I was at my local range recently enjoying a few of my military style (I don't like to use the term "tactical") .22 rifles when I was asked by another shooter "Which rifle is the best to buy?". He went on to explain that he would love to have an AR 5.56/.223 but the cost of the gun and then the ammunition put it out of his budget.
He also said he had a son who was 10 yrs old and enjoyed shooting an older Mossberg bolt action .22. The boy wanted a "cool" looking rifle but due to cost and the fact that the boy was not experienced his father wanted to stay with the .22 caliber.
His wife had a 10/22 that the boy enjoyed but it wasn't "cool" so with Christmas coming they were looking for a rifle for the boy.
When I got home I started thinking that there may be other folks with the same questions. I decided to do an in depth range report on 3 of the military style rifles.
If we include actual military trainers in this style of rifle I have 9 or 10 but I decided to report on modern, up to date, semi automatic models.
I chose the S&W MP15-22, the GSG P-522 SD, and a dedicated AR 22 manfactured by CMMG. All 3 of these guns are easy to maintain, accurate, available at many outlets, and faithfully reproduce the actual military weapons they are cloned from.
They all shoot the same inexpensive .22 LR ammunition.
The S&W 15-22 is the first on my list. It is an almost exact replica of the American AR-15 with all controls and functions (except the forward assist) the same as the AR15.
The rifle is built with a polymer upper and lower which results in a very light weight rifle.
My Smith is a flat top with a full length rail and a quad rail foregrip. The cuts on the quad rails are polymer and very sharp. I installed Magpul ladder rail covers and that solved the problem. This is an inexpensive solution and especially if you have kids or wives or anyone not familiar with the rails it heads off potential problems.
The S&W is the lightest of the 3 test rifles. It weighes 88 ounces (5 and 1/2 pounds) and feels very light in your hands. Because of the light weight this is an excellent choice for competitions like plate shoots where quick acquisition of multiple targets is a benefit.
The gun uses a 16 inch barrel with a 1 in 15" twist. There is an approx 7 pound trigger pull from the factory.
It feels lighter because it is crisp but on the advice of djegators I installed a set of 4.5 pound trigger springs from JP Enterprizes and it was just what I wanted.
It is possible that with an appropriate break in period the original pull would have lightened up....
OAL of the rifle is 35 and 1/2 inches with the stock extended.
I switched out the S&W sliding stock for a Magpul MOE sliding stock and the Magpul thick recoil pad. I did this because I am a big guy and need as much LOP as I can get.
My rifle came with a flat top and a set of Smith removable open sights. My eyes are not the best so I removed the stock sights to install an optic. I use the gun for plate shoots so I installed a Tasco Pro Point 45 mm red dot. This sight not only gives me variable brightness for the dot but allows me to increase or decrease the size of the dot to suit shooting conditions.
I also installed a set of Magpul Folding Back Up sights I could use if my red dot went out for any reason.
The S&W MP15-22 magazine holds 25 rounds and is trouble free. When I buy a new magazine I put a couple drops of Slip 2000 in the grooves the follower rides in and that allows the follower to move smooth a silk. There is a magazine load assist on the follower that allows the shooter to compress the magazine spring so there is no pressure when load individual bullets into the magazine. The magazines cost about $20 to $25 but if you watch for sales I have found them for $14.99.
I have put literally thousands of rounds through this rifle. A conservative estimate would be 5000+ and I have had no problems with the gun of any kind.
As with most guns of this type the manufacturer recommends using high velocity ammunition. In the manual Smith lists different brands and types of ammunition that will work the best. CCI Stingers were on the list and I was familiar with them so that is all I have ever used in my rifle. YMMV....
The MP15-22 delivers very good accuracy. Mine is capable of sub one inch groups at 50 yards if I do my part which is good enough for hunting small game as well as happy plinking at the range.
Of the 3 rifles in this test the S&W MP15-22 is the most expensive. Smith offers many variations and options and you will find the rifle runs $475 to $550. You can usually find a good deal on them at any of the larger gun shows.
If you are looking for a .22 LR rifle for a youngster, hunting, plinking, or any other reason, you will not go wrong with theMP15-22. It is dependable, accurate, and a lot of fun!
The second gun in this report is the GSG P522 SG. It is made in Germany by German Sport Guns and is a clone of the H&K MP5. The importer for the gun is ATI in Rochester, New York.
The P522 is the heaviest of the test guns at 7 and 1/2 pounds. It sports a 16 and 1/4 inch barrel with a 1 in 16" twist and is 33 and 1/2 inches overall length.
The bolt does lock back on the last round and the rifle has an additional magazine safety.
The GSG magazine hold 22 rounds and like most things made in Germany is built well. It has a load assist similar to the S&W and the housing can be completely taken apart for cleaning.
I had a failure to feed problem that I was able to trace to two different problems with the magazine. I bought my P522 used and somewhere before me someone used a grease to lubricate the slots the follower rides in. The grease had collected a mess of dirt, pet type hair, and even some sand and was causing the follower to stick. The other problem was the load assist. There is a tiny nut and bolt that goes completely through the magazine. When it is over tightened it causes the load assist to pinch the follower preventing it from sliding smoothly. After I learned the correct adjustment for the assist, cleaned out all the old grease, and applied a thin coat of Slip 2000 with a q-tip the sticking problem disappeared.