In the June 2019 issue, we tested a number of 22 rimfire loads in handguns. Feedback from readers was positive, and we discovered we had quite a few 22 Long Rifle fans in the readership. We also had a number of requests to test the loads in 22 Long Rifle long guns.
Reason: Many of the loads were not that impressive in the handguns. Readers felt the ammunition might exhibit crackerjack performance in the rifle. They were correct, results in this test show. Some 22 Long Rifle loads use relatively slow-burning powder that makes the most of a rifle’s longer barrel. The 22 proved capable in the accuracy department with rifles as well, no surprises there.
Velocity was much higher with most loads. Higher velocities can also lead to improved expansion and penetration. This is important for the small-game hunter. While rabbits and squirrels are not a challenge for the 22 with properly delivered shots, some of us stretch the 22 Long Rifle to take raccoons, possums, and pests. If you have a coyote raiding the livestock, and if the 22 is what is on hand, then that is the rifle you take the shot with.
In this test, we found some of the loads performed much better in terminal performance. We did not retest the non-expanding loads, with one exception. We tested a single lead roundnose load, the Winchester M22 40-grain LRN, to have a baseline of comparison from the handguns to the rifles. We used the same expanding bullet loads — actually, in every case cartridges from the same lot — as we had used in the 22 handgun testing.
We limited accuracy testing to 25 yards. This is plenty with the iron-sighted Thompson Contender rifle used. This is a typical small hunting and all-round go-anywhere do-anything rifle. We really like it in the field and find it is reliable and accurate enough for most chores.
In the end, the 22 LR loads fired from rifles performed well. Some limit penetration and are therefore good for pest-popping around the home. Others would be suited to squirrel hunting, and a few might get into the varmint category at moderate range, given good shot placement. And while we do not recommend a 22 for home defense, the caliber gets into the fray a lot, sometimes against animals and sometimes against dangerous felons. One of the loads with penetration on the long end just might serve to protect hearth and home given good shot placement.
The 22 Long Rifle is an old design, using not only rimfire ignition but also a heel-based bullet. For this reason, many of us do not recommend the 22 for personal defense. It isn’t all about limited wound potential. The 22 rimfire firing system isn’t as reliable as a centerfire system. Also, the heel-based bullet sometimes is damaged when feeding in a semi-auto firearm. It isn’t unusual for a brick of 500 cartridges to contain several cartridges that misfire and do not ignite, even with a hard primer hit. On the other hand, during a test of self-loading pistols a few months ago, we fired 1,600 22 Long Rifle cartridges from several makers without a single malfunction or failure to fire. History seems to be behind our misgivings considering 22 rimfire reliability. It seems 22 rimfire ammunition must be getting better. Also, there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject during the following test program.
We fired three five-shot groups with each load for accuracy from a solid bench-rest firing position. We also fired 50 rounds, usually two 25-round Ruger X magazines, offhand, firing at pest-sized targets and steel plates at 25 yards. We used our standard 6-inch-wide water jugs to test penetration and expansion. We tested first for accuracy and then for terminal ballistics. We rated the cartridges compared to the others, but also on what they were designed to do. There is a great deal of difference in performance between the CCI Quiet load, as an example, and the CCI Stinger, but each was rated based on their design. A bullet that should expand but doesn’t is given a B. Here’s how the rounds performed:
|Bullet Weight||Manufacturer & Brand||Average Velocity (fps)||Standard Deviation (fps)||Muzzle Energy (ft.-lbs.)||IPSC Power Factor||Average Accuracy (in.)||Expanded Width (in.)||Retained Weight (gr.)||Retained Weight %||Penetration In Water (in.)||Gun Tests Grade|
|32||CC Stinger Copper-Plated HP #50||1478||37||155||47||1.35||0.32||30||0.94||12||B|
|36||CCI Mini-Mag Copper-Plated HP #31||1222||18||119||44||0.75||0.33||36||1||18||A|
|37||Winchester Super-X CPHP #X22LRHSS1||1238||13||126||46||1.1||0.29||36||0.97||18||A|
|38||Federal Game-Shok CPHP #712BK||1122||16||106||43||0.95||0.26||40||1||21||B|
|40||CCI Quiet-22 Segmented HP #970||705||29||44||28||1.1||FRAG||36||0.9||7||A|
|40||CCI Mini-Mag Segmented HP #36CC||1209||13||130||48||0.95||FRAG||32||0.8||12 to 18||A|
|40||CCI Velocitor Copper-Plated HP #47||1380||22||169||55||1.3||0.35||40||1||20||A|
|40||Federal Hunter Match LHP #720||1164||12||120||47||0.6||0.33||40||1||20||A|
|40||Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics #22FLRN||1201||10||128||48||0.8||0.29||40||1||16||A|
