There’s really nothing like being able to take $25 worth of ammo to the range and have hours of playtime behind a rimfire target pistol. Whether you’re just plinking interesting targets or practicing for some sort of competition, shooting 22 LR rimfire is almost therapeutic when you know you’re not burning a hole through your wallet with each magazine.
Today on The Rimfire Report we’ll go over some of the most popular 22 LR target pistols and try to determine which one is the best. The three most popular options for rimfire target pistols on the market now are the Browning Buckmark, Ruger Mark Series and the Smith & Wesson Victory. We’ll compare and contrast these three pistols today as they are currently the most popular and are all designed to be highly accurate rimfire target pistols.
Rimfire Target Pistols – The similarities
All three of the guns listed above share a lot in common. Each one operates off the same straight blowback system making the pistols incredibly simple. You’ll find most target pistols with a barrel length right around 5.5-inches. The overall footprint of each of these pistols will also take up about the space of a full-sized duty pistol but without the added weight.
Without all the extra pressures of larger caliber ammunition, these rimfire target pistols can be made from much lighter materials not normally found in other guns such as aluminum and glass-filled polymers. All three of the pistols also come standard with 10-round magazines.
Speaking of magazines, magazine disconnects are quite common on these types of pistols which many users can find annoying but from what I’ve seen all of them could easily be removed with a little effort. Other safety features on these rimfire target pistols include manual thumb safeties which all happen to be mounted to the side of the gun right next to where the internal hammer assembly is for each pistol. All three of these pistols have great, crisp single-action triggers right out of the box.
Rimfire Target Pistols – The Differences
By far the longest-lived of these pistols is the Ruger Standard. First introduced in 1949 the pistol has progressively been refined over the years going from its Mark-I configuration with wood grips and blued steel to the ultra-modern, ultra sleek Ruger Mark-III and now Mark-IV pistols which look closer to laser pistols than 22 target pistols. So much so that a handful of Mark III pistols made their way into the Star Wars Television Show The Mandalorian.
The Mark-IV offers the greatest variability in configuration out of the three have not just the stock model but also a 22/45 variant that makes use of a polymer lower that perfectly mimics a 1911 style grip which many people find preferable than the standard. Threaded barrels are very common in the mark series. There are also dedicated competition models with Picatinny rails built into the upper as well as models specifically geared toward hunting. With the Mark-IV series of pistols, there is a lot of variability for the customer. In total there are 8 different parent models but each of those models also comes in several different configurations.
The Mark-IV has outgrown its predecessor the Mark-III by way of introducing the one-button takedown system. Owners of Mark-I, Mark-II, and Mark-III pistols will know from experience that taking one of these pistols to clean can be quite a task if you don’t know what you’re doing. Unlike larger handguns, the previous three generations of mark pistols had a complicated takedown and reassembly that has probably cause almost as much frustration as lost AR detents and springs. Thankfully the Mark-IV now uses a simple one-button takedown that requires no tools or black magic to reassemble the gun.
The Buck Mark has been around not quite as long as the Mark series of pistols but it also has been around longer than I’ve been alive. Introduced in 1985 the Buck Mark was made with modern materials from the beginning. The entirety of the Browning Buck Mark is made from 7075 aluminum making it both lightweight and strong. Although it doesn’t hold a candle to the stainless steel construction of the Smith & Wesson Victory.
Second, only barely to the Mark series of pistols, the Browning Buck Mark comes in a whopping 23 different models to choose from 10 of which are available for sale in California. Threaded barrels, fluted barrels, bull barrels, target sights, fiber optic sights, Picatinny rails are just some of the variations you can get with the Browning Buck Mark. Really all you have to do is take your pick.
The Browning Buck Mark does require tools to disassemble, unlike the Mark-IV which uses a simple one-button takedown system but it also gives the user the ability to completely replace the barrel without replacing the entire upper like on the Mark-IV.
The newest of the three pistols, the SW22 Victory is a very modern and sleek looking rimfire target pistol. Taking a page out of Ruger’s 22/45 handbook, the SW22 Victory has a polymer grip that mates with a stainless steel frame making this one of the more durable base models. (Both the Buck Mark and Mark-IV have models that come in stainless steel and aluminum).
The SW22 Victory features a removable and interchangeable match barrel and also includes a Picatinny rail so it is ready to mount optics right out of the box. Another feature that makes this pistol unique is its adjustable trigger stop. Using a set screw, the user can adjust the trigger so that there is minimal or no overtravel in the trigger which tends to be a common complaint about the Ruger Mark-IV pistol and usually ends up being replaced with aftermarket parts.
Unfortunately, it’s hotly debated on forums and the like as to whether or not the SW22 Victory showed up too late to the rimfire target pistol party. The Victory was only recently introduced in 2016 and hence has very limited aftermarket support unlike the Buck Mark and Mark-IV. However, The Smith & Wesson Performance Center models can provide most if not all the upgrades you could imagine.
So, Which one is the best?
While each pistol does basically the same thing, personally my favorite has to be the Ruger Mark-IV. Perhaps I am biased since I have owned two mark series pistols in the past but can you blame me? They’re great target guns.
When you’ve been making rimfire pistols for half a century you tend to learn a thing or two and Ruger sure as hell knows what they are doing. A close second would, in fact, be the Browning Buck Mark as I’ve heard nothing but great things about them even before the Mark-IV came out.
The Smith & Wesson Victory brings up the rear but perhaps it’s simply due to how new the pistol is. I’ve heard many people warming up the little gun and with a bigger customer base, the aftermarket support might start to improve.
So which of these three rimfire target pistols do you think is best? Do you have a preference for any one of them? What do you own and what do you shoot? Let us know down in the comments and we’ll see you all next time in The Rimfire Report.
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