The Vudoo Three 60 rimfire rifle has technology that replaces ‘plinking’ with ‘precision’ for the dusty ol’ .22 LR.
Four years ago, Vudoo Gun Works of St. George, Utah—combined with the brushfire-like spread of NRL22—kicked off a revolution among the shooting public and the firearms industry, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in rimfire for decades. The closest equivalent may be the ascension of the best-selling .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire in 2004, but rather than develop a new super cartridge, Vudoo took a 130-year-old caliber and made it interesting again.
The Vudoo V-22 repeater, unveiled in August 2017, stood as the first full-sized .22 LR on the Remington 700 footprint since the 40x. Before then, zero current production rimfires with the weight, length and overall fit of a centerfire precision rifle.
Today, there are five and counting.
Hard Out Of The Blocks
A few things made the first-generation Vudoos such a success. Mike Bush, co-founder and lead design engineer, took an uncompromising approach and developed a centerfire-sized rimfire action with a mid-lock bolt and an AICS-patterned magazine (with .308-sized dimensions) that resulted in an almost “touchless” chambering of a live round.
For the most part, .22 LR bullets have a soft lead nose that easily deforms when contacted by the chamber walls when feeding. Bush’s design captured the rear of the shell. It loaded a round without nose deformation by “picking up” a round at the top of the magazine stack, with the bullet nose elevated enough, so it doesn’t scrape on a feed lip or ramp, while the back end of the case is exposed enough for the bolt to grab it.
This is a four-dimensional geometry problem. The dimensions at the top of the magazine, bolt face and breech need to line up 0.001 inch with every cycle of the bolt, so the bullet isn’t scuffed and dinged, which can dramatically affect accuracy. Getting this geometry and timing right isn’t unique to Vudoo. Every bolt-action rifle must do it, though some are more precise than others. Vudoo has been very precise and, with that, success has followed.
Mechanics resolved, Bush footprinted the action to the universal Remington 700 to open a wide world of stocks and triggers, then attached some of the very best custom small-bore barrels in the world. The rifle took off among NRL and PRS centerfire shooters looking for a low-cost way to train. (Remember the good old days when quality .22 LR ammunition was inexpensive and easy to find?) As NRL22 developed, it became a de facto Open Class rifle platform of the very best shooters. The 2020 National Match NRL22 gear survey shows five of the top seven shooters shot a Vudoo.
Vudoo’s Round No. 2 … and 3
The second-generation or Gen 2 Vudoo action is the same basic pattern but magnum length for .17HMR and .22WMR. There’s a single shot for benchrest shooters—a different animal altogether, the action and the shooters—and now a Gen 3 with a 60-degree bolt throw.
The Gen 3 stands as the leading rimfire repeater action currently available, in my opinion, and arguably the most cutting-edge rifle of any caliber when paired with a fast twist 1:6, 1:9, 1:10 or 1:12 with which Vudoo is currently experimenting. Customers can get one and experiment, too, if they can stomach a five- to 6-month lead time.
What makes the Gen 3 or Vudoo Three 60 V-22 so great? Let’s consider some context.
The Gen 1 was designed to replicate a centerfire rifle with a two-lug 90-degree throw. Since then, other manufacturers have jumped aboard that full-sized rimfire train. Bergara’s B-14R barreled action—a very good .22 LR on a 700 footprint—can be had for a third of the price of a Vudoo barreled action. The 90-degree throw RimX action from Zermatt is incredibly good, and the tune-ability of their AICS-patterned rimfire magazine is a big improvement over all others.
The tool-less bolt break down with the RimX is effortless. The “slickness” is among the very best, too, in true custom action form. The RimX action without the barrel costs about as much as a barreled action from Vudoo, and no complete rifles are available, so you have to build them.
Nevertheless, consider price point and competitors are filling gaps above and below the space Vudoo created.
