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Now Hear This: Are 22LR Trainers Overhyped?

By this point, it’s no secret that I’m way down the path to building a 22LR rifle for training and competition. I’ve previously written about using 22LR as a short-range substitute for centerfire rifles at long range because of its inferior ballistics. 

In fact, conventional wisdom all around the web is that 22LR is a good way to get cheap practice for precision shooting. But, I’m always open to the possibility that conventional wisdom is wrong and I might be barking up the wrong tree.

With that in mind, I want to share a podcast episode from Wolf Precision on this very topic, and why my thinking might be wrong. Here’s the episode.

Key Points

This episode makes a lot of important points. It doesn’t specifically say that 22LR is useless, but instead highlights where the 22LR falls short of being the ultimate training rifle. Among the most important elements are the near-complete lack of recoil and learning to read wind at longer ranges.

Recoil is an important part of shooting long-range. You must learn how to manage so you can improve your follow-through and spot your own shots. A 22LR makes these tasks so easy that you effectively don’t actually practice them.

With wind, you must obviously learn to read the wind in order to shoot precision rifles. And while the 22LR’s poor ballistic performance can give you practice with wind calls at relatively short ranges, it doesn’t teach you how to read what the wind is doing along an entire long-range flight path to 1000 yards and beyond.

The Answer

Wolf Precision doesn’t hate the 22LR, and admits that it’s a blast to shoot in relatively short range 22LR competitions like NRL22. But they argue that aside from marksmanship fundamentals, it’s just too dissimilar from actual long-range rifles to be a valuable trainer.

Their answer is a precision .223 rifle, which provides just enough recoil to train the follow0-up and recoil management issues while also being relatively inexpensive to shoot compared to larger competition rifles. They claim to shoot the .223 out to 1000 yards, which I believe is fully possible with the right skills and ammunition.

Another factor to consider is the similarity in operation between a 22LR and a short action rifle. I can tell you that there is a rather significant difference in the feel of the bolts between my 22LR and my 308. It’s not just that the 22LR is a Tikka with a shorter bolt throw, but also the amount of travel to cycle the action.

By using a short action trainer to “stand in” for a short action competition rifle, the feel is the same. Of course, they also suggest that the training rifle be nearly identical in action, stock, and optics to be truly useful.

Closing Thoughts

I think it’s nice to have a different point of view. In the end, I don’t think the question is really whether or not the 22LR is a perfect substitute for a full-size rifle cartridge, especially for training advanced long-range shooting skills. However, I still think it’s a great tool for practicing the basics of good marksmanship to a point that your centerfire sessions focus on those other important skills unique to the rifle.

What do you think?

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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Oldest First
Newest First

I’m definitely not an expert in long range precision shooting. (I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.) I bought a Ruger Precision Rimfire a year ago as a low-cost way to get into precision shooting. I understand the rationale behind training with a .223 in order to learn long-range wind calls and recoil mitigation. But they way I see it, the reason to have a “trainer” rifle is to lower the cost per shot so that I can get more practice and accelerate my progress up the learning curve.

Everything about .22LR – the gun, the optic, and the ammo – is cheaper than a .308, 6.0 or 6.5. The ammo cost of a .223 trainer would be slightly less compared to a big gun, but the cost of the rifle and the optic wouldn’t be much cheaper, if at all.

Another advantage of a .22LR trainer vs a .223 trainer is accessibility. You only need a 100 yard range to have a challenging session with a .22LR. Plus, call me lazy, but I’d rather spend my time shooting than making a half-mile round trip to change out a target.

Replying to  Matt

It also occurs to me that most shooters would probably derive a more practical benefit from learning how to shoot an AR accurately within its effective range of up to 500 yards, versus pursuing the outer limits of long-distance precision. Personally, I’ve got a lot of work to do before I can say that my long-range accuracy is limited by my equipment, rather than by my skill.

Chris Nicklin
Chris Nicklin

If the weather is for garbage like freezing rain and such, you can train at the indoor range at 25 meters and still get some good training from positional practice. Its like shooting your full bore on a nice day at 100m.

Chris Nicklin
Chris Nicklin
Replying to  Matt

I look at it this way. Fighters don’t just spar for training to get ready for a fight. Sure sparring is a great way to deal with composure, learning to minimize the effects of getting hit (i.e.,recoil)and spotting and exploiting openings in an opponents defense. But every fighter trains on the focus mitts and heavy bag and shadow boxing. This is how they develop form and execution of the fundamentals without negative reinforcement. (read as no recoil) You cant expect to become a decent fighter without both training media.

Shooters should have several training media as well. I like dry fire, shooting rim fire and also shooting full bore rifles. It all depends on the training plan for the day.


I really enjoy this site and follow it every day. The information is useful, especially for an older individual who has decided that a long gun (or ar pistol) makes a lot of sense as a home defense weapon and travel companion.

The discussion of 22lr trainers has been interesting and I have found that an M&P 15-22 augments my AR’s very well. It is also a cost savings which is always welcome at any stage in life.
Here is a website that I found to interesting and led to the addition of a 22lr Ruger bolt to my collection. Given where I live the ranges are especially pertinent and any nation that produced Simo Häyhä should have some say at the table.

Thanks for your time

Colorado Pete
Colorado Pete

I started out on .22 bolt guns on the high school rifle team and NRA junior target club , and ‘graduated’ to centerfires after a sound rimfire beginning. They make perfect sense to me, and while my Remington 541-S sporter sat idle for a number of years, it got plenty of exercise after I became friends with a very competitive fellow who made high master in high power rifle bullseye (the father of the kids pictured in my books). They work great, IF you use them in a structured, purposeful training regimen.


Now that I’ve done a couple PRS matches, I think the 22lr is even more important than I thought. I think the hardest part is position building. Wind reading is an extremely advanced skill and I would say most people, even who are near the top are better at spotting the shot and making holdover corrections accurately. Spotting the shot is very dependent on conditions.

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