My first rimfire was a Ruger 10/22, and shortly after the wrapping paper hit the floor that Christmas morning my father announced that, in addition to being a reliable and accurate gun, the 10/22 was also great because it could be so easily customized.
Upgrading the gun was the furthest thing from my mind when I went out to shoot the rifle later that morning, but in the years since I have upgraded that gun with so many add-ons that I honestly don’t remember exactly what it looked like when I opened the box. However, the resulting Frankenrifle I’ve pieced together over the years has turned into a precision instrument.
I feel it’s critical to point out that I managed all this without any professional gunsmith training. In fact, I’m not especially mechanical. The good news for you, though, is that if I can manage to upgrade my rimfire you can, too.
Whether you own a bolt gun, lever-action or semiautomatic, there are steps you can take to improve its accuracy and performance. Lever-actions generally offer the least room for customization, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add an effective optic, even if it’s simply a quality ghost rear rear/dot front sight to replace the rudimentary irons. With bolt-actions and semiautos, it’s a bit easier and there are more options for aftermarket parts.
Let’s start with the stock. Most precision rimfire stocks use precision machined bedding blocks, and most of these are made from aluminum. Aluminum is light yet strong, and it offers a firm base for the barreled action. Most precision rimfire stocks allow the barrel to free-float as well. There’s a mixed bag of additional features that make shooting more enjoyable and perhaps improve accuracy, features like adjustable comb and length-of-pull, pistol grip design, QD/M-LOK/Picatinny rail/sling stud attachment points, and so forth.
Another rimfire component that can be easily upgraded is the barrel. Most shooters prefer a heavy barrel because they effectively eliminate muzzle rise and reduce barrel heating. Manufacturers use different methods for rifling their barrels, as well as materials and finishes, but most quality target barrels from manufacturers like Lilja and E.R. Shaw have match chambers with tighter tolerances for improved performance.
Be aware, however, that some match barrels require gunsmith installation and are not “drop in” models. This is especially true of dedicated target barrels. It usually isn’t a big deal to have a gunsmith install your barrel, but if you’re a die-hard DIYer, just be sure you’re capable of the doing the upgrade yourself. Be realistic and safe.
While you’re choosing a new barrel, why not go for one that is threaded? Once upon a time I figured I’d never own a suppressor, but my third is about to be delivered from Silencer Central and I doubt I’ll ever buy another rifle (rimfire or otherwise) that can’t accept a can.
Optics are an important upgrade for your rimfire, and that almost always means a magnified scope. Almost any high-quality scope can be an upgrade when properly mounted, but if you’re serious about dropping shots in the 10 ring consistently at various ranges, you need an optic that’s up to the task.
Bushnell offers one of the broadest range of rimfire scopes on the market today, everything from affordable plinking scopes to competition optics like the Match Pro and Elite Tactical line of optics. Many shooters advise buying the best glass you can, and I second that. Good optics pave the way to improved accuracy.
Triggers are another very important consideration. To the credit of manufacturers, today’s rimfire triggers are far better than those just a few decades ago, but if you’re serious about accuracy you’ll probably want to use a drop-in aftermarket match trigger. The good news is that these triggers are not, in most cases, difficult to change-out.
Now that you’ve selected a new stock, spun a target barrel in place, and added some glass and an ultra-smooth trigger, you should have a rimfire that’s ready to make accurate, precise shots. Of course, the most important factor is ammunition. Quality rimfire ammunition is consistent, and consistency leads to better performance. You’ll appreciate this consistency even when you’re target shooting in the yard or hunting small game, but when you’re competing in rimfire match competitions, that consistency will mean the difference between winning and losing. There are lots of good precision rimfire loads on the market including my personal favorite, CCI Green Tag. Standard Velocity is also a great choice, and if you’re looking for accuracy and less fouling, reach for any of the loads in CCI’s Clean-22 lineup.