Most shooters own a variety of .22 rimfire rifles. There are quite a few experienced shooters who feel that you are not a serious shooter if you don’t own several .22 rifles. There is some truth to this.
There are many factors involved in choosing a .22 rifle. For some, the .22 is a recreational rifle for pure fun. For others, the .22 LR is used to hone marksmanship. There are those who enjoy small game hunting. The experience is vital to growth as a shooter.
In this installment, I am looking at five good .22 rifles. They are not highly-specialized, but rather good, general-purpose rifles that will serve in a variety of chores. These chores include training new shooters, putting meat on the table, and keeping pests and varmints out of crops or away from the chicken coop.
I have always owned a .22 rifle. Today, I am lucky enough to own a half-dozen. One of the oddest .22s I’ve owned is a Winchester 250. The rifle is a mix of aluminum steel plastic and ‘middle of the road’ furniture. When the lever is operated, the trigger mechanism travels with the lever as if the guts of the rifle were exposed.
This hammerless rifle was manufactured in the 1960s to mid 1970s. It was plenty accurate and generally reliable. Trigger reset problems sometimes occurred, and I don’t recommend hunting down a vintage sample. However, in the ‘day,’ this was a rifle that provided pride of ownership and fed rural families.
Many shooters use shoot .22s with iron sights, others take a detour to optics. It isn’t unusual for a middleweight .22 rifle to group three shots in .5 to .7 inch at 25 yards. That is plenty accurate for bedded rabbit, tree line squirrels, and treed racoon. Two inches at 50 yards isn’t common.
I am going to provide a word portrait of some of my favorite .22 rifles. A person with average experience will be able to operate each efficiently. A good shot, and you will become a good shot with practice, may work wonders with an accurate .22.
Henry Lever Action
This is my favorite among very good rifles. I cannot help it. I love lever-action rifles. On a personal level, Henry’s contribution to our rights and to reputable charity cannot be overstated.
The Henry Classic features well-finished dark furniture and nicely anodized aluminum, while the barrel is dark blue finished. The Henry features a good set of fixed sights, including a fixed rear sight — adjustable for elevation — and a hooded post front sight. The receiver is grooved for easy scope mounting.
Loading and unloading are simple enough. Unscrew the magazine tube and pull it out enough to allow access to the outer magazine tube. Drop cartridges in one at a time. Drop in up to 15 cartridges, replace the magazine tube, and twist it to lock in place. The lever is smooth enough and operates on a shorter arc than centerfire cartridges.
The rifle is plenty accurate with a .5-inch group at 25 yards. I added a TruGlo 4×32 mm optic. I sighted the rifle to fire slightly high at 25 yards and then fired for accuracy at 50 yards. At 50 yards, the Henry is accurate enough for most any chore with 2-inch groups.
Rossi Rio Bravo
The Rio Bravo is similar to the Henry Classic. Rossi has been making good quality, lever-action centerfire rifles for many years, and the Rio Bravo should be a good companion piece. The Rio Bravo is a conventional lever-action rifle with open sights and a smooth action that is a useful, reliable, and accurate.
There are, however, differences between the Rossi Rio Bravo and Henry Classic. The Henry Classic’s trigger action breaks clean at a smooth 4.5 pounds. The Rossi Rio Bravo’s trigger is a manageable, but heavy, 7.0 pounds. The Henry has a darker wooden stock, the Rossi Rio Bravo a lighter Brazilian hardwood stock. Each is attractive and well finished.
The Rossi rifle is supplied with sling attachments, the Henry does not. The sights are similar, but the Henry features a hooded front. The Henry barrel is 18.5 inches long while the Rossi barrel only stretches 18 inches. The Henry rifle’s receiver is secured with slot head screws, the Rossi features Phillips head screws.
The Henry receiver has a larger opening in front of the lever. The Rossi has a separate section at the rear of the receiver that houses a manual safety. The safety may be applied while the rifle is loaded. The safety may break up the classic lines of the rifle in the opinion of some. For those who don’t feel that a manual safety is needed on a lever-action rifle, the solution is simply not use it.
In firing the rifle in rapid fire at 20 yards, the Rossi Rio Bravo performed well, but slightly behind the Henry. In absolute accuracy the Rossi trailed behind the Henry rifle only slightly at 25 yards. At 50 yards, the Rio Bravo was further behind the Henry in accuracy. The rifles handled much the same in most respects.
The Henry lever, however, comes to a stop closer to the receiver. The Rossi Rio Bravo action stops about .5 inch before the Henry, relatively. Either works fine and there is no real preference, it is simply different. I find the Rio Bravo reliable, accurate, and nice looking. I like my rifle but if I could find one on sale, I would grab the synthetic stock version with fiber-optic sights.
Rossi RS 22
This is a neat, light, fast-handling, and reliable little rifle. Based somewhat on the Marlin Model 60, the RS 22 is simplified and trouble free. The rifle is easily handled with its removable box magazine and easy to rack bolt. The sights are bright fiber-optic.
This feather light .22 is an easy-packing rifle. It isn’t as accurate as the others at 50 yards, as expected, but it makes for a good all-around plinker, and it will certainly take game at 25 yards. The rifle runs any type of high-velocity ammunition without fail. If you like to carry a rifle around the property or when spelunking, this is the least expensive option but a good one.
Everyone should own a Ruger 10/22, and I am reasonably certain most everyone who is a shooter at all does! The action was designed more than 60 years ago, yet it remains modern. The 10/22 has adapted well to modern synthetic stocks, lightweight or tactical stocks, optical sights, aftermarket triggers, and other upgrades. Regardless the modification, the basic reliability of the rifle remains solid.
The 10/22 is built around a rotary magazine. Based on the Savage 99’s immortal rotary box, the 10/22’s detachable, 10-round magazine is a model of reliability. Ruger finally gave us the X Mag, an extended magazine in several versions including 15 and 25-round units.
The X Mag is reliable. I have tried practically every aftermarket Ruger 10/22 magazine, and none met my reliability standard. The Ruger demands little maintenance and may be a lightweight, easy-carrying rifle, or a heavy barrel, long-range rimfire. The piece simply doesn’t give up and is among the most proven rifles in the world. As for accuracy, most factory fresh standard model rifles will group three shots into two inches at 50 yards. The heavy barrel rifles will do a little better.
The Winchester Wildcat is a wildly innovative rifle. A modular design the Wildcat fieldstrips easily. Press in a plunger at the rear of the receiver and the receiver (complete with the action) slips out of the stock. Cleaning and maintenance are extraordinarily simple. While there is plenty of rail for mounting optics and combat lights, the rifle is supplied with an excellent set of aperture sights.
The rifle is designed to accept Ruger 10/22 magazines — an excellent move. The trigger is decent, and the rifle has proven reliable. The rifle is easily the most modern in appearance. Of course, I like lever-action guns, but this modern style is exciting as well. The Wildcat is plenty accurate, if not quite as accurate as a Ruger 10/22, when it comes to splitting hairs. I like the Wildcat, and it is affordable.
These are just a handful of the many good .22 rifles available. Each is affordable and available. Plus, they are inexpensive to fed and have little to no recoil. These rifles simply do not have any drawbacks. However, if you really want to up your game, check out a Volquartsen!
Every shooter has a favorite .22 LR rifle and a story to go with it. Share yours in the comment section.
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