Thunderbolt stuff to CCI Green Tag to Federal Premium Match (I was fresh out of Eley match grade stuff) in a range of bullet weights from 30 to 40 grains. The rifle liked heavier 40 grain bullets and produced the best five-shot groups with CCI Green Tags (it printed a few half-inch groups at 50 yards) as well as Aguila 40 grain Interceptors (.65-inch groups).

In short, as with any rifle, find your gun’s favorite(s) to get the best results. The T/CR22 is more than accurate enough for its intended use of plinking, training new shooters, having fun and terrorizing small game.

So how did Thompson/Center do in their quest to challenge the semi-auto rimfire king of the hill? Remarkably well. The T/CR22 performs every bit as well as a comparable 10/22. Plus, it gives you that bolt hold open feature that’s 1) important so you can show the rifle’s clear and safe, and 2) is a nice training aid when working with new shooters.

And then there’s the value angle. When you add up all of the T/CR22’s standard features (Pic rail, fiber optic sight, Magpul stock, threaded barrel) that you have to get aftermarket with the 10/22, that makes the Thompson/Center rifle anywhere from $50 to $75 less expensive.

The T/CR22 isn’t going to de-throne the 10/22 any time soon, but it’s a very attractive alternative that a lot of gun buyers would do well to look at when it comes time to buy a rimfire semi-auto rifle.

Specifications: Thompson/Center T/CR22 Rimfire Rifle

Caliber: .22LR
Barrel Length: 17 inches
Overall Length: 35 inches
Length of Pull: 13.75 inches
Weight: 4.4 lbs
Twist Rate: 1:15
Finish: Blued steel with Magpul composite stock
MSRP: $399 (about $350 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ergonomics: * * * 
If you’ve shot a 10/22, the T/CR22 will feel right at home. It’s got a similarly short length of pull that makes it a great choice for training young or new shooters, but is still comfortable for average size adults.

Accuracy: * * * * *
Excellent results with a number of brands of ammo tested. This one seemed to prefer 40 grain pills and produced very tight groups. Varmints beware.

Reliability: * * * * 1/2
We had a few failures to fire, but that’s wholly attributable to the nature of .22LR ammunition. Shoot enough of it and you’re going to get a few bad rounds. The action failed to lock back on one magazine in about 500 rounds tested and we couldn’t duplicate that again.

Customize This: * * * * *
Thompson/Center made the T/CR22 as 10/22 compatible — some may call it a clone — as possible. That means most of the vast universe of the 10/22 aftermarket options are open to you.

Overall: * * * * *
This is a surprising little gun. Thompson/Center did an admirable job of taking what’s best about a 10/22 and adding some standard features that any shooter would consider improvements. The fact that they also manage to save you some money on the package is icing on the cake.

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  1. Sweet! I like the look of this. I’ll recommend it to my dad, since he needs to replace his Western Field .22 that’s older than I am.

    He’s not likely to put that pic rail or threaded muzzle to use, but the factory peep/fiber-optic sights and 10/22 but-even-better compatibility are definitely worth the price of admission.

  2. “Shout enough of it and you’re going to get a few bad rounds.”

    This could mean so many different things….

  3. Yes thanks Dan. I still won’t give up my 10/22s. This firearm looks and sounds very nice and price isn’t bad. If you have a 10/22 and have issues as Dan did, do some homework and aftermarket these problems. Bolt hold open is the only thing the 10/22 is missing. Besides, my stainless/synth stock 10/22 with a good scope looks badass on my ATV. Kind of like a lever action on a horse.

  4. We’ve all passed stools that are more attractive than this rifle. I predict it won’t do well in the marketplace until it undergoes a major redesign.

  5. I got mine for $240, LOVE it!!
    I have read of all kinds of people having issues with the magazines. I have four, never a problem with any of them. They load perfectly, every time, for me. Unlike most people out there, I enjoy reading the manuals for any firearm (and most other things too!) that I own. It saves a lot of grief…

  6. My son reclaimed his 10/22 from me a few months ago. Hells bells, I shot more rabbits and tin cans with that thing than he ever did. But, it was his since he was 7 or 8, and he’s soon to be 31.
    I may be rooting for the TC, we’ll have to see what Santa says.

