The .22 LR for Hunting and Survival

Brown Marlin Model 60 rifle on a white background, barrel pointed to the right

It’s cheap by comparison, abundant, and fun to shoot. It’s the most common and most popular round on the market and is often derided as having little practical use outside of target practice and plinking. The .22 LR cartridge is often lauded and condemned in the same breath. Why? Despite its shortcomings, I feel it has a serious role in a practical survival rifle.

Almost every shooter started out with the humble .22 LR rimfire cartridge. It’s versatility as a training round and a small game hunting cartridge is well known, although the usefulness of a lightweight and reliable .22 rifle is often downplayed due to the round’s relatively low energy and reputed lack of “stopping power.”

Despite the small punch it packs, the .22 LR cartridge can still be enormously useful in the right hands.

As a survival tool, the .22 rifle serves its purpose well. In addition to being effective against small game, such as squirrels and rabbits, the .22 long rifle cartridge can also be used to take larger game with the proper shot placement. Game wardens have long targeted poachers who use quiet .22 rifles to surreptitiously and illegally take deer.

Anecdotal accounts of hunters using .22 ammunition for feral hog and coyote control abound on the Internet. Using rimfire ammunition and rifles to take large game such as deer is illegal in most areas, although in a survival situation it is possible to harvest such game with a single well-placed shot.

For personal defense, the .22 is not necessarily ideal. Detractors point out that an aggressor can withstand multiple shots from a 40-grain, .22 caliber bullet before being significantly incapacitated. Yet, all it takes is one well-placed shot from the same gun to end a fight. In some circumstances, the mere fact that there is incoming fire may cause an attacker to rethink his or her plan.

While the .22 LR may not be the most ideal round for hunting or personal defense, it can get the job done. In a survival situation having a .22 is better than having no weapon at all.

In terms of the best “bang for your buck” it’s hard to beat a Marlin Model 60 autoloading rifle. This reliable rifle has been around for 50 years and has earned its reputation as an inexpensive, accurate and dependable firearm. The Model 60 is a tube fed semiautomatic rifle that comes with iron sights, though a rimfire scope can be fitted. New Model 60s can be found for less than $200.

The Model 60 isn’t your only option of course. There are a number of other fine .22 caliber rifles that work well as a survival rifle.

  • The Marlin Papoose and Henry U.S. Survival rifle are both good examples of .22 survival rifles that break down to be able to be stored more easily.
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what is probably the most popular .22 rifle of all time, the Ruger 10/22. Unlike the Marlin Model 60, the Ruger 10/22 uses a detachable box magazine for quicker reloads. Like the Model 60, there is an enormous amount of aftermarket accessories for the 10/22. If you can think of the accessory, someone somewhere probably makes it for the 10/22.

One thing that is important when feeding an autoloading .22 is your choice of ammunition. Mr. Completely shared his thoughts on rimfire ammunition choices a while back. Bulk packs of Federal seem to be a popular choice. These copper plated rounds tend to feed in most automatic rifles and handguns with very few problems. Still, they aren’t the most accurate and tend to have misfire rates at slightly less than 1%.

CCI Standard ammunition tends to be a bit more accurate, and its Green Tag ammunition is sorted by weight for consistent performance. For most autoloaders, the best bet is CCI Mini-Mags. Even the roughest semiautomatic actions can digest Mini-Mags with little fuss.

When storing your .22 ammunition, make sure to keep it in a location where it is not affected by moisture. Exposure to moisture can easily cause .22 rimfire cartridges to fail to fire. Ziploc or vacuum sealed freezer bags are cheap insurance to keep your .22 cartridges dry.

The .22LR may not be the best round for any number of roles, but it is versatile, cheap, plentiful and easy to store in large amounts. The ability to have a small rifle capable of taking small game, as well as standing in as a defensive weapon can prove incredibly useful in a survival situation.

For around $200 you can purchase a small .22 rifle and 500 round of ammunition; a small price to pay for such a useful tool.

