.22LR: Velocity Variables


Due to an act of overt, shameless kindness on the part of J.J. Reich and staffers at Vista Outdoors I was able to scrape up a nice assortment of various .22 loads for this quick look at the breed. My goal was simple, to actually take a look at something we tend to take for granted. I’ve always assumed some loads were “faster” and others “not so fast” or one would “kill much better” while the other “wasn’t as good.” But is it actually true?

How did I actually know this other than by mostly off-hand experience in the field or general articles I’ve read? Did my lifetime spent making piles of empty .22 brass leave me with honest info — or simply half-thought, ill-tested impressions of myth, legend and the ability of advertising to tug at your emotions?

Remember the ads with the “Good Old Boys at CCI” in the old days? A boy, his dad, maybe a dog, walking along the river holding .22 rifles? I wanted to be there too — and I could — if I bought CCI ammo. So I bought CCI ammo. You did too. I’m not sure how differently my youth might have been skewed if it weren’t for CCI Mini-Mag HP .22 LR ammo in those plastic boxes. I can feel that rectangular box in my coat pocket even now, and I’ll bet you have some memories too.

So, I dusted off my chronograph, lined up this goodly assortment of CCI-based .22 ammo — from .22 CB loads to hot-rocket blasters — and did some actual research. It’s like science, in a gun-guy kind of way. Time for answers, finally.

Roy dug out his “first-ever” gun, a Remington Model 514 .22 for the long barrel shooting (24"),
a vintage BSA .22 (19" barrel), Contender (10") and a Ruger Super Bearcat (4").

The Big Test

My goal was mostly to simply see what sort of velocity you really get out of various .22 loads. While we “know” a CB Cap isn’t as “powerful” as a Mini-Mag, I wanted to know just what the numbers were. Ditto for the .22 CB “Long” or .22 Short, good old Mini-Mags, and the now almost legendary Stingers; which when they first came out became almost mystical in their stopping power and sheer velocity. “It’s like a super-.22, almost like a magnum!” we used to say. Gosh.

A cross section of .22 ammo from one maker (CCI) answered questions about consistency and
product performance across their line-up.

But Is It True?

I rounded up four .22’s (see the pic), lined the ammo up with the smaller stuff first-up and proceeded to shoot over the chrono. I used a LabRadar and a ProChrono from Competition Electronics to double check things.

I learned a few things, one being high velocity isn’t everything. The slower rounds almost always showed the most consistent velocities. And indeed, in my experience in the past, the standard or “target” loads did tend to be more accurate. The Mini-Mags (including some “old stock” I had around) were a bit faster than anticipated, at around 1,330 fps from the Remington. They even broke 1,000 fps from the little Ruger. There’s a reason Mini-Mags have always been reliable on small game, and now I know why.

The CB (or CB Cap as we used to call them) was faster than I thought, at about 705 from the Remington, but a very slow 370 fps from the 4″ Bearcat. That would stop a rat or mouse but is much less than most field air rifles these days. The CB Long was similar but for some reason showed in the 613 fps range in the 4″ Ruger, and similar velocities in the other guns as the standard CB. The .22 Short surprised me completely averaging over 1,000 fps from the short Ruger and about 1,200 fps from the long Remington. I had no idea!

The “Quiet-.22 LR” load is labeled just like that, and quiet it is. At only 709 fps from the long Remington, it’s easy to shoot with no ear protection. It just sort of goes “bap” — but its heavier bullet would likely make it a good “around the homestead” pest round, more effective than the CB’s.

The “Small Game Bullet” using a 40 gr. flat point bullet was very consistent, and in my experience seems to be very accurate. It’s a good killer on squirrels and rabbits based on what I’ve seen around my place.

The “Velocitor” seemed to average about the same velocity as the Mini-Mags, in the 1,300+ fps area, so I’m not sure what the real difference between the two might be as both bullets are 40 gr. and appear to look the same. The Stinger’s 32 gr. bullet, however, lived up to the legend averaging 1,170 fps from the 4″ Ruger and over 1,620+ fps from the long barrel of the Remington. Zappo! It’s devastating on squirrels, and a sort of “mini” .22 Magnum if there ever was one.

My “sense” of how things seemed to be was spot-on with the Stingers, but the Mini-Mags showed more velocity than I anticipated. The CB’s are a bit faster too and I think are more useful than I first thought. The “Quiet” loads (including the CB’s) are fun to shoot, while the .22 Short is as loud as a Mini-Mag and almost as fast, although it does have a 29 gr. bullet. Keep in mind, though, for ultimate accuracy, you need to check everything in your particular gun, but generally the “match” and standard velocity loads will be accurate because they are more consistent in their velocities. Over-all, I think we need to not over-think all this and simply use what’s at-hand for general plinking, reserving the specialty ammo for, well, special things.

Next stop? Let’s do the same thing with .22 Magnum loads. Tune in later.

Chen Magwell Gen2

This is elegant and beautifully made, as you would expect from Stan Chen Custom. Without adding to the length or width of the pistol, Stan’s mag well addition hides as easily as a standard 1911. It’s flared as much as possible for smooth reloads, also allowing finger-tip access to the mag toe if it’s necessary to “rip-out” a stuck mag. If the gun is dropped or abused, the Side Impact Reinforcement Tabs help prevent side movement of the mag well, interfering or jamming the mag operation. The entire installation is done cleanly and smoothly in Stan’s shop using proprietary jigs and fixtures. It’s all 100 percent made in Stan’s shop and is patent pending.

For more info: www.chencustom.com
Phone: (970) 385-7900
Email: [email protected]

SGM Signature Grips

Michael Gailey owner of SGM has built an innovative business using his Haas 4-axis CNC mill to create amazing grips for a wide range of guns. He’s recently partnered with famous grip maker Larry Davidson (think: the first guy to machine G-10 grips and the inventor of the amazing “Grenade” grips and the double-texture concept) to handle the Larry D. Signature Series grips. Based on Larry’s designs, they are, as Larry (a retired Marine) says, “…designed to be used in combat, police duty or by any civilian shooter who wants to know that in sweaty, muddy combat or daily carry, their grip will never slip out of their grasp.” Larry’s work has been featured by virtually every custom maker, and it’s great to see his designs return to the market!

For more info: www.sgmgrips.com
Phone: (912) 531-8340
Email: [email protected]

Remington New RP9

Just announced, Remington’s new polymer framed duty-sized auto is a sort of typical entry into this market. With a big “19+1” capacity in 9mm, they say it has a “Crisp single-action trigger, Ambidextrous slide lock, ‘Fighting’ surface on rear sight for one-handed operation and ‘Optimized’ grip angle” among other features. MSRP is $489.00 which is pretty darn cheap and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in gun stores at the $429 mark or so. We have one on order and will report on it later.

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