Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Upper Or Trainer?

So, I've got this AR lower and I'm trying to decide what to do with it... My target/varmint AR is nearing completion, and with the recent turn of political events, parts have yet again become scarce. One of the thoughts I've had with this lower is to complete it and put a .22LR upper on it for use on the pistol range at my gun club (or at the indoor range in the cold, cold winter months...)

And I started pricing out dedicated.22LR uppers. Like these rimfire uppers available from Brownells, for example. Now, they look great, don't get me wrong, but the least expensive option is just a tad under $400. It struck me as interesting, as you can get a Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 starting at a little over $100 more (MSRP) - a complete rifle compared to just an upper.

Now, I understand. My target AR has a *sweet* trigger, and dropping a .22LR upper on it allows me to shoot it all day long at the 100 yard range for literally pennies. The trigger pull is, obviously, identical (seeing as how it's the same trigger), as is the length of pull and general feel of the rifle. It's a great way to train with a centerfire rifle at a rimfire cost.

On the other hand, though, picking up a complete rifle already chambered in .22LR means no swapping back and forth. Optics will need to be purchased in either case (assuming one wishes to add a scope or red dot optic); ditto foregrips, lights, etc. There's no economy of gear between an upper or a full rifle.

It transfers into the pistol realm as well. The SIG SAUER .22LR conversion slide, barrel, and magazine cost nearly as much as the Mosquito. .22LR conversion slides for 1911-style pistols run nearly as much as dedicated trainers (although, as Ambulance Driver will tell you, some trainers aren't worth the powder to blow them to hell...). And don't even get me started about Smith & Wesson .22LR revolver prices! (Although the Ruger LCR22 is the same price as the LCR in 38 Special or .357 Magnum).

So, what do you do? Do you pick up a separate, .22LR-only firearm that's close in form and function to your centerfire arm, or do you get a conversion kit for that centerfire? Personally, I will always err on the side of buying more guns, but that's just me. Honestly, I can see both sides of the issue - having the SIG .22LR slide and barrel really sold me on conversion kits, for example; but darn that Ruger LCR22 looks like the bee's knees for cheap snubbie practice...

What say you, gunnie internets?

That is all.


JD Rush said...

I bought the drop in adapter from CMMG in stainless. It had some teething issues, then has functioned as flawlessly as is possible for several thousand rounds. And it will fire Remington cheapie ammo that none of my 22's will fire. 450 in a row once. I was shooting to the first misfire and ran out of ammo.

Anonymous said...

List for the Chiappa M422 upper is
$349. I got mine for less, used with three magazines.

It has been very reliable with the
plated .22 ammo required. A few misfeeds since I got it last year.
Some were due to an overloaded magazine.

In fact,I have yet to clean it and it is still perking along. Had it at the range for my ballistic birthday party in June. Everybody who shot it came away grinning.

I had some concerns before buying
but am very pleased now.

Angus McThag said...

I don't train with .22.

Using full loads trains your wallet to take the pain.

Old NFO said...

If you're thinking about it, just get the S&W .22 trainer... Anytime you start swapping back and forth that can ONLY lead to problems. Just sayin...

Papafah said...

It's an easy decision...Get both!

Jay G said...


I've thought about the CMMG kits; I am concerned about "oops" with those.

I'd be willing to try one out, given the chance, but it just seems to me like asking for trouble.


I'm going to stay away from Chiappa .22LR anything after Ambulance Driver's experience with their 1911... Sounds like you got a good one, which is great, but for ~ $50 more off the shelf I'll go with the M&P15-22...


LMAO. Good point


I think that's what I'm going to do. I agree with you that swapping parts back and forth has the potential to bite me in the ass over time...


Then again, that's a possibility as well... :)

Bubblehead Les. said...

I'd go with a separate Trainer, but also have the Trainer be ready to go "Grown Up", just in case you need a second Rifle. But this way, the kids cans also get in some Shooting Goodness, knowing down the road there's an upper on standby when they get older.

