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Published Jul 17, 2023 1:00 PM
If you are an adult who likes to shoot or hunt, it’s hard to find completeness without 22 LR rifles. Considered by many to be the most useful rifle in the world, a 22 rifle is perfect for target practice, hunting, competition shooting, and teaching others to shoot. And you can do all of that with ammunition that doesn’t cost you a dollar every time you pull the trigger.
There are many 22 rifles to choose from, and with modern manufacturing techniques, they’re getting more affordable each year. Affordability can be important when it comes to buying a 22 rifle, but other things—depending on what you want to use your 22 rifle for—matter as well. Here’s a look at five of the best 22 LR rifles for just about any application.
How We Picked the Best 22 LR Rifles
When you grow up with shooting and hunting being a large part of your life, and when you raise four kids to be shooters and hunters, it’s a given that you’ll spend a lot of time with 22 rifles. Over the years, I’ve owned a lot of different 22 rifles, and those experiences combined with all the 22 rifles I’ve reviewed and tested for that last quarter century guided my selections. Of course, those experiences were also tempered with a more focused and detailed evaluation of the following factors:
- Quality of Construction: How well is the rifle put together, and how does it stand up to repeated use on the range and in the field?
- Precision: Will the rifle consistently put the bullets where the sights are aimed?
- Reliability: Will the rifle work? No matter how pretty or precise a rifle shoots, if it does not work, it is useless.
- Application: Because 22 rifles can be used in a variety of ways, they must be examined based on application. A plinking rifle is not the same as a match rifle.
- Cost: Given the rifle’s performance, is it worth the price?
Best 22 LR Rifles: Reviews & Recommendations
- Length: 39.75 inches
- Weight: 5.75 pounds
- Barrel: 20.0 inches
- Capacity: 10
- Trigger: Non-adjustable
- Classic looks
- Great cub-caliber trainer for Ruger 77
The Ruger 77/22 was initially offered with an American walnut stock that elegantly caressed blued steel. Introduced in 1983, it was the rifle we’d all been dreaming of—a good looking, good shooting, man-sized 22 rifle that wasn’t too expensive. It had a three position thumb safety to match the one on Ruger’s Model 77 centerfire bolt action rifle, and a very convenient, flush-fitting 10-shot rotary magazine. The rifle even came with scope rings. Ultimately a variety of models would be offered in stainless steel, with synthetic and laminated wood stocks, and in 17 HMR and 22 WMR. Unfortunately, the 77/22 (22 LR) was discontinued in 2016. It was put out to pasture by Ruger’s more affordable and modernized American Rimfire Rifle, which is also a very nice 22 rifle that’s reasonably affordable. Shooters and hunters seem to hold onto Ruger 77/22s like the memory of their first kiss or their first deer, so if you find one for sale that’s in good condition, expect to pay about a grand.
Best Lever Action: Browning Bl-22 Micro Midas
- Length: 31.5 inches
- Weight: 4.75 pounds
- Barrel: 16.25 inches
- Capacity: 11
- Trigger: Integral to lever
- Short-throw lever
- Trigger pull is a bit on the heavy side
Most Accurate: Vudoo Apparition
- Length: Varies with model
- Weight: 9 to 12 pounds
- Barrel: 16.5, 18, 20, or 22 inches
- Capacity: 10 round detachable magazine
- Trigger: Timney 510v2
- Great trigger
- Extreme precision
- User adaptable stocks
The best shooting 22 rifle I’ve ever fired was made by Vudoo Gun Works. Vudoo has a stellar reputation for building extremely accurate 22 rifles, and they’re frequently used by those who compete in precision 22 rifle matches. They offer four variations of the Apparition, and if you’re serious about threading the needle with your bullet, this 22 rifle is the way to go. The JP APAC Apparition is built on a control-round feed, Remington 700 short-style action with collaboration from U.S. Army sniper and precision shooter Brian Whalen, and is housed in a highly adaptable chassis stock. Four other versions are offered in an assortment of configurations, but all these Vudoo rifles come with a Timney 510v2 trigger and feed from a 10-round AI pattern detachable magazine.
