Match-Grade .22 Ammunition

Box of CCI Velocitor Ammunition

Among the most enjoyable of all calibers to shoot is the .22 Long Rifle. Accurate and devoid of recoil, the .22 is the best fun caliber. The subject of match-grade .22 comes up often, which inevitably leads to the question, “Is it worth it?” In short, it certainly is.

3 boxes of Green Tag ammunition
There are many choices in .22 ammunition, and few are bad. Green Tag is good.

Just as I most often fire my personal .45s with inexpensive loads, the .22 is most often fired with inexpensive offerings. As long as feed and function are good and accuracy is acceptable, the ammunition is fine for practice.

However, there are uses for match ammo; one of the more obvious uses is for competition. You must have the edge, and match-grade loads give that edge for several reasons. As an example, my hunting rifle is not a match gun, although it is plenty accurate. The Ruger 722 is a fine shooter; it is the driver, and the ammunition is the tack.

I take my time firing and strive for accuracy. As such, I do not go through a few boxes of ammunition in the evening.

  • The light and handy Ruger 10/22 is a good rifle for slightly shorter range and a great all-around rifle.
  • The Henry .22 is a fun rifle.
  • For pure tack-driving efficiency, my bolt-action CZ is a better choice.
  • The Ruger 722 is the best choice for hunting, for my druthers.

When I was a young man, money was tight and every shot had to count, so I learned that match-grade ammunition is the best for hunting. Yes, hunting, not plinking or target shooting. I have taken pretty long shots on squirrels. Let’s face it: hunting bushy-tails with a .22 is comparable to taking a deer with a 20 mm cannon—killing power is not the question; it is accuracy. However, it is not a hollow point, you say.

Most match-grade ammunition uses a softer lead bullet, and at shorter distances ,it will expand or at least deform. I do not think it matters with the game I am after. I remain as steady as possible, exhale, keep the reticule spot on and take the shot. Will my loads break an inch at 50 yards from the Ruger? Sometimes, but mostly they come close.

A match-grade rifle would do better. Nevertheless, there is a noticeable difference in the rifle between common fodder and match grade. I am not discussing bulk ammunition that I use in the 10/22 with the 25-round magazine to keep the zombie targets rolling. I am talking hunting. And while I hunt with rifles, these match-grade loads are also more accurate in quality handguns.

There are several differences in match-grade ammunition. First, the bullets are loaded to subsonic velocity. That is fewer than 1,000 fps from a rifle barrel. Secondly, the consistency is better. However, an overlooked factor that I have picked up from personal observation is that the bullet-to-case fit seems better with match-grade ammunition. Take a box of standard fare—and be careful because you can pull the bullet from the case—and shake the nose of the bullet. Some are pretty loose.

Single cartridge showing outside lubration on a white background
Part of the problem with .22 ammunition is that the bullet is outside lubricated. CCI applied modern technology to the problem.

The .22 uses a heel-based bullet that slips into the case without a crimp. All of the reasons we left the rimfire behind for the centerfire in service cartridges are inherent in the .22 long rifle. I am certain the majority of tie-ups in the semi-auto are a result of loose motion in the bullet and case contact, while tie-ups occur with bolt guns as well. The match-grade stuff really is put together better. I am certain more care goes into the powder charge and consistency ,and the lubricant on the bullet itself seems slightly drier than with standard fare. Taken as a whole, match-grade ammunition should be more reliable than standard ammunition, and it usually is. As for function in self-loaders, as long as the bullet weighs 40 grains, most semi-autos function with standard-velocity loads.

I have used thousands of CCI’s standard-velocity loadings throughout the years. The reason most of us do not use these loads is because bulk high-velocity hollow points are often less expensive. That is fine; they do the business and if you need to take out pests, and even predators, with the .22, a high-velocity .22 is interesting. I have noted that when you get on the high end of velocity, quality control and accuracy are often very good.

Box of CCI Velocitor Ammunition
High-velocity cartridges may be more subject to buffeting at supersonic speeds. Just the same, the Velocitor is an accurate loading.

The CCI Velocitor, as an example, is a fast and powerful .22 at just over 1,400 fps—with the full-weight 40-grain bullet. I like this one a lot and rely on it for many chores. However, while accurate, the CCI Green Tag is even more accurate in a rifle that is accurate enough to show the difference. A well-worn 10/22 such as mine may actually be more accurate with bulk ammo, simply as a matter of chance. With the Ruger and CZ, match-grade loads show their mettle.

