Ammunition

Why Buy the .22 Long Rifle Cartridge?

A black Ruger .22/45, barrel pointed down, with 2 boxes of ammunition against a wooden background.

A proven resource in creating a marksman is the use of inexpensive .22 caliber ammunition and .22 caliber firearms. The rimfire offers little or no recoil, minimal report and good accuracy. It is recognized that the rimfire is a good training aid for pure marksmanship, that is trigger control and learning sight alignment and sight picture. In today’s tight economy, we see both .22 caliber conversions and dedicated .22 caliber firearms pressed into service in training. With the high, and increasing, costs of training, .22 caliber conversion units and .22 caliber firearms appear to be a good buy.

A boy in a gray t-shirt and safety glasses using a .22 LR to practice his shooting skills. The background is a green and brown grassy area with a wooded area.
There is no better handgun than the .22 LR for bringing the young shooter into the shooting world.

Any way you slice it, the difference in price between rimfire and centerfire ammunition allows the shooter to fire 10 rounds of rimfire for the price of a single service cartridge. The .22 may be used in ranges that would not be safe with high-powered firearms.

The .22 is a different design from a different era and this must be understood. The .22 isn’t a miniature centerfire; it is far from it.

Let’s look at the construction of a .22 caliber rimfire cartridge. The bullet is soft lead and heel based. Heel based simply means the bullet is the same diameter as the cartridge case. A heel or rebated rim on the base of the bullet allows the bullet to be pinched into the cartridge case. This construction is not as robust as the centerfire, which typically features a jacketed bullet crimped into the cartridge case. The rimfire gets its name from the type of priming compound.

Drawbacks to Rimfire

The .22 Long Rifle is the last survivor of the rimfire cartridges, primarily because it is not used for critical duty. The service size .38 and .44 rimfire cartridges have long been obsolete. The inside of the cartridge case is primed around the cartridge case rim. The .22 headspaces on this rim. When the firing pin strikes the case rim and crushes it against the firing chamber, the priming compound creates a flame that ignites the powder in the cartridge case. This type of ignition is not as reliable as centerfire technology. Rimfire cartridges are reliable in general but not as reliable as the more modern centerfire cartridge.

.22 Short revolver with black handle and barrel pointed to the left on a white background.
The revolver can digest .22 Short, .22 birdshot and any other low recoil load.

Due to the rimfire construction, .22 caliber firearms may be damaged if they are dry fired because the firing pin strike sthe firing chamber. The heel-based bullet is also not as sturdy as the crimped one in centerfire. (The more modern .22 Rimfire Magnum uses a crimped, jacketed bullet.) The bullet is more easily bent away from the cartridge case during cycling. As an example, when the rimfire fails to properly feed, due to a bullet shifting in the case, an immediate action drill—ramming the bolt forward—often makes the jam worse. The powder used in rimfire cartridges is intended to maximize the cartridge in a rifle barrel. This powder often fails to burn completely in a short handgun barrel. As a result the .22 is dirtier loading than any properly loaded centerfire cartridge.

A black Ruger .22/45, barrel pointed down, with 2 boxes of ammunition against a wooden background.
This plain and inexpensive Ruger .22/45 is a great all around 22.

All of these drawbacks are apparent to sportsmen and shooters who grew up on the .22. A tactical shooter practicing with the rimfire may be disappointed. They will find the .22 begins to malfunction at the 300-round mark. Cleaning is needed more often. The bullet is less robust in handling than a centerfire. When firing thousands of rounds, often as not, there will be several misfeeds and even a failure to fire of the inside primed rimfire cartridge. This may prove unsettling to a shooter who knows that the centerfire Beretta, Glock or SIG will go thousands of rounds without any sort of malfunction or without cleaning.

The value of the rimfire is unquestioned, but those who adopt the .22 for training must understand the nature of the cartridge. While quality is sometimes an issue even with the best quality rimfire firearms perfect reliability is not in the cards. However, when using modern .22 caliber ammunition, such as the CCI Mini Mag, malfunctions are very low. If you use a revolver or a bolt-action rifle you may never notice the malfunctions. That being said, the .22 is a wonderful training cartridge and a fine small game round. Those of us that grew up on the cartridge understand this. The shooter moving from the 9mm to the .22 for economy needs to understand the cartridge.

