Rifles > Semi-Auto

Tactical 22s: A New Class of Rifles

Mimicking guns such as the AR-15, HK MP5 and SIG 550, tactical look-alikes in .22 LR are more common than ever.


The term “tactical .22 rifle” is essentially an oxymoron. It’s unlikely that a single military or police force on Earth uses .22 Long Rifle arms for small-scale combat operations, at least as primary guns. Nevertheless, this burgeoning class of firearms has taken hold in recent years in the civilian market. With origins dating back to the ever-modular Ruger 10/22, perhaps the most accessorized gun on the planet, up through today’s AR-15 look-alikes, these guns have found a welcome place in the cabinets of varmint shooters, beginning marksmen, and of course those who like to shoot all day with inexpensive, readily available ammunition. And with a generous amount of features previously unseen on .22 Long Rifle semi-automatics, this new class of rifles is well-deserving of a closer look.

For brevity’s sake not every .22 rimfire conversion or .22 Long Rifle tactical-style gun could be covered. But a number of newer models that offer some unique options in a variety of packages were chosen, each with its strengths and weaknesses.

All of these are blowback-operated, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, dedicated .22 Long Rifle arms, and all incorporate varying degrees of polymer and light alloy components. It’s important to emphasize “dedicated .22,” since some .22 conversion kits do not include barrels suitable for .22 Long Rifle ammunition. Rather, they rely on use of the parent gun’s original barrel. The result can be excessive fouling and poor accuracy. Each manufacturer models its gun after a full-size, center-fire rifle or carbine. Picatinny rails abound, and most examples accept a variety of aftermarket stocks, grips and other accessories.

View the Tactical 22 Story Photo Gallery.

In general the guns performed well, despite some lower-end accuracy and the occasional failure to feed. Magazine design was also an issue, since plinking with .22s necessarily calls for continual loading that should be quick and simple. Manufacturing materials, shooting comfort, aftermarket options, reliability, accuracy, price points and personal preference vary considerably, so none of these guns can be called “the best.” And with the host of other .22 Long Rifle “tactical” guns out there, including an MP5-style from HK, and AR-styles from Kies, CMMG and Olympic Arms, among others, there are plenty to choose from for any .22 Long Rifle enthusiast—even if his adversaries are no more "tactical" than empty tin cans.

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44 Responses to Tactical 22s: A New Class of Rifles

Sky Soldier vet wrote:
October 19, 2014

For comparison I bought a Sig 522 rimfire .22 LR SA since I already had a Browning take down .22 SA LR. Both are great and fun rifles for anyone - kid, ladies, to gutsy guys. But, I'm at a point of perhaps selling my Browning .22 takedown AND my Browning A-Bolt .243 deer rifle to buy a AR style .308 SA for personal defense (note I did not say 'home defense' for a .308) as I already have home defense covered with a variety of reliable top notch weapons and tactical knives. Any 'best proven' AR style .308 recommendations is appreciated.

Autie wrote:
June 27, 2013

I own a Colt Ar15, and purchased a Colt 22 LR comversion kit for it years ago that consists of a magazine, and bolt assembly. The Mag holds 10 rounds and as made by colt is very reliable. I have put thousands or founds of 22LR thru it in the 20+ years i have owned it and taught my daughter to shoot with it as well at the age of 10 years old. It was many enjoyable hours spent at the range shooting with her and the Colt AR15. We could change back in seconds to the original configuration and fire the 223 ammo again. It was a very inexpensive way to shoot .

Not Bob wrote:
April 05, 2013

You need to click the link to the gallery to access the reviews of all the guns.

Bob wrote:
March 06, 2013

What a useless article.

Killer B wrote:
February 09, 2013

Bottom Line: ANY gun is better than NO gun when one is needed... That being fully understood, my ONLY compliant against the .22 is the FACT that you can have a misfire because the primer isn't as reliable as a center-fire.

