Some things need an introduction. The entrees at a soy-only lunch buffet, for instance. Or the featured speaker at a “Why you should dye your hair purple on Tuesday” motivational rally. Other things, fortunately, do not require a five-minute presentation explaining who or what they are. Chocolate chip cookies. Pepperoni pizza. John Wayne. And the .22 rimfire.
If you’ve hunted, even once. If you’ve held a rifle, even once. There’s an awfully good chance it was a .22 rimfire in some configuration. Did the little gun with it’s 40-grain bullet change the face of America? I can’t say it did. Did it win the West? I’m going to venture a guess and say no. However, did the diminutive .22 rifle teach literally millions of shooters the finer points of – well – shooting? Without question.
We all had a .22 at some point. Today, many of us still do own one or more of the rifles. They ride behind the seat. Stand in the corner defending our homes and property against marauding groundhogs, crows, starlings, and any number of varmints.
They’re great little guns—fantastic firearms. Really, what more can you say, aside from “Pass me another brick of those shiny golden beauties?” An almost endless list of makes and models are available: futuristic, plain jane, scoped, peep sights, single shots, semi-autos, traditional lever actions—hell, there’s even an outfit – Lakeside Guns – that makes .22 rimfire belt-fed conversion systems for AR15/M16 rigs. How’s that for a squirrel gun?
Everyone has their favorite .22. I’m not going to offend the readership by claiming these are, without a question, the absolute best on the market. That, my friends, is a sure-fire way of instigating a riot. Or at the very least, a good ole’ fashioned bar fight.
Nah, these rimfires, which truly need no introduction, are simply some of the finest available on today’s market. Whether it’s bushytails, cottontails, bulleyes, reactive targets, a stint on “Naked and Afraid,”or the general extraneous expenditure of ammunition, there’s a .22 here that will fit you or your hunter-/shooter-in-training quite nicely:
Great .22 Squirrel Rifles
Squirrel rifles need to be incredibly accurate. They don’t need to be pretty, though most are; however, they do need to be able to print round after round after round into something the size of a ping-pong ball. Every time. Without fail.
Looks. Accuracy. Looks. Dependability. Tradition. Browning’s T-Bolt .22 has it all. Truth is, this is a big boy’s or girl’s gun that works just perfectly in younger hands, and has for many, many years. Squirrel hunters love or are sure to love this one. Why? For one, it weighs less than five pounds, which means it’s going to be a joy to carry in the timber all morning.
The innovative three-level trigger is spot-on; combined with the Sporter’s free-floating barrel, hunters shouldn’t have any difficulty achieving the aforementioned ‘ping-pong ball’ level of accuracy.
This is a full-size .22 rimfire, with a receiver machined from a single piece of steel barstock, a 40-1/4” overall length, and a 13-1/2” length of pull. I do like the top-mounted thumb safety. It’s ambidextrous, conveniently located, and perfect for kids or new shooters, who – Think crossbolt safety – don’t need to have a finger anywhere near the trigger prior to firing. Speaking as a bushytail fan for some 45 years, this precision piece screams September squirrels. Accuracy? A quarter (15/16”) at 50 yards for five shots with the right ammunition is common. Play around, and that can shrink to a dime (11/16”).
Another big person rimfire that’s just fine in the hands of a well-supervised young person, and another .22 that has proved the downfall of countless squirrels…and crows…and groundhogs…and prairie dogs…and starlings, from coast to coast.
With the B22, as they’ve done with the whole of the B-Series, Savage Arms has built on its wildly popular A-Series of semi-automatic rimfires, which included rifles chambered for .22LR, 22WMR, and 17HMR, and launched a more traditional – No argument there? – bolt-action line-up, with their B22, B22 Magnum, and B17.
At the heart of the B22 is Savage Arms’ fully-adjustable AccuTrigger. This ‘comes standard’ technological breakthrough allows shooters to fine-tune the trigger pull to match their individual taste and shooting style, without sacrificing safety or tracking down a gunsmith. At 5.4 pounds, the B22 is slightly heavier than the T-Bolt Sporter; however, she’s not too much trouble, even for a dawn to dusk hunt. Accuracy is commonly an inch at 50; par for the course, with better being possible via ammunition experimentation.
