The .22 Long Rifle is among our oldest and most useful cartridges. It is a fine choice for the beginner or experienced shooter alike. Small-game hunting, target practice, training and even personal defense are likely chores the .22 LR is put to use in.
Affordable and friendly, the .22 Long Rifle is everyone’s cartridge. Let’s look at five of the best choices for the .22 Long Rifle. There are dozens of loads available, of course, but these fill most of the needs for rimfire shooters.
1. Remington Golden Bullet
When I was a young man just beginning to hunt with my first .22 Long Rifle firearm, a Mossberg self-loader, my grandfather gave me good advice. Although I was on a strict budget, he told me to always use the Remington Golden Bullet when hunting.
I believe that the Remington load was perhaps a dollar and a dime a box, and some ammunition was about half that. I once used a particularly nasty, dirty and inaccurate loading, I think it was advertised as super greaseless!
The Golden Bullet is both clean and reliable. .22 caliber self-loaders are finicky concerning ammunition and only a full-power, high-velocity loading will function well.
The bullet must be crimped tightly into the case or the bullet may tilt sideways during the feed cycle. The Remington is famously reliable. The Golden Bullet is available in 40-grain RNL and a 36-grain hollow point.
These are functional, accurate and reliable loads. I hardly ever use the hollow point. For headshots on rabbit and shoulder shots on squirrel, it isn’t needed. When I first began hunting, I always used the hollow point — just in case.
2. Federal Hunter Match
When I began testing .22 Long Rifle rifles and ammunition for accuracy, good results were a two-inch group at 50 yards. With the Adaptive Tactical Tac Hammer barrel on a good, tight Ruger 10/22, these results are possible at a long 100 yards.
Quality bolt-action rifles such as the CZ 452 exhibit excellent accuracy out of the box. Modern hunters need a quality .22 Long Rifle loading that offers improved accuracy at longer range.
The Federal Premium Hunter Match also offers a dead-soft hollow point that opens reliably at longer ranges. While the great majority of small game is taken inside of 50 yards, the Federal Premium Hunter Match is a solid performer at a football field distance.
3. Fiocchi CPRN Copper-Plated Round Nose 40-Grain
The value of a premium target-grade load at a fair price cannot be overstressed. The Fiocchi HV loading breaks 1,050 fps from my Ruger Standard Model pistol and 1,200 fps from the Thompson Contender T/CR22.
There are some faster and some slower loads, but this is a sweet spot for accuracy. The Fiocchi load offers real accuracy and will deliver target-grade accuracy in the right firearms.
In a standard unmodified rifle such as the T/CR22, a two-inch group for five shots at 50 yards is average. A high degree of accuracy is needed for hunting small game and for humanely dispatching pests.
The Fiocchi load delivers. Fiocchi also offers a well-designed hollow point, high-velocity load. While it is a fine choice for small game such as rabbit with headshots and squirrels with body shots, the standard copper-washed load also provides good results.
4. Aguila Super Extra
This 40-grain, solid nose load offers good performance. The quantity I expended in the Ruger Standard Model pistol proved reliable. The load lived up to its name at 1260 fps in the Ruger 10/22 rifle.
The loading is copper washed, which offers less leading — although leading is never a problem in the .22 LR in my experience. Just the same, there are some who feel that the copper-washed bullet is superior for accuracy.
I cannot settle that argument, save to say that I feel that some firearms are more accurate with one than the other, as well as all rifles and all individuals to one extent or another. The Aguila is worth testing, it seems to be a crackerjack loading.
5. Winchester Varmint HE
A solid market exists for expanding .22 Long Rifle ammunition. Most 40-grain, round nose bullets have a 36 to 37-grain hollow point-counterpoint, and some purpose-designed hollow points are even lighter.
Other mechanisms are used to increase wound potential as well, including segmenting bullets. Winchester has developed a segmented bullet that fragments into three forward fragments.
These fragments radiate outward from the wound channel. A solid base continues in the wound channel to offer deep wound potential. The Varmint HE offers excellent accuracy potential.
I have fired this load in both rifles and handguns with good results. When fired into water jugs, the bullet fragments and the rear core continues forward as designed. This is a good choice for pests and varmints.
When you task the .22 LR with taking larger creatures, such a raccoon and opossum, then more wound potential is desirable. This load delivers.
