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 rimfire 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.
In This Article:
.22 LR Rifle Comparison
Below is my list of the best .22 LR rifles for 2022. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of rifles.
.22 LR Rifle Reviews
1. Best Overall: Ruger 10/22
The rifle that our experts kept coming back to is the Ruger 10/22 Carbine. 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 rimfire rifles over the years.
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.
Many of configuration options
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.
- 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
2. Best AR-Style .22 LR Rifle: S&W M&P 15-22
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.
AR style, AR Advantages
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.
You get 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
A Tactical .22 LR Rifle
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
3. Runner-Up: Savage Arms A22
Few rifles allow me to just get out to the range and just enjoy myself like the Savage A22. I’ve put a shocking amount of ammo through my A22 over the years, and it just eats everything I put in the 10-round mags, and it’s my go-to small game rifle.
The 22-inch, crowned barrel offers more accuracy than the standard 18-inch .22LR barrel, and (provided you’re happy running the rotary mags) will hit everything you point in its direction.
Using the same thread-in headspace system as Savage centerfire rifles gives the simple blowback action an approachable, easy-to-use feel that makes peeling off round after round as gratifying as can be — all without the pain of and expense of larger-bore rifles.
In addition to the smooth action, the AccuTrigger is so approachable it’s not even funny. It’s really like having a competing trigger right out of the box — although not super light — the trigger has zero take-up.
The trigger shoe both serves as a safety should the rifle be dropped and gives the trigger a really predictable quality. I find it eliminates trigger slapping and provides a nice, positive contact that helps with control.
Coupled with the fact it’s user-adjustable it just rocks pull after pull.
The polymer stock fits just right and keeps everything in place — whether standing, prone, or in a tripod — and it’s super well-balanced. It always feels like a solid, stable platform.
Paired with a decent optic (my cheapo Cabela’s 3×9 rimfire scope has never let me down) and the A22 should have you consistently punching holes in paper or knocking down varmints time after time.
My one rub with the A22 is the rotary mag. It’s not a terrible mag — in fact, it’s super consistent and easy to load and remove. The A22 certainly prefers to be loaded with it.
My real issue is with the rotary magazine design itself. They’re slow to load, impossible to tell how many rounds remain, and just a clunky experience.
That leads me to the second gripe — there are very few aftermarket options for a decent A22 magazine, I have used the Butler Creek mag to various degrees of success — but I’d say its failure rate is probably 25-30% — far too high for me to pack it out the range.
- Love the AccuTrigger
- Comfortable polymer stock
- Optic ready
- Rotary magazines are functional but clunky
- No last round bolt hold-open
- Lack of aftermarket magazine options
4. Best Pump Action .22 LR: Henry Octagon
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 rimfire rifle 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.
The trigger pull isn’t going to be as smooth as some more modern designs, but that’s likely due to the more old-school design.
- 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
5. Best Survival 22 LR Rifle: Henry AR-7
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 used by a wide variety of survivalists and outdoorsmen, including bush pilots, backpackers, and all sorts of backcountry adventurers.
The little survival 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 — it also helped it make our list of best survival rifles.
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 shooting the little gun, this rifle is more accurate than expected, given the survival rifle angle.
It also doesn’t jam and is constructed with durable, high quality materials that will take a beating in the backcountry.
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
6. Also Great: Marlin Model 60
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
Why a Rifle in .22LR?
.22LR is one of the smallest, least powerful calibers available on the market today. So, if it doesn’t offer much range and has just a fraction of the power of centerfire cartridges, why bother?
We think there are a few good reasons to pick a gun in this caliber.
First and Foremost, Fun
First and foremost, shooting .22LR is some of the most fun you can have while shooting. This is thanks in part to the low noise and recoil.
For young shooters, this can make the hobby a lot less intimidating, and a .22 LR is often the perfect training rifle. For more experienced target shooters, it still makes for a fun gun to plink cans, put holes in paper, or just hae fun shooting while working on basic shooting skills.
Cheap Fun, Too.
Second, .22LR is often some of the cheapest ammunition you can find, even when other calibers are being sold for outrageous prices.
This means that you can keep shooting .22LR when you might be able to afford or find other calibers at an affordable price point.
Especially with the rifles that look and function like larger-caliber weapons, this can be a valuable training tool to keep skills like trigger control and sight picture from expiring in times when you can’t find the larger calibers or are unwilling to spend three times reasonable prices for 5.56mm. Thus, we think a .22LR platform can be an excellent training aid even for more experienced shooters.
Small Game & Varminting
Finally, the .22 LR is an excellent option for hunting small game or eradicating pests. Now, we’re not going to try to take a deer with our Ruger 10/22, but for squirrels and other small game, the .22 LR is one of the few calibers that are likely to kill these smaller animals without without completely destroying it. Plus, at the ranges you’re likely to encounter a rat or gopher you don’t need something that’s extremely accurate — a “minute of squirrel” will do nicely.
