What is the best way to learn something? Short answer, practice. The more you can practice, and do that smartly, the better you will master the task. Long range shooting is no different, but how best to learn this aspect of shooting? A good teacher is part of the equation, but what about the hardware? Many people go right to the 308 or the 6.5 Creedmoor for caliber. Not bad options but when the goal is to learn, you will be shooting a lot. As such, it’s good to shoot a very inexpensive round. Behold…the humble 22 LR.
With long range shooting, the main challenge is accounting for bullet drop and drift to hit the target. Duh. Reading conditions, using your scope’s turrets and reticle in tandem to make a shot is the method. The more practice you get doing that, the better you will become with ANY caliber. Common 22 loads produce similar bullet drop at 200 yards as a 6.5 Creedmoor at about 1000 yards. With many ranges in the country being fairly short distance, 22 is perfect to “simulate” a bigger rifle round’s flight path over a much shorter distance.
Recoil is often considered when selecting a cartridge, too. 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t exactly intense in that category, but a 22 is comically soft, which is a good thing for two main reasons. First, it does not lead to you anticipating the recoil or noise and flinching before the shot. Second, you can stay on the scope and watch your impact at essentially any distance. That is important because seeing the impact of your shot in the dirt or on paper and adjusting your scope is a critical and fundamental part of the game and will help you learn how to read with the reticle, and make adjustments. I cannot overstate that last sentence. In addition, 22 is very fun and informative to shoot at steel targets. AR500 is the steel of choice for most shooting but 22 is so weak you’d be able to use thin, mild steel if you wanted.
The final, and maybe most important advantage, is cost. After all, if you can practice for cheap, you will practice more often. As I write this, Covid-19 has the nation severely affected. Ranges are closed, ammo prices and availability are not looking great. So, the 22 is the savior during these hard times; to scratch the shooting itch. You don’t even need to get the highest priced 22 ammo to get the job done. Anything subsonic is ideal, as it is generally more accurate than supersonic. Subsonic will drop more than supersonic but that’s the idea for a trainer. Look at it this way, you will learn more with about 30 rounds of 22 LR than one 6.5 Creedmoor round for about the same money. As for the rifle/optic, you can do it for a pretty reasonable price and get a good system, but we do have options at many price points that I will list below.
Odds are, you probably own a 22 rifle already. But if not, there are some good ones listed below. I like shorter barreled rifles - if I can get them. Since we aren’t super concerned with muzzle velocity and would welcome more drop to learn from, having a shorty can be nice. So… What do I suggest for such a task? The answers are pretty straight forward. Let’s check out the rifles.
- Tikka T1x: $498: A 22 with the quality of their other hunting and tactical rifles at a great price point. Since it uses the same action footprint as the other Tikka’s, finding replacement stocks is easy, and Sterk makes a bunch of products to customize it to your liking. Threaded 1/2x28 for a suppressor too.
- Bergera Rimfire’s: $499-$1049: The BXR semi-autos and soon to be two B-14R bolt guns are at your disposal. Each with an option for steel or carbon fiber barrel. These solid rifles are ideally set up right out of the box with excellent stocks and threaded barrels. The B14R models are Remington 700 clones so they take 700 stocks, triggers and scope mounts. However, these are pretty awesome out of the box so you may not want to mod them at all!
- Christensen Ranger: $795: Using a bespoke receiver, Trigger Tech trigger, and taking mags from a Ruger 10/22, this carbon fiber barreled rifle looks like a performer. I especially like that it takes 10/22 mags for a bolt gun. That means they are easy to source, and having 10 rds does not stick out from the bottom of the rifle is nice. They aren’t the first to do that, but far as I’ve seen, they are the highest quality rifle builder to do so.
- Anschutz Trainer: $1549-2595: Models 1416 in manners T6M stock or model 1712 in a GRS Sporter/Varmint. Legendary Anschutz name, two-stage trigger in a stock you know and love.
- Eurooptic Trainer: $4495. The ultimate rimfire trainer. These rifles use Stiller 2500XR actions, heavy Palma Bartlein barrels, Seekins Trigger guard, and a Rifle Basix trigger all wrapped up in a Manners T4A stock. This model is the closest option available that replicates the weight, feel, accuracy, and quality of a full-on centerfire precision rifle.
Normally, rimfire shooting would require a scope that can focus down pretty close, as short as 10 yards for some. I will list some good ones on that front, but in this case, the idea is to get further distance so we needn’t worry about that. If we go with scopes with a min parallax of 50 yards or so, that opens up the options a lot. What scope you go with depends on a few things. To me, there are two main options. Option 1 is get something reasonably priced and leave it on the 22 when you eventually get a proper long range set up. Option 2 is get a very good optic, albeit at a higher price, then simply move it to the new, centerfire rifle when you get that. If it were me, my list would break down as:
- Matching turrets to reticle (both moa or both mil)
- Adjustable parallax (also referred to as focus knob)
- Exposed/Tactical style turrets with sufficient travel (at least 60 moa/~18 mils suggested minimum)
- Reticle with hash marks or other reference markers for elevation and windage. NOT anything ballistic matched. Must be straight up MOA or Mil.
IDEAL to Have:
- First focal plane
- “Christmas tree” style reticle
- At least 80 moa/~23 mils of elevation travel.
As for magnification, you don’t need to go nuts, since 200 yards is a good distance to play at. 300 yards can be quite a challenge with wind and such, so assuming ranges like these, you don’t need a lot of power. A scope with a top end of 10-15x at minimum is what I’d do. Lately I have been running the Nikon M-Tactical 3-12x42 and Vortex Viper PST Gen II 2-10x32. There are many other options, depending on budget and preferences, though.
Scopes with ~10 yard minimum parallax:
Nightforce ATACR 7-35
Schmidt Bender 5-25
Meopta Optika6 3-18x50/56 FFP
Other good economical choices with further minimum parallax:
There are so many options to choose from for the rifle and optic but this list will cover some good ones. Get yourself a 22 set up, and it will be a great learning tool for long range as well as being a very fun rifle to shoot.