5 Good .22 Magnum Loads

I do what I have to do when it comes to testing firearms. Some are kicking beasts no doubt about it. Others are downright docile.

The AR-15 isn’t bad, and a heavy barrel .308 is a joy, but nothing is quite as much fun as a good .22 Magnum rifle.

With excellent accuracy potential and soft recoil, these are good all-around small-game rifles.

In our continuing series on some of the best choices, it wasn’t difficult to narrow down the selection to a number of loads I have experience with.

First, let’s look at the .22 Magnum and its history.

History of the .22 Magnum

Winchester introduced the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire in the late 1950s as a hunting rifle cartridge to extend the hunter’s range beyond the .22 Long Rifle.

Basically, it will do at 100 yards what the .22 LR will do at the muzzle and will perform well with heavier bullets such as the 45 and 50-grain projectiles.

The longer case and jacketed bullet crimped into the cartridge case are more modern than the .22 Long Rifle’s heel-based bullet.

The .22 Magnum is a good choice for groundhogs, raccoons and jackrabbit at modest range.

Some have used it for coyote, bobcat and even mountain lion, while the last role is really pushing its envelope.

At close range, shot placement and penetration are most important, but don’t overrate this useful cartridge.

1. Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics 40-Grain JHP

This is an accurate number that groups well in the Henry lever-action rifle used as a testbed. Velocity is 1,890 fps.

The bullet penetrates eight inches of water and expands well, losing its jacket. Expanded bullets averaged .32 caliber.

This is an affordable and accurate Fiocchi loading that will take small game cleanly.

Fiocchi .22 Magnum Ammo
Fiocchi loads are affordable and reliable.

2. CCI VNT 30-Grain

This is a sizzling fast number at just under 2,300 fps, faster than its official rating.

The CCI polymer-tipped bullet breaks up in six inches of water and creates a storm in six to eight inches of water.

This is a viable load for rock chuck and ridding the ranch of varmints and pests.

This is a neat pest popper and a very advanced loading.

CCI .22 Magnum Ammo
CCI loads are packaged in a 50-round plastic carrier or the handy 125-count carton.

3. Hornady Critical Defense 45-Grain

This Hornady load was designed for use in the many personal-defense revolvers and semi-automatics chambered for the .22 Magnum.

The goal is to provide good penetration and expansion. The FTX/Critical Defense does that.

I have fired this load with good results in handguns and now I was interested in rifle performance.

A fast-burning pistol-type powder works great in handguns, velocity was not the highest in the rifle.

At 1,599 fps, the Critical Defense bullet penetrated 16 inches and did not fragment, expanding to a nice plump .38 caliber.

This is outstanding performance. This isn’t a small-game or varmint load, but a purpose-designed personal-defense load if your rifle or carbine is pressed into that role.

If you must use the .22 Magnum for animals over 30 pounds, consider the Critical Defense.

Hornady .22 Magnum Ammo
Critical Defense is a quality loading with much merit.

4. CCI Maxi Mag Polymer Coated 46-Grain Segmented

This is the heaviest bullet tested. At 1,860 fps, there is plenty of velocity to instigate fragmentation.

This loading penetrates 12 inches and fragments. It works well in handguns at lower velocity and fragmentation is even greater in rifles.

I am pleased with this load and it should offer excellent wound potential.

CCI .22 Magnum Ammo
The CCI Maxi Mag loading is accurate and offers CCI’s proven segmenting bullet technology.

5. Winchester 40-Grain FMJ

There are several roles for this loading. First, it is affordable compared to the more expensive hollow-point or fragmenting loads.

There are those that collect animals for pelts, and a full metal jacket load doesn’t damage a pelt.

Even for edible game, sometimes the .22 Magnum is overly destructive on rabbit-sized animals.

The Winchester FMJ at 1,800 fps is a great practice load as well as a top non-expanding loading.

Winchester .22 Magnum Ammo
Winchester’s FMJ loading is a useful choice for many hunters.

