Cartridge of the Week, the .22 Long Rifle Rimfire

So, you think the .22 Long Rifle is a kids round? Don’t bet your life on it. This grand old cartridge predates anything we previously reviewed. It came about in 1887 and up until 1890; manufacturers loaded it with only black powder. It is one of the oldest self-contained cartridges still in mass production—and it is lethal.

Not only is it deadly, but it is also hands down the most popular cartridge for match shooting in the world. With low recoil, great price, and pinpoint accuracy, it is the choice of shooters from eight to 80 years of age. Furthermore, when fired, the cartridge has a very low report compared to most other ammunition.

The .22 Long Rifle is the result of the somewhat inane .22 Short and later the good-but-not-good-enough .22 Long. These are not the same cartridges though. When shooting .22 Short and .22 Long you must be sure the manufacturer chambered your firearm for these cartridges. It should have a clear inscription on the gun notating the acceptable cartridge.

The one unique item of this week’s cartridge is that it is a rimfire cartridge. Most cartridges are centerfire designs. This means that the primer igniting the powder is located in the bottom of the case in the rim. In a centerfire cartridge, the primer is a separate component inserted into the case during the loading process and can be removed and replaced after shooting. Instead of a firing pin like in a centerfire chamber, a flat block impacts the rim where the primer chemical is located. As the primer is in the rim of the cartridge, both the primer and the case are disposed of once used.

A great fallacy that some people live under is that this cartridge is less than lethal. While it lacks the kinetic energy transfer of other larger calibers, it makes up for this low energy with multiple pinpoint shots. It is a dangerous cartridge. In addition, when fired from semi-auto pistols like the Ruger 22/45 or 10/22 rifle, it can bring down a large assailant.

Most recently, an elderly World War II veteran fired one .22 Long Rifle bullet into an intruder who broke into his home. The burglar was able to escape the house but not his date with eternity and expired in the fleeing vehicle. Try telling that person that the .22 Long Rifle is not dangerous. Numerous strikes from that bullet would have been even more destructive. Another interesting thing about this cartridge is that when fired from a gun with a suppressor, it is virtually undetectable. All you hear is the gun cycle. It is very cool to witness.

Furthermore, one of the biggest selling points of this caliber is the price. I have bought a brick of this ammo and became bored before running out. You can literally shoot until you are tired and have ammo left over. The only thing that may stop you is that most of this ammo is dirty and I have locked up guns before I was done. Bring cleaning equipment if you plan to shoot all day.

There you have it, the little cartridge that could, and has for over 125 years.

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 (13)

  1. I have a question regarding .22 caliber rounds. Not realizing the beauty of the hollow point round. I purchased mostly the round nose variety .22 bullet. How deep can I drill the round nosed bullet to convert it to a hollow point round? When the typical hollow point spreads out on a soft target, ideally what caliber does it become?

  2. Hello CTD Allen,
    I agree with the writer that rifle is not a toy.
    “A great fallacy that some people live under is that this cartridge is less than lethal.”
    I understand about 22 rifle, but I find I learn very much when visiting your blog.
    Many thanks for sharing.

  3. I have owned Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum, 1911 Colt .45acp with which I quaslified sharpshooter in the USMC. When I went to VN to work for the state dept I carried a Walter PPK/S 8mm Kurz. I have decided that the shooter is more important than the caliber so my next acquisition will be NAA .22Magnum and a .22 long rifle changeable cylinder. Practice makes perfect and I intend to practice a lot and .22 is the cheapest to practice with. Head shots is what I will practice at until there are no exceptions.

  4. When shooting .22 Short and .22 Long you must be sure the manufacturer chambered your firearm for these cartridges. It should have a clear inscription on the gun notating the acceptable cartridge.


  5. My gun dealer told me that more people are killed with .22’s than with any other gun.
    It ain’t a toy!

  6. The 22 LR certainly deserves notoriety. However, before this article, i already thought highly of the cartridge, and the article had very few interesting facts about the cartridge. It could have been mention the cartridge is a heeled design (where bullet diameter = outside case diameter), or that cartridges was designed by Steven’s Arms, which i believe was purchased by Savage. Might have mentioned a metric designation, velocity, or energy. I’m glad it was a least mentioned it is a rim fire.

  7. Had an emergency room Doc tell me years ago, that he would rather have to work on someone that had been shot with a .357 than a .22. He explained, the .357 is going to make a mess, but it’s contained. The .22, more specifically, the Stinger, is going to bounce around inside and cause tissue damage and all sorts of problems.

  8. Just got an Iver-Johnson .22 Supershot Sealed Eight today at the local pawnshop. I am looking forward to rekindling my love for this great little cartridge!

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