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Published Jun 20, 2022 6:38 PM

Most hunters and shooters probably learned to shoot with a .22 rifle, which makes good sense. The .22 makes a fantastic trainer, plinker, small game rifle, and even competition gun. And for all these different applications, you’ll find a spectrum of designs, from survival guns to heirlooms to highly specialized precision rifles.

Whether it’s a first rifle to teach your kid how to shoot, a tactical trainer, serious competition gun, or just a fun range rifle, I’ve compiled a list of the best .22 rifles that covers the gamut of hunting and shooting applications.

Things to Consider When Buying a .22 rifle

Action/Style

The .22 rifle comes in just about every shape, size, and color, and the best one for you will depend on how you intend to use it. You can find one in just about every action available from semi-autos to bolt actions to pump and lever actions. While some actions/styles better suit specific hunting and shooting practices, personal preference plays a major role too. And having a .22 rifle that you enjoy shooting and fits your needs makes a big difference.

Accuracy

When shopping for a .22 rifle, consider the accuracy you expect to get out of your rifle. The .22 Long Rifle cartridge is not famous for its accuracy, however incredible accuracy can be had with this round. To achieve supreme accuracy, it often takes highly specialized (and expensive) rifles. However, if you just want to plink and hunt small game, it’s not as important. If you want to shoot competitively in precision rimfire matches, you’ll need to spend the extra dough.

Reliability

You’ll also want to consider the reliability and maintenance you expect from your .22 rifle. Plenty of semi-auto rifles are generally reliable, but you might have to clean and maintain them more carefully than other actions. Most .22 ammunition is dirty, producing a lot of fouling, and it will gum up actions more quickly than centerfire rifles. Even bolt-action .22 rifles can get sticky if you use waxy ammunition.

Cost

Do you want a rifle you can use an abuse, or is it important for you to have a gun you can pass along to your kids and grandkids? There might not be any “cheap” options, but there are .22 rifles that won’t break the bank and can still take a beating. But if you want a gun that will last a lifetime, go with a high-end .22 rifle.

Best Overall: Ruger 10/22 Takedown

Key Features

  • Weight: 4.6 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
  • Takedown mechanism
  • 10-shot detachable rotary magazine

Why It Made the Cut

The Ruger 10/22 is the .22 rifle against which all others are measured. Introduced decades ago, it’s still going strong and leading the pack.

Pros

  • Accurate
  • Reliable
  • Many aftermarket parts and accessories
  • Highly modular
  • Easy takedown and stowing

Cons

  • Blowback action can get very dirty

Product Description

The Ruger 10/22 Takedown is one of the best .22 rifles ever made. Introduced in 1980, the 10/22 set the standard for semi-auto .22 rifles and has inspired droves of aftermarket customizations, accessories, and even similar complete firearms.

The takedown model is very similar to the original 10/22 carbine, but with a simple mechanism that allows you to easily remove the barrel from the receiver and stow it for transport. With the takedown model, cleaning the bore and action are much easier than on previous models, and it makes it an even more-adept survival rifle.

The availability of aftermarket parts and stocks make the 10/22 takedown highly customizable. You can find a variety of barrels, even integrally suppressed barrels (barrels that have a suppressor built-in). Binary triggers, magazines, and many other accessories can make the 10/22 takedown anything from a fun range plinker to a precision squirrel rifle.

Best Lever Action: Henry Classic Lever .22 Carbine

Key Features

  • Weight: 5.25 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
  • Stock: American Walnut

Why It Made the Cut

The western-style lever action .22 rifle is a classic, and not many make a better one than Henry. These American-made tube-fed lever guns will drop tin cans and rabbits for generations to come.

Pros

  • Classic walnut stock and blued finish
  • Robust, well-made
  • Shoots .22 Long Rifle, .22 long, and .22 short
  • Can be scoped

Cons

  • Higher-maintenance finish and materials in wet conditions
  • Not suppressor-compatible

Product Description

For some, the best .22 rifles will always be lever guns. In an age of synthetic and lightweight materials, there’s just something special about shooting a well-made .22 lever rifle—and that’s what the Henry Classic is. It’s a simple, western-style blued steel lever gun that holds 15 rounds of .22 LR in its tubular magazine, which is loaded through a cartridge shaped cutout after removing the spring plunger from the end of the magazine.

The Classic Lever .22 features a traditional buckhorn-style rear sight that’s drift adjustable, with a graduated wedge for elevation adjustments, as well as a hooded front sight. It doesn’t feature an external safety but utilizes a quarter-cock setting of the hammer. It’s a simple but elegant-looking rifle and has a very smooth action.

The receiver of the Classic Lever .22 rifle has a built in 3/8-inch tipoff-style groove for mounting a scope with rimfire rings, making it suitable for just about any rimfire hunting or plinking application. You’ll find it equally fun and useful on the range and in the woods, and it’s a rifle that you can pass onto the next generation if you take care of it.

