Although not as instantaneously synonymous with American culture as Coca-Cola, but the .22 Long Rifle is up there and is an even older symbol of this great country.
From teaching kids how to shoot to clearing the forest of small game, and to ringing steel targets at 200+ yards, we now live in a golden age for the often-overlooked .22 LR cartridge. No matter what your goal or budget, we have the best of the best here for you to choose your next best .22 LR rifles.
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The .22 LR Caliber
Starting in 1884, the .22 LR cartridge began as a black powder cartridge designed for basically the same thing we use it for today. Training, plinking, and small game.
With dozens of manufacturers making hundreds of types of .22 LR there is a round that can do it all. From rat shot to solid copper slugs, there is a .22 LR for it. The far most common is a simple lead bullet that is a tiny 40-grains heavy.
Basically, rimfire cartridges are ones that are struck on the rim of the casing to activate the primer compound that is in the base of the casing.
Unlike centerfire cartridges that use a primer as a separate part, rimfire cartridges keep everything contained in one case. Sometimes the bullet will be washed in copper, sometimes it will be smaller to boost muzzle velocity, there are just so many options when it comes to what .22 LR you feed your rifle.
With modern manufacturers and huge growth in .22 LR competition sports in the last 10 years, there have never been more accurate, more reliable, or more expensive .22 LR options on the market.
And yet, you can still get a bucket of bullets for next to nothing.
Best .22 LR Rifles: Practical Applications
Teaching New Shooters
Because of the ultra-low recoil, quiet nature, and zero muzzle flash — .22 LR makes for a great cartridge to help new shooters learn about firearms and the fundaments that go along with them.
Safety, handling, basic marksmanship, all these are so much easier to teach someone when they don’t need to be worried about the sound and “scariness” of what they are shooting. Be they adults or kids, .22 LR is the most common caliber to start with as a new shooter.
Some .22 LR ammo is crazy cheap, and some of it isn’t. Either way, though, it’s almost always cheaper than whatever centerfire caliber you’re also shooting. For long-range shooters, pistol shooters, or tactical AR shooters, .22 LR is cheaper and more accessible than anything else.
Spending less on your ammo means getting to shoot more and shooting more makes you better at it.
It isn’t a cure-all that will solve your problems, but .22 LR is a great way to test new gear, train transitions, and weapons handling, and have a great time doing it.
Rabbits, squirrels, rats, and more — .22 LR is a humane and ethical cartridge for anything on the extra small side. While perfectly deadly to large animals (including you) .22 LR is really suited for the small stuff and at fairly close ranges. If you have pests or want to try some fried squirrel leg, .22 LR can get it done.
We’ve seen a huge growth in .22 LR competitions at a national and local level — so it’s a great time to be in the shooting sports.
Two major ones are Steel Challenge and NRL22. Steel Challenge is an excellent starter competition game that puts the shooter in a fixed static area and tasks you with shooting a set of steel targets as fast as possible. If you’ve never shot in front of people at a competition before, this is a no-stress way of getting a toe wet.
At the same time, it has lots of room for growth since it isn’t just shot with .22 LR but with other pistol calibers also.
NRL22 is the art of shooting small targets at long distances in the least-worst optimal shooting position possible. If you’re familiar with PRS, it’s that — but with .22 LR. Weird barricades, from the prone, bracing yourself on a rooftop with bags while shooting five known distances — these are everyday things you can expect at an NRL22 match. And it’s crazy good fun.
What is the Effective Range of a .22 Rifle?
Although effective at ranges of up to 150 yards (140 meters), the. 22 LR’s effective range is typically much less. If you fire a high-velocity 22-caliber rifle at 100 yards, the bullet will fall 5-6 inches below your line of sight on average. At 150 yards, it’s 20″. After 150 yards, it’s impossible to compensate for the round’s considerable “drop.”
Maximum effective range for squirrels and rabbits is 75 to 100 yards, with a more realistic range of 25â50 yards depending on the rifle and shooter. Bullet drop is negligible at such range.
