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Introduction To NRL22: Small Bullets, Small Targets, Long Ranges



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By David Lane & Matt Collins. Updated 3/7/23.

NRL22 is a relatively new competitive sport that has sprung up in recent years, mostly fueled by the interest in things like the centerfire Precision Rifle Series and, of course, the National Rifle League itself. 

NRL22 is basically a scaled-down version of these events using 22LR rimfire rifles instead of the 6mm (and larger) centerfire cartridges that dominate the larger events. Most NRL22 matches don’t actually go beyond 200 yards, and most are even within 100 yards, making the sport extremely accessible for anyone interested in precision shooting.

Sound like fun?

Getting started with this type of competition shooting is easier than you might think, with the whole sport specifically designed to be accessible and even caters to younger shooters who are interested in learning and growing their skillset.

The low cost and relatively straightforward equipment setup make NRL22 a perfect starting point for new shooters, but it’s also a great training ground for more experienced shooters looking to get some match training in during the offseason.

It's also great for proving out and testing new gear, without throwing down the big expenses of wearing down your centerfire barrel or using up valuable reloading components.

WHAT IS NRL22

NRL-Announces-New-.22-League

NRL22 is actually a registered non-profit, with the stated goal of making precision rifle shooting more accessible to a wider variety of shooters. 

Centerfire precision competition has a high cost of entry, even compared to other expensive competition shooting pursuits. And (generally) you need a 1000-yard (or longer) range to compete or even practice fully.

But in the words of Travis Ishida, the founder of NRL22 “Nearly all areas have access to 100-yard ranges, and most shooters own a 22LR rifle.”

True, and true.

Using rimfire rifles significantly reduces the cost and complexity of precision shooting and makes the sport perfect for anyone looking to compete, become a better shooter, or get into precision rifle shooting.

On top of that, NRL22 uses a standard steel targe package for matches that can be had for $330 and publishes a new course of fire every month. This includes five stages (usually themed for the month in question) that are set up with the target pack and some commonly available shooting props like folding chairs, sawhorses, and cinder blocks. 

This, along with the way they’ve streamlined setting up a local club, makes NRL22 one of the fastest-growing shooting competitions because just about anyone (and four friends) can set up a club and start competing. 

Best of all, that course of fire that gets published every month is then run all around the country, so you can compare your scores against other shooters who competed on the same stage, effectively making every match, even a five-person local shootout, potentially a nationally-ranked competition.

After the match, your match director will upload your scores to the NRL22 database, and you can quickly see how you stack up against the pros. 

NRL22 RULES & DIVISIONS

Right now, the NRL22 has five divisions: Base, Open, Young Guns, Ladies, and the newest class, Air Rifles.

Base Class

Base class is like Limited or Production divisions in other shooting sports, except instead of having a list of approved models of rifle, the only requirement is that the MSRP of your rifle and scope together must be less than $1,200. That doesn't include scope rings or bases, aftermarket triggers, and a few other bits and pieces, but in general, this will be the class where anyone with a stock rifle can just show up and shoot.

Check the updated rules on the NRL22 website to find out exactly what's allowed in Base class.

Open Class

Open class is a little more…open. As the name implies, basically anything safe is permitted here, just like in all the Open and Outlaw open classes in other competitions. Expect to see the best scores posted in this class, and expect to see rifle and optic combos in the $4,000+ range, especially custom rigs like the Vudoo V-22.

RimX, Proof Research barrel, JAE Gen 4, and Athlon Cronus scope for a NRL22 Open Rifle

This class is perfect for the shooter who wants to use NRL22 as a training tool for precision rifle shooting in general, but especially those who already have a .22 trainer that mimics their PRS/NRL gun.

Then again, if you want to use a more expensive rifle or scope and you don’t mind competing against the big boys, this is a great way to test your setup and your skills against the very best.

Young Guns Class

The Young Guns class is one of the most popular in NRL22, both in terms of participation and in terms of how many people will stop what they’re doing to watch.

This class is specifically for shooters ages 8-16 and is a great way to get kids more involved in shooting sports.

The Young Guns class is truly open to all younger shooters, and there are no equipment restrictions, so anything that is usable in Open, Base, or Air Rifles classes is allowed. This can get pretty competitive, however, so don’t be surprised if your little shooter starts asking for a nice RimX for Christmas.

