The SIG522 is a rimfire version of SIG SAUER’s vaunted SIG556. The gun very closely resembles its center-fire sibling and even shares parts like the folding, adjustable stock and sleek fore-end.
The tactical-style rimfire is part of a wave among manufacturers recognizing that much of the appeal of tactical rifles is “play.” You have a rifle that looks like those issued to law enforcement or the military even though you’re a civilian. Such rifles look cool and are fun to shoot but, if you don’t really need them, are a pricey indulgence. Most go for well over $1,500—and that’s just the initial outlay. Spend the afternoon shooting even relatively inexpensive military surplus 5.56x45 mm, and you’ll still be putting a serious dent in your wallet.
But if fun is your only criterion, why not opt for a gun that looks like the center-fire tactical rifle but fires mild and inexpensive .22 LR fodder?
SIG SAUER guns have always been visually distinctive; it’s a large part of their appeal. The brand’s desirability was only heightened by the importation ban imposed by George H.W. Bush around the time that the SIG550 and SIG551 were about to be imported in quantity into the U.S. The handful already in the country skyrocketed in value and SIG SAUER’s reputation grew as the few who had handled the rare European rifles lauded their precision.
Now SIG SAUER’s tactical semi-auto rifles are readily available to American shooters. They can have their choice of the SIG556, a direct descendant of the SIG550/551, or the SIG516, the company’s interpretation of the AR15/M16. There are even SIG SAUER tactical semi-autos in 7.62x51mm. But when it comes to sheer fun and affordability, it’s the American-made SIG522 that will carry the company’s banner.
The semi-automatic boasts a number of nice features. First and foremost is the stock. It is both adjustable for length of pull, and foldable. Pressing a lever on the underside allows you to extend the buttstock, providing a couple of inches of length adjustment. An extra, extended buttpad is included with the rifle for even more adjustability. As this is a rimfire that can easily be fired by anyone in the family, the adjustability is of particular importance. The gun can be adjusted to fit most anyone and it can be adapted as a young shooter grows.
The stock folds simply and easily. Just press a large, flat, semi-circular button on the left where the stock meets the receiver and the stock folds to the right. A stud on the right rear of the fore-end engages a catch on the stock, holding it in the folded position. This makes the SIG522 very compact, a real benefit during storage or transport. In addition, the rifle can still be operated from the folded position.
The stock on our sample had a problem, though. When you unfolded it, the catch in the stock popped out, remaining affixed to the fore-end stud. You then had to pull it off the stud and reinsert it in the stock. It wasn’t an occasional thing, either. It happened every time.
The barrel has a graceful birdcage flash suppressor. Above the barrel, what looks like the gas adjustment is really the cap to an empty storage compartment. And the handguards are vented. Is any of this really necessary on a rimfire? Well, yes, if you want a gun that looks authentically like the center-fire it emulates.
The ergonomics of and controls on the SIG522 are generally very good. Once you have it adjusted to your preferred length of pull, the gun is quite comfortable. The safety is ambidextrous, large and easy to locate. The charging handle protrudes rather boldly from the right side and you don’t fumble for it. There isn’t enough travel in the ambidextrous magazine release, though. You have to press very firmly and then apply some pressure to the empty magazine to pull it free of the gun. The 25-round magazine itself would benefit from thumb buttons to make filling it easier.
The trigger pull was very good. There was some take-up, then a long but very smooth pull before the trigger broke at an average of 4 pounds, 14 ounces of pressure.
The fore-end was both handsome and extraordinarily comfortable. It is oval and tapered, fitting the hand very well. In terms of feel, it’s a pleasant departure from quad-rails. However, SIG SAUER will soon introduce a SIG522 SWAT with quad-rails, perhaps with application as a law enforcement trainer. In the meantime, if you want an accessory rail on the SIG522 Classic, it is available as an extra-cost option.
The SIG522 Classic does have a Picatinny rail up top, though, for sighting options.
It has become somewhat common for tactical rifles to come without sights because the selection is of critical importance. A customer purchasing a tactical rifle that may be used in a lethal confrontation is very selective about what scope he or she wants. There’s is no point in including and charging him for an expensive sight that he’s just going to swap out. However, the SIG522 is pretty strictly a fun gun. You should be able to plunk down your money for the rifle and a brick of .22 LR ammo and head to the range for the day. Yet, if you try that with this gun, you’ll discover you have no way of aiming. SIG SAUER offers both a rotary diopter sight and a mini red-dot, but neither is included.
We obtained one of the SIG SAUER-branded mini red-dots and took the rifle to the range. Operation was simple and instinctive. It took only a minute or two to be fully comfortable with the controls. Recoil and muzzle blast were decidedly absent, an advantage of rimfires almost as significant as the reduced operating cost. The rifle hefted and balanced easily, and shot well. It was not a tack driver but entirely satisfactory for a semi-auto rimfire. Moreover, despite firing a mixed bag of solids and high-velocity hollow-points, there were no failures to feed, fire or eject—impressive for a new semi-auto.
While it could be pressed into service for small game, it might not be the best choice. The SIG522 is simply one very sleek, cool-looking, highly reliable plinker. And that is exactly what it is meant to be. It is a gun you can take to the range, whether you’re 14 or 40, and get a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” while spending an afternoon firing away to your heart’s content—ammo prices be damned.
Shooting Results: (50 YDS.)
CCI Mini-Mag 36-gr. Copper-Plated HP 1.375 2.25 1.50
Federal Lightning 40-gr. Solid 2.00 2.625 2.25
Winchester Super-X 37-gr. Copper-Plated HP 1.50 1.875 1.625
Accuracy for five consecutive five-shot groups at 50 yds. from a rest. Abbreviations: HP (hollow-point).