In the 1965-1974 period, Browning made and sold thousands of excellent little .22 Long Rifle sporting rifles with a unique action. Called the T-Bolt, these guns offered traditional Browning quality and performance. They were treasured by shooters of that time and were much missed when they were discontinued. Happily enough, a new version of that rifle was introduced in 2006. To date, the new T-Bolt has blossomed into two major variations, three calibers, and both right- and left-hand versions of each model. Both the Sporter and Target/Varmint models are available with either a walnut or black composite stock. Further, you can get any one of those variations in your choice of .17 HMR, .22 WMR or .22 Long Rifle. The Sporters come with a conventionally shaped stock with a straight comb, slim fore-end and pistol grip. A higher-comb Monte Carlo stock, which enables the use of scopes with larger objective lenses, is standard on the Target/Varmint models. They also have a beavertail fore-end. On both types, the barrel is free-floating and is somewhat heavier on the Target/Varminter than the Sporter. Our evaluation rifle was a wood-stocked, left-hand Target Model in .22 WMR.
All of the several T-Bolt models use a unique straight-pull bolt-action. Instead of the typical lift-pull-push-lower style of bolt-action, the T-Bolt is a simple pull-push system. Such designs have been used before, typically in early bolt-action military repeaters and later in biathlon rifles. Because of the relatively short cartridge-overall-length of the rounds for which Browning makes T-Bolts, the bolt travel is very short. The bolt handle is an “L”-shaped piece that is mounted in the bolt that runs along the side of the receiver. At its front end, it’s linked to a locking lug that is cylindrical on each end and locks into circular recesses on both sides of the receiver. As the bolt is retracted by pulling the handle smartly to the rear, the front end of the handle pivots outward. That action pulls the locking lug piece out of contact with the recesses, and the bolt is free to travel rearward. As it does so, the fired case is extracted from the chamber and is ejected. On the forward stroke, the bolt strips a round from the magazine and pushes it into the chamber. Cocking action is divided between the rearward and forward motions of the bolt.
The T-Bolt’s pull-push, straight-line bolt-action is not the gun’s only unique feature. Mounted in a typical well just forward of the trigger guard is a 10-round “Double Helix” magazine, that is almost “8” shaped in cross section. Made of polymer with a cast steel back and feed lips, the magazine arranges the cartridges in an “S” with closed ends. It works perfectly, does not project out of the stock and is slim enough in the side-to-side vector as to permit classic stock contours. Retained by a spring-loaded catch on its forward edge, the magazine drops easily into the palm when the catch is released.
Range performance was excellent. Equipped with a Leupold Vari-X III 1.5-5X in Talley rings and on Browning bases, the T-Bolt was an easy to shoot and highly portable rimfire varminter. Loading the magazine takes a little getting used to for shooters accustomedto conventional single-column .22 magazines. The trigger action was excellent and has an adjustment for overtravel. Right from the box, the trigger broke cleanly at approximately 3 lbs. The 22" barrel is fairly heavy and is completely free-floated, both doubtless contributing to the very good accuracy the gun exhibited. Three loads were fired, producing an overall average of just over one inch (1.14"). There were also a couple of sub-1" groups including a best of 0.77". Obviously, a careful evaluation of other loads might yield even better accuracy.
The T-Bolt is a very nice little rifle that may be on toward the upper end of the rimfire price spectrum, but it is unfailingly reliable, has classic good looks and great accuracy. Although the left-hand versions are clearly intended for that portion of the shooting population who shoot from the left side, at least one right-hand shooter noted that the gun would be ideally arranged for him when shooting from a bipod or rest. Operated in this fashion, the shooting hand would never need to leave the pistol grip.
All things considered, the Browning T-Bolt does just about everything you could ask in the way of performance.
Manufacturer: Moroku (Japan)
Importer: Browning, One Browning Place, Morgan, UT 84050; (801) 876-2711; browning.com