When getting started with competitive shooting, the first challenge to come to mind is building a rifle that will do well in competition. A good rifle needs to be an extension of the shooter’s rifle skills, something that will work with rather than against the shooter. Rifles for the NRL22 competition are no different.
When looking for NRL22 Base Class rifles and scopes, the top manufacturers for rifles are Ruger, Savage, Bergara, and CZ. For scopes, the top manufacturers are Vortex, Bushnell, SWFA, and Athlon.
In NRL22, Base Class rifles are limited to a budget of $1200 MSRP for both the rifle and scope. While pretty much any cheap 22lr rifle and scope can be entered into the NRL22 base class, there are hundreds of quality options to choose from that provide a great shooting experience. This article will take a closer look at 7 different rifles and scopes for NRL22 with each scope and rifle complementing each other.
|Ruger 10/22 Autoloading Rifle (MSRP $369)
|Vortex Crossfire II 4-12×40 AO
|Ruger Precision Rimfire (MSRP $579)
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24×50 FFP
|Savage Arms Mark II BV (MSRP $379)
|Bushnell Match Pro 6-24×50
|Tikka t1x MTR (MSRP $529)
|SWFA Outdoors SS 10×42 fixed
|Bergara BMR/BXR Steel (MSRP $565)
|Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24×50 FFP
|Bergara BMR/BXR Carbon (MSRP $659)
|Athlon Talos BTR 4-14×44 APLR2 IR MIL
|CZ 457 Scout (MSRP $475)
|Leupold VX-Freedom 6-18×40 CDS Tri-MOA
22LR rifles are so popular and have been around for so long that finding the ‘best’ in a vast sea of choices is an exercise in futility. To narrow down the field, I restricted the products in this article to current production bolt action or semi-auto models from the most popular brands used in NRL22. I have also divided the $1200 MSRP limit for a rifle budget of $700 and a scope budget of $500. This way, any combination on this list will qualify.
To find out more about NRL22, please visit the official website. There is a lot of useful information in the form of FAQ’s, rules and regulations, and the monthly Course of Fire (COF) documents. In addition, this article is one of several on Backfire.tv that relates to the NRL22 competition. A great place to start understanding the basics of NRL22 is in this primer article. Anyway, back to the rifles and scopes!
1. Savage Arms Mark II BV and Vortex Crossfire II 4-12×40 AO
Combined MSRP: $618.99
- Equipped with the Accutrigger
- 21-inch heavy carbon barrel
- Wood laminate stock
- Thumbhole option (BTV) for ($429)
- 5 or 10 round magazine capacity
- 6.74 pounds
- Front objective parallax adjustment
- 4-12x magnification
- BDC reticle
- Great eye relief for different shooting positions
- 19.2 oz
- Removable sunshade included in box
Despite being the cheapest combination on this list, neither the scope or the rifle are lacking in capability. The Mark II BV each has a few key features which make them a solid pair to bring for a base class competition:
Overall, this setup will be familiar to shooters who are used to hunting rather than target shooting. One downside of the Crossfire scope is that it uses MOA rather than MIL adjustment. While it is better to learn the metric MRAD system for target shooting, MOA is by no means unusable. The only thing that truly holds this scope back is the capped turrets. Exposed target turrets would be a better option but holding over a target with the BDC is quicker.
As for the rifle, the Mark II BV is a solid, simple rifle that feels and handles somewhat like a centerfire. The heavy barrel will take ages to heat up, helping to extend the already incredible barrel life common in 22LR rifles. Wood stocks feel warm when it’s cold and the lack of plastic means there is very little to break. Overall, this is a solid combination for those who want to hunt small game in between competitions.
2. Ruger 10/22 Carbine and SWFA Outdoors SS 10×42
Combined MSRP: $668.95
- Incredibly popular
- Aftermarket parts aplenty
- Takedown, sporter, and target models
- Iron sights on most models
- Reliable rotary magazine
- Fixed power
- Magnification options of 6x, 10x, 12x, 16x, or 20x
- Exposed target turrets
- 30 mm main tube
- 18.7 oz weight
- Reticle parallax adjustment
The 10/22 needs no introduction, it is simply one of the most popular rimfire rifles out there with over 7 million sold since production started in 1964. The fixed SWFA scope at first seems like an odd pairing, but there’s a method to the madness.
So why have a fixed scope on a competition rifle? The answer is actually quite simple, fixed power scopes are simpler, cheaper, brighter, and often lighter than their variable power counterparts. While the pros and cons of fixed power scopes is an article all its own, one undisputed fact is that fixed power scopes have long been used for precision shooting. A light, simple scope that does its job well is a great pairing for the light and simple 10/22.
