I’ve discovered few joys in life as predictable as plinking with a budget rifle that doesn’t pretend to be anything more. My first .22 LR rifle was a plain Jane Ruger 10/22 complete with the modern plastic trigger group and a cheap off-brand scope probably better suited for an airsoft rifle. 

The closest thing to a frill on that gun was an updated bolt release that made it just a hair easier to load and shoot on the range. I’ll make no claims about this gun holding magical sub-MOA groups with just the right ammo, but it can still score some decent marks with minimal effort at 50 and 100 yards even when just burning through budget Federal bulk pack ammo.

Honestly, I have no interest in updating the rifle beyond what it is today. It might not be a match-grade shooter, but all the fundamentals still apply. In fact, this little .22 was the first gun my wife ever shot, and I was particularly pleased to see that she took to shooting steel pop-up targets with a level of enjoyment you rarely see on normal range visits with adults. Better yet, she was outshooting me on her first go around. 

Throw in a pile of 25-round mags for date nights, and the Ruger 10/22 has never failed to deliver budget-friendly fun without any need to make excuses for missed shots. It's an honestly pleasant semi-auto rifle for plinking and easy enough to train a new shooter to confidently handle on the range.

The only real downside has been the constant need to keep reloading, as the soft-shooting 10/22 does have a habit of burning through ammo at a surprising speed once you start pulling the trigger. Sure, the rifle could pass for small game hunting, and there are certainly high-end alternatives. But I actually find it to be somewhat liberating to just have a dedicated plinker that would be as awkward in a precision rifle match as I am on a dance floor. 

Disassembled Ruger 10/22 rifle on a table
The 10/22 is a very simple platform and easy to maintain. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Dead Ringer scope on a 10/22 rifle
My budget scope was actually a free item left on another rifle. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Paper targets
It's plenty accurate at 50 yards for plinking fun. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Paper targets
My groups certainly started to open up at 100 yards, but you can really only expect so much from a budget scope, cheap ammo, and my general lack of patience when I have a 25-round magazine. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

For me, the real value is having an affordable option to bring on my range visits for some extended pew-pew time. It’s still one of my most shot rifles for exactly that reason, and I keep it high on my list of recommended buys for anyone that wants to spend more time behind their rifle than staring at it in the safe.

If you’ve been chasing your dream precision rifle for years, I suggest taking a short break to just grab a guilt-free plinker to remind yourself what a joy it is to pop cans and poke borderline-meaningless holes in paper.

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