Training Considerations

We have discussed the characteristics of the .22 caliber cartridge. The need to clean the firearm often is indicated as well as the acceptance of less cartridge reliability. The light recoil and low muzzle blast are ideal for marksmanship training. There is no distraction from the fundamentals of marksmanship, which is fine for target shooting.

Tactical shooting demands movement and firing quickly at moving targets. These tactical drills are not the same as target shooting.

The primary mistake most shooters make when using rimfire firearms for practice is failing to firmly grasp the firearm as they would when using a centerfire firearm. They relax the grip because there is no recoil. They breeze through training and ace the course with minimal effort. The cadence of fire is also disrupted. For example, when firing the service pistol the cadence ce of fire is not set by how quickly you are able to press the trigger; it is set by how quickly you are able to reacquire the sights and control recoil.

The .22 does not present the same set of problems. Shooters may find themselves firing much more quickly and perhaps making five hits with the .22 in the time it takes to make two good hits with the .40 caliber pistol. This is not necessarily a good thing. If .22 caliber training crosses over to the centerfire handgun, the shooter will be firing too quickly and missing. In short, the shooter using the .22 caliber firearm for tactical training must use the same strong grip and hold they use with the centerfire. They should also time their shooting in the same manner as with the centerfire. Fire, control recoil, reacquire the sights, and fire again. Only in this manner will rimfire training cross over to the centerfire in a profitable manner.

When it comes to rimfire training, the distance is not as important with handguns. Rimfire or centerfire we will keep our training within 25 yards. With the rimfire rifle we may use reduced range targets to make training relevant. Pepper poppers and other steel reaction targets must be set for the .22 rimfire or they will fail to register hits. Often, even a light ping isn’t heard despite a direct hit with the .22. There are many considerations but as you see, there is much that must be done correctly to make rimfire training profitable.

Rimfire training will never take the place of live fire with the service gun and ammunition and it is a cost effective option for training. With a few simple considerations, a rimfire training program is both profitable for the shooter’s proficiency and light on the shooter’s wallet.

A Bit of History

A black Ruger competition and target model, barrel pointed down and to the right on a background of wood.
The Ruger competition and target models are wonderfully accurate and make for great recreational firearms.

By far the most popular .22 rimfire is the .22 Long Rifle. This loading has been around since 1887—originally loaded with black powder. The .22s were seen as gallery rounds for indoor target practice and for taking small game. The .22 short is shorter, less powerful and more expensive these days, but a fun little round for short range and plinking. The .22 Long is still loaded primarily in the excellent CCI CB ‘cab’ for low-power plinking. There are also shot shells available for the .22 for ridding the garden of pests at close range. Just over three billion rounds of .22 are produced every year.

Keep shooting folks!

  • .22 Short
    Introduced in the Smith and Wesson Number 1 in 1857, basically an enlarged Flobert cab, which was in many ways simply a percussion cap with a lead ball. The 29-grain pill breaks about 1,000 fps from a rifle.
  • .22 Long
    A long rifle case with a 29-grain short bullet. Just a little hotter than the .22 Short.
  • .22 Long Rifle
    The most popular and useful .22. Many variations but a velocity of 1150 to 1250 fps from a rifle with a 40-grain bullet is average.

Have you used the .22 for training? Let us know in the comments below!

 

[bob]

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 (26)

  1. I maintain about 1000rds each for 223and 357 and 9 mil. I maintain at least 5000 reds for 22LR. Reason I go to range at. Least 2,times a month and I will easily go through 300 22rds and 60 to 100 of the others. I have a 22 Ruger sr22 and practice before shooting my Ruger sr9. And my main love is my Henry Golden Boy 22.. Get lots of oooo and ahah’s when l take it out of the case and just let people see it. Often they ask if they could pop a few reds. I generally allow but I watch them like a hawk. No scratches yet :0)

  2. My first handgun was a .22 on which I accustomed myself to the gun’s relatively modest kick. I worked up to larger calibers (including .44 mag) and their greater kick gradually, and shot competitively at 25 yards. Even today, I start out each practice round shooting .22 to adjust to maintaining a smooth trigger pull with the gun’s kick. At the range I now see so many people (including police unfortunately) whose first gun was the 9mm and who now can’t hit a target, let alone the bullseye, at 25 feet. When I commented to the range monitors that the people would have been better off starting with a .22 to get accustomed to a handgun’s kick, I am looked at like I am crazy.

