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An Introduction to NRL22 May 2023
Dan Martinez  

In my recent story about peep-sighted .22 rifles, I whined about giving up on our .22 rifle benchrest matches because I suck at it. Or maybe because the equipment I own sucks for this type of match. Or maybe because I am too cheap to pay for top tier .22 target ammo. Or maybe because of all of the above.

A while back, Gerhard decided to tack-on a .22 Rifle Field Benchrest match onto the end of the Big Boar match that we held at the end of 2022. Participation was optional if you came out for Big Boar, but I decided to give the .22 match a chance anyway.

I brought out my 1960’s Savage-Anschutz lightweight sporter, because it is the most accurate .22 that I own. I had some Norma Match .22s, which might not be up to the accuracy standard of Eley, Lapua, or SK. Even though I still finished at the bottom, I did have fun shooting this.

I had fun because of the targets that Gerhard employed. They are slightly more generously sized than the BR-50 bullseyes, and you don’t have minus scoring zones when the inevitable flier lands farther from the center. In the traditional BR-50 match, you get points taken away from your score if you land outside the scoring rings, which is really off-pissing (making up a new term here).

In the lead-up to the G&F Expo, I toyed with the idea of buying a cheap .22 bolt action as a loaner for the event. I was looking at the Winchester Xpert .22 – the bolt action brother to the Winchester Wildcat semi-auto. As I shopped online for this rifle on the Sportsman’s website, a different rifle caught my eye – the Savage B22 Precision. Hmm.

Plans to buy the Winchester fizzled when I learned that I could not get scope mounts for it in time for the Expo. But that Savage kept haunting me. Savage .22 rifles have a reputation for affordable accuracy.

A dedicated .22 Rifle Field Benchrest match was on the calendar for April, followed right after by the regular BR-50 match. This seemed to be a signal to me that I should go ahead and get one of those Savages.

The Savage B22 Precision
The B22 Precision is a bolt action .22 rifle mounted in an MDT aluminum chassis. It uses a 10-shot rotary magazine that is NOT compatible with the Ruger standard. It features an 18” medium-heavy barrel (.800” dia.) threaded at the muzzle and supplied with a thread cap. Out of the box, a zero-MOA picatinny rail is mounted on top of the receiver for mounting a scope.

Savage B22 Precision
What really sets this rifle apart is the aluminum chassis system by Modular Driven Technologies (MDT). It is one piece, meaning that it is not designed to accept an AR-15 buffer tube for mounting your choice of buttstock. It will accept standard AR-15 pistol grips though. It is supplied with a distinctive MDT angled grip with hand-filling palm swells on both sides. It is an excellent grip that I see no reason to change.

The rear of the stock terminates in a hook-type butt assembly with a comfortable rubber buttpad and two spacers for adjusting length-of-pull. I removed one of the spacers to shorten the LOP to my preference.

Just forward of the butt assembly is an adjustable cheek riser. It’s a simple adjustment system that uses two turn-to-loosen/tighten thumbscrews which allows you to pull up or push-down the cheek rest to your preference. There is no fancy threaded knob which adjusts height.

The forend of the stock features M-Lok slots at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. The barrel is completely free-floating with a gap of about a quarter-inch all around the barrel. There is a standard sling swivel stud near the front of the stock on the bottom which can be used for mounting a bipod. The action will need to be removed from the stock in order to remove the swivel stud in case you might want to mount a picatinny rail or Arca dovetail plate in place of the swivel stud.

Another outstanding feature of this rifle is that it is equipped with the target version of Savage’s Accu-Trigger. I measured the average pull weight of the trigger at 1 pound, 1.9 ounces for 5 pulls, right out of the box. The trigger is adjustable, but I will just leave it right there.