There is more to the story, and the bottom line is this: .22 Long Rifle match-grade ammunition is a step up in quality and consistency. Greater care in manufacturing results in greater accuracy. And while the powder charge and composition are important, my observations about the concentric construction of the bullets are, I believe, valid. On a slightly different subject, although closely related, some ammunition is so good that it is match grade even if not advertised as such. An example is the new CCI Suppressor.

With the popularity of suppressed systems, it was a good move for CCI to introduce this load. The development is spot on. I do not own a suppressed firearm, although I have fired several. They are great gun accessories and keep the neighbors happy when you are firing away. I also believe they would be an advantage in hunting small game. A supersonic crack pretty much alerts the squirrels you are at hand.

Hiram Maxim invented the suppressor, one of his many accomplishments, and he did a great deal for all of us (more than you realize because he also invented the vehicle engine noise muffler). The suppressor uses a 45-grain bullet—a little heavier than normal. This is a smart move because 45 grains at 970 fps is a hard hitter. Designed to give those with a suppressed rifle a good game load, it is quiet and burns clean with high-quality lubricant to aid in the long life of a quality firearm.

Box of CCI 22 LR ammo
While the Europeans make good ammunition—Norma, Eley, SK, and Wolf—in some cases, for most uses in the U.S., CCI leads the pack.

I am enthusiastic concerning this load. A good rule on ammunition selection I considered when firing this new loading is that just about anything is OK at 25 yards, but when you get to 50 yards, match grade is the way to go. Some loads are accurate at 25 yards but fall apart at 50 yards—imagine how poor they would be at 100 yards.

Match-grade .22s are the way to go when the game is more serious.

Which load do you use? Will you change that load after reading this post? Share in the comments section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (16)

  1. Bob talked about bullet lube for 22 being a problem. I read that you can dip the bullet in a watered down mix of Lee liquid lube for cast bullets. Any feed back or tips? Thanks.

  2. When I was a kid the old people would complain that everything was better when they were kids. Now I am the old man and as far as 22 ammo goes I think its true. I have proof. A year ago I decided to use up my old ammo from the 50s 60s and 70s and replace it with fresh stuff as I could find it.BIG mistake ! Almost 1500 rounds of OLD supper x ,old federal, old peters target {red box} old cci, long rifle shorts and win mag. Not one dud! Not one feed or eject problem! I have also been using TRASH ammo I would not fire if new were easy to get. This is ammo I have found in open cans in garages . It is dirty, sticky , crusty and green.Also rounds dug out of the dirt under the bench at the range. Oil, wipe, FIRE! Now for the new. The brass seams to be thinner. This lets them expand in the chamber more making it harder to eject. Bullet fit and general feel and look are cheap when put next to any 50 year old rounds. The only duds were new supper x and win bulk. The only feed or eject problems were form Winchester bulk. The 50 year old Winchester was ALL good. When I was a kid Winchester WAS the standard. Now for the good. Anything CCI has preformed very well. Win mag in snake shot or bullet , stinger, LR, snake shot LR, shorts, even CB shorts have given no problems. One surprise was from Mexico. I got Aquila’s colibri {flobert round} for quiet revolver practice in the garage. Its perfect for what it is made for. DO NOT fire it in a long barrel. You can get a squib.P.S. use the NRA add a buck or roundup!

    1. Forgot to give respect to OLD Remington. 200 rounds from the 70s. Was not properly stored and somewhat crusty. 100% good! Have not fired any new Remington yet. We wont even talk about Win bulk at the range today. My 1851 Navy saved the afternoon.CCI and Remington both make good caps.Thanks Sam Colt!

  3. Unlike Mr. Campbell, I find high velocity less accurate than lower velocity, and like others I can’t find ammo to buy at local stores. Oh, I saw 500 Rds today on the internet for $72, but it ought to be <$25. Supplies are so low that even if the hoarders stop hoarding, regular shooters will hoard in fear of once again not finding shells. I shoot competitively and use about 6000 Rds yearly, but lately I've had to cut back on my shooting. Have fun, be safe!

