Torture is living five minutes from a gun store that you only see before 9:00 and after 6:00 on your daily commute. Last week, I shucked the chains of my cubicle and left the office at 5:00 so I could go to my local toy store before they closed. They say advertising doesn’t work. The sign said “Colt AR 15 .22LR 10% off.” I had to be there. I wanted to see what it looked like. And my local store has them out in the main display area . . .

My Mom bought me an ArmaLite AR-15 two years ago as a present. I love it like a man loves a rifle. With the exception of some extremely cheap steel cased ammo-related issues, it has been utterly reliable and a blast to shoot. Unfortunately, the go button gets away from me and before I know it, I’ve dumped $100 down the barrel and all I have to show for it are the crippled bodies of some cheap soda cans.

Sure it’s accurate. And yeah, it looks REALLY cool. But it doesn’t do much more than that. Maybe I’m just biased against 5.56 NATO. She’s a great round for killing enemies of the state, but it has never instilled confidence for killing four legged critters. I will probably take it out this season to kill a deer just to prove it can.

I just like .243 WIN better for that job. Stepping out to 500 yards on the weekend is certainly possible. But there are bullets that are better suited to the job. I’m sure I could take it varmint hunting, but it seems a bit overpowered for rabbits and coyotes. .204 Ruger and .22-250 were designed for just such a thing.

For what I do, an AR-15 chambered in 5.56 NATO is just not the best fit. So I find myself with a gun that that does most things well, but nothing really great. That is the definition of frustration.

If you’ve seen my mini-bio on any of my articles, you know that I like motorcycles. I love riding and have for well over a decade. My family is actively involved in the motorcycle community as well.

Growing up in that environment, I saw quite a few people piss away a small fortune buying the newest liter bike every year only to wad it up in the third corner of their first track day. Or even worse, stuffing their brand new bike, themselves, and about thirty pounds of stupid into a guardrail on a secluded road 45 minutes from the nearest hospital.

Meanwhile, I happily cruised my way through my first licensed year on a Kawasaki Ninja 250. Top speed 92 m.p.h. Downhill. With a tailwind. With power output approaching anemic, I learned quite a bit about proper form and conservation of momentum. At 70 mpg wearing tires that would go for 7500 miles between replacement (instead of 2000), I laid down a LOT of miles.

When I made the jump to the 600 cc bikes, I was putting the spanking on guys who had been riding their big bikes longer than me. Simply put, I had more miles under my belt, and a better understanding of riding smooth.

This is where the Umarex/Colt AR-15 comes in. This is a gun shaped just like my AR, only purpose built to shoot the .22 LR cartridge. With the same weight, same trigger, and same general feel as my AR, I can burn ammo at any speed I want.

.22 LR is CHEAP. Even the good stuff is cheap. And at ranges less than 50 meters, it puts holes in roughly the same place as my big boy gun. And while the idea of burning through 1000 rounds of 5.56 NATO would have most people clutching their heart and wallet, it would cost me less than $50 chambered in .22 LR.

Just like my little Kawasaki taught me to hold speed through a corner, the Umarex/Colt in .22 LR could teach me quite a bit about running and gunning. Speaking of dollars, there are three ways that I’ve seen to shoot .22 LR out of an AR.

  1. Buy a drop in bolt replacement kit. There are a few places online that sell them, but usability is suspect, they aren’t cheap, and I’m not the biggest fan of running mismatched bullets down the bore of my fancy gun. And after reading Foghorns review of the AAC Element, I don’t particularly want .22 LR gunk in my gas tube.
  2. Buy a dedicated .22 LR upper. Again, these are expensive and not the easiest to find. And for that kind of money, you could…
  3. Buy a dedicated AR in .22 LR.

I’ve been shooting a few times with some tacticool guys I know, and while I know this will get me flamed into oblivion, I’ll say it. What they do on the weekends is glorified plinking. They just have cooler holsters and vests. And they spend a lot more money.

If you are serious about shooting, you should be shooting A LOT. But shooting a lot just isn’t cost effective for most people. I really think that traditional guns chambered in .22 LR could really be a game changer. My local gun store seems to agree. They work hard to keep the shelves well stocked.

And just to stoke the fires, Umarex/Colt offers a 1911 clone in .22 LR. What do you make of that? I make it a useful training gun and a fine weapon in its own right. Oh did I mention the new breed of .22 self-defense ammo? Another time . . .

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25 Responses to .22 LR: The Quarter Liter Motorcycle of Bullets

  1. While it’s been done at multiple sites, maybe TTAG should looking in to doing a ‘tacticool’ review of all the .22lr options. Along with the VK-22, this is the second article leaning that way.

  2. My Mom bought me an ArmaLite AR-15 two years ago as a present.

    Nice mom. Good thing you didn’t ask for the Red Ryder, though–even mom’s have to draw the line somewhere.

  3. You make an interesting case. There’s a Umarex .22 HK416 version out there I’m very attracted to, but I’m one of those guys who loves feedback when I fire. I love that kick and that bang. But I don’t love ammo prices.

    So the question becomes, do I want to be able to shoot more, or do I want higher personal enjoyment of my shooting in more limited quantities?

    But the subject of practice is one to consider, and how .22 would get me more range time.

