May 02, 2014
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Many hunters and shooters started out with a rimfire rifle, whether plinking cans or hunting squirrels and other small game. Often, however, as we mature and begin to hunt larger game, we put away these guns in favor of larger centerfires or shotguns.
Part of the reason for this switch to larger caliber firearms was a result of the limited power that rimfires produced and the relatively small pool of rifle designs from which to choose.
Today, however, the rimfire market has expanded to cover just about every platform and style imaginable, from small, lightweight single-shots to semiautomatic .22 magnums with carbon fiber barrels and laminate stocks. These new crops of .17s and .22s range in price from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on the manufacturing process and features.
Just as rimfire rifles have undergone a dramatic change in the last 30 years, so too have rimfire cartridges. The introduction of the .17 Winchester Super Magnum in 2012 heralded the development of the first rimfire cartridge that surpassed 3,000 feet per second. Though it's still not a big game cartridge, the introduction of the hot .17s made the modern rimfire capable of shooting flatter and hitting harder than at any previous time in history.
Selecting the best modern rimfires is a difficult task, as there are several good guns and loads from which to choose. Some of these designs offer modern styling and incorporate advanced machining and materials, and some are more traditional in their design and function.
No matter whether you're teaching a youngster how to shoot, punching paper targets or hunting small game and varmints, there's a modern rimfire that's right for you.
CZ's slick little 455 bolt-action
is one of the very best rimfires available, and there are several different iterations of the 455 from which to choose. There's the Lux version, which features a classy walnut stock with quality iron sights, a varmint precision trainer with a Manners composite stock, a training rifle with a 24.8-inch barrel and many others.
New for 2014 is the American synthetic model that is threaded for use with a suppressor. No matter what you're looking for in a rimfire rifle there's a 455 to suit your needs, and there are combo versions that allow you to switch between .22 LR and .17 HMR barrels. All 455s share the same solid, reliable bolt-action design and they are extremely accurate. From target shooting to plinking and hunting, there's a 455 that's just right for you.
Marlin Golden 39A
Marlin's sleek little lever gun
is one of the best .22 rimfires available, and it's lots of fun to shoot. The tubular magazine holds 19 .22 LR cartridges, 21 .22 longs, or 26 .22 shorts, so you'll have plenty of time between reloads. The Marlin is a high-quality rifle with a checkered walnut stock and a recoil pad, although kick is hardly a factor.
The folding rear buckhorn sight is adjustable, and the brass bead front sight has a hood. It comes with sling studs and the metalwork is treated with a Mar-Shield finish. The 39 is a very accurate .22, which makes it a great target and small-game rifle. The 39 has been around for many years, and it's still one of the best rimfires you can buy.
Mossberg 702 Plinkster
Mossberg may be best known for their line of pump shotguns, but the company's 702 semiauto Plinkster .22
is one of the best rimfires available. It's available in a wide variety of configurations and styles, including a new Duck Commander version with a camp stock and thumbhole version with a tip-down fore-end. The sights are adjustable, accuracy is excellent and the 702 utilizes a removable magazine that holds 11 .22 LR cartridges.
The semiautomatic design is reliable, and this gun works well for training, plinking, target shooting and small-game hunting. With MSRPs starting as low as $182, it's also one of the most economical .22 semiautos on the market. At this price, it allows you to purchase tons of ammo. That's a good thing, because the 702 Plinkster is loads of fun to shoot.
Remington 572 Fieldmaster
is one of the last remaining pump-action rimfires, but it's loads of fun to shoot. The tubular magazine accepts .22 short, long, and long rifle cartridges. The adjustable iron sights are some of the very best you'll find on any rimfire rifle, and the high-comb walnut stock is excellent. With a smooth and reliable action, these rifles are plenty accurate enough for small game hunting.
The 572 has been around a long time, and it's got a classy look. The grooved receiver accepts scope bases and the cross-bolt safety is easy to use. Pump-action .22s were once common, but the Remington 572 is one of the last rifles of this type available today. It's survived this long because it is well-built, accurate, and extremely reliable.
celebrates 50 years of production in 2014, and it's still one of the very best semiautomatic rimfires ever designed. Functionally, it has remained much the same during its lifespan, with a blowback-operated semiautomatic action and a rotary box magazine. It's an extremely reliable and accurate design, and the 10/22 is available in a wide variety of models including Target, Takedown, Compact, and Tactical variations. There's also no more customizable rimfire on the market.
