With the exception of managing recoil and judging wind, there's really not much you can't do with a .22 LR as a training tool. As a result, I usually wind up shooting more with the lowly rimfire than I do with centerfire guns--be they rifle or handgun--as you can get a ton of valuable practice for around 10 percent of the ammo cost.
A side benefit of shooting .22s is that the tendency to anticipate recoil or flinch due to muzzle blast is eliminated as, well, there isn't any muzzle blast or recoil. The very qualities that make the .22 an ideal training tool also make it difficult to design a gun around, as the lack of velocity, gas volume and pressure it produces gives very little fuel for a semi-auto to run on. A major consideration when choosing a .22 as a trainer then is reliability, as clearing stoppages detracts from training time.
Many people, myself included, started working with Ruger's venerable 10/22 as a trainer and it has a number of good things going for it. It's ubiquitous, inexpensive, well-served with aftermarket parts if you want to customize it and most important, has cheap hi-cap magazines. These, together with Butler Creek's loading device, mean that you can spend a lot of time shooting and less time stuffing fiddly little rounds into mags. Team this with a reliable handgun such as the Browning Buckmark and you have a setup that will serve not only for training, but for Steel Challenge or Ruger Rimfire matches also.
If you want to maximize the .22's utility, then a setup that closely mimics your "real guns" is the next step. One option is to use a .22 conversion kit that drops into your existing AR-15, but they can be finicky and usually accuracy isn't anything to write home about, as the .22 LR bullet is generally happiest when shot through a 1:16 twist barrel. There are other problems with lead fouling, particularly if running a compensator, but the drop-in conversions do have the benefit of being affordable and they allow you to use your existing optics package without having to transfer it to another gun.
Another choice for rifle training might be to consider one of the AR .22 clones, such as the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 or the Umarex-made Colt version. While duplicating the controls and look of the AR-15, these are generally much lighter than the real thing, and in some cases you're stuck with the manufacturer's choice of furniture.
I've been a big proponent of the Nordic .22 conversion upper for several years now since buying one of the very first models. So far, I haven't come across anything to beat it when it comes to reliability or accuracy. It's a dedicated .22 LR system, designed from the ground up with a 1:16 twist barrel and a bolt that isn't compromised by having to fit within the profile of the 5.56 upper.
Although it looks like a typical centerfire upper receiver, the internal machining is completely different, optimized around the rimfire cartridge and its relatively dirty blowback operating system. I've regularly run through an entire brick of ammo without one gun-related stoppage, pausing only to squirt a little CLP on the moving parts. Nordic offer three barrel options, so getting a setup to duplicate the balance of your 5.56 upper is a relatively simple affair, and by using your existing AR lower receiver, ergonomics and trigger pull are maintained. As with any semi-auto, magazines are a critical component of the system, and there are several options currently available that will work in a standard AR lower, the best of the bunch being from Black Dog or CMMG.
Pistol conversions can be more finicky, and can be separated into two camps: the generally reliable and everything else. Tactical Solutions makes a quality 1911 conversion that has options for both single-stack and wide-body frames. One nice feature of the TacSol kit is that it comes with high quality rail- or rib-mounted iron sights that can be easily removed for use with optics, or a red dot can be bolted up to the rail just as easily. Unlike a purpose-built .22 pistol, the conversion unit's magazines match the profile of the full size gun, so mag change drills can be incorporated into a range session without having to switch gears between the two platforms.
Rimfire training bridges the gap between dry-fire practice and trigger time on your competition or carry gun. No matter what system you use to actually fire the .22 round, you can be building skills and eliminating bad habits while making your ammo budget go a little further. Besides, they're fun and for that reason alone, a good .22 should be part of your arsenal.
