How to Convert an AR-15 to 22LR – Best Conversion Kit Review

by

The .22 LR cartridge has been in use since 1887 and is undoubtedly the most widespread round nowadays.

So, it is not surprising that firearms that can use this cartridge are built or modified extensively.

The prevalence and low price of this ammo are the primary reasons that so many arms, including the AR-15, are converted to .22LR rimfire.

Comparison of the Best AR-15 22LR Conversion Kit

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Easy to install kit
  • It can fit most AR-15 rifles that can be converted
  • Includes the bolt, carrier, and a 25-round magazine
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Made from high-quality polymer
  • Designed for various application
  • Green follower for easy reloading
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Matte gray finish on magazine
  • Forward assist adapter included
  • Designed to fit .22LR or 5.56 NATO
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews

What Makes a Great Conversion Kit?

There are some features and characteristics that will make a conversion kit stand out among the rest of the pack. Knowing what they are will help you distinguish a great conversion kit from those that are considered unreliable and not great in quality. Here’s what you need to look for in a conversion kit:

Price

If you are a budget shopper, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to find an affordable kit. You should find one that is considered the best in quality, but affordable for your budget. Don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of saving a few dollars.

All The Parts You Need

If you need a conversion kit, you’ll need all the parts to make the conversion a successful one. This will include your magazine, bolt, and carrier. Once you have all of these parts in one kit, you’ll be able to make the conversion a complete success. 

Installation

If you do not have any gunsmithing skills at all, don’t worry, because you’ll be able to convert your AR-15 into a .22 easily with the right kind of kit so long as you have the right tools. This means you won’t have to rely on the professional services of a gunsmith to get the job done for you.

Quick Take - The Best Conversion for an AR-15 to .22LR

Review of the Best AR-15 to .22 Conversion Kit

We will be reviewing an AR-15 to .22 conversion kit that might fit your AR-15 rifle perfectly. While not all conversion kits are created equal, you should note the features and characteristics to ensure that this is the conversion kit for you. Let’s take a look at the kit in detail to see what is included and what to expect from it:

Pros

  • Super durable parts
  • Affordable for most budgets
  • No firing failures after 100 rounds
  • Great for bullets ranging from 69 to 75 grain
  • The magazine is impact-proof, and really reliable

Cons

  • May not work for self-defense purposes
  • The magazine may be tough to load at first
  • It will lose accuracy if you use cheap ammo

What Recent Buyers Report

New buyers found this conversion kit to be quite solid. The parts were high in quality and each took a few minutes to install. They were also satisfied with the magazine. Once loaded, they were able to shoot all 25 rounds without a single malfunction. One user said the conversion took him nearly an hour, but he managed to convert his AR-15 rifle into a .22LR without any issue.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

This conversion kit is one of the only ones that will allow for easy conversion from an AR-15 to a .22LR. The bolt and carrier are often the two most needed parts that you’ll need to make the converted rifle fully functional. Even better, it comes with a 25-round magazine that will allow most .22 rounds to fit inside. In short, it’s a kit that has all the fixings you need and a magazine to help you test things out once the conversion is complete.

The CMMG kit is an Atchisson-derived .22 conversion. It holds pride of place in the .22LR conversion-kit field.

This one-piece drop-in unit has improved on Ciener’s design by adding a last-shot hold-open feature to an AR-15. The Bravo Conversion Kit replaces the standard 5.56mm bolt and carrier with a bolt featuring built-in recoil springs. It also has a forward part that looks like a .223 cartridge to bridge the gap from the .22 chamber to the .223-rifled barrel. In fact, the CMMG Bravo kit is intended for 5.56 caliber rifles, not .223 chambered pieces. Also, it’s for direct gas impingement guns only – no piston guns.

As for the accuracy, this conversion is not remarkable, since .223/5.56 is designed for a bore of .224 inches, and the  .22LR projectile is made to fit a barrel with an exact .221-inch diameter in the grooves. The other issue that affects .22-conversion accuracy is the much faster rifling twist of an AR barrel (optimized for the 5.56 NATO), which tends to destabilize the slower and shorter .22LR round.

The CMMG .22LR sub-caliber conversion kits come with a 26 round capacity polymer .22 LR magazine with bolt catch follower. Be sure to observe any state laws that prohibit the possession of large-capacity magazines.

In any case, these conversion system kits are the most accessible and least expensive method of converting your AR-15 to a .22 caliber plinker. The CMMG kit can be purchased for about $160-$250 and takes about 30 seconds to install.

Who Will Use This Most 

This conversion kit will mostly be used for target shooting in both a casual and competitive setting. So if you want something that will be excellent in terms of accuracy and reliability, this conversion kit will take the cake. 

