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Why Does the Military Use .22 Rimfire Rifles for Training?


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another video on ForgottenWeapons.com, I’m Ian McCollum And today I want to talk about a couple of comments, actually, that I got on a previous pair of videos That we ran a couple weeks ago on a pair of U.S. Army .22 Caliber Training Rifles. One by Springfield, the Springfield Model of 1922, and a Mossberg Model 44 U.S. I got a surprising number of comments on those videos from people who were suggesting that it would be really stupid for the Army to train people on .22s When the actual Army rifle is a .30-06. And I think this indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of marksmanship training. So that’s something substantial enough that I wanted to address it in a short video here today. Now, the idea of training with a .22 is that you’re avoiding recoil. Now that’s, I think, exactly what these commenters were complaining about. You need to be able to control recoil in order to be able to shoot well with, say, a .30-06. However, you don’t learn to do that by shooting the .30-06 first. This is very much like, say, pilot training. If you have a particularly squirrely and unstable, but very maneuverable and capable fighter, You don’t train pilots by taking them as new recruits and throwing them in the squirrely plane And basically saying, “Good luck! If you make it back on the ground, you’re doing well.” No, you put them up in a two-seater, very stable, very simple training aircraft until they’re pretty good pilots and only then Do you let them loose on the aircraft that has more potential and the one that’s actually going to be used in combat, But the one that’s more difficult to operate. The exact same thing goes for marksmanship. You don’t give this brand new recruit who, often, is not… has never really fired a gun before in their life. You don’t give them a Garand or a 1903 Springfield right out of the gate because it’s going to kick quite heavily, They’re not going to be used to it, they’re going to develop flinches, You’re going to… It’s going to be much harder to make progress in teaching them fundamental marksmanship skills that way. Instead, you give them a .22 Caliber rifle where you can basically, you can teach the fundamentals: Sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and follow through Without having the recoil interrupting their learning process. So they don’t have to be fighting all these four things they’re trying to learn, As well as getting kicked in the shoulder every time they pull the trigger as well. This is especially important when you realize that fundamental marksmanship is best taught prone, Where everything is as stable as possible and, you know what? Recoil is also the worst prone Because, instead of you rocking back with the shot… Sorry, to do it properly, here… Rocking back with the shot, Instead of that, when you’re prone, the thing just slams into your shoulder. And you eat all of the recoil from it. So, .22 Caliber training rifles were used by every military on the planet. There are a ton of German World War II, Well, most pre-World War II, training rifles like the KKWs, The U.S. Military had them, and you’ll find them everywhere else. You’ll find .22 Caliber training rifles, Training versions of Lebels and Berthiers. I even, in fact, have a .22 Caliber Berthier Trainer. So, this was a standard practice and what I think some people don’t understand is the fundamentals of marksmanship, Once you can shoot a .22 Caliber well, that skill translates extremely effectively into all other firearms. So, or at least, all other rifles and pistols. Once you have mastered the sights and the trigger and the follow through on a .22, You’re really well positioned to be able to shoot, say, an M1 Garand. At this point, all that you have to actually learn is recoil control. How to hand the heavy version of what you have been shooting. And in this way, it’s very much like pilot training. You wait until you’re a good pilot, then they give you the difficult-to-fly aircraft. Same thing with rifles. So, hopefully, I’m sure a lot of people already know this and so, well, if you did know this and sat through the video anyway, Thank you? I suppose? Hopefully there are a lot of people who we have been able to educate a bit here today. And if you are in a position where you don’t do, you haven’t done any shooting yourself, It is common practice and it’s a good idea to start with a .22 Caliber rifle. For exactly the same reasons that the military did it. You’ll become a better shooter, faster and you’re a lot less likely to pick up bad habits By starting with a .22 and then graduating into a full-power firearm, whether it’s a rifle or a handgun. Anyway, thank you very much for watching, stay tuned tomorrow, we’ll be back with another cool ForgottenWeapon.

100 thoughts on “Why Does the Military Use .22 Rimfire Rifles for Training?

  1. I always rationalized it as a cost issue .22LR is a lot cheaper that even .556. The ease of shooting one verses the other never occurred to me.

  2. would it surprise you that in the german Bundeswehr soldiers drop out because they didn't expect they'd have to use a gun and leave the army because they are too scared?

  3. Also  1. cost.  22 rounds are much cheaper2. 22 rounds can be used in 'closed' such as indoor ranges or smaller ranges

  4. I guess gaining a much wider audience isn't always a good thing. Seeing as you'll probably get more than a proportionate increase in these kinds of bone-headed responses, my advice would be to ignore them. Or spend all your precious time doing basic training for mental children.