It was only after I placed my order on the Sportsman’s website that I started diving deeper into the reviews. Most reviewers were impressed by the rifle’s accuracy, but there were consistent reports about function problems. Those problems were threefold:

First, there were some reports of failures to extract with certain ammo brands. Not always, but enough to warrant concern. Second, there were reports of failures to eject. If the bolt was not operated briskly enough, the spent cartridge may not clear the ejection port, instead rolling around and landing on top of the magazine. Then when you try to feed the next round, you end up jamming the action against the spent case that is not supposed to be there.

Finally, reviewers noticed that when a round is fed, that the next round at the top of the magazine may get the bullet tip gouged by the over-riding bolt. Obviously, this is something that could mess up your accuracy if the bullet is chewed up.

Oh well, my order was already in-process. I’ll have to live with what I get. The silver lining was that the reviewers had nothing but positive things to say about Savage customer service. Savage was freely sending out bolt parts (extractor, spring clip) to anybody that called in to complain.

When the rifle came in, I mounted up a Burris Veracity 2-10x42mm first-focal-plane (FFP) scope on it. This was a surplus big game scope that I had in my closet that I ended up not liking. It features a 30mm tube and it just seemed a little big and heavy for a rifle that I wanted to be light and nimble for walking around with all day. It was also my first FFP scope. I wanted to try one to see what all the fuss was about. The cross hair grows and shrinks with magnification changes on a FFP scope. This ended up being another feature that I did not like on a game hunting rifle. That’s how this scope ended up being surplus and available to put on the Savage. With rings and scope mounted, the rifle weighs in at 9.8 pounds.

Well, in the first match, the Field Benchrest match, I screwed up big time. Somehow, I had forgotten to fully tighten the rings on the picatinny rail! I spent the first part of the match chasing my zero. Mike Sardinha came over to see what my problem was and suggested that in his experience, that’s usually indicative of a loose scope. Nonsense! I grabbed the scope to show him that it was solid, and lo and behold! SMH! After tightening, I wasted the next two rounds of the match regaining my zero.

At the next match, BR-50, I still finished in the bottom of the pack. I was still unwilling to spend $15 to $20 for a box of 50 rounds of the good stuff, so that’s on me. What is also on me, is that I just need more time behind the trigger with this rifle. Benchrest technique and good supports also play a huge role in eliminating those unexplained flyers.

I’m still blaming myself more than the gun, though I did experience those ejection problems. I also had a dirty magazine problem that failed to advance the next round. These issues chewed up time which caused me to rush through the stages to get all my shots downrange before the stage time limit expired.

What is NRL22?
When I was reading those reviews of the B22, something else caught my attention. They were saying that Savage specifically designed this gun for a shooting game that has been rapidly gaining in popularity, NRL22. So what’s that?

The NRL part of the name stands for National Rifle League. The NRL was formed in 2016 to promote precision rifle competition. Think of it as the rifle version of practical pistol, where different scenarios are created to test competitors abilities to shoot accurately, at extended range, using improvised field positions, under the clock.

NRL22 is the division of the NRL that uses .22 LR rifles instead of centerfire rifles, typically at distances only out to 100 yards. Some matches may shoot farther, but the normal monthly courses of fire typically extend only out to 100 yards. This makes NRL22 less expensive, and more accessible to more people than the centerfire version. 100 yard matches are much easier to create and administer than courses that may extend out to 1000 yards.

NRL22 makes use of a standard target package, and a standard set of easily obtainable shooting props or “barricades” to shoot from. Each month, NRL22 publishes a standard course of fire (COF) that uses these standard targets and standard barricades to create five stages that constitute a monthly match. In this way, participating clubs nationwide, even worldwide, can host the exact same match to accumulate points for the competition year.

I think it would be fun for our club to run an NRL22-type of match at least once, maybe twice a year if there is interest. I’m not proposing that we should join NRL22 formally and chase their points – just that we should run a match or two for the benefit of our club members, to add to our diverse annual calendar of events.