Best Target/Plinking .22 Rifles
In my mind – and I’m sure y’all will correct me if I’m wrong – any target rimfire can be a plinker, but every plinker isn’t necessarily a sub-MOA target rifle. Plinkers are accurate; target rimfire are ridiculously accurate. Like 0.5″ 5-shot groups at 50 yards accurate. Or less.
Plinking, for those of you who might be unfamiliar with the term, involves safely—key word: safely—shooting, aka plinking, at random targets of opportunity; things like tin cans, dandelion heads, puffball mushrooms, dirt clods, and the like. Any homemade or naturally-occurring target is fair game. Mossberg’s M702 Plinkster, by all accounts, is very aptly named, as it’s perfect for this type of ammunition consumption.
I have the M715T, which for all intents and purposes is a M702 action and barrel dropped into an all-polymer AR-esque stock, complete with ventilated hand-guard, Picatinney rails, flash suppressor, pistol grip, and telescoping stock.
Get past all the silliness, and the 702 in whatever garb is the perfect plinker. She weighs a svelte four pounds, holds 11 rounds, and, thanks to a synthetic stock and rugged open sights, doesn’t mind bouncing around the cab of the truck.
A scoped version is available, though it’s a simple matter to clamp an old-school Weaver 4-power atop the receiver and be downright traditional. How do I describe the M702 in one word? Fun. Oh, and the price helps.
If we can, let’s shift gears and move from plinking to some serious paper punching. Now wait; I’m not suggesting that a plinker – See Mossberg M702 above – can’t knock out an MOA or sub-MOA performance. They can. However, accuracy addicts are looking for a rifle that can consistently produce the aforementioned targets; not one that has good days, bad days, and terrible days.
The M455 American from CZ-USA is one of these good days guns. Glancing at a spec sheet, there’s nothing tremendously standout-ish about the M455; rather, everything about it seems relatively in line with what you might expect from an upper mid-range target .22 rimfire. Hammer forged barrel with 1:16 twist, good adjustable trigger, detachable two-position safety. The elements are all there.
Interestingly, the M455 does offer a couple features worth noting. One is the Thompson/Center-esque barrel swap system. A few bolts, and the .22LR barrel can be exchanged for one in either 22WMR or 17HMR. No need to buy a second (or third) barrel. The second is accuracy, with ¾- to 1” 5-shot groups being the norm, depending, of course, on the shooter.
Best .22 Rifles under $250
Affordability—that’s one of the things the .22 rimfire has had going for it since 1887 and the introduction of the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. Today, there are tens of thousands of slightly used rimfires for sale on the Internet for under $100. But there are also more than a handful of new makes and models available for less than it costs to fill your F-250 twice.
Call me a skeptic. Or a cynic. Call me what you will, but I often read advertising literature with a less-than-open mind. Sorry; just the way I am. However, when I read these words on the lead page for Marlin’s Model 60 autoloader:
“Squirrels. Rabbits. Targets. Fun – After 54 years and over 11 million rifles sold, the Model 60 is one of the world’s most popular .22 rimfires and an American classic in every way.”
I just had to nod my head in agreement.
If, over the years, you owned a .22, chances are good it was an M60. There’s really nothing about the M60 not to like. It functions incredibly well and rounds head downrange as fast as you can twitch your trigger finger. The tubular magazine holds 14 rounds and the bolt automatically remains open after the final shot.
The grooved aluminum receiver means you can throw moderately priced optics on top and still hover right at the $300 mark for the whole setup. Or go old school, use the iron sights, and stay below $250.
In truth, Remington’s M597 Synthetic – named such for her synthetic stock – could easily have been placed in the “Plinker” category; however, at $213, she does definitely fit here as well.
The M597, at least to me, is a looker. Not streamlined like the Marlin and certainly not a show-stopper like the maple T-Bolt, but, and given to her plain/pretty mix of matte black metal and soft grey synthetics, this particular Remington isn’t hard on the eyes. But looks don’t produce sub-MOA groups, and while the M597 is capable, acceptable targets aren’t going to come without patience, persistence, and ammo experimentation. Plenty of it.
