Gun test: Lithgow Arms LA101 Crossover
- Credit: Archant
Contributor Broadsword falls in love with the Australian-made Lithgow Arm LA101 Crossover rifle in this detailed test and review...
Australians are known worldwide for their tenacity and tough work ethic and it comes as no surprise that Lithgow Arms, based in New South Wales, have crafted a premium rimfire rifle with all the features real hunters want.
This Crossover rimfire emanates from a historic arms manufacturer spanning over a century of firearms production. Since 1912, Lithgow have had their small arms utilised in conflicts from Gallipoli in WWI to modern-day Afghanistan.
Primarily designed for hunters, its accuracy and handling make it just as good at the range. Available in either .22 LR, .22 WMR or .17 HMR, the hammer-forged barrel and hardened-steel action are coated in a tough Cerakote outer shell with a semi-tactical synthetic stock starting at £929. It’s a tough combination to resist.
The barrelled action fits very squarely in the polymer stock with a small amount of barrel clearance, so effectively free-floated for its entire length. Choice is either a black or titanium-coloured Cerakote barrel coating hard baked to the chrome moly steel underneath – much better than simple bluing in regard to abrasion resistance and weather proofing.
Here, the titanium version is very smart yet subdued, complementing the stock and providing an effective hunting finish. The barrel is probably too long for my liking at 21”, measuring 20” less the chamber, but this is all about red tape and export licenses! I prefer a shorter 14 -18” on a .22 rimfire, but its semi-varmint-style contours balance the rifle well. You have a 0.985” diameter at the receiver slowly tapering to 0.693” diameter at the muzzle. This is threaded with a ½” UNEF thread, not ½ UNF, and nicely undercut so the AimSport moderator sits perfectly square with the 11° target muzzle crown aiding in consistent bullet exit.
The military specification cold-hammer-forged steel barrel has the telltale criss-cross hammer marks on the surface, giving a pleasing undulation – and with its length and girth, the barrel is surprisingly well balanced. Few visible internal tool marks and a typical 1 in 16” twist handles all the normal .22 rimfire ammunition – and even with its semi-match chamber dimensions, longer nosed 45gr bullets still chambered correctly.
Equally well made, the action has a pleasing scalloped profile. The hardened, high-tensile steel and faceted sides reduce weight and are a triumph in simple yet clever engineering. The bolt locks at the rear of the action, meaning the Lithgow is ultra-smooth to operate, as you are not dragging mid-section lugs along the action raceways. Lock up of the bolt, not surprisingly, is very secure. Primarily, this is achieved by the three large locking lugs that radiate around the bolt just in front of the bolt handle, which itself is positioned right at the back of the bolt shaft.
This type of orientation provides effortless and speedy engagement and disengagement of the bolt and allows a low lift to miss lower profile scopes. Each lug is chamfered, providing an easy bolt lift, yet when engaged into the three corresponding abutments ensures as near a 100% face engagement as possible.
Manipulating the slightly triangular 2” bolt handle with its small but comfortable nylon teardrop knob feels reassuring. Removing the bolt just needs the trigger to be pulled fully back and it slides out effortlessly.
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The small nylon bolt shroud to the rear has two opposed large claw extractors for positive case removal and ejection is provided via a protruding spur in the top of the magazine well.
In terms of sighting, there are no open sights but two Cerakoted Weaver bases are provided, although a one-piece rail could just as easily be fitted for NV use. NB: the slot will not fit larger Picatinny recoil lugs.
Trigger, safety and magazine
Sensibly cloned from the CZ455, the detachable single-stack magazine will accept any CZ 5- or 10-shot mags, which are both cheap and have a proven track record for reliability, even with waxy .22 LR ammunition.
The Crossfire’s mag is clear plastic bodied with a metal follower being released via a small serrated lever in front of the magazine. A small blanking plate seals off the rear of the mag as both HMR/WMR length mags use the same stock inletting. The safety lever has two positions: forward is fire with a red dot indicator and rear for safe but the bolt can still be opened. It is silent only if you ‘ride it’ with the thumb and downward pressure.
Another nice point is the Lithgow’s single trigger with the pull exhibiting no creep whatsoever and the sear breaking like a frozen Kit Kat. Factory set at 1.3kg or 2.87lb in old money, combining lightness with safety, especially imprtant on this type of hunting arm.
I also like the serrated, slimline and almost flat trigger blade, which is positioned so a gloved hand has enough room to manoeuvre inside the trigger guard.
Visually, practically and from a total hunter point of view, the Lithgow’s stock ticks all the boxes for me. Its not too modern looking for my old eyes, but it has a modern twist to the styling and suits the Crossover’s (hunter/target) approach.
Sensibly, this model wears a synthetic stock, and laminate or wood are also available. Most shooters who buy this type of rifle for vermin shooting will probably go down the synthetic route – it just makes more sense – but a good laminate can feel warmer and often enhances handling with a more balanced distribution of the extra weight.
