I have a terrible confession to make.
While I do have a couple of bolt-action rimfire rifles (Marlin 880SQ in .22LR and Marlin 882 in .22 WinMag, see below):
… I do not currently possess a semi-auto .22 plinker.
Now, I am fully aware that I am probably breaking some Texas law by such a glaring omission. But my defense to prosecution, Yeronner, is that I gave/sold all my rimfire plinkers away to people who at the time had greater need of them than I, and I don’t think I should be arrested for altruism/poverty.
That said, when I return from my sabbatical in Britishland, I intend to remedy the situation. My conundrum is that while I’ve fired just about every brand and type of rimfire plinker ever made — old ones, new ones, you name it, I’ve fired it — I’ve been thinking about it long and hard and I’ve ended up with Choice Paralysis. So I’m going to need the assistance of you, O My Readers.
The essence of a rimfire semi-auto plinker is that it be cheap (under $250), reliable and reasonably accurate (“reasonably” because no semi-auto can compete with my 880SQ; I’ve got the accuracy part covered).
The cost criterion, sadly, excludes such beauties as the Winchester Model 63 and its Taurus counterparts:
This pains me because I learned to shoot rifles with my Dad’s Mod 63, but sadly, it’s way too spendy, and so are the Taurus (discontinued) copies, when you can even find one. Another spendy but beautiful one is the CZ 512, but it’s way spendy (albeit drop-dead gorgeous, and maybe the most accurate of any semi-auto .22):
Just to make matters more complicated, I also don’t want to get a .22 semi-auto rifle I’ve owned before, which rules out the Marlin Mod 60 and Ruger 10/22. (See? I may be conservative, but I can embrace change…)
A cursory look at the various local retail outlets’ websites shows that my choices are limited to these (in no particular order):
Remington 597 (scoped):
My only quibble with this one is that it doesn’t have iron sights, in my opinion a sine qua non for plinkers.
This one I haven’t fired before, but Doc Russia has one of these and the next time we hit the range, I’ll try it out.
Over the years, I must have fired a dozen 795s, and they are just fine.
I haven’t fired many of these — as I recall, one belonging to a Reader, at a range somewhere — but also as I recall, it’s a lovely thing. And it’s a Savage, so it’s not going to be a bad choice. None of them are, I think.
(If I buy the “scoped” Savage 64 package, it’s still under the $250 limit, as is the Rem 597 above. With my failing eyesight, it’s a consideration.)
Of course, I’d prefer to buy a wooden-stocked plinker (because wood feels better than plastic in my hands), but it seems that the only ones available are the disqualified Mod 60 and 10/22 or the expensive Winchester/Taurus and CZ [sigh]. Remember, I’m looking for a knockaround rifle, not a safe queen or pinpoint shooter.
All suggestions, recommendations, war stories/tales of woe, warnings and such in Comments, please, and will be much appreciated. Don’t chide me for being in this situation; I’m greatly mortified as it is.
While I’ve never fired any of the semis (damn NJ Assault Weapon Ban where a Marlin Model 60 is Verboten), I have a Savage bolt action that cost less than my monthly train ticket and shoots like it’s got eyes of its own, FAR more accurate than I could ever make use of. So for me when I think rifle I think Savage first.
Did they put the Accutrigger on their semi? If so that (for me) would be the clincher.
I have a Remington 597 for sale. If you wish to own it, even with the scope, contact me and we’ll work something out. I also have a Winchester 1906 pump action for sale but, as you’ve mentioned, it’s pricey because of the age.
Thankee for the offer, but I’m going to go with a new gun this time. With Gander Moutain going out of business, it’s time to support my local FFL.
Newer Marlin 60s have a 14 round mag. They are legal in NJ… until we get a Dem governor and they lower the capacity to 10. But some guy did get prosecuted under the inane Assault Weapons statue for having an older one w the 17 round tube.
Yeah, I can’t wait to get out of here.
Savages have legendary triggers.
From Reader AlanF (who alas is not a WordPress member) comes this set of recommendations:
“I have been an Appleseed instructor for 8 years. I (or my wife) own a Mossberg 702, a Remington 597, a Remington 552, a CZ 512 and numerous Marlin 795s. For quality and accuracy, the CZ 512 is unsurpassed in my opinion. I have had mine for about 6 years and it has helped create several “Riflemen”. It is sized such that it is too long for smaller shooters. The next for quality (it is made like a much larger caliber rifle) is the Remington 597. It is plenty accurate. If you are going to “use the hell out of it” such as we do at Appleseed events, it would NOT get my recommendation. We have had issues keeping them running for a 500 round weekend. A surprise contender is the Mossberg 702. It is plastic and aluminum; it is basic and no frills. Ours has about 15,000 rounds through it with no failures that took it off the line over a 9 year period. It keeps running even when filthy. It is accurate enough to have created about a dozen “Riflemen” over the years as a loaner rifle.”