CZ 455 Varmint Evolution
Available in a wide variety of rimfire options -- including .22 LR, .22 Mag., .17 HMR and .17 Mach 2 -- CZ's radical-looking, switch-barrel bolt-action
is a fine update to its more traditionally modeled 455 series. While the Model 455 Varmint Evolution may have received mixed reactions to its aesthetics, one thing is for sure: It shoots like a dream at 50 yards, making it an ideal varminting rimfire.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
Touted as "America's No. 1 .22," Ruger
reintroduced its famous 10/22 semi-auto as a takedown rifle earlier this year, and it was met with glowing reviews
. The 10/22 Takedown is easy to disassemble and put back together, making it incredibly portable -- and it's super accurate too -- and with its two-piece, black stock and stainless steel barrel, it's certainly a treat for the eyes.
Ruger 22/45 Lite
With a gold-anodized aluminum finish, this futuristic-looking trail gun almost looks like something out of Star Wars
. The Ruger 22/45 Lite
features fully adjustable target-type sights, along with a threaded barrel that accepts suppressors (where legal, of course).
Introduced with the SR22P, Ruger's new Lightweight Compact Revolver chambered in .22 LR
features an eight-round magazine, along with square-notch rear and fixed-blade front sights. With a barrel length of 1.875 inches, this lightweight, smallbore snubbie makes for an excellent carry option.
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 MOE
Smith & Wesson
made big news years ago when it introduced a .22-caliber version its M&P15 rifle, the M&P15-22. Now, the rimfire AR is available with Magpul MOE furniture. Our sister magazine, Petersen's RifleShooter
, labeled this rifle its favorite tactical .22
, and for good reason: It's lightweight, reliable and functions exactly the same as a standard 5.56-chambered AR.
Smith & Wesson M&P22
Available with 10- or 12-round magazines, the Smith & Wesson M&P22
is everything a shooter should expect from S&W's M&P centerfire series. With a magazine disconnect safety and an ambidextrous thumb safety, the M&P22 is an excellent learning tool for young or inexperienced shooters, and of course, it's a joy to shoot.
Taurus Tracker 992
Taurus calls its Tracker 992 double-action revolver
"the most versatile Tracker ever," due to its easily removable cylinder, transforming it from a .22 LR to a .22 Mag. with just the push of a button. The Tracker 992 features a transfer bar mechanism, which prevents hammer striking unless the trigger is pulled completely to the rear, along with Taurus' signature rubber grip and the Taurus Security System.
ATI StG 44
American Tactical Imports
provides a variety of German-built .22s designed to mirror the features of full-caliber guns. For 2012, they will be extending their inventory to include the ATI StG 44, a replica of the WWII-era German Sturmgewehr 44 combat rifle. This .22 semi-automatic rifle accepts a high-capacity magazine, arrives in a period shipping crate with appropriate military markings, and has been constructed to be as historically accurate as possible.
is a long time industry leader in .22 plinking and hunting with their ever popular 10/22 semi-automatic rifles. In 2011, they listened to customer feedback and introduced the 22/45 pistol and 10/22 rifle with barrels threaded for sound suppressors, a factory 25-round magazine for the 10/22 rifle, the 10-shot Single-Ten single-action revolver and an eight-shot rimfire version of the popular SP101 double-action revolver. For 2012, look for the new polymer-framed SR22 semi-auto pistol
and the LCR-22, an eight-shot rimfire understudy for the LCR .38 caliber concealed-carry revolvers.
Umarex USA .22LR UZI
will be importing .22LR semi-automatic pistols and rifles based on the famous UZI submachine gun. These rimfire guns are branded IWI, which is the original UZI maker, but they are manufactured by Carl Walther in Germany. The rifle, modeled after the UZI carbine, includes a folding stock and faux suppressor. The pistol, based on the Micro UZI, will accept the same 20-round magazines as the rifle. Umarex will also be shipping a replica of a Colt 1911 semi-auto designed to shoot .22.
is releasing a new model of the popular P22 pistol. This version will include an integrated red laser sight.
Mossberg 464 SPX
If an AR-15 style tactical .22 rifle and a lever-action cowboy carbine had a love child, it would look just like the latest 464 SPX rifle from Mossberg
. With an 18-inch barrel, matte black finish, and steel rifle sights, the 464's six position stock and tri-rail forend provide a unique blend of cutting-edge gun features and old-fashioned reliability.