Bread-And-Butter .22

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Mossberg’s Blaze Line Holds
A Rifle For Every Taste

By Holt Bodinson

If you’re looking for a reliable and affordable rimfire, buy a bread-and-butter rifle. What do I mean by “bread-and-butter?” First off, it’s a design in the company line for a few years.

It’s a design well executed to begin with and has been further refined over time to make it utterly reliable. It’s a design facilitated by mass production so it’s affordable, therefore popular and readily available.

Examples? How about Ruger’s 10/22 or Marlin’s Model 60 or Mossberg’s Blaze. Interestingly, modern bread-and-butter rifles are now semi-autos. It sure wasn’t like that when I was growing up and nursing single-shot Remingtons or Winchesters and a box of .22 Shorts.

What’s intriguing about the Mossberg Blaze is how easily it is converted into various, stylized platforms like the Blazer-47, an AK-looking rimfire or the tactical-looking Blaze with its black synthetic stock and factory-mounted “Dead Ringer” holographic green-dot sight. Actually, Mossberg’s current Blaze lineup includes 12 different models with differing features such as Kryptek Highlander, Wildfire and Muddy Girl camo patterns; synthetic stocks with a fixed LOP or 6-position adjustable butts; sighting systems featuring bare rails, conventional rifle sights or factory mounted green-dot optics. Then there’s my favorite, a youth’s “Bantam” model with a stock length-of-pull of only 12 rather than 13.5 inches.

As your young ones grow up, all you need to do is buy a replacement stock with a longer LOP which—as part of Mossberg’s FLEX system—is only the buttstock itself. It’s a great system for getting and keeping younger folks shooting.

The newest Blaze is the black synthetic stocked tactical model, which is fed from either a 10- or 25-round magazine. It looks so cool I had to try it. A younger member of the shooting tribe would love its contemporary look. It’s a light, short rifle with a 16-1/2-inch barrel, an overall length of 34.25 to 35.75 inches and a flea-like weight of only 3.6 pounds. It’s a little rifle anyone could hold up in the offhand position.

One of the not-so-obvious secrets of the Blaze which accounts for its light weight and affordability is the molded polymer receiver. Yes, the bolt, fire-control system and barrel are real steel, but they ride in a polymer receiver inside a polymer stock. In fact, the Blaze can be pretty thoroughly disassembled—if need be—following the simple instructions in the owner’s manual. The stock is factory mounted with sling swivel studs.

I like the Blaze action. It’s clean. It’s simple. The double-stage trigger proved to be a joy to work with, averaging 3.5 pounds on my Lyman electronic gauge. The safety is mounted on the tang where it should be. Both the long and the shorter magazines were easy to load and functioned flawlessly. A nice touch is after the last round is fired, the empty magazine holds the bolt open so the shooter can visually confirm the chamber is empty (although the rifle can be fired with the magazine removed). In short, the Blaze fed, fired, extracted and ejected without a hiccup, like a good semi-auto should.

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Visually, this tactical iteration of the Mossberg Blaze sports some interesting lines.
The polymer receiver is hidden inside the rather stylish polymer stock.

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At 25 yards, six brands of ammunition held under an inch for the best four shots out of five.

The action is tuned for standard, high or hyper-velocity .22 Long Rifle ammo and, coincidentally, it gave me an opportunity to test CCI’s latest .22 Copper loading featuring a 21-grain, copper-composite HP, factory-rated at 1,850 fps!

The green-dot sight proved to be a perfect set-up for this little plinker. Fully adjustable for elevation and windage, the Dead Ringer is capable of 11 different light-intensity levels. Reticle choices consist of a plain dot, a dot within a circle, a crosshair and crosshair-circle-and-dot. That’s a lot of sighting choices. In particular, I like the plain dot for plinking and the simple crosshair for precise target applications. Green is a great choice for an all-around reticle color and is rapidly becoming the dominant laser color of choice.

You do have to experiment with the light intensity settings to produce the sharpest visual image for your eye under whatever ambient light condition you’re in. For example, when shooting the plain dot in broad daylight, you need to crank up the illumination intensity, but you do reach a point where the dot begins to “bloom” and become fuzzy. At that point you need to back off the intensity setting until the image of the dot is once again sharp and well defined.

However, in using the Dead Ringer, I found the comb line of the Blaze stock slightly too low, forcing me to adopt a European heads-up position rather than a normal, positive cheek weld.

How did the tactical Blaze perform? Well! That crisp 3.5-pound trigger was a blessing in a light 3.6-pound rifle. The 25-yard results pretty well speak for themselves. I fired six different brands of ammunition in 5-shot groups over the course two times.

Overall, the Blaze with its Dead Ringer optic sells for only $265. It’s quite a package—a bread-and-butter gun. And a darn good one.

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Offering a choice of 4 reticles and 11 illumination settings, the Dead Ringer sight is
exceptionally effective. Holt found the comb of the Blaze to be a bit high for a conventional
cheekweld in order to use it.

Blaze

Maker: O. F. Mossberg & Sons
7 Grasso Ave., North Haven
CT 06473, (800) 383-3555
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/of-mossberg-sons-inc/

Action: Blowback semi-auto
Caliber: .22 LR
Capacity: 10 or 25 (detachable magazine)
Barrel length: 16.5 inches
Overall length: 35.75 inches
Weight: 3.6 pounds
Finish: Matte black
Sights: Dead Ringer green dot, Picatinny top rail and front bead
Stock: Black polymer
Price: $265

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CCI’s new .22 Copper ammo features a 21-grain composite bullet with a
narrow driving band just in front of the case mouth.

CCI’s .22 Copper

Ten years ago CCI introduced the “Short Range Green .22 LR.” The inventive load featured a 21-grain HP bullet formed from an injection molded, compressed mixture of copper and polymer. It was loaded to a velocity of 1,650 fps and the label stated it was accurate up to 50 yards. I tested it. Fifty yards was about its limit with 5-shot groups ranging from 1.25 to 1.63 inches. CCI’s new “.22 Copper” load features the same bullet pumped up to a factory rated velocity of 1,850 fps. Zeroed at 100 yards, the load—according to factory trajectory figures—is +1.0 at 25 yards, +2.5 at 50 yards and +2.3 inches at 75.

In the Mossberg Blaze with its 16.5-inch barrel, my chronograph recorded an average velocity of 1,697 fps. Accuracy was in “the middle of the pack” out of the six loads I tested (see chart).

Out came my super accurate Remington Model 541-T sporter with its 24-inch bull barrel and Nikon P-22 scope. As a basis of comparison to the earlier Short Range Green round, I placed targets at 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards and shot some 5-round groups with the new .22 Copper. At 25 and 50 yards the 5-shot groups measured 0.40 and 0.41-inch respectively—one big bug hole! At 75 yards, the best 4-out-of-5 shots measured 1.08, and at 100 yards, 2.68. In short, at 25 and 50 yards, .22 Copper performed like match ammo. At 75 accuracy was still excellent, but at 100 yards the 21-grain copper matrix pill was beginning to run out of steam. I would suggest using a 50 or 75 yard zero and keeping small-game hunting to 50 yards or less. As a plinking round, shoot for the gold!

The chronograph data was interesting. Average velocity from a 24-inch barrel was 1,852 fps, extreme spread was 23 fps and the standard deviation was 9. My hat’s off to CCI and CCI rimfire line engineer, Brett Olin. Those are great numbers.

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