The Ruger 10/22 has advantages as well. Even though stock models are not known for their tack-driving abilities, the 10/22 has its own niche economy of aftermarket parts similar to the AR-15. Everything except the receiver can be changed out. The low price of the gun also leaves a lot of headroom to make upgrades as the shooter sees fit. The semi-auto design is reliable, and the many sub-models in current production give this gun great versatility.
3. CZ 457 Scout and SWFA Outdoors SS 2.5-10×32 Ultralight Rimfire
Combined MSRP: $824.95
- 33-inch overall length with 12-inch LOP
- 11mm dovetail scope mount
- 5lb weight
- Threaded muzzle for break or suppressor
- Can be used as a single shot
- Adjustable iron sights
- Plex reticle
- 1-inch tube
- 9.5 oz weight
- Fixed 50-yard parallax
- 11-inch length
- 0.25 MOA adjustment
The CZ457 Scout and the SWFA SS 2.5-10×32 ultralight rimfire together look like a match made in heaven for anyone who wants a light, short colt action rifle for competition. Whereas the 10/22 has always hogged the marketing spotlight, many shooters know about the understated, but the well-earned reputation of the CZ457 as a quality rifle.
A short, lightweight rifle like the 457 Scout is a great option for youth shooters, many of which compete with Base Class rifles. The SWFA 2.5-10×32 scope is therefore a good match for this rifle. The capped turrets and fixed parallax mean shooters focus more on the target and less on the scope’s adjustment. The size, weight, and shape of the scope have a sort of ‘classic’ appeal to it that matches the rifle.
Speaking of the rifle, the 457 Scout has some unique advantages, such as that short LOP that smaller or youth shooters will find more comfortable. The scope and rifle combination could weigh as little as 6lbs! Being able to attach a muzzle brake or suppressor and to shoot a magazine or use the rifle as a single shot are two features that add to the versatility of the gun. Finally, should the scope fail there is a good set of iron sights ready for use.
4. Bergara BMR/BXR Steel and Athlon Talos BTR 4-14×44 APLR2 IR MIL
Combined MSRP: $939.99
- New for 2021
- Blued 18 inch barrel with threaded muzzle
- Uses some Remington 700-style parts
- 5.5 lb weight
- 30 MOA picatinny rail
- Small, durable magazines
- Illuminated reticle
- MRAD adjustable exposed turrets
- First Focal Plane (FFP)
- Etched Glass crosshairs
- 30mm tube
- Side parallax adjustment
For someone, a bit more serious about competition shooting but doesn’t quite have that $1200 laying around, the Bergara BMR/BXR Steel and the Athlon Talos BTR 4-14×44 scope is a great starting point. Bergara gives shooters a choice between bolt action (BMR) or semi-auto (BXR) while using essentially the same gun meanwhile the Talos BTR is a good introduction to Athlon Scopes, a newish brand that is gaining in popularity.
Athlon is a new kid on the block. Founded in 2014, the affordable optic manufacturer seems to be following a similar rise to fame as Vortex did in 2004. The Talos BTR is roughly the same quality as a Vortex Crossfire II, but with a couple of extra features. The feature NRL22 shooters will most enjoy is the illuminated, FFP reticle, which aids in target acquisition in low light or low contrast situations. It is a solid, budget scope to get started with.
The Bergara BMR/BXR Steel is new as well, in fact, the rifles only went on sale this year. Just like the scope, the BMR/BXR is a great introduction to the pricier and potentially more accurate rifles often seen in open class competitions. It is overall a solid choice for someone looking to get into NRL22 as more than just a hobby. With possible upgrades like a Remington-style trigger and stock, there are many options out there for upgrades.
5. Tikka t1x MTR and Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24×50 FFP
Combined MSRP: $1,028.99
- Adjustable LOP, grip, and forestock.
- Ultra-smooth action
- Crossover barrel profile
- Adjustable, crisp trigger
- Compatible with T3x accessories
- Same controls as T3x
- First Focal Plane (FFP)
- 50mm front objective
- 4x magnification range
- Side focus parallax adjustment
- Etched glass reticle
- Exposed turrets
The Tikka T3x is a reliable, well-made rifle from Finland that punches holes well above its budget, encroaching on the territory reserved for Remington or Winchester. Tikka recently entered the rimfire market with the T1x, a rimfire clone of the T3x, and NRL shooters are starting to take notice. For a dedicated NRL rifle on a tikka platform, an equally good scope is needed, and that comes in the form of the Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24×50 FFP.
