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Hot Hornet trio from Krico.

During the 1930s and 1940s the .22 Hornet was one of the two most popular .22 caliber factory-loaded varmint rounds, the other being the .220 Swift. But 1950 saw the introduction of the .222 Remington cartridge, and for all practical purposes the death knell was heard for the smaller Hornet. The .222 could do everything the Hornet could, and it could do it some 400/500 feet per second (fps) faster, plus the newer round was reputed to be superbly accurate, while the Hornet stood accused of not being the tack driver needed for long-range varminting. so, like so many other cartridges both before and after it, the .22 Hornet died a slow death...or did it?

While this was going on in America, Europe stood by the Hornet round (where it's called the 5.6X35R). Much of their hunting is in areas where civilization and hunting fields are separated by less than 100 yards--if that. There the hushed report of the Hornet is appreciated, and because shooting distances are never too far, a high speed, flat shooting cartridge isn't needed for small game. And that, perhaps, is the crux of why Americans turned their backs on the Hornet in the '50s; they were trying to use it for something it wasn't meant for. It isn't a long-range round, it never was, and at best it should be used for varmintsized critters at ranges no more than 175 yards away. When used in this context the .22 Hornet is a superb cartridge; just don't ask the round to do something for which it was never intended.

With this in mind let's look at three different rifles chambered in .22 Hornet. They're all from the same manufacturer, Krico, a West German firm that has a long and fine reputation in Europe, but is just now becoming recognized in this country. If these three Hornets are representative of their full line, and there's no reason to think they aren't, then Krico should enjoy a full life in America.

The three different models are: the 400, a classic styled sporter; the 420, a Mannlicher-style, full-stocked rifle, and the 440, a rifle Krico calls the Match/Special Purpose model. All three share the same action where the receivers are both drilled and tapped for a scope mount, plus they are also grooved to take either the Weaver rings, or the rings of Beeman Precision Firearms, the importer of the Krico line. All three were also fitted with fine European walnut stocks; in fact, the stock of our test Manlicher-styled rifle bordered on select grade wood.

The Krico action has a dual-opposed locking lug bolt arrangement, with the lugs located behind the bolt handle. Consequently they cam into the massive receiver bridge, making for a strong and accurate action. The bolt handle acts as a third safety lug when the rifle is in battery, although it's hard to believe it would ever have to act as such. Although Krico also builds both rimfire and large-bore centerfire rifles, the .22 Hornet action stands by itself, sharing the same overall design as the other two, but being just slightly larger than the rimfire action. Basically the 400 series was designed around the Hornet cartridge--as stated earlier, the Europeans take the little centerfire round seriously. As evidence of this design the bolt handle only moves under 2-1/4 inches to cycle the action.

But perhaps the most intriguing area of the Kriko Hornets is the trigger assembly, or should I say assemblies. Krico offers five different trigger arrangements for their three models, and they're completely interchangeable by the home gunsmith. First is the standard trigger, then a single set trigger. Third is a double set trigger setup; next comes a match trigger, and finally the Super Match trigger. On our three test rifles only the full-stocked model had other than a standard trigger, and it was fitted with the double set triggers, which somewhat surprisingly comes as standard on this model.

Quite simply it would be almost impossible to find a rifle with better triggers. The standard trigger, which is adjustable, let off at just under 1-1/4 pounds; the double set triggers, when not set, released at just under 1-1/2 pounds. However, when the back trigger was used to set the front, the pull was an incredible six ounces. No matter how hard I tried I could not get the triggers to release by jarring them. all three triggers showed a slight amount of takeup; then you could feel the sear engagement. After that, however, there was no movement whatsoever before the triggers broke at their respective weights. I've always sworn I'd never use the age-old gunwriter's cliche of "breaking like a glass rod," but in this case it fits. I have never felt a better trigger--or three better triggers--on a production firearm; I've shot match pistols that weren't this clean. Overtravel, needless to say, was not a problem.

All three rifles carry five-shot detachable magazines that, so far as I could ascertain, were totally interchangeable. The three magazines were tried in each rifle, and all fed the potent little cartridge perfectly. The magazine has sight holes along its side so the shooter can tell with a glance if it's fully loaded. The magazine release is an elongated button located just in front of the magazine well, and it was one of the very few items on the rifles I didn't like. With a gloved hand it was quite difficult to operate, and even a bare thumb or finger had to push down hard to get it to work. On the other hand it would be almost impossible for the magazine to be released inadvertantly. I'm not a big fan of detachable magazines on sporting rifles, but Krico's 400 series, being chambered for such a small cartridge, makes it almost mandatory to have one. Trying to load the magazine through the ejection port would be totally impossible for a person with normal-sized hands. However, it is possible to slip one into the chamber for an actual capacity of six rounds.

