.22 LR Competition Pistols: What to Buy, What Not to Buy

By CTD Mike published on in Reviews

With ammo costs going up and availability going down, many shooters are turning to the good old .22 Long Rifle cartridge for affordable shooting fun. Rimfire competition shooting leagues are springing up across the country. New shooters are mastering the fundamentals of marksmanship. Experienced shooters are rediscovering that .22 LR competitions are a fun way to hone their skills to a fine edge. So, what should we look for in a competition .22 pistol?

Walther P22

The tiny Walther P22 is a fun plinking gun, but competitors avoid it.

There are a variety of reliable, affordable and accurate pistols to choose, but sometimes they can get lost in the noise and marketing of the firearms industry. Gun magazines, websites and blogs constantly scream that whatever is newest is the best thing ever. Of course, that is not true. Some of the newest .22 LR pistols to hit the market are simply range toys of lesser quality. They may look like classic firearms, such as the 1911, Glock or Sig 226, but they just are not accurate enough for competition work. Many of those guns are smaller than the service pistols they mimic. Their tiny grips are best suited for teaching children to shoot. There are also doubts about their longevity, as most will fire many rounds from them through time. If you want a .22 LR that looks like a silenced 1911, you can buy one and play with it once in a while at the range for fun. If you want to compete, there are better choices for the same amount of money.

What we are looking for here is a reliable, durable, accurate and ergonomic pistol. We want large iron sights that are easy to see, a very good trigger and barrel that shoots straight. The gun needs to point naturally, and regular maintenance should be easy. We all know that .22 LR ammo is very “dirty” relative to its size, and all firearms work better when we properly clean and lubricate them. With those rules in mind, here are some good options to consider.

Ruger Mk III


The Ruger Mk III is a great all-around choice.

The Ruger Mk III is my personal favorite. Although I have seen amazing results with heavy-barreled variants, mine features the standard weight, tapered, 6-inch barrel, and it is still more accurate than I am. If I miss with my Ruger, I know the fault is mine alone. The Ruger’s big disadvantage is that disassembly and reassembly are notoriously difficult. Many shooters fear the pistol’s complexity and refuse to disassemble it. They clean their Rugers by removing the grips and dunking the rest of the gun in carburetor cleaner or another harsh solvent. Another downside is the price, which starts higher than most other .22 LR pistols and gets even more expensive depending on options.

Beretta Neos

Beretta Neos

The Beretta Neos is a relative newcomer but looks like a great value.

The Beretta Neos is a relative newcomer to the .22 LR target pistol field. These excellent quality pistols are probably the best bargain per dollar spent. They shoot straight, are easy to disassemble and come with a built-in Weaver-type optics mount. However, many pistol leagues do not allow optics, so that may not be a factor. Pricing is very competitive because the Neos is a newcomer. The science fiction looks of the gun may turn off some potential buyers, but they do not truly matter ,except for the extreme grip angle. If you are used to the grip angle of a 1911 or Sig Sauer and you decide to pick up rimfire shooting to save money, you will not have a natural point of aim with the Neos.

Browning Buck Mark

Browning Buckmark

The Browning Buck Mark is a high-quality pistol with a high price to match.

The Browning Buck Mark is a classic .22 LR, loved by thousands. A wide variety of shooters find the Buck Mark’s grip perfect, regardless of hand size. Ergonomically, it is almost magical. Maintenance is the problem of the Buck Mark. Small hex-head set screws hold it together. The owner must unscrew them each time they take apart the pistol to clean it. Losing a set screw means no working gun for you. Strip one out during reassembly, and well, I guess you will not have to clean your Buck Mark for a while. The Buck Mark is also the most expensive of the pistols mentioned in this article.

Smith & Wesson 22A

S&W 22a

The Smith & Wesson 22A is easy to disassemble for cleaning.

The Smith & Wesson 22A is not as popular as the Ruger or Browning, but it offers one big advantage. Disassembly for cleaning is super easy, with no tools required. Where the Browning has a set screw holding the barrel in place, the 22A uses a large plunger you can press with your thumb. The barrel’s accuracy is very good, but the trigger is stiff compared to the other guns I have mentioned. Reliability can be iffy with this gun, especially when dirty, so it is a good thing that it is so easy to clean. On the other hand, its price is pretty hard to beat, and its grip angle is perfect for shooters who are used to full-size service pistols. Like the Beretta Neos, the 22A comes with a standard Weaver rail for mounting red dots or long eye-relief scopes.

There are other pistols appropriate for rimfire competition, but these are the most affordable and readily available. If you are a fan of the Sig Trailside, the Colt Woodsman or the truly exceptional Smith & Wesson model 41, then by all means, go out and shoot your favorite one. There are plenty of bowling pins to knock around at a local shooting league near you.

Which .22 LR do you prefer for competitive shooting? Why did you choose that pistol? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Comments (45)

  • Jay Morgan


    I have a Browning Buckmark and have been having troubles with it. I can’t get through 2 magazines with out having a light hit. There is a mark on the rim but it doesn’t go off.
    I have changed to amo that shoots a 100% in other guns and got the same results. I recently got aqua pistol amo and got the same results.
    I changed the firing pin thinking I had dry fired it to much learning to use it and got the same results. (The old firing pin showed no damage or wear and the firing pin assembly area was surprisingly clean.
    I cleaned the barrel / chamber to the point a round would fall out of the chamber just by tipping the chamber back. I got the same results.
    Looking for new ideas as to what could be causing this problem? I will appreciate any ideas.


