Ask just about any shooter what rifle they started with and they’ll tell you it was a rifle chambered for .22 LR. This rifle makes sense for young and beginning shooters – and most people, once you upgrade from a BB gun, you get a .22 LR rifle.
This makes plenty of sense. A .22 LR rifle is a versatile weapon. It can be used for target shooting, plinking, and all sorts of small game hunting. The weapons are also lightweight, easy to learn to shoot proficiently, have very little kickback at all, are available in a wide variety of sizes and action types, and affordable. The ammunition is cheap, too, meaning you can take your gun to the range and fire hundreds of rounds for less than the price of a case of beer.
Due to the relatively low stopping power these rifles aren’t recommended for self-defense – for that experts generally recommend a shotgun or possibly a handgun – but a .22 LR rifle is all you have, you can definitely defend yourself with it.
In short, the .22 LR rifle is a gun that every single shooter or hunter in the country should have in their gun safe. It works for everyone from experienced shooters to beginners and can be a fun and useful option no matter how often or where you shoot.
We’ve put together this guide for those considering picking up a .22 LR – and selected our recommendations across a variety of styles, actions, and uses to point you in the right direction.
Comparison of the Best .22 LR Rifles
What to Look for in a Quality .22 LR Rifle
Choosing the best .22 LR rifle is all about deciding how you want to use the gun. Almost any modern rifle chambered for .22 LR will work but you need to think about things like whether or not you need a hunting rifle, a target shooting rifle, or a rifle for competitive shooting.
1. Fit with Intended Use
Thinking about how you plan to use your gun will help you identify if you need to buy a semi-auto rifle or if you can go with a bolt action, break-action, pump-action, or lever-action gun.
It will also help you decide if you can get a gun with traditional iron sights or if you’ll need to purchase a scope for your weapon.
Once you know how you plan to use your new rifle, start thinking about build quality. The good news is that no matter your price point, you can find a .22 LR rifle with sufficient build quality. Many of our recommendations below are extremely affordable.
2. Name Recognition
When it comes to ensuring you’re going with a high-quality rifle, we urge you to stick to well-known brands. Companies like Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Henry Repeating Arms, and Marlin have been making guns for decades.
They know how to make firearms that will shoot well for generations. Avoid any firearm from a brand you don’t know or a deal that sounds too good to be true.
Buying a .22 LR rifle is rocket science, but you want a gun you can rely on, and going with a well-established brand with a good track record will ensure this. With that in mind, here are our top picks.
The Best .22 LR Rifles Reviewed
Best Overall (Top Choice):
The rifle that our experts kept coming back to is the Ruger 10/22 Takedown. The Ruger 10/22 has long been a favorite of many shooters, and Ruger has made the carbine version of the rifle since the mid-1960s. This semi-automatic rifle has consistently been one of the most reliable, affordable, and accurate .22 LRs over the years.
5.5 lbs of .22 LR fun
The Takedown version provides some further versatility thanks to the ability to take the firearm apart into two parts with the quick button release. There are several versions of the 10/22 Takedown, though our experts recommend one with a synthetic stock as opposed to wood. The synthetic stock requires less care and will look good year after year.
You can get a Ruger 10/22 Takedown with barrel lengths running from 16.4 inches all the way up to 18.5 inches. The rifle’s standard rotary magazine holds 10 rounds, but you can buy versions of the gun with a 25-round magazine or purchase one of those magazines aftermarket. Speaking of aftermarket parts, there are hundreds of options for customizing your Ruger 10/22 and making it into your own personal weapon.
This is another major advantage of this gun and enables you to save weight or add performance upgrades like a precision rifled barrel or rimfire scope of your choice.
The semi-automatic action is a blowback design. This means ejection of the spent cartridge and the loading of another round is done automatically, hence why Ruger calls the gun an autoloading rifle. It’s this semi-automatic action, that helps make the 10/22 so reliable and easy to use. The rifle is designed to work decade after decade, and that is why it has become one of the most popular sporting Ruger precision rimfire rifles of all time.
The Ruger 10/22 takedown has a push-button release
- Reliable and accurate
- Easy and fun to shoot
- Proven semi-auto design
- Easy to dismantle and transport
- Other models are more compact
- Some variations can get expensive
- Customization isn’t cheap
Best AR-Style .22:
The Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 Sport is the rifle to get if you’re looking for a sporting rifle with a tactical design. The M&P series of rifles from Smith & Wesson is legendary among shooters, and the M&P 15-22 is one of our experts’ favorites, taking its cues from the AR platform but making them work for the rimfire set.
The weapon features a semi-automatic action with a 25-round magazine, a 16.5-inch barrel, multiple Picatinny rails, and a polymer handle and stock, and a combat-ready flash hider. The rifle comes with front and rear adjustable and removable sights as well as integrated scope mounts. Most owners do remove these sights in favor of a scope or a red-dot sight. It can also be broken down for easy cleaning and transport.
There's a reason everyone loves the M&P 15-22
This firearm is made for hunting and all forms of recreational shooting, and it can even be used in competition with the right setup and optics. Our testers recommend it as a recreational and competition firearm over a hunting weapon, although there’s certainly no reason you couldn’t hunt small game with the M&P 15-22 Sport.
