While I enjoy shooting, the task has slowly evolved from a hobby to a job. The carefree days at the range are largely gone, replaced by trips to gather data, test loads and proof various systems. Normally I’ll end a shooting session satisfied with the outcome, but I am not always smiling. The Lithgow Arms LA101 rimfire rifle chambered in 22 WMR (22 Magnum) changed that. Every time I’ve taken it to the range I’ve been smiling like it was my first time behind a rifle again.
Lithgow is an Australian Arms maker that has been producing rifles for over 100 years. While they aren’t new to firearms, they are still relatively new to commercial rifles. If you usually read rifleshooter.com, you’ll note my positive reviews of the LA101 in 22 long rifle and LA102 in 308 Winchester. Both rifles offer unique options to the recreational shooter. I was so pleased with their performance that I reached out to Legacy Sports International, Lithgow’s importer in the United States, for a laminated version of the LA101 chambered in 22 WMR.
Much like it’s 22 long rifle counter part, the LA101 22 WMR is overbuilt for a 22. Using a fairly heavy action with a three lug bolt, a 21″ barrel that is hammer forged with a medium-target profile that’s also threaded and all metal is coated in Cerakote. The LA101 is available with either a synthetic polymer or laminated wood stock. For this post I requested a LA101 with a laminated stock since the 22 long rifle version I tested was equipped with a polymer variant.
The trigger, much like that found on the LA101 22LR, breaks around 3.5 pounds. It is equipped with a two position safety and uses CZ-style 22 magnum magazines. The use of a CZ magazine means securing extra magazines is fairly straight forward and depending on the kinds of gun stores in your area, possibly something you can pick up on a visit.
While 22 long rifle can be associated with a wide array of match cartridge offerings and supreme precision, the 22 WMR doesn’t share that reputation. Often chambered in less expensive mass marketed rifles, the 22 WMR isn’t widely used in Olympic level competition like the long rifle, so the ammunition is notorious for not being as good as long rifle ammo. Further, selection of 22 WMR ammunition isn’t nearly as expansive as that found for the long rifle. In my retail store, 782 Custom Gunworks, we stock over two dozen kinds of 22 long rifle ammunition compared to 4 kinds of 22 WMR.
To secure testing ammunition for the LA101, I logged onto my shooting wholesaler’s website and ordered 8 different kinds of ammunition with bullet weights from 30 to 45 grains. These loads are, in order of ascending bullet weight; Winchester 30 grain Varmint HV, Federal Premium 30 grain TNT, Winchester Super X 40 grain JHP, Aguila 40 grain semi-jacketed, CCI MAXI MAG 40 grain, CCI Gamepoint SP, Federal 40 grain FMJ, and Winchester 45 DYNAPOINT.
With the ever increasing use of suppressors on rimfire rifles in the United States, I also wanted to see how the LA101 would perform with (and without) a can. For this I selected a Q LLC Erector. The Q Erector is a novel design, with a series of aluminum baffles that thread together on a serialized stainless steel blast chamber that allow the end user to add and subtract baffles as needed. For all my testing I use the Erector the way it was shipped with a total of 8 baffles in place.
Anticipating a fairly wild swing in muzzle velocity due to the nature of most rimfire ammunition in general, and 22 WMR in particular, I decided I needed to fire more rounds than I typically would for an initial test. I fired two 5-shot groups without a suppressor and two 5-shot groups with a suppressor at 50 yards. I recorded muzzle velocity data for each ten round string with a MagnetoSpeed V3 barrel mounted ballistic chronograph. After I fired each of the 4 groups (with and without a suppressor) for each kind of ammunition, I went ahead and fired a fifth 50-shot group at 50 yards (the rightmost group on the target below). This was a proof group of sorts, showing how the rifle shot with the Erector attached, but without the MagnetoSpeed in place.
The LA101 comes equipped with two short sections of Picatinny rail on each side of the receiver’s ejection port. I went ahead and mounted a Zeiss Conquest V4 3-12×56 scope in steel 30mm rings (this is the scope that was living on the LA101 22 long rifle, and, shockingly, when I fired my first round from the 22 magnum, has a point of impact with 1/2″ at 50 yards)! This size scope is likely the maximum size you could fit on the rifle as configured from the factory, a larger scope would most likely require some sort of additional comb or cheek piece.
For the accuracy testing phase of the LA101 22 WMR, all rounds were fired prone, from a bipod with a rear bag.
Without a suppressor attached, 5-shot 50 yard group sizes ranged from .457″ to 1.268″ with an average group size of .850″ over 16 5-shot groups.
With the Q Erector attached, 5-shot 50 yard group sizes ranged from .492″ to 2.303″ with an average group size of .919″ over 16 5-shot groups.
Average group size for the 32 groups shown in the table above was .885″. This is quiet respectable for a 22 WMR given the wide range of ammunition used.
The data above indicates that some loads seem to shoot better than others. I went ahead and plotted the information on the bar graph below.
“NS1” indicates the first non suppressed group, “NS2” the second and “NS AVG” the average for both groups. “Q1” indicates the first group fired with the Q Erector attached, “Q2” indicates the second group and “Q AVG” indicates the average of both groups.
The Federal 40 grain FMJ load was the clear winner in terms of accuracy, while the Winchester 45 grain load was a flawed performer in this rifle.
So what do I think of the Lithgow LA101 22 WMR?
- Accurate. Given the wide range of ammunition I tested the rifle with, as well as the inherit accuracy problems anecdotally associated with the 22 WMR, I thought this rifle shot extremely well.
- Well built. Unlike many rimfire rifles, the LA101 is over built. While you can step up in price to an Anschutz, they seem to be geared more to the fixed distance match market. This is a sturdily built rifle that will serve you well at the range or in the field.
- CZ-style magazine. I like it when rifles are manufactured with a magazine that is readily available and easily replaceable.
- My favorite rifle! For some reason I absolutely love this rifle. While the LA101 in 22 long rifle shoots better, the 22 WMR is more fun to shoot. The rounds are a little bigger, the magazine is easier to load and you don’t have wax coating your fingers or the associated mess to deal with. Plus, when you find a load that shoots, like the Federal 40 grain FMJ load, it is a winner! On two separate occasions, I dropped my “work guns”off at the shop and took the LA101 22 WMR to the range instead. It is an absolute joy to shoot, especially when it is paired with the Q LLC Erector suppressor.
To learn more about the Lithgow LA101 22 WMR, visit Legacy Sports International’s website.
If you can’t find a LA101 22 WMR locally, check out 782guns.com, we may be able to ship one to your FFL.