The Best .22 LR Rifles
The classic, the OG, the GOAT — the Ruger 10/22. Since 1964, the Ruger 10/22 hit the market, and over 6 million have been sold. And that doesn’t count all of the clones that have been made and sold also.
Coming in a dozen or so different flavors, the 10/22 is one gun everyone should own at least once in their lifetimes. It’s inexpensive, a simple blow-back rifle that runs and runs. Great for teaching kids, small game hunting, or just putting holes in soda cans — the 10/22 is an old faithful that will never let you down.
A huge plus to you is that because the Ruger 10/22 has been around forever and with so many units sold, there is a massive aftermarket for it. Stocks, chassis, barrels, bolts, triggers — if you want to change it or upgrade it, you can.
Personally, I like the 10/22 Takedown model the best. Able to break in half with just the pull of a lug, this is the ultimate in quick and easy.
- Reliable and easy to scope
- Customizable with various aftermarket parts available
- Compact and easy to use
- Trigger may be a bit rough
2. CZ 457
Like the 10/22, CZ’s line of rimfire rifles is a super classic option that comes in a huge range of flavors and models.
From beautiful wooden stocks to competition-ready chassis, there is a CZ 457 for you. Something you can always count on is that the CZ 457 will be reliable, have great shooting, and have smooth action. It might not be the fanciest design, but it has iteratively improved every time CZ comes out with new versions.
Expansive aftermarket support guarantees you have room to upgrade anything you want, but even a base-level CZ 457 is a great rifle out of the box. If you want a true classic — the CZ 457 American is my recommendation. My favorite though is the CZ 457 Varmint MTR. With a big, bold wooden stock and a flat forend perfectly styled for long-range shooting — the Varmint MTR is one badass rifle.
- Adjustable trigger
- Interchangeable grip
- Excellent chassis
- Requires a scope sold separately
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3. Bergara BXR
Bergara isn’t very well known for the BXR, and I think it’s a shame because it’s a great rifle that really flies under the radar.
Coming standard with a 30 MOA 1913 rail for mounting a scope and a super crisp 3.5-pound trigger, this little semi-auto shooter is built for small groups at long ranges. But with the standard model weighing only 5.2-pounds and the carbon fiber model weighing in at 4.2-pounds, this is a rifle that can stay with you in the field all day.
And thankfully, Bergara didn’t reinvent the wheel regarding the magazines — standard Ruger 10/22 mags work with the BXR. You might look at this as a modernized and very high-quality 10/22. And basically, it is. But for the price point and the features Bergara gives you, this is a very compelling option.
- Elegant and functional Graphite Black Cerakote coating
- Ambidextrous and oversized release lever
- Highly reliable and accurate
- No adjustable cheekpiece system
4. Bergara B-14r
Another rifle that I’ve used in competition to great effect — I flat out love my Bergara. Period.
Bergara is a major supporter of the NRL22 sport and their B-14r rifle is a great option for anyone wanting to shoot open class with an R700 footprint rifle.
Coming standard in a Bergara HMR stock/chassis this is a great start for anyone needing an upper-class .22 LR. The HMR B-14 in centerfire cartridges is one of the best factory rifles on the market and Bergara has done a great job bringing that quality and design to the rimfire rifle.
An adjustable trigger and an outstanding barrel combine to make this simply a great rifle. And, if you want to shave some pounds off of it, you can get the B-14r in a carbon fiber wrapped option that feels wonderful in your hands.
It’s also an amazing option for anyone of smaller stature. Taking a couple of pounds off of the B-14r turns it into a super lightweight and well-balanced rifle for hunting or shooting off barricades.
- Provides clean and outstanding shots
- Heavy-contoured and threaded barrel
- Clean and adjustable trigger
- Superb accuracy
- May be heavy
5. Tikka T1x
My first upper-tier .22 LR rifle, I love my Tikka T1x. Designed on the T3x footprint the T1x will fit most stocks and chassis that the T3x fits. It also takes the same triggers, so that’s extra nice. Coming standard with an adjustable 2-stage Tikka trigger the T1x is a great little rifle for all sorts of things.