Conclusion: .22 Long Rifle Loads
These are excellent choices for all-around .22 LR use. Some have been around for decades, others just a few months. I considered quite a few loads, and there were no bad choices.
The CCI shotshell, as an example, is a useful short-range load around the homestead. The Winchester M22 is specifically designed for AR-type .22s and makes for a pleasant evening of shooting.
What are your top choices in the .22 LR? Let us know in the comments section below!
I have hunted small game from 1970 to 2020. I have not found a better 22 round then cci mini mag My Ruger 1022 love’s them They just shoot clean and true.
I love the M22 subsonic.
Functions perfectly in all of my .22’s (pistol, AR pistol, 10/22 TD) and absolutely stupid quiet with my TBAC .22 Takedown.
CCI all day everyday. Hands down.
I have to agree with Dr.Hess. I have not had any luck with the golden bullet or worse yet the thunder bolts. I will say though if you’re looking for a 22 round to do malfunction drills in the m&p 22 pistol or the Glock 44 I would highly recommend the thunderbolts. It was rare for me to get thru a 10 round mag without some sort of malfunction. Everything else I ran in these guns I have no problems with.
I have had no problems with the Remington Golden Bullets. I have shot thousands of rounds and could count the rejects on 1 hand. If you want rejects, I have to say CCI and Winchester both give me a 10% failure rate. I mean like at least 10 out of 100, every time I try either of them.
Aguila, Winchester, and Fiocchi are best quality in my opinion. I have been disappointed in Remington and will not be purchasing them in the future.
I agree that it’s strange not to see any CCI in your list. Should have been top 6 rounds.
Their CCI Standard Velocity is use a lot in Bullseye shooting, and their Mini-Mag in both round nose and HP have been my good round for squirrels, jackrabbits and steel challenge for decades.
However, come to think about it, thanks for not listing them…I’ll never find any for sale if more people start shooting them.
Many years ago, I read that Americans were buying ONE MILLION round of 22LR ammo every day. That amount must be much higher in 2020.
I have always had a problem with Fiocchi. During the .22 shortage, I went to the range and all they could offer was this brand. Out of 100 rounds fired, there were two duds. I never experienced a 2% failure rate before, and would never use it again unless that was all that was available and it was free. The same brand let me down in another caliber (.40 S&W) where they missed putting powder in the case, and in the real world, could have gotten me killed.
We all have had a misfire, but I used to handload. One day I ruined a case of primers by putting a rag soaked with Hoppes #9 on top of the box. When my first 5 rounds failed, I pulled all the bullets and powder, decapped my brass and reprimed them all with a new box of primers, and it was an expensive lesson to learn, both in dollars and labor.
My favorite .22 for hunting and self defense was the Remington Yellowjacket TCHP “Hyper” velocity round. Sadly, they seem to have stopped making those.
The copper coated Remingtons may be ok but during the “shortage”, I bought some Remington truncated cone non-copper coated. They leaded both my Ruger 1022 and pistol so bad that you couldn’t see the rifling in the barrels. I know others who experienced the same thing. I normally use copper coated Federals.
I hunted raccoons here in the North East, in my younger days. I always had good luck with Remington Vipers and Yellow Jackets. But the CCI Mini-Mags were my favorite.
In my Browning A-Bolt .22 and all of my .22 pistols/revolvers, the CCI 36 grain Mini-Mag is the best round by far. Only the Remington Golden Bullet comes close. Fortunately I stocked up on ammo a long time ago in all calibers!
I’ve had excellent results with Aguila Super Extra 40gr and Winchester M-22 40gr. solid point in my 10/22 and assortment of .22 pistols. I’ve found most JHP rounds deform on the free ramp and fail to feed on everything except my Beretta 92SF .22 conversion because the feed is straight into the chamber.
The joy is the availability is much better than 2009.
I have tried a number of .22LR loads, and I have found CCI Mini Mags to be the most consistently reliable. They are my go-to rounds because they run clean and they always work.
I just came in from the back yard. While there I was thinking about .22 cartridges for my 10-22. It’s the rifle I shoot most and seems to really like Remington ‘Goldens’. Then I came in, turned on the PC and this article popped up! Coincidence? Serendipity? Whatever, but there is was. The author seems to confirm what my rifle has taught me. The Goldens are extremely reliable and make short work of squirrels. I’ve used hollow points and even some ‘hunting’ specific .22 cartridges and the Goldens seem to be every bit as effective on these busy tailed rascals. A poster mentioned CCI Stringers. They work well too. I’d list the brands and configurations of the cartridges that didn’t cycle well or that dirty’d up my semi, but suffice to say all .22’s are somewhat finicky and you get what you pay for. Want to plink? Buy whatever you want. But remember, for the few pennies you save you’ll be spending time cleaning your semi-auto. One last note, those Goldens work just as well in my bolt action .22’s.