Like with the Ruger 10/22, there is a long list of products for you to upgrade or customize your M&P 15-22 Sport. The rifle is perfectly fine as is, but most shooters buy it as a reliable and high-quality base to build a firearm that they truly love. With plenty of aftermarket parts and support, there’s not much you can’t do to this rifle, making it one of the most customizable rifles on sale today.
The M&P 12-22 comes with a 25 round easy-load magazine.
- Almost endlessly customizable
- A large number of possible uses
- Breaks down for easy transport
- Extremely lightweight
- Easy to handle
- Tactical design isn’t for everyone
- You might spend more on upgrades than the gun
Best Pump Action .22 LR:
There aren’t many pump-action .22 LR rifles out there. Most are semi-automatic or bolt action, but if you want something a little different, then a pump 22 can be a smart way to go. Nobody does a pump .22 LR gun better than Henry Repeating Arms. The Henry Pump Action Octagon 22 is a unique and impressive offering.
The rifle offers a blue octagonal barrel that measures 20 inches, a grooved receiver to mount a scope, Marbles semi-buckhorn sights that are fully adjustable, a beautiful walnut stock, and a 16-round capacity inside the classic tubular magazine.
Operating the rifle is as simple as pumping the action and cocking the hammer. There’s no manual safety on this model, but with the classic hammer, our testers found you don’t need one. Henry has a grooved release button for the forend that will allow you to eject unspent shells at the end of your shooting or hunting session.
Our testers found this rifle to very reliable and while it lacks some of the customizability of the Ruger and Smith & Wesson discussed above, if you’re buying an American-classic design like this, you likely won’t want to change much other than putting a scope on the rifle. Our experts also noted the trigger pull wasn’t as smooth as some more modern designs, but that’s likely due to the more old-school design.
Furthermore, the rifle features a hinged floorplate for better stability and recoil reduction and an ergonomically designed stock made of durable synthetic materials.
To make things even more affordable, it comes with a 3-9×40 scope, meaning you don’t have to spend extra cash on an optic. The carbon steel barrel facilitates great accuracy at a distance and won’t corrode easily.
- Unique pump design
- Beautiful walnut stock
- Classic look
- A simple action that’s reliable
- Easy to use and handle
- Slightly clunky operation
- Lack of customization options
Best Survival 22:
If you’re in the market for a real survival rifle that can be packed away into a small and lightweight package, the Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle is a must-have. This little rifle is a takedown model and since 1959 it has been the go-to for Air Force pilots should they need to eject in a remote area.
The AR-7 is today used by a wide variety of survivalists and outdoorsmen, including bush pilots, backpackers, and all sorts of backcountry adventurers. The little rifle measures just 16.5 inches long, and the hollow synthetic stock is crafted to store the action, barrel, receiver and two eight-shot magazines when not in use. That makes it easy to pack away or store somewhere when it’s not needed.
Our experts found that assembly is extremely easy and takes less than a minute. There are no tools required, and you can go from a fully disassembled gun to being ready-to-fire in very little time at all. Another cool feature of this design is that when it’s fully taken down and packed away, it will actually float in the water, which could be important in a survival situation.
In terms of actually shooting the little gun, our testers found this rifle to be more accurate than expected. It also doesn’t jam and is of very high-quality. We’d expect nothing less of a rifle that was loved by Air Force pilots since the late 1950s, and the AR-7 delivers. If you’re an avid backpacker or an outdoor enthusiast, this gun is for you.
- Easy to pack or store
- Ingenius takedown design
- Floats in water
- Easy and fun to shoot
- More accurate than you expect
- Magazines only hold 8 rounds
- Not much room for customization
- Limited range
Affordable, accurate, simple and reliable, the Marlin Model 60SB is a gun that has a loyal fanbase. The rifle was introduced in 1960 and has been one of the go-to’s for new shooters looking for an economical rifle. Over 11 million have been made
Marlin’s Model 60 features a stainless steel barrel measuring 19 inches, a Monte Carlo walnut-finished hardwood stock, a tubular magazine that can hold up to 14 rounds, and a semi-automatic design.
The rifle has a blowback operation with the spent shell ejecting on the right side of the firearm. The 60SB comes with traditional iron sights, but the receiver is grooved and you can easily attach a scope.
Our testers found the rifle to be easy to shoot accurately and easy to handle whether you’re at the range or out in the field. The trigger was slightly stiffer than some of the competition, but it doesn’t cause major issues. Like the Model 39A discussed above, this rifle is very accurate thanks to the Marlin Micro-Groove rifling and the long barrel. It’s a great option for new shooters, but even veteran shooters will find the Marlin Model 60SB satisfying.
- Accurate and well-built
- Strong history
- Autoloader with a tubular magazine
- Simple operation
- Easy to handle
- Not as customizable as the competition
- Stiff trigger pull
Wrapping it up
The Ruger 10/22 – specifically the Takedown Variant – is our .22 LR top choice for the general shooter. It’s a tried and true firearm with a long track record and is one of the best all-around guns out there. You can also customize the rifle easily for however you plan to use it. This is a huge added bonus of the fun. The other options showcased here are good choices, but our experts hold the Ruger 10/22 in high esteem.
Finding the right .22 LR rifle will ensure you have a gun that you can shoot in a wide variety of situations reliably. As we said above the .22 LR caliber is a versatile little round. It’s viable for small game hunting, target shooting, and plenty of other applications. You should have one in your gun safe, I know I do.