|40||Remington Golden Bullet PHP #21231||1221||18||132||49||1.15||0.33||40||1||16||A|
|40||Winchester M22 CPRN #S22LRT||1199||14||128||48||1||0.22||40||1||22||A|
|45||CCI Suppressor Subsonic Lead HP #957||964||11||93||43||1.25||0.35||44||0.98||18||A|
Fiocchi 40-Grain Lead Round Nose #22FLRN
We purchased this for $4/50 rounds. We had plenty of this ammunition left from the previous test, and it came up for testing first. Accuracy and function were excellent. The TC 22 features a peep or aperture rear sight and fiber-optic front. It isn’t a target gun, but what it will do it does easily with a trained shooter behind the sights. The Fiocchi lead RN load picked up an average of 179 fps. Penetration increased from 12 to 16 inches. Interestingly enough, the expanded diameter was less, .28 versus .29 inch. Perhaps the greater velocity and penetration tended to fold the mushroom back, as we have seen before. This is a good load with accuracy as the long suit.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
CCI Quiet-22 40-Grain Segmented Hollow Point #970
We bought this for $5.50/50 rounds. CCI advertises that no hearing protection is needed when using this load. At 695 fps from a handgun, they are correct, perhaps, but we always wear hearing protection. The load picked up the least added velocity at 710 fps, so we did not expect much difference in performance. As it turns out, there was a statistical difference. The original pistol test resulted in average penetration of 5 inches in water. The rifle turned in 6 to 8 inches. This isn’t attributable to the extra 15 fps, we think, but is instead because of the difference in rifling twist rates. The load fragmented consistently, with three shards and most often a single tiny sliver as well. This is a good pest round that makes for safe use in open areas because penetration is limited. It isn’t useful for anything larger than pests due to the light penetration, but then a raccoon hit with a couple of these is carrying a large number of wound tracks.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
CCI Mini-Mag 40-Grain Segmented HP #36CC
Cost for this is $8 per 100 rounds. This 40-grain bullet is designed to break into three pieces and create three separate wound channels. It does so per our testing and the exit wounds on water jugs. Actually, there are the three shards and several tiny fragments. At 990 fps, the Mini Mag segments penetrated 8 to 10 inches, giving it an edge in penetration and energy over the quiet load. We called it 9 inches on average. But from a rifle at 1200 fps, the effect is much more respectable. While the three shards penetrated 12 inches into the jugs, two tiny fragments kept traveling a full 18 inches. Sure, it doesn’t mean much since these shards added up to less than five grains, but just the same, this is a potent loading for dispatching reptiles and pests.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
CCI Mini-Mag 36-Grain Copper-Plated HP #31
This runs $5 for 50 rounds. The Mini-Mag 22 Long Rifle is a popular load with a good reputation. The Mini-Mag picked up 132 fps in the rifle. The result was an important increase in energy, penetration, and wound dynamics. Penetration increased from 14 to 18 inches. This is significant. The Mini-Mag expanded well from the pistol at a consistent 0.33 inch. From the rifle, however, while expansion remained at 0.33 inch, four out of five bullets showed some type of trailing lead on impact. This should create a more complex wound. The width of the total impact area was 0.6 in some examples. This is a formidable loading.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
Federal Premium Hunter Match 40-Grain Lead HP #720
This cost $40 for 500 rounds. This loading achieved an average of 1030 fps from the handgun. Expansion averaged 0.30 inch and penetration 15 inches. With a 134 fps upgrade in speed, the Hunter Match was perhaps the most improved loading overall. Penetration increased to a whopping 20 inches, excellent for even a non-expanding 22 Long Rifle. The expanded bullet averaged 0.33 inches in diameter. Coupled with the Hunter Match load’s excellent accuracy, this is a formidable loading. If you are pressing a 22 into personal defense or coyote-taking service, this load is well worth a hard look. Federal designed this loading for long-range use with the rifle, and it qualifies.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
CCI Velocitor 40-Grain Copper-Plated HP
We bought this for $7 for 50 rounds. We think it is fair to say that the Velocitor is designed for its best performance in a rifle barrel. The Velocitor gained 293 fps, to an 1380 fps average, in the TC 22 and an impressive 169 foot-pounds of energy. This is the single greatest jump of the test. The Velocitor also exhibited an increase in penetration from 14 to 20 inches. This is an impressive number on all counts. Expansion was modest from the handgun at 0.25 inch. From the rifle, 0.35 inch was realized with all of the bullets recovered. For what it is worth, the first jug in line seemed to be jolted the most by the Velocitor. Perhaps expansion begins early. The faster Stinger did not produce the same jolt.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
