by B. Gil Horman - Monday, January 11, 2016
Back in February 2011, I had the opportunity to review Kel-Tec's PMR-30 .22 Mag. semi-auto pistols. Its light weight, low recoil and 30-round magazines made it an enjoyable pistol to shoot and a popular seller. So it was no great surprise when the company announced a rifle version, dubbed the RMR-30, would be available that same year. As it turned out, the rimfire rifle would not be on display until January of 2012 at the Las Vegas SHOT Show. Liking the pistol as much as I did, I already had my foot firmly wedged in the door to get one for test and review as soon as they became available. It was a much longer wait than anticipated.
Fast forward to the January 2015 SHOT Show Media Day at The Range (3 years later) and Kel-Tec's .22 Mag. rifle, now called the CMR-30, was finally on hand to test fire. It had all the nifty features and positive handling characteristics we had been hoping for. But once again I had to cool my heels until a sample gun finally arrived. The good news is it turned out to be a gun well worth waiting for.
The Kel-Tec CMR-30 is a straight blowback, fixed barrel semi-auto rifle chambered for the .22 Winchester Magnum Rifle (WMR) rimfire cartridge (commonly known as the .22 Mag.). The gun’s designers went out of their way to ensure this rifle was light and compact while maintaining a useful set of features. Unloaded with an empty magazine inserted in the grip, it tips the scales at just 4 lbs. Filling the magazine to its 30-round capacity with 40-gr. bulleted rounds, and loading one more into the chamber, increases the overall weight by just 4 oz., making it an exceptionally light weight gun to pack around.
The CMR-30 has two major sections best described as an aluminum and steel upper receiver assembly paired with a polymer lower. The outer shell of the upper is formed primarily of hard anodized aluminum with a full-length 14" aluminum sight rail along the top and a 7" aluminum accessory rail located along the bottom edge of the vented hand guard. The 16.1" long blued steel barrel features a 1/2"-28 TPI threaded muzzle that ships with a thread protector installed. The sight rail is fitted with a set of Magpul folding polymer sights with an AR-type post and aperture configuration. An ambidextrous, non-reciprocating polymer charging handle is located 3.5" forward of the trigger guard. By placing the charging handle low and forward, operators can reload without breaking their sight picture.
One of the really slick features of the CMR-30 is the adjustable stock. Two aluminum support arms, contoured and colored to seamlessly match the rest of the rifle, are pinned to a lightly textured polymer butt plate. The stock's polymer release lever is located just in front of the trigger guard. When the stock is fully collapsed, the overall length of the rifle drops to 22.7" for easy storage. The incremental positions of the stock allow the length of pull (LOP) to be adjusted from 11" to about 14.25" which makes this rifle accessible to a wide variety of shooter shapes and sizes.
The polymer lower will look and feel familiar to those who have handled and fired the PMR-30 pistol because the controls and configuration are the same. The ambidextrous thumb safety swings up into the Safe position and down into the Fire position. The bolt release is located on the left side just above the safety. The smooth faced polymer trigger, just like the pistol, is smooth and light with single-stage trigger pull of 3 lbs. 1 oz. At the rear of the lower receiver, on the right and left, are two metallic loops designed to accommodate single-point slings with hook-type connectors.
The 30-round pie-wedge shaped polymer magazines are identical and fully interchangeable with the PMR-30 pistol magazines. The magazine release is located at the base of the magazine well. Although Americans often prefer to have press button magazine releases up by the trigger guard, a heel release like this one is not a bad idea for a field gun since it is out of the way and less likely to get bumped. With a little practice it's easy to work with.
At the shooting range the CMR-30 proved to be just as much fun to work with as the PMR-30 pistol. The rifle feels very light and fast handling. For informal testing, the lower accessory rail was fitted with a bright green Crimson Trace CMR-206 Rail Master laser sight to complement the iron sights for quick target acquisition at close range. The CMR is so small and light weight that it did not affect the swing of the rifle to any noticeable degree.
The controls were all smooth and easy to operate. Although.22 magnum is usually louder than some folks would expect with a sometimes substantial muzzle flash, the recoil is mild in this platform. Other than the slightly longer front-to-back profile of the pistol grip (which might not fit some small hands), all of the features of the CMR-30 rifle come together to make it one of the few long guns that I've worked with that just about every member of my immediate and extended family could enjoy shooting at the range.