  • Larry


    I have a few hand guns, mostly 308, 9mm and 45. My problem is this, I read all the reviews I can on the .22 caliber LR and I have come to the conclusion that there is not a good reliable one on the market. All seem to have below average reviews about them, I have large hands so I need a full size weapon, not to offend anyone, I cant use the toy subs and compacts. Thank you Larry


  • mica


    I am not concidering, I am trying to put together what guns i need to shoot in as many competitions as possible considering I live in the great state of ALABAMA no sarcasm intended. i’ve been searching the web looking for rules and specifics of all types of competitions. with slim pickings of competes whats the best shotgun ,pistol of high caliber an .22 pistol is a good start for a poor country boy that already shoots a springfeild range officer 1911 45 . the silluete comps, say you have to shoot a .22 rimfire & centerfire and 45 got the 45 handled


  • Stephen


    Hammerli 208 – the world’s most accurate pistol since 1978 (if you believe in this kind of record). Anyway I have a 208s and it is just a dream to shoot. Anyone who shoots it goes straight to a gun shop or starts looking online – be warned to shoot one is to buy one! Not made any more but parts are easy to get in USA or Europe and they are extremely reliable even with high round counts. The “s” has a better range of trigger adjustments. I bought mine from Frankonia in Germany in mint condition with 2 mags, original kit (box, test target, tools, barrel weights) for £380 and a new set of Nill grips from Germany to suit my hand size were £150. For £530 this is a top quality pistol and I will never sell it, a true keeper!


  • Gerald Lee


    Couldn’t agree more about the Walther. What a piece of JUNK! I can’t believe a company with that history, name, and reputation would put out such a crappy product. The trigger is as bad as any you might have used in your life. The “wings” that slam forward when you cycle the weapon literally tear the gun apart. It requires one to do some mods if you want to have this for more than a year or two.

    As to the DHS buying a billion+ rounds, remember that the ammo is stockpiled for use over 8 or 10 years. It also goes to other federal organizations – it isn’t all staying with DHS for their sole use. If you’re unfamiliar with the way the manufacturers operate, the time of year determines whose ammo is being manufactured.

    Government orders, followed by corporate buys(retail supplier orders) with consumer needs coming in last. It’s as much a function of how many more people are shooting these days compared to 8 or 10 years ago as it is the government. Excepting .22LR and .22WMR, ammo is plentiful but still way too pricey. I buy rounds by the 1,000 mostly and easily weathered the storm of the last several years because I buy when there’s a deal to be had and not when I need it.


  • William Grubb


    I have several 22 cal pistols Brownings ,Rugers ,Smiths ,but the two that I consistanly shoot the tightest groups with are the Rugers mkii & mkiii both of these guns are stainless models , and I’ve added the volquartzen accurizing trigger & sear kits ,and the volquartzen Target grips these guns are extremely auccurate and reliable , I agree the Rugers is a bit of a pain to take apart and put back together ,but once doing it correctly its really not that hard, I put the accurizing kits in my self with very little trouble, the mkiii is a little more trouble than the mkii, but if you have no experience at all with these firearms I would suggest getting help. The grips were around $55/60.00, the accurizing kits were $110.00 ea. Adding these two items along with a red dot scope make these guns real shooters.


  • Michael J.


    let’s not forget hordes of panic buying civilians running to the stores screaming “Muh stockpiles” and throwing every case of ammunition they can find into their carts like frenzied animals until a clerk finally says, “That’s enough”


  • Wzrd1


    You’re absolutely right, Single Stack. It’s *all* DHS. Not any other agency and the military isn’t using any ammunition in that party in Afghanistan, right?
    Small hint: Last month, we lost 27 service members and this month, we’re up to a dozen dead.
    Can’t for the life of me figure out whereinhell all that 9, 5.56 and 7.62×51 is going.
    I do know that I can still get .45, .38, 12 gauge, 30-06 ammunition.
    But, it’s all the DHS buying up every round available as part of the Grand Conspiracy of the Space Aliens or something.


  • Single Stack


    Yep, we won the battle, but lost the war. We can have all the guns we want but ammo is gone.
    Hope everyone bought before DHS. Now is the time to own that one-of-a-kind odd caliber that everyone kidded you about since you were 12 y/o.
    22LR are available but you can only buy one box of twenty at a time and only if there are any left. Very inconvenient if you live far from a town. Anyhow, all the more reason to make every shot count regardless of caliber.
    For 22 pistols, my go to gun is a Ruger MK II, then my Colt Targetsman (only cuz I don’t want to scratch it up ’til necessary), and lastly my Heritage Revolver replica of the Colt single action (interchangeable barrel – LR/Mag). I kind of spruced up my MK II with new grips fm Ruger and fell in love all over again. With a large number of clips bought over the years, I can pop caps for straight 5 minutes stopping only to replace clips. I have many Targetsman clips as well(same as Woodsman). All of my 22’s shoot any and all brands of ammo with no problems. Just lucky that way I guess or could it be because I clean each one after each shooting session. By the way, I read where some gunsmiths are refusing to re-kit the MKII. This is really hard to understand. The process is so straightforward and the parts easy to handle. Before taking it to anyone, at least look at the process on youtube; they do a pretty good job of breaking anything down and reassembling it there. You will certainly find your gun. Let’er rip, Tater chip.


  • Bob


    Ruger makes a fine pistol but for extreame accuracy there are only two choices of guns. The High Standard TrophyMatic and the Smith and Wesson Mdl 41. The High Standards being produced in Texas are junk and not even accuracte but an older High Standard made in Hamden Connecticut will shoot groups less than a dime at 25 yards on sand bag rest. The Smith 41 will also shoot very good at 25 yards using CCI standard velocity cutting the X out of the circle no problem.


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