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!