As for the Revolvers, go Old School: Wax Loads for Practice. Worked for Bill Jordan....

Geodkyt said...

The advantage of the second rifle is, well, you have a second rifle.

The advantage of the upper is that, if you have invested some significant scratch into the lower (Gissele triggers aren't cheap, nor are some of the higher end buttstocks), it may be cheaper to get a complete upper.

At current prices, I see very little justification for conversion bolt groups. The twist rate for any 5.56x45mm barrel is, let's say, "suboptimal" for .22LR, you have to deal with leading issues (especially at the gas port), and there is always the chance that you'll "oops".

A dedicated upper can be set up similar enough to your lower to be effectively the same for most low cost training -- note, you don't need the best scope or red dot, you probably won't notice much if you use an $80 Leaper's railed forend on a .22LR instead of the $200 one on your 5.56mm, even if you like bayonets to make Sarah Brady cry you don't need one on the .22LR to do that, if your BUIS falls off because you went cheap it's not a life-ending incident, etc.

You can also intentionally choose a color scheme that contrasts with your 5.56mm upper -- if your 5.56mm is a mix of snot colors (coyote brown, FDE, Foliage, OD, etc.), go with traditional black; if your 5.56mm is a plain vanilla flat black people popper, you can do the .22 in pink or Zombie Green.

So your dedicated .22LR can be blatantly visually distinctive, yet still be configured so it still feels like the 5.56mm upper for close range practice (aside from recoil), but the appearance jumps up, slaps you in the face, and screams, "RIMFIRE, DUMMY!"

Down the road, you can pick up a lower for the dedicated upper and convert it into a dedicated rimfire rifle, should you desire. AND you can use the cheaper versions (or brands) of similar gear. . . but you can still drop the top on to your highly tuned lower if you want to spend 500 rounds grouping to practice trigger control and breathing without dropping the price of a full tank of gas for the Ford EarthF*cker.

wizardpc said...

I go with dedicated trainers rather than conversions because the cost difference is so small.

I picked up my M&P15-22 for ~$400 and an M&P22 for ~$275 iirc.

DaddyBear said...

I put tech sights and an M-4-ish style stock on my 10/22. It's not exactly like the AR, but it's close in length of pull and sight picture. If I want the trigger to be closer, I'll get triggers for both from the same manufacturer. Only thing I lose is mag change practice, which I can do on the AR with no additional cost.

If that wasn't close enough, I'd probably go with the 15-22.

Geodkyt said...

DaddyBear -- AFAIK, Gissele doesn't make anything like the SSA for the 10-22, and I haven't seen any 10-22 triggers from anyone that really feel like it.

It also depends on what you're working on -- you can use a .22LR upper to work on close "serious" work (such as if you are planning on using your carbine for defense), absent only blast and recoil.

A 10-22 may not be similar enough to your AR to cross over in ergonomics. However, a 10-22 set up for an AR style stock & pistol grip, matched with a top rail that permits you to use a similar sighting system at a similar height, goes a long way. But, getting the 10-22 and pimping it out like that costs the same as a dedicated .22 AR trainer, and MORE than the dedicated upper route that would have EXACTLY the same trigger, stock, and pistol grip feel.

Will Brown said...

I've come to the belief that the only real justification for having multiple uppers (vs multiple complete rifles) is the desire to have a suppressor on a gun and still be able to use the same gun in states (or businesses) that forbid suppressed firearms.

Ritchie said...

I'd favor a 5.56 upper with a dedicated RF converter. If rifling twist is a concern, there are slower twist barrels out there, although standard AR twist doesn't seem to be a problem, that I've heard. If the RF options are not significantly cheaper, you might as well have the expansion capacity. Break-even on the conversion would be somewhere around 5 or 6 bricks if you catch a deal on the converter.

Wally said...

Oh separate rifle. Tho... a 22 doesn't really need a 16" barrel , 12 would be fine :-)

Jon said...

I bought a S&W 15-22, put the same stock and optic on it I have on my go-to AR, and it has worked out quite well.