Have always been partial to the Marlin Model 60. Slim, light weight, proportioned for adults. Tube magazine makes it reasonably difficult to arrive at the range without ammo feeding device. Lots of used ones out there, so shouldn’t be too hard to find an older one with decent wood for not much coin of the realm.
I love the 60, myself, and owned several in the past. But it’s time to try something new…
If you can find an old Mossberg 151a-k (there were a number of variants), try it out. You may be pleasantly surprised. I bought a used one over 30 years ago and it is still my go-to .22 semi-auto. It has a tube mag that holds 15 rounds, a multi-leaf front sight, a notched blade rear sight just ahead of the receiver AND a peep sight at the rear of the action. Accuracy in reliability are top notch. They are a little clunky looking, bot not bad, especially in you get one with a 3/4 length stock instead of the two-piece full-length version.
FWIW: The Marlin 60 and the Marlin 795 have nearly identical inner workings (save for a slight difference on the bolt due to the tube magazine vs the removable magazine) and if you’re a fan of the 60, a 795 gives the added benefit of the magazine (which also works in their XT bolt actions, etc).
I do wish the 795 would come in with a wood stock instead of plastic though and I wish I could actually find the elusive Liberty Training Rifles in the wild.
Might I suggest the Marlin Papoose? It’s discontinued but isn’t rare, so possible to find used ones in your price range. Bonus is it’s a Marlin that’s bug-out bag friendly.
Pro: Wood stocked, light 3.5 lbs., takedown for easy transport. Sights are all on the barrel, so no loss of accuracy. Great varminting gun.
Cons: No forward grip area on barrel, which gets toasty with long sessions. Undersized a bit, although not targeting the youth market.
The Henry AR-7 may be worth taking a look at. It’s not the most accurate, the most reliable or the cheapest, but being the easiest to stow away and bring along means it may be the most likely to be used. The MSRP is above $250 but I’m seeing it offered for less.
Forget the idea of buying a rifle you’ve not owned before. Go with the 50th anniversary collector series 10/22. They come from the factory with a scope rail, peep sight and the ability to swap out the stock insert for a shorter LOP in case you need to adjust it for a youngster. They are not as plentiful as they were six months ago but I believe they can be had very close to your price range NIB.
And if you cannot get over how ugly the grey collector series stock is, bump your price range and get one with a wood Männlicher stock.
That Männlicher Ruger is very pretty. Not a bad choice for a semi.
My current .22lr target rifle is a Mossberg model 42B I picked up for less than $120. It was marketed originally as a semi-pro target rifle.
Here is a picture of someone else’s:
Mine has the extended magazine tube ( all the way to the bore ), and the original scope mount with a new Nikon .22lr scope. I’ll be using it to get my Distinguished rifleman(smallbore) badge from the NRA this summer, hopefully.
On the lower end of the cost scale, I vote for the Savage A22 w. the Accutrigger. Moving up a bit in price, I’d opt for the CZ 512.
As to the Remington 597, there have been magazine and extractor issues. I don’t know if Big Green has gotten around to fixing those or not. But I finally got so frustrated with mine constantly jamming that now it resides in the back of the safe. I’ll sell it to some unprepared liberal hippie if the S ever HTF.
I bought the Mossberg 702. I put a real scope on it, not one of the .22 scopes that come with some of the rifles that you buy as a package. And I agree that while it is a cheap gun, at about a hundred dollars on sale, it does shoot better than it should. And keeps on shooting. I suspect that you can’t go wrong with any of the guns listed, for the money you will spend. They are just doing a decent job now days.
Get a full price .22lr scope, not one of those cheapies.
A .22lr needs a scope set at a 50 yard parallax. Most normal rifle scopes won’t dial down that far, or are pre-set at 100-200 yards parallax.
I’d have to go with the Savage. They seem to be about the best deal out there right now. I had a pre 1968 Marlin 60 (no serial number) and passed it down to my son many years back. My cousin and I bought it from a hardware store in a little town in PA in the days when the clerk called my aunt and asked if it was okay that we were buying a .22 rifle. My aunt said of course and we came home as joint owners of a new Marlin. Later on I bought out my cousin’s interest in the gun for $20 – lots of money in 1967. There’s lots of bright metal showing on the gun these days but it still shoots straight and likes cheap ammunition. I’ve got a new production Henry AR-7 just because the 10 year old boy in me wanted one. It’s a fun gun and I’ve found a pretty good hiding place in my car for it, but the stock shape is a bit awkward. Since you don’t want to go with another 10/22 the Savage is a good choice. I’ve got a few bucks in the mad money box and I might go look at the Savage 64 myself.