  7. Thanks for the review. I’m looking for a new .22 rifle…and you’ve just made it more difficult…just kidding. I can never have too much ammo, too many good .22 rifles or too much information. .22 rifles are very important, their individual, quirky behaviors help keep me humble. Keep up the good work.-30-

  8. Looks nice and the bolt hold open and improved release are nice but a 10/22 collectors model is $300 and has the modular stock, pic rail and ghost ring sights

  9. “As popular as the 10/22 rifles are (they’ve sold about eleventy-billion of them, one to me), no gun is perfect.”

    Actually they’ve only sold 5MM and some change of them. OTOH, the Marlin Model 60 has sold over 11MM.

    We’ve made progress, at least this article doesn’t claim a rifle outsold 2:1 is the most popular.

    • And for that, I have no explanation. The Model 60 is a C-clip mousetrap to detail strip. The Ruger is pud-simple to detail strip.

      • I have my theory on the huge number of marlin 60’s sold, it’s the most accurate $100 gun I’ve ever had even with the god awful heavy trigger that was mostly fixed with a $30 spring kit from MCarbo. Mine will shoot dime sized groups at 50 yards with a cheap Bushnell 3-9 scope. Also holds 18 rounds (new ones hold 15} and you can’t misplace your magazine.

  10. One thing this review did not expose is that there is a hole on the rear of the receiver. “What for?!” you ask?

    So you can use a proper one-piece cleaning rod to clean the barrel from breech to muzzle, without having to take the barrel off the receiver. The hole is hidden when the receiver is in the stock you see above.

    • The hole in the rear of the receiver for a cleaning rod is a important feature of the T/C 22…something which Ruger 10/22 shooters have long wanted…but for what ever reason Ruger never saw fit to provide. Thanks to T/C for listening to the consumers on that one.

        • With a hand drill,? Cause that is all I have. Otherwise my gunsmith is going to charge me about $60 and he’s is always got a wait of a week or two.

          • Why buy a 10/22 when T/C R22 is so much better & going for $292 with sling, case & reflex sight as well as all the built in features that make it so much better than a ruger along with the interior fit & maching is like night & day?

          • I’d use my drill press, but if I didn’t have one I’d use a hand drill. Just secure the receiver so it can’t move and go slow. Measure twice, cut once!

  11. Love my 10/22, it’s my only .22lr really. But in stock form 2 things…
    1- “fiddly” bolt release. Articles right on that, easy fix with a file or dremel.
    2- heavy trigger, or mine was at least. Easy fix, just more time consuming.
    I’d never replace that rifle, just to much history with it. That being said I’d love to try out this new t/c, looks interesting. Hopefully see one at the range and do a side by side, be a fun day for sure.

  12. if you don’t want a takedown, get this.
    if your kid already has a charger takedown, get the full size takedown.

  13. Normal asking price for these right now is around $300, and there is a $50 rebate until the end of the year. If I was looking for a standard 10/22, this would be the top of my list.

    The ONLY reason I didn’t get this is, I wanted the takedown in the Magpul Backpacker stock… If T/C can get around some patents and make a takedown, I’m sold.

    I ended up getting a Savage B22 FV-SR for some silent 22 fun, and it had a $50 rebate until the end of the year, and will be around $200 all in…

  14. I’ve had mine out once so far. While a sweet little shooter, the threaded muzzle will not accept any of my muzzle devices (mainly my suppressor, but also tested with two different 1/2×28 muzzle brakes). My suppressor threads on about one turn then locks up. One brake wont even start on the threads, and the other goes about one thread on and stops. I emailed TC support and they have recommended I send it back for inspection.

    Other than that it’s awesome. Hope they can get the threading issue sorted out for me.

  15. I own three Ruger 10/22s (a camo takedown, a stainless “All Weather” model and a wood-stocked carbine) and like them a lot — but I don’t find them to be extremely accurate. Fun, yes. Inexpensive? Kinda — the takedown isn’t cheap. Very reliable with the BX-10 mags but not so much with the BX-25 mags. The triggers are meh at best, which is why replacement trigger upgrades are so popular.

    If the T/CR22 is strong where the 10/22 is weak, it might be a contender (no pun intended).

    • I love shooting my ruger but I have 3 – 25 round magazines that do not work (always jam) so I wonder how this one handles the 25 round magazines.

