Top shooters are usually 90% shooter, 10% rifle. If you have the skills to get repetitive, consistent, accurate shots then you will be a great competitor. You do not need to spend a fortune to be competitive.
If you already own a 22lr or air rifle, bring it to the range and you’ll have the most fun ever. This is the best and least expensive way to test your equipment at the competitive level. While at the range you will be able to see and possibly try some of the other competitors rifles and their setups. Most competitors are very friendly and will usually let you put a couple rounds down range with their rifles. You can also find out what they like…or don’t like about their rifles. This is the best “real world” test and will help you see the pro’s and con’s of different rifles, setups and configurations. This will help you make the best and most informed decision if you decide to change out your current rifle. It may also save you from purchasing something that you may not like or that won’t work well with our competitions.
The most commonly used rifles in NRL22 are bolt action. Bolt action is “generally” more accurate than semi-auto rifles. This is not to say that custom built semi-auto’s are not accurate, they are very accurate but “usually” the cost of getting a semi-auto rifle to perform at “bolt gun” precision ends up being more than most bolt guns cost. Both configurations will work for our competitions. NRL22 rules state that the rifle must be magazine fed, so no tube feed or single shot rifles are allowed. For Young Gun shooters who may have difficulty operating a bolt action rifle or need something smaller or lighter, a semi-auto may be the perfect solution.
If you need to purchase a rifle, new 22lr rifles will vary in cost from around $379.00 (Ruger 10/22 semi-auto) up to $2,500.00 or more. Don’t let the price of these high dollar custom rifles worry you, you can have the most expensive rifle in the world but if you can’t hit the target, it won’t matter. It’s the shooter that makes the difference. Remember that the used market is a great way to get a good quality rifle at a discounted price as people upgrade their competition rifle from time to time.
The most affordable option is the Ruger 10/22. These rifles can be found on the used market for under $300, are very reliable and have decent accuracy. Some great priced bolt rifles are the Ruger RPR Rimfire, the Tikka T1x, and Savage rifles. Most of these can be purchased new for less than $600.00. Moving up from there you have Bergara, CZ and Kidd. These rifles can usually be found for $900.00 to $1,400.00 depending on options. If you must have the best of the best, look into Voodoo, RimX, Anschutz or custom builds from a well regarded gunsmith. Remember that money doesn’t buy trophies, the shooters skills is what gets the wins. There are many other brands and models available on the market and as long as they are chambered in .22lr, you can use them at our match. If you are not sure what to get, talk with our shooters. They will help you get the perfect rifle for your budget. They are familiar with the NRL22 competitions and know what works and what doesn’t. Ask our shooters, there is a chance that they have a rifle you can purchase as they have upgraded over time. This would be the best way to get a competition ready rifle at a great price.
For Air Rifles, we suggest talking with Utah Air Guns www.utahairguns.com They are awesome people who know all there is to know about Air Guns, and can get you set up with whatever you will need.
Red Dot or Optical Scope: We highly recommend an adjustable optical scope. Red Dots can be used, but are not recommended. The reason is that red dots are normally zeroed at a specific distance. NRL22 competitions will always have varying distances from 25 yards to over 300 yards. Because of the varying distances that we shoot, a red dot zeroed at only one distance and not having the ability to dial to new distances will be very frustrating. If a red dot is all you have, bring it, just know that it will have limitations.
If you already have an optic, you’re good to go, any optic will work, even if it isn’t optimized! If you are needing an optic, the following section will help guide you to what works best for our competitions.
First Focal Plane or Second Focal Plane: We strongly suggest an optic with a First Focal Plane. This will allow you to make accurate holdovers at any magnification. Some stages are limited to using holdovers only. This is very difficult to do with a Second Focal Plane optic due to the reticle only being accurate at a specific zoom level.
Reticle: I would look for a reticle that has clear labeled subtension lines (Christmas Tree) to help make accurate hold overs and wind calls. Stay away from simple cross only reticles and “circle” BDC (bullet drop compensator) reticles.
Parallax (sometimes called side focus): Look for an optic that can parallax down to at least 50 yards. Preferably to 25 yards or less. We engage targets from 30 yards to 100 yards on a regular basis, many times on the same stage. Being able to adjust parallax is very important to getting good accurate impacts.
Zoom: Most competitors use an optic that is 24-30 power max zoom. Next most popular is the 14-18 power. Both will work out to 250+ yards which is what most NRL22 courses are. If you plan on competing in any of the extreme matches or nationals, you may want the 24+ power as those courses can stretch out past 300 yards. I run a 24 power on my rifle but most of the time I am using it in the 10-14 power range. The extra zoom up to 24x on 1/4″ targets is nice, especially if you have older eyes. Having a wide field-of-view can be more beneficial than higher power. When transitioning from target to target, being able to see a wider view of the course allows you to acquire your next target quicker, allowing more time to get impacts. Usually the higher the zoom level, the more narrow the field of view will be.