I was going to recommend a used Remington Nylon 66 just to be different, but I see that they mostly don’t fit in the budget you specify.
Plenty of good comments already — a single-out nod to both AlanF and Durham68 — so no need for me to dogpile.
I am more than mildly curious why
Just to make matters more complicated, I also don’t want to get a .22 semi-auto rifle I’ve owned before …
I have wracked my meager gray cells for a plausible explanation but must finally admit that I have to ask.
Just trying something new, JT, just trying something new.
Do I have to hand in my Conservative Club Membership Badge?
Take a look at Winchester Model 74. They are an accurate rifle that still works. If you find a beater you should have a scope mount installed. Here is a new-in-box on Gunbroker right now. http://www.gunbroker.com/item/650529833
I just found your site a week or so ago via Instapundit. I noted your mention of the Winchester 63 and it’s Taurus clone. I was lucky to find a n.o.s. Taurus at a Big 5 store of all places. A little time on the internet secured a Taurus tang sight and it’s been a splendid plinker. Amazing quality for a $200 piece, beautiful bluing and surprisingly nice wood. It’s been quite reliable and no more fussy about ammo than most rimfire autoloaders. It always draws attention and starts conversations. If you look hard there must be some out there for a good price.
Another oldie-but-goodie is the Remington 550. They have a floating chamber and will cycle with .22 short or LR. The early ones have a smooth receiver; the later ones are grooved for tip-off mounts. They came with a deflector on top of the receiver, and it is often missing. Here is one on Gunbroker: http://www.gunbroker.com/item/640393762
Hmmmm … I forgot about all those old tube fed semi-autos still out there.
My first gun was a Stevens 64, a Savage made with cheaper materials ($99 at the local hardware store). It’s still ticking just fine. I vote for the Savage for the following reasons:
1. Trigger: breaks very clean after a good bit of take up. Keeps me in practice for the two stage military triggers.
2. Accuracy: it’s a laser. It seems criminal to shoot formal groups with a plinker, but I can nail cans at 75 yards all day, offhand.
3. Size: the length of pull is good for full sized humans, an issue I run into with the 10/22 for example.
One downside: if you plan to hunt with the gun, you’ll want a sling. The balance point of the rifle is right where that magazine sticks out, and is annoying to carry one handed.
I must agree with the gentlemen that recommended the CZ rifle. I have significant experience with the CZ rifles both in my safe and with the many members of my club that use them in various forms of competition.
Yes it will cost more. Yes it is worth more. The price of much higher quality is soon forgotten while the endless reminders of poor quality and cost cutting remain forever. I know, it is easy for me to spend YOUR money, but
I believe I am doing you a favor by recommending the better rifle.
If it wasn’t for the budget, I’d suggest a Browning Semi-Auto.
I wonder if any of the replicas in .22 by ATI, Umerex and others would be in this price range? Personally, I think it would be fun to plink with what looks like an MP5 or StG 44. Or heck, an AR15 in .22 could also do double duty as a trainer for a regular AR.
I have one of the StG-44’s in .22lr, and it is a blast to shoot….even if a bit heavy.
My uncle had one of these when I was in high school, and I took it afield more than once. What a sweetheart! Practical for today’s world? Not even close. Heavy (for a 22), good luck with parts, no provision for optics, yada, yada. Retro fun? Oh, my!
I’d give serious consideration to what the guys recommending the Mossberg .22 line. I’ve owned several in my life and every one of them was a shooting machine. I’d put the 144LS against any target .22 you want to name.
No real recommendation, but a warning. Avoid the Taurus 63. I had one, and it was straight garbage. screws would back out at random, and after taking it down, it never ran reliably again. Very shoddy QC, which was sad because I loved the concept of a repro I could shoot and enjoy without worry about hurting an antique.
Having attended my first Appleseed event using a new Marlin model 60 and missing expert by 14 points, I can say it’s a great rifle-but you want something else.
My suggestion in that case is the Marlin Model 795. It’s just as accurate, and easier to load, than the Model 60. It also lacks the rolled spring magazine that I dislike on the Ruger 10/22, and shoots very well right out of the box. I was able, at my third event, to score expert during my third Appleseed event.
It’s my go-to .22 caliber rifle.
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