Along with putting the CMR-30 through the usual paces, I set out to answer two ammunition-related questions at the shooting range. First, where there any bullet weight restrictions? This question was inspired by the fact that the PMR-30 pistol requires at least a 40-gr. bullet to cycle reliably. For the CMR-30, I was told that the rifle will run reliably with bullets starting at 30-gr., so the test ammunition featured bullet weights ranging from 30- to 45-gr. in weight.
The second, and possibly more important question, was that of reliability. Another writer's range report stated that his CMR-30 needed to be cleaned and lubricated about every 160 rounds to keep it running reliably after it was broken in. He attributed the problem to the dirty nature of rimfire ammunition. What is not clear in the report is which brands of ammunition were used and how much shooting was done with or without muzzle accessories like a sound suppressor. So I packed up at least some of every variety of .22 Mag. ammunition I could lay hands on in the right bullet weights to if the rifle I had would exhibit the same need for frequent cleaning. Just in case the use of muzzle accessories were contributing to the problem in some way the muzzle of this rifle was fired with just the factory thread protector in place.
Test ammunition included loads from Armscor, CCI, Hornady, Remington and Winchester. Of all the loads tested, only the Winchester 40-gr. DynaPoint load failed to feed reliably with jams occurring about every 8 to 10 rounds. When these rounds failed to feed it looked like the relatively flat nose of the Dynapoint bullet was catching at the base of the chamber. The rest of the test ammunition, including some other Winchester rounds, ran reliably with only two more failures to feed occurring after the Dynapoints were set aside.
It was during the accuracy testing that the CMR-30 crossed and passed 160-round need-to-clean threshhold. However, it kept on cycling reliably, so I just kept on shooting. After firing more than 400 rounds continuously without cleaning the gun, I gave up on getting it too dirty to run reliably. At home the rifle was field stripped and inspected again. Yes, there was evidence of the fowling and unburned powder common to rimfire ammunition. However, there was still a good coating of lubricant and the moving parts were still sliding to and fro without any stickiness. Were the reliability issues in the other writer's test due to a problem with the gun, the ammunition or muzzle accessories? I can’t say for sure, but what I do know is that the rifle I tested for this review kept on running until the ammunition nearly ran out.
Accuracy testing consisted of five bench rested 5-shot groups fired at 50 yards using a Leupold V-RX 3-9x40 Fire Dot scope. The single best group of 0.86" and best average of 1.04" was produced using Hornady Critical Defense 45gr FTX ammunition. Armscor 40-gr. jacketed hollow points turned in a best group of 0.96" and an average of 1.14", followed by CCI Maxi Mag +V 30gr copper plated hollow points with a best group of 0.98" and average of 1.20"
As a fan of the .22 Mag. cartridge, I've been looking for a rifle that makes the most of the positive qualities the cartridge has to offer. The Kel-Tec CMR-30 is an exceptionally light and handy semi-auto platform that capable of filling a variety of rolls. With a 30+1 round capacity, top-notch trigger and it's slim compact shape, this rifle makes an ideal hiking and camp gun, a great trunk gun for plinking or small game hunting and low-recoil self defense option. Unfortunately, as of this writing, the rifles are still being produced in relatively limited qualities, although the folks at Kel-Tec say they are doing their best to push them out as quickly as possible. My advice is if you see one, and the price is right, then go ahead and buy it.
Model: CMR-30 Rifle
Action: Blow-Back Operated Semi-Auto
Caliber: .22 Magnum (.22 WMR)
Upper Receiver: Black Hard Anodized Aluminum
Lower Receiver: Black Polymer
Barrel Length: 16.10"
Barrel Thread: 1/2"-28 TPI
Length, Stock Collapsed: 22.70"
Length, Stock Extended: 30.60"
Length of Pull (LOP): 10.30"-14.20"
Receiver Width: 1.20”
Charging Handle Width: 2.90”
Weight: 4 lbs with empty magazine
Capacity: 30+1 Rounds
Twist: 1:16” RH
Rifle Grooves: 6
Accessories: Two Magazines, Removable Magpul AR Type Sights, Front Sight Tool, Owner's Manual, Lock
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