Going long with accurate .22s is one of the best ways to improve your shooting skills
Precision rifle shooting is experiencing an all-time high in popularity and .22 rimfire shooting is experiencing a similar reception. The reasons for the coincident rise in rimfire shooting are the absence of recoil, the relatively short target distances, which makes ranges easier to find, and the slightly lower expenses associated with rimfire competition.
Precision Rimfire vs. Centerfire: Similarities
While precision rimfire shooting comes with some unique characteristics, it’s also important to cover the similarities it shares with centerfire precision rifle competition. The main similarity is there isn’t much difference in the costs of the gear, because a lot of the gear is the same. Rimfire rifles can use the same chassis, stocks, triggers, and scopes as centerfire rifles. Zermatt and Vudoo are the top-of-the-line rimfire manufacturers and prices for barrels, actions, or barreled actions are about what you’d expect to spend for the same components in centerfire. CZ, Tikka, and Bergara offer competitive rifles that cost less, so it is possible to save on gear costs if the absolute best stuff isn’t desired.
Unique Elements of Precision Rimfire
While there are gear similarities, rimfire rifles also possess some unique characteristics of which the shooter needs to be aware. The first is rimfire rifles assembled from custom actions and barrels don’t always bolt into a chassis and feed reliably. The size of the cartridge case head (the bottom of the cartridge) is much smaller on a rimfire cartridge than it is on a centerfire cartridge, so when the bolt comes forward to push a round out of the magazine and into the chamber, it has to hit a much smaller target. If you have a favorite chassis that has a Remington 700 inlet, chances are the Vudoo or the Rim-X will work just fine. However, if the magazine doesn’t sit at just the right height, the rimfire rifle can require some work to function reliably. The Rim-X magazine has an adjustable tab on the magazine’s spine that allows the shooter to fine-tune magazine height and, for this reason, gets my top recommendation for the ultimate in precision rimfire rifle reliability.
Precision Rimfire Ammunition
Another difference that comes with rimfire rifles is the ammunition. Unlike centerfire ammunition that can be loaded by hand and tailored to match a rifle’s chamber, .22 Long Rifle (LR) ammunition comes from the factory. There is also a lot of variation between brands, ammunition lines, and even one day’s factory production to the next. The only way to see how a particular lot of .22 LR ammunition will do out of a rifle is to load it and shoot it. It’s also best to get a few hundred rounds on a new rifle before testing lots of ammunition for accuracy.
There’s a real temptation when shooting to get the cheapest ammunition possible and that’s a huge mistake with rimfire. I wouldn’t say the most expensive ammunition is always going to shoot the best, but there are a handful of premium loads that usually achieve the best accuracy out of a precision rimfire rifle like those listed above in this article.
Ammunition like RWS 50, Eley Tenex, and Lapua Center-X or Midas is usually a great place to start. .22LR has a bunch of different chamber designs, so don’t be surprised to see a rifle prefer either Lapua or Eley/RWS. The bullets each of these ammunition manufacturers uses are uniquely shaped and most chambers will favor either Lapua or the other two. I’ve only had one custom rimfire rifle that shot all of them well and that rifle was from Primal Rights. If all of the brands listed above are too expensive, try SK Rifle and SK Long Range Match, or Eley target and CCI Standard Velocity. One of those is likely to produce good results from a precision rifle.
Precision rimfire is here to stay and will likely outlast its centerfire cousin. All it takes to have a killer rimfire precision match is targets out to 300 yards instead of 1,000 yards and beyond for centerfire. The reduced noise is a benefit for everyone (especially the range’s neighbors) and the absence of recoil means even the kids can get in on the action. If you haven’t tried a precision rimfire match, you’re missing out on fun for the whole family.