Most Accurate: Anschutz 1710 Competition HB 20-inch SS Threaded MDT ACC Chassis

Anschutz

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Key Features 

  • Weight: 10 pounds 10 ounces
  • Barrel: 20-inch heavy stainless steel, threaded
  • MDT ACC Precision chassis
  • Multiple color options
  • 5119 two stage trigger

Why It Made the Cut 

In smallbore competition, there’s really only one name—Anschutz. That legendary accuracy now comes in a chassis-style rifle that’s designed for PRS-style competition.

Pros

  • Suppressor-ready
  • Highly adjustable
  • Accuracy that will rival or beat any other .22 rifle
  • Excellent two-stage trigger
  • Detachable 10-round magazine

Cons 

  • Very expensive
  • Heavy for a hunting .22 rifle

Product Description

You can’t have a discussion about accurate .22 rifles without Anschutz being a part of it. Their rifles dominate smallbore and biathlon competition, so why not the rapidly-growing PRS-style .22 matches? The 1710 in an MDT chassis can tackle just that. It’s a serious rifle that costs some serious coin, but you’ll have a hell of a time beating it.

The rifle combines the proven performance of Anschutz rifles with the modularity and competition-minded MDT ACC chassis. It features a steel buttplate, and the weight and balance can be modified to fit the shooter’s needs. You can even add an additional nine pounds to the rifle if you want.

The chassis also features a full-length arca rail (which you’ll see on many high-power PRS rifles) for use with bipods or tripods. It also includes the MDT vertical grip, flared magwell, and barricade stop. The extended magazine release and oversized bolt handle make this rifle butter smooth to shoot, cycle, and reload.

Best Bolt Action: Vudoo Gun Works Carbon Sinister

Vudoo Gun Works

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Key Features

  • Weight: 8 pounds (depending on features)
  • Barrel Length: 16, 18, or 20 inches
  • Carbon fiber-wrapped barrel

Why It Made the Cut

Vudoo Gun Works produces semi-custom .22 rifles that are popular in the PRS/NRL rimfire divisions, and the Carbon Sinister can hold its own there. But it’s also excellent for any other hunting or plinking application.

Pros

  • Customizable to order
  • Top-shelf accuracy
  • High quality components and assembly
  • Versatile, more-traditional non-chassis stocks

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Not in-store availability

Product Description 

Vudoo Gun Works is a Utah based company that builds top-end .22 rifles, particularly for competition. They’re expensive and in-demand but are top-notch rifles. Unlike some of their chassis-based .22 rifles, the Sinister Carbon model features more traditional styles of stocks to choose from. It is built on Vudoo’s V-22 controlled-feed action which features a Remington 700 footprint and utilizes over-sized magazines to feed the short .22 LR. It’s a full-length-sized action that’s designed specifically for cycling rimfire cartridges.

The Carbon Sinister features a carbon fiber stock with adjustable cheekpiece and a choice of 3 different carbon fiber wrapped barrels and varying barrel lengths. The adjustable Timney trigger rounds out a .22 rifle that would blend right in with a lineup of high-end custom centerfire rifles. This .22 is built to hold its own in competition, and it has the looks of a sweet, high-performance hunting rifle.

Best Beginner: Savage Rascal Target

Savage

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Key Features

  • Weight: 4.42 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 16.125 inches
  • Single-shot
  • Factory mounted 4x32mm scope

Why It Made the Cut

With an improved stock, optics rail, and suppressor-ready barrel, the Savage Rascal is a safe and accurate platform for teaching new shooters and kids. 

Pros

  • Single-shot is simple to learn
  • Adjustable AccuTrigger
  • Precision rifle feel
  • Optics and suppressor ready

Cons

  • Small for adult shooters
  • Extraction can be sticky when dirty

Product Description

The Rascal Target takes Savage’s extremely popular beginner rifle, the Rascal, and gives it some target upgrades. The simple single-shot action is one of the best .22 rifles for training a brand-new shooter and teaching them to operate a rifle safely. The “target” upgrades help the Rascal feel and operate like a more-substantial rifle that’s sized for young shooters.

The Best .22 Rifles in 2022
The Savage Rascal Target action needs to be cleaned frequently or it doesn’t want to eject. Tyler Freel

The Rascal Target features a 16-inch heavy barrel with a threaded muzzle that’s ready to mount a suppressor, another tool that can be great for new shooters. It doesn’t have iron sights, but low-power scopes or red-dots are typically easier for young shooters to use.

The precision-style hardwood stock gives the rifle a good weight and feel, which is easy to use with a bipod or rest on sandbags. It has a black finish, and the vertical grip sets the shooter up for an easier angle to get a crisp 90-degree trigger pull. The AccuTrigger is adjustable and allows for more fine-tuning than most other beginner rifles.

Best for Hunting: Savage Mark II FV SR

Savage

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Key Features

  • Weight: 5.5 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 16.5 inches
  • Threaded muzzle and optics rail
  • Detachable five-round magazine

Why It Made the Cut 

Picking the best .22 rifle to hunt with is impossible, but the Mark II FV SR is one of my all-time favorites. It combines great features and accuracy into a package that’s effective and affordable.