What was your first .22? What is your favorite now? Share in the comment section.

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 (27)

  1. My new favorite is the Henry Survival Rifle.
    I’ve always wanted one (it has a unique “cool” factor to it, lol) and two years ago I received one as a Christmas gift.
    I assumed it would be a decent shooter with tolerable accuracy. What surprised me was how accurate it’s been right out of the box with it’s open sights using CCI MiniMags. Even more impressive is how well it’s done in the hands of my non shooting friends. Shooting tin cans off a folding table at 30-40 yards they were hitting 6 or 7 out of 10 cans consistently.

  2. My grand-father, before he passed, left us a .22 rifle, made in the U.S. around 1937. I am working on refurbishing it. I did not keep many photos or other mementos of his, and his rifle has become more meaningful for me. It is one of the rare items I am now taking more care of, and enjoying it.

  3. Roger American Rifle/ Bolt Action w/Scope.
    My father used it as a practice rifle and when he died it was given to me… along with other firearms.

  4. Not my first -but, the best and most reliable 22 rifle I ever owned is the Remington nylon 66 in apache black and chrome. You could not stop this rifle ! After over 500,000 rounds it still shoots great. It is sad they quit making them,I bought mine in 1970 and I still have it ! Nuff said !

  5. Marlin Glenfield Model 25, first 22LR rifle.To this day a unbelievable Tackdriver with all brands of ammo.Was 14 when I received it from my Parents for Christmas.

  6. Still own and enjoy a Marlin Glenfield Model 60 that I got after Grandad passed away. I’ve got a 4 X 32 BSA scope on it now; it came with a near useless little “22” scope on it. It was bought at a Western Auto store probably around mid to late ’60s. Can still remember Grandad setting on the patio by the Lake- – – – popping off the turtles setting on logs/driftwood. Really can’t imagine ever needing any more .22 Rimfire than this unit.

  7. My first rifle was a .22 bolt-action JC Penney. It shot every form of .22 (shorts, longs, long-rifle, and sub-sonic). My grandfather gave it to me for my 9th Christmas and taught me how to shoot. He had a mid-1960’s Remington lever-action. My old bolt-action is long gone and his lever gun was stolen. While not worth anything, I’d love to have them just for the nostalgia. I later bought a 1st generation 10/22 and sold it (which I now regret – wish I still had it).

  8. My first was a Ruger 10/22….I shot it so much that the stock was worn smooth. That was the best gun that I ever owned and shot. Simple, dependable, and well-made. Unfortunately, it was stolen in 1995 during a burglary as well as all my other guns. Since then, I replaced it with…………….another 10/22. My choice of ammo back then was CCI, its whatever I can find at a good price. Bulk Winchester hollow points are pretty good and Federals work fairly well. But, as the OP stated, CCIs have always been best.

    In my opinion, the 10/22 is still the best .22 ever made.

  9. I really hate when these post move from pertinent, useful information to macho BS and a list of one’s expensive firearm meant to impress all. To whom this applies; please get over yourselves.

  10. I own 2 Marlin Model 60’s manufactured in the 70’s, a Henry AR-7 and 3 different models of the venerable Ruger 10/22, as well as a couple single shot rifles for my grandson. The .22 Caliber round can harvest a deer. It is a versatile inexpensive alternative to larger caliber ammunition and, with larger capacity tubular feeds (like the older Marlin model 60’s) or the Ruger 10/22 with a 25 round magazine, a lot of lead down range for suppressive fire is possible. The .22 leaves a nasty wound just like its larger counterparts. As long as you keep the rifle clean, a .22 caliber rifle in any configuration can be lethal. Be careful out there. Blessings of liberty to you all!

    1. i at first had my fathers old german .22 lr but i wanted to add a newer one to my collections. so i went right down the street (im in nh-yaaay!) i got a black savage added a $100 scope and it looks much more aggressive than it is!