This is all to say, slice it a few different ways and you could say competitors in the arms race for grownup rimfires have caught the early leader in Vudoo. But with the Three 60, Vudoo dashes forward again.
With Gen 2 magnum action, Bush redesigned the fire control system for a faster lock time. The Gen 3 is taken a step further; it incorporates an Italian-made Flavio-Fare trigger of Bush’s design. Traditionally, Remington-style triggers have all had a 60-degree sear face. This puts upward pressure on the bolt until the hammer drops. Dry-fire a barreled action, and you can feel this bolt drop with your bare hands. (If you have a CZ 457, go try it now. Open and close the bolt with your finger on the trigger, and you can feel—ever so slightly—the trigger group moves down as the bolt closes.)
With a 90-degree design, there’s no upward pressure, so the striker isn’t moving down, then forward. It just goes forward for more consistent primer strikes, more consistent ignition. This lack of upward pressure with the Flavio triggers also makes the 60-degree bolt throw remarkably light. Typically, 60-degree throws require more force than a 90-degree throw as you’re doing the same work of cocking the bolt in less distance.
Bush says his prototype Gen 3 with the Flavio and a 13-pound firing spring is the lightest 60-degree action ever made. The first run of Vudoo-Flavio repeater triggers retains a 60-degree sear face, but the 90s are coming. (90s are available now in the single-shot benchrest action with pull weights from 0.7 to 2.8 ounces.) I’ve learned to believe Mike Bush, and when my tester Three 60 with a Flavio and 1:9 Ace barreled showed up, I saw again he was right. It’s the lightest, cleanest 60-degree bolt I’ve ever run, requiring less force to operate than even an Anschütz Match 54.
The Gen 3 also has a tool-less bolt breakdown, as they all do since the Gen 2, and 12 o’clock ignition with the improved crescent-shaped pin. (The single-shot firing pin is 6 o’clock.) Rather than a rectangle or circular dent in a spent rim, the crescent shape leaves a quarter-moon mark that Bush believes results in more consistent ignition. The chamber in all Vudoo rifles is the proprietary Ravage 22 designed by Bush for Lapua ammo. They use an in-house Ace barrel on most builds but also stock Bartlein, Krieger and Shilen.
The vast majority are 1:16, six-groove single-point cut and hand-lapped. Still, they’re making 1:9 and other fast-twist variations available—a complicated and fascinating development for long-distance shooters, whether shooting new hand-loaded copper-solid bullets like those from Cutting Edge or match-grade 40-grain lead solids, like the SKUs from Lapua. Faster twists are proving improvements in all bullets at all distances, but results are early.
Vudoo Three 60 At The Range
Bolt throw and feel and bleeding-edge specs are but pieces of a fully realized rifle system. I took the Three 60 barreled action provided and dropped it in my tried-and-true JP APAC chassis—with a new American flag paint job from FSG Customs in South Waverly, Pennsylvania. The rifle was topped with a Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm for extreme long-range work.
One of the rifle’s first outings made short work of an IPSC steel silhouette at 500 yards with both Mike Bush and me on the trigger. Without giving away too much, the 1:9 Ace is among my most accurate rifles at 50 yards, but magically seems to improve to certainly my most accurate at 100 yards and beyond. The future of fast twist .22 LR barrels might include many discipline-specific twists for various distances. That is, a benchrest shooter competing at 50 meters might need something different than an NRL22X competitor ringing steel at 300 yards.
All told, this action, trigger and new barrel add up to the nicest long-range-specific rimfire rifle I’ve ever seen. No, it’s not cheap. To play in Vudoo land, you need around $3,000 ready to burn for a complete rifle—or more.
But like Paul Parrot, president and CEO of Vudoo, told me four years ago when we first talked: With what other pursuit can you get the very bleeding edge of innovation for that kind of money. You can’t in boats or trucks or motorcycles or centerfire. Rimfire is different. And right now, that bleeding edge is Vudoo. Again.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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