Differences between Bolt and Semi-auto for .22LR


March 13, 2011, 02:30 PM
I'm in the market for a .22LR rifle. First, I'm not looking for a recommendation on which one to buy. There are some really good threads on this forum with recommendations, and I've been following them with great interest.

The question I keep coming back to is the difference between a bolt action and semi-auto rifle. I understand the mechanical differences between a bolt-action rifle and semi-auto rifle. I'm more interested in the usability differences. I gather the primary difference boils down to accuracy and convenience. Bolt action rifles are more accurate, but semi-autos are more convenient for peeling off more rounds with the pull of the trigger.

Are there any other major differences? Also, how big is the accuracy difference?

If you enjoyed reading about "Differences between Bolt and Semi-auto for .22LR" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
March 13, 2011, 03:22 PM
IMO the biggest difference is aesthetics, not even necessarily accuracy.

March 13, 2011, 03:26 PM
Maintance is MUCH less in the bolt gun...


March 13, 2011, 03:42 PM
As DM says above, less cleaning and maintenance. It may be more accurate, when comparing weapons at a similar price point.

Some semi-auto .22s *can* be finicky about what ammunition they will reliably fire. Some tube-fed bolt-action rifles are designed to (and actually do) reliably feed .22LR, .22 short, the Colibri rounds, and .22 CB. This may or may not matter to you.

Reloading a tube-fed .22 takes far, far longer than changing magazines.

Both of my bolt-action .22LR rifles are significantly more accurate than the 10/22 I briefly had. I believe it boils down to the trigger. You can spend a lot of money to make a semi-auto very accurate.

March 13, 2011, 03:44 PM
Owning a bolt, lever, an auto loader in .22 rifles, the thing I like the most about auto loading .22 is that losing the sight picture between shots is almost nil. That's due to the nearly absent recoil and that you don't have to move your trigger hand either.

I do shoot my bolt and lever without moving the stock from my shoulder, but moving your hand does make your head wiggle just a bit on the stock. That just increases your sight alignment time a touch over a semi-auto.

Be sure, I'm meaning trying your best to make precise shots, not quick shots where 5" groups at 50 yards are acceptable. In the case of quick aimed shots I find no major difference between the three types of actions.

As far as accuracy, the only time a typical bolt gun excels in my hands is when I load ammo in the chamber (single shot style). The bullet doesn't get nicked like it can when shooting from a magazine fed round.

March 13, 2011, 03:45 PM
The difference to me is why I would get one. I bought a 10/22 for cheap/fun practice and the work on my shooting skills. I can do really slow fire to practice accuracy and let 'em fly once in a while when I get bored.

If, god willing, one day I have a son and want to teach him how to shoot, I will probably get a bolt 22 for him. That's what I learned on in BoyScouts. He can learn how many rounds can be put into a tin can in under 5 seconds later on in life ;)

March 13, 2011, 04:02 PM
As far as accuracy goes, there may be a slight edge for an equal priced bolt action over the semi-auto, but typically the big difference comes when you bump the price up quite a bit. That said, not all inexpensive semi's or bolt rifles shoot well and others are a great bargain.

I personally prefer a bolt rifle for shooting anything nonreactive. As a first rifle, I would probably look at a Savage MkII or something similar. The Savage shoots well and can be had fairly inexpensive. A 10-22 has a TON of aftermarket support. Out of the box they are nothing amazing, a heavy trigger and shown mediocre accuracy, but the aftermarket can take care of that if you like. A Marlin model 60 seems to be a better shooter semiauto, but it is tube fed and for some that is a deal breaker. If you are willing to spend a bit more, Thompson Center makes about the nicest semiauto produced today without going custom.

If you want something nicer that's a bolt action, a CZ would be a good pick. It's build quality and design make you feel like you are holding a well made small centerfire rather than a cheap .22lr. Really a lot of good rifles out there today. Let us know what you're really looking for out of the rifle and we can help more from there.

I suggest a bolt rifle to start. It forces you to take your time and work on fundamentals where a lot of new shooters go into rapid fire mode with a semi-auto. Nothing really wrong with that but I feel a bolt rifle to start will help you be a better shooter than a semi.

March 13, 2011, 04:35 PM

One of the few times I'll use a bench rest sighting in (CZ 452 and TC .22 Classic). Both with Leupold optics fixed 4X on the CZ and 2X-7X on the TC .22 Classic. I can only find the target for the CZ. But the TC .22 Classic was very accurate also especially with the Federal Auto-Match.

