Why is 22LR so accurate?


October 23, 2004, 02:22 PM
It seems like the majority of 22 guns can get near MOA accuracy right out of the box without even breaking a sweat and they can do it with much of the cheap bulk packed ammo available at your local sporting goods retailer.

Granted, the round is easier to shoot due to negligable recoil, but .22 guns are generally more accurate than centerfire guns even when shot from a fixture (at least according to all the gunrag tests I've seen).

Why is this round so inherently accurate?

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Chuck Dye
October 23, 2004, 02:33 PM
Inherent accuracy has two major contributors: consistency of ammunition and consistency of gun behavior. .22LR use runs to the billions of rounds annually so the manufacturers have had a LOT of practice making consistent ammo. Most, or all, .22LR firearms are vastly overbuilt compared to centerfires. There is just not enough power in the .22LR to flex barrels and actions enough to show up as shot dispersion.

October 23, 2004, 02:36 PM
Good question. I too have wondered why you can pick up a .22, old or new, rifle and put it on spot within just a few shots.

I've found the single shots to be the most accurate, even if it was a $5 sears special from 1940. I've seen children as young as 5 pick up a .22 single shot and start hitting X's within the first 10 rounds.

I don't know if it's the lack of recoil or just the way the rifle weight, barrel length, rifling, etc.. just adds to the ability to hit MOA once you get to know the rifle.


October 23, 2004, 03:52 PM
because .22 handguns have fixed barrels.

Matt G
October 23, 2004, 04:04 PM
I think there's something to what everyone here's said (though I don't understand what the fixed barrel has to do with a round's inherent accuracy-- that's more of a firearm's inherent accuracy issue).

Then, too, the .22 LR has some specific traits that make it pretty unique:

The bullet is outside-lubricated. It is the same diameter at the driving band as is the case. Headspace is always on the rim. The velocity is relatively low (~1 to 1.1k fps), and target rounds are subsonic, which eliminates the wobbles that can be present when a bullet is trans-sonic. The bullets are soft, and engage the rifling well. The cases are tiny in comparison to the bullet, which creates a repeatable environment with regard to pressures. Ignition is very repeatable, as the ignition system is contained within the case itself.

Now, the bullets have pretty crummy ballilstic coefficients, so the accuracy falls off pretty quickly. It's an unusual rifle/cartridge/shooter combination that can get a .22 LR to hold an inch at a hundred yards. But to 50 yards, it's just one of the neatest confluences of size/power/accuracy, which is why the .22 LR is well over a 100 years old now, and is indeed one of the most popular continuously-loaded metallic cartridges ever.

October 23, 2004, 05:32 PM
Personally I think the light recoil has alot to do with it.

Jim K
October 23, 2004, 05:50 PM
Not all .22 LR ammo is accurate; I have shot some that went all over the place.

But the real reason some .22 LR is very accurate is that ammo makers have spent millions of dollars, pounds, euros, francs, marks, lire, rubles, or whatever to make it so. The cartridge is THE universal target shooting round, and the maker of the very best has what amounts to a gold mine.


October 23, 2004, 07:33 PM
What maker would you say makes the best round?
Seems I get duds in every brand I try anymore. My 10/22 was jamming every other shot with one brand, because there wasn't enough power to cycle the action. One shot would work perfectly and the next was crap as you could tell even by the sound of the report.

Just wonderin what everybody is using now.

Standing Wolf
October 23, 2004, 07:52 PM
I'm not convinced the .22 long rifle is more accurate than carefully loaded center fire ammunition. I'm sure most of it is shot at much closer range, which may be the apparent difference.

October 23, 2004, 08:39 PM
As far as which maker has the best round.... I guess you'd start with product quality and that would be Eley and Lapua. Pretty pricey stuff but in a match barrel, extremely accurate.

Bulk box stuff falls into the "you get what you pay for" accuracy catagory. However, every barrel shoots every brand differently. I always try every brand I can find of any caliber ammo to find out what my barrel likes best, does not matter if we're talkin 9mm, 45 or 22.

October 23, 2004, 08:50 PM
The only questioable bulk .22 ammo I have used was Remington Golden Bullets.

Several FTF out of the box.

I am a better shot with .22 out to 100 yards than any other round. But, at 100 yards I'm at max elevation adjustment on my rear sight.

Bwana John
October 23, 2004, 08:58 PM
I think it has more to do with the ranges .22 are shot at. Small groups at short distances open up to bigger groups at longer distances. Who shoots .22's at 100 yards and gets average 5 shot groups under 1 inch with Sears rifles and Walmart ammo?

October 23, 2004, 08:59 PM
another point: you've got tiny little light weight bullets spending a reasonably long time in a long barrel (relative to the caliber). seems like a good combination for getting each bullet out of the muzzle to behave just like the last.

October 23, 2004, 10:27 PM
-Low recoil
-People tend to shoot high volumes when practicing with their favorite .22
-People really understand the cartridge's limitations

October 23, 2004, 10:52 PM
Agree with the great posts before me, not much left to add.

