Rimfire rifles and pistols are some of the most popular weapons in the United States. Rimfire rifles and handguns offer lowered recoil, an affordable entry point, affordable ammo, as well as one of the more enjoyable firearm experiences. Most people learn to shoot with a rimfire and the love affair continues even after they move to larger weapons.
Rimfires in general will always have a use, and are often used to hunt varmints, and to deal with pests. These small rifles allow the user to deal with small game in a cheap and effective manner. The rimfire rifle has a wide variety of uses, and like any rifle it can benefit from an optic.
Purchasing an optic for a rimfire is something one should approach with caution. Many people dive into the idea that any rifle scope can work for a rimfire, but this is simply not true.
For a rimfire optic to meet its true potential one needs to take into consideration many different factors. We’ll go over some of these factors and if you are still confused we’ll have a list of four optics that make the grade as a rimfire optic.
For this guide we are going to focusing on popular rimfire rounds, the 17 HMR, 22 Long rifle, and 22 magnum. This article is not designed for the old west turn of the century rimfire rounds like the 56-56 Spencer rimfire, or the odd 9mm Flobert rimfire.
- 1 Understanding a Rimfire’s Range
- 2 Magnification, How much is too much?
- 3 What To Look For In A Rimfire Scopes?
- 4 Additional Points To Keep In Mind
- 5 Some Of The Best .22LR Rimfire Scopes
Nikon Pro Staff Rimfire
Leupold VX-2 EFR
Vortex Crossfire 2 Rimfire
|Magnification:||3 - 9 x||3x to 9x||2-7 x|
|Field of View:||4.4 ft 11.3 - 33.8 ft @ 100 yds||@ 100 yards: 3x - 34'l 9x - 13.5'||42-12.6 feet/100 yards|
|Eye Relief:||3.6 - 3.6 in||3x - 4"; 9x - 3"||3.9 inches
|Objective Diameter:||40 mm||-||32 mm|
|Weight:||13.1 oz||8.8 oz||14.3 ounces|
|Product Page:||Click Here||Click Here||Click Here|
Understanding a Rimfire’s Range
A rimfire rifle can go quite far, even the box says so. Seriously, read the warning label on a box of 22 LR. A rimfire round can go quite far, but it can’t go far very effectively. At 100 yards you are looking at almost a foot or more of drop. When I say the rimfire doesn’t have a long range, I am talking purely practical range.
The range on a rifle is typically maxed out at 100 yards for rifles, and even less for handguns. The rimfire rifle is not made to pick apples at 500 meters. This being said you do not need a bullet drop compensator in most situations, you do not need excessive magnification, and most of the time you do not need an overly complicated scope with hash marks and mil dots for windage and elevation.
An optic for a rimfire is best left simple and unremarkable. A rimfire optic works best when the user has a clear understanding of exactly what it can do in a variety of environments. Shooting a rimfire is nowhere near the same as shooting a 375 H&H and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Magnification, How much is too much?
Magnification is something that is hotly debated in the scope industry. Some people assume a powerful scope is better; others tailor their magnification to their needs. With a rimfire rifle you are most likely shooting at 100 yards or less. At 100 yards you do not need 16 power optic to make an accurate shot, actually at 100 yards a 16 power magnification is going to harm your accuracy more than anything.
A lower level of magnification can get the job done, while retaining a crystal clear sight picture. A 4x reticule is much better suited for a rimfire rifle than something more powerful, or even excessively powerful. At rimfire ranges a powerful optic can cause a degree of different issues, including blurriness. A large, powerful optic is going to be heavy, and is largely unnecessary when it comes to rimfire ranges. This is especially true for rimfire handguns.
A powerful magnification at closer ranges is going to make your target appear to be blurry, which will make hitting the bulls eye a little difficult. This also fatigues the eyes and makes humane hunting of small game nearly impossible.
You want a lower magnification, a 3 to 9 is quite standard, and you’ll never need the 9 power in reality. Most rimfire scopes are produced in either 3-9 or 2-7 power for rifles. When it comes to handguns the variable magnification changes from 3 or 4 power fixed optics to 1x red dots, and the popular 2 to 7 power long eye relief scopes. With a handgun a fixed power optic is superior with a magnification between 1 to 4 power.
What To Look For In A Rimfire Scopes?
Rimfire weapons are often quite light when it comes to weight, for example the Ruger 10/22 rifle weighs 5 pounds in its stock configuration.
Light, kid friendly, and quite handy – If these are the features of rimfire weapons, would attaching a heavy optic to the rifle really be a good idea? Attaching a Nightforce scope that weighs two and a half pounds to a Ruger 10/22 is a bit much. You want to stick to a nice, lightweight option.
