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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!