While the Athlon Talos has an illuminated reticle and is $125 cheaper, the Vortex has the best warranty in the industry going for it as well as a solid reputation that has been building for 10 years longer than Athlon’s scopes. The bigger objective lets in a bit more light, but besides that the two scopes are very similar in function and quality. Both are a great entry into their respective manufacturer’s line of rifle scopes.
The Tikka T1x aims to be something few rifles succeed at, be a target rifle AND a hunting rifle all in one. Some models, like the 10/22, accomplish this with many sub-models. But Tikka has wrapped both worlds into the same rifle and has done a remarkable job of it as well! The T1x is capable of incredible accuracy and has a growing library of aftermarket parts for owners to play with. To a new shooter, the T1x MTR is a great investment.
6. Ruger Precision Rimfire and Bushnell Match Pro 6-24×50
Combined MSRP: $1078.99
- Accepts 10/22 and BX-1 magazines
- 30 MOA Picatinny Scope rail
- AR-style shape and feel
- Oversized bolt handle
- LOP and comb adjustable
- Reversible safety (left or right side)
- Considered one of the best for NRL22 Base Class
- Illuminated reticle option with 6 brightness settings
- Tool-less locking exposed turrets
- First Focal Plane (FFP)
- Side focus parallax adjustment
- 25 yard zero possible with 30 MOA Picatinny rail
While the 10/22 represents affordable versatility, the Precision Rimfire is all about making accurate shots at long range. The Ruger will do well with any decent scope in the $500-600 range. It is here the Bushnell Match Pro 6-24×50 enter the ring.
I’ve never been much of a fan of Bushnell scopes, mostly because whenever I go shopping for one there is usually a Vortex with the same specs at a similar price. It’s not that Bushnell products are bad, they actually work quite well, its that other companies often make a product that is just a bit better for the same price.
This isn’t the case for the Match Pro, Bushnell has really delivered a great scope at a decent price, and the features it has to offer makes it a good match for rimfire precision shooting like NRL22. The illuminated reticle option and tool-less locking turrets put the Match Pro just above the Diamondback Tactical 6-24×50 that it directly competes with. Against the Talos, Bushnell’s brand has been around far longer, so it’s just a bit easier to trust.
Looking at the Ruger, the AR-style appointments and overall chassis give shooters a rifle with familiar ergonomics. Much of the rifle is metal as well, so it can take a dent or two without much worry. That comes at the cost of weight, and the precision rimfire weighs in at 6.8lbs. not terribly heavy, but easily a half-pound more than the other options. While not a squirrel hunter, the Precision Rimfire is an excellent dedicated range rifle.
7. Bergara BMR/BXR Carbon and Leupold VX-Freedom 6-18×40 CDS Tri-MOA
Combined MSRP: $1,158.99
- Semi-auto or bolt action options
- 18-inch carbon fiber wrapped barrel
- 5.0 lb weight
- NRL22 match chamber
- Threaded muzzle
- Also new for 2021
- Second Focal Plane (SFP)
- Tri-MOA reticle
- Custom Dial System compatible
- Zero stop
- Parallax free at 60 yards
- 17 oz weight
Going back to Bergara, there is one other set of models which needs a mention. Coming in at the top of the budget, the BMR/BXR Carbon rifle is a bit of an upgrade over the Steel models. For a rifle that is near the top of the pile for Base Class, an equally good scope is required. So we turn to Leupold with their VX-Freedom 6-18×40 CDS scope.
Leupold, long known by hunters to produce great scopes at mid-range prices, is a brand that many trust. For someone who is crossing over from hunting to competition shooting, the VX-Freedom 6-18×40 offers features that work at the range and in the field. Leupold has an ace up its sleeve for this scope, the CDS dial system.
While other scopes require shooters to have a great deal of experience and knowledge about their rifles’ ballistics, the CDS system is a cheat sheet. The dial is customized so that it has several zero markings printed on the turret. Need to adjust zero from 100 to 200 yards? Simply twist the dial from ‘1’ to ‘2’. The only downside is the shooter still needs to use Kentucky windage whenever a stiff breeze blows through.
As for the Bergara carbon rifles, they are the same as the steel models but with one difference, a carbon fiber wrapped barrel. Carbon fiber is stronger and lighter than steel plus it dissipates heat quicker. This results in a rifle that is 6 ounces lighter, the center of balance shifts slightly toward the shooter, and the effects of heat on the barrel are greatly reduced. Whether its worth the extra money or not is up to the shooter.
And there you have it folks, seven possible options for NRL22 base class rifles. In the next article, we will take a look at five great options for Open Class NRL22 rifles for those with a bit more money to spend.