Why would anyone want to mess around with a rim fire rifle when the only thing they are good for is shooting rabbits or smaller size targets within 25 yards or so?
Modern rim fire rifles are capable of shooting consistently to 500 yards or more and tiny little targets at 50 yards with ammunition that costs one tenth or less than that of center fire long range cartridges. More fun, less bucks.
What is long range / precision rimfire?
Here is a video of “MarkandSam” afterwork on Youtube making consistent hits at 720 yards. That is what I would define as ultra long range for this cartridge but it just goes to show it’s capability. Of course, as you can see, both of these people are great shooters who have a vast amount of knowledge around the sport of long range shooting.
We have a group that meets every Saturday morning for a weekly long range rim fire match at our local shooting range. We only have 218 yards available but we maximize the fun by shooting golf balls at that distance.
Yes, I said golf balls which are only around 1 inch in diameter. When we started we used clay pigeons at this distance. They are about 30 cents each, a blast to shoot at long distance, and are biodegradeable so you don’t have to clean them up.
They are 4 inches in diameter which theoretically only requires a rifle that will shoot one inch at 50 yards which is 2 MOA. After working with our rifles, this soon became boring. All of our groups rifles are below 1 MOA now.
Theoretically, a rifle would have to shoot one quarter inch groups at 50 yards to hit a golf ball at 200 with zero effects from wind, temperature, etc. Of course there are misses but you would be surprised how often we can connect in this game. We all shoot weekly and therefore have competence but none of us could be classified as experts in my mind. We have a great time doing this.
Distance is one test of precision. The other test is the size of the target. You can have just as much of a challenge, and therefore fun, shooting tiny little targets at 50 yards as you can shooting man-size at 500 yards. See one below.
Here is a target similar to the one in the picture above. I don’t own it but it seems to be well built especially for rimfire. As I said, I don’t own it now but I am thinking about buying it pretty soon. Looks like a blast.
If you like this game but aren’t ready to invest in the metal variety target, you can quickly buy a paper version on Amazon. It’s not quite as much fun as hearing the bullet hit metal and watching the target swing but still a lot of fun and a challenge. It’s much cheaper than the metal target stand you see above.
In the last 5 years, manufacturers of rim fire rifles and ammunition have made great strides in narrowing variability in their design and manufacturing processes yielding some very high performance rifles that can accomplish feats that were only for the most expensive center fire rifles just a few years ago. With tuning, and a little talent, these rifles can do amazing things. This is what precision rim fire is all about.
Initial rifle cost is low
You don’t need to sink four thousand dollars or more into a great rifle that will be competitive with those you shoot with or be accurate enough to have fun with. Many people I know, in fact I myself, own rifles that we have put way too much money in to make them more accurate.
With the big center fires, and the rim fires as well, you quickly reach a point where you are getting less accuracy improvement for the dollar spent to obtain it. The rifles are great and I am glad to own mine but man….. can this get expensive quick.
Above is another picture of my Savage FVSR in 17 hmr. It is wearing a cheap 6-24 UTG 1 inch scope that has served me well. With the absence of recoil this scope is amazingly accurate. and competes just fine at 218 yards against scopes that are much more expensive. Below is one like it and a few more in it’s class.
Honestly I have really been shocked at just how dependable and accurate this scope has been. I have really put it through it’s paces. The rifle came with the threaded barrel. With the scope, bipod, and rifle, I have less than $400 in this set up.
Cost of ammo is low
Since the last election, we all know that ammunition prices have reduced significantly from where they were before the election. I am actually buying 22 ammo in bulk now for 4.5 cents each.
Compared to .223 / 5.56 ammo at 40 to 60 cents per round and larger long range calibers going over a dollar each, the rim fire is the way to go if you like to shoot as much as I do – which is a lot.
You have to look around to find the 4.5 cent price. I usually find it in a plastic tub and it is one of Remington’s cheap offerings. I do see intermittent misfiring, probably 1 to 2 out of a 1500 bullet tub, but for the price I can deal with it.
The accuracy of this ammo leaves a lot to be desired. I use it mostly for plinking but have had great luck in my rig, a savage fvsr (pictured above) with CCI standard velocity 40 grain. This rifle shoots less than .75 inches at 50 yards with this stuff. I am paying around 6 cents per round. Still 10 times the cost of center fire ammo at this writing.
