Justin Carbone of Federal Premium, a competitive precision rimfire shooter, was showing a group of us how capable .22 LRs are, ringing steel the size of a soda can out to 300 yards and beyond at a longrange rifle clinic in Utah. For a few of us sitting at the rifle bench behind Savage bolt guns, it became addicting. Why? Because you could physically see the little bullet hit the target through the scope. It would drop in with a looping trajectory, like a Steph Curry rainbow 3-pointer.
We were there mainly to shoot centerfires at distance, trying to be accurate out to a mile. And that was challenging. But try hitting a target the size of a tennis ball with a .22 LR at 300 yards in a 10 mph crosswind—it’s every bit as difficult. And shooting precision rimfire matches can also help you become a better hunter because it allows you to better understand the flight of the bullets you’re shooting. That will get you more familiar with bullet trajectories. Plus, if you can hit a target the size of squirrel with a .22 at 300, you damn sure can send a .270 through the vitals of a mule deer at the same distance.
There are plenty of plinker rimfires out there, but several companies are making match-ready guns and actions that cater to precision shooters. Rifles in NRL22 competition fall into two categories: base class (the rifle and optic must cost less than $1,050) and open class, which has no monetary limit. Carbone helped identify 10 of the best rimfires to consider buying for this sport. Here they are.
1. Anschutz 64
This is a rimfire for pro shooters or those of you who like dipping into your kid’s college fund to buy another gun. Carbone shoots this brand of rifle in his precision matches, and can tell you it’s the ultimate bad-ass .22 LR because of its adjustability for length of pull and comb height, plus the balance of the rifle is weight forward, so it makes for a steady setup. These guns have won Winter Olympic medals in the Biathlon, so they are plenty capable of winning local rimfire precision matches. The best thing about the 64, according to Carbone is it was built to be a .22 LR and Anschutz has been in the business since 1864, so they’re well versed in making accurate guns.
In the precision world, a lot of shooters mix and match chassis and barreled actions, but Ancshutz constructs rifles from the ground up, which makes them supremely accurate and reliable. When you start to use different parts from a variety of manufacturers to build a rimfire it will often cause feeding issues because the magazine wasn’t built to fit the exact gun you end up shooting. That’s not the case with Anschutz. You will rarely experience a problem running the bolt and loading up the next round. That’s not to say you won’t ever have a malfunction. They are expensive and hard to get ahold of because so few of them are imported to the U.S. every year. The 54 is also a good buy (it’s a step above the 64, but there are less chassis options), and Anschutz has come out with the 1761 that will likely replace both models as the ultimate precision rimfire once it is built to handle a 10-round magazine. MSRP: $2,700
2. Vudoo Gunworks V-22
One of the most widely popular precision rifles is the Vudoo V-22. It’s a barreled action matched with a Remington 700 style stock. There’s plenty of modern 700 chassis and triggers around that are compatible with Vudoo’s barreled action. It’s a simple way of building a more customized rifle, and Vudoo is a trusted resource for many competition shooters. But realize you’re meshing a centerfire platform with a rimfire barrel and action. The chassis was built to accept centerfire magazines, so the Vudoo rimfire mag might not be a precise fit, which can cause feeding issues because there’s no adjustability in the chassis or magazine. Also consider that the weight could be distributed unevenly. A centerfire stock is likely to be heavier than a rimfire one, so there is going to be more weight in the rear of the gun, which is not ideal for many shooters. The box magazine is also not flush with the stock, and that can be an issue when moving station to station and shooting off various rests (it gets in the way). But there’s a reason so many shooters rely on these rifles—they’re accurate, so long as you can keep the rifle steady, and ensure it can feed properly. The Vudoo barrels are threaded (so you can look extra cool at your matches with a suppressor on the end of your rifle), and the action comes with trigger pins, but you will have to pay for an aftermarket trigger. MSRP: $1,770
3. Zermatt Arms RimX
Another action built to be paired with the Remington 700 footprint, the RimX magazine is machined from 7075 aluminum, which gives it a snug fit. It doesn’t come with a barrel, so you will have to buy one separately, but many competition shooters are fawning over the action and the magazine, which has a height-adjustable tab. Like the Vudoo, the box magazine must fit a centerfire chassis, which makes a difference when you are trying to balance the gun, and for reliable feeding. The action is designed to interface with a wide variety of flat, breach-face barrels, thanks to the non-protruding extractor. It also has interchangeable bolt heads, so you can switch from a .22 LR competition round to the .17 HMR for pest control. The bolt handle is swept, making it more compatible with different stocks, and you get a little more clearance from scope turrets. There is also a Picatinny rail to easily mount an optic, and you can select from 0, 20, 30, or 40 MOA. MSRP: $1,150
4. CZ-USA 457 Varmint Precision Chassis
There are two versions of this gun, a shorter 16.5-inch barrel rifle and the 24-inch model. You want the longer barrel because it will make the rifle steady on the shooting bag (a longer barrel means more weight forward). The five-round magazine is flush with the stock, but most precision matches have 10-shot stages, so you’re going to have to buy a second magazine or a 10-round mag, in which case it will protrude from the bottom of the gun. It’s not ideal, but workable with such a long barrel. The length of pull and cheek weld are both adjustable so you can customize the fit. You can also adjust the trigger for weight, creep, and over-travel. CZ built the rifle from the ground up, so you don’t have to worry about those feeding issues with actioned barrels that are made to fit with the 700 platform. MSRP: $999
