.22 LR Ammo

.22 LR Overview

.22LR: In Depth

Back in the 1850s, black powder was still the propellant of choice for guns in America – the only choice, really – and loads of the day used big ol’ honkin’ bullets. However, not every gunmaker stuck to the heaviest calibers, as contemporary upstart Smith and Wesson would release their Model 1 revolver that decade, along with a supremely stubby and poorly powered .22 caliber rimfire round known as .22 Short. The .22 Short was the first of its kind in the US: a self-contained metallic cartridge (bullet crimped into a brass case with powder inside); the form all modern ammunition would take around the world before long.

This was followed more than a decade later by the .22 Long, which was…just a little bit longer (specifically its case length). Both the .22 Short and .22 Long were tiny and severely lacked energy when compared to other defensive choices of the day – such as .45 Colt. However, it wasn’t for self defense use that these rounds caught on, as both of the .22s eventually found favor in the sport of gallery shooting, much of which took place inside of homes or other enclosed structures. These small, quiet rounds were a big advantage for this kind of shooting.

In 1887, roughly a decade and a half after .22 Long and some thirty years after .22 Short was first unleashed, the J. Stevens Arms and Tool Co. developed the .22 Long Rifle for use in their own firearms. This rimfire cartridge featured the same brass case of the .22 Long, but this time with a 40-gr. bullet rather than a 29-gr. Around this time, the Stevens guns were especially popular due to their reasonable pricing and solid, at times, novel designs (the company notably made a bicycle rifle). Meanwhile, gun guru J.M. Browning’s slide-action Winchester Model 1890 was fast becoming the de facto official gallery gun for that sport. Many folks also began to take notice of .22LR’s utility when it came to hunting very small game, such as rabbit and squirrel.

.22LR continued to be loaded with black powder or semi-smokeless powder through at least the 1920s. After that, smokeless powder and non-corrosive loads began to show up, which eased the maintenance burden for the firearms that shot it. This was important, since the low cost, low recoil, and high availability of .22LR made it an attractive option for adventurous young folks who could often be careless when it came to cleaning their firearms. Stevens even had a line of “Boy’s Rifles” aimed at this young market. 

Adventurous cadets newly arrived to military service would also benefit from the many charms of this cartridge. Rifles that chambered .22 caliber rimfire ammunition – in one form or another – were almost certainly being used by the US military for marksmanship training decades before the Springfield M1922, in .22LR, was introduced.

Again, low recoil and cost were the chief benefits. The M1922, along with the later Mossberg M44, and still others were used in marksmanship training through WWII and beyond. In contrast with other cartridges, .22LR was also used for training by militaries around the world long before the ammunition standardizations of the 50s and 80s would bring universal use of cartridges like 7.62x51mm NATO and 9mm NATO.

Semi-automatic rifles chambered in .22LR were popping up by the 20s (see Browning’s SA-22), but their availability and use in the US didn’t really take off until the end of the 50s. It was around then that Marlin released the Model 60, followed by Ruger and the  iconic 10/22 a few years afterward. Just these two firearms together have sold in the tens of millions.

Although there are many sanctioned events (including Olympic shooting) that use this cartridge, and an increasing number of competitive shooting disciplines centered around .22LR, the vast majority of shooters are just plinking for fun. .22LR has a unique place in firearms history and lore – mostly because it’s just always been “around” – as countless kids grew up shooting it, hunting with it, and later on teaching their kids to do the same. And, it’s been virtually unchanged since the corrosive powder and primers were taken out of the mix. Faster loads, including some that top 1,400/fps, have pumped up the “average” velocity across the field, but the cartridge still features the same heeled bullet that it did in 1887. A remarkable number of loads still feature an unplated lead bullet as well, which is uncommon for all but a few cartridges these days: don’t change it if it works! 

This cartridge is about as cheap as it gets, ammo-wise, and has always been right in the center of a good time, going back to its roots in gallery shooting. Rimfire rifles also enjoy fewer restrictions compared to their centerfire cousins, at least in many US states. As always, the bottom line is the same: .22LR is a low noise, low recoil, and low cost round; it’s also many shooters’ first – and often favorite – experience with firearms.

.22LR: Guns

This round has been with us since the 1880s, so there’s a ton of firearms to choose from. Semi-auto pistols, revolvers, single shot rifles, bolt action, lever action and mag-fed rifles, and a healthy selection of replicas – all priced lower than centerfire options – means finding the perfect .22LR firearm is a cinch. It’s worth noting that rimfire semi-autos can be finicky, and this is especially true of pistols. Rimfire ammo is not as reliable as centerfire, so this won’t be a gun to carry concealed. Conversion kits that replace one or more components inside of your firearm allow you to train with lower cost .22LR ammunition. For the most part, these guns are about target shooting, competition, squirrel hunting, or just plinking for fun. 


