A blowback-operated rifle needs a heavy bolt, an appropriate recoil spring, a stock, a barrel, and a feed device, and you have an affordable firearm. They are among the most uncomplicated firearms. Since Winchester introduced the Model 1903, Americans have enjoyed the 22 LR self-loading design. For plinking, marksmanship training, small-game hunting, and some types of competition, the 22 rifle is a great choice. The 22 rifle is a staple of American life. Many have successfully been pressed into service as defensive firearms, and the new rifles are better than ever in this role. Winchester, for instance, introduced the Wildcat rifle recently, and we have to admit it is a thoroughly modern rifle with a host of innovations. We wanted to test the Wildcat against some likely competitors, so we chose the Rossi Rimfire Rifle RS22L1811-TH 22 LR, $159; and the stalwart Ruger 10/22 Carbine 1151 22 LR, $235; to go up against a Winchester Wildcat 521100102 22 LR, $245.
We elected to fire each rifle with 200 cartridges plus the loads chosen for accuracy testing. We chose the Remington Thunderbolt and Winchester Wildcat ammunition for most of the range work. Each is a high-velocity 40-grain LRN loading. We also used the Fiocchi 38-grain HV for accuracy work. We began by firing the rifle at small targets at 25 yards and using the Winchester Wildcat ammo in rapid fire at silhouette targets. Here’s what we found:
Gun Tests Grade: A-
We found 10/22 rifles on the internet at various outlets for $261 to $310. During the height of the pandemic, one of the raters walked into an Academy Sports store and found four of these synthetic-stock rifles on the shelf at a fair price.
|Overall Length||37.0 in.|
|Barrel||Blued steel, 18.5 in. long, 1:16 RH twist, 6 grooves|
|Overall Height||3.2 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||5.2 lbs.|
|Weight Loaded||5.2 lbs.|
|Action||Satin black aluminum alloy|
|Barrel||Satin black steel|
|Stock Length of Pull||13.2 in.|
|Trigger Pull Weight||4.75 lbs.|
|Front Sight||Gold bead|
|Rear Sight||Adjustable steel, scope base adapter included|
The Ruger 10/22 is among the most popular rifles of all time. It has been in use for nearly 60 years. The simple blowback-operated rifle was a fresh and innovative design in 1964 and remains a valid choice for sporting use. The rifle’s best quality is its reliability. Second, the Ruger 10/22 rifle is supported by a cottage industry that offers aftermarket stocks, barrels, trigger upgrades, and many more accessories. This may be an important consideration when you purchase. Even so, here we let this rifle stand on its own merits, but just the same if you are planning a later upgrade, the Ruger 10/22 autoloader would be the clear choice.
The black-synthetic stock features a textured surface by the wrist and forward section of the fore end. You don’t need a lot of recoil control with this rimfire, but you do need to grip the rifle. In common with the other stocks, sling swivels are molded in. The sights are simple enough, with a standard adjustable rear and front post with a simple brass bead sight. The rear sight folds down for storage. These sights were at the bottom of the rankings for every shooter. While the sights are okay for most uses, they are inferior to the Winchester Wildcat for precision use and not as easily picked up as the Rossi RS22 rifle sights. Trigger compression of the 10/22 is the lightest of the test at 4.75 pounds.
The rifle disassembles easily. Start with a verified unloaded rifle, then loosen a screw in the stock and remove the barrel band. Tilt the barreled action out of the stock. An action pin fell out as we were disassembling the rifle, however, so it is wise to do such work on a solid color mat and not carpet. The Rossi RS22, with its free-floating barrel, demanded only that we remove two screws to field-strip the rifle. We rated the Ruger and the Rossi about the same in ease of break down. The Winchester, with its simple tool-less disassembly, is much easier to maintain than either the Ruger or the Rossi.
During the firing test, the rifle never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Fired offhand, the rifle just stayed on target and did not move. The bead front sight is well designed for accuracy, if not as bright as the Rossi. The Ruger is the heaviest rifle in the test, and while the 22 Long Rifle cartridge doesn’t kick much at all, so recoil abatement isn’t an issue, the weight can help your hold. Bench accuracy was fine, shading the Rossi by a margin and falling slightly behind the Winchester rifle. The best group at 25 yards was 1.25 inches. Most Ruger rifles will group five shots into 2 to 2.5 inches at 50 yards with quality optics.
Our Team Said: This rifle may not be as accurate as some other Ruger rifles we have tested, but it did well as far as reliability and accuracy go. It is certainly worth its price.