5. Tikka T1-X UPR
An awesome introductory gun, the T1-X was modeled after Tikka’s T3 centerfire rifle, which has been lauded for its accuracy and affordable price tag. The T1-X does have an adjustable length of pull (shims) and aftermarket cheek pieces are available, but if you’re looking for a better fit, you can replace the stock with a Bravo chassis from Kinetic Research Group for $370. MDT, XLR, and Manners, among others, offer chassis to fit the TX-1 as well. A polymer fore-end makes the Bravo light and durable, plus there are more mounting options for aftermarket add-ons than with a standard stock. The Bravo is made of aluminum form the action to the tip of the fore-end, and it is CNC’d for consistent contact between the action and chassis. The TX-1 barreled action sits in solid aluminum and two polymer skins are bolted to the sides. It’s a must have if the original stock doesn’t fit you well enough, and even if it does, you still might want to upgrade. The 10-round magazine is flush with the production stock and the side-mounted safety is easy to find so you can shoot more accurately and faster. MSRP: $500
6. Ruger Precision Rimfire
Built on a one-piece chassis, the quick-fit stock on the Ruger Precision Rimfire is adjustable for comb height and length of pull (12 to 15.5 inches). There’s also a small Picatinny rail on the stock so you can attach a monopod for better stability. The bolt handle on this rimfire is oversized, which helps keep you from short-stroking the action in competition. An external trigger adjustment allows you to set your trigger pull from 2.25 to 5 pounds. And the 10-round magazine is flush with the chassis, making it easier to find a good balance point on the shooting bag. The target barrel is made of cold, hammer-forged 1137 alloy steel with a 1:16 twist. It was built to be easily replaced by a competent gunsmith, but competition rimfire barrels have a life of 30,000 to 100,000 rounds, so it should take awhile for you to wear it out. The scope base has 30 MOA of declination to get the most out of your scope for long-range shots. There’s a 15-inch aluminum free-float handguard that features Magpul M-LOK slots on all sides for better scope clearance on longrange optics and easy mounting of M-LOK rails and accessories. MSRP: $529
7. Savage B-22
I shot the B-22 extensively at the longrange rifle course in Utah, and it’s a bad-ass little gun for under $600. Savage is known for making accurate, affordable rifles, and this rimfire is well worth the money. I was able to hit steel targets (I missed plenty too) the size of a Hostess cupcake with CCI .22 LR combined with a Leupold 2-10×42 riflescope out to 300 yards (luckily there wasn’t much wind). The trigger pull (adjustable AccuTrigger 1.5 to 5 pounds) was damn smooth, and the bolt throw was short, and simple. Loading the rotary magazine is a pain in the ass, and I’d rather have a single stack, but such is life. I recommend buying at least three extra mags so you can load them all and shoot one after another. Inexpensive rifle actions are known to gum up, but the only real issue I had with the B-22 was loading the first round into the chamber. You really have to throw that bolt forward hard. The balance point on this rife is phenomenal. It sits on a shooting bag nicely, and the overall weight of the gun (7.38 pounds with no scope) is just right. Some rimfires are lighter, but my preference is to have a heavier gun—they are more accurate for novice shooters because more weight adds stability. MSRP: $599
8. Bergara B-14R
Bergara is known for making some of the most accurate production centerfire barrels in the industry (several rifle manufacturers outsource their barrels to Bergara). So it’s awesome they have entered the rimfire market with the addition of the B-14. I actually shot an antelope in Alberta with the centerfire version of this gun and it performed flawlessly. This rimfire was meant to be a trainer, but makes a fine precision gun. It’s built on the Remington 700 chassis model, so you have to deal with the magazine protruding from the action (same as Vudoo and RimX), but you do get a carbon-fiber barrel and an adjustable cheek weld—not a bad tradeoff. Since the gun was made to be a trainer it has the weight of a centerfire (just over 8 pounds). That might be too much weight for a smaller shooter, but it’s not like you’re stomping through miles of timber or up a mountain in a precision match, so it’s manageable. A 10-round magazine comes standard with this gun and the chassis was constructed to support a free-floating barrel. MSRP: $1,245
9. Volquartsen Lightweight
Semiautos aren’t near as popular as bolt guns in the precision rimfire world for the simple reason that they are more apt to malfunction. That’s based solely on the platform (an autoloader has more moving parts, thus it has more opportunities to fail). But some shooters do use them, and Volquartsen is one of the best (they also make bolt guns, like the Summit). If you don’t see a Volquartsen rifle you like, you can have one custom built. The Lightweight has a 16-inch match-grade barrel that gives shooters superior accuracy. Like many of the Volquartsen rimfires, it’s good for hunting and precision shooting. MSRP: $1,537
10. KIDD Innovations
With KIDD’s aftermarket accessories, you can pretty much build a custom 10/22. They have stocks/chassis, triggers, barrels, bolts, and anything else you might want to upgrade your rimfire. Barrels run from $175 to $240 depending on length, whether you want it threaded for a suppressor, and/or fluted. KIDD’s two-stage triggers are held in high regard among competitive shooters. You can dial the pull weight down to 6 ounces or up to 2.5 pounds, but they are pricey ($300). Custom bolts will fit in any KIDD receiver and can be modified to fit a factory 10/22 receiver.