By Jay Grazio, Shooting Illustrated
All right, let’s address the elephant in the room first. Yes, the Thompson/Center Arms T/CR22 looks like another popular semi-automatic .22 LR rifle ([cough] Ruger 10/22 [cough]). If you think this is intentional, well, you’d be correct—right on the Thompson/Center Arms spec sheet for the T/CR22 it mentions “compatible with most aftermarket 10/22 parts and accessories.” The company isn’t shy about the similarities to the Ruger; and really, it makes sense for this new addition to the Thompson/Center product line to make best use of the wide aftermarket available to rimfire enthusiasts.
I’m not a lawyer; I don’t play one on TV nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I don’t know the specifics of how designs and patents work—I can only assume the legal eagles have researched and pontificated and waved the magic wands so no one gets sued. What I do know is that Thompson/Center’s claim the T/CR22 is compatible with most 10/22 components is true: We swapped out the barrel, stock and trigger (Timney has a new Calvin Elite trigger for the 10/22 that dropped right in) with ease, and 10/22 magazines work just fine (they don’t hold the bolt open after the last shot, but that’s a small price to pay for the convenience).
So, I’m guessing, your next question is a simple one: Why the Thompson/Center T/CR22 instead of the Ruger 10/22? That’s a fair question, naturally; why get a compatible version when you can have the model everything’s built for? For starters, Thompson/Center didn’t just copy the 10/22. The company listened carefully to some of the concerns folks had about the popular rimfire rifle and addressed them. The bolt can be released with a simple pull, rather than digging under the trigger guard like a raccoon looking for a Twinkie. With the factory 10-round magazine, the bolt stays open on the last shot. Lastly, the T/CR22 comes direct from the manufacturer with a threaded barrel, Magpul stock with M-Lok attachment points and excellent sights. It does all this at a price only slightly higher than the base-level 10/22.
As for performance? Well, you can see from the shooting results it’s no slouch, even with bulk, plinking-type ammo. It’s certainly suitable for casual endeavors, shooting steel and maybe even as a gateway to Rimfire Challenge competition. Solid, usable iron sights and a Picatinny rail mean you can leave it stock and shoot it as is, or install a red-dot sight or a magnified optic with ease. Compatibility with the existing market means a wide variety of magazine options (the factory Ruger 25-round magazine worked without issue, even during rapid fire strings) in addition to all sorts of stock possibilities. Whether you want a folding stock, a fancy wood variant or a different Magpul version, it should drop right in.
As far as operation, I tried a few tricks to see if I could get the Thompson/Center T/CR22 to malfunction. Rapid-fire strings, lead projectiles and bulk ammunition all failed to get the T/CR22 to, well, fail. In excess of 200 rounds were fired without a single problem; all rounds loaded, fired and ejected reliably. Again, the only “problem” encountered was that the Ruger magazines would not lock the bolt back when empty—but, they don’t do that in the 10/22, either. I attempted to use the Thompson/Center 10-round magazine to test the bolt-hold-open feature, but I could not for the life of me get it loaded. Inserting the empty, factory magazine and running the bolt rearward does result in the bolt locking open, however. Since I have a good supply of 10/22 magazines available, I grabbed from the stash and went to work.
On the range, the Thompson/Center T/CR22 has a few features that are quite handy. The bolt handle is generously sized, and having it actually release with a rearward tug is a joy—no more jabbing a fingernail into the microscopic release under the trigger. The magazine release is also easy to actuate, and drops both the 10- and 25-round magazines quickly when pressed. When it comes time to show clear, there’s a small lever located in the same area as the bolt catch/release that will perform that task. Simply pull the bolt rearward, pull the lever flush with the trigger housing, and the bolt stays locked rearward. It’s simple and efficient.
Getting back to the question of why one might choose the T/CR22 over the original, there’s a few reasons. For a first semi-auto .22 LR, it really does simplify some of the more-complex procedures of the 10/22. There’s no frustrating poking and prodding trying to get the bolt to close once a magazine is loaded; similarly, there’s no fumbling trying to get the bolt locked open, either. It’s more intuitive and simple to either make ready or show clear, which are vital functions when teaching a new shooter.
If value is of interest, run the numbers. The Thompson/Center T/CR22 comes with a threaded barrel, Magpul composite stock and excellent sights. It would cost significantly more to upgrade the less-expensive competitive version to include these same amenities, so we’ll call this argument “appeal to the pocketbook.” Heck, pick one up so you can go to the range with your friends and laugh in hipster as they call it a “10/22…” Whatever your rationale, the Thompson/Center T/CR22 is a rock-solid rifle and will not disappoint.