Jon H wrote:
January 02, 2013

Hi, I have the mossberg 22 tactical flat top and I love this shooter. Put quite a bit of rounds through it and greatly enjoy it. Tons of fun, easy to use, cheap to shoot, and numerous numerous accesorization options. As for the 22lr round.....if someone thinks it's too small and insignificant then I suggest you standing 10 ft away and getting a 25 rd clip emptied on your skull. Be sure to Report any changes of attitude.

drg wrote:
December 22, 2012

Home defense I use a .357, but a situation I will carry 2 rifles w/me, my M&P15 22, and my 30-06, those that say a 22 won't kill are full of it, dead is dead, & a 22lr will kill just as good as a larger caliber or it will bounce around and turn your insides to swiss cheese, now I would not use it outside of 100 yds, but that is what the 30-06 is for, in a situation im in WVA w/ my family in the mountains, our terrain our area, my 30-06 is much more practical to me, but to debate a 22lr as non-lethal is dead wrong, I bet anyone who says it isn't would not dare stang in front of one if you told them to try it. It's a great, cheap, easy to carry round. Yes the 223 is more deadly, but I would rather shoot my 30-06 for lethal shots, and I can carry more then one magazine, no it's not semi-auto, but like I said I'm will be in the mountains and I need something I can take 400-700 yd shots, which I won't get with a 223

dlh wrote:
September 13, 2012

Norcross Georgia May 2012 - A man entered the home of an elderly lady and forced her into the bedroom, he was armed - The lady reached into a drawer and pulled out a Sig Mosquito and unloaded it at him - The Police found him DOA outside about 6 feet from the front steps - He had a 9mm and got off one shot and missed, she hit him with all 10 - She was able to hold it on target because it had no recoil -

viet vet 66 wrote:
August 10, 2012

a wound takes out the wounded plus one or two unwounded off the field.

Brandon wrote:
July 10, 2012

.22 are more dangerous than any other high velocity round. I was an emt-i in Houston (alief) for 5 years before changing professions. A .22 will penetrate, and it's light weight and high velocity turn that tiny little round into a freakin ping pong ball inside you. All it has to do is make contact with a bone after entry. It will pin ball around inside of you putting cavities in a lot of un wanted areas. What it lacks in stopping power, it doesn't exit, so all the kinetic energy of the bullet is expelled inside your body. A 9 mm will punch right thru you with out any effort, but a lot of its energy continues to travel with the bullet until it hits something that absorbs it and stops the bullet. I still wouldn't trust it to defend your house, Winchester 1200 pump action or my ria 1911 .45 would be my go to. The gsg5 is a great gun, however of your looking for a mp5 .22 you should look into the umarex hk mp5. It doesn't have as many reliability issues, and seems more accurate than my gsg is.

Brook wrote:
July 06, 2012

To all those nay-sayers stating that a .22 round isn't lethal: is that a volunteering hand? would you all like to stand in front of a .22 round being shot at you? hmmm, I didn't think so...

Delta75 wrote:
July 03, 2012

Semper Gumby, I've really been enjoying my Smith and Wesson, M&P 15-a lot! Great design is as close as you can get to an actual AR without using a .22 upper conversion. Not too finicky on ammo as some .22 semi-autos can be. REAL accurate, too!

Grandmasterlooney wrote:
June 28, 2012

The Israeli government used 22 caliber rifles as a 'non lethal' approach to controlling crowds, but had to stop using them because they were in fact lethal.

Semper Gumby wrote:
June 19, 2012

What do you guys recommend as far as the best 22lr carbine style. I want to teach my kid to shoot but I don't want to spend a ton on ammo which is why I want to go with a 22lr,in the same time the only experience I have with guns was in the Marines which is why I'm looking at the AR style rifles.

VietVet wrote:
May 07, 2012

The fact is that unless the object of your ire is stoned, any bang resulting in a hole will get their attention. It doesn't matter what cal you are flinging at them. If your objective is to make them go away a .22 cal will work. If you want to plant them, a larger cal is preferable. One consideration is a dead target never sued anyone in court.

4jfarmer wrote:
April 30, 2012

these guns are ment,in my opinion, as a fun to shoot target rifle that are affordable to shoot.Everyone has their opinion on the minimum caliber of a self defence round.

dguthrie1958 wrote:
April 16, 2012

Come on guys and get serious. Quit pretending that a 22 LR is a "GOOD" defense round or that an adversary will stand stock still and all you to unload a 25 rd magazine in his " X ring ". We all know these were intended as recreational trainers and not primary assault or defense weapons, so stop ua trying to convince us otherwise. Get one, have fun. Take one to a REAL gunfight and youll likely finish second at best.

Gentle James wrote:
April 05, 2012

Anyone who can say that a .22 lr is not leathal is very wrong. I have a friend who has been in the ground for more than a decade because of a stray .22lr round.

