.22 Long Rifle ammo is the most widely produced and most popular cartridge in the whole United States. For more than 100 years, it has served the needs of hunters and sport shooters, law enforcement and even the military. Based on the Flobert BB cap, .22 caliber long rifle ammunition is the result of the continuous improvement of the BB cap to meet the need for a cartridge with accuracy, low recoil and low noise for a multitude of applications.
The .22 LR rimfire cartridge can be used in many different situations, from target shooting to plinking and small rodent control. It's comparatively inexpensive (especially bulk .22LR), widely available and lighter to carry – making .22 LR ammo a fantastic choice for long shooting sessions at the range, an extended hunting trip or a long hike.
Firearms Chambered For 22 Ammo
Pistols and rifles of all action types have been chambered in .22LR. From small Derringer pistols to full-sized clones of military rifles, the .22LR bullet has more firearm models chambered for it than any other caliber. A popular trend for this cartridge is to convert a firearm that normally fires a larger centerfire caliber, such as .223 Remington or 5.56x45mm, with a smaller barrel and firing chamber. This allows the shooter to train with less recoil, less cost, and less noise with the weapon they will fire in competition or carry every day.
The Evolution of .22 LR Ammunition
.22 Long Rifle ammunition has only experienced minor changes since being introduced in 1887 by the J. Stevens Arm & Tool Company. From that time, the .22 LR has seen an increase in velocity, range and accuracy. Hollow point bullets are also produced that offer a flatter trajectory and better energy transfer. Some companies manufacture a .22 LR shot cartridge that propels a small payload of #12 shot to dispatch small rodents at close range – a safer method than using a solid point bullet. Beyond all the applications for a .22 LR, it is frequently the first firearm that many people shoot.
The genesis of the 22 Long Rifle lies in the .22 Long. This round effectively retains the casing of that cartridge, combining it with the 40 grain bullet of the similar .22 Extra Long. The round itself is also based on the Flobert BB cap of 1845, with lineage moving through the .22 Smith & Wesson cartridge first released in 1857.
The .22 Long Rifle and similar (.22 Short, .22 Long, and .22 Extra Long) all have heeled bullets. This means the case and bullet have the same diameter, with a more slender-heeled section sitting inside the case.
The round is also one of the most versatile on the market today. Very few rounds can boast that they are able to fit into as many models of rifles and pistols alike as the 22 Long Rifle.
Why Is the .22 Long Rifle Round So Popular?
There are reasons other than sheer versatility and reasonable price that make the .22 Long Rifle round such a big selling item in the United States. The low recoil and accuracy are another feature, making it the perfect round for hunting, pest control or just plinking in the backyard. For many generations, this round is where they learned marksmanship as a part of the Boy Scouts of America’s rifle shooting merit badge program.
In fact, one of the primary uses of the round today is as a training round, due to its intersection of quality and expense. This is the go-to round for several events – including virtually all biathlon and bullseye events, as well as divisions of pinshooting, metallic silhouette and benchrest shooting – so training on anything else is ill-advised. Across the nation, the .22 Long Rifle round is preferred in high schools, colleges, the Boy Scouts, 4H clubs, Project Appleseed, and others. In the Olympic games, precision rifle and pistol competitions likewise feature the round.
This explains why the round is so popular, even though it lacks power. You’re not going to bring down an elk, but you might win your local Elk’s Club shooting competition. And while it’s also not ideal for defense, many self-defense carriers use the round because it’s small and inexpensive.
Military and police snipers occasionally use the round as well. This is because it’s a quiet cartridge, comparatively speaking. However, due to the very short range of the round, you will only find it in the arsenal of an urban police or military unit.
One example of this is the Israeli Defence Forces. Suppressed 22 LR rounds were used throughout the 90s in riot control situations and for shooting dogs before primary operations. The round’s use by the IDF has been scaled back because it is more lethal than previously thought. It was also preferred by the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, who used High Standard HDM, which held these rounds. Suppressed Ruger MK II pistols carried by the Navy SEALs throughout the 1990s likewise used .22 LR.
While it can be used in semi-automatic weapons, these should be standard or high velocity rimfire rounds. In fact, it is the low recoil of the .22 LR that makes its subsonic version unsuitable for semi-automatic firearms. The recoil is so low that it does not properly cycle the round. This is never a problem with manual action rifles and pistols.
Francis Gary Powers, of the famously downed U-2 flight, was carrying one of these when he was shot down over Soviet airspace in 1960.
Gary Powers, the Most Famous 22 LR Carrier
As stated above, Gary Powers was carrying the High Standard HDM chambered for this round. His downing, known as the U-2 incident, is one of the more pitched and tense moments of the Cold War.
Powers was spying. No one disputes this. So the Soviets did what any other government would do: They shot him down. Powers survived, thanks to his parachute, and was quickly apprehended by Soviet authorities. In the United States, the media reported that a civilian craft researching the weather and operated by NASA was shot down. Within days, however, the Soviets released pictures of the pilot and the plane parts, as well as photographs taken by the spy plane as it flew over Soviet military bases.
The Soviets sentenced Gary Powers to prison time for espionage: Three years in standard prison and seven years in a hard labor camp. Fortunately for Powers, he was freed two years later in a spy swap for Rudolf Abel.
Powers disappeared for four days before the United States government even acknowledged anything was wrong. They went so far as to paint up a U-2 in NASA colors to further push the ruse on the American public. President Eisenhower denied any knowledge. Indeed, Ike was in a pickle: If he denied knowledge, he admitted to not being in control of his own administration; if he admitted knowledged, he admitted to spying right before an important summit with the Soviets. The normally ebullient Ike was instead desultory, telling his personal secretary “I would like to resign.”
For his part, Khrushchev played the event masterfully. When they first claimed to have downed an American spy plane, the Soviet dictator specifically did not mention whether or not the pilot was safe just to see how the Americans would react.
The event sunk any hope of a meaningful peace between the Soviets and the West. It also was one of the first events leading toward the heating up of the Cold War in the early 1960s that ultimately lead to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
When Powers returned to the United States, he did not receive a hero’s welcome. He did not detonate any of the classified parts of the U-2. Likewise, he had come to the Soviet Union with a suicide capsule, which he obviously did not take. The CIA and the Senate Armed Services Select Committee both said Powers did nothing wrong.
After a stint testing pilots for Lockheed on the CIA’s dime, Powers published his memoirs, which ruffled some feathers and got him fired. He then became a KNBC Channel 4 traffic helicopter pilot. His helicopter crashed after running out of fuel several miles from its final destination, killing him and his cameraman in 1977.
Bulk .22LR Ammo: The Perks of Cheap .22 Ammo
.22LR ammunition is the choice for youth shooting programs around the world due to the low cost, low recoil, minimal muzzle blast and stellar accuracy. With bulk .22 LR ammo, shooters are able to concentrate on shooting fundamentals without worrying about loud bangs, jumping recoil or an empty wallet.
Considering the variety of firearms chambered for this cheap .22LR cartridge, as well as the many shooter-friendly features, it is likely that the .22 Long Rifle will remain popular for years to come.
22 Long Rifle (LR) Ballistics: Chart of Average 22 Long Rifle (LR) Ballistics
Note: This information comes from the manufacturer and is for informational purposes only. The actual ballistics obtained with your firearm can vary considerably from the advertised ballistics. Also, ballistics can vary from lot to lot with the same brand and type load.