Elevation: Optical tube size will usually limit the elevation travel. We suggest a 34mm tube size to get the maximum elevation possible. This is very helpful when shooting out to longer distances over 250 yards. When choosing an optic, be sure to compare elevation travel, usually more elevation is better. 30mm tubed optics will also work great, but will usually have less overall elevation travel. We don’t recommend 1″ tubed optics.
Turrets: Look for open “tactical style” turrets that have a firm feel, are quick to adjust, and have good solid clicks. This will make it easier to make your adjustments on the clock. Turrets with easy to read markings make adjustments fast and accurate. Locking turrets are a nice feature but not necessary. Having a zero stop is also a nice feature, but not necessary as long as you know where your zero is at.
MIL or MOA: Both work fine as long as you know what your bullet drop/holdovers are and how to adjust your optic to compensate for it. Mil (milliradians) is most popular with NRL22 shooters. Having the same dials as others makes sharing elevation and wind calls easier. We recommend Mil’s with 1/10 click value.
Any optic will work, no matter the quality or type. If you already have an optic, bring it and use it. This is the best way to compare your optic to others. Other shooters are more than happy to give their opinions on the optics they are using. This is the best way to get actual feedback from actual users that are using the gear in competitions.
If you need to purchase an optic, a quality low-budget optic to start with is the Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6×24-50, MSRP $499.99 or the Vortex Strike Eagle 5×25-56 $899.99 (both of these can be found online at a discounted price well below MSRP). The Bushnell Match Pro 6×24-50 is a great choice at $449.99. Another is the Athlon Argos BTR 6×24-50 MSRP $449.99. Arken also makes a great optic in this same price range. Watch for sales and check with our sponsors who usually offer a discounted price. There are many models and brands that are good quality, the sky’s the limit when it comes to optics. Try as many as you can and make your decision on what you discover. Also keep an eye on the used market where you can find some great deals.
Always buy from a reputable optic manufacturer, off brands may be cheaper, but they won’t hold up as well under competition shooting and having an optic fail will ruin your day. Also check the warranty info, competition guns get a lot more abuse than normal and you want to make sure that if you have an issue, the manufacturer will stand behind it no matter what. The manufactures listed above all have lifetime (no questions asked) warranties. (all prices quoted are as of 10/1/2023 – price may change from then to now).
One of the most important accessories you can get is a good sturdy bipod. NRL22 stages are very creative, you will be shooting off ladders, tank traps, barrels, buckets, tires and in positions that will twist your brain. Almost every match will have one or two positions shooting prone. Having a good sturdy bipod will make these positions much easier and give you a lot of flexibility to build a solid shooting platform, which will increase your chances of getting impacts. We suggest Harris or Accu-Tac bipods. Try to avoid inexpensive (amazon/ebay) bipods if possible. We have had many of the “cheaper” bipods break during the matches because they could not handle the stresses. A Harris HBRM-s bipod will cost around $90.00 and will last a lifetime. Also be cautious of “knock-off” brands that look like the real deal. These are inferior in quality to the official products.
A good quality bag with lots of adjustability helps build a stable shooting platform. Nearly every shooter will use a rear bag whenever possible. Shooting bags are used on ladders, barricades and most every other prop that we are challenged with. Some of the most popular bags are the Wiebad Fortune Cookie, the Schmedium Game Changer bag, and the Cole-tac Tricorn bag. The Fortune Cookie can be used on everything from a rear squeeze bag, ladder, tank trap and barricades. The Schmedium Game Changer bag is also very versatile and will work for many props when the Fortune Cookie doesn’t quite work. The Tricorn bag is awesome for the tank trap, barricades and post stages. You will most likely end up with a few bags of different shapes and sizes. Before buying a bag, we strongly suggest going to a match and seeing what others are using. Most shooters are more than generous in letting you use their bags so you will see for yourself what works and what doesn’t. Try a few bags out before you go buy something, this will save you a lot of wasted time and money. Home made bags are another great and inexpensive option.
Customization is only limited to your mind and wallet. Accessories like electronic levels, bubble levels, throw levers, custom bolt knobs, ARCA Rails, barricade stops, DOPE card holders, and aftermarket triggers not only dress up your rifle but can help with your accuracy and speed. Are they necessary to compete and have fun? Not at all, but many of these accessories can make shooting while on the clock a little less stressful and save you some time. It ultimately comes down to the shooters technique and ability to make consistent shots, not how many accessories you have. If the accessory helps then great, if it gets in the way then not-so great. Ask other shooters what they use and why, do research and make your own decisions based on your personal needs.