Remington 597 VTR .22LR Rifle Review: Well Built, Economical, but Problematic

Last summer got a Remington 597 VTR rifle—the one available exclusively at Gander Mountain, meaning it has a standard stock, not the collapsible version—for .22 ballistics tests. This review is based on that particular gun.

The Remington 597 VTR

A few years ago Remington decided to jump on the “.22 AR” bandwagon by taking its well-established 597 rifle and creating the 597 VTR, or Varmint Target Rifle. The original Remington 597 was introduced into the .22 market a decade and a half ago as an answer to the Ruger 10/22 among other things.

Then the upgraded VTR was introduced to once again offer an alternative to a Ruger rifle, this time the SR22 rifle. Like the original, the VTR is economical in price, but unlike the original it has problems.

Remington 597 VTR

I’ll Be Honest

Although I wasn’t that impressed, the 597 VTR wasn’t a horrible rifle. The fit and finish was acceptable—the sort of quality that should be standard for any firearm from a manufacturer like Remington. The ballistics data we got from our testing showed it to be comparable to the Ruger 10/22 carbine, which has a two-inch longer barrel, so that showed that it was on a par in terms of performance.

The trigger wasn’t bad either, though it was a bit stiff, but it should break-in better over time.

The single Picatinny rail on the top of the receiver serves as a rudimentary iron sight, but it is intentionally left empty so the owner can attach an optic of his or her liking. I know that other gun makers do this as well, but I don’t much care for it. I prefer at least basic sights for an inexpensive plinker.

The bull barrel makes the gun nose heavy, though that helps to manage recoil to the point where staying on target is easy. It’s a .22, after all, so there isn’t much recoil to worry about to begin with. Just using the top rail the gun was adequately accurate for our use (shooting over two chronos at 15 feet), and I’m sure that with some kind of sight it would be fine at the usual distances one would use a .22 (say, out to 100 yards).

Where I wasn’t Impressed

The Remington 597 wasn’t very reliable with about half of the ammunition we tested. There were failures to eject, failures to fire, and even a couple failures to feed properly.

Now, this was a relatively new gun and it hadn’t been shot much, so a certain number of minor problems were expected, but even so, it seemed to be excessive.

Cleaning May be a Problem, too

When I was told of what is involved in taking the gun down for cleaning, I was surprised. Where the older 597 is a relatively straight-forward gun to clean, with just a couple of screws and then a couple of pins to break it down, the VTR is much more involved.

I know a lot of people don’t bother to clean their .22s, particularly if they’re just used for plinking, but that’s not how I am. And as a result, I like some intelligent design in a gun that has cleaning in mind. The VTR does not fit this bill.

The Verdict

The Remington 597 VTR would be a possible training tool for someone who wanted practice in shooting an AR-style gun, but could keep ammo costs down. But here’s the thing, it would cost you more to take a stock 10/22 and modify it sufficiently to get the same basic shooting experience as an AR. I would rather recommend getting a .22 conversion kit for your AR and be done with it. It would be a less expensive option.

Like I said, the 597 VTR isn’t a bad gun. And if it is what you want, more power to you. Me, I’ll stick with my little 10/22 as a plinker and save money.

MSRP is $465, but the Remington 597 VTR can be found for about $240.

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