A single hook extractor removes the empty case from the chamber, and dual protrusions at the bottom of the bolt raceway behind the magazine well ejects it. Both extraction and ejection were accomplished without a hitch.

Going to the range with these rifles opened my eyes about the so-called "inaccuracy" of the Hornet round, and the inaccuracy of full-stocked rifles. Krico has done an interesting thing with their Mannlicher-styled long arm. Knowing that attempting to bed the barrel for its full length would be almost impossible, they went the opposite way and free-floated it. The metal tip at the muzzle end is attached to the stock, not the barrel, and it just barely kisses the barrel. It is possible to slip a dollar bill between the barrel and stock at the receiver and slide it all the way out past the muzzle. Both the Sporter and Match/Special Purpose models also have free-floating barrels.

Each of the three rifles have a recoil lug in the stock that slips into a recess cut for it in the barrel 1/4 of an inch forward of the receiver. A Hornet certainly does not need a recoil lug, but it is just one more piece of evidence of Krico's quality.

Like most longarms, the Kricos showed a preference in their choice of factory ammo. For example the full-stocked rifle did its best work with Winchester 45-grain hollow points. At 100 yards, from a benchrest, and on a day when the wind was blowing perpendicular to the range up to 30 mph, we could keep five shots in a 1-1/4-inch group. It wasn't easy, what with the gale, but it could be done consistently. Interestingly enough, the 420's barrel, at 19-1/2 inches, was 4 inches shorter than either of the other two models, yet the velocity lost from the shorter tube was only about 60 fps with all the ammunition we tried.

The Sporter version also kept them all in a 1-1/4-inch group using Remington's 45-grain soft point ammo. With the two choices from Winchester the groups spread out to between 1-1/2 and 2 inches. The Match/Special Purpose model did a bit better than either of the others, 1-1/8-inch groups, and this rifle preferred Winchester's 45-grains soft point loads. With the Winchester hollow points and Remington soft points, groups opened up to about 1-3/4 inches. This proves once again that old addage about trying any new rifle with a variety of factory loads until you find the one that particular rifle is happiest with. There are very few longarms that will shoot tight groups with all factory ammo.

considering the wind conditions these rifles were shot under, I think it's safe to say that with custom handloads all three should shoot under a minute of angle at 100 yards. Contrary to opinions put forth about the Hornet cartridge, this wouldn't be exceptional. Between the various G&A staffers there are three different Hornets owned, and all three shoot under one inch at 100 yards with handloads.

Since Beeman is the distributor for Krisco, they sent each rifle along with one of their premium Blue Ribbon 2-7X scopes are fully adjustable for parallex, and undoubtedly they aided us in our accuracy testing.

Both the Sporter and full-stocked rifle were fitted with iron sights. The rear, a simple "U" notch, is adjustable for windage only, while the front, a ramp topped with gold-colored post, is adjustable for elevation. The Match/Special Purpose rifle has no iron sights because this arm is meant for shooting a popular, more informal version of the Olympic running boar match in Europe, where scopes are used.

The Match rifle's stock is very straight, with a large cheekpiece, and the fore-end has cooling slots cut into it so air can circulate completely around the barrel. The pistol grip is at a much more vertical angle as compared to sporting arms, exactly in the manner one would want on a match rifle. All three stocks are fitted with rubber buttpads and sling swivels; the swivels on the Match rifle are quick-detachable.

Both the Sporter and Mannlicher-styled models feature cut checkering that showed some flat-topped diamonds--it's about what we've come to expect on any production rifle in the last few years. The Match rifle's stock is stippled on both the pistol grip and fore-end. Stippling is definitely not as handsome as well-done checkering, but it makes sense on a rifle where a slight slip could cause a missed target during close competition.

For those interested in the Krico lineup of both rimfire and centerfire rifles you can contact Beeman Precision Firearms at Dept. GA, 47 Paul Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903. They're not inexpensive; the Model 400 retails for $649, the Model 420 for $749.50, and the Match/Special Purpose for a full $795. That's a lot of money for a bolt-action rifle, but you get good value for that outlay of cash. Here are rifles that have been designed for a particular cartridge, and consequently they handle the Hornet round very well. All the niceties are there: grooved receiver for scope mounting, recoil lug, a superb trigger, nice wood, handsome blueing on a highly polished barrel and receiver, rubber buttpad, sling swivels, and a cocking indicator that can be both seen and felt. In fact, about the only things you'll need are a scope, and a field filled with woodchucks and prairie dogs ...
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Hetzler, Dave
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jul 1, 1984
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