Bottom Line

If you want a conversion kit that is easy to install and will give you top-level functioning once all is said and done, the CMMG AR-15/M16 .22LR Bravo Conversion Kit might be what you need to make the conversion from an AR-15 into a .22 a successful one.  

Pros

  • Smooth, reliable feeding
  • Really sturdy and impact-proof
  • Accepts all kinds of .22LR rounds
  • Easy loading, takes a few minutes
  • Perfect for hunting and target shooting

Cons

  • Last couple of rounds may be hard to load
  • May be hard to release depending on the mag well set-up
  • You may need a mag loader if you are dealing with mobility issues in your hands

What Recent Buyers Report

According to one user, he was able to go through well over 1000 rounds and not deal with a single malfunction. As for the conversion process, it was simple and easy for most. They were able to install this with ease and be able to test out the install and removal. So far, the mag tends to fall freely without any instances of sticking. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you are looking for a conversion kit that is simple to use, this might make converting your AR-15 rifle into a .22LR a cinch. Of course, it’s got an extra magazine to go along with it so you can “christen” the newly converted rifle and fire off as many rounds as you need at the range. At this point, if you haven’t gotten a magazine yet for .22LR rounds then you have nothing to worry about (assuming you grab this kit). 

Who Will Use This Most

This is perfect for all kinds of users that want to convert their rifles, but want a kit that is simple and easy to install. You’ll be able to start and finish the project in a short amount of time and you won’t need a professional to do it all for you. Of course, the magazine that goes along with it kind of sweetens the deal as well. So if you want a conversion kit with one of the most important accessories to go along with it, this is what you need. 

Bottom Line

The CMMG AR-15 .22LR Conversion Kit will stand out as the budget-friendly option for anyone looking for a conversion kit that will offer you a little something extra. Once you install this and have your rifle completely converted, there is no limit to what you can do with the .22LR rounds you’ve got lying around. 

Pros

  • Easy to load
  • Perfect for various applications
  • Easy to convert from an AR-15 to a .22LR
  • Compatible with .22LR and 5.56 NATO rounds
  • Magazine provides malfunction-free shooting

Cons

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

Most of the new users were quite intrigued by the gray matte finish. But nevertheless, they were satisfied with the installation process and how smooth and functional their rifles were after the conversion was all said and done. One user gave his newly converted rifle a whirl while hunting for varmint and was able to come home with a couple of fresh kills. So far, he has had no complaints and believes that his accuracy might be a bit sharper than usual. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

What makes this conversion kit stand out is that it’s kind of unusual to see a magazine that is colored other than black. But other than that, it’s a nice conversion kit if you want to turn your rifle into a target shooting machine. Plus, it will prove its effectiveness as a hunting rifle as well. So whether you are shooting at paper targets or varmint from 100 yards out, you’ll get accurate and reliable shooting with 25 rounds to work with. 

Who Will Use This Most

If you are looking to convert your AR-15 into a dedicated plinking or hunting .22LR rifle then you will probably consider giving this conversion kit a close look. It’s probably going to be the better fit for you if you are also looking to give your accuracy a bit of a boost as well. 

Bottom Line

This conversion kit is probably going to win over a good number of hunters and target shooters. But you can best believe that you’ll be turning your rifle into a shooting machine that is accurate, reliable, and all-around awesome. Don’t be shocked if people start asking questions at the range about how you got your rifle to step up its game. Just ask them what it takes. Nothing more than a conversion kit like the CMMG Echo SS to get it done.

Building a Dedicated Upper

There is another option that’s a compromise between an overpriced dedicated .22LR upper receivers and the Atchisson-style conversion kit.

While dedicated .22LR Uppers and complete AR rifles in .22LR offer excellent accuracy, they are overly expensive. The price starts at about double of the Atchisson based .22 conversion units. On the other hand, the straightforward and affordable drop-in conversions suffer from accuracy issues, making them suitable only for plinking and recreational shooting.

With the huge availability of aftermarket parts, your other option is to build a custom dedicated AR-15 .22LR upper. It’s simply a matter of inserting a dedicated match-chambered barrel and barrel collar and replacing an entire bolt assembly with an Atchisson-style conversion kit. As an added bonus, you can omit a few parts like the gas block, gas tube, and forward assist.

Doing that, you’ve built a rifle that can hold a shooting group just under ½" at 50 yards, which is excellent for an AR-15 .22LR upper making the accuracy ideally suited for hunting varmints and small game with confidence.

