The wildly popular world of precision rimfire competition has knocked the proverbial dust off the old .22LR. Gun companies, ammo manufacturers, scope makers, and chassis builders have made huge strides in quality—and accuracy—in just the last few years. Today’s .22 rifles—and the new accessories that go with them—have never been better. Listed below are the best .22 rifles for every price range—from a couple hundred bucks to a couple thousand. All would make a first-rate squirrel rifle or handily win your local .22LR competition.
The inexpensive, but accurate Savage Mark II is a classic shooter, that’s perfect for new plinkers or anyone on a budget. There are no less than 67 Savage 22 rifles, but the Mark II is the simplest, and most humble, in a matte-black synthetic stock with a single-stack, straight-feed magazine. There are heavy fluted-barreled models in futuristic laminate stocks like the BSEV, but I’m partial to this understated, heavy-barreled shooter.
The button-rifled 21-inch carbon steel barrel on the FV drives nails. It’s one of the most accurate 22LR rifles in its price range. Last fall in Kentucky, Hunting Editor, Will Brantley and I put a big hurt on the local squirrel population with this rifle. We got the AccuTrigger down to just over 2 pounds, which for a gun that sometimes sells for under $200 is really something special. When my boy is old enough to chase bushy tails with me, this will be his rifle. Hell, he’ll probably shoot NRL22 with it, too. In terms of raw accuracy, this little .22 rifle can keep up with guns ten times the price.
This full-sized .22LR trainer from Tikka set the Internet on fire three times. First, excitement: It has the same footprint as the T3 centerfire, so all the available T3 stocks and chassis would fit. Second, with anger: as its import to the U.S. was delayed, and demanded was grossly underestimated, so many distributors were caught holding customer pre-order dollars for months on end. Then, third: excitement again, as reports of the T1x’s outstanding accuracy trickled out—and all at a price under $500.
The stainless steel bolt with rear locking lugs runs a short at 1.5-inches and is liquid slick right out the box. The 10-round magazines have a goofy shark-fin-like hump that I wish was flush, but it cycles great, and I haven’t had a single hangup. Like the CZ and the Lithgow, the medium contour heavy barrel makes this rifle accurate, but also gives it great balance in the hand. The synthetic stock is made of 35 percent fiberglass, so it’s rigid—the most rigid “plastic” stock I’ve put my hands on, ever—and incredibly light. For competitions like the NRL22 National Match, shooters will likely set the action in the excellent KRG Bravo chassis—which is so good it’s often out-of-stock. Bottom line: if you want an accurate .22 match rifle, or a new squirrel gun, and don’t want to blow a hole paycheck, the Tikka T1x MTR is the rifle for you.
If you’re looking for a tactical .22 rifle that doesn’t break the bank, it’s hard to pass up the Ruger Precision 22 Rimfire. Several made the NRL22 National Match, and it makes a great centerfire trainer with an adjustable bolt throw from the 1.5-inches of .22LR to a longer 3-inches—to simulate running a big gun like the centerfire Ruger Precision Rifle. It has a 20 MOA scope rail in the box and—big plus—takes Ruger 10/22 magazines. The 15-inch handguard is M-Lok compatible, and the trigger is decent. The barrel fits the receiver much like an AR-15, so it can be changed out with a wrench, and some of the best custom barrel makers out there are selling drop-ins. So if you don’t like how it shoots, it can be improved.
If the tactical styling doesn’t suit you, the traditionally-stocked Ruger American Rimfire shoots just as well and costs about $200 less. I put one in a Boyds At-One stock for my dad, and after a little work on the trigger, it shoots quarter-sized groups at 50 yards with CCI Mini Mags. Topped with the excellent, Nikon Target P3 EFR rimfire scope, he can hardly wait for our September squirrel season. Check prices here.
If I have a soft spot for any .22 rifle on the list, this is it. The Australian-made Lithgow LA101, imported to the U.S. by Legacy Sports, might be the most accurate .22LR available at a street price under $1,000. Mine shoots groups in the .200s and .300s at 50 yards with Wolf Match Extra, and my friend, 22Plinkster, has had great luck with ammo from CCI and Federal. This full-sized rifle is built around a solid three-lug, rear-locking bolt with a 60-degree throw. It’s available in right or left-handed models with a hammer-forged, free-floated, medium contour varmint barrel. The synthetic stock isn’t cheap Tupperware material either. The trigger is nothing to call home about, but for $15 you can get a spring set from Lumley Arms, which brought mine down to a pleasing 1.5 pounds.
This summer at Peacemaker National Training Center in West Virginia, I went 10 for 10 at 300 yards with this rig—topped with a Nikon Black FX1000 4-16 scope. Then I went five for 10 at 460 yards with the new CCI Clean High Velocity. Can’t ask much more of the humble .22 LR.
Michael Moore took ninth place at the NRL22 National Match in 2019 shooting the same Lithgow/Nikon setup I’m running, but without the trigger work. It was the only Aussie .22 rifle in the race, and one of the few with a stock trigger. Check availability here.