  4. Locally, SW Washington you are more apt to find Bigfoot than 22 of sny length and if you do
    Expect mid $20-30 per box of 50 and limit of 3 box.
    A lot of nonchain outlets have orders only, especially smallrr mom pop shops but of courde yhrir best clintelle recieve first which is onl fair???????
    Been finding just as hard to buy is 22 mag, and box ay a time if lucky.
    Out rageous cost even for crappy Winchestrrs .
    Many shooting sessions now find 22owners acting same as if giring hunting rpumds
    CAREFULL sight ins, then dhoot for most accuracy possible, place back in case and collect the 20-25 empty cases to latrr sell as dcrap bradd.
    Now with DHS ordering millions of 23/4 12 ga slugs and 00 Buck with brass bases expecy an even less available supply of 22 rounds.
    Quite a few years back under Our Politicos early militarization of civil police, it became a matter of damn near evrt civil police dept tp dend mbrrs to FBO and Military training centers.
    As a point of interest there was very heavu emphasis upom gun control legislation and of cpurse dtressed beyond reality of the pepple vetsus the law and order.
    One weapon they stressed as extremely dangerous to police forcesbwas 22 semi auto rifles and pistols.
    They dpecificly named Rugrts Pistols amd 10/22 large capavity mags.
    Then feds and cops got the full auto AR Stoner yypes and many police forces to this day in rural climes have thrse top drim semis and special penetrate ammo.
    The fed fear was that any individual could put out lethal firepower of as in case of Calico 100 rnd top feed .
    Of course then most police had early type ballistic vest that hot 357 and steel 9mm could sometimes penetrate; and some 22 rounds cut through kevlar like butter.
    The fear is still so thick by federals and locals that the whole world is trying to kill them and our Hornady esp, and foreign firms rusjing to become DHS single source suppliers up to ignpring production of 22 .

  5. For the last few years I’ve been using 60 grn. SSS Aguilar in all my .22’s. It’s more accurate than me. It shoots flawlessly through my Marlin 60. I don’t have a semi-automatic that has failed to cycle. Sady I’m down to 350 rds.If you come across it , give it a try. I’ve never seen tested in any of the magazines.

  6. I have purchased 22 LR on line at Cabelas, Remington 40 g box of 525 boxes for $29.95 per box. In your browser type in 22 LR and you will have several choice of companies that you can make your purchase from. I also purchase from LAX Ammo on there website and they have a very fast delivery time with UPS.

  7. why are there stories about 22 ammunition . when we all know no such ammunition exists . it has gone extinct for a very long time.



  9. I’m a new shooter so I hope you can summarize. If I am shooting competition rifle and pistol @ 50 yards. What would be the best load in order of preference ? Would it be 1) subsonic 2) standard velocity 3) finally High velocity ?

    Thank you for any inputs you can share

  10. Match grade .22lr?
    Where do you get that, in Atlantis in the aisle between the unicorns and flying cars?
    I haven’t seen .22lr of any type around here for over a year now, we have to do our plinking with .40 S&W.

  11. I can’t find .22LR at stores where I used to buy ammunition. I have an order for CCI .22LR active at CODE3TACTICAL for nearly a year – still on backorder. At this point, your article is as useful as a recipe for cooking an extinct bird. Where lies the problem? A year’s backorder – the amount of .22LR that must be ordered ahead of me to create that situation – gets a bit Kafkaesque. Or am I just trying to buy ammunition from the wrong company?

  12. Cannot believe no mention of why match ammos cases have consitency of base thicknes and diameter because the case base sets the headspace as much if not morebthan does the bullet.
    Have guaged quality ammo by the box loads and Found Wolf or Ely the to have least variance than any other “quality” (expensive target labled).
    From bullet length, powder charges, pressue takes for firing pin to prime, and thickness of case base.
    A 22 may be diminutive and our distances shoty but even the concentricity of bullets very much determine an international or olympic grade shooters scores.
    Just a note on cleaning of target ammo residue, the mention of soft lead means real barrel fouling so clean clean.
    Also one can find the most accurate 22 pistols or rifles have very sharp rifling.
    Soft lead will not remove and itty bitty metal in there so you can do old timers way of cleaning and breaking in new weapons barrelsCoated copper or brass bullets.
    Keep plinking a family tradition and note that even informal plinking how soon no matter the brands of weapons or ammo very soo. The subject of can you hit that comes up.

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