  5. Ian's made some great points. I'm just curious… When a new shooter's very first weapons are a 9mm pistol and a 5.56mm assault rifle, I can imagine it's less of a shock than to start with a .45 and a 7.62mm… But are those smaller calibers still very likely to have a negative effect on someone who's never fired anything in their lives before?

  6. Great video and would like to mention to those that don't know, even the M-16 rifle has a .22 adapter that was used to train with. It is also cheaper to train and learn the basics with the .22 rim fire than to use the actual ammo, weather it be .30-06, .308 or 5.56.
    Some might think this is even odder, but many nations will start off training with air or pellet rifles. Dorint the 1960's, the US Army found that a large number of their recruits had never shot any weapon and at the same time had developed the quick kill shooting. That is were you train to shoot without using the sights of the rifle, it is a type of point and shoot. The would start off training with Beeman air rifles. They found that those that had never fired a rifle or gun adapted the fastest. These guys got so good that they could shoot a balled up piece of paper out of the center of a washer tossed in the air. Then they would move on to the M-14 with the sights taped over.
    China, being a country were citizens are not allowed to own firearms, starts all recruits off with air rifles before moving on to the .22, then on to their main weapon.

  7. I was a Redhat in the Air force '83 to '90 and for most of that time, we used .22lr adapters in the M16 and M16E1's we trained with. Every Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Instructor (Redhat) has 3 calluses on the on their right hand — One on their thumb from the carrying hand and two on their index finger from the slip ring for the hand guard retainer. It's been almost 30 years since I worked on the line with those adapters, however I still have the calluses. It's what happens when you clear hundreds upon hundreds of malfunctions. Shooter raises their hand. you pick up the rifle with your right hand with the thumb through the carrying hand and your index finger under the slip ring. Inspect the jam, pull the charging handle back with your left hand(mostly your left pinky finger) you grab the stock with the rest of your left fingers. Take your right hand and grab your brass clearing tool out of your left breast pocket. If you can flick out the case or round, if not you drop the magazine using the right hand. hold it with your left while holding the rifle as well clear the round, catch it with your right hand. and reload it into the magazine, or use a new one. reinsert magazine. chamber round. hand back to shooter. Time to clear, from blink of an eye to 10 seconds. Out of 10 shooters with 10rds each in 5 round magazines. You could have 2 malfunctions to 30 malfunctions per position — Prone, kneeling, standing, supported left, supported right. Standing and kneeling were the worse… least amount of recoil impulse transmitted to the adapter, so you'd get short recoils.

  8. When I joined the British Army in 1975 the principles of marksmanship were taught using the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle fitted with the Hekler & Koch L12A1 .22 cal conversion kit, for all the reasons stated in this video.

  9. What was the hammer price on that Mossberg 22? I am working on selling some old guns for my mother in law and have no idea where I should start. it is in rough shape so I am sure that will hurt the value.

  10. The same thing holds in every other area of learning a skill. You learn fundamentals on something forgiving and then work up to learn harder skills after your fundamentals are solid.

  11. Hey Ian, are you ever going to do a video on Arisaka trainers? I had one before and I heard so many different things about them like them being made from worn service rifles and others being out of cast iron receivers. Did school kids actually train with them to learn the function? Since I think they didn't​ fire them.

  12. Is there an equivalent for shotguns?

    Did a little bit of trap shooting with an over/under break action, and wanted to try a bit more of it. If I buy a shotgun, though, it'll be an Ithaca, probably an M-37, since that's my home town, and I wonder if that's a good idea from a "training wheels" perspective.

  13. When I started in the Danish Army, I was an experienced .22 rimfire shooter. Another recruit had never touched a firearm before. One week after our first live-fire on the firing range, he was discharged as useless. He flinched so bad, the G3 (M75) in 7.62 NATO gouged a trench 50 meters in front of him while prone.

  14. Not to mention, the military being the military : it's way cheaper to train by dumping crates worth of .22lr rather than wasting full blown cartridges at the start.

  15. Totally agree.
    After having done training on a .22 I achieved a marksman badge on my first go at a Lee Enfield.(Yes I am that old)

  16. knowledge

    R̩͈̙̮͓͚͉̒̅̓̏̽ ̸̰͚̗̼ͥ͐ͦ́͐ͅẼ͕̜̤͙̘͐ ̜̝̣̲̟̪̇̅́ͯ́̿ͥ͘C̭̞̺̊̓͂̈́ ̆ͧͧ̿ͯ̚҉̯͕̭̫̹̫I̳̲̒̾̑͗̔̑͂͠ ̹̠̳̺͙̱ͪĚ̶͕̠ͫ͒́ͩ͒ͬ ̲̮͍͈͚̘͓̆̐ͥ͛ͪ̉́͢V̰̼̰̞̮̣̀͆ ̭̗̞͚͛ͤ́̚Eͭ̉͆ͫ̈́͢ ̝̯̇ͥ͋̆̃̚D͍͚͚͊̐̎

  17. a few year ago I buy an very old time magazine (1962) and inside I see a advertise about a m1 grand conversion to 22 lr for sale I want to ask if that rifle in fact exist….

