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“You can get one any way you want it but you have to own more than one.”
The first rimfire rifle cartridge was not a 22, it was the 44 rimfire in the first practical lever action rifle. The 1861 Henry Rifle took the world by storm as Union Soldiers during the Civil War held off numerous encounters with Rebel Troops spurning the old saying “You can load a Henry on Sunday and shoot it all week long.” By 1873 the centerfire cartridge and the Henry lever action had become the Winchester improvement, and the rimfire cartridge was considered no more for larger rifles.
This did not kill the idea however, as improvements continued to the present day giving us economy and performance in very popular target and small game cartridges.
At the present day, we have the .22 short, long and long rifle, the .22 Winchester Magnum, and the two .17 rimfire cartridges, giving us a line up to cover any shooting or hunting situation within the power level of these cartridges. Above all stands the 22 long rifle cartridge that has been useful from squirrel hunting to the Olympics.
How to Choose a Rimfire Rifle
Choosing a general use 22 or one of the other rimfire selections becomes extremely personal as there is a large number of good rimfire cartridges and rifles to shoot them. I'll give this friendly warning, you are about to enter the most addictive and fun shooting sport of all time. There are so many brands, actions and price ranges that you may want more than one. I'll just use me as an example down through the ages and you can use this example to help you get into the wonderful world of rimfire rifles.
My first gun under the supervision of my father, was a bolt action, clip fed, Marlin 25 in 22 long rifle. I have a photo of me holding that rifle when I was 5 years old. Today I still have a Marlin 25, this one in 22 magnum and it is a flawless operator and extremely accurate. With the old Marlin I shot squirrels and rabbits as well as competing in my first competition, an old time Arkansas turkey shoot. Now when I squirrel hunt in Louisiana I carry the 22 magnum.
For me it is a special situation, with the squirrels comes wild hogs and it is quite legal in my area to collect some pork chops with the 22 magnum. The squirrel season opens before the deer season, and the law says I can't carry a centerfire rifle until the deer season opens. The Marlin does just fine on hogs with brain shots, if you know what your doing.
One good way to choose a rim fire, for economical practice, is to match it to your big game rifle. Remington is particularly good at that in their line of rimfire rifles. The Remington Speedmaster and Fieldmaster .22s are an ergonomic match to their Semi-automatic and Pump action big game rifles. The Marlin Bolt Action can match just about any bolt action rifle in their line and others.
Every time I research a gun company or go to the range I see a new youth 22 for the kids. I really like the Pink ones for the girls, we see a lot of that. The Cricket class .22s, made by most companies in bolt, and lever actions are very popular with the new youth shooters. Of course the girls have doubled in the shooting sports once they get a pink rifle, and that goes for the big girls too as you well know.
Squirrel and Rabbit hunting is the ultimate challenge for the rimfire hunter.
Just about any good quality 22 will work. With me I switch around, from the 22 magnum, to my 22 LR in an Anshutz 54 sporter or sometimes my Marlin 1897 Cowboy with iron sights. I don't see a usage for the 17 HMR on edible tree squirrels or cottontail rabbits. The bullet is too light for hogs, making the 22 Magnum a better choice as it will go right through a hogs head. The 17 HM2 is the ringer as it is not bad on edible game. My personal choice would still be a 22 long rifle and later specialize with the more powerful cartridges as I saw a special need.
However the 17 HRM would be my first choice for Jackrabbits. I only regret they didn't have the cartridge when I lived in New Mexico and shot jackrabbits by the truckload. Other prime targets would be the California ground squirrel, Crows and Woodchucks. Foxes and Coyotes are not the target for any of the rimfires.
High quality rimfire bolt action rifles are available from several company's. Some of the best are Anshutz, Browning, CZ-USA, Kimber, Marlin, Remington, Ruger, Sako, and Savage. With the bolt action you have the ability in most cases to adjust trigger pull. With this option you can squeeze just a little more accuracy out of a bolt action than other action types. I have already written volumes on the CZ-452 rifle for good reason, it is a prime example of extream accuracy at an economical price.
Tubular fed magazine rimfire rifles come in bolt, lever, pump, and semi-automatic actions. With exception of the bolt action most of these types have a non adjustable trigger. My old mentor told me once that starting out with a hard trigger will make you a better rifle shot. So don't worry there are a lot of masters of the cowboy action type rifle with no trigger adjustments.
The top of the line tube fed auto would be the original Browning automatic 22 and the Remington Speedmaster. The most popular and economical would be the Marlin model 60 that you see Aunt Sandy shooting all the time.
The King of the Lever Action 22s has got to be the Marlin 39A, while my 1897 Cowboy was a recreation of the original. The great Sharpshooter, Michael Blackburn became famous for shooting hand tossed air rifle BB s out of the air with a Winchester model 94/22. I once had one in 22 magnum and I am planning another.
Then comes the most practical of them all The Henry “Golden Boy” and it's blued field version. Just like CZ-USA rifles, Henry rifles grow on you the minute you pick one up and shoot it. Then you want the whole line in your collection. After a side by side comparison while shooting with a young soldier who was paying attention to every word I said about off hand sharpshooting, I came to the conclusion that my Marlin 1897 and his Henry were a dead match in accuracy. We were both splitting playing cards edgewise at 20 yards, offhand. The Henry action was definitely smoother.
Then we have the Ruger 10/22, right out of the box it is a fine 22 rifle, with the fact remaining it has more after market parts than any other rimfire made. You could make it look like an AR-15, an AK-47, a modern bullpup carbine, a look a like for the M1 Carbine, or a Buck Rogers space rifle. You can rig it out as a super fast target race gun or one with guilt edge accuracy rivaling even the bolt action sporters. It all depends on how much you want to spend using the Ruger platform.
Well if you haven't figured it out yet I really like rimfire rifles, chances are you will too...Pass it on.