As a sniper instructor, I travel to many countries to teach military and police snipers. Even though the fundamentals are similar, each tactical unit has its own focus and missions, and therefore each needs different training. I try to adapt my training to those requirements and find what is best for them as snipers and as a team. But no matter the training goals, what can’t be skipped is range time, and curiously enough, a common trend in many police departments and military sniper schools is the need to save money by cutting down on ammunition expenditures and range time.
To add to the problem, the powers that be expect the operator to be trained during the course and don’t realize that these skills are perishable and will degrade over time. Weekly sniper training is threatened by budget cuts, and the ammunition budgets are at a historic low.
Stretching Each Buck
In my quest for affordable sniper training, I have done some extensive and successful research with Noptel electronic training systems and Gamo air rifles. The advantage with both of them is that they don’t need a live-fire range or expensive match-grade ammo, so range and ammunitions costs are greatly reduced.
“I started looking for an affordable semi-auto .22 LR rifle with match-grade accuracy that could serve as the perfect training weapon at less than a cent per shot…”
Even though my simulation training program has been extremely profitable for the snipers’ supervisors, and even though the snipers’ fundamentals and marksmanship skills went up while keeping costs down, I detected that we still had a big issue. Improvements weren’t consistent when it came to shooting in realistic exercises in which the sniper had to judge conditions, make calculations and then apply fire solutions. Exercises involving skills that can’t be learned without actually judging the wind, milling the target, changing positions, reloading and correcting ballistics. In a single word, adapting to real-world scenarios.
After a couple of hours on the computer playing with my Patagonia ColdBore 1.0 ballistic software and comparing the typical sniper loads, I came to the conclusion that you could replicate the challenge of shooting at 1,000 yards with a .308 Winchester rifle by shooting at 300 yards with a .22 LR. Therefore, I started looking for an affordable semi-auto .22 LR rifle with match-grade accuracy that could serve as the perfect training weapon at less than a cent per shot.
There are already a few accurate .22-caliber semi-automatic rifles on the market. Most shooters buy standard models and then customize them with new barrels, match triggers and even match stocks. My problem was that I needed a rifle that was match accurate out of the box without needing to rebuild it, as most police and military sniper units do not have the armorers or the will to perform such a task. What was expected to be a long and arduous search proved not to be so, as in a few minutes I found out that Anschutz, a top .22 LR match rifle-maker, had already built such a rifle. The reason: In Europe, many competitions are organized in .22 LR.
Continue Reading: Anschütz MSR RX22 .22 LR Rifle: Sniper Training Weapon | Gun Review
The MSR RX22 is a joint development by three German companies: Anschutz, German Sport Guns and ESC Ulm. The goal of this collaboration was to develop and produce a highly accurate semi-automatic rifle with excellent shooting performance that was suitable for the dynamic .22 LR disciplines as well as precision shooting. The result was an all-round rifle that would appeal to all shooters in search of a combination of outstanding accuracy, lightness and practicality.
“The rifle looks like a visibly lightened SCAR with M4-like ambidextrous controls and a nice folding stock that is adjustable for cheek height and length of pull.”
Anschutz develops and produces the MSR RX22’s components, including the barrel and the trigger system. ESC took care of the design, and German Sport Guns assumed the assembly.
The barrels are manufactured with the same special button-rifling process—even on the same machinery—Anschutz uses for manufacturing its legendary 1813 and 1913 target barrels. The same also applies to the manufacturing process of the chamber and the recessed muzzle. And speaking of chambers, the .22 LR has a surprisingly large number of different chamber reamers, as I learned while talking with reamer guru Dave Kiff from Pacific Tools. From all of them, Anschutz uses its proprietary design, with a very long lead of only a half-degree and a short headspace of 0.619 inches. In my tests, this has proven to be extremely accurate, especially with premium and match ammunition.
In short, the MSR RX22 has a superb 16-inch barrel with a 1-in-16-inch twist rate and is capable of producing 50-shot groups within 0.78 inches at 55 yards, per Anschutz’s own requirements. That’s nearly a 50-shot 1.37-MOA group!
And what about the rifle surrounding that awesome barrel? The rifle looks like a visibly lightened SCAR with M4-like ambidextrous controls and a nice folding stock that is adjustable for cheek height and length of pull. The ergonomics are very similar to the M4, so most shooters will feel at home shooting this little rifle.
