Stuart Wilson gets stuck into the Remington .597, a nifty .22 semi-auto bunny shooter from one of the world’s longest-serving continuous manufacturers
Unboxing the Remington 597 synthetic is never going to be a ground-breaking experience for any shooter that has used a good number firearms – it’ll be a highly familiar sight. But who cares? It’s all about performance So, grabbing the rifle out of its packaging and popping the magazine into its well, I soon had the rifle scoped and zeroed.
Spring and early summer are some of my favourite times to be out rabbiting on hazy evenings – perhaps I would get chance to venture out with this little semi-auto .22LR. If nothing else I would get chance to rapidly punch a magazine full of rounds into some half decent groups. I might even get the opportunity to explode some pre-shaken tins of fizzy pop, obviously being mindful of ‘safety first’ at all times of course.
The job of mounting a scope on to any rifle is much easier if the rifle can be supported in a rifle rest or using a bipod. This is where I encountered my first problem: no sling swivels! Not even a piloted hole with studs hidden in the box. I was somewhat disappointed at not being able to at least mount a bipod, but I could live without a sling. So I decided I would crack out the drill, carefully centre a small hole and screw my own sling stud in. Happily the stock has a very solid forend, and after a quick bit of DIY my bipod had a mounting point.
I could now have a good look at the rest of the rifle, starting with the action, which looks and feels like a coated aluminium casting, complete with dovetail for standard mounts and also drilled and tapped to take a weaver rail – a welcome feature for anyone intending to mount night vision. A neat recessed logo, model number and serial number highlighted with white lettering grace the far side of the ejection port, as the action tapers off nicely to the front where the barrel tenon slots in. All in all, it’s a simple, reliable action, with the ejection port to the right-hand side, which houses the bolt and associated cocking handle. The slight curve on the forward face of the cocking handle gives good grip when pulling to then release forward on initial loading, and also when extracting any chambered round to make the gun safe.
The trigger assembly and magazine well, manufactured from a tough polymer, hold all the other necessary components – trigger, magazine release and safety. The magazine holds a maximum of seven rounds, but this is tight. I found function was flawless when loaded to five – just keep on topping it up as you go.
The main body is cast aluminium with a plastic orange follower that allows you to see the state of the magazine. This is capped off with a black plastic head, which, when fully inserted into the rifle, protrudes to around just about half an inch.
The magazine release is a small grooved button that slides rearwards, allowing the magazine to drop smoothly into your hand. This release catch is recessed nicely to avoid accidental actuation, which would quickly lose your magazine in the undergrowth. The safety catch is similar to a lot of shotguns: a small double-ended button that blocks the trigger from being pulled when slid to the right. This suits right-handed shooters as you can quickly feel the safety is on as your trigger finger finds the blade, also allowing the catch to be clicked off by the same trigger finger – simple and neat an effective combination.
Trigger, barrel and stock
The trigger weight is among the heaviest I have encountered, on a review rifle or otherwise. Perhaps the perceived weight is is greater than the actual weight as the trigger blade is quite narrow. The bad news is there isn’t much chance of adjustment. But before you get disheartened, I’ll balance that with some good news: the first rabbit I shot with this rifle was around the 100-yard mark from a rather difficult fence post top. I would normally save the hunting aspect for the end but felt I had to give the Remington a fair review. The zeroing on paper was far from shabby also. Perhaps I am just a bit spoilt when it comes to triggers, but more of that later.
The barrel is a reasonable profiled sporter weight, ready threaded ½inx20 UNF for a standard rimfire moderator, and the barrel finish is perfect for hunting, being a satin matt black. The crown is cut flat with a small 45- or 60-degree chamfer recessing the end of the rifling, which will offer some protection from any accidental damage.
The stock is a no-frills grippy textured gray synthetic affair, easily ambidextrous, with scalloped channels in the forend for your fingers to grip into and an angular face to the front of the forend, which is handy for securely shouldering the rifle. Nothing fancy, just fully functional. Your hand sits nicely on the pistol grip and my trigger finger was comfortable when presented to the trigger.
Zeroing and in the field
The first groups shot with the 597 proved that my doubts were unfounded and the heavy trigger was not going to hold back any accuracy. The first five subsonics clustered into an inch at 50 yards without much care or effort. The next four groups tightened as I concentrated on letting the rounds off with purpose, with average group size at around ¾in. This is more than good enough for my rabbiting needs.
As I was zeroing with a shooting pal, who was using his CZ 452, it quickly became apparent the semi auto feature was causing a few smiles, which led to an impromptu speed competition. Fastest best group wins. While observing all safety rules, we thoroughly enjoyed emptying the magazine in short order with decent groups and smiles all round.
My zeroing land does have a few rabbits in some areas, so we set off for a quick jaunt to the nearest warren. The first rabbits in sight were, as I previously stated, just on the 100-yard mark. Ranged and rested, I held over for the appropriate drop and took my first rabbit.
The second rabbit stood over its fallen pal. I took full advantage of the semi-auto’s fast second shot, drew aim at the same holdover, only to pull and drop the shot into the first rabbit that was already down – operator error. I will look forward to a session one summer’s evening laid prone, aiming to take rabbits as they venture out as the sun slowly melts away, and I will take full advantage of the speedy follow-up shot and the fact that my reloading movement usually associated with a bolt-action rifle is now zero.
Semi-auto .22s certainly have their place for rabbiting and vermin control. Bolt actions are certainly more popular, and a bolt-action has always been my preferred .22 for bunny bashing. As I think about the main reasons for this, semi-autos can be prone to cycling issues and sometimes produce more noise owing to the gases used to throw the bolt back and cycle the action. This little Remington has cycled without issue, and I mean no jams or mis-feeds at all. The magazine will, if over-loaded, sometimes not present the next round, but this is easily cured by sticking to five rounds in the magazine.
So what about the noise? Well the last rabbiting session was on a field of freshly planted grass – more of a recce than a serious session. The same shooting pal joined me on this foray, and as we laid our shooting mats out for the evening, I was clicking the legs of my bipod out as my pal realised his was still in the truck 200-300 yards away.
As he returned to get his bipod, the first bunny popped out at about 80 yards. The first shot I missed, the second shot I rushed and the slippery bunny bounded on as I sent the next round. Third time lucky – I connected with a solid head shot. Upon returning, my pal said he’d heard my shot! It turned out that the first two shots had not been heard and the third shot was only heard because of the impact on the rabbit’s head.
Overall this is a cracking little rifle, and despite my reservations regarding the heavy trigger, the 597 has produced good accuracy, and ultimately shot far more accurately than I have during two short sessions. My recommendation would be a trigger shoe of some sort to smooth out the feel of the trigger, and Remington need to furnish the 597 with sling swivels fore and aft, or the importer needs to factor this in. After that I would expect good sales and feedback from this capable bunny/vermin rifle, not forgetting the various target disciplines in our small-bore target clubs.
More information: 01635 253344, raytradeuk.co.uk