March 13, 2011, 04:43 PM
The main difference between a bolt and semi .22LR:

Semi .22: great fun.

Bolt .22: not so fun.

A .22 is made for plinking. A bolt gun kind of defeats this. The round itself does not lend itself to high accuracy at range, either, so you're not going to see any real difference between a bolt and a quality semi. Get yourself a Savage semi-auto and have fun.

March 13, 2011, 07:29 PM
Normally I'm all for bolt actions, but there is just something fun about being able to unload a magazine of .22lr quickly with a semiautomatic.

March 13, 2011, 08:53 PM
The thing that I would take into consideration is that there is more of a chance of a malfunction with a semi if it is not kept clean. Failure to fire or failure to eject are very common as are jams. All in all a bolt action will allow you to shoot 22 long or 22 short or CB's even though the manufacturer will not mention it. If your yard is large enough and there are nasty critters in your back yard like a (neighbors cat) shooting CB,s or 22 short make it a very quiet rifle. You could shoot this rounds in a semi auto but there is not enough powder to cycle the action, so your semi becomes a single shot rifle.

March 13, 2011, 11:53 PM
Thanks for the great responses so far. There is alot of helpful info in this thread.

Let us know what you're really looking for out of the rifle and we can help more from there.
At the risk of this turning into a "which .22LR should I buy?" thread, I'll give a little more info here. This is what I'm looking for:

--$200-300 price range, but would go a little more for something really nice (e.g. CZ 455 Lux).
--Fairly accurate. I'm not looking for a tack driver at 100 yards, but something suitable for general plinking and hunting small game at 50-75 yard range.
--Good iron sites required with the option of adding optics later.
--Wood stock, blued barrel.
--Built to last. I want something to teach my kids to shoot with, and pass it down to one of them.

I've read a number of .22LR threads already. I've done a fair bit of additional research and found a few rifles I think I'd be happy with, but wasn't sure if I should be favoring semi-auto blowback action over bolt-action (or vice versa) for any reason.

March 14, 2011, 12:33 AM
I strongly feel that teaching kids to shoot should be done on a bolt rifle. You can use a semi but having to run the bolt makes them concentrate more on the shot at hand rather than the next shot. If you want Iron sights, 3 rifles come to mind. First would be a CZ 452 lux. The irons on that rifle are about as good as you can get with notch and post style sights. The second would be a Savage MkII FVT. It allows you to use a rear peep sight and front post or circle as well as go with a scope in the future if you like. The last would be a Marlin 925. All would be a good choice. Handle them all and pick what floats your boat most.

March 14, 2011, 01:15 AM
Just because you hand a kid a semi auto rifle doesn't mean it needs to have more than one round in it. I plan to teach my son on a 10/22 one round at a time.

March 14, 2011, 01:31 AM
+ Semis are generally a pita to clean. Depends on how your kids are, but I don't feel semi is that big of a deal as far as training discipline goes. There are good lessons to learn in how to shoot a semi-auto rapidly, yet accurately (1 shot every 3 seconds or so), so I feel semi auto is a handy feature to have.

The notch and post tangent irons on the CZ lux/fs are quite nice. That said, I wouldn't object to a Savage MKII FVT either. The globe front sight and peep rear on the Savage are actually far superior sights for daylight target work than the stock CZ sights (good as they are), and the availability of front aperture inserts is a powerful feature... Upgrading the CZ to peep style tech-sights (for extra $$) narrows that lead. Neither the tech-sights nor savage rear peep will fit under a scope. The main advantage of the CZ sights are that the notch and post are practical in a variety of light conditions, and they'll fit under or in front of a scope.

Leaky Waders
March 15, 2011, 10:02 PM
Yeah my view tends to follow Jeff56's...only clean a 22 when you need too. Like if it's accuracy starts to get bad or the action doesn't cycle reliably.

We have a cz452, stock 10/22 stainless (yes at least one 10/22 hasn't been pimped out in America) and a winchester 9422. All were purchased new and have been shot various times through the last 20 years. Cleaning has been limited to removing fingerprints after shooting. Rounds shot have been winchester wildcats or cci's. None of them have every jammed or had any issue.