At this cost, almost anybody can afford to shoot enough to work out the kinks and learn to do some really fun things with these little rifles.
I have friends who really enjoy reloading and working up the optimum load for their center fire rifles. I have one friend that calls his reloading time, his quiet time to recharge.
I myself have done quite a bit of reloading primarily to offset the cost of shooting and can understand how people can really enjoy the process.
I prefer spending my time at the range shooting in order to get better for competition or working through a bedding or trigger installation on one of my rifles to drive more consistency.
All of us are different, but if you are like me, this is a way to reduce the time you spend reloading. Now you will still spend time searching for that magic combo of rifle and already loaded ammunition that allows your rim fire to shoot a quarter inch at 50 yards but the chore of reloading goes away.
More places to shoot
There are a few ranges in the country that offer 1000 yard, or even over 200 yard shooting to the public. I have one that is within 5 hours of my home where 1000 is possible and a great Louisiana public range that offers 250 yards.
The 1000 yard range requires a membership that can only be purchased for a year. It is a 3 hour drive from my home. When I go to that range to shoot an all or half day competition, I usually have to stay overnight or drive during the dark hours to get there in time to prepare properly. This can get costly if you do this often.
It is easy to find a good place to shoot if you aren’t looking for 1000 yards or more. Many clubs exist very close to my home probably with an abundance of different types of rim fire matches available many weekends during the month.
Having interesting competitions within a few hours drive of your home eliminates the cost of lodging and the much higher entry fees of larger center fire matches. Most of these matches are small gun club matches that don’t require a membership to compete. If they do, the membership fee is usually very small.
Learning to shoot the elements
Learning to shoot the elements like wind, temp, pressure, etc can be learned just as if you were shooting a center fire at four times the distance.
You can actually exaggerate the effect of wind using a 17 hmr vs a 22. Believe me, if you learn to shoot a 17 hmr well in the wind, you will handle a 6mm like a wizard. The point is, these little rifles are for pros, not amateurs.
As you can see in the photo at the top of this article, this rim fire rifle is threaded to accept a can to suppress sound. This allows me to establish a small 100 yard range on my little place which let’s me practice and experiment with changes to my rifles.
I do this on only 6 acres of land and I’m completely surrounded by other homes. The noise level when using ammo at 1000 ft / second or less is less than a large nail gun. No one is bothered and I have never had a complaint.
Be aware though that if you plan to do the same thing, safety is the utmost priority. You must have a substantial back stop and you should install a top rail above your shooting table to prevent high shots from getting away from you. A random stray shot in the wrong direction could change your life quickly for the worst.
Be careful and do this at your own risk. A rim fire bullet can travel over a mile if the trajectory is right. You are responsible for every shot you make. Don’t take chances here.
There’s no recoil !
Yes, there is no recoil or loud noise associated with rim fire rifles. Won’t this hurt you when you go back to your big centerfire?
Think about it. If you learned to shoot on a large rifle with a lot of recoil and loud noise, what else did you most likely learn during the process. How to flinch or jerk the trigger without knowing it.
I use this knowledge to reset my shooting brain whenever my accuracy starts to suffer shooting center fires. I actually go back to a very similar 22 rifle until my brain understands that recoil and noise doesn’t matter. It’s where the sights are when the trigger activates the shot.
How accurate can you be?
Most good rim fire rifles come out of the box ready to shoot at least 2.0 MOA or 2 inches at 100 yards. With a little effort, following our accuracy troubleshooting procedure, you can improve on this result drastically.
My rim fire pictured at the top of this article will consistently shoot less than one half inch at 50 yards with the right ammo and will easily maintain less than one MOA at 100 and starts to open up a little (probably more me than the rifle) out past 220. At 300 yards it is getting close to 2 MOA and at 400 yards it’s pretty close to 3 MOA.
Beyond that even the slightest amount of wind is really effecting the flight path of this little bullet as well as a little more vertical dispersion but 6 MOA is possible. Remember shooting a rim fire at 500 is like shooting a center fire match rifle at 2000.
If you love to shoot as much as I do and want to transform your hobby into an affordable but fascinating one where you make life long friends and challenge your abilities constantly, this is how to do it.
Less land is needed to enjoy this sport and you really develop expert level skills that can be transferred to other types of shooting. I find hitting a golf ball out at 200-250 very satisfying especially when it gives you bragging rights with all of your friends. Give it a try.