October 17, 2023
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Like many young enthusiasts, my formative years with a firearm were spent behind a .22 rimfire rifle. Even though I’ve switched to shooting primarily centerfires, I still love nothing more than tossing a tin can downrange or setting up spinning targets and plinking away with a rimfire. Rimfires offer a low-cost, fun way for shooters to spend an afternoon at the range, and rimfires are great fun for shooters of all skill levels.
Isn’t it about time that you took a break from the serious business of long-range shooting or tactical training and punched balloons, pop bottles, or other impromptu targets with a .22 or .17? If so, here’s a list of eight great plinking guns that will remind you why rimfires are so much fun.
The semiauto plinker that’s infinitely customizable and deadly accurate.
In 1987 John “Chief AJ” Huffer set a world record by shooting 40,060 consecutive 2.5-inch wooden blocks out of the air with a 10/22 rifle. I was a kid when that record was set, and I immediately wanted a 10/22 rifle. I did pretty well with my own 10/22, though I never set any world records, and I still have that gun. It’s been highly customized — new barrel, stock, springs, trigger, magazines, and I can’t remember what else — and that aftermarket support is one reason we love the 10/22 so much. You can customize these guns and turn them from tack-drivers to one-hole rifles with enough work, and mine still shoots wonderfully after pushing thousands of rounds of .22 ammo down the pipe. There are a variety of 10/22 rifle configurations available from Ruger, everything from affordable plinkers to take-down backpacking guns and dedicated target rifles. Who knows, you may set a new world record with one of them. Ruger.com
Heritage Rough Rider Tactical Cowboy
The single-action with a modern attitude is great for low-cost shooting and even hunting.
When I first saw the Heritage Rough Rider TC I was impressed with how boldly Heritage “reinvented” the single-action revolver design. With its threaded muzzle, optics rail and carbon fiber pattern grips the Rough Rider Tactical Cowboy is certainly avant-garde for the single-action rimfire revolver market. But, this gun is loads of fun to shoot and affordable, too. Manufacturer suggested price is just $219.99, which means street price will likely be at or below 200 bucks. The six-shot .22 LR cylinder can be swapped out for a .22 WMR if you’d like, which makes this gun even more appealing. It’s likely not going to be as accurate as your Mark IV Target, but this gun is great for punching targets in the back yard. I added a red-dot sight to the one I tested and that improved accuracy further — something you can’t do with most single-action .22s. Heritagemfg.com
Winchester Xpert 22
The affordable bolt gun that is light, accurate, and loads of fun to shoot.
With its polymer stock and thin 18-inch barrel the Xpert 22 LR weighs in at just 4 pounds, 8 ounces. Length of pull is 13.5 inches, so even small-frame shooters can handle this gun effectively. The carbine utilizes a slick 10-round rotary magazine and functions with Ruger 10/22 mags, which was a smart move by Winchester because 10/22 magazines are widely available. The Bentz chamber and button-rifled barrel make this thing a shooter, and it comes drilled and tapped for optics and with a Picatinny rail up front for mounting bipods and slings. The .22 bolt-actions I shot growing up came with dismal triggers that were heavy and creepy, but not the Xpert 22 LR; it uses a three-lever adjustable MOA trigger that aids greatly in accuracy. It’s a well-rounded, affordable .22 rifle that the whole family can enjoy. Winchesterguns.com
Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22
The budget-friendly black gun that’s fun for the whole family.
It’s not hard to see where S&W found the inspiration for their M&P 15-22 rifles. These guns have the look and feel of AR-style rifles and offers features like M-LOK attachment points so you can dress up the M&P 15-22 just like its centerfire counterparts. The 10-inch free-floating handguard on the Sport version makes it easy to customize this gun with sling studs, QD attachment points, bipods, lights, or whatever else you’d like. Magpul MBUS flip-up sights come standard, but there’s lots of rail space up top for adding any optic you’d like. This blowback-operated semiauto .22 even comes with a functioning charging handle, and there are state compliant versions available, as well. The six-position CAR adjustable stock is great for customizing length of pull for shooters with shorter arms. Overall, it’s an effective rimfire trainer and a great all-around plinker. Smith-wesson.com
Available in .22 LR, .17 HMR or .22 WMR, Savage’s semiautos are reliable, accurate, and a joy to shoot.