This stock consists of a high-strength, reinforced polymer that contains nylon in its construction, using the same material used in the Australian armed forces’ assault rifles. That should withstand all but the clumsiest vermin shooter or mishap in the field.
It has a tough outer shell over a filled inner substrate so the whole stock feels rigid and does not flex at all, always an issue in the bedding area and on the forend where some rifles can flex when a bipod is fitted. This Lithgow does not; it’s rigid.
The forend is reinforced with ribbed sections to avoid twisting and the stock’s overall faceted design with its semi-beavertail or square sectioned profile has moulded-in stippled panels at all the key contact points.
You have two fixing points with quite small Allen screws. A larger head size would stop burring if manhandled, but it ensures the Crossover is bedded via a four-point system utilizing the stock screws and small recoil lug to anchor everything down and provide consistent bedding of action to stock.
The trigger guard is moulded into the underside of the stock itself, which when you think about it makes sense. It won’t rattle loose and change zero and, being polymer, it certainly won`t rust, as we all lay our .22s down in wet grass or alongside a billabong on occasion!
The pistol grip is slim with a slight raised palm swell to both sides and offers the same stippled panels as the forend. No cast means it is pretty much ambidextrous, further aided by the scalloped recesses to the forward comb section for the thumb pad to rest against.
The slab-sided butt section and hand grip/butt hook to the bottom of the stock are very military-esque but certainly save a bit of weight and the hook aids a steady hold when using a bipod. You have two plastic spacers which can be added to or reduced to alter the length of pull from 38.5 to 39.6”. Or for the metric minded from 325, 335, 345 and 355mm per insert.
The thin black rubber recoil pad is very grippy and has a small recess around the circumference that grips clothing when shouldered. The overall charcoal black semi textured finish compliments the titanium Cerakote coating to the metal work and two q/d swivel studs finish off the stock.
I really have grown to like this Lithgow it’s a smart and intelligently thought out rimfire, so let’s see how she shoots.
For the ammunition tests, I fitted an AimSport rimfire muzzle can sound moderator which was very effective. It has to be said it did add 5.5” to the overall length. A Nikko Stirling Diamond 4-16x50mm scope and mounts came with it so I fitted those also.
Over the chronograph and 5-shot groups at 50 yards were recorded using a variety of subsonic, HV and reduced loads to check accuracy, velocity/energy and also feed and function. The CCI Segmenting subsonics had a few rounds go over the supersonic sound barrier and so were noisier.
All but the CB Longs cycled flawlessly, the CB Longs occasionally stack poled due to their shorter length and some of the greasier rounds needed a bit of coaxing/pressure with the bolt after repeated firings.
The Lithgow performed well with all the ammunition bought, but I settled on the Norma .22 subs as I have been having a lot of success with these lately on rabbits and unsuspecting crows.
With a zero at 50 yards, the Normas are 0.25” high at 20 yards and drop -2.25” at 75 yards and at 100 yards are -7.25 low. I shot several of Tom’s Targets bunnies and crows to check zero at these ranges from various shooting positions and then headed off to the woods and fields.
The first evening, we had 11 bunnies at various ranges and, despite the unpredictable downpours, the Lithgow’s easy handling and great accuracy were a consistent factor.
I also wanted to see how a few nighttime forays using the new Pulsar Digex NV scope would pan out. It fitted very easily to the Crossover, and what an NV sight for the money! Again zeroed at 50 yards, rabbits were easily spotted past 150 yards and then stalked and engaged downwind at 50 yards.
Some may think the price is a bit steep, but we all use our .22 rimfires more than any other rifle and it makes sense to invest in a quality arm. The only thing I would change would be a shorter barrel to enhance handling, especially with a mandatory sound moderator fitted.
All in all, a great-handling rifle, with excellent weather-resistant finishes in the polymer stock design and hardwearing coating. The trigger is good and accuracy was excellent. I also like the fact that all those old CZ mags languishing in the spare parts boxes can be used in this Lithgow.
Overall, in any calibre, I certainly would recommend the Lithgow to any would-be vermin shooters.
Manufacturer/model: Lithgow Arms Australia / LA101 Crossover
Overall Length: 38.5-39.6 inch (with inserts)
Barrel Length: 21-inch, threaded ½x 28 UNEF
Sights: Scope mount only, matching two-piece Weaver provided.
Stock: Synthetic adjustable length of pull (wood and laminate available)
Weight: 6.8lbs (3.1kg)
Finish: Cerakote black or Titanium
Trigger: Single stage
Safety: Two position
Magazine: Detachable 5 rounds, 10 shot option (CZ455 compatible)
Calibre: .22 LR, 17 HMR and 22 WMR available
Contact: Highland Outdoors