CCI Suppressor 45-Grain Lead HP #957
This ran $4.55 per 50 rounds. This load is intended for use in suppressed handguns and rifles. It is heavier than most at 45 grains and averaged 842 to 876 fps in the handgun. The load picked up about 100 fps in velocity in the rifle. Performance, however, was much greater than the increase in velocity would have made us think. Sometimes a certain threshold is met and performance jumps. Handguns are sometimes the poor instrument they are accused of being, although quite useful. The Suppressor averaged 10 inches in penetration in the pistol and jumped to 18 inches in the rifle. Expansion went from 0.32 to 0.35, sometimes 0.36 inch. For small game, this is viable number. We know of no other load as well suited for use in suppressed 22-caliber rifles.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
Winchester M22 40-Grain Black-Copper-Plated Round Nose S22LRT
We bought this for $53.19/1000 rounds. This is an affordable high-velocity number. At 1025 fps, the smack on the steel reaction targets we used testing the Ruger Standard Model is evident. This load is intended to provide the proper powder burn and feed in modern 22-caliber AR-15-type rifles. The powder burn is clean, and the unplated lead bullet proved accurate. In the accompanying image, the bullet at left was fired into paper. The M22 did not expand at all in water. This is an affordable and clean-burning load.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
Winchester Super-X 37-Grain Copper-Plated Hollow Point X22LRHSS1
We bought this for $7.12 for 100 rounds. The Winchester 37-grain loading averaged 988 to 1,000 fps. While it penetrated 14 inches from the handgun, it did not expand at all, only some roughening of the nose. At 1238 fps, the load penetrated 18 inches and expanded to 0.29 to 0.30 inch. However, there was usually a tail thrown off the mushroom, and this considerably increased the total area. If you designed a hollow point to expand like this in a pistol, it would probably underpenetrate and fly apart in the rifle . The Winchester Super-X is a good load, widely available and affordable.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
Federal Game-Shok 38-Grain Copper-Plated Hollow Point #712BK
This cost $20.89 for 525 rounds. This loading earned the Best Buy of the test. It is affordable and offers the advantage of a hollow-point bullet. There is no reason to purchase a round-nose style when the HP is less expensive. This is a reliable plinking round with good, if not outstanding, accuracy. Velocity was lower than most loads at 937 fps in the pistol and 1121 fps in the rifle. Penetration jumped when compared to the pistol, 21 inches compared to 14 inches in the handgun, so it is in line with the more expense Hunter Match. However, the Federal copper-washed hollow point does not expand much. Some bullets did not expand at all, some expanded to 0.25 inch, all at least flattened the nose. We echo our first impression. This is a good buy when it is found less expensive than RN bullets, but it isn’t a great performer.
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
CCI Stinger 32-Grain Copper-Plated HP #50
This ran $4.95 for 50 rounds. The Stinger averaged 1125-1138 fps in the handgun but a very fast 1478 fps in the rifle. Penetration was 9 to 10 inches in the handgun, but a much more consistent 12 inches in the rifle. The Stinger wasn’t the most accurate loading in the pistol, but it turned in better comparative results in the rifle. Expansion was the same at 0.32 inch and very consistent. However, when recovered after being fired from the rifle, there were often tiny fragments thrown from the bullet. We like the heavier bullets for game shooting. This is a pest round.
GUN TEST GRADE: B
Remington Golden Bullet 40-Grain Plated Hollow Point #21231
This ran $70 for 1400 rounds. This loading offered an average of 1011 fps in velocity and 13 inches of penetration in the pistol. This went up to 1221 fps in the rifle and a solid 16 inches of penetration, not a great increase but certainly useful. The Remington Golden Bullet was once the gold standard for reliability in self-loading pistols. It is reliable and accurate. The Golden Bullet performed well, with expansion of 0.31 to 0.33 inch. It sometimes trailed a bit of lead off of the nose in a sort of tail, which should help wound potential in small targets.
GUN TEST GRADE: A
Written and photographed by Gun Tests Staff.
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Why are you posting about a social media platform when the article is about 22LR ammo?
How about the .22 silhouette shooter? They shoot .22 match ammo to 200 yards. You would get a kick out of testing ammo at under 100 yards then test it at 200 yards. There is a huge difference in accuracy in some brands and the most expensive ammo is not always the the most accurate. You don’t need an expensive Olympic competition rifle either. An 1885 low wall Miroku Winchester will do fine.