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Best low caliber target rifles

Gun Tips by Donald K. Burleson

October 2010

Also see my notes on


The top 2010 low caliber target rifle

The bolt actions are listed first because they tend to be more accurate then semi automatics.  Our votes for the best low caliber target rifles are:

     - Enfield model 1917 - And oldie bit a goodie ($300)
     - CS 452 Lux - Best in class for a new bolt action 22 rifle (400-$500)
     - Anschuntz Model 64 - Pricey ($,300), but great!
     - Ruger 10/22 - Super good 22 semi-automatic ($400)
     - Savage Model 64 - A joy with a scope at 100 yards, bullet over bullet.

1 - 1917 Enfield 22 caliber training rifle (circa 1954) - This rifle can shoot bullet-over bullet at 100 yards using the iron sites (2010 price about $300):

2 - The CZ 452 Lux - The best new rifle on the market, super accurate at too yards.  Plus, a gorgeous walnut stock.

3 - Anschutz Model 64:

4 - Ruger 10/22 - The world's most popular 22 semiautomatic target rifle, easily customized and great fun to shoot!

5 - Savage Mark 2/Model 64 - Deadly accurate with a scope at 100 yards, a joy to shoot:

Janet and I love to target shoot with rifles, but we detest kill animals for fun and we limit our shooting targets are various local gun clubs and our own target range. (See here on how to build your own home shooting range).

First, your choice of target rifle is largely a choice of the distance you want, your years of practice, and the cost of the ammo:
  • Low Caliber: This starts with the .22 rim-fire bullet that costs only two cents each and is accurate up to 150 yards.  The higher .223 is a souped-up .22 with a large cartridge that costs only 30 cents per round and is accurate to 600 yard, perfect for any target shooting except snipers.

  • High powered, low caliber:  This includes the .223 (AR-15 assault rifles)  This is just as much fun as the 30-06, the 30-30, as well as the new 50 caliber sniper rifles that can penetrate 36 inches of concrete at over a quarter mile.

Same caliber - different range:  .22 vs .223 (actual size)

Choosing the best target rifle for you

Some indoor target rifle competitions required specialized target rifles which are not suitable for outdoor use.  Once clamped into a vise and adjusted, there is not much skill in pressing the trigger on a pre-aimed rifle in a jig:

A competition .22 target rifle and a resting jig

I wanted a new rifle, but I wanted a versatile gun with these characteristics:

  •  Switch to cheap ammo:  The colt AR-15 Match Target AR15 rifle offers .223 caliber for long range with a .22 conversion kit (About $230) for cheaper ammo.  For a .22, you cannot beat the Federal .22 40 grain target ammo which costs under 5 cents per round and packs  a wallop.

  • Fast switch between manual sight and scope:  Good manual sight up top 500 yards with a way to change sights from manual sight to a high-powered scope without loss of zero.

  • Smooth trigger:  a good target rifle must never have a sticky or hard to release target, and it's important to choose rifle that allows you to swap-in a target trigger.

  • Bolt Action:  Experts say that the bullet has not yet exited the barrel when a semi-automatic mechanism kicks-in, and hence, a bolt-action rifle will always be more accurate than a semi-automatic for long-distance sniping.  They are also a safe buy used because there is no risk of buying a jamming gun, and the only issue is the trigger pull weight.

  • Floating barrel:  a good target rifle has a thick "bull barrel", and it "floated" to improve the harmonics.  You can tell if a target rifle has a floated barrel buy slipping a dollar bill under the barrel:

Evaluating target rifles


Customizing a rifle for target shooting

Any popular semi-automatic (Savage, Ruger 10/20) can be tricked out as a target rifle by changing it, lock, stock and barrel.  Basically to toss away the stock, trigger and barrel, and make your own custom target rifle, all for under $500:

A customized .22 semi-automatic with new stock, barrel, trigger & scope

There is a book and this article on how to get and inexpensive and super-reliable Ruger 10/20 semi-automatic plinking rifle and customize it to be a deadly accurate target rifle. 

The best .22 target rifles

There are many super accurate .22 target rifles, most of which are customized with a trigger, bull barrel and target stock, handsome guns.  In the .22, bolt actions are far more accurate then semi-automatics.

CZ-452 - The best simple gun


Savage Mark 2 .22 Rifle

Savage Arms MARK-II Mako Shark Tactical 22 - $1,000

Anschutz Model 64 R Sporter Target 22 LR - $1,000

Use an AR-15 with a 22 caliber bolt

You can buy a $130 22 caliber bolt kit for an AR-15 and make a great 22 caliber rifle from an AR-15.  See my notes on the best AR target rifle.

This video shows how easy it is to change out a Colt A-15 .223 bolt with a .22 Long rifle bolt.

This gives you 10x the range time for the same money (40 cents for a .223 bullet vs. 6 cents for a 22. bullet), and you can have great fun with the manual sights on the AR-15 at 100 yards.



Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

Suggestions?  We are always seeking new tips for the professional at leisure, and any suggestions would be most welcome.  If you find an error or have a suggestion for improving our content, we would appreciate your feedback. 

Copyright � 1996 -  2010 by Donald K Burleson. All rights reserved.