WakeStar wrote:
March 05, 2012

@Mike D, A level II or IIA vest, worn by most US law enforcement, will stop a .22LR rimfire round as well as most common handgun rounds and shotgun pellets. They will not however stop the high velocity centerfire .223/5.56 rounds associated with the AR15 and similar weapons. For that you would need a level III vest. These are capable of stopping .223, .308, 7.62x39 etc. However it is very rare for regular uniformed officers to wear these vests due to their weight and bulk.

Mike D wrote:
February 19, 2012

I will mention that the .22LR will penetrate 'bullet resistant' vests worn my police and military while the .223/5.56 will not.....just food for thought....

josh wrote:
February 01, 2012

I recently purchased a Sig sauer 522 so far a great rifle . I shoot with my cousin who owns a bushmaster ar 15 223. Or5.56 whichever u want to call it I can shoot a golfball 10 times to his 3 hits so anybody that thinks that a 22 isn't a good rifle all around I've proven that to be wrong. And I pay 15 dollars for 550 rounds and he pays that do 25 rounds so top that smack talkers lol

Big SH0E wrote:
December 18, 2011

Comments...my mosberg 22lr is great...not only is it lightweight...but it looks deadly enough too scare of any threat...and the internal damage from a 22 is horiffic..now image them hiting you rapidly..great weapons

Jason wrote:
November 13, 2011

Everyone that thinks 22 LR is not sufficient for self defense is horribly mistaken. Small hole in....lots of damage on the inside. Try working on an ambulance in the ghetto for a few years. You'll see that the big guns dont always do the job.

Uncommon Sense wrote:
May 24, 2011

lol yeah because .22lr has SO much penetration through layered clothing! *wink *wink SERIOUSLY! If you want a .22 caliber for defense I hope you are wise enough to choose a cartridge similar to .223! LOL XD

Bill wrote:
January 31, 2011

I use .22 CB Shorts for defense! Even less recoil lets me put "a lot MORE lead on target"

Eric wrote:
December 17, 2010

AR Hunter 308, you realize that 22lr bullets are generally 36-40 grains?? Not what I would consider "a lot of lead" even if you can get ten of them out of your muzzle. Most people who can fire a hand gun can get 3-4 rounds of 147gr (441-588gr) 9mm into a target just as fast as, if not fast than the 10 rounds (400grs) of 22lr into the same target. I know a lot of handgun owners can easily get 2 shots from a 230gr 45 auto on target faster than the 10 rounds of 22. Big difference is you'll only need one or two shots from the others to get the job done. If "a lot of lead" in a hurry is your goal, put the 22 down and pick up something a little more substantial, even a 380 would get more lead on target faster than 6-10 rounds of 22lr. Can any of you honestly say if you were given the choice of a 357, 38-Special, 9mm, 40 S&W, 45APC or even the 380 that you would choose a 22lr pistol or revolver over these?? Any of those weapons will put anywhere from 90 - 230grs of lead and copper into your target in one shot and cause a lot more damage in the process. Consider the amount of lead that can be carried in the magazine of the 9mm (15-19rds), the 380 (7-12rds) or the 45 (7-14rds). Even the states that limit these weapons allow 10 round magazines. Been there, the answer to your question is never. As stated above just two rounds from the 357 will much more damage than the 3-4-5 rounds of your 22. There's a reason our police and military personnel don't carry the 22lr into the field or combat. The 22lr can be deadly, but there are much better choices for a defense weapon a person can carry, keep in their car or their nightstand. The rifles mentioned in this article make great training or small game rifles or a nice novelty/show piece, but there are much better options available that can be used to defend yourself, your family or your home.

terrfisherman wrote:
November 27, 2010

The 22 long rifle is a sweet,deadly little round. I conceal carry a Smith and Wesson 422. 12 fast and accurate rounds.

AR Hunter 308 wrote:
November 27, 2010

I can't say enough about the low recoil being a positive in self-defense. I can unload the entire magazine of my Ruger MkIII into a 4" circle at 7 feet in about 2 seconds. Same with my Rem Nylon 66 or 10/22 (takes a bit longer to empty those, but those hold more rounds). I can't even imagine how fast I could unload one of these tactical carbines. Low recoil means you can put a lot of lead on target really fast.

Roodog wrote:
November 24, 2010

The .22 while not that powerful enjoys a almost godlike omnipresence in this country along with the single shot shotgun. They are in a surprising number of households. the enemies of gun ownership realize this and consider the humble .22 to be a grave threat.

Warner Anderson MD wrote:
November 23, 2010

...But I think the point is, does it handle and point like its full-size big brother? Are the controls, weight and so on the same? because it's not a toy gun or plinker, it's a tactical TRAINING substitute.

