By Mike Schoby
When Bill Ruger released his 10/22 in 1964 I wonder if he had any idea how much it would revolutionize the rimfire world? And I don’t use the word revolutionize lightly—the 10/22 seriously did. Think about it—70 years later, 7 million units have been sold with dozens upon dozens of iterations. Take-down models, magnum models, carbines, and pistols have all spawned from the basic action design and that is from Ruger alone. Companies such as Volquartsen, Tactical Solutions, and Magnum Research (among dozens of others) make an “improved” version with their own twist or adaptation of the basic design.
So, what can be done that hasn’t already been done to the 10/22?
I found out when I opened the box to the new Hammerli Force B1. In a world of slightly different color iterations, stock design tweaks, and barrel fluting patterns that all somehow resemble dildos I was expecting to see something slightly different … but similar. What I discovered was as far from a 10/22 as possible, while keeping some key features.
To begin with, the B1 is not a semiauto, but a straight-pull bolt-action. Why a straight-pull? To quote Belushi in Animal House: “Why not?”
It makes a lot of sense; The design is nearly as quick to cycle as a semiauto, but has the advantage of being legally sold in any nanny-state or country with laws prohibiting semiautos. For fathers with youngsters who fire a 10/22 like an UZI, the ammo savings alone justifies its costs over a semiauto (not to mention the teaching of marksmanship). Finally, a straight-pull has a huge advantage when suppressed. No bolt noise or gas escaping from the action makes it ninja-quiet.
But a straight-pull, while cool, is not necessarily new. Volquartsen has had its excellent Summit model in the lineup for years. But the Force B1 sports a twist. In front of the receiver is a device that looks like a quick disconnect chuck on an air compressor. Simply pull it back and it releases the barrel. No screws or pins to remove—it’s that fast.
Ok, you can remove the barrel, so it’s a take down? Yes, but not exactly—it is also multi-caliber configurable.
Germans being German, they designed the mag well of the Force B1 to be large enough to fit a Ruger 10/22 magnum rotary magazine. When using it in the Long Rifle configuration, Hammerli supplies a plastic plate that snaps onto the back of a Ruger 10/22 LR magazine to take up the space. The gun comes with a factory Ruger magazine and two shoes. Out of the gate, it is offered in 22 LR, 22 WMR, and 17 HMR, but the design allows for some very interesting hypotheticals down the road—9mm and 5.7 come to mind. Time will tell what is offered. Being a straight-pull bolt, not a semiauto, it allows for many more caliber configurations and potentially higher pressure offerings.
Who is Hammerli anyway? Unless you are a gun geek you have likely never heard of the company. But if you are a fellow geek, you will recognize the name. Founded in 1863 in Switzerland (now located in Germany). Hammerli’s focus has mainly been Olympic-grade precision arms—essentially, they make weird shit that gets no American’s attention—freestyle target pistols, rapid fire match pistols and position rifles. You know, the guys sporting heavy leather shooting coats and eye patch glasses you only see in the Olympics every four years and only at 3:30 a.m. while up late drinking? Yeah, that stuff. And they have earned more than a few gold medals.
I tested this rifle down in Australia in both 22 LR and 22 WMR configurations. Accuracy on both the LR and WMR was impressive, which I wasn’t sure would be the case with no barrel threads to secure it to the receiver. But the precision machined barrel shank locked up tight enough to produce tiny groups. When swapping between calibers of course you must re-zero, but it was close enough that it was on paper and didn’t take much.
Over the course of “testing” I put well over 1,000 rounds downrange between the two calibers. I killed hundreds of rabbits and other critters (which won’t be named) and the rifle worked flawlessly.
Hammerli didn’t sit on its ass on the stock design. Like the action, it is unique. It’s adjustable for length of pull simply by pushing a button and pulling the butt pad rearward. The rubberized cheek piece can be pulled out of the comb and flipped over to create a raised cheek profile. On the front end, M-lok makes accessory attachment easy. The Force B1 is offered in synthetic, wood and laminate wood.
Is this rifle going to make the 10/22 obsolete? Not likely—we Americans love our semis, but at a retail price of under $500 it is going to give the 10/22 a run for its money and is a hell of a buy on a gun with a lot of versatility and features. It also offers huge advantages for suppressor fanatics who like multi-caliber platforms.
Pros: Fast action with superb suppressed capabilities, innovative stock and caliber interchangeability
Cons: Trigger is just so-so, but being 10/22 compatible, a Volquartsen drop in trigger solves the issue in five minutes.