  3. O.K. we find 22 ammo so expensive we buy every box we can find, and hide em in the closets, under bed , in garage, buried with rifle and cleaning kit, and we know tha 40,000 rounds sounds like huge number that we remember firing an eas 250 or more while our buds did the sam; So maybe 100, 000-150, 000 might be enough.one thing that sells like hotcakes that almost all 22 0wners have are GI ammo cans.
    A hint that some reloaders already know ; but so what.
    Talk of no lead means buy lead and tintype; Save your 22 cal casings as they can become jackets for lead cored 223 rounds .
    Learn how to black powder your single brl shot gun.

  4. Doug: What’s the “Gubnment” doing with 1.8 billion rounds of 22’s except pissing us off? And that they are accomplishing quite well. During my time in the Marine Corps and since I saw a lot of different ammo in Uncle Sam’s supply system but I can’t recall ever seeing any 22’s. Hank

  5. I fortunately bought up a bunch of .22 when they were dirt cheap. there were a couple of times I bought 5000 at a lick for 80.00 plus shipping and every couple paychecks would go to wally and buy a brick or bucket. I have a couple heavy deer rifles and never used them for deer. my .22’s are set out about 70yds and that is what I used for several deer that I killed on my property. the lowly .22 has killed more deer and many men in it’s lifetime. a well placed round will bring nearly anything down albeit larger than deer slower, but that is where practice with it comes in. the reason .22’s are short is the gubment ordering 1.8 billion rounds. everyone is trying to get that order filled and forgetting the smaller rounds for civie use.

  6. god I love the first picture. a boy in the woods. wearing ear plugs and safety glasses. that will be my 3 year old boy some day . that is me. that is us. never give up . stand and fight. stand your ground. . there are a lot of important things in life but we must never give up our rights. stay strong. live free or die. f#@k those who even suggest we give up our small arms.

  7. The .22LR round has become increasingly harder to locate for purchase and when you do, they want a pound of your flesh to pay for it. $20.00 or more for 525 rounds is ridiculous! And, if you are fortunate enough to locate a 1,400 round container of Bucket O’ Bullets by Remington, they are so cheaply made, there are just too many FTF in the mix regardless of the “NEW AND IMPROVED” sticker on the bucket. It is frustrating. Before the Sandy Hook catastrophe, .22LR rounds were plentiful and inexpensive. Not any longer. For 50 Bird Shot rounds in .22LR to kill snakes and such, it is $13.00, as well. Crazy! You can find .22 Shorts from time-to-time, but they are also expensive. Less than a year ago, for $10.00, you could take a box of 333 or 525 rounds and “plink” at the range all day long just for the fun of it. Unfortunately, those days are dead and stinkin’. Now you stand in line for an hour in freezin’ or rainy weather to wait on ammunition and fight over a lousy box of 50 rounds in .22LR with a female which can cost $3.00 or more a box. It is NUTS!!!

  8. this is good site to push cheaper than dirts ammo and other goods, yet a simple comment such as Daves @Nov 23: 3:10 pm and his talk of a time when one could walk into just about anyvhardware store groc err ry and feed store one could buy ammo 23 or shotgun shells now that gets me in mood to blow off the dust ofvold single shot Remys Crackdhot bb or winchester whateverhave old Mossburg as eell take out old box of22:dhorts , longs or Long rifles, and single shot is just great.

