Since my last blog post about building rimfire race guns is so old, it’s time for a new one. The purpose of this article is to discuss the best firearms for rimfire racing and what upgrades are best.
Much has happened since my last post on this blog. I’ll get back around to that a bit later. The short version is the Road to the Top 25 ended in success. And my foray into Steel Challenge has also proven fruitful.
Many people (mostly new shooters) have been asking me to build rimfire race guns for them or to provide parts lists for them. Therefore, I’m going to share the parts that I would recommend based on what is absolutely essential when it comes to making a race-ready firearm and what parts may enhance performance but aren’t required. Granted the concept of what’s “required” changes depending upon what your goal is. If I’m trying to gain a couple of tenths of a second per string, a thumbrest might be something I consider a requirement rather than something that is optional.
I’ll start out by naming the firearm and then will list the parts for it. Links will also be provided. Keep in mind two things: 1) Links can change over time and 2) it may become necessary for me to update this article as new parts become available.
There are two types of race guns with regard to rifles and pistols. One is referred to as “Open” and the other one as “Limited”. Open guns have optic sights. Typically these are red dot sights with no magnification. For the most part, if it uses a battery, you’re going to be shooting in the Open Division. If you are using iron or fiber optic sights, then you’re going to be in the Limited Division. In both RCSA (2 Gun Rimfire Challenge) and Steel Challenge, there are Open and Limited Divisions. Likewise, one can have all sorts of upgrades to Limited guns, which can include upgraded sights, compensators, thumb rests, etc.
Rimfire Race Pistols
When it comes to “bang for the buck” there are really two pistols that one should look at assuming you don’t already have one. Those are:
- The Ruger Mark IV Lite.
- The Smith and Wesson Victory.
If you’re looking for an Open Division race pistol, I cannot recommend the Ruger enough. That’s because it is light and the new model is much easier to disassemble for cleaning that the previous versions of Ruger Mark pistols.
If you choose the Ruger Mark IV Lite for your Open gun, then I highly recommend the following parts.
Essentials: Ruger Mark IV Open Pistol
- Optics – My personal favorite is the Cmore with an 8 or larger MOA dot. The plastic body with the non-click knob is perfectly fine. It runs about $210. The other option is a Vortex red dot of some sort. There are many options there and the prices vary. I don’t recommend going smaller than a 6 MOA dot no matter which one you choose. If you’re shopping for a C-more I recommend getting it from Allchin Gun Parts. You’re going to need to mount it to the gun too. So I’d choose an Allchin mount if you want it to be in an upright configuration. Many people like the 90 degree mounts because it gets the dot closer to the bore axis and therefore closer to what a normal sight picture would be. For many, this allows them to pick up the dot much quicker when they start firing a string. The Allchin website is experience some sort of issue right now so you’ll need to do a web search for it. (Also you’ll want to make sure the mount you order comes with the correct screws for the Mark IV. The Mark III screws are too short. Call John Allchin and he’ll help you out). To get a 90 degree mount, the best one available is produced by Striplin Custom Gunworks.
The Striplin Custom Gunworks 90 degree mount also has the zeroing directions engraved into the mount which I find very convenient.
- Trigger and Sear – Upgrading the trigger and sear is perhaps the most important improvement you can make. You can choose the Volquartsen kit or the Tandemkross kit. My personal favorite is the Volquartsen for the trigger. However, if you like a flat trigger, the Tandemkross is the way to go. The real key is the sear. You’re going to want to get a polished sear no matter what sort of trigger you end up with.
Volquartsen kit: https://volquartsen.com/inventory_configurations/1089
Tandemkross links: Sear – https://www.tandemkross.com/Volquartsen-Target-Sear-for-Ruger-MKIV-MKIV-2245_p_384.html
Victory Trigger: https://www.tandemkross.com/Victory-Trigger-for-Ruger-MKIV-2245_p_197.html
Other Upgrades for Ruger Mark IV Pistols
A C-More sight and a light, crisp trigger gets me most of the way there when it comes to outfitting a race gun. But there are other upgrades that can make a difference.
- Thumbrest – The next best thing on the list outside of the sight and trigger is a thumbrest. This is a topic of some debate because some people would argue that the next item on the list should be a compensator. For me this is a hard call to make because I believe both are important. Some would question why a compensator and a thumbrest, which are more prevalent on centerfire race guns, are needed for a .22LR pistol. The fact is, once you get up to a certain speed, you’ll find yourself fighting for tenths and sometimes even hundredths of a second. That’s where these types of accessories will make a difference. It can be hard to tell. But if you time yourself shooting several strings with and without these accessories, you’ll be able to tell that they do indeed help. The timer doesn’t lie.