If you’re shooting subsonic ammunition, you might even be able to get away with hunting without needing hearing protection, though we still recommend wearing at least earplugs with every single shot that you take regardless of how quiet a particular ammunition loading might be.
Types of .22LR Rifles
Some of the most common .22LR firearms you’ll find today are those that are semi-auto rifles, which means one bullet is fired per trigger pull but not reloading or cycling the action between shots.
These are typically fed from box magazines, though some old models like the Browning SA22 fire from magazine tubes.
Nowadays, you can also find models that look very much like an AR15, and feed from similar magazines. Semi-Automatic .22LRs are many people’s first rifle, and are a major staple of the .22LR as a whole: if you’re brand new to shooting, we think a semi-auto .22LR is an excellent place to start.
A little less common than the semi-automatics, there are also pump and lever-action .22LRs that are either original designs, or scaled-down versions of older guns from the Old West era.
These guns fire one round with each pull of the trigger, but in order to feed the next round into the chamber, the shooter has to work either a pump or a lever to eject the spent cartridge and load a fresh one into the chamber. These can be a great deal of fun, and shooting a .22LR lever gun is one of the better shooting experiences that we’ve ever had.
For those looking to push the accuracy of the .22 LR to the limit, a bolt action rifle like Ruger’s Precision Rimfire rifle might be the way to go. These guns often feed from box magazines these days, but instead of cycling with a recoil system, a bolt action requires that the shooter manually operates the bolt with a handle on the side of it to eject the spent round and load a new one.
These are a less common type of .22 LR rifle but are common among people who like to shoot for accuracy, as the lack of moving parts makes them an accurate rifle from one shot to the next.
Some, typically older .22LRs are single-shot bolt actions. That is to say, they do not have a magazine at all and the user has to feed individual rounds into the chamber.
There is one major advantage to this kind of rifle: they can be exceptionally cheap to manufacture. Nowadays you’re more likely to find these used as opposed to new, and often in estate sales. Over the last few years, though, we’ve noticed that a few Turkish companies appear to be importing these for various brands.
Essential .22 LR Rifle Features
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, and if things like an adjustable trigger or threaded barrel will be in your rimfire “must have” list.
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.
3. Action Type
When I’m buying any firearm I’m thinking about the kind of action that will suit my needs best.
If this is going to be someone’s first gun, we think that a semi-automatic is probably the best call as they’re the most common. Lately, I’ve been having a bit of an Old West kick, so thinking of a lever-action gun might sound pretty good! If you want to absolutely punch ragged hole after ragged hole, bolt action rifles will give you that satisfaction.
Again, it’s important to think about what you plan on using the firearm for.
For a kid, getting a smaller or youth labeled model might make a lot of sense, because they’ll be able to more comfortably hold the rifle and get a good sight picture.
Adults, on the other hand, will likely prefer guns with longer stocks.
5. Aftermarket Support
Especially for semi-automatics and AR-style .22 LR rifles, considering how much magazines cost and their general availability is a big concern.
I like guns to come with more than one, but if your gun does not come with more than a single magazine, buying one when you get the gun makes sense.
From there, if you’re the kind of person who likes to accessorize their firearm, you might want to get a model that has some rail space for accessory mounting.
Pricing for .22LR Rifles
- $150-$250. For about $150, it is possible to get a basic .22LR rifle, usually a used one. Every now and again, a manufacturer or importer will run a major sale and it will be possible to score a rifle, even a new semi-automatic for around this price. These sales are fairly infrequent, but we’d look around Black Friday as well as Christmas for some of these incredible sales as dealers look to end out their sales year with a bang. Also, don’t forget used options: there are a lot of almost-new guns that go for fractions of MSRP at local gun stores.
- $250-$400. For this price, you can expect to get a nice, if basic, newly made .22LR from most manufacturers. Gunmakers know that .22LR is a popular first gun for people to give to their kids, and thus price their basic models at a pricepoint that they know a lot of people can afford. Again, going used is not a bad idea here, either, if you are looking for a special or older model. That said, it’s possible to walk out of the gun store with a new .22LR, a magazine, and maybe even a soft case for this price.
- $400 or More. At this price range, you’ll be looking at slightly nicer guns in terms of things like engraving and features, and some may well come with a lower-end optic thrown in the deal as well. Additionally, this is the part of the market where you’ll find .22LR rifles that look like ARs and can serve as good training tools. Of course, the sky is the limit on price, but for around $400, you can get effectively whatever you like in terms of actions and features.
Wrapping it up
The Ruger 10/22 Carbine 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.