  18. I think one important point needs to be added to your video. Firing a .22 is much more cost effective than using standard sized rounds and rifles.
    Operating costs of a simple trainer aircraft are also significantly lower than the ones of a modern fighter jet, because they need not so much fuel and don't need to be extensively maintained after every couple of hours in the air.

  19. A lot of marksmen trainers today use air rifles at least the man who trained me back in the mid 80's did. A 22lr can be lethal at over 1/2 a mile. while most air rifles are relatively safe. the advantage was you could practice practically anywhere. I have spent many rainy days in the house shooting much less danger of damaging things all you need is a big cardboard box filled with paper and cardboard.

  20. First Rifle I ever shot was a .50 Blackpowder Musket….. Thanks dad xD Luckily that didn`t scare me away from firearms 😀

  21. As a cub scout in elementary school, they let us shoot BB guns prone. As a boy scout, I earned my merit badge with a .22 rifle sitting. (There was also a black powder badge, but that was not widely available.) My high school's rifle club also used .22 rifles sitting, if I recall correctly, although I did not participate. It's a good way to learn, especially for a scrawny 18-year-old who's got no idea what they're doing and is likely to knock themselves on their ass and miss the backstop if they're standing up with something that really kicks.

  22. .22s make perfect training rifles and wont make new people to shooting develop bad flinch not that hard to believe! ps if you accidently shoot instructer he might live lol.

  23. what seems like common sense to most of us who grew up with guns doesn't always register with people who come to guns as adults. I started with a air rifle , then a 22.,then a 30/30 finally when I was comfortable with those a 303.british ,just my opinion but it makes you a better shot . I'm old fashion but thats the way we learnt, my father and his the army way!

  24. well they took us from school gave ак-74 and asked for 3 shots prone
    i don't really remember what happened after 1st shot (our military don't use mufflers) but i basically just wasted the rest 2 without caring for the aim to be out of there

  25. It's just like with race car drivers. Those who compete on the top league like Le Mans 24H or Formula 1 don't start right off the bat with LMP1 or F1 cars. They start small with go-karts, then work their way up to sprint races with touring cars, gain as much experience and hone their skills, then they work their way up the league with GT cars, junior Formula racers or one-make races.

  26. I suspect that most of the prejudice against small calibre / low recoil weapons stems from adults unconsciously seeing them as 'guns for kids', or even 'guns for girls' because of the widespread use of .22 as a starter for kids. In fact the real common denominator between child learner and adult learner is inexperience, not age or gender.

  27. One of the other benefits of shooting a .22LR is that you get to do long range shooting without the long range. I'll get the same spread with a Savage Mark II at 100 yards as I do with a Ruger Precision (308WIN) at 300 yards, The upside is that I don't have to walk 300 yards to change targets. Also .22LR is damn cheap (even in Canada.)

  28. I would argue that because the .22 is considerably cheaper than other ammunition types it is also a cost-saving measure that allows recruits to practice more (they will be firing off thousands of rounds). If it is cheaper for the army and also serves as a better training tool that's certainly a win-win.

  29. Great video, very good information, I hope people listen (and learn) whom have influence in the shooting sports!

    … When I was in high school we had a rifle range in the basement, for use of the cadet corps … I taught at least one hundred high school kids the fundamentals of marksmanship with WW2 era .303 Lee Enfield's that were chambered in .22 LR …

    Many of the kids that was probably their only use of firearms, others were farm kids with vast shooting experience and AND at least a dozen went forward with rewarding military careers … and what attracted them to the cadet corps, was the rifle range! … with easy to shoot no recoil … Lee Enfield's in .22 LR 🙂

  30. Anyone who see’s no value in .22LR, is not a rifleman. Anyone who has a rifle “collection” without a .22LR, is a poser.

  31. The same mantra goes for racing, no one jumps into a F1, Indy, NASCAR or other full blown race car without years of experience, in fact a lot of professional race car drivers started out racing go karts, the racing equivalent of a .22, those people complaining are the ego boys who will most likely say they can do just about anything, then when called out to put their money where their mouth is will totally bomb and then make excuses for why they didn't perform spectacularly in this case.

