.22-caliber rimfire rifles are some of the most popular firearms in the United States, allowing gun owners to economically hunt, plink, train, and introduce friends and family members to the world of shooting. Rifles chambered in .22 Long Rifle are available in various action types and configurations, but bolt action and semi-automatic are the most common.
How Does Bolt Action Work?
The purpose of the bolt is to load and unload the chamber, support the cartridge case head, and lock (obturate) the breech during firing. In a semi-automatic firearm, the cycle of operation — feeding, chambering, locking, firing, extracting, ejecting, and cocking — is performed automatically when you press the trigger.
However, in a bolt-action rifle, the shooter manually operates the bolt between shots, typically via a bolt handle on the side. Bolt-action rifles can be divided into two main types: Turnbolt and straight pull. In rimfire rifles, the turnbolt is the most common.
In the turnbolt rifle design, you lift the bolt handle upward to unlock the bolt from the receiver, then pull the bolt handle rearward to extract and eject the spent cartridge casing (or open the action if no cartridge is present).
Pushing the bolt forward strips a fresh cartridge from the magazine and feeds it into the chamber. Rotating the bolt handle downward locks the breech. Depending on the bolt-action rifle design, the act of opening the action or closing it may cock the striker.
Why Bolt Action?
When you’re searching for a .22 rifle, you have many choices. There are bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, single-shot, and semi-automatic rifles chambered in .22 Long Rifle.
While there’s an ongoing debate regarding which action type is the best, bolt-action rifles such as the popular Ruger 10/22 do have two distinct advantages when compared with semi-autos:
A bolt-action rifle is simpler and has fewer moving parts than your standard semi-automatic rifle, increasing its potential reliability.
As a semi-automatic firearm uses the energy generated by the fired cartridge to perform the operating cycle, it can be sensitive to different types of ammunition. Manufacturers often recommend the use of specific brands of ammunition. A bolt-action rifle can fire every kind of rimfire ammunition as the shooter cycles the weapon manually.
Five Reasons to Own a .22 Rifle
Regardless of action type, there are five major reasons you should consider adding a .22-caliber rifle to your collection.
Recreational Target Shooting
Many gun owners start with a .22-caliber pistol or rifle as children. Informal recreational target shooting, also called plinking, is a fun pastime you can practice using a rimfire rifle. As you plink, you’ll be shooting at targets of opportunity at unknown distances or nonstandard targets, such as tin cans and glass bottles.
Training/Learning the Fundamentals
Whether you’re learning how to shoot or introducing someone to shooting, a .22-caliber firearm is the standard training weapon for beginners. There are several reasons for this:
- .22 rimfire ammunition is relatively inexpensive, allowing for cheap range practice
- Rifles are inexpensive to buy, especially used
- Recoil is practically non-existent — perfect for training youngsters
- Noise is minimal — the report and muzzle blast are inoffensive
- .22 rifles can be very accurate
This allows the budget-conscious shooter to practice the fundamentals of marksmanship without spending a fortune on ammunition. In addition, there are rimfire variants of popular centerfire firearms, including AR-15-style rifles, designed to allow familiarization firing.
The practice of dry firing — dropping the hammer or striker on an empty chamber — can cause damage to rimfire rifles because the firing pin strikes the barrel face. As a result, always consult the owner’s manual before dry firing your rimfire rifle. You can also purchase snap caps, which absorb the blow of the firing pin, protecting it from impacting steel.
While .22 pistols and rifles are quieter than many centerfire firearms, there’s still a place for a sound suppressor if that interests you. Attaching a suppressor to a .22 rifle will transform it from a weapon making enough noise to hurt your ears to one that you can safely fire without hearing protection.
Small Game Hunting
If you need to hunt squirrels, rabbits, or other varmints, a centerfire hunting rifle suitable for deer, such as the 6.5 Creedmoor, can turn the animal into pink vapor, depriving you of meat for the pot. The .22 Long Rifle cartridge is perfect for hunting small game, as it efficiently kills varmints without causing excessive tissue damage.
However, if you want to hunt big game, you’ll need a heavier caliber that can penetrate deeply and cause more permanent wound cavitation. A .22 rifle is also ideal for pest removal on farm and ranch steads.
The advantages of the .22 rifle as a hunting weapon do warrant a place in your survival plans.
As .22 Long Rifle cartridges are lightweight and compact, you can carry more ammunition for the same weight as centerfire rifle cartridges or shotgun shells. Like the ammunition, rimfire rifles tend to be lightweight, relatively compact, and handy.
Following a long-term survival scenario, such as a socio-economic collapse, Col. Jeff Cooper suggested that .22 Long Rifle ammunition could fulfill the role of “ballistic wampum” — a substitute for paper money and coinage. As Cooper noted: “You can’t drink paper, and you can’t eat gold . . . but ammunition you can shoot, and by shooting you can both stock your larder and keep the ill disposed off your back.”
Popular.22 Bolt-Action Rifles
Ruger American Rimfire
If you’re in the market for a bolt-action .22 rifle, the Ruger American Rimfire is a good place to start your search. The Ruger American has an 18 or 22” barrel, depending on the variant, and a 60° bolt throw, providing sufficient clearance for a telescopic sight. It also features the company’s Marksman Adjustable trigger, which allows you to set the trigger pull weight from 3–5 lbs.
Fed from a 10-round, flush-fit detachable magazine, the Ruger American is compatible with common 10/22 magazines. Several variants also ship with a Picatinny rail, allowing you to attach your choice of optical sight.
Mossberg 802 Plinkster
A low-cost alternative for the budget-conscious shooter, the Mossberg 802 Plinkster has a stippled grip and fore-end for increased traction, fiber-optic adjustable sights, and a dovetailed receiver, allowing you to attach ⅜” scope mounts.
Like the Ruger American Rimfire, it’s fed from a 10-round detachable box magazine. Although .22 rimfire rifles aren’t known for producing much recoil, the Plinkster features a thick recoil pad, ensuring your son or daughter will have a comfortable first range session.
Find Your Ideal .22 Rifle
At IFA Tactical, we sell a variety of firearms to suit the needs of every gun owner, from hunting and competitive target shooting to self-defense. We understand the versatility of the .22 rifles. Give us a call at (586) 275-2176, and our staff will answer any questions you may have regarding .22-caliber firearms, ammunition, and accessories.