  11. So, when I was 26 I was shot in the face by someone who intended to kill me. I was able to fight him off and escape with a gun shot wound. I am 6’0 240lbs.

    I am about to buy my first hand gun and will be starting with a .22 but would not want to have to rely on it for self defense.
    Once I am confident with my .22 I will be moving up significantly.

    Just my personal experience.

  12. When I was 19 years old, I was shot buy a 10/22 firing a CCI Stinger hollow point. It was an accident in which the shooter wasn’t aware the gun was loaded, he tripped and fell, and the gun went off. I had just cashed my check and had a wad of money in my left pocket. The bullet passed through the wad, went through the front of my leg from left to right (I was shot from the left side), then hit me again in the right groin area and finally stopped above my left groin area. When I got to the hospital, the doctor thought I was hit by a 9mm, due to the fact that when the bullet hit the wad of money, the hollow point expanded and created a large wound channel. He said it missed a artery by about an 1/8th of a inch. If it would have hit the artery, I would have bled out before I got to the hospital. When I got hit, it felt like a sudden burning sensation, and then nothing. No pain at all! At first I thought it just grazed my leg, but then when I looked at my pants, there was blood soaking through them. The moral to this story is just like you have all been saying, people underestimate the .22lr. The Israeli’s use the 10/22 with a special shrouded barrel and special ammo for taking out security personnel of a wanted target. The bottom line is bullet placement, and the only way to put that bullet where it needs to go is practice,practice,practice. And the .22lr is cheap enough to do plenty of that. Good shooting everybody and be safe.

  13. I shoot several thousand rounds of 22lr a year and love it. Beretta neos,s & w 15 22 pistol, winchester 190 rifle and ruger 10/22.

  14. My father’s first rifle was a Remmington ScoreMaster and he shot just about anything within sight with it. Naturally it was handed down to me, its very reliable and highly accurate. I learned to place my shot carefully from watchin him and because the fact it was a bolt action.

  15. I still have my first rifle, a Browning Semi-Automatic. But I want my daughter to have a bolt action or single shot, like a Cricket or something similar, so she can appreciate the value of one well-placed shot.

  16. I too have a Marlin Model 60 that I use for training my nephew good shooting techniques. It is very accurate. I use Federal ammo for plinking. (We got bored shooting cans tied to strings and started shooting the string itself.) I used this gun extensively to shoot prairie dogs at 100 yds. until my wife tried it and wouldn’t give it back and I naturally had to get a .223 for longer range.

    One thing I dislike about tube-fed rifles is having to load the ammo one at a time. So, I fashined tubes from an old TV antenna, lengthed to hold 12 or so rounds, and covered the loading hole in the loading tube on the gun. I made stoppers from plastic milk bottles. (Imagine a cross with the center about half an inch square and the ends about an inch long. Fold them together toward the center and tape them to each other at the corners. I used cammo duct tape and attached a string to it and the tubes to keep from losing them.) And now I just dump all the rounds in at once rather quickly. I have about 20 tubes I preload and we can reload tubes while taking turns with the rifle. It works great. Just thought I’d pass that along.


  17. I love my Remington 597. Reliable, accurate and cheap to shoot all day. I’m sure any home invader who has these rounds coming at them will think twice, its still a bullet.

  18. I know what you mean the .22s are so reliable, the Navy Seals use .22LR rounds for a amphibious pistol called a Ruger MK II and the O.S.S.(now CIA) in WW2 Used .22 pistols as well. I myself have a single shot .22 rifle and i love it, its reliable,light and i barley ever miss with it(2 out of 30).a lot of people don’t relies that its also a doctors worst nightmare because every murder that a .22 is involved they have a hard time removing the slug and i was told that by actual doctors they said its way easier removing a 9mm then it is to remove a .22 so yeah people really don’t know what they are bashing its a caliber to be cautious with oh and also the Army have already designed a armor piercing round out of .22, it goes right through Kevlar and is very silent

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