Remington 596 Heavy Barrel performs beyond its price tag
PUBLISHED: 15:56 19 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:18 19 October 2017
The Remington 597 heavy barrel in .22LR goes on test with Chris Parkin; superb reliability and a decent length of pull combine with a great price tag to make this cracking rifle a winner
PROS: Fast action with assured reliability which stands out from the crowd; fast magazine changes; great handling and pointability; Weaver scope rail included; absolutely cracking value for money!
CONS: Magazine prefers rounded bullet shapes; no sling studs fitted; 10 rounds are a very tight fit – just buy a few extra mags, they aren’t expensive
VERDICT: In a market dominated by the Ruger 10-22, I found the 597 a refreshing departure with fast action and great accuracy. Just stick to seven or eight rounds in the mag and it will shoot on and on with little required maintenance. I liked this gun and it represents great value for money in my opinion
Remington 597, 22 LR Heavy Barrel Semi-Auto Rimfire
Calibre: 22 LR
Barrel length: 420mm/16.5”
Overall length: 883mm/34.75”
Muzzle thread: ½” UNC
Stock: Green synthetic, injection moulded
Length of pull: 356mm/14”
Trigger: single stage, 1600gram/56oz. pull
Safety: crossbolt safety
Magazine: 10 round included, 25 rounders available
CONTACT: Raytrade UK Ltd www.raytradeuk.co.uk 01635 253344
RRP: £329.00 (extra magazines £23.99)
38 and 42 gr weight in Subsonic Hollow point, Hight velocity HP and Contact 22lr Semi Auto target
Fiocchi 40gr Subsonic Hollow Point
Edgar Brothers 01625 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com
Winchester 42gr Subsonic Hollow Point
Browning UK 01235 514550 www.browning.eu
Minox ZX5i 2-10x50 Riflescope
MINOX 01494 481004 www.minox.com
(Thanks to Swillington Shooting Supplies for SAK sound moderator. 0113 286 4097 www.swillingtonshootingsupplies.co.uk)
IN DEPTH REVIEW
The Remington 597 Semi Automatic 22 rimfire rifle is a refreshing change in a market dominated by the Ruger 10-22. Looking over the 597 begins with a 21mm parallel contour blued steel barrel, showing a neat ½” threaded muzzle. This joins the simple blowback action solidly bedded into a green synthetic stock with a tactile moulded surface, offering assured hold from the semi beavertail forend all the way back through the grip to a solid chequered recoil plate. I’d prefer a rubber pad, purely for the extra grip when welded into your shoulder pocket, but there is miniscule recoil to concern you from the diminutive but dastardly effective 22 rimfire round. Of significant note on what may be termed a cheap ‘Walmart gun’, the Remington shows a 14” length of pull that really stands out from the competition in the American rimfire market, where even centrefires often struggle to manage more than 13”. I applaud Remington for this, as the gun rises and plants cleanly to the shoulder, pointing naturally and never needing deliberate effort, or suffering from uncomfortably short eye relief from inherently short rimfire actions.
Further on the ergonomic note, the drop at comb and heel of 1 ½”and 2 ¼” has more of a shotgun look to it, but matches the rifle well. A Weaver-type scope rail is included with the gun and remains slim, low to the action, and allows whatever scope is mounted to remain low down and close to the bore, lining up well with the straight stock. The comb is slender for comfort, and I really enjoyed shooting this gun from multiple positions because of it. It is an ideal truck cab gun, that’s for sure, being happily used either left or right for passenger or driver seating positions; it spits all ejected brass almost perpendicular to the lateral port and won’t hit you in the face if swapping.
Remington are pleased to inform us that the action’s trigger sear and hammer are nickel/Teflon coated for hardwearing durability and a smooth trigger pull. It’s a single stage unit breaking at 1,600 grams/56oz. with slight creep in the travel, but consistently so, and is thus relatively easy to judge. At this point I was assuming the gun, although a budget model in the USA, would get a bit too expensive here in the UK, but the RRP of £329 is very respectable value for money. The action feeds and cycles from a patented staggered drop-out magazine. The release catch is situated to the right lower sidewall of the magazine well and drops the polymer/cast metal unit straight into a waiting palm; your trigger finger (for right handers) just reaches its serrated surface from regular shooting hold position. The follower also locks the action open after the last round, which I especially like on a rimfire. Apart from avoiding an accidental ‘dead man’s click’, it stops the firing pin endlessly crashing into the steel breech face (rather than softer brass to ‘fire the rim’) which, long term, risks degrading the gun’s functionality and reliability.
