Key Point: For those who take their hunting more seriously, it is worth investing a bit more money to get a gun that will maximize your effectiveness.
The question of what is the best .22 rifle is one of those perennial debates that never goes away. Though the humble .22 is often eclipsed by “full-sized” rifles on many review sites and blogs, the truth is that rimfire .22 ammunition is still by far the most fired ammo in America.
More people use .22 rifles on a daily basis than any other type of gun, from everything for teaching your son how to shoot to bagging squirrels for the pot.
With such a broad range of uses, it is extremely difficult to come up with a list of the best .22 rifles. People use these weapons in such a wide variety of ways that what you are looking for in a .22 rifle depends hugely on what you want to do with it.
Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the best .22 rifles for just about everybody. Whether you’re hunting, target shooting, or just looking for a reasonably priced (and fun) rimfire rifle, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve prioritized price, reliability, ease of use, and comfort, because that’s what we think the majority of people are looking for in a .22 rifle.
Before we start, though, I know there are a lot of people out there who are still a bit dubious about .22 rifles, so let’s take a look at why you should get one, whether you are prepping for survival or merely want to go out plinking in the yard.
WHY GET A .22 RIFLE?
.22 rifles are often sneered at by people who claim that they are really into guns, who say that .22 caliber weapons simply don’t have enough power to be serious weapons. This is simply wrong.
Of course, if you want to look dangerous, a .22 is not going to intimidate many people. For the majority of us, however, a .22 rifle is just a great tool for many purposes.
For hunting small game, a .22 is hard to beat. Significantly lighter than larger caliber rifles, you can carry a .22 all day without getting tired, and this ultimately improves your hunting effectiveness.
.22s don’t have the power to humanely kill large game, and don’t have the range for duck hunting, but for taking rabbits, squirrels, and possums it delivers more than enough power.
Survivalists and preppers also swear by their .22 rifles. While having an AR-15 for personal defense when the SHTF is a good idea, and while a .22 is not going to drop any attackers, in a survival situation the most important activity is feeding yourself and your family.
A .22 is perfect for this. If you find yourself surviving off the land, in reality the majority of your sustenance is going to come from exactly the types of small game that the .22 so excels at taking.
Still not convinced? Well, even if you are not going to use a .22 for hunting any time soon, these rifles also have another advantage – they are perfect for teaching people how to shoot before they move up to larger calibers.
The relatively light recoil of these rifles means that even a child can use them, given the right supervision. If you want to get your son into guns at an early age, getting a .22 rifle (or pistol) is absolutely the best way of doing this, providing many hours of fun shooting at cans in the back yard.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A .22 RIFLE
As I said, what you should look for in a .22 rifle is largely dependant on what you are going to use it for. As with any gun, accuracy, reliability, and longevity should be your primary concerns when looking for a .22 rifle.
That said, there are a few key features to look out for that can really affect your choice of .22 rifle.
The first is magazine capacity. Most of the rifles we are recommending today incorporate a rotary magazine under the stock of the gun, and this magazine is normally capable of holding anywhere between 5 and 35 rounds.
Realistically, when out hunting you are not going to need any more than 10 rounds, because if you can’t hit that squirrel with 10 rounds you are never going to hit it.
That said, having a large magazine can save you time reloading, and for this reason alone some people like to fit after-market magazines to increase their capacity. Just be careful that you stay within the legal limitations of your home state.
A second factor to consider are the sights you are going to use with your .22. While I deeply respect those who only use the iron sights on their rifles, nowadays most people will be shooting through some kind of optical system.
Which systems work best with which rifles is something we don’t have time to go into today, but just make sure that your favorite sighting system fits the rifle you have chosen.
Lastly, don’t get fooled into thinking that more expensive rifles are necessarily better. Some of the rifles on our list below have stayed essentially the same for more than a century, and cost less than $200.
While having the extra features of a “premium” rifle is great if you are going out hunting every weekend, in truth the difference in accuracy between a $200 .22 and a $1000 one is negligible, and far more dependant on your skill than anything else.
So, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at our favorite .22 rifles at the moment:
OUR OVERALL FAVORITE – THE RUGER 10/22
For those who already own this classic .22, it won’t come as a surprise that it is our favorite rifle today. Though the design of this rifle is not the oldest of the rifles we are reviewing today, it’s history goes right back to 1964, and so in getting this rifle you are still investing in a true American classic.
It’s been a favorite of hunters ever since it was introduced, and this popularity shows no sign of reducing as the years go past. Originally designed with practicality in mind, the 10/22 can be maintained in the field with a handful of generic tools.
Every part can be replaced, including the barrel, and so you never have to worry about parts of the gun running out.
As for the technical details, you get a basic and reliable set up. The standard 10/22 is fed from a ten-round rotary magazine that is nicely compact, and sits directly underneath the main action. Ruger also makes a 5-round magazine for states with more restrictive firearm legislation, and a 25-round box if you want to maximize your capacity.
Perhaps one of the best things about this gun, though, is the capacity for modification that it offers. There are a huge range of after-market accessories available for the rifle, from huge magazines to tactical stocks that can really improve your hunting efficiency.
This means that you can set up the rifle as a wide range of different guns, from a short range rapid fire weapon for controlling rats, through to a precision sniper rifle that will drop small birds at a hundred yards.
Overall, this weapon remains popular for its reliability and adaptability. If you are looking for a weapon that will allow you to make the most of .22 ammunition, this is the one.
THE RUNNER-UP – THE MARLIN MODEL 60
This is another classic .22 rifle that has a history almost as illustrious as the Ruger 10/22. In fact, there is very little to choose between the two rifles, and ultimately your choice should be more informed by how these weapons feel to you than by any “advanced” features the manufacturers ty and sell you.
That said, a bug advantage of this Marlin rifle is that it is actually one of the least expensive .22s available. For well under $200, you get a rifle that has stood the test of time, and that with proper care will last for many years.
In fact, the action and design of this rifle is so simple and robust that it can be serviced by any half-competent gun smith at home.
The standard model 60 comes with a 15-round tubular magazine which sits under the barrel, though larger magazines are also available. The system is somewhat slow to reload, but it’s unlikely that you are going to want rapid fire with a .22 rifle.
Another great feature of this magazine is that it is composed of brass, which not only looks great, but also offers great corrosion resistance.
The barrel continues the simplicity and good build quality that characterize this rifle as a whole. The 16-groove micro rifling is a technology normally only found on much more expensive rifles, and makes the gun inherently accurate.