Photos by Mark Fingar
I can’t think of a more popular firearm than a semiautomatic rimfire rifle. After cutting my teeth on the family’s bolt-action single shot, my first rifle was a semiauto .22 that I loved dearly. It slept in the corner of my bedroom where it was the last thing I saw at night and the first thing I saw in the morning.
What the many years since that first love affair have taught me is all semiauto .22s are not the same — not even close. The most popular semiauto .22 is Ruger’s 10/22. It’s been around since 1964, and just about everybody I know owns at least one. I own two.
However, just because the 10/22 has been around forever doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, and that’s exactly what Thompson/Center did with their T/CR22. While the TCR22 accepts the same barrels, magazines and triggers as a 10/22, it has some relevant features that make it a refined rimfire.
Unlike the Ruger 10/22, the T/CR22 designers have done away with the four screws and holes that were used for attaching a scope mount. These holes are small and are fairly easy to strip since the receiver is aluminum. Instead, Thompson/Center machines each T/CR22 receiver with an integral Picatinny rail, so there is no need to go looking for one on the aftermarket. This also eliminates any screws formerly required to mount a scope base to the receiver. The absence of screws holding the base to the receiver is one less component to work loose and ruin a range session or small-game hunt.
The T/CR22 has a rear aperture sight that attaches next to the integral rail’s scope base. This gives the T/CR22 maximum sight radius and iron sights that are always on the rifle without interfering with whatever optic is mounted on top.
The Performance Center T/CR22 seen here retains the integral rail scope base but eliminates the rear aperture sight. This rifle has no iron sights and is only meant for use with an optic.
Unnoticed by many is the small hole in the back of the T/CR22’s receiver. This small hole cures my number one complaint with the 10/22: There is no way to use a cleaning rod from the breech to the muzzle.
Putting a small hole in the back of the T/CR22’s receiver allows the shooter to push a cleaning rod from the breech to the muzzle during cleaning. Anyone shooting a 10/22 has to remove the barrel (no one does that), use a bore snake (some do that) or clean from the muzzle to the breech with a cleaning rod (which is a horrible idea, but many do it anyway). The hole at the back of the receiver is a huge improvement.
The best five-shot group of the day at 50 yards came with Eley ammunition and measured .22 inch. The average five-shot group with that ammunition measured .38 inch. Such accuracy is unusual for any production rifle.
All .22 rimfire ammunition is not created equal, and if you want to get the most out of these Performance Center rifles, shoot good match ammunition. I had excellent results with Eley and CCI Green Tag, both known as very accurate loads. Bulk ammunition showed only average accuracy.
The main reason the Performance Center TCR22 shot so well is thanks to the rifle’s heavy barrel. The barrel is 20 inches long, is a straight cylinder and measures .92 inch in diameter. There are flutes along the barrel that help shed some weight and make the 7-pound rifle more manageable.
The barrel has a 1:15-inch twist and is button-rifled. Some barrel aficionados will swear allegiance to one type of rifling in the barrel over another, with the two most popular rifling types being cut and buttoned. Both rifling types have multiple match wins across a wide variety of shooting demographics, so there is no advantage of one type over another. Good rifling, no matter what type, is going to offer good accuracy.
It’s hard to argue with the performance out of this rifle. The two competition match loads both yielded excellent group sizes. I didn’t clean the barrel or allow it to cool during testing, and I saw no change in accuracy throughout. The only deviation I saw was the first round out of the barrel after changing ammunition type would land half an inch away from the rest of the group. There was no change from one group to the next when ammunition remained consistent.
The stock on the Performance Center T/CR22 looks unusual, but it is the most comfortable stock I’ve ever shot on a rimfire rifle. It is made from wood laminate, so it won’t warp due to moisture, and it’s super durable.
The comb is a dream come true for right-handed shooters. The comb has a massive raised cheekpiece that puts the shooter’s head directly behind a scope. The reason why the Performance Center T/CR22 has no iron sights is the shooter’s head cannot get low enough to look through them with this stock. The Performance Center could have put a traditional stock on the rifle that would have been a workable solution for both irons and scopes, but they chose a stock that was ideal for scope use only. This was a wise choice.
I applaud the Performance Center’s decision to do so because not only is the rifle supremely accurate, it is comfortable. The only other way to make a rifle comfortable with both irons and a scope is to add an adjustable cheekpiece, but that adds weight and expense. This rifle is simple and inexpensive while still offering maximum comfort and accuracy. If you want to spend a lazy day shooting tiny groups with a rimfire, this is absolutely your rifle.
The T/CR22 has many interchangeable parts with the 10/22. The rifle takes 10/22 trigger groups, barrels and magazines. The magazine that ships with the T/CR22 is a 10-round affair that has a follower that locks the bolt open after the last round is fired. This is a nice feature on any rifle, as no one enjoys a click when expecting a bang.
The hold-open feature on the magazine does come at a small expense. The tab that protrudes next to the feed lips that locks the bolt open has to be depressed and held down as the first round is fed into the magazine. Failure to do so means the first round is loaded behind the follower and has no spring tension under it. That round just drops into the magazine and blocks the follower from moving. It must be removed before the magazine can be properly loaded. This isn’t a big deal, but look at the magazine and follow the instructions printed on it before loading.
Any magazine that fits in a 10/22 will also work in the T/CR22. I wish more manufacturers would follow this lead because 10/22-style magazines are everywhere and cheap, so most of us have a gang already. These 10/22 magazines won’t hold open the bolt after the last round is fired in the T/CR22, but 10/22 magazines have never done that.
The T/CR22’s magazine release is also an improvement over the original. The magazine release has a small tab that hangs down about half an inch, making it easy to find in a hurry. A quick bump of the tab and the empty magazine falls right out.
I spent some time stretching the legs of the Performance Center T/CR22, and I think that its exceptionally accurate. A lot of rimfire rifles are made as inexpensively as possible, and the two things that suffer most are the stock and the accuracy. It was refreshing and fun to be able to run a know-your-limits rack at 100 yards with little difficulty.
The massive cheekpiece contacts a little more than a 2-inch-wide swath of my cheek and provides excellent head support. The cheekpiece is at just the right height to get a full field of view through the scope without forcing the shooter to lift their head off the comb.
While the accuracy and comfort of the Performance Center rifle were pleasant surprises, the trigger qualifies simply as “good.” Pull weight is a little over 5 pounds, and there is a bit of creep before the trigger lets off.
The Performance Center’s T/CR22 has a unique look, but it offers an advanced and shooter-friendly package patterned off the most ubiquitous semiauto .22LR in history. It is available in both blued steel and stainless with laminate wood and Hogue Overmold thumbhole stocks.