This is even more critical when you start looking to optically enhance a rimfire handgun. Rimfire handguns are quite popular when it comes to adding an optic. Weapons like the Beretta Neo, the S&W Victory, the S&W 22A, the Ruger Mark series, and Taurus Tracker revolvers are all rimfires with options to mount optics.
A heavy optic will throw off the balance of the weapon and make it uncomfortable to aim the weapon over a long period of time during basic target practice, or bull’s eye shooting. Usually one begins hunting with rimfire rifles and handguns because of their ease of handling and speed of movement. Varmints are fast creatures, and small game animals like rabbits are even faster. You’ll need to be able to quickly manipulate the weapon to score a solid and humane hit.
Parallax / Adjustable Objective
Without going into the science behind parallax I hope I can explain what it is. Parallax is essentially an optical illusion which can cause inaccuracy. To test if your rifle has parallax you need to sight in on a target in your normal firing position. Then adjust your gaze slightly, meaning the angle in which you are looking through the scope. Does this small change move your reticle? If so, your parallax is not properly aligned for at that distance.
When it comes to rimfires it’s tempting to stick the first 3-9 power scope you run across on the rifle, what’s the difference right? Well optics have different parallax settings, and can be a fixed parallax. A fixed parallax of 100 yards is most common on optics and this presents a problem if you ever plan on shooting at less than 100 yards.
A bull’s eye shooter may never shoot less than 100 yards and a hundred yard parallax is fine for them. A hunter or casual plinker is more likely going to be shooting at closer, or changing ranges. For this there are two options. The first is a fixed 50 yard parallax, which isn’t perfect, but the shooter can engage targets closer than 50 yards with very little parallax. The best solution is to seek an adjustable objective.
An adjustable objective allows users to essentially adjust the scope’s parallax. An adjustable parallax allows the shooter to gain the most accuracy at a variety of ranges, as well as a clearer sight picture. The reason parallax is so important for rimfire rifles have more to do with the targets than the rifle. Rimfire hunting is a sport of excessively small targets. When you start shooting squirrels your accuracy has to be spot on, a half inch deviation on a deer is still a hit, a half deviation on a squirrel is very likely to be a clear miss.
When it comes to rimfire adjustments for elevation and windage anything over a hundred yards are not really relevant. While bullet drop at 100 yards varies between rimfire cartridges, it is typically quite significant.
However, for those who are considering shooting at long rimfire ranges I suggest a mil dot reticle. Mil dot reticles can be simple, and provide elevation and windage calls that can be used for the little rimfire rounds.
For hunters and plinkers a simple duplex reticule with a thin set of crosshairs is all that is necessary for most shooting. Thin crosshairs at the center of the reticule need to be thin enough to allow the user to actually see the target at different ranges. Remember small targets, small rifle equals small reticle.
Additional Points To Keep In Mind
There are a variety of features I prefer on a larger scope, but they are not necessary on a rimfire scope. They don’t take away from the optic, but they can add some extra numbers onto the price tag.
- Fingertip Adjustable turrets – These turrets are excellent for hunting and long range shooting, but are not necessary on a rimfire rifle. There is nothing negative about these style or turrets, but they are not necessary.
- Massive Objective lenses – Anything above 40 or 42 mm objective lenses is just a bit too big and unnecessary. It will add to the weight of the optic, and require it to be mounted higher.
- Illuminated reticles – These reticles are more or less focused on tactical applications, and can be problematic depending on a quality of the illumination. They can be too bright and create wash out, making small targets difficult to see.
This covers some of the general features and ideas regarding scoping a small bore rimfire rifle and handgun. To make it a bit easier to find optics for your rimfire firearm we’ve put together a short list of some of the better rimfire scopes out there.
Some Of The Best .22LR Rimfire Scopes
The Nikon Pro Staff EFR rimfire optic has a wide combination of features the rimfire shooter can appreciate. First and foremost the optic does have a 3 to 9 power magnification realm, and a 40mm objective lens. The Nikon Pro Staff also features the Enhanced Focusing Range adjustment. This is a fancy word for adjustable objective, to reduce that parallax we talked about.
The Nikon Pro Staff is well made and feels nice and solid. The controls move nice and smooth, everything clicks and provides the proper feedback. The scope itself is just like the center fire series of Pro Staff optics, and is overbuilt for a rimfire optic. The glass is remarkably clear and light transmission is top notch. Honestly, for the price I am impressed at how bright and clear the optic is. The reticlle is a super fine duplex that works well with rimfire rifles.
