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. I enlisted several of my friends and my two sons, ages 13 and 9, to test three of the newer tactically styled semiauto rimfires on the market.
The Ruger 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 with no muzzle device is available for sale in states that have restrictions on such things.
The controls are purely 10/22, and it comes with the 10/22s 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 as the controls are different. That said, it is still a heck of a
lot of fun to shoot. The rifle retails for $625.
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 6.5 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 that the rifle's traditional 10/22 controls, which I've never been a fan of.
We also tested the new BX-25 from Ruger — a factory 25-round magazine designed for the 10/22 by the same people who make the rifle. 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.
Fast Specs: Ruger SR-22
- Capacity, 10; bbl length, 16.12 in.; weight, 6.5 lb.; OAL, 32.75-36 in.
- 6-position adjustable stock, vent aluminum fore-end, railed for scope (no irons)
- Avg. 50 yd. accuracy: 1.7 in.
- Price: $625
S&W M&P15-22 MOE
Smith & Wesson made big news just a few years ago when it introduced a .22 Long Rifle version of its M&P-15. This rifle was interesting because both the upper and lower receivers were made of polymer, as opposed to aluminum, and it has the same controls as a standard AR-15.
We tested the S&W M&P 15-22 MOE variant, which comes with a Magpul MOE stock, pistol grip, trigger guard and flip-up sights. I tested the black version, but S&W sells one with flat dark earth MOE furniture.
Because the controls are exactly the same as on a centerfire rifle, the 15-22 alone of the three rifles we tested would be an excellent inexpensive trainer for military or law enforcement personnel.
The rifle comes with a quad-rail fore-end, and even though it is polymer it will still take standard rail covers or mount flashlights or other accessories designed for Picatinny-style rails. At 5-1/2 pounds the rifle feels quite light, and one of the reasons for that is because it is so well-balanced.
The 15-22 comes with a well-designed 25-round magazine that is easy to load, even for kids, and the rifle itself is more than accurate enough to do anything a .22 can do.
Of the three rifles we tested this one was the hands-down favorite of the adults because it has the exact same controls as a .223 AR-15. The kids liked it because not only did it feel the lightest, it looked just like the ARs they shoot in video games.
The S&W M&P 15-22 MOE's suggested retail is $609, but depending on options, accessories and camo patterns, the 15-22s retail from between $499 for the basic version and $769 for the Performance Center model
Fast Specs: S&W M&P15-22 MOE
- Capacity, 10; bbl length, 16 in.; weight, 6.25 lb., OAL, 30.5-33.75 in.
- 6-position adjustable stock, polymer quad rail, Magpul flip-up sights
- Avg. 50 yd. accuracy: 1.53 in.
- Price: $609
Mossberg Mossberg 715T Carry Handle
The Mossberg is obviously built to resemble an AR-15 but is not likely to be mistaken for one if you have any experience with the design. With an adjustable M4-type stock made by ATI, carrying handle, 18-inch barrel, long quad-rail fore-end and pistol grip the Mossberg superficially looks like an AR-15A2, but the controls are very different.
The safety is a crossbolt in front of the trigger guard. The magazine release is an ambidextrous lever on the side of the magazine well. The charging handle is just for show and doesn't move. The "forward assist" is just a jutting lump of plastic.
The Mossberg has A2-length non-removable sights and a polymer Picatinny rail attached to the top of the carrying handle. It is actually the lightest of the rifles we tested at five pounds, but it felt a little heavier than the M&P 15-22 because of the longer barrel — more weight was out front. Like the M&P its receivers and fore-end rails are polymer.
The Mossberg comes with a 25-round magazine that I couldn't get more than 22 rounds into. Once inserted into the gun the magazine has the same profile as a standard AR-15 magazine, but the portion inside the magazine well is a skinny traditional single-column design.
The Mossberg had some of the best features of any of the guns, as well as the worst. First off, it is the least expensive, by far, at $276. And it had the best trigger of any rifle we tested, breaking at just a five-pound pull.
On the negative side, I mounted a scope on the provided Tapco rail but couldn't get the rifle on paper past 10 yards because the rail was too far off to the right. Also, the bolt locked back on an empty magazine, but dropping the magazine with the mag well mounted release lets the bolt fly forward, which is odd. It is possible to lock the bolt back by pushing in on the bolt handle. The Mossberg's pistol grip was integral to the receiver and not replaceable, unlike the other two guns tested.
Fast Specs: Mossberg 715T Carry Handle
- capacity, 25; bbl length, 18 in.; weight, 5 lb.; OAL 33.25-37
- six-position adjustable stock, polymer quad rail, adjustable rear sight/fixed front
- Avg. 50 yd. accuracy: 1.75 in. (w/iron sights)
- Price: $276