  32. When I was in the Air Training Corps (U.K. Air Cadets), we were trained using .22 Lee Enfields and Mausers. Later on when there were special shooting days on outdoor ranges we were given .303 Lee Enfields to shoot.
    I agree that the training with the .22's allowed us concentrate on controlling the recoil of the .303's much better than if we'd just gone straight to them.
    Mind you, I'll never forget the expierience of firing my first five shot clip of .303, my shoulder knew it had come into contact with something considerbly more powerful than the .22's I was used to shooting.

  33. .22 is cheap. Like life. Also, beginners need to learn gun handling and safety.. Experienced shooters tend to get nervous around people with questionable gun handling and safety etiquette, especially if the beginner is handing a .338 or full auto G3.

  34. In Boy Scouts we always learned with Military CMP Surplus 22's and often we even had shorts and LR ammo this short ammo was far cheaper. Then it was shotguns. I do not recall if it 28ga or 410 we learned on first before progressing to 12 ga there where no 8ga in the mix. LOL My Dad taught me to shoot a 22 pistol long before I was aloud to shoot his 44 mag. Civilians are not usually taught the 7 fundamentals of marksman ship in the manner in which the military teaches it. The military is big on "Repetition is the mother of all learning!" sort of idea's. As such they always break a complex skill into many smaller skills that once learned can be recombined to make the complex skill! usually lots of repetition and some sort of mnemonic song like memory aid to drive it home that you have to repeat over and over again!

  35. love the flight analogy, I have had some flight training and have a few hours behind the wheel (as in me legitimately up in the air behind the controls of a plain wooooh such fun) and BOOOYYYY let me tell you, they do not let you get straight into something fast, and they sure as hell don't let you get into something by yourself.

  36. Do they still do this (I mean I don't think there are .22 caliber M16 rifles, are there?)…still the comparison with the fighter…damn 😀 (not that I agree with it because that might get the pilot killed, but giving a raw recruit some basic instructions and then handing them a live-gun? I don't think that will kill most of them!)

  37. VERY well stated which I thought all firearm enthusiasts already knew but I guess not. I see the same thing with pistols where the nimrod pistolero starts with a large centerfire hand cannon and develops a flinch which can be hard to break.

  38. I defiantly agree that 22 is best for first rifle training. Although my dad had a 22 which was my first gun I shot, I really started to learn with my first rifle I bought….. a mosin.

  39. The same argument applies to motorcycles. You don’t stick a new rider on a liter bike, or even a 600cc bike.

  40. Spot on. I taught shooting in the Canadian Forces at that is the exact thinking, and we had a sub-calbre device for the FN C1A1 (a FAL derivative) and wracks of Enfield rifles done in .22. I couldn't tell you now, since I got out before we went to 5.56.

    I would also add that in Canada it has the added advantage of being able to keep firing in the winter in a more pleasant manner than -20c. Marksmanship is much more of an issue in Canada for Infantry. You can't get 75 out of 100 without putting a lot of ammunition downrange.

  41. Hi Ian, in the 70's I was trained on the Lee Enfield .22 conversion ( believe it was the Mk 8 ? ) By the RAF. I also remember a .22 Training conversion kit for the SLR . This was part of the Training Syllabus for the reasons you describe.

  42. Very interesting subject. When I was in US Army JROTC starting in the 9th grade back in the early 1980s. I joined the small bore rifle team. In my school we used Remington 513Ts, Winchester 52Cs medium weight, and 52Ds heavy weight barrels. The Remington was cheaply made in the 1950s and broke a lot. The Winchesters were very durable match rifles. What was strange that during our JROTC Spring Camps at Schofield Barracks Hawaii is we fired real M16A1 rifles with .22 caliber bolt inserts and magazines. We shot and qualified with them on the 25 meter range. Later we shot real M16A1s given 40 rounds in 2 magazines to fire on a standard 300 meter Army qualification pop up range. From being on the rifle team and have shot my own Colt Sporter AR-15 before and other high power rifles. I scored expert on the Army rifle qualification. Later on after graduating high school and joining the Army. I was at Harmony Church Ft. Benning Georgia for Basic and Infantry School. We never used M16A1s in .22 caliber LR rifles. We dry fired and used a computerized system called the WEAPONEER which no .22 LR ammo was used. It had recoil to go with it and you shot at like a gallery like mini range. We then went into blank fire and practice fire with service ammo. towards the end we did zero and qualify on the 300 meter pop up range. I qualified Expert the first time along with a few guys. The rest of my company had a hard time due to nervousness. Eventually at least everybody qualified Marksmen.

