Polymer-framed guns, subcompact big bore semiauto pocket pistols, man-portable semiauto .50 BMG rifles…even though we live in a world of amazing marvels, the fact of the matter is these types of guns didn’t exist until a relatively short time ago. Either manufacturers didn’t have the technology to make them or the gun buying public wasn’t interested.
The .22 Long Rifle conversion kit for the AR-15, or rimfire versions of it, have been around almost as long as Stoner’s blueprints for the rifle, but the kits haven’t been nearly as popular as they are today. The current popularity of AR-15 style rifles, combined with the high cost of ammunition, also has caused a surge in popularity of rifles styled like their centerfire big brothers but chambered in the ubiquitous .22 LR. These are advertised and marketed in a variety of ways, from “trainers” to cool-looking blacked-out versions of your favorite .22.
For this article I obtained AR-style .22s from three of the biggest manufacturers around. During testing I found that even though all three are black .22s, these rifles were very different and really aimed at (or at least suited for) completely different types of shooting.
For testing and evaluation, not only did I enlist several of my friends but also my two sons, ages 13 and 9. As “tactical” as some of these rifles are, the fact is that many of them are being bought and used by people too young to vote, or those slight of build, and their opinions can be very insightful.
Remember when semiauto .22s (other than the Ruger 10/22) were notoriously unreliable? Such is not the case anymore. That said, the Ruger 10/22 is still the standard by which semiauto .22 rifles are judged, and for good reason. It is simple, reliable and enough aftermarket accessories exist
for them to fill the state of Rhode Island.
The SR-22 is basically a 10/22 attempting to peg the needle on the cool meter. All black, it has a six-position collapsible AR-style stock, pistol grip and ventilated fore-end. The exterior aluminum receiver seems to be cosmetic only: two pieces of aluminum affixed to a standard 10/22 receiver on the inside.
The rifle comes with a signature Ruger flash hider, and the receiver has a top rail to mount the optic of your choice. A fixed-stock version without muzzle device is available for sale in states that have restrictions on such things.
While it has definitely been painted with a tactical brush, the SR-22 is still a 10/22 as opposed to a .22 LR-chambered AR-15. The controls are purely 10/22, and it comes with the 10/22’s 10-round rotary magazine. If you are looking for a cheap way to refine your skills with an AR-15, the SR-22 perhaps isn’t for you because the controls are different. That said, it is still a heck of a lot of fun to shoot, and it definitely does not look like your grandpa’s squirrel gun.
Apart from mag capacity (more on that later) the only complaint my youthful testers had with the SR-22 was the weight. Between the thick receiver and the metal fore-end the rifle tips the scales at 61⁄2 pounds but felt heavier because a lot of the weight is out front. This wasn’t a problem for the adults, but I noticed the weight even before my youngest son made a comment. My only complaint is the rifle’s traditional 10/22 controls, which I’ve never been a fan of.
One thing that all of these rifles we tested have in common is a multi-position adjustable stock, which I think is indispensable when it comes to not just young shooters but adults as well. I’m over six feet tall, but with an adjustable stock I can comfortably shoot the same gun as my children.
The main complaint most people have had with 10/22s is the 10-round magazine. Not its reliability—its capacity. Rimfires are fun and cheap to shoot, and we live in America, where more is always better. Aftermarket high-capacity magazines have been around for the 10/22 for quite some time, but their quality has never been consistent. Therefore I was very happy to see the new BX-25 from Ruger—a factory 25-round magazine designed for the 10/22 by the same people who make the rifle. Halleluiah.
The 10/22’s rotary magazine feeds the cartridges into the chamber at a 30-degree angle, but most aftermarket magazines didn’t. The BX-25 inserts the cartridges into the chamber at the same angle as the proven 10-round rotary magazine, is easily disassembled and retails for only $30. At the moment this magazine is not provided from the factory with any rifle.
Let’s take a look at the S&W M&P15-22 MOE on page two.