May 2017

Rimfire Field-Rifle Shoot-out: Marlin, Mossberg, and Ruger

To find the best 22 LR self-loading rifle, we fired them with iron sights, a red dot, and with rifle scopes. Tested: The Marlin 7000, Mossberg Plinkster, and Ruger’s 10-22 M1 Commemorative.

Rimfire Field-Rifle Shoot-out: Marlin, Mossberg, and Ruger

Besides shooting the Ruger M1 10-22 with its iron sights, we also attached a modern red-dot sight since the Picatinny rail made it so easy. The TruGlo 30mm Red Dot ($58 at CheaperThanDirt.com) was easy to zero. Once mounted and moved to the highest brightness setting, the rifle gave excellent “combat” results at close range to 50 yards on human-silhouette targets. Accuracy was good to excellent when shooting for pure speed. The rail option of the M1 carbine is definitely a good addition, even if it’s not a pure “M1” option.

In this installment, we test three rimfire rifles from three makers. The genre is the very popular and flexible field-gun description. The 22 LR rifle is an excellent trainer, a favorite recreational shooter, and a great small-game rifle. The rimfire is the one rifle every rifleman must have. The field gun is by definition, and the definition is liberal, a versatile go-anywhere get-anything shooter. Informal practice and small-game shooting are great pastimes. And while we are not focusing on personal defense, we should note that a good quality 22-caliber self-loader is a formidable firearm in skilled hands. Is a 22 LR a self-defense chambering we’d recommend? No. Have untold numbers of bad guys been deterred by being hit with a 22 LR round fired from a pistol or rifle? Yes. So reliability is important as well.

The rifle we are looking for should be light but not too light. It should be light enough for carrying for a day in the field, but it should have sufficient heft for good offhand shooting. While we carefully measure accuracy by firing from a solid bench rest, we also want a rifle that retains a good portion of its accuracy in offhand fire. Thus, a good balance of weight and a decent trigger action are desirable traits.

Historically, probably more 22 LR rifles have been set up as bolt actions, but because of their light recoil and shot-to-shot speed, self-loading rifles are the biggest sellers today. To keep prices in check, we selected a mix of readily available used and new firearms as well as optics for greater coverage of the best choices. As noted above, reliability is always important, but in this test, we allowed that if the firearm occasionally ties up and we lose a squirrel, we were more willing to give a gun a pass than if we were testing personal-defense firearms. It is almost a given that a 22 self-loading rifle malfunctions from time to time, and the fault is more often due to the construction of the 22 rimfire cartridge than any other single variable. We searched for ideal rifles and found some good picks. All had good points. Here’s how they performed on a gun-by-gun basis.

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