The turrets are capped to prevent accidental movement and are fingertip adjustable. The turrets can also be reset, which is pretty cool. The turrets are definitely built for a bigger rifle, with longer range, but at this price it’s not restrictive. The scope is somewhat compact and light in weight, so it is a natural fit on a basic rimfire rifle.
On the Range the optic performed quite well. We were picking off empty shotgun hulls at 25 yards with ease. We mounted it to a classic Ruger 10/22 and were plinking like champs. The scope makes it so much easier to be precise. The thin reticlle made it easy to see such small targets and the parallax adjustment made it easy enough to hit them.
It you can’t tell by the title, Leupold likes to use fancy words to describe the scope’s ability to adjust the scope’s objective. Leupold uses extended focusing range though, instead of enhanced. I am a massive Leupold fan, and I love the optics they put out. The Leupold VX-2 EFR lives up to the reputation Leupold rightly has.
The VX-2 is one of Leupold’s many rimfire optics and one of my favorites. The VX-2 is a Gold ring product, and comes with the no questions asked guaranteed warranty. The scope is a 3 to 9 power magnification, and has a low profile 33mm objective lens. The front parallax adjustment is capable of adjusting the parallax all the way to ten meters, allowing a clear sight picture to near point blank ranges.
The VX-2 features coin turned turrets that are not fingertip adjustable. These turn nice and smooth, but are still tactile and give positive feedback as adjustments are made. The adjustments are in ¼ MOA turns. These small adjustments are perfect for precise target engagement.
The Multicoat 4 lens coating does its job quite well. This lens coating gives the user a very clear and bright sight picture. The lens coating works remarkably well, and prevents flares from making the optic uncomfortable to use. At the range, we mounted the scope to an M&P 15-22, and took shots from fifty yards at tin cans. We kept them dancing through the entire range trip. The Leupold VX-2 is by far one of my favorite optics for the rimfire world.
Vortex optics continues to make a bigger splash in the optics market every day. They continue to introduce winners and produce optics that consumers demand. This includes the Vortex Crossfire 2 rimfire edition. The Crossfire 2 rimfire is built to the same specifications as its bigger center fire brother, but scaled for rimfire cartridges. The Crossfire 2 rimfire is a 2 to 7 power optic with a 32 mm objective lens.
The Vortex Crossfire 2 has a slightly longer eye relief. Which is handy for pest and small game hunting. This is especially true when hunting animals like raccoons, opossums, and squirrels, where you are most likely aiming upwards. When aiming upwards, your regular eye relief is reduced. The eyebox is a fast focus design that allows the shooter to cut seconds off their time between aiming and squeezing the trigger.
The Crossfire 2 is well built, overbuilt for sure. The scope is made from aircraft grade aluminum and is built from a single piece of aluminum. The finish is field ready with a hard anodization, and is water, shock, and fog proof. The Vortex Crossfire 2 rimfire begs to be on a hunting rimfire rifle. The Crossfire is fully multi coated for bright light transition, and a clear, high definition picture.
Once the Crossfire 2 rimfire was mounted we immediately noticed how light the optics was. The scope clocks in at about 14 ounces and feels feathery on a Ruger 10/22. The parallax is set for fifty yards, and is sufficient for most plinking and hunting applications. The 2x magnification is perfect for close range shooting and perfectly capable of picking your shot on a small target. The Vortex Crossfire 2 is an excellent optic, and is well priced.
The Bushnell Rimfire 4×32 is the only fixed power scope on the list. Fixed power scopes are some of my favorites for rimfires. The fixed magnification keeps the scope light and compact and a 4 power optic is perfect for a rimfire rifle. Some people may assume 4 power isn’t enough magnification, but to be honest I’ve shot targets at 500 yards with 4 power optics on center fire ranges. At 100 yards or less 4 power is perfect.
The Bushnell Rimfire is nice and affordable, and offers an optic where focal plane is meaningless. The scope is wonderfully light at 10 ounces and is nice and compact. We mounted this optic to the Chiappa Little Badger, a super lightweight 22 magnum. The scope is the perfect fit for this micro rifle. The glass proved to be very clear and the reticle fine enough to place in between the letter C and O on a Coke can.
The Bushnell Rimfire was ridiculously easy to mount, and staid mounted as we opened the break action over and over to reload the rifle. The Bushnell made placing little 22 caliber holes in soda cans an absolute dream. The 4 power was more than enough for the fifty yards of air between us and our targets.
The Bushnell Rimfire is a stout scope, compact in nature, and it just works so well for rimfire hunting, or target shooting. The Bushnell Rimfire is one of the most affordable scopes and is easily one of the better choices for a rimfire rifle.