So let’s talk a little more about the standard target package. Here’s what it looks like:

These are all the targets that it should take to set up the 5 stages of a typical NRL22 match. There are a total of 10 target hangers – 4 single hangers and 6 double hangers. There are a total of 17 paddle type targets that hang from those target hangers. Additionally, there are a total of 4 “Know Your Limits” or KYL targets (usually pronounced K-Y-L, not Kyle, but you do you), plus two KYL frames. All 4 KYL targets may be placed on a single frame, or maybe just one – depends on the stage design.

I’ve been talking to Steve and Gerhard about NRL22, and they say that they have a number of equivalent targets. I have been slowly accumulating NRL22 compliant targets myself now, since I became interested. Together, we may not have every target in every official size, but we are getting close.

So what are the official standard barricade props?

Accumulating all of this is a bit more challenging. Not necessarily because anything here is difficult to source. It’s just that storing and transporting some of this equipment can be burdensome.

Some of the items are smaller, less of a burden, and already in the possession of club members. We have 5 gallon buckets that we use for shotgun shoots already. I think that I also have a 2 gallon bucket. Gerhard has that chair which he frequently brings out to matches that he hosts.

I have a saw horse that I use to mount the shotgun trap on, though I will have to add a bottom shelf. Gerhard and Steve have their Trigger Stick tripods that they often use in our shoots. Not sure if those meet the NRL22 intent, but they might be close enough. If not, I’m sure we could round up suitable tripods from club members. Rope I’ve got. I recently picked up the three required cinder blocks.

Getting into the larger props, I picked up a 55 gallon blue plastic barrel. Gerhard says that he has a “rooftop” that he built. He also said that Steve has a “tank trap”. I’m sure that someone in the club has the 6’ A-frame ladder.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I sure don’t want to store and haul any old tires. Tires have a way of collecting water, hence mosquitos, so I’m not interested. Is anyone interested in building, storing, and hauling the NRL22 Pyramid?

With that, we would have most of the props called for. Because we won’t have the full, official set of targets, and the full set of props, we probably could not run the official courses of fire by the book. But we don’t really have to. Let’s talk more about the official courses of fire.

Each month a new COF is published. As mentioned previously, each COF consists of 5 stages. NRL22 has a Downloads page on their website where each month’s official COF is published ( Here is an example of one such stage:

You can see how a particular stage makes use of a certain number of targets, and certain props, at varying distances. How to shoot the stage is fully defined. The stages have a par time, a time frame under which you must take the required number of shots. Typically, that’s 2 minutes, or 120 seconds. Unlike practical pistol, the actual time it takes you to finish the course of fire does not factor into your score, as long as you are under the par time. That’s not 100% true. There is usually one stage, of the five in a match, that is a tie breaker stage, where your leftover time can add points to your score for the stage.

Notice that there is an option 1 and an option 2. Option 1 is the default, but at the match director’s discretion, he may choose to invoke option 2, which is a tougher way to shoot the stage that involves additional stressors.

Notice also, the “OG/Adaptive Recommendation”. To allow the widest possible array of people to participate and have fun, NRL22 makes allowance for less physically capable shooters, OG stands for “Old Guns” (or Old Guys, or Original Gangsters 😁). People who choose to shoot a stage OG/Adaptive are not penalized in any way in the final scoring. Every stage has an OG/Adaptive recommendation, but ultimately it is up to the match director to decide how to accommodate for OG/Adaptive for each stage, which may depend on the abilities of the people at your match.

For the purpose of holding “NRL22-Type” matches for our club, we could make up our own stages referencing various stages from the published NRL22 courses of fire for ideas, but modified as we may need to because we may not have all the official targets or barricades. We could throw in our own similar targets or barricades that we may come up with. It wouldn’t matter, but our match would still be very NRL22-like. But since we are not running the match NRL22 official, not signed up with the organization, we could not name it NRL22-anything. We would have to name it something like, “Practical Precision .22 Rifle Match” or something like that.

Similar to how NRL22 does it, we should publish our COF to club members so they know beforehand what to expect. Many NRL22 competitors take advantage of this to practice on their own prior to firing at an official match.