For the thumbrest I recommend the one produced by Striplin Custom Gunworks. Tandemkross resells them as well. But they are produced by Striplin.
The installation does not require that any holes be drilled in the frame. It’s a very simple and easy install.
You can also choose to add an additional thumbrest that replaces the safety lever. I find the addition of this along with the Striplin thumbrest, provides an extremely stable grip and makes recoil very controllable.
- Compensators – For compensators I recommend the Tandemkross Gamechanger. There are two different ones. The Pro is the new version. The older version is aluminum and while lighter, it is my understanding that it isn’t quite as effective as the newer one.
- Sights – Keep in mind that the suggested parts and accessories for Limited Division is the exact same as the Open with the omission of the C-More or Vortex optics. Instead, I would suggest upgrading the sights by switching to fiber optics.
The Williams Fire Sights are an excellent upgrade:
You can keep the factory rear sight and get a Tactical Solutions front sight.
Please note that I believe the threads might be different from the Mark III and Mark IV Ruger pistols. So you’ll want to make sure you retain the factory screw to install the new sight.
Essentials for the Smith and Wesson Victory
The Victory pistols have a number of upgrades but not quite as many as the Ruger Mark IV. However they are a tremendous value and are wonderful Limited pistols. If you just want to get a factory Limited pistol and not have to mess with it out of the box, go ahead and get yourself a Victory. It will come with a nice trigger and fiber optic sights right from the manufacturer.
It is a bit heavier than its Ruger counterparts. But that’s not a bad thing with a Limited Division pistol. The weight keeps the pistol more stable and there’s less disturbance of the sights under recoil. It also makes a fine Open Division pistol so long as you add the optics and proper mount.
Striplin Custom also makes an upright mount for the Victory: https://striplincustom.com/collections/accessories-for-smith-and-wesson/products/s-w-victory-straight-mount
As does Tandemkross: https://www.tandemkross.com/Shadow-C-MORE-Mount-for-SW22-Victory_p_298.html
The Tandemkross mount looks like it might be made by Allchin but I cannot confirm that. Either way, these are excellent mounts.
- Trigger – A trigger also helps the Smith and Wesson Victory pistols. This is a little bit less necessary than the Ruger because the factory Victory trigger isn’t bad. But Tandemkross did an excellent job of making the aftermarket trigger crisp and light. It can be found here:
Personally, I find the Victory factory grips to be a bit slick. That can present issues during the summertime when your hands are sweaty. For that reason I recommend getting a set of rubber Hive grips from Tandemkross.
Other Upgrades for Victory Pistols
My biggest issue with the Victory pistol, especially when used for the Open Division, is how much it weighs. It’s simply a heavy pistol. This means that sometimes transitions can be a bit slower than you’d like, and once the gun is moving its inertia can make it harder to stop on a dime (or in this case, the stop plate).
- Aftermarket barrels – There are a number of manufacturers that make lighter barrels for the Victory. That’s where the majority of the weight is and is the simplest place to reduce weight. Volquartsen was the first to market with carbon fiber wrapped barrels. Tactical Solutions also makes an aftermarket barrel. Both are exceptional options.
My favorite aftermarket Victory barrel is made by Striplin Custom Gunworks. It transforms the Victory into one of the best Open or Limited race pistols you can possibly get. However, you’ll need to contact Striplin directly in order to get this done. Striplin take the factory barrel and does a weight reduction with a carbon fiber wrap. He also installs one of this custom compensators which may well be THE most effective compensator available for .22LR. Striplin can be reached at https://striplincustom.com/ and his prices for this service are very reasonable when compared to other options.
- Thumbrest – There’s one available for the Victory but it requires drilling and tapping the frame. The finished product is worth it.
Other General Accessories
There are many other accessories such as grips for the Ruger, charging handles (which are great for avoiding getting your fingers pinched), magazine bumpers, titanium firing pins, and more.
My humble recommendation is to check out sites like Striplincustom.com, Tandemkross, and Tactical Solutions and see what’s available. Tandemkross and Striplin allow you to shop by gun model, which really helps you see what’s out there.
The best thing you can do to get started will always be to address the sights and the trigger. Beyond that, it’s best to go to a local Rimfire Challenge or Steel Challenge match and talk to the competitors. Ask them what equipment they are using. I think you’ll find the vast majority of competitive shooters are happy to help and might even let you try out their guns after the match.
If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below. We’ll talk about rifles in part 2 of this series.