Noise and anticipation of recoil factors in as well.

We have all doubled up with ear protection and done so with new students - the Perceived Recoil is less with reduced noise levels.

Anticipating "that" recoil ...well again we have all had new person and let them shoot blanks, or really soft loads to ease some preconcieved ideas, what they have heard or read.

Like others - I admit I continue to go back to the basics and fundamentals using a .22 LR handgun/ rifle. I admit shooting these even when I don't have "problem". Allows me to focus and re- enforce my skills.

Amazing how well we shoot when we don't flinch, jerk the trigger...and all those other bad habits that "tend" to visit . :)

MY theory , the targets move when we shoot centerfire . Yep that target is afraid of centerfire hits. Targets are not afraid of rimfire hits...so they stay still and don't try to move out the way. Just a Theory...can't prove it....;)

October 23, 2004, 11:13 PM
If the one main consensus is that the long period of time that the .22LR has been manufactured has led to its current level of accuracy (consistency), then why does the .17HMR blow it out of the water?

October 23, 2004, 11:19 PM
Someone told the targets the .17 calibers were rim- fire.
Otherwise the targets would be nervous and jumpy like they are for center-fire.

October 24, 2004, 06:21 AM
well people still shoot .22s at 100 yds and get small holes, my wife can whack all the clays I can set up on a berm at 100 yds with a .22 auto pistol off a rest.

October 24, 2004, 10:29 AM
I think .22 accuracy is mostly due to the barrel being solidly mounted to the frame and the sights solidly mounted to the same frame.So the sights never move in relation to the barrel. Most every centerfire pistol has the sights mounted to the slide which moves relative to the barrel.This is why the 1911 guys go to great lengths to tighten barrel to slide and slide to frame fit.

Mr Jody Hudson
October 24, 2004, 10:43 AM
Another is that the bullet is very long compared to diameter; giving a lot of what I call the Lead-Arrow effect that is also found in custom made ultra long range ultra accurate rifles. That very long for diameter bullet along with the ultra long for length of bullet barrel length is a wonderful accuracy stabilizer. Just imagine a very long, say inch and a half long, soft lead, 30 caliber bullet at 1100 fps in a 7 foot long barrel... :D

October 24, 2004, 11:47 AM
I think there's something to what everyone here's said (though I don't understand what the fixed barrel has to do with a round's inherent accuracy-- that's more of a firearm's inherent accuracy issue). Exactly my point.. This was just an allusion back to what the original poster said...
but .22 guns are generally more accurate than centerfire guns If you want to truly compare accuracy you have to take the gun out of the equation. As I understand it, Federal has a testing setup that consist of a barrel encased in a huge cement block.

I had asked Ed Masaki why hardball guns are only accurate to 2” at 50 yds while other types of .45s are accurate to 1.5” and he said it was because that’s as accurate as the ball ammo can get out of Federal’s test rig. So a ball gun that shoots 2” groups (or a target .45 that shoots Federal match ammo at 1.5” groups) are essential “perfect” guns. .22 ammo can be more accurate than that, so DMK is correct. Federal Ultra Match ammo is capable of shooting a 1” group at 50 yds.

However, as others have said, some .22 ammo shoots all over the place. My guess is that that the bullet shape is the key to accuracy. All of the best shooting .22 ammo have one thing in common...a bullet that is longer with a missile-like profile. Compared to larger handgun calibers, .22 target ammo has a greater length to width ratio. Not quite like rifle ammunition, but certainly more so that handgun centerfire ammo. The worst .22 performers usually have short bullets.

October 24, 2004, 02:53 PM
I think .22 accuracy is mostly due to the barrel being solidly mounted to the frame and the sights solidly mounted to the same frame. I don't see how that could be it. Bolt action rimfire rifles are pretty much the same design as bolt action centerfire rifles. Rimfire revolvers are almost the same exact design as centerfire revolvers.

While certainly a factor sometimes, I don't see how the target's distance is the whole answer either. Most folks shoot .22 pistols at the same exact distances at they shoot centerfire pistols. I mostly shoot my rifles at either 50 or 100 yards, regardless of whether they are rimfire or centerfire.

Good points about recoil and flinch, but rimfires still seem to be generally more accurate even when shot from a rest.

Like Greystar said, I'm of the opinion that it's the design of the ammo itself. (Man, it would be cool to have one of those barrel in concrete test rigs.)

October 24, 2004, 07:00 PM
Wolf, around here has a awesome reputation for accuracy. A bulk box've that Federal stuff was fine for me. My Marlin hits alittle light but my bud's Papoose only had one FTF. Aside from that I think alot've it has to do with standardization. There really is only so much difference between all .22 rifles. My .223 is picky with even the high dollar stuff, some stuff it loves some it hates. The .22 ammo seems to be alot more standardized, and thus the guns followed suit or so I can suppose and when you have ammo makers and rifle companies making things to be nearly standardized....

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