My teenage sons prefer the 10/22 because they can make the can jump ten times real quick. I prefer the 9422, because of it's fast and accurate and much easier to reload a tube than the 10/22 magazine, and the cz452 is our 'you get to shoot so your not left out gun'...not as fun as the others, but still we shoot her because she's there.

March 15, 2011, 11:41 PM
Bolt guns are more accurate, period.

To me, 22s are not just for plinking, but also small game and targets, both of which require the very best in accuracy.

Regarding specific guns, I started out with a 10/22, because it seemed to be THE 22 to get. But the damned thing wouldn't feed reliably until I'd sent it back to Ruger twice. By the time I got it back and working right, I was pretty fed up. I sold it at a loss, and bought a used 77/22; their bolt action.

This gun is in a whole higher class. It'll shoot MoA. The 10/22 wasn't even in that ball park.

I took a head shot on a squirrel with the 77/22 that I wouldn't have taken with the 10/22.

As others have said, cleaning is greatly simplified in a bolt action. Everything goes down the barrel; maybe a tiny bit on the bolt face.

March 15, 2011, 11:47 PM
There are more than a few semiauto .22lrs that will shoot MOA. You can say all bolt rifles are more accurate, but its far from the truth. Many bolt rifles shoot better than many semiautos, but there are certainly quite a few accurate semis out there as well.

March 16, 2011, 09:44 AM
I don't understand how cloth patch going down the barrel at 2 feet per second is going to hurt more than a metal bullet going down the bore at 1,110 feet per second.

My dad has had a Marlin semi-auto for 53 years, he has cleaned it with a 3 piece aluminum rod for 53 years. Judging by the opinion of some on this forum, he should be patterning it instead of sighting it in. He's said the accuracy is the same as the day it came out of the box.

March 16, 2011, 10:55 AM
Typically, dollar for dollar, boltguns are more accurate. You have to spend more on a semi-auto to get it to shoot with a bolt gun but you can build a VERY accurate 10/22 for not a whole lot of money. The barrel is everything. My latest 10/22 is built on a Nodak receiver with an R/T bolt, Clark barrel and KIDD trigger and it will shoot better than any boltgun I own. It also cost twice as much. By that I mean 1/4" - 3/8" at 50yds with Wolf MT. That's five consecutive five-shot groups, not an occasional fluke.

I also disagree that boltguns are no fun for plinking or that the .22LR is not accurate "at range", whatever that means. The above-mentioned 10/22 shots 3/4"@100yds with Wolf MT and hits on small targets at 200yds happen with boring regularity. Same for a good boltgun. I thoroughly enjoy plinking with my Remington, Savage, CZ and Mossberg .22 boltguns and wish I had more.

Reloading a tube-fed .22 takes far, far longer than changing magazines.
Those magazines don't load themselves.

I don't understand how cloth patch going down the barrel at 2 feet per second is going to hurt more than a metal bullet going down the bore at 1,110 feet per second.
It's not the cloth patch you have to worry about but in reality, there is no need to clean a .22LR's bore every time you shoot. In many guns, it is actually detrimental to accuracy and it takes quite a few fouling shots to settle them down. Unless there is leading or unless you are shooting benchrest, there is really no reason to EVER clean a .22LR's bore. Though I understand this runs contradictory to common practice (brainwashing).

March 22, 2011, 04:55 PM
...only accurate rifles are interesting..... all mine are bolts...

March 22, 2011, 05:51 PM
I have an old marlin tube fed bolt gun maybe 60 years old, had it out Sunday and was hitting apples and pop cans at 100 yards with it, offhand with peep sight. Always was the most accurate rifle i have ever fired, it also has the lightest trigger i have used, about 3 oz.

March 22, 2011, 06:08 PM
With a tube loader, for 20 bucks (how much does a box magazine cost?) you can get a spee-d-loader and be able to shoot 112 rounds in a matter of minutes. How many box magazines would that take? Considering the speedloader is essentially 8 magazines, what is faster after all? Throw in a second, and you can shoot through half a box (500rnd) of .22 ammo in minutes if you really wanted to. Do that with your other .22lr's and it takes about $100-150 dollars in magazines.

March 22, 2011, 06:28 PM
I used to think that all bolts were more accurate than semi's, but now I've learned my lesson.

I have a Savage MkII that is quite accurate, take a look at the past couple month's rimfire competition targets if you don't believe me, that set me back ~$450 (I went with the thumbhole stock).

