Tactical shooting has exploded in the last decade with the ownership of semi-auto sporting variants of assault rifles. Weapons like the AR-15 and the AK-47 have grown greatly in popularity—your regular mom-and-pop gun shops, huge outdoor stores, and even local Walmarts carry AR-15s these days.
Two factors have brought tactical shooting to the main stream, the first being the repeal of the unconstitutional Clinton assault weapons ban. This opened the flood gates for purchasing tactical rifles. Second, we have been at war for over a decade, and we now have a decade’s worth of innovation in weapons for our troops and a decade’s worth of veterans who loved their service rifles.
The problem with all this tactical love is price; the rifles, the ammo, the optics, flashlights, and even magazines can be expensive. So what to do when you want to shoot tactical without going broke? Turn to the American classic, the .22 long rifle.
The .22 is known to all shooters as the “do everything but does nothing” round. It is a small-caliber round suited for hunting small game and plinking, but in a pinch, it can become a self-defense and main hunting weapon. The round is probably the most popular bullet ever. .22 long rifle is incredibly cheap, has essentially no recoil, and makes comparatively little noise.
Tactical .22s are gaining ground as popular fun guns—after all, who can hate shooting all day for about fifteen bucks? And as an added bonus, many of these tactical .22s are built after popular weapons and feature identical controls. That means it’s the perfect round to learn to shoot with and the perfect round to train with.
We’ll start with the American classic—the Ruger 10/22. If you want to accessorize a rifle, the 10/22 is the way to go. The Ruger 10/22 gives you a reliable, trusted platform to go tacticool crazy on.
Some well-known rifles have Ruger 10/22 drop-in kits based off of them. How about turning your rifle into a 2/3 scale MG 42? It’s out there. My personal favorite is the Archangel Nomad, a kit that turns your 10/22 in a G36 look alike. The stock kit comes complete with a folding stock and realistic magazine.
Another kit that is bound to draw a lot of attention is the Krinker Plinker. This kit turns your 10/22 into an AKSU-74 with folding stock and a barrel shroud to resemble a suppressor.
Companies like Tapco offer their tactical version with a six-position stock and forward rails. The same company that builds the Nomad offers another Archangel kit that turns your rifle into its own modern platform. Your options are nearly endless with the 10/22—extended mags, drums, and more conversions than I can list.
You aren’t limited to just buying a rifle and converting it to tacticool; many gun makers are simply releasing .22 versions of popular weapons. For example Mossberg released an AR-style .22 LR carbine. It’s not a true AR, but a dressed up version of their plinkster model.
The first generation of this rifle was an ugly beast—a hodge podge of M16A2 and A4 features. It was a Frankenstein gun. It was cheap and bulky looking, but a good gun. I bought a newer generation of the plinkster, and this model featured a flat top upper, rails running down the entire hand guard, and a six-position stock. Also while it wasn’t needed, the weapon had a modern compensator that gave it a nice look. My version lacked iron sights but was perfect for a red dot scope.
These rifles were different from AR-15s in controls though, as they featured simple push-button safeties, an odd but easy to use mag release, and a right-side charging handle. The best feature is the price point; you can pick one of these rifles up for under $300.
Now if you want an AR chambered in .22 with identical features to a normal AR, you can go with the Smith and Wesson M&P 15-22. It costs a little more—around $500 for a new-in-box model. These weapons are identical to Smith and Wesson’s normal M&P series.
Are you fan of Sig? Of course you are, and Sig offers their model 556 rifle as a .22, aptly named the 522. The features on this rifle emulate the Model 556 rifle to the tee. The hand-guards are even ventilated.
Next you have German Sport Guns. They introduced the GSG 5 in 2008, and it’s been an incredibly popular rifle. The GSG 5 is modeled after the MP5 and built to perfectly resemble the weapon. These weapons are eve fitted with a barrel shroud acting as a fake suppressor to hide the legal 16-inch barrel.
GSG hasn’t stopped there; they went on to produce an AK-47 in .22, and this year they are releasing a STG 44 chambered in .22. I am personally excited for the STG 44, and I hope it sells well enough to follow up with an MP 40 and maybe even a Thompson.
I’ve addressed a lot of rifles, but some of you may want a pistol. We all know there is a ton of .22 pistols out there, so I am just going to cover a few.
First I’ll go back to GSG. They have released a 1911 clone chambered in .22 with an affordable $300 price tag. GSG seems to love fake suppressors because this 1911 comes with one, which gives it a military look without a tax stamp. GSG also produces their MP5 clone as a pistol; it’s essentially the same weapon without the fake suppressor and an end cap instead of a stock.
Ever wanted a heavy-duty machine pistol clone? It’s not really a practical weapon, but a fun one, and even more fun chambered in .22. You’ll be happy to know you can buy three of the most infamous machine pistol clones in .22: the Micro Uzi, the Tec .22, and the Mac 22.
All three of these weapons are similar to their original designs. The Mac 22 was developed from the Mini 9 frame and all the Mini 9 accessories will work with it. Umarex USA is importing Micro Uzi clones from Germany under the IWI stamp. Tec 22s are nothing new; it’s the exact same as a Tec 9, but with a little more plastic and Ruger 10/22 magazines.
As you can see there are truck loads of .22 caliber weapons waiting to destroy tin cans. These guns are bound to turn some heads at a gun range, and you’re bound to have fun emptying the magazine of one these tacticool .22s.
But more than that, these rifles and pistols offer an economic way to train with unfamiliar weapons. They could be a lifesaver to the off-the-gridder or small-town PD looking to train more expensive guns without breaking the bank.