That said, she’s not without her features – a 10-round detachable staggered-stack box magazine; Teflon- and nickel-coated hammer and sear; last shot bolt hold-open; carbon steel barrel; and comfortable 5-1/2 pound weight. Searching for a top-notch knock-around cottontail getter? Well, your search may be over.
Best .22 Rifles Over $250 (within reason)
I bought my first Ruger 10/22 in the mid-1980s while still in college for $109 out the door. Today, the same birch-stocked carbine will set you back more than three bills. Inflation, I reckon. That said, there are much more expensive rimfires on the market, e.g. the German Anschutz 1710 D HB, which retails online for right around $2,300; however, you don’t have to spend that kind of dough to get a very nice and very accurate .22.
Like most folks, I do have things I’d like to know. Is Bigfoot real? Why don’t the words good and food rhyme? And exactly how many rounds I’ve put through my Ruger 10/22 in the past 30-plus years? On the subject of the latter, albeit not precise, I’m sure it’s in the tens of thousands. Conservatively. Everyone I know who shoots regularly owns one of these remarkable little carbines.
Most, myself included, aren’t too concerned about single-hole accuracy, though, and almost without trying, will get it from time to time. No, I want to run through magazine after magazine after magazine. Make the dirt fly. Kill a dozen tin cans before they knew what him ‘em. And for that, the 10/22 is absolutely perfect.
No rimfire affords the user with more aftermarket parts than does the Ruger. Three hundred dollar triggers, carbon fiber barrels, futuristic laminate stocks. Want a purple trigger group? It’s there.
Deadly accurate and ridiculously reliable, the 10/22 is the epitome of fun. It’s what a .22 rimfire should be.
If the Henry Classic Lever Action were a 1940s movie actress, it would be Rita Hayworth. Done. End of discussion. Okay, maybe Jayne Mansfield, but you get my drift here. You want extraordinarily good looks, combined with functionality and accuracy? Well, look no further. It’s not often you find everything you’re looking in a firearm; however, the Henry is the exception to that rule.
At a touch over 36″ total length, and just a smidge over five pounds, the Henry Classic from Henry Repeating Arms offers real world feel in a lightweight, absolutely gorgeous lever action. Squirrel hunting? Perfect. Target shooter? She’s as accurate as any on the list, if not moreso when fed the proper ammunition – and by proper, I’ll leave that for you to determine via range time.
Several different variants of the Classic are available, including a Carbine, .22WMR, octagon barrel (The Frontier), and a Varmint Express chambered in .17HMR.
Balance, reliability, affordability, and durability; the Henry Classic Lever Action has it all. Oh, and have I mentioned she’s timelessly beautiful?
Best .22 Rifles for Young Shooters
Like Springtime and crappie fishing, .22 rifles and kids are synonymous terms. The firearms provide the perfect training tool for wee folk, as well as not-so-wee folk, being, as they are, lightweight, accurate, recoil-manageable, user-friendly, inexpensive to shoot, and – well – they’re just darn fun to be around. If you have a child or grandchild and don’t have a .22 for them to use, shame on you. There’s guilt for you.
It really can’t be said enough—kids and .22 rimfires just go together. And few little rifles, and, believe me, I use the phrase as a phrase of endearment, illustrate this most traditional connection than does the Chipmunk from Keystone Sporting Arms (KSA). Originally created by the Rogue Rifle Company (Oregon), the Chipmunk name and design was purchased by KSA in 2007.
This, however, came on the heels of KSA crafting their first youth-specific .22 rimfire, the diminutive Crickett (with two “T”s). Weighing only three pounds—yes, THREE! – and measuring just 30” overall, the little gun quickly caught on among adults searching for that perfect starter rifle for their young up-and-comers.
After buying the Chipmunk in ’07, KSA began offering this new piece to the shooting community, and in ’08, produced some 60,000 ‘Munks and Cricketts, much to the joy of the aforementioned adults, not to mention their charges.
Now in its second generation, the Chipmunk features a manual cocking single-shot action and easily adjusted iron sights. A scope can be affixed using an aftermarket mount available from KSA, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a starter rifle a tad? Regardless, the ‘Munk’s a great trainer.