    • Changing out the stock trigger group makes the stock 10/22 a whole differt shooter. The stock plastic trigger groups are all over the place, from meh – to – garbage. But any 10/22’s accuracy isn’t experienced till you get rid of the stock TG. I have 5 10/22s from all sorts of years. the old metal stock TGs were the best stock ones. All of my 10/22s now have aftermarket TGs. As good as the old metal TGs were, the good aftermarket TGs still provide a better experience. I tried one of the Ruger TGs that they sell seperately, better than the stock plastic TGs, but not as good as the better aftermarket TGs.

  16. My son’s 10/22 (early 2000’s vintage) has a horrible trigger and is a jam-o-matic. Whenever I read someone describing how much they love their 10/22 I feel disconnected from reality.

  17. $149.52 Net! Never been a 10/22 fan but have many T/Cs so I saw this deal I couldn’t say no. Nets out shipped for $149.52 Brownells had it for $299.99- $40 instant discount code LX4 (had to add a filler to hit $300) + 10 FFL processing charge -$60 Brownells gift card I’ll get – $50 T/C rebate -$10.47 Active Junky rebate = $149.52 Total! How can I beat a deal like that? Hope I like it. I wanted a threaded barrel Semi Auto & like the idea of using Ruger mags, barrels & the peep sight & it’s a T/C which I’m sure is better much better than a 10/22. I’ve had great service out of & must own 40+ different T/Cs total. Brownells stands behind everything they sell forever also. I love a good deal 🙂

    • The $40 off $300 code ended last night but today they have a 10% off everything code L37. The $60 gift card still shows in the ad. If you haven’t used Active Junky use this link & we’ll both get $10 back & you’ll get another $10 from Brownells They give 10% rebate on Cabelas & many more outdoor sports dealers. Hope this helps!

  18. I only wish Thompson Center would support their “former” .22 rifle, the T/C Classic (R55) models. I know I know, different company then but still T/C. Would love to have some more 10 round mags for my classic that didn’t cost me $125 each (scalper’s prices) on the broker or the bay.

  19. I absolutely love this rifle. I have 1 25 and 1 50 round magazine. They work flawlessly. Such a fun gun to shoot. One of my better acquisitions.

  20. i bought one of these in part as a result of this review….which is well done but should edit for the breech cleaning rod hole access. its important! i dont have a 10/22 but my boy does….jams all the time and my Marlin 60 smokes it. that said, this TC22 walks the dog, even if the dog runs. zero malfunction shooting lots of junk ammo…i didnt have any rem yellow jackets to test tho and junk ammo always brings golden bullets to mind.

    i personally enjoy my win 64A pump (mine mfg 1941) and when it comes to reliable its a stone ax and if your putting dinner on the table its your go-to rifle and it also cycles shot to keep nasty geese at bay around the house. but this is about fun for me and the TC22 delivers quite a bit for the money and so far function tops the 10/22 in every way. very accurate, reasonable take down efforts and spades of potential. im very happy with mine but would buy a take down model in a heartbeat meaning i would buy it again.

    my first gun was a Marlin M60 with a fancy carbine wood stock carved with a squirrel in the stock and was a excellent first gun. this TCR22 would be an excellent first gun also. i found the magazine on the TC22 to be a lil difficult to load the very first round but then its easy for the next 9. you have to be sure you get that lever FLAT or the first round struggles with the follower but it may be my bad practice at fault…im gonna order another mag and see what happens but it feeds great.

    if you were to buy this TC22 instead of a ruger 10/22 and regret it i would need some details on why because i cant think of any…none…nada. beats ruger in every comparison.

  21. I own 11 Ruger 10/22’s from 1971 dated to 2012 and they all shoot fine, no jams etc. I am not sure why others seem to have so many problems, but mine do not. I also own Ruger Americans, CZ’z, WInchesters, Henry’s and of course the TC R22. I have yet to have a problem with any of them. I use decent ammo, and keep the actions clean. Other than that…nothing special. I use bore snakes because it is a pita to break the firearm down to clean properly, and Yes, use the Gunsmither tool/jig that allows you to drill a perfectly straight hole in the rear of the Ruger action for cleaning. It is on line and not expensive. I only use Ruger magazines and rarely use a 25 rd. Ther is no need for it and t makes the firearm awkward and hard to carry. Have yet to be attacked by hordes of zombie squirrels etc. While I have wood n steel version, polymer versions, take downs , heavy bbls, Lite weights,etc…I have put the Volquartson trigger enhancement pack in each one. It runs about $35 give or take a buck or two. I makes for a very nice trigger that will provide excellent shooting beyond the capabilities of 99% of shooters. Yes, that means you too!

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