Pros

  • Suppressor and optics ready
  • 16-inch fluted barrel is very accurate
  • Adjustable accutrigger
  • Great price

Cons

  • 5-round magazine could use improvement

Product Description

The Savage Mark II FV SR isn’t flashy or expensive, but it’s accurate, effective, and easy to set up. It features an oversized bolt handle to drive the smooth action, and the heavy-profile, fluted 16.5-inch barrel is capable of very good accuracy.

The action sits in a simple synthetic stock that’s comfortable to carry and hunt with, but it also works great with a bipod for precise shooting. The threaded barrel is short and handy, even with the added length of a suppressor. The optics rail comes installed, so you don’t have to worry about adding bases.

Savage MK II FV-SR
The author’s rattle-can-colored MK II FV-SR. Tyler Freel

The Mark II FV SR features Savage’s adjustable accutrigger, and its only real drawback is the 5-round magazine that’s sometimes difficult to load when full (under a closed bolt). For the price, it’s hard to beat the versatility and accuracy of this rifle, and it’s my personal favorite for hunting.

Best Budget: Winchester Wildcat .22 SR

Winchester

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Key Features

  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 16.5 inches
  • Suppressor-ready threaded muzzle

Why It Made the Cut

The Wildcat packs all the right features for a great price.

Pros

  • Great price
  • Integrated optics rail
  • Suppressor-ready
  • Accepts aftermarket 10/22-style magazines

Cons

  • Limited aftermarket modularity

Product Description

Winchester’s Wildcat .22 SR is a great value in a semi-auto .22. It’s priced around $270 and has all the right features. It’s a short, handy rifle with a futuristic, streamlined stock and 10-round rotary magazine. The factory magazine holds the bolt open on the last shot, but it’s also compatible with aftermarket high-capacity 10/22-style magazines.

The Wildcat .22 SR comes with long-radius sights—a rear peep and front post—and an optics rail integrated into the receiver. The 16½-inch barrel is threaded to accept a suppressor, which is all-but-mandatory for .22 rifles these days. Another cool feature of the Wildcat is the simple, removable trigger group which allows for easy cleaning of components and breech-to-muzzle cleaning of the bore—something that’s important when you expend copious amounts of dirty .22 LR ammo.

FAQs

Q: How much does a .22 rifle cost?

The cost of a .22 rifle can vary greatly. Many .22 rifles are priced in the $250-$350 range, but high-end rifles can cost thousands of dollars. A wide variety of .22 rifles are available for under $500 that will fit most shooters’ needs, but there’s a strong market for specialized .22 rifles as well. Top-notch precision .22 rifles don’t come cheap, nor do fancy custom-built .22’s. If you’re shopping for your first .22 rifle, you don’t need one of these.  

Q: What is a .22 rifle best used for?

A .22 rifle is best used for many things, and that’s why it’s so popular. Its most popular uses are for target shooting and plinking, as well as small game hunting. The .22 LR cartridge has historically been relatively inexpensive to shoot, with plentiful ammo. It’s a great option for teaching new shooters, practicing shooting fundamentals, or simply shooting for fun. It’s also ideal for hunting small game like rabbits and varmints like prairie dogs and has served that purpose for generations.

Q: Are .22 rifles good for home defense?

A .22 rifle can be good for home defense, but how good depends on certain circumstances. There are generally some better cartridges for home defense, but what you have is better than what you don’t have. If the .22 rifle is your only option, use the best ammunition you can get. The .22 LR cartridge isn’t very powerful, so something like Federal Premium Punch, or CCI Stingers are your best bet.

Q: Is a .22 rifle good for beginners?

A .22 rifle is great for beginner shooters. It has basically no recoil or muzzle blast and is easy to shoot. Pretty much any rifle or handgun range will allow .22 rifles to be used, and they are great for familiarizing yourself with different types of firearms. There are representatives of just about every type of action and style of firearm chambered in .22 LR, and it’s a great introductory cartridge.

Q: How to clean a .22 rifle?

Each .22 rifle will need to be cleaned according to its manufacturer’s recommendations, but basically, you’ll want to clean the powder and lead fouling from the bore, and powder fouling from the action. The .22 LR cartridge tends to be dirty, and many bullets are coated in wax, which accumulates in the gun. Any basic rifle cleaning kit will have what you need to clean the bore and action, and keep you up and running.

Methodology

Picking winners in any categories of .22 rifles is extremely difficult, and one or two factors can change everything. For each category, I considered many brands and made my selections on a combination of cost, quality, versatility, and purpose. It should be noted that accuracy and reliability are even more variable with .22 rifles than centerfire rifles because of the variability and dirtiness of ammunition. Accuracy can vary significantly even from lot to lot of the same load.

Final Thoughts on the Best .22 Rifles

Even in a sea of potential competitors, it was hard not to pick the Ruger 10/22 Takedown as one of the best .22 rifles available. What it lacks out of the box, it makes up for in modularity and aftermarket adaptability. There’s a reason that an entire sub-industry has flourished around aftermarket parts and clones of the 10/22. It’s a proven platform that’s flat-out fun to shoot. If you’re going to own only one .22 rifle, go with the 10/22, but in my opinion, one is not nearly enough.

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