Ammunition

The .22 Long Rifle: Perfect for First Time Shooters, Training, and Plinking

Smith and Wesson M&P 22 Compact pistol left profile with a loaded magazine

The .22 Long Rifle has been one of the most popular rounds since its creation over 100 years ago. Many have learned how to shoot with it, some hunt with it, and others use it for protection. While I personally wouldn’t use it for all those purposes, I do believe every shooter should have at least one .22 LR in their collection. 

Low Recoil and Cost

With the .22 LR having such little recoil, it’s perfect for first-time shooters. The minimal recoil, paired with low noise levels, makes for a less intimidating shooting experience. Lower recoil also means the shooter can focus more on learning the fundamentals and honing in their accuracy. Not only is the recoil low, but the cost to shoot .22 LR is too.

Hundreds of .22 LR cartridges and a CCI Standard Velocity 22 LR box on top
It’s easy to keep a lot of .22 LR on hand, thanks to its small size.

Especially during recent times, where the prices of ammunition have multiplied, it’s great to have a cost-effective way to train and stay sharp. If you compare the cost per round of .22 LR vs. 9mm as an example, you can expect to find that it’s 3x–5x less expensive, depending on where you look of course. Going out and shooting for hours will be as daunting, and your wallet will thank you as well! Shooting is an expensive hobby, so saving money where you can will allow you to practice even more.

Availability and Reliability

Until recently, there always seemed to be some .22 LR sitting on the shelf or in stock. Even now, it’s still one of the easier calibers to find. With it being so commonly stockpiled — due to the cost — it will still likely be plentiful during a shortage. Hopefully, we never experience a true “SHTF” scenario, but if we do, I believe .22 LR will be one of the most commonly found and scavenged rounds.

I often get the question, “It’s great that it’s readily available and easy to find, but isn’t it unreliable?” The short answer is “no.” In general, a quality .22 LR round should go bang! between 97% and 98% of the time — at least in my experience. Yes, a centerfire cartridge tends to have an even lower failure rate, but given that I do not carry a .22 LR, I can live with those numbers for range time fun!

Versatility

As I mentioned earlier, the .22 Long Rifle is used for a wide variety of activities. It’s accurate enough to be used in target shooting competitions as well as to hunt small game. In addition to competition and hunting, it can also be used for self-defense. In fact, the .22 LR is one of the “deadliest” calibers, when looking at the number of shooting deaths per year by caliber. That isn’t to say it’s due to the stopping power of the round, but more so the sheer number of shootings carried out with it. What the round lacks in stopping power, is greatly redeemed by the versatility it offers.

Ruger 10/22 rifle in gray with a mounted scope
Millions of Ruger 10/22 rifles have been produced over the years. The author is proud to own one of them!

What’s the Catch?

You’re probably asking yourself, what’s the catch? Up until now, it has sounded as if the .22 LR is the perfect round. As well as it performs, it does lack in the range or distance department. Most shooters would say it’s effective up to about 150 yards, which I tend to agree with. There are some folks out there that say they’ll be hitting quarter-sized groups and taking squirrels out at 300 yards, but I don’t believe those scenarios are the norm.

In addition to lacking in distance capability, it is also an extremely difficult cartridge to reload. In my opinion, it’s not worth the time and hassle since it’s so cheap to simply buy new. These cons are not deal-breakers by any stretch, especially if you know and understand them from the beginning.

Final Thoughts

Since the late 1800s when the round was designed, it has continued to prove its worth and place in firearms history. There aren’t many calibers that I feel as strongly about as .22 Long Rifle.  Sure, there are a ton that I own, would recommend and will continue to keep, but the .22 LR is one that I genuinely feel every gun owner should have. With the low cost and the great versatility the .22 LR provides, I do not see its popularity ever decreasing.

Are you a fan of the .22 Long Rifle? What’s your favorite use for the .22 LR. Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Winchester 555 .22 LR ammunition box next to w box of Winchester 9mm ammunition
  • Ruger 10/22 rifle in gray with a mounted scope
  • A handful of lead and copper-jacketed hollowpoint . 22 LR ammunition
  • Hundreds of .22 LR cartridges and a CCI Standard Velocity 22 LR box on top
  • Smith and Wesson M&P 22 Compact pistol left profile with a loaded magazine

Ryan is a firearms and tactical gear enthusiast that has maneuvered himself into the firearms industry over the past decade.  While his full-time career is outside of the industry, he has consulted for dozens of firearms and tactical gear related companies.  He enjoys conducting tests and evaluations, shooting product photography and developing marketing strategies for them.  

