Summer Rimfire Fun

Jul 8, 2024

Now that the nerve-rattling blasts of Independence Day fade and the days of summer march toward fall, take time to dust off some 22s for some fun – and not quite so loud – shooting. If you want recreational shooting enjoyment at the lowest cost – it’s not near as cheap as it was – you still can’t beat the little 22 rimfire cartridge.

There are outstanding fun guns made for rimfire pursuits – rifles and handguns. The rifles include autoloaders, bolt guns and lever-action rifles. As far as handguns, you can find the semi-auto or revolver that meets your needs.

The size of the gun doesn’t preclude fun and increases the challenge. If you’re involved in recreational shooting, challenge adds to the good times and small handguns are known to be “harder to shoot well.”

The Taurus Model 942 snub (above) and the Ruger Wrangler .22 LR Revolver with Bird's Head Grip (Simply Rugged holster) can make plinking more challenging due to their small size. This increases the fun and makes the shooter cling more to the fundamentals.

If single action revolvers are your preference, you can get into the game at an attractive price with the Ruger Wrangler series and the Heritage Manufacturing Rough Rider series. You’ll be surprised at how well they shoot, given the low asking price. On my first trip to Wyoming to work on ranch pests with centerfire rifles, one of the guides was packing a Rough Rider in his truck. I had some 22LR ammunition and took a toll on the ground squirrel population.

For double action revolvers, you can go from value priced, like the Taurus M942 small frame revolver, or to premium priced guns like the S&W M617, the Colt King Cobra Target 22 or, if you can find one, the lamented Ruger GP100. Each outstanding 22 wheelguns with their own advantages, you really can’t go wrong.

The DA trigger weight on rimfire revolvers is high to ensure ignition. For the upscale rimfire steel competitors, Apex Tactical has worked on the S&W Model 617 to get that trigger weight down without sacrificing reliability. They’ve done well. I use the harder-trigger 22 revolvers to hone my snub revolver trigger skills with louder, more-costly-to-shoot boomers.

For bolt guns, there’s the Revelation single-shot I got second-(or third- or fourth-) hand for my eldest son, and a “gifted” Remington Model 34 for old guns. The sole modern bolt action 22 I’ve used is the Ruger American Rimfire Compact. A handy little 22, I realized it had more accuracy than I could use with irons and I got a Vortex Diamondback specifically for 22s.

That made a remarkable shooter a better-than-I-deserve shooter. Ideal for hunting, ammo testing, target work or as a nearby (yet secured) utility rifle for farm or ranch, I’m not sure there’s anything better.

While we have Ruger on the mind, the 10/22 is – next to the Marlin M60 and variants – one of the most encountered 22 autos in the US. The ten-shot rotary magazine has been part of the reason for its success – as well as the ease of maintenance. That ease of maintenance led to vast customization and, after patents expired, the most-commonly copied semi-auto rifle there is. It’s a personable little gun and I find myself preferring the take-down variants.

As a utility rifle, it’s hard to beat. Accurate, dependable, and fun, the Ruger 10/22 is a staple of the American gun owning public. The 10/22 magazine works in the Ruger American Rimfire Compact rifle as well.

For lever guns, you can go back in time for the Marlin Model 39, for example. Now, we have the handy little 22s from Henry Repeating Arms. I’ve had a couple, one the original, the H001 – the Henry Lever 22. The other was Henry Lever Action Small Game Carbine. Heavier, with a just-over-16” barrel, octagonal and nicely polished, the name comes from the Skinner Peep sight atop the gun.

I find the peep gives me precision over the semi-buckhorns of the original; the additional weight out front doesn’t hurt anything either.

For autoloading handguns, the Ruger Mark IV species works well for precision shooting and plinking fun. The MKIV 22/45 I have a little experience with, but the “standard” models are fine range and field guns as well. The Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory, with the trigger like a Model 41, adaptability from aftermarket suppliers like Volquartsen, and innovative design gives up nothing in the fun department.

These days, I’m more a paper-puncher as that helps me assess my relative skill level. Commercially available “fun” targets abound; we no longer “shoot at the city dump” and the target makers have offered entertaining reactive target options.

Be careful with steel targets and observe the makers’ distance recommendations. “Shoot-through” reactive targets like those from THROOM are handy for fun shooting without the hazards accompanying steel.

When you’re using these 22s, remember that they’re not toys. There are a number of people who could testify to the danger of being shot with the tiny caliber but won’t because they’re not available. Observe the universal safety rules and add the necessary rules for running a range.

Wear eye and ear protection, keep that muzzle away from covering others (and yourself), and be sure of the target before you shoot.

Have fun – and I’ll see you at the range.

-- Rich Grassi