  • Ruger 10/22
  • Marlin Model 60
  • Henry Golden Boy
  • Crickett Precision Single Shot Rimfire Rifle
  • CZ-USA 457 Bolt Action
  • Ruger Precision Rimfire
  • Henry Pump Action Rimfire
  • Bergara B-14R Rimfire


  • Walther P22
  • Ruger Mk. IV
  • Smith and Wesson Model 617

Replica Weapons

  • H&K MP5-22
  • Standard Manufacturing Thompson 1922 .22LR
  • Kingston Armory M1 Garand .22LR
  • Smith and Wesson M&P15-22
  • GSG AK47-22 Tribute

Conversion Kits

  • CMMG Bravo .22LR AR Conversion Kit (AR-15)
  • CZ Kadet Adapter .22LR (CZ-75)
  • Advantage Arms 17-22 G3 MOD (Glock 17 Gen 3)
  • Beretta .22LR Conversion Practice Kit (92 Series)

Why Choose .22LR?

People love .22LR because it’s cheap and easy to shoot. It’s been used to teach the fundamentals of marksmanship since it arrived on the scene; it’s easier to keep on target, is quieter, has less “boom”, and is generally less intimidating than even the smallest of centerfire rifle cartridges. It’s also a natural choice for pest control and is offered in many subsonic loads that pair well with a suppressor.

Target / Competition

  • .22LR is the most affordable cartridge to shoot.
  • Premium target rifles and pistols are priced lower than centerfire options.
  • Olympic shooting still commonly uses .22LR.
  • Premium target ammo is widely available.


  • Rabbits, squirrels, and similarly sized beasts are the ideal quarry for this round.
  • It is NOT LEGAL to hunt deer with .22LR in most states. Centerfire rifle cartridges are much more appropriate for deer hunting! That being said, it’s probably responsible for more harvested (or poached) deer in the US and around the world than any other cartridge. Still, not a good choice for deer. 
  • Some folks will argue that you can kill anything with a .22LR, and they’re technically correct. However, ethical hunting, predator control, and even “getting” requires a quicker kill than .22LR can deliver on most animals.

New Shooters

  • This is the best cartridge to use when teaching the fundamentals of marksmanship to new shooters. Students can concentrate on making the shot rather than worrying about the recoil and noise.

Suppressed Shooting

  • .22LR firearms are quiet to begin with, and adding a suppressor takes sound pressure down close to hearing safe levels. If subsonic loads are used with a suppressor, you can consider ditching ear protection entirely.

.22LR: Ammo Brands and Loadings

.22LR ammunition (and rimfire ammo in general) has a reputation for being unreliable; part of this can be blamed on the priming system, and the rest on some manufacturers’ quality control standards. Rimfire ammo is just inherently going to fail more often than centerfire, period. However, quality control has (for the most part) trended upward over the years. Look for plated bullet loads going in excess of 1,200/fps if you’d like something that will cycle a semi-auto more reliably. Fragmenting bullet loads and shot loads are available for hunting and pest control.


Standard Loading

  • 40-gr. LRN (Lead Round Nose) @ 1,100/fps - 1,250/fps

Bullet Types

  • LRN (Lead Round Nose) - Standard All Purpose
  • PRN (Plated Round Nose) - Reliable for Semi-Auto, High Velocity
  • LHP (Lead Hollow Point) - Subsonic, Suppressed, Hunting
  • PHP (Plated Hollow Point) - Target, Hunting
  • FHP (Fragmenting Hollow Point) - Hunting
  • #12 Shot - Pest Control

Bullet Weights

  • 20-gr. to 60-gr. - Bullet weight and function are not related, other than heavier (more than 40-gr.) bullets tend to be found in subsonic loads. 


  • 850/fps to 1,700/fps - .22LR velocities are all over the map. Check the manufacturer’s description for each individual load. As always, velocity from a rifle will be higher than from a pistol.

Subsonic Ammo

  • .22LR is an ideal candidate for suppressor use. As such, there is a wide variety of subsonic ammo (under 1,125/fps).
  • Shooting with a combination of subsonic ammo AND a suppressor will usually bring the shots somewhere between 110dB - 120dB. This is generally considered to be hearing safe for firearms.

22LR:  Frequently Asked Questions:

.22 Short, .22 Long, and .22 Long Rifle

Small game only – rabbit, squirrel, and similarly sized animals. Groundhogs and prairie dogs will certainly succumb to this round but you might have trouble hitting them, given the effective hunting range of this round (50-75yds max). Smaller predators like foxes at close range. However, a centerfire rifle cartridge would be a much better choice for this purpose, as .22LR has a higher probability of simply wounding an animal this size if you don’t make a good shot.

This is not the cartridge for self defense – unless you have no other option. .22LR handguns are, for the most part, unreliable. .22WMR is only slightly larger and carries a lot more energy, as do centerfire options like .30 Super Carry, .380 ACP, etc. Consider one of these if your goal is carrying something smaller than 9mm.

Probably not! However, if squirrels are the only likely home invaders in your situation, then maybe.

While you can get fairly reliable results with a well maintained quality rifle and premium ammunition, .22LR still has a higher probability for FTFs (failures to fire) than anything centerfire. This is definitely an instance where you want a boom after every click! Bottom line: stick with a centerfire gun for home defense, unless a .22LR is all you have.