If he’s not spending time with his family, you’ll likely find him at the range or driving around looking for photo shoot locations. You can check out some of his photos and other content on Instagram (@theguygearreview).

About the Author:

Ryan Domke

Ryan Domke is a freelance writer, photographer and social media consultant with a passion for guns and tactical gear. He works with some of the largest manufacturers in the firearms industry, allowing him the opportunity to continuously learn from and knowledge share with the 2A community. When he’s not spending time with his family, you’ll likely find him at the range or starting a new DIY project. If you’d like to check out some of his other content, you can find him on Instagram at (@TheGuyGearReview).
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. Aside from my Grandfather’s Stevens, Model 56, I keep .22LR conversion kits for my G19, and AR-15s, as well as a dedicated .22LR AR upper receiver assembly. As a retired LEO firearms instructor, I like to keep my proficiency up, so I make weekly trips to the range, shooting 200-300 rounds each time. The conversion kits allow me to use the same trigger and sight set ups I use with full power rounds, which provides for a more meaningful practice session, as opposed to firing factory .22LR firearms. The recoil is lessened, but the tactile feedback from the trigger pull, overall weapon weight, and sight picture, make the caliber conversion kits perfect for my training needs. Even with the impact of the recent ammo shortage, the price of the .22LR rounds is still about 1/3 the cost of 9mm, and 1/4 the cost of 5.56x45mm NATO. This has allowed me to shoot regularly, without going broke. I love the .22LR round….

  2. Good article and very accurate. Compared to all other ammo, .22 is indeed still the lowest priced ammo and easy to shoot. I earned my Marksmanship Merit badge by spending hours on the range at Boy Scout summer camp after lots of shooting at home on the farm. Along with all my other guns, I still have several .22 rifles and pistols that are fun and cheap to shoot.

  3. Don’t discredit the “300 yard squirrels” until you try a couple .22 PRS matches. We are doing amazing things with the humble .22!

  4. I have a S&W 686 6” for home defense (and a 686 2 1/2” for carry), but I practice at the range with a 617 6” .22 which is almost exactly the same size and weight (and appearance) but easier on old bones and retirement income. I’ve put >15,000 rounds through my 617 and have had no problems and excellent performance for 12 years now.

  5. One of my all time favorite model handguns is the 1911. Several years ago I purchased a Kimber 22 conversion kit for my Taurus PT-1911. The kit mated up perfectly with the PT. After sending several rounds down range the malfunctions ceased and the fun began. I’ve always loved the feel of the 1911 since my days in law enforcement with my companion Colt Combat Commander. Now I have the best of both worlds, the feel and heft of the 1911 and the lack of recoil along with the relatively cheap 22 rounds as compared to the 45 ACP.

  6. Ballistics— At “in house” range, each 22 LR bullet fired exceeds a singled-out buckshot fired from a multi-pellet 12 gauge load.

  7. Regarding the information in this article, the price of .22 ammo has tripled, or more, compared to the prices before Covid overtook the nation. .22’s are no longer inexpensive. Lets hope that after the panic buying of ammunition passes the price of .22’s and other ammunition will return to where they were before Covid.

  8. Very nice article!
    As many types/caliber firearms I own, I believe the .22 is my all around favorite. As far as accuracy goes, I’ve got a rifle that’ll group 1/4″3/8″ all day long at 50 yards, if you do your part. I also have so High Standard pistols that are tack drivers. Inexpensive to operate, accurate, with a low noise factor, what’s not to like?

  9. I have 4 .22 rifles 2 being heavily modified 10/22s. I also have 3 .22 pistols and although one is a S&W Victory I still have a S&W model 41 on my want list. Although I have the larger centerfire guns I still get the most fun from my .22s.

  10. Nice article. Now that most manufactures offer a 22LR to be similar in size and action of something in their respective lineups that people daily carry, it also makes an inexpensive option for training exercises. Like say the Glock 44, for example, is almost identical in size to the Glock 19, so much so it can use the same holsters, and magazine holders, and other manufactures seem to be offering similar choices. Recently in the ammo availability, it is disappointing with the empty shelves, is the ammo manufactures seem to be pumping out the versions that are VERY low power right now, which kind of limits their use to anything NOT semi-auto, as they do not have enough energy to work the slide or bolt. What is in demand right now is BULK packages.

  11. My kids learned how to shoot with my Winchester model 62A pump action, and had great fun doing it. They were about 9 & 10, and were crack shots in no time.

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