Individual Equipment
Even though the monthly courses of fire only go out to 100 yards, NRL22 actually encourages match directors to add other stage(s) of their own to their match if they want to. Such added stages may include longer range targets. Only the official COF counts for national points though.

Longer range is a reason that many competitors use scopes with target turrets for elevation changes. Such scopes should have a zero stop, so you don’t get lost in the rotations. Most people in the game use mil-mil scopes, where the scope adjustment graduations and the Christmas tree type reticle is calibrated in mils. That’s not to say that MOA calibrated scopes won’t work. It’s just that if you are asking a fellow NRL22 competitor about his elevation or wind holds, it is likely that he speaks mils, not MOA.

The ideal scope should be first-focal plane and have a wide magnification range. 6-to-24 power, or 5-to-25 power are common. Many scopes lose resolution at their highest magnification, but may still give a good picture at say, 16-power, which is a more likely power that you might use in a match.

Because you may be using the scope at different magnification levels throughout the course of a match, this is where the first-focal plane feature becomes important. Since the reticle shrinks and grows with changes in magnification, the angular measurements in the reticle will remain constant at any magnification.

Another peculiar demand of this game on scopes is a parallax adjustment range that extends down to 15 or 25 yards. Many target scopes that were designed with centerfire rifles in mind may only focus down to 50 yards. Did you happen to notice that the smallest KYL target is only ¼” wide? The smallest targets in the game may be set up closer than 50 yards.

With all that said, the scope that you already have will do fine to start. I’m living with 2-10x with a 50 yard minimum parallax. It is FFP though, but calibrated in MOA.

It should go without saying that the most basic equipment need is an accurate .22 rifle. High-end scopes and uber-accurate rifles can cost a lot of money though. NRL22 was established to lower cost barriers and provide accessibility and opportunity for more shooters. To that end, NRL22 has two equipment classes: Base and Open. To qualify for Base class, the combined MSRP cost of rifle and scope must not exceed $1200. This is the current number. It has been less in past years, but it’s been creeping up due to, yes, Bidenflation.

The cost cap applies only to rifle and scope. The cost of any additional accessories that attach to the rifle (bases, rings, bipods, slings, anything else) is not considered in the cost. If you are using an older discontinued rifle, you have to provide the last known MSRP, and your cost will be projected forward to today using a standard inflation adjustment factor. Yup, they actually do that. Any rifle that exceeds the Base class cost cap is placed in Open class.

A bipod mounted on your rifle can be helpful when shooting NRL22, but a far more important shooting aid in my opinion is a sand bag. Your bag may not actually be filled with sand – there are a number of different fillers that are used, but a bag is pretty essential.

And here is another peculiarity of the sport. You’ve probably used bags before for benchrest type shooting. Bags for the precision rifle sport are specifically shaped for shooting from barricades. Take shooting from a tank trap for example. They usually have you shoot from one tip, then move to another tip, then move to the third tip. Those tips are not flat surfaces suitable for your typical flat bottom bench rest bag. A popular bag for this game is known as a “fortune cookie” or “half moon” bag. A bag with this shape can wrap over a tank trap tip or a ladder rung to provide a flat stable surface for the forend of your rifle. But it can also be used in other orientations, either on its side or upside down as a situation warrants, depending on shooter preference.

However, you are not limited to taking only one bag to a match. You may have multiple bag shapes and sizes that you have with you. You can decide on a stage to stage basis what bag or bags, or other shooter aids that you want to shoot that particular stage with. Some stages may limit you to one bag, or not. Each stage description will specify any restrictions. Be aware though that most stages start with the shooter standing with rifle and any other equipment in hand. How much can you hold?

I hope that I’ve whetted club members’ appetite for this type of match. We are about to hold our summer meeting where we discuss the calendar of events for next year. I’ve squeezed in two matches into the 2024 first draft calendar of events. Maybe we will even decide to add one to the calendar this year, depending on member input. I just wanted to familiarize club members to what an NRL22 type of match entails before bringing it up at the summer meeting. I hope that I have lit a spark.

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