Long before the current AR-15 platform craze, shooters were tweaking their 10/22s by adding new barrels, stocks and triggers. For small game hunting and plinking, it's still an outstanding choice. I still have my original Carbine model from my youth, though it's since undergone a lot of customization. It still shoots lights-out, and it's still one of my favorite guns.
Ruger American Rimfire
When Ruger introduced the budget-priced and oh-so-accurate American Rifle
, big game hunters took note. Now, the company is also offering an American rifle chambered in .22 LR, .22 WMR and .17 HMR. The American Rimfire comes with a synthetic stock featuring two different modular stocks, one with a high comb designed for use with a scope and one with a straight comb that aligns the eye with the adjustable iron sights.
It utilizes the same rotary magazine design found on the 10/22 and has a large, easy-to-find magazine release lever on the bottom of the rifle. The standard version has a 22-inch barrel with a 13.75-inch length of pull, and there's a compact version with an 18-inch barrel and 12.50 inch LOP. Both rifles come with the Modular Stock System. When I tested this gun for Rifle Shooter magazine I found that it was extremely smooth and accurate.
Smith and Wesson M&P 15-22
Over the past few years, AR rifles have become extremely popular for target shooting, hunting and home defense. Smith and Wesson brought many of the features found on larger AR platform rifles to the rimfire world with the introduction of the M&P 15-22
chambered in .22 Long Rifle. The M&P 15-22 shares many of the same controls as a larger AR platform rifle, which makes this a great training or practice gun before moving to a full-size AR.
The M&P 15-22 features a six-position collapsible stock, adjustable iron sights (with a rail that makes mounting additional optics simple), a quad-rail handguard and a polymer magazine. The reliable semiautomatic design means that this gun will keep running for years, and the quad rails make this a highly customizable rimfire.
Savage has been making high-quality rimfires for a long time, but for 2014 they are introducing the new B.Mag
in .17 Winchester Super Magnum. The B.Mag isn't just a modified version of an existing rifle design; rather, it is a complete redesign. The action features rear locking lugs and is designed to cock when the bolt is closed. The barrel utilizes Savage's thread-in headspacing, the same method used (with great success) on the company's centerfire rifles.
The B.Mag comes with a center-feed rotary magazine, a black synthetic stock and an AccuTrigger. It's a sleek and stylish rifle with an unmistakably modern design slant that is chambered for the hottest rimfire cartridge ever produced, the .17 WSM. The B. Mag's accuracy-enhancing features and the .17 WSM's blistering 3,000 fps muzzle velocity make this rifle/cartridge combo a serious long-range varmint rimfire.
Rimfire rifles are lightweight, produce little noise and recoil, and are relatively inexpensive to shoot. For these reasons, many youth shooters start out with rimfires. One of the keys to teaching youngsters to shoot is finding a rifle that fits them considering many young kids simply can't handle a full-size rimfire yet. Enter Savage's Rascal
, a stubby rimfire with an 11.25-inch length of pull that weighs less than 3 pounds.
It's a single-shot rifle with a carbon steel barrel and either a wood or synthetic stock. I learned to shoot with a single-shot .22 LR bolt gun, but it had pitiable sights, a heavy safety and a miserable, creepy trigger. The Rascal is built to a much higher standard. It comes with a large, adjustable peep sight, an easy-to-use safety and Savage's outstanding AccuTrigger. It's also drilled and tapped for mounting an optic. The Rascal is a great rifle to teach youngsters how to shoot, and it works well on small game like squirrels.
Winchester 1885 Low Wall Hunter Rimfire Octagon
The Winchester 1885
is an old design, but it still works well and is a great classic rimfire rifle chambered in .22 LR, .22 WMR, .17 HMR and the hot new .17 WSM. It's one of the most beautiful rifles available today, featuring an oil-finish walnut stock with a Schnabel forearm, 24-inch octagon barrel with a semi-buckhorn rear sight and brass bead front sight.
If you choose to mount an optic, the 1885 comes drilled and tapped, and it has sling studs. It's a fantastic little rifle chambered in a variety of different rimfire cartridges, and it's extremely accurate. It's not cheap, but there are few guns that can match the Winchester's panache and style.