But then I got into silhouette shooting and decided I wanted to try it with a semi because I like being difficult, er, I mean, different. So I bought a used, beat-up 10/22 for ~$175, threw in the volquartsen target hammer and bolt release ($45 to drop the trigger to a crisp 2.5 lbs, better than the Savage), swapped the barrel for an Adams and Bennett bull barrel ($100) and picked up a Fajen stock (on sale for $100).

I threw the 10/22 down on some sandbags and lo and behold, it was comparable to the Savage, if not slightly more accurate. Both rifles cost about the same amount of money and both will put 10 rounds of Wolf MT into one ragged hole. I think that is less true at the higher end (Anshutz and the like) but for most of us, it doesn't make a big difference.

March 22, 2011, 06:44 PM
For a fun compromise, a pump .22 is almost as fast as a semi and has very nearly the same reliability as a bolt, low maintenance also.

Most are tube fed, so not as fast to reload as a semi with a detachable mag.

March 22, 2011, 07:19 PM
My 25 year old 10/22 is just as accurate as my 40 year old Marlin Glenfield 25

March 22, 2011, 07:38 PM
If you don't have a preference on which action you want to buy.
You should go with the most accurate rifle you can afford.
It's more fun to hit a target once, than it is to miss it 10 times real fast.

March 22, 2011, 11:11 PM
Reloading a tube-fed .22 takes far, far longer than changing magazines.

As others have pointed out, that only holds true so long as you have the cash to buy bunches of magazines. Working with only one mag, I can feed 18 rounds into my Marlin 60 faster than my g/f can load 10 into her 10/22. I can easily pinch 2-4 rounds between my thumb and forefinger and load them one after another while a box bag forces one-at-a-time loading.

I will concede, however, that a tube mag can be a PITA if you are shooting from a bench or prone. Having to completely break position to extract the mag plunger and reload can be a nuisance that is avoided with a detachable box.

To the OP: many autoloaders specify not to use hypervelocity ammo. Another + for bolt guns.

March 22, 2011, 11:16 PM
Hypervelocity ammo is not a plus. Any good bolt rifle will have the same warning not to shoot the stuff as well.

Idaho Dana
March 23, 2011, 12:09 AM
Wow what huge differences in opinion. I for one shoot casual NRA competitions in a league. That is not the kind where you see Olympic class rifles with electronic triggers but just about everything under the sun. What most of the top shooters use are variations of the Ruger 10/22, bull barrel, custom triggers and stocks w/ optics which are allowed in some matches. You see very few bolt guns.
In a caliber as small as a 22LR, I don't think that you can prove that a bolt gun is more accurate than a semi auto in the kind of shooting that most of us do. If you want to talk real Olympic Bulls Eye competitions, even those are now mostly shot with semi auto's or single shot rifles.

No one can shoot better than a tuned rifle can shoot. The gun is always better than the shooter. I have seen hundreds of .5 MOA groups shot with semi auto's at 50 yards. I don't know how much better anyone would need.

March 23, 2011, 12:40 PM
Interesting stuff gentlemen. I would have naturally thought the bolts would be more accurate. I don't own a bolt .22 so can't comment on that but my stock (except extended mag release) Ruger 10/22, with iron sights is plenty accurate for me.

It will easily whack any small varmint I've ever had to dispose of, out to 50-70 yards. I also, have a little prop setup out back and can regularly whack 7-Up cans at 65 yards offhand, with the 10/22. That's plenty good enough for me with a .22......If I need to reach out farther than that, I'm grabbing a bigger rifle anyway. ;)

Don't need no high dollar scopes and fancy barrels to do what I use a .22 for!....Fun and small varmints.


March 23, 2011, 05:32 PM
Nice looking rifle Fastcast!
I've always been a bolt-action fan but,
I'm going to own one of those 10/22's someday.
A lot of good shooters are saying a lot good things about those rifles.

March 23, 2011, 05:49 PM
If you plan on teaching your kids with it (or yourself) I'd go with the bolt. Semi autos make it waaaay too tempting to "spray and pray".

March 23, 2011, 11:19 PM
I've found that my CZ 452, stock, shoots awesome. A little slower on follow-up shots than a semi, but it shoots as well as any other .22LR's I've ever shot.

Personally, if I want to dump .22 size holes as fast as I can, I use my 5.56.