Ladies Class

Ladies Class is, as you probably guessed, for the ladies. Like Young Guns, Open, Base, or Air Rifle-legal guns are all allowed.

Air Rifles Class

Don’t have a .22? Maybe you live somewhere that even a 22LR rifle is hard to get? Air Rifle class is for you.

Caliber must be .30 or lower, and the projectiles must be mass-produced, and domed pellets, slugs, and other cast bullets are not allowed. 

Gear for these events is pretty affordable. The main expenses are rifle and scope, and for base class you’re actually limited to just over a grand to keep the competition focused on marksmanship instead of finance. 

Vudoo 5

Rifle

On the high-end, you'll find Vudoo V-22 and V-360 rifles, Zermatt Arms RimX, and the nicer models of the CZ 457. All three are outstanding rifles in their own ways, while personally, I like the RimX the most, all of them will shoot well.

If you're not ready to drop that kind of money, Bergara's B-14R HMR is wonderful as are the less expensive models of the CZ 457. You'll miss out on a nicer stock or chassis with those lower-models of CZ 457, but the rifle will still perform really well.

Base class is dominated by the Tikka T1x, Bergara BMR, and least-expensive versions of the CZ 457.

Don't let not having the perfect rifle stop you from shooting NRL22. I've shot with people that used everything from a Ruger 10/22 they bought that week to a Remington .22 LR they've owned since the '70s.

Scope

Top-tier scopes are going to run you several thousand dollars, but that is a lot more glass than you'll need for NRL22. Sure, it's really fun to shoot with the ZCO425, Vortex Razor Gen III, or anything else that costs more than your first car — but that's a choice you can make if you really want.

Right now, the scope that I would recommend over all others is the Bushnell Match Pro ED. Even in Open class, this is an amazing scope. I've shot it from 25 yards to over 1,000 yards, and I cannot recommend it enough, especially for the price of only $700. Take a look at the complete review for a lot more info.

Bushnell Match Pro, RimX, MDT ACC (1)
Bushnell Match Pro, RimX, MDT ACC

That said, the MSRP makes it hard to use in Base class. If that's the base, the slightly cheaper Match Pro is only $500 MSRP and still an outstanding scope. We got a full review of the Match Pro, also.

Other scopes to look at would be the Vortex Viper PST II, Athlon Midus TAC, and Vortex Diamondback Tactical.

You'll need a scope with a parallax that goes down to at least 25 yards, MIL or MOA, and a Christmas tree reticle is a huge plus. Other features like zero stop, rev indicator, and other precision long range tools are nice but not always 100% required.

Bipod

If you're on a budget start with a Harris. For the price, they can't be beat.

Bipods aren't sexy, but if you want to go down the rabbit hole a great bipod can open a lot of shooting options that you woun't otherwise have. Atlas and MDY Ckye-Pods aren't remotely cheap, but they are wonderful.

If you want to throw down real money, I highly recommend the Ckye-Pod Double-Pull from MDT.

Support Bag

Even a sock filled with rice will be good enough for your first match. But honestly, you might just want to borrow someone's support bag if that's your only option.

A great middle-ground do-all bag is the Armageddon Gear Shmedium Game Changer. Heavy fill is nice but normal, and GitLite has its place too.

Other bags like the Wiebad Fortune Cookie Mini are a geat option, also. Really, anything is better than nothing. But for your first match, feel free to rely on the kindness of strangers and barrow other shooters' bags. This will give you a chance to see what you like and won't cost anything.

Ammo

Match-grade 22LR is almost required here, but you can get by with cheap value pack stuff if that’s all you have on hand. For me, I usually go with CCI ammo if I don’t have a large amount of nicer stuff on hand, and my preference is for SK Ammo 40gr Solid RN Rifle Match if I can get it. 

Oh, and try and stick with subsonic ammo. Most 22LR really doesn’t do well with the transition from supersonic to subsonic, and this can mess with your longer shots a lot. 

Before Your First Match

All you need to do is sign up on the NRL22 website and look for a match in your area. Other than that, read the rules, and load up your gear. Get to the match early, and make sure you’re in time for the safety briefing. 

A zeroed rifle helps a lot, but you can get away with zeroing before the match if you need to.

Other than that, show up ready to have a good time, and enjoy some of the best competition around without breaking the bank.

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