  43. Came here from the flapper lock video, both are informative and interesting. As someone who started with the not-kicking-so-hard 5.56 I'm fascinated by the option of learning with an even weaker kicking ammunition.

  44. Very much the same with musical instruments. We're very capable of relative scaling. Instruments like the violin you lack any form of inscription to instruct the player where notes might be; but someone trained on a large violin will play a small violin just as well.

  45. Or like riding a horse…you don't put the horse rider on a wild bucking bronco, you start them on an already calm and well-trained horse first.

  46. My dad bought me a remington 513t before i started shooting at my gun club. No doubt most accurate rifle i own even if it was made in the 40s

  47. This is also why I kind of dislike the videos people make of someone who's never fired a gun before in their life being given a large calibre firearm to shoot, with no practice, just to make a funny video.
    Firstly it's potentially dangerous if they're not prepared for the recoil and they injure themselves, but also it's not really a great introduction to firearms to give them a gun that'll then make them scared of every other gun they use after that.

  48. Oh come on, I started shooting at 6 yrs old using a bolt action 30-06 and a 44 mag Redhawk. I didn’t bother with a tricycle or even training wheels (or bicycle for that matter), I went straight to a Fat Boy. Hell, I took my drivers’ test using a F1 McLaren (should have heard the DMV guy scream as he held on to the wing). I have my first flying lesson next week, I believe they said it will either be the F22 or F35, depending on what is available. This video is just BS, come on Ian, I expect more from you.

  49. I love my collection of military trainers. Earlier in life my brother and I shot hundreds of thousands of rounds competing with each other. Now I use them to teach firearm safety and marksmanship skills to my grandsons as I did with my son.

  50. Very true & clear explanation. Guess it's the same as racing cars as well. Never having driven a car you don't put a new driver in an Indycar or F1 car, you learn in "lower" classes & (hopefully) build your way up.

  51. I shoot long range precision but I also love shooting my Savage B22 Bolt Action. 22’s are great for fundamentals and while the distance is a lot less, the ballistics are similar. Plus, 22 precision shooting to me is just as fun as shooting my Creedmoor.

  52. Well said. Good shots are made, not born. Principles of marksmanship need to be honed before you shoot the sexy stuff, and 22s are fun as much as full bore .

  53. Jack O'Connor wrote something to the effect of "someone who doesn't learn to shoot with a 22 seldom becomes a good shot"

  54. Sir, I always enjoy your vids, and this one is no exception. Every point you make is correct, but there are some things not mentioned-but I understand that. The first is that many of your viewers may not know that there is also a military conversion kit for the m-16, which uses .22LR. The primary use was for enclosed/short range use, as it was explained to me, 'way back then'.

  55. For the same reasons civilians use them to train. Less expensive while still developing the fundamentals of marksmanship

  56. I understand the reasons why you had to make this video and it always comes to mind that CIVVIES even if they're shooters just don't understand military training methods. I first started to learn how to shoot properly way back in 1977 when I first started in the Army Cadet Force. Firstly learningd on an Enfield No 8 .22 and also got the chance to use a Martini .22. This was then followed up by learning to shoot the Lee Enfield No 4 in 303.

    When I went into army Apprentice service I was shooting the No 8 twice a week during term time as an extra curricular activity which made me a much better shot with my L1A1. I have also used the HK .22 conversion kit for the L1A1 on a few occasions.

  57. Rifles chambered in .22 are the equivalent to tricycles or training wheels. They’ll do the same thing, but have better control.

  58. I'm sure you'll be interested to know that they also used Co2 .22 rifles in the 50's and 60's as trainers. The airforce used Crosman model 160 .22 Pellgun's that took two 12g Co2 cartridges, called, " powerlets" in those days when Crosman invented them. They also replaced the common Crosman rear v-block sights with Williams #231 peepsights. They were 500-550FPS in factory configuration. But, over the years, that could be upgraded with better seal materials and the gas valve redesign by Crosman in 1963 to 660FPS by my testing. Then when Beeman came up with the QB78, which is a Chinese copy of the 160 Pellgun, variant two or three, Archer Airguns came up with a, " XP-Tuned gas valve giving the 160 up to 730FPS! That's on par with modern adult air rifles of the mid-power category. So my 1955-56 160 Pellgun is now enough to hunt small game out to maybe 40-50 yards. Not bad for a Co2 .22 rifle as old as I am!

  59. I learned to shoot on a .22 air rifle
    Now I shoot my 20 gauge shotgun pretty damn good
    And when I get a chance to shoot a real rifle, I do pretty well.
    If I started on the shotgun, I bet I wouldn't be as a good a shot

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