Weatherby Mark XXII: rimfire elegance.
A Weatherby rimfire rifle is available again for the first time in nearly 20 years. For some 25 years, from 1964 to 1989, Weatherby offered a semi-auto .22 rifle called the Mark XXII.
I first read of this rifle in Jack O'Connor's column in the April 1964 issue of Outdoor Life (I had to dig through my files to confirm the date). It had the distinctive "Weatherby" stock style with prominent Monte Carlo, cheekpiece, skip-line checkering and high-gloss finish.
I was already a confirmed Weatherby fan at the time, even though I had never seen one except in pictures. I was 14, penniless, and though I was enthralled by Weatherby ads and articles I couldn't imagine ever owning one.
Nonetheless, I fancied myself a pretty knowledgeable rifleman even then. I remember being disappointed it was a semiauto rather than a bolt action. It should have been a bolt action. The wonderful Mark V for the fabulous Weatherby magnum cartridges was a bolt action. Its rimfire understudy should be a bolt as well.
All this was purely theoretical, you understand, much like a modern day teenager criticizing the styling or power train of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, knowing full well he's unlikely ever to see one, much less own one.
Good things come to he who waits. After more than 40 years I have my hands on a bolt action Weatherby .22 rifle and in every way--appearance, function, handling, accuracy, quality--it is a beauty. It isn't cheap by any means, but it is as fine a rimfire sporting rifle as has ever been made.
Wisely, the Weatherby Company didn't try to reinvent the wheel. Matter of fact they didn't even reinvent the name. Like the old semiauto, the new rifle is called the Mark XXII. The action and barrel are by Anschutz, the manufacturer of the most accurate .22s ever made in my opinion (and in the opinion of others, including Olympic gold medal winners).
The superb Anschutz 64 action with match-quality barrel is stocked in high-grade walnut, with the distinctive look styled long ago by Roy Weatherby himself. Anyone who knows rifles at all will pick it out as a Weatherby from across the room.
Over the years, my taste in firearms has evolved, and as many people, I've become more conservative with age. My current "best quality" rifle is a custom built pre-'64 Winchester 70 in .30-06 in the classic style--straight stock without Monte Carlo, subdued oil finish, steel grip cap and skeleton buttplate, low luster blue on action and barrel.
Of the several Weatherby Mark V and Vanguard centerfire rifles I own all have sensible, practical synthetic stocks in various camo patterns (albeit with the distinctive Weatherby profile, which in fact fits me very well and is fast and comfortable to use).
And yet within this conservative, low key, understated veteran there is still the 14-year old boy enthralled by glitter and glamour. Sometimes I get sick of being sensible. These days I drive a sensible four door Honda and a reliable Chevy pickup truck, but stored away in a garage I still have a 1979 Firebird Trans Am, the black & gold special edition, T-top, screaming chicken on the hood, the whole package.
I don't license it any more (don't need jokes about a mid-life crisis), but I take it out occasionally, just to sit and listen to something you don't hear much anymore--the deep throated rumble of a big-block V8. And to remember how it sounded on long straight stretches of empty highway. I wasn't always a cautious old fud.
The stock on the new Mark XXII is true to the Weatherby look. Roy Weatherby would have loved it, obviously, as it is very similar to the stock he designed for the original semiauto .22 back in the early 1960s. However the quality of wood used on the current rifles is superior if anything, at least based on the prototypes and production models I've seen.
The originals were always nicely fitted and finished, but wood grain varied from spectacular to average. All the current models I've seen have outstanding wood. I find the current checkering better in appearance than the "skip line" patterns of old. Fit of the contrasting rosewood grip (with diamond inlay) cap and forearm tip is likewise flawless. This is a strikingly beautiful rifle.
Beautiful or not, rifles are made to shoot. With an Anschtitz action and barrel I had no doubts about accuracy. For more than 40 years I've owned a fine .22 sporter on the Anschutz 64 barreled action.
The current action has one improvement over my '60s model, a separate bolt stop with a release lever on the left side of the receiver. The old model used the sear as the bolt stop. Other than that, the machining, fit, polish, bluing, and function of the barreled actions on the Weatherby is as good as any Anschutz I've ever seen.
The wonderful, fully-adjustable Anschutz trigger is as good as ever, breaking cleanly at 2.5 pounds, similar to my old model. Forty years ago I found I couldn't let others shoot my rifle unless I first advised them they would find the trigger very light. At 2.5 pounds, of course, it's not all that light, but is so crisp and clean (and so few shooters back then had ever experienced a good trigger) they invariably called it a "hair trigger" which it certainly is not.
The test rifle came with an excellent Leupold 2-7X VX-1 scope in the likewise excellent Talley rings which clamp into the receiver grooves (the receiver is also drilled and tapped to accept scope bases). After sighting in with Federal standard velocity target ammunition I fired six 5-shot groups at 50 yards. (Why six groups? The target I was using had six aiming diamonds.)
It took a while as there was a light breeze, and even a light breeze can have a noticeable effect on .22s. By shooting during lulls I was able to get an average group size of about .33". The smallest groups measured right around .22". Splendid accuracy indeed. Functioning, it need hardly be said, proved completely reliable.
The Mark XXII is available in either .22 LR or. 17 HMR. The only thing I'd change is the bolt knob, made of black plastic (OK, synthetic). Nothing wrong with its function, it fits the hand nicely, I just would rather it was of steel integral with the bolt handle as on my old rifle.
The Anschutz and Weatherby companies have a lot in common. Both are family owned companies, headed by descendants of the original founders, both are renowned for producing high quality, distinctive products. It seems fitting they have worked together to produce this splendid rifle.
(We couldn't include all of Dave's pictures here, so for more pictures and a brief history of Anschutz, go to www. gunsmagazine.com and click on the Web Blast button.--Editor)
MARK XXII RIFLE Maker: J.G. Anschutz GmbH & Co. KG Jagd and Sportwaffenfabrik Daimlerstrasse 12 89079 Ulm, Germany jga.anschuetz-sport.com Importer: Weatherby, Inc. 1605 Commerce Way Paso Robles, CA 93446 (805) 227-2600, www.weatherby.com CALIBER: .22 LR (tested), .17 HMR MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 5 or 10 (.22 LR), 4 (.17 HMR) BARREL LENGTH: 23" OVERALL LENGTH: 40-7/8" WEIGHT: 6-1/2 pounds LENGTH OF PULL: 13-5/8" DROP AT COMB: 3/4" DROP ATMONTE CARLO: 1/2" DROP AT HEEL: 1-1/8" PRICE: $899 (.22 LR), $949 (.17 HMR)