In praise of .22s


April 27, 2007, 02:31 AM
It's so easy to pay attention to some calibers: They kick a 700-grain bullet out of a handgun, or place a bullet on target 1,000 yards away, or are the subject of endless contention (9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, I'm looking at you). They kick like a mule, are accused of being able to down a jet plane, or can turn a groundhog inside out. They're all sexy, interesting cartridges, but none of them are .22 Long Rifle.

Everyone gives lip service to the round; it's cheap, it's quiet, it's good for practice, it's plentiful, and it's ubiquitous. .22LR gets the sort of dutiful nod it deserves as an intermediate step between air rifles and "real" rounds. But is this really fair?

Obviously I don't think so, or I wouldn't have created this thread. But why do I think as I do, and why should you agree with me? Read on.


A new kind of revolver was introduced during the American Civil War, showcasing a novel method of launching cartridges: Instead of loading the cylinder with powder and a ball from the front, the cylinder was bored all the way through, and a brass cartridge containing gunpowder, bullet, and percussion cap in one unit was inserted into the rear of the bored-out cylinder. Striking the cartridge on its rim ignited the primer contained in the base and fired the gun. The gun was Smith & Wesson's first revolver, and the cartridge was the .22 Rim-Fire.

The .22 Rimfire's inaugural revolver was a tiny pocket piece marketed to officers in the Union Army. The cartridge itself was also quite tiny--almost tentative in its novelty. It would come to be called the .22 Short after the introduction of the .22 Long. But in 1891, Marlin offered a lever-action rifle chambered in a heavy-bullet variation of the .22 Long, the .22 Long Rifle. 106 years later, this cartridge is the single most popular ammunition on Earth.

Although cartridges that are technically older than .22 LR remain popular (.45 Colt was introduced in 1873), .22 LR's design harkens back to the primacy of its ancestor. The primary archaic feature of .22 LR is, as its name suggests, the fact that it is rim fired; i.e. the primer resides in the rim and ignites when the base of the cartridge itself is struck. Rimfire cartridges enjoyed a brief spate of popularity, but ultimately lost out to centerfire rounds, which were more reliable given the manufacturing technology of the late 19th century and could sustain higher pressures. (Rimfire rounds are limited by the necessity of making the base thin enough to permit impact-ignition of the priming compound.) Another outdated trend still apparent in the .22 LR is its use of heeled bullets; that is, bullets of the same diameter as their case, with lubricant grooves exposed on the bullet and a thinner "heel" fitting into the case. The heeled design was quite popular in early cartridges because it made guns easier to manufacture: Cartridge and bullet were the same diameter, so a revolver's chamber was just a .22" diameter hole bored through the cylinder. Ultimately, the improved accuracy and reduced fouling characteristics of non-heeled bullets led them to supremacy over their heeled predecessors, but echoes of those earlier times remain in the design choices still present in the .22 LR cartridge.

.22 LR may have an illustrious history, but we don't keep it in production purely out of nostalgia. A cartridge doesn't last over a century on momentum alone, especially one encumbered with obsolete design features. The .22 LR cartridge has reached its role as the tiny giant of the ammo world because its unique combination of attributes is matched by no other ammunition extant.


Although its size is more often the topic of derision than promppter of accolades, the fact that .22 LR is an itty bitty cartridge provides some side effects from which we all benefit. The small size of the round permits shaping a semi-auto's grips according to design instead of a workaround for the cartridge dimensions, or allows designers to create truly diminuitive firearms such as the NAA mini-revolver ( or any of the thousands of pocket semi-autos in the caliber.

Then there's the matter of ammo weight. 1,000 rounds of .22 LR can be carried in one hand, but the same amount of any centerfire round would require a backpack and constitute a nontrivial burden. Although most of us don't often find ourselves surviving in the wild for six months or fending off roving zombie hordes, if we were to pursue either of these activities they would be best served with the ancient, outdated, unpopular, but tiny, .22 LR.


I'm actually going to argue both sides of the spectrum with this point, although most people rightfully consider the phrase ".22 LR power" to be something of an oxymoron. It's true; .22 rimfire rounds were puny when they were introduced and remain so to this day. The maximum average pressure of 24,000 PSI, while stiff for the black powder with which the cartridge was originally loaded, is still quite mild compared to modern high-pressure rounds such as the 9mm (35,000 PSI) or .40 S&W (38,500 PSI).

This is actually a good thing. Low power means low recoil, low noise, and low blast: Anyone who wants to can fire a .22 LR gun, and even those who crave flash, blast, and recoil find .22 LR's mildness to be a relaxing change of pace. Low power and pressure also permit less rigorous metallurgy and design for .22 LR guns, making them inexpensive. Alternately, a high-quality .22 LR gun will last for hundreds of thousands of rounds before wearing out, which cannot be said of the equivalent firearm for more violent centerfire cartridges.