Introduced in 2010, the CZ 455 has been one of the most loved—and most maligned—rimfire rifles of the last decade. This year, CZ updated the design and kept all the good stuff, while ditching most of the bad. The crappy trigger is gone. The new bang switch is adjustable for weight, creep, and over-travel (I got mine safely down to a scant 6 ounces), and it breaks wonderfully clean and crisp. There’s a loaded chamber indicator and push-to-fire safety in the proper, American style, i.e., forward to fire. The 90-degree bolt throw is now a faster and more scope-friendly 60-degrees. The action itself has been cut back a full-inch and slab-sided to cut down the profile and weight. It retains the same excellent magazine and swappable barrel system. For a couple hundred bucks, you can drop a new barrel into any of the 455- or 457-actioned guns—no gunsmith required—and many of the best barrel makers in the country are making tubes for it.
The 457 comes in 10 configurations, from the $365 Scout youth model, to the $1,189 Grand Finale Limited Edition. But my favorite is the Manners-stocked Varmint Precision Trainer. Ten of the 60 NRL22 National Match shooters surveyed in 2019 ran CZ rifles, including Austin McGee who took fifth place. Most were Precision Trainers or re-stocked 455s in rigid-aluminum chassis like the MDT LSS-Rimfire, which McGee shot. Three of the 10 sat in the popular hardwood laminate, Boyd’s Pro Varmint stock. Check availability here.
What’s more American than baseball, apple pie, and the Ruger 10/22? Since 1964, more than 5 million have been made and sold. If there’s a .22 hidden away in your great uncle’s spare bedroom, odds are it’s a 10/22. Much like another American rifle, the AR-15, the modular, user-serviceable design of the 10/22 is part of what’s made them so popular. Just like the AR, this .22 rifle has spawned a side industry of custom parts and builders, the very best of which is probably Tony Kidd, of KIDD Innovative Designs.
The Supergrade is the peak of his many years of experience with the platform. It has an extra-long barrel tenon to avoid the dreaded “barrel droop” that can happen when v-blocked rifles like the 10/22 are free floated. The barrel can also be removed from the rifle without taking the action out of the bedded Magpul X-22 stock. The internals are made up of all the parts that have made KIDD famous among 10/22 builders: a trued jeweled bolt, single or double-stage trigger (down to 6 ounces), and a super-slick billet 6061 T6 aluminum receiver. These rifles are what 10/22s look like when no shortcuts are taken.
Six shooters of the 60 surveyed at the 2019 NRL National Match ran high-end KIDD 10/22 clones, including Bryce Bergen, who took sixth place with his KIDD Supergrade. Three ran modified Ruger-brand 10/22s. The most popular stock for these guns, by far, was the Victor Company Titan, which is inletted for the KIDD rear tang and second action screw. What many of these shooters saved on their rifles (compared at least to a Vudoo) they spent on optics. Nightforce scopes were widely used at the National Match. The Athlon Ares and the Vortex Razor Gen 2 were also popular. Check availability here.
Talk up precision rimfire shooting anywhere outside the U.S., and Anschütz will be the first company mentioned. And even stateside they’re still the most popular rifle in the world of NRA small-bore events—like positional shooting and silhouette. Anschütz rifles just about own the Olympics, too. (At the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang every shooter from every country shot one.) But Anschütz has yet to make any real inroads to American-style tactical precision shooting. Justin Carbone took eighth place at the 2019 National Match with an Anschütz 1416 in a Biathlon Trainer stock, but he was just one of three to shoulder an Annie. That could very well soon change.
In 2019, Anschütz North America announced their first new action in some time, the 1761. What started as a re-work for the 54 Sporting became a total redesign. The locking lugs were moved from the rear of the bolt to the middle, giving it a 60-degree bolt throw, and making space for a short, single-spring striker system. Ejection was also improved, and—a first for Anschütz—a swappable barrel system was put in place, with two locking v-blocks, which they say put even pressure on the tenon without marring—as can happen with single v-blocks or grub screws. The receiver is shorter than the 54 and has an 11mm dovetail and 3mm cross slot for an aftermarket pic rail. As with everything Anschütz, you can bet it throws mosquito-sized groups. Check prices here.
READ NEXT: The New .22 Competition Craze
This three-year-old company out of St. George, Utah has changed what many shooters thought possible for the .22 LR. The Apparition is Vudoo’s top tier .22 rifle, available in six chassis and four barrel configurations, though the most popular sits in a Masterpiece Arms BA chassis with Vudoo’s in-house, six-groove, single-point cut, hand-lapped “Ace” barrel. The heart of the rifle is the V-22 action, designed by engineer and gun industry veteran Mike Bush. It’s inspired by the classic Remington 40x, but rather than downscaling a centerfire platform, the V-22 is a true-to-scale rimfire with every design decision geared toward creating the most accurate 22LR rifle possible.
For example, there is no feed ramp. The bolt face captures the back of each round from the Vudoo-designed magazine. This way, malleable and easily-marred soft-lead .22 LR bullets don’t touch any action or magazine surface before slotting into the chamber. No nicks or scrapes on the bullet invariably means better groups downrange. The bottom metal is sized for short-action AICS mags, the dimensions of which Vudoo’s .22 LR magazines mimic. It has a Remington 700 footprint, so the vast universe of Rem. 700 accessories fit, which is part of the reason so many stock and chassis options are available.
Four of the top five overall winners at the 2019 NRL22 National Match shot Vudoos. Paul Dallin, who took first place, ran his in an XLR Envy chassis, with a Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56, a Tubbs T7 trigger, on a Cyke Bipod, shooting Lapua Center-X. The Vudoo-designed match chamber is based on the general length and projectile shape of the Lapua family of ammunition. Most Vudoo shooters run Center-X, but the rifles shoot SK and the older Wolf ammo very well, too. Check availability here.
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