Recently I had the opportunity to work with the Tippman Arms series of M4-22 rimfires. Chambered for .22 LR, these carbines are designed to very closely replicate the appearance, features and operations of the ever-popular AR-15 pattern Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR). Generally speaking, I tend to avoid rimfire “replicas” of other rifles because in the past I've run into a few that were poorly made or just too different from the gun they were supposed to mimic so they failed to provide a satisfying experience at the shooting range.
AR-15 pattern .22 LR rifles are available in a variety of configurations from serviceable basic models such as the M4-22 PRO (top) to fully tricked out race guns like the M4-22 Redline (bottom).
But the Tippman offering proved to be a different story. These rifles really do run almost exactly like typical AR-15s and they proved to be reliable and accurate. Looking around the Internet I've discovered a quiet but loyal fan base who have adopted AR-style rimfires like the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 series, the Kriss USA Defiance DMK22C, Walther's Colt M4 OPS, the recently released Rock River Arms LAR-22 and, of course, the Tippmann options shown here.
ARs are easily outfitted with a variety of magnified or micro red-dot optics.
Now, I know some readers are going to ask a perfectly reasonable question: With suggested retail prices starting at around $400 and climbing up to over $800, why spend more for one of these AR style .22 rifles instead of some other sporting model that costs less? With this question in mind, here are a few reasons why an AR-15 pattern .22 LR can be a great investment:
The Ubiquitous & Modular AR-15
Most folks agree that there are three primary civilian roles for center-fire semi-automatic rifles: home defense, target shooting (formal and informal) and hunting. During the previous decade we've seen the Modern Sporting Rifle category, which is dominated by AR-15 type models, continue to grow in popularity. Many recent adopters of AR pattern rifles and carbines have purchased them with home defense in mind. But once new shooters get the hang of working with them, they find out just how easy, reliable and accurate they are to use for sports shooting. We are also seeing more hunting cartridges specifically designed for ARs cropping up on a regular basis.
The controls and features of faithful .22 LR ARs mimic their center-fire counterparts making them an ideal understudy for less-expensive practice.
One of the top reasons that ARs are so popular is their modularity. The various parts are easy to trade out and there are plenty of components from which to choose. Just how modular a particular AR-pattern .22 LR is depends on the make and model. But for the most part you'll find accessory-ready handguards, threaded barrels, standard removable grips and quick-swap 6-position shoulder stocks. Picatinny optics rails support a variety of magnified rifle scopes or red-dot optics.
One Action to Rule Them All
When my older brother got into competitive shooting, he settled on the 1911-style of semi-automatic pistol. He then expanded his set to include a general purpose 1911 and a carry gun that was based on, you guessed it, the 1911. His logic for doing so was this: The muscle memory developed by pulling the trigger and operating the controls for one of these guns would count as training to use the rest. This is the philosophy of “one action to rule them all.” They all operate in the same way so there is only shooting routine to be learned and mastered.
Folding-stock versions, like the M4-22 Bugout shown here, are easy to transport to the range or in the field.
The vast majority of AR-15 rifles operate in the same way. You can change the caliber, barrel length, magazine capacity, grip shape and the trigger pull weight but the controls and general management of the gun remain the same. For the most part, once you learn how to run one you pretty much know how to use them all, including the faithful AR pattern .22 LRs.
Handy Training Tools
For folks who are new to them, learning to shoot a semi-automatic rifle can feel a good deal like getting the hang of driving a car with a manually operated “stick” transmission. There are so many new or different details to manage. The AR-pattern rimfires provide an intermediate training tool to aid in learning the idiosyncrasies of the AR's controls and ease the transition from other sporting long guns into centerfire AR-15 models. The rimfire models generally weigh less, they generate lower levels of felt recoil and produce less noise and muzzle flash. This allows the student to focus more on skill development and control familiarity so as to be better prepared when ready to move on to centerfire ARs.
The best competition-grade .22 LR ammunition still costs less per round than practice-grade .223 Rem.
They Pay for Themselves
The .22 LR cartridge has always been among the least-expensive rounds to shoot. Although ammunition prices may fluctuate over time, it continues to cost significantly less than center-fire cartridges. One of the most popular chamberings for ARs is for the .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO cartridges which used to be fairly cheap to shoot. But with demand for these loads so high these days the ammunition costs can put a real squeeze on the shooting budget. As of this writing, online ammunition providers are selling between 5 to 10 rounds of practice-grade .22 LR for the same price as a single round of practice-grade .223 Rem. That's quite a difference in how many bangs you get for your buck!
Tippman’s hand-cranked speedloader can fill 25-round magazines in seconds.
Flexible & Fun to Shoot
I have yet to be shy about my fondness for .22 LR carbines and the easy going fun they provide at the range. Because the rimfire models mentioned here incorporate actual AR components, instead of just inexpensive cosmetics and plastic covers, they are a real pleasure to work with on and off of the shooting bench. In addition to familiar operations, the Tippmann M4-22 was accurate, reliable and the magazines were easy to load one round at a time or using the company’s hand-cranked speed loader. Yes, rimfire rifles like this are useful as understudies to the centerfire guns. Their AR features make them a great fit for just about any .22 LR rifle related endeavor including formal target shooting, small-game hunting and, in a pinch, personal protection.