Some of those shooters inherited Granddad’s Marlin Model 39A and consider any rimfire rifle built since to be inferior. Others have vast experience with Ruger’s indomitable 10/22 and know its virtues as fact. And then there are those rimfire shooters who like to stretch the reality of the .22 LR cartridge, like the guys who put specialized triggers into Smith & Wesson’s excellent M&P15-22, install a Slide Fire stock and rattle off the tiny cartridges at a firing rate of 400 to 600 rounds per minute.
Unquestionably, civilians fire more .22 LR ammo per year than all other calibers combined, so the argument has tremendous relevancy. We’re not here to end it; we’re here to fuel it. So here are some of the very best .22 rimfires available today—both old warhorses and cutting-edge new ones. If we left your favorite out, no apologies; we’re here to argue. So bring it on.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
Shooters who claim that this is the best, most reliable, most versatile .22 rifle available are probably right. Without a doubt the most proven semi-automatic .22 rifle in America, the 10/22 is simple in design, easy on the wallet and high on performance. It’s also the most accessorizable .22 on the market with a myriad of aftermarket parts available, though the cutting-edge Takedown version pictured here is pretty well confined to the factory-original stock and barrel.
Price: $289 to $579, depending on configuration.
Remington 572 Pump
When I was 13, I temporarily inherited my grandfather’s Remington Model 572, and I’ve loved the model ever since. Purchased in 1952, his was missing the front sight and the stock showed significant signs of wear. A couple of hours with a heavy bolt, hack saw and file resulted in a new front sight, and over the next 10 years I put a lot more wear on that rifle. It’s an incredibly fast-shooting design with a thoroughbred feel, one I’d recommend over any other currently produced pump-action .22.
Browning Buck Mark
Only a few .22 rimfire semi-auto pistols stand above the tendency to be unreliable and inaccurate, and the Browning Buck Mark is one. Add the fact that it’s one of the most ergonomic designs ever, and you’ve got a recipe for greatness. A lifelong hunting and shooting pal of mine has one that he’s put over 30,000 rounds through, and it’s still going strong. If you desire a semi-auto .22 handgun, the Buck Mark should be very, very high on your list.
Price: $380 to $560 depending on configuration.
Of all the .22 rimfire bolt-action rifles, the Ruger 77/22 is my personal favorite. It’s also a preferred tool of rural landowners who need gopher-head precision coupled with hatchet-like reliability. Big game hunters who want a .22 rifle that actually—not allegedly—handles like a hunting rifle also have a great gun in this case. The action’s profile is decidedly big-game-like; the bolt handle is in the right place and the magazine fits beautifully flush with the stock. In the carefree days of my youth, I dusted feathers off of a big crow at 340 yards with a 22/77 that belonged to my fishing buddy. The crow flew away in indignation, but I learned a high regard for the Ruger 22/77 that day.
Probably America’s best-loved .22 lever-action, the Marlin 39A has allegedly been in continuous production longer than any other rifle in America. While not exactly a slender, compact rifle, it handles extremely well, points like a portion of your body, and functions smooth as grease on glass. The tubular magazine beneath the 24-inch barrel holds 19 .22 LR cartridges or 26 rounds of .22 Short.
Ruger Single Six
This is the workhorse of the country teenager. Heaven knows I put many thousands of rounds through my Ruger Single Six as a kid. Safer than a semi-auto when placed in learning hands, it’s also a natural ammunition conserver. Because it takes time to eject empties and reload, new shooters must learn to place shots carefully. Reliable as your grandmother’s instinct, the legendary Ruger Single Six combines practical usability with the panache of the Western feel.
Price: $569 to $639, depending on finish.
Smith & Wesson Model 63
Original Smith & Wesson Model 63 revolvers have become classics. If you can find one, be prepared to pay through the nose to get it. On the plus side, once you do, you’ll never regret it—they’re lovely, slender and perfectly balanced petite revolvers. New versions hold eight rounds in the magazine rather than the traditional six rounds, have a fiber-optic front sight and are about as slick a little trail gun as one could wish for.
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22
Designed from the ground up as a dedicated .22 rimfire version of the popular AR-15 rifle, the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 functions, handles, and fires exactly like a .223 model for all intents and purposes. It’s a high-performance little rifle perfect for training youngsters and new shooters on the AR platform, and makes a great little plinker and squirrel rifle in it’s own right. Huge sales numbers indicate that it is probably the best of the rimfire ARs—consumers catch on pretty quickly if something is sub-par, and just as quickly to something extraordinary.
Price: $499 to $769.
Browning BL-22 Micro Midas
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think the Browning BL-22 Micro Midas is the best of the best when it coms to youth rifles for a fairly adept young’un. It will fit well and function well, and offers plenty of firepower without encouraging the wasteful shooting so often prompted by semi-autos. The short 33-degree lever throw is easy for kids to function, and at 4 pounds, 12 ounces, it’s light enough for them to carry and hold steady. Besides, they’re just cool—your kid may imagine the Diet Pepsi cans he’s perforating are aliens or zombies, but he’ll envision himself as John Wayne as he works the lever. That can’t be bad.
CZ-USA Varmint Precision Trainer
If you are Monk-anal about your rimfire accuracy, here’s your poison. The CZ-USA Varmint Precision Trainer is bedded into a Coyote Tan, high-tech synthetic stock from Manners, and offers a true tactical feel when shooting crop-damaging, pot-gut gophers between the eyes. At over eight pounds naked, it’s no walking plinker, but it was never meant to be. The trigger is adjustable, and the magazine is a five-round, detachable single stack.