A lot of good information and opinions,
You need to decide on what type of competition you are talking about.
If you are serious about NRA or ISU Small bore then you are talking a lot of money. Best starting place I think would be the CMP rifles. For the price they work quite well then move on to the higher quality guns.
If you don't know how far you want to go then I would recommend getting into the CMP Rimfire Sporter Shooting. NRA & ISU is expensive, you are talking about a $1500 for the rifle, another grand or so for the other equipment (two leather coats, one for NRA and one for ISU), kneeling rolls, mats, scope and ammo stands, etc etc. Of course we haven't figured out what type of NRA ISU shooting, do you want a Prone rifle for English Matches, a Free Rifle, Standard Rifle or what.
CMP Rimfire Sporters are a bit different. A lot cheaper to get into. Just about any rifle you find in the gun rack will work.........but:
Yeah another BUT
What is the reason for 22 competitions, practice for hunting, practice for HP or Vintage Military Rifle matches.
I attended the CMP GSM Master Instructor's course with a couple who were really into Instructing CMP Rimfire Sporter Matches. They said pretty much any good 22 bolt gun would work. Its not a big money sport. How ever serious CMP Rimfire Shooters have gone to the CZ 452.
A lot of 22 competitors are into rimfire matches as a training tool for HP or CMP Vintage Rifle Matches. They recommend the CZ 452 Military Trainer. About the cheapest of the CZ line, but the sights are ladder sights like those that that come on surplus military rifles such as the 1903 Springfield, Mauser, and Mosin.
If you just want a starter 22 then Savage, Marlin etc make good ones for not much money.
Winchester 52s are great, but they don't make them any more, used ones are gonna be pricey. The H&R Model 12 or 5200, are good clones, but again they don't make them and the prices are climbing on those also.
CMP rimfire rifles arn't picky about ammo, mainly because the size of the scoring rings are huge compared to the ISU International Targets. Regardless of rifle you use in ISU, ammo is gonna make a difference. After you find the right ammo for your gun, you'll run out and then you'll find out your new ammo is a different lot number and you're gonna have to start all over. Rimfire sporters will let you get by with any good ammo.
I wont recommend a rifle, I would recommend you get into CMP Rimfire Sporter Shooting, and see where you want to go from there. Small bore shooting has many venues, the venue will determine what rifle you need.
CPT USAR Ret
USAMU Sniper School Oct '78
Distinguished Rifle Badge 1071