Bonus: A Good .22 Magnum Rifle Option

The Henry lever-action rifle features a 19.25-inch barrel. The rifle is fast handling and accurate.

It is a classic rifle in appearance and perhaps the perfect woods gun. It will easily keep five shots in an inch or so at 25 yards.

What are your favorite .22 Magnum loads? Why? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (12)

  1. North American Arms makes a nice .22 Magnum percussion revolver that allows one to utilize various bullets, including Lehigh brass bullets, 32gr!
    Never use anything but percussion powder, of course!

  2. I shoot a Henry Small Game Carbine,16.5 ” barrel. CCI game point 35gr. Less than 1″ groups at 100 yds. one person condemned you for talking about a 2000. gun. My Henry carbine was 632.00.

  3. Why include cost considerations in rimfire ammo review then recommend a $2000 rifle through which to fire it? Henry makes great weapons which most readers will never own. Somewhat mixed audience targeting. jmho.

  4. I own both a PMR30 and CMR30 and have allowed multiple women to shoot them and from all after 1 or 2 shots they’ve turned with a smile and said, “I really like this.” I have others, including a SWAT team leader who was amazed at the hitting power. My wife was so jealous I had to but her a PMR30. Just awesome little rounds.

  5. i have been using the CCI load in my RUGER super single 6, for many years, with excellent accuracy, and never really tried ant others. thanks for the article, now i have a few to try out if i can find any out there.

  6. I use a KelTec CMR30 for small game that mostly includes raccoons. The compact rifle is great for in and out of small areas or easy retained by a single point sling for retrieving game. I have found 40gr + projectiles work the best for this semi-auto platform. The 45gr Critical Defense does not work well however for the reasons stated in the article. I’ve settled on the CCI 40gr HP and have had great success and reliability in my firearm. As with any rimfire, a good cleaning once in a while goes a long ways.

  7. I have a custom Cristinsen Arms 22 mag built on the Ruger 1022 action and it loves Remington 32 gr ballistic tip ammo. I have a hard time finding this ammo . If you have a source for this please let me know. I’ve used it successfully on pigs, coyotes, raccoon, etc but it’s the perfect rifle and load for head shooting squirrel

  8. Been utilizing 22 mag since the latter 60s, highly effective. One down side is firearms chambered for this are often highly cartridge specific. Have a Ruger revolver does not like the Hornady FTX load, my wife’s bed side revolver loves the FTX. My “house gun” is a Savage 42, this is a great utility firearm.
    It is especially effective with the CCI GamePoint load – which is not on your list. The Federal 50 gr load is also effective. Among loads I have used, the Winchester JHP load seems to be better tolerated by the widest variety of firearms. None of the loading listed in your article appear to be currently in stock. This is sort of like vaporware?

  9. The Federal 50-grain JHP load (1,530 fps) is excellent for fairly big critters; that would include most deer at modest ranges (50 yardsor so) with a good pneumo-thorax hit.I once saw California Coastal (black-tail) deer dall at 50 yards usingto0 the original (still being made\) Winchester JHP 40-grain (19.10 fps)ALSO,, Aquilla’s 40-grain JSP at 1,875 fps) is very good.
    WITH Winchester’s small-game 45 grain lead at 1,060 is
    very effective on edible small game–leaves plenty to eat!Using the right ammo, an accurate .22  WMR bolt action is
    the ideal survival rifle.
    Doc D

  10. Critical Defense 45 grain in either the Henry or the SSA do it for me. Moderate to no recoil make this round perfect for most small game. The Ceitical Defense is impressive in a block of molding clay and really does the job on small Desert game. The whole rig is done up into “The Gunman with No Name!” A pair of Stirling Silver Snakes on the rosewood hand carved grips of the SSA mate well with the Henry Golden Boy. Hand tooled leather cartridge belt and a rough leather holster with an Arkansas Toothpick to handle the cooking work complete the package. It really needs to be seen.

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