What is the Best .22 Ammo?
It’s the round most of us learned on.
It’s the round we used to take our first squirrel or rabbit.
It’s the round we use to teach new shooters.
It’s easily argued that it’s the most versatile round ever invented—used for plinking, teaching, competition, small game, and even personal defense.
It’s affordable, fun, effective, easy to find, produces very low recoil and guns chambered for it are extremely affordable.
Where would we be without the .22 Long Rifle?
In 1887, the Stevens Arms Company developed the .22 Long Rifle by taking the case of a .22 Long, combining it with the 40-grain .22 Extra Long bullet. The basic design hasn’t changed for over 130 years. It’s said to be the most popular and most widely produced cartridge in the world. There’s no solid number, but its reported that three billion rounds of .22 LR ammo are produced a year!
It is What It Is
.22 Long Rifle was originally made to fire out of lever- and bolt-action rifles and since the manufacturing of .22 LR hasn’t changed, it’s been an issue developing a round that is 100% reliable and consistent when firing from semi-automatic rifles and handguns.
You would think that because of its price and availability, .22 LR is easy to produce, but it’s not. The delicate manufacturing process can cause bullet deformation, loss of priming compound, inconsistent muzzle velocities, and ignition, ejection and extraction issues. The NRA’s American Rifleman writes, “To facilitate ignition, .22 rimfire bullets must be heavily crimped into the case mouth to increase shot-start forces. Of necessity, this deforms the bullet. However, even on a good day, only about half of the propellant in a .22 rimfire cartridge burns completely.” (To read more details about the issues involved in making .22 LR, click here.)
If you own a .22, you know how frustrating it can be to find which .22 ammo works best in your firearm(s). Rimfire ammunition and guns can be very finicky and what works in one might not work in the other, especially when some of the most popular firearms like the Ruger 10/22 are semi-automatics.
Working in the firearms industry, I’ve had the chance to shoot A LOT of .22 LR. I have not had one box of .22 Long Rifle ammo that didn’t have at least one bad round in it.
When shopping for ammo, usually, I pick up whatever is cheapest. I have my .22s purely for fun and to teach new shooters. But, there are situations when you need .22 LR ammo for a specific need—match ammo for competition, hunting, or for use with a suppressor. For example, I’ve sought out CCI Tactical to try in my Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22, Aguila Super Colibri when I needed to be quiet, and .22 snake shot. That doesn’t mean that performance from “whatever’s cheapest” has been the same—far from it! All .22 ammo I’ve tried has varied in consistency in reliability, accuracy and cleanliness.
When I go to the range, I like to have a variety of .22 LR with me to find what works best in each firearm. It’s not until you compare a few different brands and types will you find your gun’s go-to.
I have found that though the super cheap stuff shoots reliably through my .22s, I have numerous fliers that I haven’t experience with other, more expensive ammo. If you are competing, this would be an important deterrent; however, when you’re just having fun at the range, a few fliers won’t ruin your good time.
Though the following loads aren’t the cheapest, they’ve proved themselves reliable.
Aguila Super Extra
This is a 40-grain lead solid point .22 with standard velocity (1,130 fps). This helps make it function better in semi-automatic pistols. Aguila is one of the world’s largest producers of rimfire ammo and they use Eley Prime technology. Their ammo is good and accurate. I particularly like that this load works equally well in rifles, as it does semi-auto pistols.
The Eley Match competition-grade is another not-so-cheap .22 round; however, for serious target shooters, you can’t beat its accuracy. When shooting for accuracy, bullseye, bench rest, competition or precision, this is the round you to invest in—you won’t be disappointed. It is a 40-grain Flat Nose bullet with 1,085 fps. Eley has been making ammunition since 1828 and focuses on competition and match-grade rimfire and air gun ammo. There are loads specifically for pistol competitors. The company makes sure each round is inspected and I dare you to find more consistently measured primers. Firefield staff has achieved excellent groups with Eley in high-end rifles.
Federal Champion #745
When you go to the range to shoot .22 LR, regardless if you are seriously training or just plinking at cans, you always want more than 50 to 100-rounds. So affordable prices on bulk packs are very important to rimfire shooters regardless if your training or just out plinking at cans. This 36-grain copper hollow point for training/target shooting from Federal is an old recipe and proven reliable for years.
From lever-action to AR conversions, Federal’s Champion one of the more consistently reliable .22 rounds I have found, with accurate and reliable performance in a S&W M&P 15-22, Ruger 10/22, Ruger Mark IV pistol and an NAA mini revolver. This clean-burning round works really well in modern semi-automatic rifles, which can be a challenge to find a one that doesn’t have cycling issues.
The CCI Stinger is a hot little round at 1640 fps. That’s why it’s good for varmint hunting. It has a 32-grain copper hollow point bullet and works surprisingly well in semi-automatic handguns. You pay though for this highly accurate and trust-worthy round. For about 10-cents a round, it far from the cheapest. In research conducted by Evan Marshall and Ed Sanow, published in the book “Stopping Power, a Practical Analysis of the Latest Handgun Ammunition,” out of 465 shootings studies, the CCI Stinger came out nearly on top with 38 percent one-shot stops—the second highest rate .22 LR round of six different loads. The Stinger has a longer case and is loaded to higher pressures than a standard .22 round, so make sure you test it first before swearing by it. We have more luck with this round in rifles than pistols.
If these don’t work for you, try the Mini-Mags.
Remember: what works for me and my firearms may not work for yours, so always do your own testing before taking my word for it.