    Took one out Mossburg full dized 22 single shot and took it to range, I think I got to fire 20 maybe 25 shots but others got to fire almost 200 rounds.
    Made some new friends that were old friends as well cuz a single shot 22, is a trip down memory lane
    WOODS OF maine local feed post office gas and fresh in summer grocerys and meats milk but always ammo.
    Used to buy 10 at a time gallery rounds and owner used to breakvoen box sell 5 at time 16 guage . Got some on credit sometimes and only interest was a duck, partridge, or pheasant or snowshoe.
    SIMP

  9. This week I found CCI .22LR at a local Wal-Mart for around $7/100. Even though I have a stock, I bought three. First time in a long time I have seen it at a reasonable price, and no 100/rd limit. I have several .22 pistols and rifles. Becaue of the cost, have not been doing much shooting for awhile, but with the price dropping will have to get out to the range again.
    I remember when I was around 8 years old, circa 1949, I could buy .22LR at the little country store near Grandma’s farm in WI. Those were the days before the gun control nuts starting coming out of the woodwork.

  10. No doubt about it, the 22lr is a great round. Like so many of the people commenting here, I too have been concerned with the price manipulation of the 22lr bullet. I have not stopped shooting however and have gone into Archery and black powder. You can learn how to make you own black powder on the Internet, and it is safe when following procedure and in small batches and as good if not better than store bought black powder. And, I cast my own lead bullets.

    I have to say that most of the price gouging that we see is as a direct result of today’s gun consumer. We are saddled with too many metrosexuals that have been trained to succumb to Madison Ave style marketing gimmicks.

    If consumers would use their heads and look for shooting alternatives, those prices would come down very quickly. The point is that it is not the mfgs, but the consumer that has driven the price of bullets to such lofty heights.

    It is the same for reloading with some of the “Gucci” bullets like the Noslers and Barnes bullets. Very expensive and why? Because consumers think that you need an African Dangerous Game Bullet to kill a chipmunk.

    I don’t purchase bullets anymore and cast my own. And when I practice, I use airsoft. If the price of 22lr continues to stay this high, I will put my guns in storage until the price is reduced and will just purchase black powder and air guns. The point is that you do have choices. If more Americans would not be so lazy and such imprudent consumers, we would not be having these problems.

    What I find most fascinating is that the very people that drive the price sky high for ammunition are usually conservatives that preach the “free market.” Yet when it comes to things like firearms and ammunition, they do the exact opposite of what they advocate and engage in panic buying.

    The last point I want to make is the issue of the weight of 22lr handguns. Usually these guns weigh as much if not more than they full bore counterparts. What I would love to see is an article on lightweight hunting and target shooting 22 handguns. The ones I currently own and the one’s I have owned in the past were and are too heavy for the ballistics of the 22lr. There is no valid reason why a 22lr should weigh the same as a 44 mag pistol.

  11. You think .22 bullets are expensive now… you ain’t seen nothing yet!!!!!

    At the end of October, it was announced that the EPA has regulated the only lead smelter in the United States right out of business. And importation of lead for manufacturing bullets will be very expensive.

    Per a article in Ammunition News written by Steve Johnson, “The EPA’s new clean air rules would require a $100 million dollar investment in new equipment. As such, the Doe Run Company has decided to close the site.” …. “With the USA no longer producing lead, almost all of the worlds lead will come from China, Australia and Peru.”

    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2013/10/20/remaining-lead-smelter-usa-closing/

    Already, you are seeing less effective self defense brass & copper bullets for the larger caliber handgun loads starting to show up on store shelves in places like Walmart. You will soon start to see your .22’s with all copper, brass or some kind of tin alloy bullets as well. Just to give you a idea of how expensive copper is, 3 yrs ago I bought 130 feet of 02 copper wire for redoing the meter box on my home. That 130 feet of wire cost $700. And the price of the copper wire was being quoted by the wholesaler on a daily basis because the market was so volatile.

    Our good for nothing Prez & his anti-gun government couldn’t get their gun ban agenda through Congress, so they are attacking our ammunition buying ability by placing regulations on the industry that are pricing recreational ammunition out of the reach of many Americans.

    I highly recommend that until we get a Republican President & Congress voted back in control of our government, that people hang onto their good JHP self defense ammo like it was made of Gold and not burn it for training. Use the new brass / copper bullets [if you can afford them]. As for my good .22’s, I’m going to be hanging onto them for a while [except for varmint control & hunting] and staying away from the target range until we get pro-gun / 2nd amendment Republicans back in control of our federal government.

