We are fortunate to live in an era with such a profusion of modern sporting rifles (MSRs). Among the most fun to shoot are those chambered in .22 LR. They are also very useful tools to improve your MSR-handling skills and to sharpen your marksmanship at a fraction of the cost of shooting a rifle chambered in .223 Rem. Here are two options for having one, plus a way to save downrange.
Buy a Dedicated .22 MSR Most companies offer complete rifles in .22 LR. The best buy in a dedicated .22 MSR is the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22, which ranges from $520 to $560. The controls on these rifles are identical to those found on a regular MSR. The bolt release, magazine release, and safety are positioned in the same places and they all operate in the same manner. Training with a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 provides a seamless transition to a larger MSR. The throw on the charging handle is not the same (on the .22 it doesn’t move very far back), but I don’t consider that a serious limitation. Best of all, these rifles run like a cat on fire. I’ve shot numerous M&P 15-22s over the years and own one, and they all have functioned flawlessly. The only problem I have with mine is getting an opportunity to shoot it, because my children have an insatiable appetite for trigger time with this S&W. Of course, with a collapsible stock, the ergonomics couldn’t be more kid friendly. Also the weight of the rifle, which is lighter than a typical .223, makes it simpler for a smaller person to wield.
Add a .22 Upper Your other option for a good and inexpensive .22 MSR is to purchase a rimfire upper (the firearm’s upper receiver) for an existing lower. Companies such as CMMG, DPMS, and Tactical Solutions manufacture them and, in theory, they should just snap onto your lower and shoot. That isn’t always the case, however. Functionality can be spotty with some upper and lower combinations, and they can be picky about the types of ammo they like. But don’t let this scare you off. Having an upper that attaches to your lower gives an added degree of realism to your training, as the rifle will have the same trigger and will be closer to the weight of your centerfire MSR. (You will still have to purchase and use special magazines built for .22s, though.) Cost of a .22 uper varies, but you can plan on spending at least $500.
Use Durable Targets Get a target that lasts. Good options include Champion’s targets. Champion’s DuraSeal Spinner Targets and VisiChalk Multi-Color Targets are interactive and fun targets to shoot. As you use these and other targets, make your .22 practice more fun by creating games. Set up a line of four targets and drift from one to the other, with the goal of hitting every one of your targets over the course of one smooth swing of the gun. If you’re stopping the barrel to take more precise aim, you’re wasting time. Start this drill in close by engaging the targets from 12 yards back. Gradually increase your distance from the targets and the distance between the targets to improve your trigger control.