The Value Of 22 LR Caliber Understudies
It was just four years ago. I remember getting call after call from students advising that they could not come to class because they could not find any ammunition. Fortunately, we had seen ahead and bought a truckload of 9mm and 7.62x39 ammo...although even that was beginning to dwindle. Then guys began to bring 22LR conversions to class. At first I thought bringing a 22LR pistol to a class was silly, but then the reality that training with a 22 LR you had ammo for was substantially better than not training with a center fire caliber weapon you had no ammo for. As it was, things found their balance within six months and ammo was once again available everywhere, albeit
not at the same prices.
As we progress through the year, and near the time when the American voter will once again decide between freedom and communism (last time they didn't choose so well), we will see the commodities in the firearms world increase in demand, and price, and then scarcity.
One of the things we did was to get a SIG 522 Rifle as an understudy for the 5.56x45 and 7.62x39 rifles we currently run as primaries. This is not an article about the SIG522 specifically, but rather about the concept of the sub caliber understudy. In other words, using a 22 LR copy of the primary weapon for much more frequent training, and for training when ammunition becomes scarce.
Some issues to keep in mind -
1). Immediately the issue of recoil comes to mind. Of course, you will not get the same recoil, muzzle blast, or effects subsequent to firing from a 22 LR as you would from a center fire rifle. That is one trade off. But is it that big a deal? When the choice is "no shooting at all", or "shooting a 22", the 22 makes a great deal of sense even with the lack of report, recoil, and muzzle effect.
2). Conversion kit or actual firearm? Good question. Some weapon platforms have both, but some do not. Glock pistols for example do not come in a 22 LR version that is suitable for training. Thus a conversion kit is advised. Advantage Arms and Tactical Solutions make the best ones in our opinion.
Other firearms may not have conversion kits, but there may be a 22 LR analog from the same or different factory. For example, while there is no 22 Conversion Kit for a SIG rifle, SIG does make a SIG 522, which is a 22 LR version of the same rifle. As well, there may be no conversion kit available for an AK-47/74, but American Tactical Imports has a 22 LR version of the AK. Other weapons, such as the M4, have both available. The choice will be dependent on how much quality you want to pay for.
I will say that I have seen 22 LR conversion kits make an M4 rifle so fouled that it took extensive cleaning to make it work right.
3). A 22LR copy is not as strong or rugged as the original rifle. You can get away with abusing an
AK, or a SIG...maybe even an M4, but if you abuse the 22LR versions, they will likely break far easier. As well, any rim fire conversion, or copy will not be as reliable as the original center fire
version. Do not expect it to be. Accept that this is simply an understudy for the center fire gun and that it is not an actual military grade weapon and you will be fine.
4). There is a temptation to buy the cheapest and dirtiest 22LR soft lead ammo from Bolivia
that one can find. Good luck with that. We have found that the cheaper the ammo, the greater the likelihood of malfunctions. A good rule of thumb is to start with CCI mini mags.
5). Magazines. Its always a good idea to invest in extra magazines. The magazine for a 22 LR rifle or conversion is not as rugged as the military magazine that feeds your M4 or AK. Try to do AK pushups on your 22LR magazine and you will break it. Keep in mind what this 22 rifle is for and use it wisely. Nonetheless, most malfunctions can be tracked down to a worn out or damaged magazine. Get at least two more than what comes in the rifle. More on how to train with these in a moment.
6). Training. I have believed for a very long time that training has three phases. Phase One is technical work involving extensive dry practice. This is where you work on presentation from
holster and from sling, reloading magazines, malfunction clearing, etc. The only thing this style of training will cost you is time and effort. In truth, I spend far more time in this phase of work than in live fire or FOF because I can do it at anytime and anywhere.
Phase Two is live fire work. This is your shooting training. If you are working with the real deal weapons, whether pistol or rifle, you can incorporate the same maneuvers and methods from Phase One into your live fire work. You won't damage the gun by running it hard. However, if you are
working with a 22LR understudy, and you just have to do 100 hard reloads in each session, do not expect those 22 magazines to last long. Keep in mind the limits of the 22 platform and what it is there for. In these cases, keep phase one and phase two training separate. Phase Three of course is
Force On Force work, and that is a different matter completely.
At the time of my article, the availability of ammo is still good, but beginning to dwindle. The cost
of 7.62x39 is $240 for 1000 delivered. The cost of 5.56x45 is $360 for 1000 delivered. The cost for 1000 rounds is about $60.
Consider adding a 22LR understudy to the armory. That way your quest for skill, or simply your
desire to maintain them, will not be affected by the times.