  12. The prices djsqueeze quotes are about the same that I see at the local Academy. I note, however, that those prices are still a lot more expensive than claimed in the article. Still….even 5 rounds of 22lr for the price of one 45ACP is ok in my plinking world. I recognize that this is a new ‘normal’.
    I long ago squirreled away a couple of boxes of rounds I purchased in the early 1970s, prices still on them…45-55 cents a box…the old ‘normal’. Back then, I could also buy a new car for less than $4K. All that money I don’t have stuffed in my mattress….is also worth about 10% today of what it was worth back then.

  13. Yes, 22LR has become the firearm of choice but the cost is outrageous! I bought my fiancee a Ruger SR22 and she loves it! But, it usually costs more for ammo for her than for my Nagant 7.62 X 54R! I was seroiusly thinking about buying an ar 15 style ranch rifle since 5.56/223 ammo is so expensive but after seeing the price gouging by major retailers I’m just going to put that on the back burner. I’m in socal so I’m probably seeing the worst here.

  14. The profit margin on 22 rounds was always dependent on quantity of sales and was one of very few rounds that did not have as great a variance in sales as do hunting rounds.
    Ammo producers deliberately shut down the 22 lines due to concentrating as much production facilitys and material useages towards much highet profit margin military long and short arm ammos.
    They doled out production runs believing ammo hoarding as in past would be of short duration and were caught by numbers of all calibers hoarded.
    Some rounds are batch runs and only run normally once ot twice a year which being higher profit they tried to batch runs all calibers creating massive shortages in all calibers.
    They the maufacturing firms passed on cost but no where’s near what cost raises that your warehouses and middlemen small gunshops and yes this catalogue outfit plaed.
    The military tactical mindset realy went bonkers paying exhorbitant prices and realy upset apple cart.
    Now the cry , tut tut.

  15. Disqueeze: Can you still get 22 long rifle ammo at that same price at your academy? I’m not doubting you but I don’t know where you are? I’m asking because we sure can’t get 22 long rifle ammo for anywhere near that price now in Southern California.

    Bill, at the Magnum Range at Riverside, California was hurting so bad for ammo a few months ago he claimed he was paying as much as $50 a box, and he was glad to get it. I don’t know what quantities he was buying it in but do I know I was buying Blazer and Winchester 22 long rifle ammo for about $24 for !,000 to 1,100 rounds of 36 or 40 grain about a year ago. At that time we were able to buy CCI 22 long rifle ammo in 100 rounds plastic boxes but then they were only about $3 a box. That’s the same stuff that gentleman payed $32 a box for recently! That was then when we could get it at three of our biggest local retailers and now they’re usually out and you can’t get it anywhere at any price. Hank

    I happened to be at Turner’s Outdoors one of our biggest local retailers around 9:00, just before they opened. There were a dozen guys waiting outside. Some one yelled through the seam in the glass doors asking if they had any 22 long rifle and one of the employees shook his head no and most of them went away mad.

    When this nonsense started we thought it was just ‘a southern California thing’ brought on by the gun grabbers. Some people were driving out of state to Arizona and Nevada but those sources quickly dried up too. Now we’re getting robbed when ever we can find it and none of our regular sources are dependable anymore.

  16. As an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor the .22lr is the main round used for training. It’s relatively cheap, easy to handle, aid to quickly building confidence, and boatloads of fun to shoot.
    As a member of Assoc of NJ Rifle & Pistol Clubs every year we had outdoor events free and open to the public. .22 rifles and pistols were the main firearms used for training.

    Recently, at my local Academy I bought a few boxes of Federal for $2.97 for 50nds and $2.47 for 40rnds of American Eagle.

  17. I noted a few responders that mentioned fun, smiles, plinkster and I would add enjoyment ,
    When I think of 22 rimfires I am not thinking about killing my fellow man and some macho tactical training, so as to sell more ammo by my employers or another supply store.you train tactical use duty weapon and rounds that is training but in this day and age this tactical training has become an odsecession; where every thought iis about not life and living but death and dying.
    Why buy 22 long rifle?
    For myself and family it is for enjoyment of a shooting sport and of memories of bondings between family and friends, but that cost means nothing to its benefits of mind.
    Too damn many people at ranges today that within 15 minutes they begin talking as if a hillbilly military drill sargent and a beat cop giving orders all tactical getting ready for the big kill.
    Never have heard friends when shooting at tin cans paper targets or clayd talk about grtting ready to shoot a perp or those blue helmeted hippy communist either.
    Lets enjoy life and let others enjoy without some blithering idiot trying to tell grown men and women how to enjoy their 22 rifles and pistols.
    We will still buy from this and other sites the 22 rounds we “enjoy”.

