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.
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.
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.
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?