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Mini Rifles

Mini Rifles

Team Red Flag has been shooting practical-type disciplines for a few years now, and by far the most popular league is that for Minirifle in Open division. Chambered in 22 Long Rifle (22LR) using semi-automatic MSRs (Modern Sporting Rifles) with all the bells and whistles of sighting systems, and a copious number of magazines. To get a better idea of the discipline of practical shooting, check out UKPSA, the leading authority and governing body of all things practical, and check out our website www.teamredflag.co.uk.

What is practical?

It’s like Gallery shooting, but with movement. In gallery shooting, you predominately keep still and the targets move around you, normally with a fixed maximum time for each you need to shoot within. Gallery scoring is based upon the accuracy, within a given time, less penalties. With Practical, it’s the reverse, you are the moving element between target stages. Accuracy remains essential, but also the added challenge of the individual shooters time has a direct impact upon their score. Unlike Gallery, we calculate accuracy divided by time = final result, so the speed element is a critical part. But what does this mean in regards safety, as you will be running around with a loaded firearm, trying to get the best score in the shortest time?

In Practical, you are always moving between stages, so strict, practised and disciplined safety is essential. Gun always pointed at the backstop with the safety catch applied when on the move and not waving around up and down, left or right. The RO will follow each individual shooter throughout the course to ensure strict adhesion to safety protocols.


Fit for purpose

What does this mean regarding equipment? The MSR must run seamlessly, be able to accommodate high capacity magazines and be good for ‘dynamic reloads’. The sighting system needs to be reliable and robust, particularly as you can be shooting out from 15, out to 100m in the same competition, so a good understanding of a decent sighting system is essential. An adjustable stock is a handy tool, as it may aid certain practical elements. Also, having ambi controls is good, as there will always be some sneaky, evil stage of offhand shooting and loading to contend with.

We all started off as Gallery shooters, and used equipment best suited for this. I used the old Ruger 10/22 with all the go faster bits. Great piece of kit and very accurate. Loads of aftermarket bolt-ons and upgrades available. Mine was custom made by Roger Francis at Rimfire Magic, who are known for their fine product. Great tool, however for Practical I found the mag changes with the flush rotary magazines and the non-ambi control restrictive! Perfect for Gallery where the demands are less dynamic, but I wanted a bit more for practical. I must say, I still see plenty of 10/22s out there winning silver, so still a great comp gun!


AR – what else?

After a lot of research and trial, I opted, like so many, for an AR platform for practical. Why? These Practical shooting disciplines are nothing to do with ‘black guns’ or ‘wannabes’; it’s simply that this type of design has evolved over years to produce the best ergonomics, robustness and flexibility. It is not a military rifle, but a competition rifle suited well for this discipline.

Typically, the controls are, or can be, ambi very easily. The mag release and change capabilities are great. The mags take the required high capacity for competition. The rails suit all types of sighting systems and the stock is usually moveable, it’s a perfect evolution of the MSR.

I shot my first two seasons with a Walther HK416. A bugger to clean, but accurate, ate any ammo I gave it, perfect ergonomics, reasonably priced and won a lot of silverware, both in Gallery and Practical comps. My preference has always been ‘keep it short’, so the 12-inch barrel and adjustable stock were perfect for me. I’m not a big bloke either, so it just makes sense, its lighter, easier to manoeuvre and like any 22LR there’s no recoil to worry about.

Last season, I smashed open the piggy bank and traded up to a Spikes competition build AR from North West Customer Parts – one of Wayne’s specials. Again, it’s a 12-inch ‘shorty’, but also with ambi everything, comp trigger, lightweight adjustable stock, key mod rail system and a ‘pretty paint job’ – because everyone knows buying new stuff makes you better, or at least feel better!

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For me, this piece of equipment is a dream, solidly built, but lightweight. No dreaded AR rattle, everything is built to last. Crazy accurate and consistent and feeds anything. Not the cheapest on the market by far, but then it was built for a purpose: 1-4 x 24 mag scope on top, for me the perfect combination! This is a dedicated .22 upper, and Mil-spec 5.56mm lower, at some point I will get a straight pull .223 or 300 blackout upper, so twice the gun for the buck.


Don’t knock it

In the team, we also have the ubiquitous Smith & Wesson M&P 15/22. I have tried to turn my nose up at this model many times, but I just can’t. It’s a great little gun, it runs, accuracy is good, it’s light as a feather and it’s made by Smith & Wesson! Made from polymer, it still maintains a robust feeling. ‘Bang for the buck’, you would be very hard pressed to beat it, and it’s used widely in competition shooting circles, which is testimony to its quality. Plus, you can dress it up too.

As a point of interest, Wayne at NWCP has also recently introduced a polymer version of their own competition rifle, so that’s a strong indicator of the direction of material builds from a major influencer on the competitive shooting scene. If I was starting out again I would get one of these guns, without a doubt.

Next in the team is a custom made AR platform by Roger at Rimfire Magic. Dedicated .22 CMMG upper, and 5.56 DoubleStar lower. Again, this makes it suitable to slot in a .223 straight pull upper if needed in the future. Bit more ‘AR rattle’ but that’s not unusual, and compared to the last two rifles this one is made out of pig iron. However, the added weight on the receiver and the longer barrel results in stable shooting platform in .22, no flip, no recoil, so its personal preference. Not ammo fussy, and take standard mil-spec AR after-market furniture, so easily upgraded to ambi controls. Roger currently isn’t offering these rifles, but is selling SNW MP-15S.


Ruger AR

Finally, in the team we have the Ruger ST22. This is a sort of AR platform, mixed with the traditional established 10/22 controls. If you are familiar with either it will become second nature quickly. Ruger ‘banana mags’ are a must, as the flush rotaries can be a pain to switch. Purpose-made Ruger excellence as normal. Easy to clean and based upon the well-established 10/22 action, so years of confidence in this system’s reliability. It’s not light, but again. This gives it good stability and I’ve never seen it jam

I still prefer using scopes, even for the shorter distances, but some of my team mates have gone to the dark side and bolted on red dots. I have to say, this is the way to go for competitive practical disciplines, and I am dropping pennies in my piggy bank to catch up with them. The ideal is the flexibility of both, a 1-4 or 1-6 x24 scope for those ‘out there’ shots, and a red dot for the close and fast work with both eyes open.


Other options

I am not saying these rifles are the best, or the only practical competition equipment out there, only that these are what we run in our team. Also, out there I see other great offerings. Amongst the quality AR platforms there is the Southern Gun Company with their W22, Bradley Arms have a great reputation, and also check out Lantac.

If the AR15 is not your thing, there are other MSRs out there, a lot close clones of service rifles for the same reasons I have stated previously – they work, the ergonomics are right, and have proven design characteristics. Look out for the Sig 522, Berretta ARX 160, HK G36 and GSG MP5 and the Mk22 Modern Sporting Rifle (FN S.C.A.R. clone) and the new Kriss Defiance, which is a real beauty. I also continue to see plenty of the jazzed-up Ruger 10/22s out there. They shoot damn well, can easily be upgraded and run for ever.

There is a wide and varied selection out there, so try the guns on the range, read the write ups, check out the videos on Gun Mart TV and make a selection that suits you for your particular needs.

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