  18. About a year and a half ago I took my wife to the Magnum Range at Riverside, California and their head instructor, Bill Padgett, put a gun in her hands for the first time since she was a teenager. She fell in love with sport shooting and it gave us a new hobby we could both enjoy.
    Bill warned us of the likely hood of an upcoming ammo shortage so thank God I started stocking up. We’re not hurting yet but we’ve really had to curtail our practice sessions from what they were a year ago.
    Recently at the local Big 5 Sporting Goods store I saw a customer pay $32 for a box of 100 CCI 22 LR’s that I’d paid around $6 for only a year ago. But that wasn’t bad enough, a few minutes later after checking out, he came back and asked if he could buy the remaining and last box on the shelf for the same price. To say the least I was dumb founded.
    Say what you like about our free market system but this contrived ammunition shortage has made retailers into thieves in a very public black market and us victims. I’m not having fun with my favorite choice of forearms in 22 caliber anymore and I’m not going back to the retailers who are abusing us now in the future. Hank

  19. My first was a Browning T-Bolt (1965). An amazingly simple rifle for the 5-yo I was. I own many more arms now and certainly much more advanced, but when a pest-varmint needs dispatching, the T-Bolt is the one I reach for.

  20. > implying 22 is available anywhere anymore
    > implying 22 is cost effective in the miracle you find it

    When it was $10 a brick yes, even after the big doubling of prices $20 was alright. But with profiteers running around with $70-$80, it is not. One can still get 440 rounds of 7.62x54r for $80, a far cry from 500 little rimfire cartridges for the same price. 22 is what you should practice with, but not at these prices. The speculators got steam rolled out of the rest of the market as ammunition became available, and they all ran to 22lr. Now they buy it all up to keep the shortage, and high prices, rolling. They can all rot in hell.

  21. I would like author to find me the “inexpensive” .22 ammo he was talking about…maybe 10 years ago it was available and cheap, but now its not only quadrupled in cost, but a person can’t find it….other than that, yes it is a great training round.

  22. I grew up, from a little feller, to even now shooting a .22, and it was the greatest thing since legs and lips for me. I loved my little Marlin lever action rifle my dad bought me when I was about 10 years old and loved it till someone stole it from me in my mid 30’s. I still wish I had that little rifle. Extremely accurate, easy and quick to re-acquire the target. Powerful enough for small game, lighter than most bigger rifles and quieter. Now, I’ve got a .17 HMR that I really came to after the use of a .22 mag that I also was crazy about. All of these littler weapons were top notch for me and produced more groundhogs/squirrel/rabbit/for food and also the ridding of pests in the garden than any other gun I’ve ever used. All round good gun for training the young in how to shoot, and sight picture. The cheap round is wonderful for them(and myself)to plink with and the gun has put many smiles on my face as I hit just exactly what I was aiming for. I suggest it for every young, or even new shooter. Great training device and great for fun and small game. I’ve even taken deer with it and the .17 (head shots only of course), and you can accomplish this without a scope, the iron sights on most of them are just fine. I have loved all of my little plinkers.

  23. Love that .22 cal! I must stress that hollow points are a must for hunting small game. Hollow points expand to make an efficient kill on small game that may otherwise keep going with solid bullets.

  24. It is becoming increasingly difficult to train with a round that is becoming unavailable……and as for cost…..I would look into reloading for the weapon you are training with

  25. The author left out/ did not include the .22 CB mainly used in “Gallery guns” (usually pump/slide rifles.) It is a tad bit shorter and has less power than a .22 Rim Fire Short. There is a bit of difference between the .22 CB and the .22 Short.

    All that being said…. .22 ammo of any sort can be difficult to find and is nowhere as inexpensive as it use to be.

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