Calling their new Rascal .22 a “micro-rimfire” might be a bit of a misnomer, I’m afraid, as there’s not much micro about Savage Arms’ innovative training tool.
Sure, she’s a tad undersized when compared with a full-grown centerfire; however, that’s where any disparity ends. This pint-sized powerhouse offers a long list of features commonly found on so-called adult rifles, including the company’s popular user-adjustable Accu-Trigger System.
The base model Rascal, which lists for as little as $189, is undeniably bare bones: single-shot manual feed action; manual safety; durable synthetic stock; fully adjustable peep sights; and the ability to unload the rifle without having to pull the trigger. In short, it’s everything you’d want for a first gun/training rifle for that new shooter.
What’s nice is that this base model Rascal can be upgraded slightly with the addition of a scope, adding another dimension to the firearm training. Want more?
The Rascal comes in variations that include the FV-SR (heavy barrel/threaded muzzle), Target (hardwood stock/heavy barrel/Picatinny rail), and the Target XP (bore-sighted 4×32 scope/bipod sling swivel stud mount).
Best .22 Rifles for Survival Hunting
No, it’s not an Honorable Mention category because these rifles rank right up there with all the rest. They are, however, undeniably a bit different. Less mainstream. A bit more specific in their purpose. They’re nonetheless rimfires. They’re without question enjoyable. And they definitely deserve to be here.
Though I remember seeing my very first AR-7 Survival Rifle, I can’t begin to tell where or when that was. Mind slippage, don’t you know.
I do recall thinking at the time, “What a strange little gun, all balled up in the stock like that.” Today, my mind still wanders, but I’ve changed the way I think about Henry’s unique little survival tool. It’s fun. It can come in quite handy in a pinch, which is, I believe, the AR-7’s reason for being. And it’s cool. Just cool.
The AR-7 began life as the AR-5 in the 1950s; a survival rifle designed by Eugene Stoner of M16 fame, and intended to be carried by U.S. Air Force bomber crews. The original rifles were chambered in .22 Hornet.
Later, the AR-5 would become the AR-7, and be re-chambered in .22LR. It was made by a few companies over the decades, but the current model made by Henry is perhaps the best and most reliable (a lot of which is due to a redesign of the magazines, which include the reed ramp. Old mags made by other manufacturers won’t work with the AR-7).
The really neat thing about the AR-7 is how she breaks down. Simply drop the 8-round magazine, retract the bolt, and unscrew the barrel retention collar to remove the 16-inch barrel.
A thumb-bolt in the pistol grip secures the receiver. All of the parts – barrel, action, and magazines (2) – are the stored safely in the synthetic stock. Measuring just 16-1/2” (stowed) and weighing just 3-1/2 pounds, the AR-7 makes for the perfect rimfire for campers or folks otherwise on-the-go. It even includes a top rail for mounting optics or a small red dot, but the rear peep sight and front blade sight are perfectly adequate. The AR-7 comes in black and two camo patterns.
The Pack-Rifle from Mountain View Arms is perhaps the most interesting of all the rimfires profiled here. I’ll admit to being unfamiliar with the piece, and at first glance, my thought was Zip Gun. Here’s something someone made in their home workshop, cobbled together, and introduced as a breakdown rimfire. Essentially that’s what happened, albeit with a tremendous amount of thought, effort, design, and precision at the hands of Jason Crook, owner of Mountain View Machine (MVM) in Logan, Utah.
A novelty? Perhaps, but there’s no arguing the Pack-Rifle is a viable armament option, especially for those to whom space (campers) and weight (hikers) is of utmost concern. A Frankenstein of high-strength aluminum, stainless steel, and carbon fiber, the Pack-Rifle weighs less than a pound and measures 17” when disassembled.
It’s a single shot, recharged by unlocking and then turning the barrel assembly clockwise 90 degrees. Slip in a live round, rotate in return, retract the spring-loaded bolt/firing pin, and the rifle is hot. Additional rounds can be stored in the tubular stock. Odd? Yes, but fun and useful in a pinch as a subsistence hunting rifle for small game if things get hairy.
And it’s FUN, which is what the .22 rimfire is all about.