  4. I agree, for the most part. I have a few .223 / 5.56 rifles. And, I enjoy shooting them. Honestly, there is something primal about the sound and the recoil that speaks to me. So, I’m not giving that up! But, I also enjoy shooting rounds downrange free of any financial concerns. 500 rounds of .22-LR available at Wallyworld for $18. Can’t beat it!

    And, that’s why I also have a .22-LR AR style rifle. Specifically, I have the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22. I got the MOE version, which makes it a bit more “tacticool.” 🙂 I put a cheap Primary Arms M4 red dot clone optic on it (about $80). And, it just rocks. It looks and functions just like an AR-15. It’s fun. And, it’s CHEAP.

    I’m not familiar with the Umarex, though. Looks nice! What’s the price? How does it compare to the M&P 15-22?

  5. Quote: “I’ve been shooting a few times with some tacticool guys I know, and while I know this will get me flamed into oblivion, I’ll say it. What they do on the weekends is glorified plinking. They just have cooler holsters and vests. And they spend a lot more money.”

    +1. Glad someone is willing to say it.

  6. “Sure it’s accurate. And yeah, it looks REALLY cool. But it doesn’t do much more than that. Maybe I’m just biased against 5.56 NATO. She’s a great round for killing enemies of the state, but it has never instilled confidence for killing four legged critters. I will probably take it out this season to kill a deer just to prove it can.
    I just like .243 WIN better for that job.”

    Not that I have any intention of leading your wallet astray, but DPMS makes AR-style rifles in .243, .308, .338, and other serious calibers. My personal favorite is the DPMS LR308B – 18″ bull barrel, flattop, .308 tack driver. NOT a hunting gun (12lbs with scope). Of course, they make all of the above calibers in lighter hunting versions.

    Hey, just trying to help. and remember the first rule of gun buying: If you can’t decide between 2 (or 3, or 4…) guns, BUY THEM ALL! Trust me, you will be glad you did 5-10 years down the road when you look at the prices of the ones you did NOT buy.

    “My Mom bought me an ArmaLite AR-15 two years ago as a present.”
    That is so cool – will your Mom adopt me?

  7. That’s the whole reson I bought my neos.
    The economics of range time

    As much fun as I have with larger calibers,
    I just can’t afford to put as many rounds
    down range with them as with the .22

    Besides, the .22 is just plain useful.

  8. From what I’ve heard, most of the umarex 22s are a standard 22LR action inside a cosmetic shell, and don’t have any real mechanical similarity to the 5.56 version.

    Just something to be aware of.

  9. I also have one of the Umarex/Colt AR 22LR Carbines, and I love it, well except for the bolt release not a functional item. But with that being said, as far as fit and feel, it is just like a regular AR. Now I realize that most shooting shows and magazines tout the S&W M&P 22LR AR (don’t think it has anything to do with advertising dollars), without mentioning the Colt, but for realistic feel compared to the light (and I mean really light) weight of the M&P, I’ll take my Colt. Larger Magazine (30 compared to 25), and it just feels the same as it’s big brother, the AR-15. And yes it had ammo sensitivity problems at first, but I heard the Smith did too, so as long as I’m using CCI mini mags, I don’t have a problem.

    • “And yes it had ammo sensitivity problems at first, but I heard the Smith did too, so as long as I’m using CCI mini mags, I don’t have a problem.”

      My Sig 522 eats whatever 22LR bulk pack is on sale at Wal-Mart this week without a hiccup. 😉

      • When I purchased the Colt, that was just about the only dedicated 22LR AR platform available. Since then, everyone (including probably Maytag and Whirlpool) have come up with their versions of the AR 22, and yes I would have liked the Sig, but with money being tight, I’ll just stick with the Colt. I wish Umarex would have done more research and made it completely like a real AR, but I think they hurried it out to production, because of the cost of ammo at the time.

  10. There’s no rifle that’s more fun to shoot than a .22LR. Light, accurate, cheap to buy and feed and accurate at 100 yards and closer. What’s not to love? I felt that way 50 years ago, and still feel the same way today.

    • Here in Norway long distance shooters use 22 from 100 to 300-400 metres distance to learn and practice reading wind and calculating trajectory( 22 at 300 metres is pretty close approximation of 338 lapua at 1200 metres.

  11. Hey, that first picture with the bullets and penny is MINE! I stuck the bullets and penny on to a Mr. Gattis pizza box with tape and took the picture in my front yard…

    🙂

  12. I have the umarex mp-5 .22, fun little gun to shoot cheap and looks great hanging on the living room wall….lol. I’d love to get an AR model sometime when I have money again.

  13. I guess it’s personal taste, but for $199 I’ll take the Ruger 10/22 instead of this rifle for $435 (cheaper than dirt). To me, the Umarex/Colt looks like junk, maybe Bling would be a better word. Yup, that’s it! Rifle Bling. Seems like ever since these “Tactical” thingies have come out, every wannabe swat/special ops guy has to have one. These things are the equivalent of sneakers with lights built in.

    I fully expect to have my head handed to me with this comment.

  14. Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 all the way. Its a much better rifle. It shoots all sorts of ammo more reliably, has a better barrel, bolt release works while the umarex is just for decoration , is lighter, trigger can be changrd with other AR triggers and lots more reasons.

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