As far as people say .22LR is not an accurate round, 100+ yards in the wind hitting bottle caps and the rims of shotgun shells is pretty good. Golf balls aren't even a challenge.

Semi's can be picky on ammo, with feeding issues particularly. Some are picky about all brands of ammo except a single one. Some are just as reliable as a bolt. And they vary, serial # to serial #.

Do some research. Decide if you want to shoot irons or scoped, semi (magazine or tube), lever, pump, bolt. Decide how much you want to spend. Savage and CZ get compared a lot. The fit and finish on the CZ is nicer than many rifles, while Savage spends all their money on the barrels. I prefer a blend of both, so I went with a CZ. I couldn't find the perfect scope, so I ended up with a Nikon Omega, with BDC no less. But it has worked out perfect, for me. And then buy a handful more, just to 'check' to make sure that you have made the right choice(s). I'm looking forward to sitting down with my son and my father and uncle and playing with a dozen or so different .22's this summer, both pistols and rifles.

MY CZ hasn't minded any of the dozen or so brands of ammo I've fed it. The only issue I've had was when someone else was shooting it, they half-stroked the bolt (didn't chamber) and then pulled back without seating, then tried to stroke again. The only change with ammo was slight movement in POI.

And btw, I've found that tweaking the torque on the barrel and action lug does as much to change POI as changing the ammo brand. Something about barrel harmonics and the way the CZ 'cheats' on free floating the barrel.

Sorry for the wall of text. I've really enjoyed my .22's while recovering from surgery. As I'm still recovering a year later, I can see a strong improvement with both centerfire pistols and rifles.

Basics are basics, and there are few things like a .22 for working on basics. I've seen an improvement on all my own guns. I even got better on guns that I haven't ever touched before. Like a friend's 7mm or 1911. A few thousand rounds of .22 is a good deal cheaper than any other caliber. And, a few thousand rounds of .22 stores easier than uh... anything I can think of.

March 23, 2011, 11:27 PM
Hypervelocity ammo is not a plus. Any good bolt rifle will have the same warning not to shoot the stuff as well.

That must be a manufacturer's CYA thing. Perhaps that makes sense in the little Crickett and Henry youth bolt guns, but modern designed adult sized bolt guns are plenty strong for hyper velocity .22LR (IMO). :scrutiny:

March 23, 2011, 11:56 PM
Nice looking rifle Fastcast!
I've always been a bolt-action fan but,
I'm going to own one of those 10/22's someday.
A lot of good shooters are saying a lot good things about those rifles.

Thanks Caddisflied...I got lucky when I stumbled on that one!...The 10/22s are a bunch of fun and the aftermarket is huge if you want to accessorize it, like many do.

I'm sure you'd enjoy one either way, especially at their low selling price!

March 24, 2011, 12:10 AM
That must be a manufacturer's CYA thing. Perhaps that makes sense in the little Crickett and Henry youth bolt guns, but modern designed adult sized bolt guns are plenty strong for hyper velocity .22LR (IMO).
Pressures are all the same. The difference is that some, like the CCI Stinger have a longer case and may not chamber properly in tighter chambers like the Bentz. In some guns, there is a concern over the increased bolt speed. Far as I know, there are no concerns with any modern boltgun with a sporting chamber.

March 24, 2011, 12:20 AM
That must be a manufacturer's CYA thing. Perhaps that makes sense in the little Crickett and Henry youth bolt guns, but modern designed adult sized bolt guns are plenty strong for hyper velocity .22LR (IMO).

On a bolt rifle with a decent chamber the longer stinger case is a problem. I don't like to run a longer case into a chamber cut for a shorter case. I've also never seen any of the hyper velocity ammo group as well as similarly priced sub sonic ammo. I see very little point in the stuff other than to supply cases for .17hm2 to be made out of.

March 24, 2011, 01:18 AM
I will admit I know nothing of a Bentz chamber, or the rifles that use it.


January 2, 2012, 11:41 PM
Saying that if you change the trigger, stock and barrel on a 10/22 that it will be as accurate as gun xyz with a bolt action misses the mark (no pun intended). its really no longer a 10/22 is it? thats like saying a Mustang is as fast as a Ferrari, if you put a new tranny, twin turbos, new suspension, etc.

If you enjoyed reading about "Differences between Bolt and Semi-auto for .22LR" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!