The only type of semi-automatic (or self loading) rifle that can be legally owned in the UK is .22 rimfire. The .22 semi automatic rifles we use are generally known nowadays as ‘mini-rifles’.
The mini-rifle market is dominated by one make and model - the Ruger 10/22. The 10/22 is available in a variety of guises as standard: wood stock, synthetic stock and so on with a 10 round magazine and open sights.
However, these rifles are ripe for “development” and because of their popularity there's a vast array of components on the market to improve them; from replacement stocks, trigger and bolt kits, and extended magazine releases through to barrels. If you have very deep pockets you can build up a custom gun with very little of the original remaining!
This is an example of a custom build. Whilst this rifle hasn’t had the ”extreme“ makeover that some indulge in, it sports a laminated stock, extended magazine release, titanium firing pin and custom bolt and a bull barrel. For a rifle like this you’re looking at an outlay of several hundred pounds, plus sights and extra magazines.
There are, of course, alternatives to the Ruger, but the limiting factor to most of these is the lack of availability of high capacity after market magazines. The majority of semi-auto rimfires (including the 10/22) come with a 10 round magazine as standard. Mini-rifle competitions have a high round count so larger magazines are an absolute must.
Apart from a rifle sight (red dot, or scope, even a laser for some) and magazines little else is required, apart from cleaning equipment. Some like to add a muzzle brake to the ‘business end’ of the barrel - you can see one on the rifle above. The idea of this is to dissipate the gases from firing, reducing muzzle flip, to get the sights back on target quickly in speed shooting events.
Semi-auto .22 rimfire rifles aren't the best choice for precision style shooting at static targets. Where the semi-auto excels though is in mini-rifle competitions. A typical course of fire might be as follows:-
- Standing around 6 feet away from a door with a rectangular opening (2 ft by 2 ft) at roughly chest height and with the gun loaded and ready, engage 6 targets with one round each.
- Take the prone position, on a mat, still behind the door and engage the same 6 targets with one round each through a letter box size opening near the base of the door.
- Stand up, move forward, reach down and pull cord that's on the ground. This activates a moving target visible for around 4 seconds before disappearing from view. Engage the target with two rounds.
- Move to the right, around 20 feet, where there's a car wheel flat on the ground with a pole rising vertically from the centre. Standing on the rim of the wheel, engage 6 targets with one round each from the left side of the pole. Then one round on each from the right of the pole. This means shooting one of the 6 shot strings from the weak shoulder and a magazine change too by now.
- Move around 10 feet right and 6 feet forward to a marker on the ground and, shooting from the hip, engage 5 baton rounds (‘rubber bullets’ - quite small) until all have fallen.
That’s just one example of the challenges facing the typical club shooter who takes to mini-rifle competitions. Difficult, but very satisfying.