The mag is advertised as a ten-rounder, and here starts the one Achilles’ heel of the 597. It is a very compact form, almost flush fitting, and getting the ninth and tenth rounds into the otherwise smoothly sprung mag is a tight squeeze. Even after 500 rounds had been run through it. Sticking to a maximum of eight led me to find a despicably reliable action, as long as physical bullet shape was considered. I tried a wide variety of standards, subsonics and high-velocity fodder, and the results are fairly easy to categorise. 40/42 grain bullets of a rounded or hollow point profile, regardless of muzzle velocity, fed, fired and functioned with total perfection. The bulkier/squarer shape of a 40- or 42-grain Winchester Subsonic hollow point (with its well-known large cavity) tended to drag in the magazine, but that’s one very specific bullet and many others are available. The new Eley Subsonic 1,090fps Contact E round for semi autos gave the best accuracy, with half inch groups at 60 yards. The hollow point version with its 38gr/1,040 fps bullet running just below 1,000fps from this barrel was the only bullet to show slight issues. It cycled the action through blowback recoil perfectly well, and fed fresh cartridges into the chamber, but didn’t manage to re-cock the hammer itself. This is a slightly unusual result but, in a strange way, it was testament to its absolute consistency that the recoil of the round/brass case to maintained the fine line between cycling the bolt but not quite the hammer. Neither the gun nor the ammo was at fault, they were just not the best bedfellows, and I won’t judge either negatively for it as this ammo in my own bolt action rifle is performing superbly. The reliability of the action on all other ammo is perhaps thanks to the twin tool steel guide rods that maintain a smooth track for the bolt to run on, rather than just the internals of the cast action itself and a single sided ‘torque’ prone rod like the Ruger shows. I quite simply prefer column feed magazines to rotary ones on dirty rimfire ammunition, and although semi autos with lead bullets will always tempt problems, some designs appear harder to upset.
I used a 2-10x50 ZX5i Minox optic on the rifle, which is perhaps a little higher spec than required but I think rimfires deserve great optics, even if you need to stay lower in the magnification envelope to retain clear focus at shorter rimfire ranges. Because of their round-the-clock usability, I think rimmies deserve decent glass for those testing dusk conditions when rabbits slink along hedge bottoms. Most importantly, rimfires are terrific fun to shoot and a valuable training tool when treated as such, rather than as kids’ guns or plinking toys; yet in all arenas this Remington seems to fit the bill. Stalking rabbits into close range is a great challenge and not something I would always consider with a semi-auto, as any failures to feed or fire, especially in darkness, lead to messing about manually cycling the action and catching ejected live rounds etc. For once, this Remington broke that mould, and if I stuck to my golden ‘eight rounds of ammo’ rule, it never failed me. High velocity fodder was great fun for plinking at 100m, yet the low velocity hunting ammo maintained a fast, snappy action with no sluggishness and clean burning powder with little internal fouling (the bane of blowback actions and lead bullets). Likewise, the feed ramp of the magazine and chamber treated bullets gently without scalloping lead from them, and even waxy lubrication found on some ammo was kept in decent order, although I do prefer the drier varieties. You could load magazines quietly without any fumbles and I was pleased to note that, as semi-autos go, it was quiet without rattle and clunking as the reciprocating bolt hit the buffer or barrel on its repeat journey.
Twin Allen bolts fore and aft of the action remove it from the stock, where the simple cuboid inlet snugly wraps the action. No free floating of the barrel is advertised or found, and with this short, stiff tube I prefer to see the honest approach shown, and liked the fact that the fore-end remains in definite contact at all times. Inconsistent floating is the worst of all. I never shot the gun from a bipod as no sling studs are installed, but the moulded reinforcing webs retain plenty of stiffness and a lug is present that will allow a stud to be drilled and tapped, or better still glued in place if desired. It’s a £3 modification, even if just for a sling fitting to carry the gun.
I ended up liking this 597 and thought it was good value for money. It doesn’t have the extensive modification market that the Ruger has, but the flip side to that is a better gun off-the-shelf, in my opinion. I really did just fit a scope and a mod and go out shooting, a process which led to me using and relying on the gun a lot; so much so in fact that it may remain with me as a scope testing chassis, especially as it has the sadly undervalued but fantastic Weaver scope rail included.