January 17, 2024
Hammerli, a name well known in the global competitive shooting circuit for its ultra-accurate firearms, has planted a flag in the U.S. with the introduction of its new Hammerli Force B1 rimfire rifle. The innovative Force B1 features a switch-barrel system that is easily swapped between .22 LR and .22 Magnum, a super-speedy straight-pull action and an adaptable stock that will accommodate any size hunter or shooter. Hammerli recognizes its strengths are building accurate rifles, and it put that heritage into the Force B1, while harnessing the aftermarket support the Ruger 10/22 platform offers. The Hammerli Force B1 accepts Ruger rotary magazines of all sizes, and its trigger group is also easily upgraded to any built for the Ruger.
Damage Control Down-Under
As an adolescent, few things are more memorable than the first day you’re handed a gun and a box of shells and told: “Go have fun. And for God’s sake, be careful.” I was reminded of that feeling of freedom recently when Jens Krogh, vice president of marketing and product development for Hammerli handed me the company’s new Force B1 rifle, along with what felt like a near unlimited supply of .22 ammo. “Have fun,” Krogh said and sent me on my way. The location was a little different than the Nebraska farm I grew up on, but it had a familiar target – rabbits. Lots and lots of rabbits. Krogh and I, along with several other friends, were in Australia, where rabbits – introduced from Europe more than a century ago – are considered a nuisance animal, a plague in fact, numbering up to 200 million.
Despite more than a century of attempts to eliminate the invasive species from the landscape, the rabbits – which look identical to an American cottontail – are thriving. It proved to be the ideal situation to put a new rimfire rifle to the test. Over the course of three days, we fired thousands of rounds of ammo through our Hammerli rifles. You read that right – thousands of rounds. And, despite the rifle’s accuracy, we barely made a dent in the population on the cattle ranch we were hunting.
Targets were seemingly limitless and the Hammerli Force B1, using both the .22 LR and .22 Winchester Magnum barrels, performed well above our expectations. The rifles were never cleaned and, across our group, I never heard anyone complain of a failure to fire or jammed action. As long as I remembered to work the straight-pull action fully, the Force B1 ejected and reloaded rounds unfailingly. The only time I stove-piped an empty round was when I short-stroked the toggle bolt attempting to catch a fuzz-butt fleeing for its warren.
The handy little rimfire also exhibited the kind of accuracy that has made Hammerli firearms the choice of Olympians and other competitive shooters. Much of the meat from the rabbits we were targeting would end up in the commercial market in Australia, so we were concentrating on head shots, which was often no easy task in the thick brambles the bunnies called home. Still, we were able to thread the needle on the glossy black eye of the rabbits at distances from 20 yards to well past 100. While it’s no surprise the .22 WMR could also reach out to 200 yards on the small targets, I had several confirmed kills at that distance with the humble .22 LR.
The Complete Package
For such a small rifle, the Hammerli Force B1 is big on features. It’s so loaded, in fact, I’m hard pressed to know where to start. First, there’s the obvious – the oversized toggle where one is used to seeing a more traditional bolt handle. While its appearance doesn’t do the Force B1 any favors, it serves a practical purpose as an easy-to-access handle to work the straight-pull action quickly and without fumbling. The toggle bolt is easily worked with two fingers without moving the rifle off target. Not unlike the proven Browning T-Bolt, the B1’s short throw comes straight back and forward as fast as the shooter is able to manipulate it. No matter how fast I tried to work it, as long as I brought the handle fully back and forward, I couldn’t jam it.
Just ahead of the action sits a knurled collar that serves as the heart of the Force B1’s switch-barrel system. The collar engages a series of ball bearings, which sit in a race milled into the barrel, locking it in place. Move the collar rearward and pressure on the bearings is released. Simply pull on the barrel and it slides out of the action, no tools required. To ensure the repeatable accuracy and correct bolt-to-bore alignment, Hammerli milled two notches into the end of the barrel that slide into matching tabs in the receiver. The first few times might require a little twist to line everything up correctly, but once you get the hang of it, replacing the barrel is easy and fast.
Ruger’s venerable 10/22 semi-auto .22 is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and it’s long enjoyed a reputation for customization with catalogs full of aftermarket parts available. Rather than rely on the market to catch up to a proprietary build, Hammerli recognized making the Force B1 compatible with Ruger’s design would give it an advantage out of the gate. To that end the B1’s magwell accommodates Ruger rotary magazines – both .22 and .22WMR – with the addition of included adapter plates. In fact, the rifle comes with a Ruger-branded 10-round magazine. The magazine release is ambidextrous and sits just ahead of the trigger guard.
Like the magazines, the Force B1’s trigger group also follows the Ruger platform, which is a good thing. While the factory installed trigger is serviceable, in that it does what it should, it’s not particularly lovable. Hammerli utilizes the bladed design similar to Savage’s Accutrigger. The shooter must first pull the blade to engage the trigger before firing. This is all well and good, if the trigger pull itself is crisp, clean and light. On the B1, the lever hits a solid wall at the trigger, then requires 4 lbs. of force to make the gun go bang. Not ideal when you’re striving for maximum accuracy. The trigger is adjustable, but only upwards to 5.5 lbs. with no way to make it lighter than 4 lbs. Luckily, there are a plethora of aftermarket options available to fit a 10/22-style trigger group. I’ve already got a Timney on order.
Whether a .22 is used as a training rifle for a young hunter or meant to pluck squirrels off limbs at distance, having a stock fit to the shooter aids in both comfort and accuracy. Hammerli agrees and built the platform on polymer stock that adjusts for both length of pull and comb height. To increase LOP, simply push a button in the buttpad and pull to the desired length. Comb adjustment requires removing and reversing the rubber cheek piece.
The stock is styled in what I would call a tactical hunter, with long, near-vertical pistol grip and a wide, blocky forend. Four M-lok slots underneath the forend offer sling and bipod mounting options, with a rear QD port at the toe of the buttstock serving as a rear attachment point. Stippling on the wrist and forend aid in grip.
In addition to the polymer, target-style stock, Hammerli will also offer several wood versions, including laminate and walnut. Personally, I’d like to see a stock that is recessed or otherwise designed to hold the barrel in a takedown fashion for packing in the backcountry or stuffing into a go-bag, similar to the Backpacker stock made by Magpul.
Initially, the Hammerli Force B1 base model will come chambered in .22 LR with a 16-inch barrel that is also threaded ½x28 to accommodate rimfire suppressors. Expect additional barrel configurations in the future, including match barrels and .22 WMR options, making the Force B1 a versatile, go-to rimfire for hunters, backcountry explorers and survivalists.