Personally, I used it as my competition rifle for a while before I upgrade. Now I keep my Tikka in the factory stock as my squirrel rifle. It’s lightweight, handy, and deadly accurate. I shot my Tikka in NRL22X matches out to 400 yards — that’s crazy far for .22 LR.
At 100 yards I found a number of ammo types that were well within sub-MOA groupings. If you want a simple small bore hunting rifle, Tikka T1x is there for you. If you want to get started in NRL22, Tikka is there for you.
Really — you won’t be disappointed no matter what you get your Tikka for!
- Excellent handling and balance
- Barreled action can be swapped to different chassis or stock
- Smooth action
- Threaded barrel
- Cheek comb is not adjustable
6. Zermatt Arms RimX
I’ll admit I’m biased, I love to shoot NRL22 competitions and a Zermatt Arms RimX is my current open match rifle.
While I could write half a book on why I love this rifle, I’ll try to just give you the highlight reel. If you want a rifle that is treated with the same respect and care that a master gunsmith puts into a centerfire match rifle — Zermatt Arms RimX is for you.
Zermatt Arms has been making outstanding centerfire rifles for years and the RimX is their venture into the rimfire world. Build for people wanting a top-tier training rifle or shooting in rimfire competitions, the RimX is excellent. From the all-metal magazines with adjustable seating to the wide range of bolt handles to pick from, the RimX is as customizable as it gets.
And of course, it’s build using the Remington 700 footprint so there is a huge aftermarket selection of stocks and chassis to choose from. Right now you can only find the RimX as a bare action directly from Zermatt Arms, but some gunsmiths and retailers are offering custom rifles using the RimX action. If you’re ready to build yourself a baller NRL22 or .22 LR training rifle, I highly recommend the RimX.
- innovative design
- Excellent action
- Interchangeable bolt head system
- Bolt is easy to breakdown
- Side port cannot load a single round
7. Vudoo Gun Works V-22
One of the absolute top dogs in the high-end .22 LR game, Vudoo Gun Works is the standard that others are judged against. Always at the forefront of .22 LR bolt rifle technology, these are rifles that win national championships regularly.
Built using the Remington 700 footprint, the V-22 fits any stock and chassis that the R700 does. Frankly, you just can’t go wrong with a V-22. But you’ll have to break a piggy bank or two to cover the payments, perfection doesn’t come cheap.
While most people will think it’s madness to spend this kind of money on “just a .22 LR rifle” keep in mind that these are really designed and marketed for the competition world. If that isn’t you, there’s nothing wrong with that!
- Smooth and effortless action
- Anti-rotating receiver
- Clever magazine design that’s easy to load, feed and take apart
- Quality, fit and finish has decent quality
8. Smith & Wesson M&P MP 15-22
An AR-15 format that is designed and chambered to shoot .22 LR — awesome.
Using a real .22 LR barrel and a system that is actually built for .22 LR, this is the best AR-15 platform .22 LR you can get off the shelf. And it doesn’t cost too much either.
Great as a training rifle, small game rifle, or as a stepping stone before getting into the AR-15 platform completely — the MP 15-22 is a great rifle in every respect. However, while the MP 15-22 is a solid enough rifle, it does have two major weak points.
First, the lower is made of polymer instead of metal like on a real AR-15. This is fine for .22 LR, but don’t go door-kicking with it. Second, the lower is designed to not fit other AR-15 uppers. So if you have a dream of getting this cheap and throwing on a 5.56 NATO upper, you can’t.
- Quiet and low recoil
- Versatile fit
- Many aftermarket parts available
- May be picky with ammo
From popping pop cans to bringing home the squirrels for the squirrel stew to slapping steel at long distances, these .22 LR rifles can do it all. It’s just a matter of finding the perfect one for you.
I have my favorites, and I’m sure you have yours, so tell me about them down in the comments. If you’d like to see more .22 LR content, let us know.
I recently purchased a CZ 457 for a varmint hunting trip and I was blown away! This rifle has a great feel to it and fires very smoothly. Halfway through my trip, I started to realise how much of an advantage this rifle has over others in its category. It is one of the best .22 LR rifles that I have used in my lifetime and will be sticking with it from now on.