There are several basic variants of the MSR rifle. The Desert (tan) and Black Hawk (black) are oriented to the U.S. market and many other parts of the world. Both are offered with fixed and folding stocks, as in many countries, such as New Zealand, folding stocks are forbidden. The Precision and Competition models are specifically designed for European-style dynamic and Mini F-Class competitions.
The rifle has a blowback action with a hammer lock and is divided into upper and lower receivers that can be separated with screws. One fine feature is that the ambidextrous cocking handle can be inserted into any of three different positions on each side of the upper receiver to adapt to a shooter’s preferences. And talking about options, you will not find a typical 12mm small-bore rail on this MSR RX22 but a 16.9-inch-long Picatinny rail that runs the entire length of the upper and increases its versatility—users can mount red dots, such as the superb Aimpoint CompM4, or any conventional scopes and sights.
The factory had the adjustable trigger’s pull weight set at over 4 pounds, so I lowered the pull to a more manageable 3.5 pounds. This made for a more-than-adequate, crisp release.
Continue Reading: Anschütz MSR RX22 .22 LR Rifle: Sniper Training Weapon | Gun Review
Dressed For 300 Yards
For my intended application as a sniper training rifle at 300 yards or less, I selected the 1.8-10X U.S. Optics MR-10 scope with a mil-scale GAP reticle and 0.1-mil EREK turrets. The scope allows for short-range dynamic training at 1.8X and also complex target ID exercises at 300 yards and beyond on 10X magnification. Adding to this, its EREK turret is second to none. In fact, Hensoldt uses a U.S. Optics-patented turret system on its flagship 3.5-26x56mm tactical scope—a scope that is, to my knowledge, the most expensive sniper scope available. The Barrett 10-40 rings I used may be overkill, but they are rock solid and lighter than most.
“I have fired over 600 rounds of a wide variety of .22 LR ammunition through the gun and can say that its accuracy is outstanding…”
The two 10-round magazines I received worked flawlessly, which is a bonus on any .22 LR rifle, as the rimmed case makes magazine operation a little more problematic than non-rimmed cases. It would’ve been nice to have 20- and 22-round mags, too, as 10-rounders don’t hold enough ammo for most practical rifle exercises. Unfortunately, Anschutz did not have any available at the time of my order.
I also tested the MSR RX22 with the new polymer Brugger & Thomet bipod, which combines extreme lightness, at 9.5 ounces, with the tried-and-true Parker-Hale/Versa-Pod design. Even though the little Anschutz was light for semi-auto rifle standards, at 6.94 pounds, I used the superb Kopfjaeger sniper sling from Hard Target Innovations, more as a shooting support than as a carry method.
And how did the MSR RX22 do in my 100- to 300-meter tests? Better than Anschutz’s requirements! I never shot 50 rounds into a group, but I have fired over 600 rounds of a wide variety of .22 LR ammunition through the gun and can say that its accuracy is outstanding, in some cases better than my baseline test gun, an Anschutz 1813 bolt-action rifle with a Leupold 4.45-14×50 Mark 4 LR/T scope mounted on it, which I shot for comparison during the tests.
All other manufacturers of semi-automatic rifles recommend using high-velocity ammo, but Anschutz does not. The MSR RX22 works with most .22 ammo, and it shoots sub-MOA groups with many. After accuracy, reliability is the second consideration with .22 LR rifles, but this rifle functioned very well.
When it came to accuracy, the Remington high-velocity ammo shot consistently around 1.5 MOA, and RWS’ R50 and R100 loads printed the best groups, of 0.15 and 0.18 MOA, respectively. I was surprised by the appearance of these groups, as I am used to big bores, including .50 BMGs—they didn’t look that impressive until I measured them and remembered that the tiny holes are only 0.22 inches in diameter. I did not test hyper-velocity rounds, as I did not have any available, and it would defeat the purpose of keeping costs down.
The Anschutz MSR RX22 is an impressive little rifle, with the weight of a .223 carbine and the accuracy of a sniper rifle. Practicing with it at 300 yards is similar to using a .308 Winchester at 1,000 yards when it comes to critical ballistics and windage and elevation corrections. This similarity in the two will allow any sniper team to train in many more ranges—on the cheap!
For more U.S. sales information, visit anschuetz-msr.com/us or call Steyr Arms at 205-417-8644.