22 LR Range DataWe fired groups from an MTM K Zone gun rest from a braced benchrest firing position at 25 yards. We fired strings of three five-shot groups for each load in each gun. We measured velocities by firing over a RCBS Ammomaster Chrono-graph at 10 yards.
|Fiocchi PSD 38-grain High Velocity||Rossi RS22||Ruger 10/22||Winchester Wildcat|
|Muzzle Velocity||1269 fps||1244 fps||1258 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||136 ft.-lbs.||131 ft.-lbs.||133 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||1.65 in.||1.25 in.||0.90 in|
|Average Group||2.20 in.||1.60 in.||1.30 in.|
|Winchester Wildcat 40-grain CPRN||Rossi RS22||Ruger 10/22||Winchester Wildcat|
|Muzzle Velocity||1211 fps||1238 fps||1222 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||130 ft.-lbs.||136 ft.-lbs.||133 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||2.0 in.||1.40 in.||1.50 in.|
|Average Group||2.4 in.||1.80 in.||1.80 in.|
|Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain LRN||Rossi RS22||Ruger 10/22||Winchester Wildcat|
|Muzzle Velocity||1221 fps||1248 fps||1253 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||132 ft.-lbs.||138 ft.-lbs.||139 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||2.30 in.||1.65 in.||1.25 in.|
|Average Group||2.60 in.||1.85 in.||1.60 in.|
Value Guide 22 Rifle Rankings (Various Actions)
|Henry Pump Action Octagon H003T 22 S/L/LR, $500||Jul. 2022||A||Our Pick. Most accurate rifle of the trio. Smooth in operation and felt substantial in hand.|
|Taurus Pump Action Rifle M62R 22 LR, $400||Jul. 2022||A||A Winchester Model 62 knockoff that is fun to shoot. Worth owning if you can find one in good condition.|
|Rossi Gallery 22 RP22181SY 22 LR, $270||Jul. 2022||A-||Best Buy. We liked the updated look of the Gallery and found its accuracy to be good. Fun rifle for plinking.|
|Bergara B14R 22 LR, $950||Jun. 2022||A||Our Pick. The Bergara was ready to perform right out of the box. Heaviest, most accurate, most expensive.|
|Christensen Ranger 22 22 LR, $830||Jun. 2022||A||Were we to grade this quartet strictly for hunting, the Christensen would win running away.|
|Tikka T1X 22 LR, $519||Jun. 2022||B+||Best Buy. The most pedestrian of the rifles tested in this group, the Tikka would be suited for hunting afield.|
|Ruger Precision Rimfire 8401 22 LR, $480||Jun. 2022||B||Lots of features that should bring a smile to the face of competitive shooters. Would like to see more accuracy.|
|Henry Golden Boy Model H004 22 S/L/LR, $500||Feb. 2022||A||Our Pick. The Golden Boy Henry shines. It is heavy and has a very smooth operating lever.|
|Rossi Rio Bravo RL22181WD 22 LR, $300||Feb. 2022||A||Best Buy. Bravo to the Rio Bravo. The test rifle was accurate, lightweight, and had a smooth-cycling lever.|
|Chiappa LA322 Standard Carbine 920.383 22 LR, $290||Feb. 2022||D||The LA322 had several failures to feed and showed some soft firing-pin hits.|
|Browning BL-22 Grade I 024100103 22 S/L/LR, $700||Sep. 2021||A-||Our Pick. The fit and finish were superb, and that is reflected in the cost. Accuracy was the best of the three.|
|Henry Classic Lever Action 22 H001 22 S/L/LR, $386||Sep. 2021||A-||Best Buy. The Classic 22 Lever Henry is well made, fun to shoot and inexpensive. Accuracy was good.|
|Taylor’s & Co. Scout RIF/2045 22 LR, $594||Sep. 2021||A-||Styled after a resized Winchester Model 1873. We liked the option of adding an optic. Silver finish is striking.|
|Savage Model 64 Takedown 40207 22 LR, $212||Sep. 2020||A||Best Buy. Basically a Model 64 barrel and action attached to an abbreviated polymer stock.|
|Ruger 10/22 Takedown 11100 22 LR, $372||Sep. 2020||A||Our Pick. This has all the performance the iconic 10/22 is known for in a compact package.|
|KelTec Model SU22CA 22 LR, $373||Sep. 2020||A-||While not a true takedown rifle, the folding stock on the SU-22CA makes it easy to stow and go.|
|Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 22 LR, $500||Mar. 2020||A||Best Buy. The Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 operated as we wanted and shot well. It won’t break the bank.|
|Walther Arms HK416 D145RS 578.03.01 22 LR, $583||Mar. 2020||B||If you’re looking for an M27 clone, this one is worth thinking about.|
|Anschütz MSR RX22 22 LR, $900||Mar. 2020||C||The Anschütz RX22’s trigger wasn’t the best, its buttpad fell off repeatedly, and no one liked its open sights.|
|ISSC MK22 ISSC211000 22 LR, $270||Mar. 2020||F||Showed ongoing failures to feed and extract. The blems on the sides of the receiver put us off.|
|German Sport Guns GSG-StG44 GERGSTG44 22 LR, $330||Feb. 2020||A||Our Pick. The action had very similar stampings to what you would find on the historical firearm.|
|Walther Arms Colt M4 Carbine 5760300 22 LR, $350||Feb. 2020||B||The Walther Arms Colt 22 LR M4 looks almost identical to the standard-issue Colt centerfire rifle.|