From spontaneous backyard plinking competitions among neighborhood kids to the famous Wimbledon Cup and even the Olympics, target shooting is a popular sport enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Like most sports, participating in local matches with other recreational shooters will always be fun, but there are plenty of people who want to become better, more competitive marksmen. That is where NRL22 seeks to fill a gap.
NRL22 is a shooting competition built around the .22 Long Rifle. Shooters compete in 5 stages, firing from various difficult and awkward positions. Membership is required to join the competition but it’s inexpensive and accessible to avid shooters.
As someone who enjoys the simplicity of rimfire cartridges and the competition of target shooting, I’ve been reading up on this shooting format in preparation for building my own rifle and competing later in the year. If you are also interested, keep reading for a rundown on NRL22!
Classes of NRL22
Precision rifle shooting and the .22 long rifle cartridge aren’t found in the same sentence very often, but that is the core philosophy of the NRL22 format. By stretching the capabilities of the world’s most popular and cheapest rifle calibers, the goal is to create a challenging yet welcoming target shooting environment for a diverse range of shooters; young and old, rich and poor, novices and veterans.
The organization behind the NRL22 competition is a 501c3 non-profit division of the National Rifle League. With an annual membership fee of only $85, the NRL22 format is an accessible and budget-minded target shooting platform.
To provide fair competitive opportunities for as many people as possible, NRL22 is organized into six shooter classes:
- Base class is reserved for shooters with a rifle and scope totaling less than $1200 MSRP.
- Open class has no rifle restrictions other than rifles must be chambered in 22lr or are air rifles.
- Young Guns is for children ages 8-16 and compete in either base, open, or air rifle classes.
- Ladies class is for female shooters and competes in either base, open, or air rifle classes.
- Air rifle class is exclusively for air rifles and competes alongside 22lr rifles during matches.
- Old Gun / Adaptive class is for any shooter over age 60 or any shooter with special needs.
All classes fall under the same general rules but with some special considerations made for each class in order to keep competition fair for all shooters. Open class is the only category without additional rules for rifles or shooters.
NRL22 Rifles and Equipment
All rifles that compete in NRL22 must meet a few basic requirements. First, the rifle must be chambered in 22 Long Rifle or, in the case of air rifles, shoot a .30 cal or smaller domed pellet or a .25 cal or smaller slug. Both types of projectiles must weigh less than 45 grains.
Only one gun is allowed per shooter in each event, but a backup may be used if the primary gun malfunctions or is rendered unsafe to use. Shooting sticks and tripods are prohibited, but bi-pods and slings are fine for both types of rifles as support aids. Scopes and open sights are both allowed as well. Suppressors are allowed as well!
Basically, any 22lr rifle from any manufacturer can qualify for NRL22 matches. Being able to pull accessories on and off is helpful though since the “course of fire”, or match rules specific to a certain event, might prohibit certain items.
Semi-autos, lever-actions, and pump actions are allowed to compete as well, but NRL22 does recommend a bolt-action, detachable magazine rifle for its simplicity, reliability, and safety features. Bolt-actions tend to be quite popular even without this recommendation in place because of their reputation for accuracy and simple operation. Finally, 5rd and 10rd magazines are the best suited for NRL22.
Equipment has few limitations. Sandbags, extra magazines, shooting bags, repair equipment, tools, spare parts, ammunition, and ammunition cases are all allowed. It is best to be sensible about what to bring to a match, however, so as to avoid becoming overburdened with unneeded stuff.
NRL22 Course of Fire
Each month, NRL publishes a “course of fire” which all member clubs use as the core of their monthly matches. While the exact details in the course of fire will change each month, there are some features that remain constant:
- Each event will consist of five stages of fire.
- One stage is always timed to break up ties.
- Stages make use of different shooting positions.
- Barricades, such as barrels or cinder blocks, are used.
- Matches will operate under “cold” range rules for safety.
The course of fire provides organizers with two different options:
- Option 1 uses standard NRL targets at ranges out to 100 yards.
- Option 2 has more challenging stages with targets out to 200 yards.
The course of fire is made public and can be downloaded from the organization’s webpage. Organizers are encouraged to add to the monthly course of fire to make each event a bit different, but the five official stages for the match will be the core of every event.
Points are awarded to members for the official stages and these points count toward prizes, awards, and championship qualifications. Clubs and organizers can purchase a competition target package for $389.99.
The package includes all the targets needed to run five stages for option 1 for the course of fire. Individual members can purchase the package as well, or make their own to save money if needed.
While all the various details involved with competing in NRL22 fall outside the scope of this article, there is a lot a shooter must learn in order to participate. To start with, reading the rules and FAQ’s on the official website. Understanding the rules in advance better informs new shooters about what equipment is needed.
Check out their YouTube channel for videos that showcase 22lr topics plus other shooting formats such as NRL22x, a complimentary 22lr platform for precision shooting. Attending a local match as a guest or spectator is also a great way to quickly understand how NRL22 works. There are clubs all over the country who host events and a list can be found on NRL’s club search tool. Finally, keep an eye on Backfire.tv for more NRL22 content!