The mild recoil of .22 LR has another advantage: It improves skill. Even people who have shot for years suffer from occasional visits from the Flinch Fairy, and nothing cures that particular plague like a relaxing session with one's favorite rimfire gun. Even if there's no flinch to be conquered, not having to worry about grip dynamics for recoil control lets one focus on trigger technique, sight alignment, and breath control until these fundamentals are internalized. Sure, trigger technique should be the same no matter what the caliber, but putting aside all consideration of what happens after one pulls the trigger is easier when not a lot actually happens. All of the above is doubly true for new shooters, or for people who might not care too much for guns but who enjoy some light plinking.

Then there's the flip side: .22 LR might not be a powerhouse, but neither is it an airsoft pellet. .22 LR has more than enough power to kill small game, coyotes, and humans. Some schools of bear hunting, in fact, favor using volleys of .22 LR from semi-automatic pistols. .22 LR may define the bottom edge of dangerous ammunition, but it is nonetheless part of the spectrum. It can suffice as a defensive round, and makes a perfectly acceptable hunting round for some game.


$10 will buy you 500 rounds of .22 LR, an order of magnitude more bang for the buck over centerfire calibers. For those of us who are cheapskates, this price dynamic is very compelling. Even if you're not a cheapskate and are just interested in improving firearm skill, it's hard to argue with ten times the practice per dollar. I've had people tell me that they started out with centerfire, practice all the time with centerfire because they can afford to, and are good shots for it. That may be the case, but they would be even better if they had spent even a quarter of their ammo budget on .22 LR and gotten to practice their shooting twice as much. With the prevalence of inexpensive .22 LR guns, ammo, and conversion kits, there is no reason not to practice with .22. Scratch a good shot, find a .22 and a pile of empty shells.

It's not all deadly tactical training, though. If you're just going to plink at a target or just toss some tin cans downrange and walk 'em back to the berm, this is just as readily done with a .22 as a larger caliber, and the can will likely make it in one piece. Magumping into the target just for grins only costs twenty cents. Treating friends to a range trip isn't an extravagent gesture if you stick to .22s.

With the plethora of inexpensive guns, ammo, and conversion kits available, there is no excuse not to own a gun chambered in .22 LR. In fact, once you buy one, the economic advantage of ammo compatibility with other firearms favors purchasing additional .22s. See, you're not accumulating a pile of guns, you're saving money. And for all the practical and historical reasons for liking the .22 LR round and the guns that shoot it, there's the fact that it's just plain fun.

Even by gun standards.

Thank you for your time. Here is a photo of a revolver chambered in .22 LR. (

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April 27, 2007, 02:37 AM
nicely done. Don't forget the newest kid on the block, the aguila Interceptor.
Fires a 40 grain, 22lr at about 1600 fps!!! ouch.

April 27, 2007, 03:13 AM
I've been a very big fan of .22LR, mostly for the inexpensiveness, accuracy, and quietness. With a suppressor, they quiet down nicely, even the supersonic stuff (which remain supersonic and "crack", but they're still much quieter than with the loud muzzle blast). Great for teaching new shooters, and fun for experienced ones.

I love shooting my 10/22, and my Ruger MkIII pistol makes for some fun, inexpensive times at the range.

Sure, the .30-06, .223, and .45 ACP guns are great fun, but nothing quite as nice as the .22, as I don't need to worry about how much I'm spending. :D

I need a .22LR kit for a Glock 19 (once I buy one -- I sold mine back in September and need to get another), and definitely need one for my AR.

Mr White
April 27, 2007, 07:27 AM
Any round that you can shoot all day for $20 is alright by me. I have a 10/22 a Single Six and an old Stevens, the model of which escapes me right now.

April 27, 2007, 07:45 AM
.22s Rock!

April 27, 2007, 07:53 AM
Rreat postI was always a fan of the.22 Personally i think everybody should own one . Also thanks for the history lesson . I never knew .22 cal was a civil war side arm . thanks for posting maybe you can do a piece about the .22 mag

April 27, 2007, 09:46 AM
I have loved .22s since I was a little kid. When I went fishing with my grandfather, he would carry an old Herter's .22 revolver and he would let me shoot it when we took a break from fishing.
I would get rid of my large caliber guns before I would part with my .22s.

April 27, 2007, 10:09 AM
I too give the .22lr much respect. I had a blast shooting the s&w 500 my father and I rented a month ago, but for $40, we got 20 rounds and it only took about ten minutes. Last couple of times at the range, my wife and I took 2.5hours to go through a $10 brick.

Since it is the ammo is so cheap, in the last month I have bought four .22's! Started with a Henry lever action H001, then a s&w 22a, then a savage mark II FSS, and today is going to be a savage 64. Total cost of all four brand new? Can you believe $650? That only averages $162.50 a firearm!

If I can get a better paying job, I will someday get around to a ar15/ak47 and play with my cz75 more, but until then the .22 keeps me happy :D

April 27, 2007, 01:37 PM
Is it really possible for anyone to not like .22s ?