Savage cracked the code on building a reliable, high-performance .17 HMR semiauto with their delayed blowback A17. If you’re looking for a cheap rimfire plinking round with a bit more range than the .22 LR offers (or you want your plinking gun to double as a varmint/predator rifle) the A17 is a great choice. This rifle lists a 10-round rotary magazine, a hard chrome bolt, 22-inch barrel and Savage AccuTrigger among its many impressive features, and it’s relatively affordable, too. But Savage’s A-series autoloading rifles are available in other rimfire chamberings as well, including .22 LR (A22) and .22 WMR (A22 Magnum). Regardless of which rifle you choose, these guns are reliable, accurate, and lots of fun on the range. Savagearms.com
Ruger Mark IV
Everything you love about previous Mark-series .22 pistols, without the maintenance hassles.
Bill Ruger revolutionized the blowback .22 autoloading pistol market when he released the Ruger Standard in 1949, and the company that bears his name eventually offered Mark I, Mark II, Mark III and Mark IV versions. The new Mark IV is very similar to the others in terms of performance and accuracy, but the latest model is, in my mind, the best Ruger autoloading pistol for one reason — it’s easy to disassemble and reassemble for maintenance. Until the Mark IV arrived Ruger autoloading pistols were cantankerous to clean, requiring an engineering degree or photographic memory (or both) to reassemble. The Mark IV is just the opposite. Simply push a button and the receiver/barrel assembly tips up and off the frame, allowing you to easily remove the bolt. These guns are available in a variety of configurations, and they are among the most accurate rimfire autoloading pistols available today. Ruger.com
Springfield Armory Model 2020 Rimfire
A brand-new .22 bolt gun that impresses with its quality, accuracy and performance.
The newest rimfire on the block is Springfield Armory's Model 2020 Rimfire. A great addition to the growing famility of Springfield Armory bolt actions, the .22 LR-chamber Rimfire features a chrome bolt, threaded barrels, rotary magazines (compatible with 10/22), Remington 700-style triggers and dual cocking cams for ultra-smooth operation. There are both Target (polymer stock) and Classic (walnut stock) versions, and the Classic model offers an option of four grades of wood. There’s an interrupted top rail for mounting optics and sling studs on both versions. Oh, and Springfield offers something you’ll find with very few factory .22 bolt-actions: an accuracy guarantee. Springfield promises one-inch accuracy at 50-yards, and based on what we’ve seen in testing, these guns are completely capable. Prices start under $500 and climb to $1,099 for the Classic version with stunning Grade AAA walnut. Springfield-armory.com
Taurus TX 22
The affordable autoloading .22 that’s smooth-operating and extremely accurate.
I was at the launch event for the TX 22, and I remember being wholly impressed with Taurus’s sleek little autoloader. I’m still a fan of these guns, in part because they offer a great cost-to-fun ratio (MSRPs start at $349) and because Taurus engineers did a really good job designing this gun. The blowback action works well with a wide range of .22 ammo and the grip is comfortable and large enough to accommodate large hands. The lightweight aluminum slide keeps weight around 17 ounces, so this gun is manageable for most shooters and the Performance Trigger System is very good. There’s a compact version if you want something really small and a sleek Competition model with a plate on the slide that allows you to add optics to the pistol. The TX 22 deservedly earned Guns & Ammo’s 2019 Handgun of the Year award. Taurususa.com
Did we miss anything? Let us know all about your favorite plinker by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org, and use "Sound Off" in the subject line.
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