There have been many different autoloading rifles chambered for the extraordinarily popular and inexpensive .22 Long Rifle cartridge over the years. A few stand out as the leaders of the pack. Autoloading .22s fall into one of two design categories: traditional or modern.
The Browning SA-22 is one of the first autoloading .22 rifles ever produced. Production started in 1914, by FN Herstal in Belgium, and continues today in various countries, depending on the Grade level. The rifle’s takedown design features a slim and stylish receiver and barrel, and requires no tools to separate the two compact halves. There are several different Grade levels and options currently available, and many more offered since its introduction. Since 1914, the number of SA-22s sold has exceeded over half a million.
Introduced in 2006, the Mossberg 702 Plinkster is a lightweight, rugged, and reliable. It features an aluminum receiver with grooves for mounting a scope, free-floating barrel, and a bolt hold-open function. There are several versions available, featuring different stocks, colors, and finishes.
The Remington 597, introduced in 1997, is built in Remington’s Mayfield, Kentucky manufacturing plant. It features a free-floating barrel and a unique bolt-guidance system that uses two steel guide rails for added stability, reliability, and greater accuracy. Although it is not the most popular of the autoloading .22 rifles, there are several models available, as well as many different aftermarket parts and accessories.
Ruger hit the jackpot when they released the 10/22. It is arguably the most prolific autoloading .22 rifle on the planet. Since its introduction in 1964 more than a million of these rifles have seen action. The 10/22 is well-suited for target shooting, plinking, and small game hunting. It is well-balanced, rugged, reliable, and accurate. Though it is available in a wide variety of configurations from the factory, the aftermarket scene is where you will find a massive amount of accessories and replacement parts. In fact, you can find an aftermarket version of every part of the rifle, allowing you to create a 100% custom 10/22.
The SIG522 incorporates the look and feel of the ever-popular SIG556, but is chambered for the .22 LR cartridge. It shares some of its parts with the SIG556, including the collapsible and folding buttstock and the sleek forend. It features a durable metal receiver with an integrated picatinny top rail. There are a few versions available, including some with picatinny quad rail forends, to which you can attach an almost unlimited amount of accessories. One of the most appealing aspects of the SIG522 is the fact that it uses the same magazines that standard AR-style rifles require when using the Ceiner-type .22 LR conversion kits. This makes it easier, and cheaper, for SIG522 owners to acquire extra magazines if they already have one of the common AR-type conversion kits.
Designed from the beginning to be a tactical .22 series of rifles, as opposed to being a converted or modified standard AR-type rifle, is the Colt/Umarex M16 and AR-15 series rifles. Some of the controls and functions are different from standard ARs with this design. However, most of the standard AR-designed accessories will also fit the Colt. A few different versions are available.
Based on the proven 702 Plinkster, the Mossberg Tactical .22 is a reliable and affordable .22 autoloader. It combines the look and feel of a standard AR-style rifle with the affordability of the 702 Plinkster. The Tactical .22 features a choice of an adjustable or a fixed position buttstock, a quad rail forend and a removable carry handle scope mount. It is the most affordable of the modern design .22 autoloaders.
Smith & Wesson did a great job with the M&P15-22 rifle. It is functionally the same as standard ARs, so if you are already familiar with them, you will not have any questions or problems with the M&P15-22. Many of the parts are interchangeable with standard AR-15 parts, including the buttstock and pistol grip. The M&P15-22 provides a very reliable blow back operation, and accurate shooting due to the free-floating barrel, with a variety of different ammunition choices.
With the availability of so many different autoloading .22 rifles, the number of new shooters and those on a budget must be skyrocketing. The examples here are but a few of the many that are available. Now it’s time to get out there and shoot some .22s!