Unquestionably, civilians fire more .22 LR ammo per year than all other calibers combined, so the argument has tremendous relevancy. We're not here to end it; we're here to fuel it. So here are some of the very best .22 rimfires available today — both old warhorses and cutting-edge new ones. If we left your favorite out, no apologies; we're here to argue. So bring it on.
Remington 572 Pump
When I was 13, I temporarily inherited my grandfather'™s Remington Model 572
, and I'™ve loved the model ever since. Purchased in 1952, his was missing the front sight and the stock showed significant signs of wear. A couple of hours with a heavy bolt, hack saw and file resulted in a new front sight, and over the next 10 years I put a lot more wear on that rifle. It'™s an incredibly fast-shooting design with a thoroughbred feel, one I'™d recommend over any other currently produced pump-action .22.
Browning Buck Mark
Only a few .22 rimfire semi-auto pistols stand above the tendency to be unreliable and inaccurate, and the Browning Buck Mark
is one. Add the fact that it'™s one of the most ergonomic designs ever, and you'™ve got a recipe for greatness. A lifelong hunting and shooting pal of mine has one that he'™s put over 30,000 rounds through, and it'™s still going strong. If you desire a semi-auto .22 handgun, the Buck Mark should be very, very high on your list.
Price: $380 to $560 depending on configuration.
Probably America'™s best-loved .22 lever-action, the Marlin 39A
has allegedly been in continuous production longer than any other rifle in America. While not exactly a slender, compact rifle, it handles extremely well, points like a portion of your body, and functions smooth as grease on glass. The tubular magazine beneath the 24-inch barrel holds 19 .22 LR cartridges or 26 rounds of .22 Short.
Ruger Single Six
This is the workhorse of the country teenager. Heaven knows I put many thousands of rounds through my Ruger Single Six
as a kid. Safer than a semi-auto when placed in learning hands, it'™s also a natural ammunition conserver. Because it takes time to eject empties and reload, new shooters must learn to place shots carefully. Reliable as your grandmother'™s instinct, the legendary Ruger Single Six combines practical usability with the panache of the Western feel.
Price: $569 to $639, depending on finish.
Smith & Wesson Model 63
Original Smith & Wesson Model 63
revolvers have become classics. If you can find one, be prepared to pay through the nose to get it. On the plus side, once you do, you'™ll never regret it — they'™re lovely, slender and perfectly balanced petite revolvers. New versions hold eight rounds in the magazine rather than the traditional six rounds, have a fiber-optic front sight and are about as slick a little trail gun as one could wish for.
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22
Designed from the ground up as a dedicated .22 rimfire version of the popular AR-15
rifle, the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22
functions, handles, and fires exactly like a .223 model for all intents and purposes. It'™s a high-performance little rifle perfect for training youngsters and new shooters on the AR platform, and makes a great little plinker and squirrel rifle in it'™s own right. Huge sales numbers indicate that it is probably the best of the rimfire ARs — consumers catch on pretty quickly if something is sub-par, and just as quickly to something extraordinary.
Price: $499 to $769.
Browning BL-22 Micro Midas
I'™m going to go out"http://www.browning.com/products/catalog/firearms/detail.asp?fid=005B&cid=024&tid=115" target="_blank">Browning BL-22 Micro Midas is the best of the best when it coms to youth rifles for a fairly adept young'™un. It will fit well and function well, and offers plenty of firepower without encouraging the wasteful shooting so often prompted by semi-autos. The short 33-degree lever throw is easy for kids to function, and at 4 pounds, 12 ounces, it'™s light enough for them to carry and hold steady. Besides, they'™re just cool — your kid may imagine the Diet Pepsi cans he'™s perforating are aliens or zombies, but he'™ll envision himself as John Wayne as he works the lever. That can'™t be bad.
CZ-USA Varmint Precision Trainer
If you are Monk-anal about your rimfire accuracy, here'™s your poison. The CZ-USA Varmint Precision Trainer
is bedded into a Coyote Tan, high-tech synthetic stock from Manners
, and offers a true tactical feel when shooting crop-damaging, pot-gut gophers between the eyes. At over eight pounds naked, it'™s no walking plinker, but it was never meant to be. The trigger is adjustable, and the magazine is a five-round, detachable single stack.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
Shooters who claim that this is the best, most reliable, most versatile .22 rifle available are probably right. Without a doubt the most proven semi-automatic .22 rifle in America, the 10/22
is simple in design, easy on the wallet and high on performance. It'™s also the most accessorizable .22 on the market with a myriad of aftermarket parts available, though the cutting-edge Takedown
version pictured here is pretty well confined to the factory-original stock and barrel.
Price: $289 to $579, depending on configuration.
Of all the .22 rimfire bolt-action rifles, the Ruger 77/22
is my personal favorite. It'™s also a preferred tool of rural landowners who need gopher-head precision coupled with hatchet-like reliability. Big game hunters who want a .22 rifle that actually — not allegedly — handles like a hunting rifle also have a great gun in this case. The action'™s profile is decidedly big-game-like; the bolt handle is in the right place and the magazine fits beautifully flush with the stock. In the carefree days of my youth, I dusted feathers off of a big crow at 340 yards with a 22/77 that belonged to my fishing buddy. The crow flew away in indignation, but I learned a high regard for the Ruger 22/77 that day.