Advantages of a .22LR AR-15

All gun aficionados know that shooting is a costly hobby and even more expensive sport. Using inexpensive .22 rimfires as a substitute for posh centerfire rounds is one way to create some savings.

Another advantage of the .223 caliber conversion is to allow you to get used to the feel of the gun but with less noise and recoil. But you still get the overall look and feel of the AR-15. There are many centerfire caliber conversions available. But the easiest conversion is to the ever-popular rimfire .22 Long Rifle cartridge.

The .22LR is not as cheap as it used to be, but when it comes to price and availability, there's no better bang for your money in the shooting world. For example, for the price of a single .223 cartridge, you can buy 10 rounds of .22LR ammunition.

Another factor is that many indoor or outdoor ranges may not allow you to use 5.56x45mm because of its penetration power and muzzle blast. It’s damaging to backstops and dangerous to wildlife and more importantly people living nearby. But an AR-15 converted to the tiny rimfire will be welcome at all shooting ranges.

Conversion Kit Types and Their Installation

The .22-rimfire conversion units are all pretty much based on the same design. They feature a reciprocating blowback bolt that runs on a guide rail assembly. However they can be divided into two categories: the AR-15 dedicated upper receivers and the Atchisson-style conversion kit.

AR-15 Dedicated Upper Receivers

The complete dedicated .22LR upper is a self-sufficient structure. It installs without gunsmithing and makes a lot of sense for AR-15 owners. It consists of a barrel specifically rifled to work with an all-lead, slower, lighter projectile; the barrel collar, and the bolt assembly. This allows higher accuracy and superior reliability compared to a drop-in .223 to .22LR adapter.

The general build specs of a dedicated AR-15 to .22LR upper are very similar to those of any other AR-15 caliber conversion. Prices starting at around $450 and can run to well over $1,000. In return, you get an AR-15 transformed into an excellent precision shooting machine. The accuracy will be on par with other high-priced rifles in the .22 Long Rifle class.

You end up with a genuine .22LR upper, which is often lighter than original 5.56mm upper receiver group. The weight is lost because there is no need for a gas block or gas tube. Since there is no gas tube to lock the barrel nut in place, you may have to go to longer barrel lengths to make sure it stays tight. Even so, you can get an inch and a quarter shorter overall gun than a regular .223/5.56 carbine.

Most of the .22 conversions and even a high-end dedicated .22 LR AR-15 uppers require a lengthy break-in process and some lubricant (but not too much). After a few hundred rounds, the conversion setup should start running more smoothly. As is the case with most 22’s, you’ll find that your kit may work better with some brands of ammo than others.

Atchisson-Style Conversion Kit

A dedicated .22LR upper receiver is nearly as expensive as a dedicated .22LR AR format rifle, but in our opinion, if you’re looking for accuracy it’s the way to go.

Another option is to utilize a drop-in .223 to .22 LR adapter Atchisson/Ciener-style conversion kit. These were developed by the firearms designer Maxwell Atchisson during the early 1970s.  Jonathan Arthur Ciener improved them . Because it is the easiest and cheapest way to convert your AR-15 to .22LR, various companies currently produce this kind of .22LR conversions.

Generally, the Atchisson-style rimfire conversion includes only the bolt group assembly and a unique magazine. It does not permanently alter your weapon. You just need to swap out the bolt and carrier group and use a specialized AR-15 .22LR magazine.

The drop-in unit fits all AR-15s and clone firearms of dimensions that correspond to the U.S. Government prints. No tools are required and the operation takes all of 30 seconds to accomplish for the average AR-15 owner.

AR-style .22LR magazines have casings of centerfire size. But they have a spring and follower inside to fit the tiny rimfire cartridges. These do not engage the bolt hold-open catch on mil-spec lower receivers.

While the drop-in conversions are simple and allow you to use your existing AR-15 5.56mm barreled action, they typically deliver poor accuracy and reliability. They usually need a higher-power hammer spring, which in turn requires very high-velocity rounds to provide reliable cycling and charging.

Before purchasing any .22LR conversion kits, you should know that these rimfire conversions are not compatible with gas-piston-equipped AR-15's.

Conclusion

Whatever conversion you choose, using your favorite AR rifle in a smaller caliber with little recoil can provide a new level of shooting enjoyment. The conversion kit makes a lot of sense from a purely economic perspective.

The cheap practice ammo and the ability to shoot at any indoor range make this adaptation even more attractive. 

About Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis the managing editor at Gun Mann and when he isn't writing about guns he is more than likely tinkering with them. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors. As a lifelong gun owner he knows his stuff!

1 thought on “How to Convert an AR-15 to 22LR – Best Conversion Kit Review”

Leave a Comment