A ‘tactical’ semi-auto 22lr rifle is functionally the same but cosmetically & ergonomically different from a traditional semi-auto. They can serve several roles. First, they are technically just as useful as their traditionally-styled brethren. Second, they can serve as inexpensive training guns for anyone interested in the original centerfire firearms. Third, they’re simply fun & cool. Finally, a rimfire is a poor choice for self-defense, but a ‘tactical’ model will serve a little better. Most traditional rimfire rifles hold less than a dozen rounds while most ‘tactical’ models hold more than 20. Additionally, a ‘tactical’ model is more intimidating because an aggressor may believe he/she is facing a full-power combat rifle.
Note: This section only discusses rifles that are solely designed with the ‘tactical’ aesthetic, not conversions of traditional rimfire rifles. For example, a common Ruger 10/22 can be equipped with a pistol grip and folding stock, but such conversions are too numerous to discuss here (there are dozens of conversions for the 10/22 alone). One problem with such conversions is that they share nothing in common with any “serious” rifle except looks. Sure, you can make a 10/22 look like an AR-15 but the charging handle, safety, and magazine release will never match an AR-15.
*S&W M&P-15-22: They’re basically polymer rimfire clones of the typical AR-15 carbine. They’re fully compatible with most AR-15 accessories like stocks, handguards, sights, and triggers but cannot be modified to shoot centerfire ammunition. Cost is around $550.
*Franken-15: New Frontier Armory LW-15 lower ($100) and CMMG 22 upper ($450). This is basically a cheap AR-15 lower half with a 22lr upper half. The nice thing is that it’s fully capable of using full-power AR-15 upper halves. A complete Del-Ton upper costs about $400. However, the rear sight & magazines are sold separately. I own a New Frontier LW-15 lower half, so I’ll write about it later. I have the Del-Ton backordered with Midway. Hopefully I’ll get it some time in October.
*GSG-AK47: It’s a German rimfire clone of the most famous/infamous combat weapon in the world. I personally think ARs are slicker and smoother to shoot, but anyone who likes AKs should consider training with the GSG-47. Magazines ‘lock & rock’ just like the real thing. The satey & magazine release are correct, too. Interesting note: General Kalashnikov has actually given these his blessing.
*GSG-5/522 and Umarex/HK MP-5: both are rimfire clones of the HK MP5. The GSG-5 came first, and HK sued GSG for ‘trade dress infringement’ which is basically ‘looking too much like the real gun’. GSG discontinued the GSG-5 and started producing the GSG-522. The 522 series is mechanically identical but has cosmetic changes to make it look less like a real MP-5. Umarex makes a licensed rimfire copy of the MP-5 but I haven’t researched it at all, nor have I researched the GSG vs. Umarex debate. I do know that Umarex primarily makes airsoft and bb guns, and they got a bad name with the jamm-o-matic Colt rimfire AR-15 clones. I’ve also read that they’ve improved since that time.
*Umarex Uzi 22: clone of the Israeli Uzi was announced back in January, but I can’t find any information about the actual gun. It may just be ‘vapor-ware’.
Umarex/HK 416: The HK 416 is a modified AR-15 system. Those changes are basically cosmetic in a rimfire. I personally think the proven S&W M&P is a better choice than the relatively untested Umarex model, especially after the Colt M-4 22lr problems.