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GIGO Rules in .22 Ammo

If you haven’t lot-tested rimfire ammo in your 22 LR rifle, then GIGO will certainly bite you — GIGO being the programming acronym for Garbage In, Garbage Out. Shooting 22 LR rimfire rifles accurately presents an unavoidable problem for small-game hunters: You can’t load your own ammo. So, to get the best groups out of your rabbit gun, you’ll have to lot-test rounds. The thing to understand about lot-testing rimfire ammo is that brand matters, and lot number matters.

If you want to shoot your 22 hunting rifle better, begin your own lot-testing by getting three to five boxes of ammo and shooting 10 well-aimed rounds of each into different targets. Compare the group sizes. Usually, you’ll see one good target, one bad target, and three in the middle. Keep just the good target and record the brand/lot and reserve the rest of that box. Use up the others in less-critical work. When you can afford it, repeat the process with five new boxes and again keep just the winner. After five trials, pit the winners in a shoot out. When you find out which brand shoots the best, go buy as much of it as you can afford. If you have several so close you can’t pick a winner, then you’re the winner. Go buy the cheapest. A “lot” is a specific run of ammo by the manufacturer, and many brands show wide variation between lots. The lot number is usually recorded on the inside flap of paper boxes or stamped on the shell of plastic boxes. The trick is to find brand/lots that shoot well in your gun. But is it worth the time and trouble for most shooters to do? To me, there’s nothing more frustrating that shooting a shot that doesn’t hit the intended mark, and me not knowing why. If a shot isn’t on call, then I go looking for answers.

But is there really a noticeable difference brand to brand? I recently shot several 22 LR ammo brands from CTD, spending more than $500 in the process (which these days is not that hard). To shoot the ammos, I used an inexpensive bolt-action 22 LR model, a Chinese-made NS 522 bolt action imported by KFS, Inc. that I bought for $300 several years ago. It measured 39.5 inches in length and weighed 7.75 pounds unloaded. The 21-inch blued barrel was hammer forged and free floated. I shot five record groups with each ammo lot on Speedwell Police Rifle Shot Log/Targets at 100 yards. I bench-fired all the guns off a Ransom Rest front benchrest and a rear bunny bag. To ensure a level playing field, I first cleaned the barrel, then fired fouling and sighting rounds as needed, usually about 15 rounds. Then I fired five-shot record groups per ammo lot. I used the same Bausch & Lomb 36X benchrest scope throughout. To measure the groups, I scanned the targets then used the ruler tool in PhotoShop to record group diameters to the thousandsth of an inch, and rounded to hundredths of an inch.

The Results What did I find after the smoke cleared? My test rifle shot inexpensive Eley Sport the best, recording 1.50-inch groups on average. However, it’s currently not in stock (CTD No. 7-EL22SP, $3.14). Fiocchi Exacta Super Match ranked next at 1.63 inch (No. 34169, $8.50), and then Federal Gold Medal Match Target at 1.76 inch (2-FEGM719, $3.70). RWS R50 shot 2.04-inch groups, but it cost a lot more (2-UX2134187, $17.80). Winchester T22 Target shot 2.04-inch groups (No. 6-0300930, $30.92), and CCI Green Tag shot 2.44-inch groups (No. 6-0315449, $14.26).

The Bottom Line Does that mean that R50, T22, and Green Tag are bad ammos? No. It means they didn’t shoot well in my 522. The point is, if you shoot enough brand/lots, you can find a reasonable match of price and performance.

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 (12)

  1. I find this to be true. My Marlin 925M .22 mag loves Federal champion ammunition. My Ruger 10\22 loves CCI maximag, my marlin 60 .22 loves CCI green tag. I believe it is all in the gun.

  2. @bING, Ely has ALWAYS been top notch in the ammo department. However, you failed to specify in what sort of weapon (handgun or rifle) you were using it in. Whether you’re punching paper in competition (where Ely’s shine) or taking out a varmint at 50+ yards (with a rifle) makes a difference. IMHO, I really like what CCI is putting out these days. If I was using their ammo to make money, I might choose the highest quality ammo I could buy. However, for power and consistency, I can’t say anything bad about what I’m buying from them. At 7-10m in my SIG Mosquito I can tear out the middle of a target. (A couple of my lady friends also can do that w/ the CCI ammo.) At longer distances, the accuracy of the top-speed CCI MiniMag & Velocitor ammo is not at all disappointing.

