How to Get Started in Precision Rimfire
Precision rimfire matches like NRL22, NRL22X, and PRS Rimfire have exploded in popularity in the recent years. While courses of fire (COFs) vary, and a wide variety of equipment is present at each match, the rimfire matches tend to be less intimidating to new shooters and first
Locate a club near you, show up, shoot, and learn!
Due to the relatively shorter distances required to host a rimfire match, many ranges are able to host this type of match. Its likely that there is a match within a few hours driving from you! If you don’t know of any in your area, most matches are posted to their sanctioning body website (NRL, PRS, etc.), and many clubs have their own social media pages. Getting involved with a club is the start of building your most valuable tool – a support network of extremely knowledgeable and generous fellow competitors. Even if you don’t have your own equipment squared away yet, reach out to the Match Director (MD) and let them know you are interested in getting started. Many clubs have loaner rifles and equipment available for new shooters. Its not unusual for experienced competitors to volunteer their own gear to new shooters. Going into your first match, it is important to set reasonable expectations. Your goals for your first match should be:
- Be safe! The MD will cover safety items at the start of the match. Listen carefully and take them to heart. Safety should always be the number one concern.
- Watch, listen, ask questions, and learn! Watch how experienced shooters approach each stage. Listen to what shooters are discussing, Ask questions about ANYTHING that you may not understand. Use this (and every future match) to learn. Learn about what works, what doesn’t work, what you do well, and what you need to improve on.
- Have fun (this is almost certainly guaranteed)!!
Assemble your own gear.
To a new shooter, the sheer number of options in gear can be overwhelming. Fear not, there are only a couple of essentials that you will need to get started:
- Rifle: Most gun owners have at least one .22lr caliber rifle in their collection. If you are just getting started, shoot what you already have! That said, most MDs discourage the use of tube-fed rifles as it is difficult to verify that the gun is “clear”. Depending on what rifle you have, you may realize its limitations after a few matches and this will help you in your search for a dedicated match rifle. If you don’t know what you want, most competitors are more than happy to let you try out their rifle. For most new shooters, budget is a major factor in deciding on what rifle to use. Fear not, there are quality offerings for almost every budget! At matches you will see virtually every manufacture represented. Bergara, CZ, Ruger, Savage, and Tikka are some of the more popular “factory” offerings with Vudoo and Rimx representing the “custom” crowd. Be aware that most competition series have several “classes” with MSRP caps on the rifle and scope combination. While most match stages are limited to 10 rounds fired, some require more and/or a magazine change. If possible, a second magazine is always good to have.
Ammo: At first, you will probably shoot whatever ammunition you have available. If you are able, try to find a variety of “match grade” ammunition that you can test in your rifle to find out what performs the best. While others may have suggestions for what to try, the real answer can only come from testing it in your own rifle. Equally important, you will need to gather DOPE (data on previous engagement) for your rifle and ammo combination. This information will help you to know how to adjust your scopes elevation for targets and different distances and how to use windage to compensate for wind.
Scope: When deciding on a scope for your rifle, there are a few features that are critical:
- Adjustable Magnification: Because you will be engaging targets over a variety of distances, the ability to change the scopes magnification to find and engage the target is necessary. Scopes with 6-24x (or similar) are probably the most commonly used. While most competitors typically keep their scopes in the 9x to 14x magnification rage while shooting a stage (the mid-range magnification allows for a larger field of view to quickly find targets), the option to use the higher magnification while zeroing your scope is very useful.
- Exposed Turrets: Due to time limits for each match stage, you will want to be able to quickly and easily adjust the elevation on your scope.
- First Focal Plain (FFP): You will want the subtensions on the scopes reticle be usable no matter what magnification the scope is set at.
- Adjustable parallax: These types of matches may have targets as close as 25 yards and as far as several hundreds of yards. You will need to be able to adjust parallax for both near and far targets.
- Milliradian (mil) or Minute of Angle (MOA) Reticle: Once you have compiled your DOPE, you will be able to use your scopes reticle to “hold over” for elevation and windage as necessary. For precision rimfire matches, you won’t want a BDC-type reticle as they aren’t calibrated to your specific rifle and ammo combination. The decision between MIL and MOA is really just a personal preference, but in my experience, the majority of competitors at these type of matches use MILs. As a new shooter, it can be easier if everyone is “speaking the same language”.
In order of increasing MSRP, my favorite scopes that check all these boxes are:
Athlon Argos BTR Gen2 6-24×50 https://athlonoptics.com/product/argos-btr-gen2-6-24×50-apmr-ffp-ir-mil-copy/
Athlon Midas TAC 5-24×56 https://athlonoptics.com/product/midas-tac-5-25×56-aprs6-ffp-mil-hd/
Athlon Cronus BTR Gen2 4.5-29×56 https://athlonoptics.com/product/cronus-btr-gen2-uhd-4-5-29×56-aprs1-ffp-ir-mil/
Bipod/Support Bags: There are nearly an equal number of options for bipods and bags as there are for rifles and scopes! Attend matches, check out what others are using, ask for their feedback, try them out, and then decide what you like best.
Other Useful Gear: In reality, a rifle, scope, ammo, bipod, and support bag are really all that you need to get out and compete! As you get more involved there are a few more items that can be extremely useful. Wind meters and ballistic calculators (Kestrel units for example) can provide very valuable information.
Binoculars are used for spotting while others are shooting (watching other competitors hits and misses helps you learn). The Midas G2 10×50 https://athlonoptics.com/product/midas-g2-10×50-uhd/ are my favorites.
Most matches will provide each competitor with a booklet outlining the COF, including target distances. Unknown-distance matches are becoming more popular and a rangefinder is absolutely critical in this instance. I have had great luck with the Midas 1 Mile https://athlonoptics.com/product/midas-1-mile/ for both ranging target and in the deer stand!! Tripods can used to support your binoculars, and, in some instances, as a support for your rifle. When purchasing a tripod, consider the maximum extended height. Nothing is more uncomfortable than spending all day bent over looking through your binoculars because your tripod isn’t tall enough! For me that means the Midas CF40 https://athlonoptics.com/product/cf40/.