Freedom Arms Model 97 .22 Rimfire
by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

December 11th, 2002

 

 

For a few weeks now, I have been shooting a remarkable little sixgun from Freedom Arms that has turned out to be a very interesting project. In October of this year, I reviewed here the Freedom Arms Model 97 chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge, so I won’t rehash all of the details of the Model 97 again. For that information, I will refer you to the previous article.

In this article, I will deal with the particulars of the .22 Rimfire Model 97. Freedom Arms has for several years chambered their outstanding Model 83 for the .22 Long Rifle and .22 Magnum, and the Model 97 is built to the same superb standards, but on a smaller and lighter frame. The Model 97 is handier and more packable than its predecessor, and it also has Freedom’s hammer-mounted transfer bar safety system, which prevents the revolver from firing if dropped upon its hammer.

The .22 caliber Model 97 sent to me for testing is a very handsome and well-fitted revolver. It wears Freedom’s beautiful laminated wood grip panels and is made primarily of stainless steel. The rimfire Model 97 is built just as tight and strong as the larger caliber guns, with perfect wood-to-metal and metal-to-metal fit. No other factory builds its guns to the tolerances that Freedom Arms does. The gun pictured here wears a seven and one-half inch barrel, but Freedom will supply this gun in just about any length desired.  The 7-½ inch barrel is a good compromise between portability and velocity, and balances very well.

The model 97 tested was provided with an excellent set of adjustable sights that are durable and easy to see, but for accuracy testing, I mounted a scope sight for more precision with my aging eyes. Freedom Arms supplied the Lovell scope mount pictured here, and it is the best revolver scope mount that I have ever used.  Anyone who is contemplating mounting a scope sight on their Freedom revolver should try one of these. It replaces the rear sight, and is an exact, precise fit into the sight recess milled into the top strap of the frame.

As expected, the trigger pull on the test gun was very crisp, and released at slightly over three pounds.

The Model 97 was shipped with the standard .22 Long Rifle cylinder, along with an optional .22 Magnum cylinder and a .22 Long Rifle Match cylinder. The chambers in the Match cylinder are tighter than those of  the standard cylinder. The theory behind this is that the cartridge is held tighter and more precisely in each chamber, resulting in greater accuracy.

Accuracy is what a .22 revolver  should be about. I have several .22 rimfire revolvers. Some are very accurate, while others are not as accurate. The accurate revolvers are a joy to shoot and carry hunting, while inaccurate handguns are reserved for plinking. Accurate guns are more exciting, and this Model 97, like other Freedom revolvers, looked to be both right out of the box.

To test the accuracy potential of the Model 97, I assembled a variety of .22 rimfire ammunition and proceeded to the shooting bench. I say the "potential" accuracy of the revolver because I make no claims to being an exceptional shot, and therefore a better shooter could probably obtain tighter groups. After the results that I did achieve with this revolver, I would love to test it in a machine rest. Shooting this sixgun with several different brands and types of ammunition proved to me that this little baby is a tack driver! As can be seen in the photographs, the 25 yard groups were downright amazing! Several brands of Long Rifle and Magnum ammo shot into less than ¼ of an inch at 25 yards, with a couple of groups being barely over 1/8 of an inch. With a better shooter, I truly believe that this Model 97 would shoot into the same dern hole time after time. At 25 yards, I could not tell any difference between the  accuracy of the standard cylinder and the match cylinder. All of the 25 yard groups pictured here were fired with the standard cylinder, except of course the PMC Predator group fired with the .22 Magnum cylinder. That particular group measured just ¼ of an inch. That is amazing accuracy from a .22 Magnum. The worst performer in the Model 97 was Remington Yellow Jacket ammunition, which still grouped into 13/16 of an inch at 25 yards. Again, outstanding accuracy. Groups at 100 yards opened up somewhat, due in part to a strong gusty crosswind. The air was cold and the wind was whipping the 50 and 100 yard flags without mercy. Still, groups of less than one inch were common with the Long Rifle Match cylinder, and almost as good with the standard Long Rifle cylinder. Groups of less than two inches were obtained with the magnum cylinder, but again, the wind was playing with the accuracy somewhat.

In conclusion, I can state without hesitation that this Freedom Arms Model 97 is the most accurate handgun that I have ever touched to this date. Also, the gun performed without a hitch during all accuracy testing and informal plinking. It is a .22 revolver of the finest order; a factory custom with superb match-grade accuracy.

Check out the Model 97 .22 and the excellent Lovell scope mount in Freedom’s complete catalog, available by going to:   

www.freedomarms.com

Jeff Quinn


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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Freedom Arms' Model 97 .22 revolver is the most accurate handgun the author has ever fired.

 

 

Extra cylinders are available for the Model 97 in .22 Magnum and .22LR Match.

 

 

The Model 97 .22 comes equipped with Freedom's legendary iron sights. Rugged and precise, these are some of the finest handgun sights available.

 

 

To better utilize the amazing accuracy potential of the Model 97 .22, Jeff strongly recommends a good scope. Freedom's optional Lovell scope mount is the best Jeff has ever tried.

 

 

An uncommon feature, especially on low-recoiling guns such as a .22, is the precision base pin with locking screw. Freedom Arms cuts no corners where their guns are concerned, and the Model 97 .22 is no exception.

 

 

A standard feature of the Model 97 line is Freedom Arms' hammer-mounted transfer bar safety system.

 

 

Wood-to-metal and metal-to-metal fit, as on all Freedom Arms Premier Grade products, is superb.


Included with the Model 97 .22 is the simple and effective Chamber-Safe locking mechanism.

 

 

Author tested the Model 97 .22 extensively with a good variety of .22LR and .22 Magnum ammunition.

 

 

Accuracy of the Freedom Arms Model 97 .22 was simply amazing. Using a wide variety of ammunition at 25 yards, five-shot groups ranged from a best of 3/16" to a worst of 13/16".

 

 

100-yard groups, fired in a strong crosswind, averaged 1" or less with the .22LR Match cylinder. Groups fired with the standard .22LR cylinder and the .22 Magnum cylinder were no less a testament to the jaw-dropping accuracy of the Freedom Arms Model 97 .22.