Best Value: Ruger 10/22 Carbine
Specs (Carbine Model)
- Length: 37.0 inches
- Weight: 5.00 pounds
- Barrel: 18.5 inches
- Capacity: 10 round detachable magazine
- Trigger: Modular
- Reasonably affordable
- Easily customizable
- Many variations to choose from
- Hard to resist spending money on customization
The Ruger 10/22 has been in continuous production since 1964, and there are currently eight models in more than 50 variations, with prices ranging from less than $400 to more than $1000. The Ruger 10/22 is not the least expensive 22 rifle made, but given its record of performance and durability, it’s clearly the best value. The rifle features a 10-shot, flush-fitting, rotary magazine and a modular trigger design that is easily replaced with either a Ruger BX or one of two Timney replacement trigger units. But the best part of the Ruger 10/22 is the ease with which it can be customized without the aid of a gunsmith. There is a wide assortment of aftermarket accessories, including stocks and barrels, and once you customize one 10/22, you’re likely to buy another and begin tricking it out too.
Best for Kids: Savage Rascal
- Length: 30.6 inches
- Weight: 2.71 pounds
- Barrel: 16.125 inches
- Capacity: Single shot
- Trigger: Adjustable AccuTrigger
- Great trigger
- Limited application (will not grow with the kid)
A rifle for a kid needs to be very compact and very lightweight. Otherwise, the kid will struggle to hold the rifle up and have no concentration left to focus on aligning the sights on the target. I started all my kids out with an ultra-compact bolt-action rifle, and while there are a few to choose from, I think the Savage Rascal has the most to offer. These rifles weigh less than 3 pounds, and with their 16-inch barrel, they are only 30 inches long. These single shot rifles are also fitted with Savage’s excellent AccuTrigger. An aperture-style peep sight is standard, but the Rascal’s receiver is also drilled for a scope base so you can mount a red dot sight, which is ideal for teaching young shooters. This rifle shoots way better than its price or size suggests, and when your kids are done with it, pass it on to a friend so they can teach their kids to shoot.
Things To Consider Before Buying a 22 Rifle
Maybe the most important thing to understand when buying a 22 rifle is that one is rarely enough. This is partly because 22 rifles are so much fun to shoot, but also partly because 22 rifles can be used in so many ways. If you’re looking for a general purpose 22 rifle, a bolt-action that is fitted with open sights and that can also mount a riflescope is a good place to start. But some semi-automatic and lever-action 22 rifles can fill that general purpose role as well. Choose what fits your style and pocketbook. For plinking fun, a semi-auto 22 rifle is hard to beat, especially one that is compatible with high-capacity magazines. And if extreme precision is what you’re after, go with a bolt action 22 rifle that has an adaptable stock and a reputation for extreme accuracy. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a different 22 rifle for every different way you might want to use one.
The other thing to consider with 22 rifles is ammunition because there’s such an extreme variety to choose from. This is important because, maybe more than with any other firearm, 22 rifles are very picky when it comes to ammunition. Regardless of the rifle you choose, select several loads that meet your needs and try them all. Chances are, if one load does not shoot well in one of your rifles, it might shoot great in another.
Q: What is .22 LR good for?
A 22 rifle is great for plinking fun, small game hunting, target shooting, and for teaching new shooters how to shoot a rifle. Some consider them suitable for self-defense and survival.
Q: How much does a 22 LR drop at 100 yards?
With a 25-yard zero, you can expect standard velocity (1100 fps) 22 LR ammo to drop between 7 to 10 inches at 100 yards. With higher velocity ammo from around 1500 fps to about 1700 fps, the 100 yard drop will be about 2 to 4 inches.
Q: What grain is best for 22 LR?
This largely depends on what you are using a 22 rifle for. Bullet weights for the 22 LR range from between 21 and 60 grains, and like with most cartridges, the best general purpose performance usually comes with mid-range bullet weights. In the case of the 22 LR, that would be 40-grains.
Best 22 LR Rifles: Final Thoughts
Selecting the best 22 rifles is no different than selecting the best of any type of firearm. It will largely depend on who is making the selection and what they want to do with the gun. Everyone has different tastes, and everyone has different uses for a 22 rifle. You can be sure that the 22 rifles above will perform with the best in each category and provide a lifetime of reliable use and a lot of fun on the range or in the field.
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For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.