I have found CCI ammo to be the most reliable of any out there. One that I will now avoid at all cost is Browning BPR .22 ammunition. Fortunately, it was given to me with a rifle purchase, but I would have at least two misfires in a 10 round magazine. Even shooting out of the Ruger 10-22, which cycles nearly all other ammo that I put through it.
I think it all depends on the individual rifle. A particular rifle prefers a particular round. When I first got my Marlin, I tried many. The only round I never had an issue with was Remington Golden Bullet. Both the lead and hollow point. That’s all I use now. I wouldn’t even try another round because after 2 or 3 through it, I know what would happen.
I haven’t hunted with a. 22 in what must be close to 40 years. I use my. 22 rifle and pistols as range plonker, and to teach my Grandkids firearm safety and marksmanship. So when I’m purchasing .22 ammo, I’m more interested in cost and function. Remington’s Golden Bullet performs well in my Marlin 60, Heritage revolver and an old Savage single shot, but it has issues in my 1934 High Standard Model B and my Walther P22. So I usually stick with CCI or Winchester as my go to fodder. If I was hunting or competing in matches, I would have more of an interest in what I’m shooting.
Remington Golden Bullets used to be high quality, I used them extensively as a youth while hunting small game. That was then(I’m 55).
Regrettably the quality has declined significantly. I have had numerous fail to fires, stovepipes, etc. This goes away when using CCI Mini-mags.
Yes I wonder why CCI stingers wern’t mentioned for rifle hunting or pistol hunting
I too have an issue with Remington Golden Bullets. The ones I bought certainly don’t have a good tight crimp. As a matter of fact they ALL spin in their case.
Yes, CCI should be on this list, unless maybe reserved for the list of 5 “great” .22lr loads.
CCI mini mags and stingers have been my hunting go to for decades. Very clean, very reliable, very accurate.
No such luck with the Remington. They were good but would have an occasional misfire. I found the CCI bullets better for hunting small game and for competition.
The Remington copper and Yellow Jacket have always been favorites of mine and I’ve been to the plant and seen them manufactured, but along with other commenters I think CCI Stingers are the crackerjack.22 round. The WORST.22 round I ever purchased was a Remington.22 match. Fired 20 rounds, 18 duds. Threw the rest out. Must have been a bad lot. It shoot 2 Ruger 10/22 with a stainless for long range and a blued for night varmints and a Ruger 22/45 tactical pistol. .22 is easily the most fun round to shoot. Inexpensive and easy to shoot.
Really, nothing on CCI mini mags, stingers or velocitors? You do know that many manufacturers especially in 22 semi-auto pistol, recommend mini-mags, right? Objectively some of the most consistent, reliable 22 lr ammo out there.
First I am 73 my first boxes (50 count) were around 50 cents. I am 22 short (CCI) HP hunter.
I’ve had great results with Aguila Interceptor(mfg claimed 1470fps) in M&P 15-22 in med range plinking. Just got some SuperMaximum(mfg claimed 1700fps!) I haven’t tried yet.
I have not had good luck with the Remington Golden Bullets. During the Great Obama Ammo Shortage, it was all I could find in 22LR. I have around 10 misfires per (525) box. There are some very lucky squirrels and coons out there, and I will never purchase those bullets again.
Nice Article, but things are changing for hunters, and particularly for California!
I used for years, CB caps and head shots for Tree squirrels and rabbits during deer hunting season in an Ansutz Sporter (head shots exclusively) with great success. Why? its quiet, quieter than a pellet rifle! No upset to the deer hunt!
Today (as of the 2019 hunting season) we are required to sue Non lead bullets. (Coming to a state near you! Mark my words!)
So where is the industry? no copper to be found other than as plating.
We need: a Solid copper long rifle, and a frangible Hollow point in copper, and a CB cap! (Preferably in a full sized case – better accuracy)
I’m with the prior poster on the CCI. both Std and Stingers (are they still available?)
I’m somewhat surprised the list doesn’t include anything from CCI. I like their Stinger and Velocitor loadings.