  3. While using the right ammo is critical, a bolt action rifle can digest just about anything. Where the choice of ammo is wickedly crucial in semiauto arms. With a semit auto, failure to feed/eject are dependent upon the weight of the bolt, the recoli system, the ammunition and the gas it produces… or the power it emparts to the recoil mechanism. With any semiauto, you have to find the ammo your weapon likes.

    In the case of SIGArms, they recommend CCI MiniMags for their .22LR Mosquito. They’re pretty much on the money, although I have found other powerful ammo that works, albeit wit a few FTF/FTE thrown in just for fun. I own a Mosquito and a full-custom Ruger 10/22 w/ heavy Green Mountain barrel, Timney trigger, etc., and have had semiauto 22s for fun all my life. I have found that they ALL “like” different ammo.

    In my experience, good POWERFUL .22 ammo works every time. Spend the money on the good stuff; it’s not like you’re buying a 50-round box of .44 Remington magnums! My choices of late have been CCI MiniMags and the CCI Velocitors both in 40 grain and 1300-1400+ fps.

  4. Years ago CCI .22 ammo was accurate and consistent. Those days are gone. For plinking – shoot what is on sale. I have tested a lot of .22 ammo and refuse to buy separate brands for each rifle. The Ely 40gr shoots well in all my .22 rifles. Ave groups at 50 yrds can be covered with a dime. Call every shot when sighting in your rifle. Period. Head shots on grey squirrels at 50 yrds is proof and food on the table. Great article! SEMPER FI! Thanks!!!

  5. I have a “super grade” Kidd LR .22 rifle and get between 1/4″-3/8″ @ 50yrds with a good scope …great rifle and I’m only a decent shooter…if you want good .22 stuff look up Tony Kidd in Texas. You won’t be disappointed…since ammo went sky high I’m a happy camper that’s for sure…oh it like the Eley 40 gr the best GREAT set up and all day fun! Have fun….

  6. I find that CCI Mini Mags run the best out of anything I own, rifles or pistols.
    Some seem to like the hollow points better, others the solid point, but either works close out of all my .22’s.

  7. Most people dont believe me when I tell them how important ammo is until I put them behind the rifle and prove it to them. So far I have not gotten to lot number detail, just brands, but this is sufficient for my purposes. I understand lots make a difference, but no way I can specify which lot I get so while its important, now way that I can use the info to my advantage. My guns really prefer the ELEY primed ammo. Wolf match – out of Germany is great. Eley sport out of Mexico is also great. I am hitting 40S&W cases at 50 yards with a stock Savage MKII. I have a monster scope on it – but the rifle is up to the task. Getting similar performance out of my Ruger 10/22 that is set up with a Kid match barrel. The target with virtually any other ammo looks like a shot gun pattern. About the only “domestic” ammo that has come close for me is Federal Gold medal.

  8. I agree you should try as many different brands of .22LR ammo you can find.

    Also you should check the Manufacturer’s LOT Number, usually located on one of the end flaps on boxes of 22 ammo. Years ago when I was shooting IHMSA silhouette it was found to test ammo and that different lots of same ammo were as accurate but usually shot to a different point of aim. So once I ran through a case of ammo next case was tested and guns were sighted in using that ammo and sighting as needed and recorded in a book most of the shooters kept.

  9. Very true I have three 22 caliber guns and all three have a brand they like
    I found my marlin likes Federal bulk at 100′ I was knocking over shotgun shells were my s&w hand gun has a problem with jams with the bulk rounds were the cci cycles smoothly through it and keeps a nice grouping, Last is the browning it tends to like the the non copper coated bullets as far as accurately is concern
    So my advice is just pick a few small boxes of different brands and bullet type and have some fun at the range to find out what your gun or guns like

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