April 27, 2007, 01:41 PM
Is it really possible for anyone to not like .22s ?

If there is, I don't want to meet such a person. :D

April 27, 2007, 01:42 PM
I love rimfires of all shapes and forms. I just wish there were more options available in semi-auto that mimicked service/defensive pistols - ie a 1911 slide assembly or a CZ Kadet with fixed sights instead of the adjustable/target setup.

April 27, 2007, 01:53 PM
I use the .22 lr with a variety of ammunition between 100-150 meters (only done 150 once with no resuts per se) to learn how to document/manage ammo charachteristics and scope dial in proceedures.

Try shooting eggs at 100 meters or grouping >1 MOA. Which is driving me towards Lapua and Eley tenex Ammo both of which are >$10 a box in Europe

Or the how the minro velocity difference between CCI SV and Subsonic plays out beyond 50 meters... :) Great caliber...

April 27, 2007, 02:24 PM
Well presented and informative.

That's actually scrapbook material.

For the scrapbook I may one day make.

April 27, 2007, 02:49 PM
I have plenty of rifles and pistols, but the ones I love (and shoot) the most are my .22s. I can afford to shoot em. I can shoot em all day. I can shoot the rifles w/o hearing protection. I love my .22s...

April 27, 2007, 03:02 PM
Candiru: Thanks for starting this thread. You have caused me to re-think the .22 LR. Now I have a large hankerin' for a Marlin 39A.

April 27, 2007, 03:11 PM
VERY nice write-up!!! I appreciate the history you cited, including the decision process in developing the round.

At this point, I have one .22 rifle, a Mossberg Plinkster. Quite the fun little rifle. I need to get my Marlin Mod60 back from my ex-. (long story, and in work on getting it.) I hope to be getting a .22 pistol sometime but the money is just not there right now.

I love my .22 rifles, and as long as I can, I will ALWAYS one.

April 27, 2007, 03:12 PM
I agree a 22 is just plain fun to shoot. I have a Ruger lever action 96/22 that is chambered in 22 magnum but it is still very low recoil and fairly cheap to shoot though the 22lr is cheaper still.

April 27, 2007, 03:21 PM I need a .22 firearm

April 27, 2007, 03:33 PM
I have had nothing but fun from my .22's, both the Survival Rifle and Rugers. It's the oldest cartridge, has a variety of uses, comes in SA, DA, single shot, SMG, revolver, pistol, rifle, even a device or two at Home Depot, it makes me think there should be a separate forum here specifically for all things .22...

April 27, 2007, 04:36 PM
Saved to be posted on the rifle range safe.

April 27, 2007, 05:04 PM
.22 LR is about all that I can afford to shoot anymore

April 27, 2007, 05:05 PM
.22 is by far the best way to introduce new shooters to the sport, not to mention they are a ton of fun (and cheap enough to shoot all day)

April 27, 2007, 07:25 PM
If who anyone own's guns and DOESN'T have a .22, they need to remedy that situation as fast as they can.

April 27, 2007, 07:36 PM
Happiness is shooting my grandfather's Colt, 22 Police Positive, Target,
that I wore at age 13 when I downed my first Whitetail deer in Minnesota.
Still have my first 22 Stevens Mod. 87, semi auto. Mostly Winchesters,
near onto 15 rifles and 1/2 doz. handguns. Twenty-twos for Ever:D :D :D

April 27, 2007, 07:37 PM
For my birthday this year I got a mint Colt Huntsman made in my birth year. Needless to say it is old. lol

Gotta love the 22

April 27, 2007, 07:56 PM
Nice post . I know that whenever I go to the range , no matter what I bring that day , there's always a .22 . :D

April 27, 2007, 08:12 PM
Great post. I've got some big iron -- .38Spl, .357 Magnum, 12-gauge. On the other hand, I've got seven .22s. I think that pretty much says it all. :D

April 27, 2007, 08:20 PM
ArfinGreebly wrote:

Excellent Post
Well presented and informative.

That's actually scrapbook material.

For the scrapbook I may one day make.

I could not agree more!

April 27, 2007, 08:58 PM
When I got back into handguns after a 20 year hiatus, the first gun I bought was a Browning Buckmark .22. Now, a year later, it still has more rounds through it than my other three guns combined.

What is not to like about 22? :)

April 27, 2007, 10:10 PM
Awesome post:) A 22 also helps to keep you honest, you can see exactly where you hit, easier to accurately measure group sizes, and will make anyone a better shooter IMO. I just about always bring a 22 to the range with my big bore stuff to help settle my nerves, and it is about the only caliber that anyone from eight to eighty can have fun shooting and can handle well. In fact I am currently waiting my 7 days:mad: for a buckmark hunter to join a half a dozen other dub deuces.

April 28, 2007, 02:16 AM
well-written and right on target. I love my various .22's, and I am always on the prowl for more. I think it is the most versatile cartridge around, personally.

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