Richard A. Wells wrote:
November 23, 2010

Would love to have a photo of the skeleton folding rifle talked about by joseph a. clephane. He said he would send anyone a photo of this rifle if they wanted one and I would love to see it. I own a Remington model 24 made in Belgium that was a bring back from WW-2 and was told almost the same thing but have no proof of that. The barrel is threaded on the mussle for some reason. Only one like it that I own and I have 10 of the old model 24's that only say Model 24 on the barrel not on the side plate as most of them do. Would have to dig it out of the safe to make sure but I think this one only takes 22 short and is I believe the first model 24 that has the name Remington on it as all of the other one's are made in America NOT Belgium as this one is.

Been there wrote:
November 23, 2010

When is a .22 more lethal than a .357? Most of the time, because you can hit your target 3,4,5 times and more accurately with the .22 than with the .357.

JungleCogs wrote:
November 23, 2010

I have an old Rem Nylon 66 that a client gave me in trade for his bill. I was going to sell it but the best offer was only $100; so I decided to try it. It is quite accurate and I started studing it's history. Seems due to the nylon-type parts, it works well in very cold weather. In fact, I read that in AK the tribes use them to hunt rather large game as they always work in the cold and with a proper shot, only one shot is needed. I never heard of such a thing, but I will admit, the rear sight is adjustable and the thing is accurate once sighted in.

TOM wrote:
November 23, 2010


JLA wrote:
November 23, 2010

I have one of the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22s. It's a great little rifle! Other than being a light it handles exactly like a centerfire AR15 and even accepts many of the same parts and accessories, including match grade triggers. I can't think of a better low-cost trainer for someone who wants/needs to be proficient with an AR carbine but can't afford .223 ammo these days. (That's especially true given that the purchase price of the 15-22 is only slightly higher than the cost of a case of high-quality .223 ball!) I'm also eyeing one of those GSG-5 rimfire MP5 copies, specifically the 'SD' version (or maybe the SBR copy of the MP5K PDW). They just look like a lot of fun!!!

Bill K wrote:
November 23, 2010

Prior to retiring in Law-enforcement, I can attest that, after working a few homicides, that the .22 rimfire can kill just as dead as larger ones. As for just plain shooting, they are fun and less expensive on the pocket book.

Jason Smith wrote:
November 23, 2010

One obvious error in this article that I noted: The HK 416 D145RS does NOT use a "Crane SOPMOD" stock. It uses a stock developed by HK for their 5.56 HK416. The Crane SOPMOD stock is completely different.

Steven 9mm wrote:
November 23, 2010

I am a 9mm freak when it comes to personal protection. But I love my Ruger Mark III target pistol. .22 ammo is cheap and easy to store in large quantities.

Dean Ward wrote:
November 23, 2010

With everything that is out there, it is still hard to beat the Ruger 10/22: I also have a Ruger Mark 1, which I aquired in 1980, I love that pistol.

R. Musick wrote:
November 23, 2010

When push comes to shove a 22. can be just as "tactical" as the next. Consider the abundance of ammo one can carry, the volume of suppressive fire to pin down ones target. there is a whole host of advantages right down to the straight forward intimidation factor involved. Not a thing wrong having one strapped along side.

Microgunner wrote:
November 19, 2010

There's a great site dedicated to these fun firearms. Tactical22.net.

G Hammond wrote:
November 19, 2010

excellent article. As a regular visitor to Tactical22.net I can say the American Rifleman article is well written and goes over most of the popular models accurately.

joseph a. clephane wrote:
November 19, 2010

i personally have a 22 cal skeleton folding rifle, carried and brought home from ww2 by a maj.or col. who used it to take out sentrys and their dogs. it was purchased by a small gun store from his decendants with a letter signed by the prior soldier, parts were made and were test fired by bsa and belgum, i maintain this firearm as a prized possession and will donate to my children or a museum upon my death. never say never, i have researched this firearm for over 10 years and cannot find any other firearm like it anywhere.i would be glad to email anyone anywhere a picture so they could enjoy it as well.this rifle was carried from normandy to belgum according to the family. my filing cabinet is 6x so it might take me awhile to locate his letter but i did file it to maintain its auth.

Clint A wrote:
November 19, 2010

I sure do love my M&P 15-22. I certainly don't consider it as a hard-core tactical rifle...but it sure is fun to think of it that way. Plus, my young boys find it fun to plink with. You can't beat the affordability and fun this gun has to offer.