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Ammo Roundup: .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire
By Chuck Hawks
There are several ways to organize any ammunition "roundup." It could, for example, be listed by manufacturer. Organizing the various .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) loads by manufacturer has one obvious advantage, in that not all brands are available in all areas, so the reader can skip to the brand(s) he or she can actually purchase.
The most difficult way to present the information, unfortunately, strikes me as one of the most useful. That is, to list the various loads by the purpose for which they are most useful. So I am going to try to do both. I will list each brand, and then in sub headings the purposes for which the various loads are best suited.
In the case of .22 WMR ammunition, that is basically varmint hunting, small game hunting, plinking, and self-defense. Those are the purposes I will address in this ammunition survey.
Varmints are small animals that are usually not eaten, and are often shot at comparatively long range. Examples of varmints include marmots (groundhogs and rock chucks), gophers, jack rabbits, rats, and ground squirrels. Some of these creatures are larger and tougher than most small game animals and preserving an edible carcass is not a consideration.
The small predators include coyote, fox, bobcat, opossum, raccoon, and similar size carnivores. These are tougher and harder to put down than varmints, but are still within the capability of the .22 WMR cartridge within its maximum point blank range of about 125 yards if the right bullet is used.
The loads most commonly recommended for shooting varmints and small predators are the 30-40 grain jacketed hollow point (JHP) bullets. This type of ammunition provides the greatest killing power available in .22 WMR caliber.
Small game hunting
Small game refers to edible creatures such as squirrels and rabbits. The key ingredient in small game ammunition is adequate killing power to insure a quick, clean kill without blowing the game apart. Headshots are best when hunting small game, as no edible meat is then wasted. Most 30-40 grain JHP bullets can be very destructive if body shots are employed.
I don't recommend the 40 grain full metal jacket (FMJ) or total metal jacket (TMJ) bullets for hunting small game, although some manufacturers do. These bullets do not expand at all, and often zip right through the animal's body, creating a fatal wound but allowing the animal to escape before it succumbs. Those collecting fur bearing animals sometimes use these loads, as they do minimal damage to the pelt.
Good choices for small game hunting include the Remington and PMC 40 grain jacketed soft point (JSP) bullets, Federal 50 grain JHP bullet, and Winchester 45 grain copper plated lead Dynapoint bullet. These expand but are less destructive than the standard 40 grain JHP bullets.
"Plinking" refers to informal shooting at casual targets. The time-honored tin can is probably the most common plinking target, but there are endless alternatives. Some of the most common include Necco candy wafers, fired shotgun shells, wooden matches, jar lids, paper plates, potatoes, and all manner of paper targets. There are even paper targets made specifically for plinking. Unfortunately, glass bottles are also common plinking targets, but should never be shot; broken glass will inevitably become a problem for someone. My favorite plinking target is the ordinary "clay pigeon" used by trap and skeet shooters. They are reactive, safe, fragile and degradable.
Any ammunition can be used for practice and plinking. Cost is often the primary consideration due to the high volume of ammunition expended. Personally, in .22 WMR, my standard 40 grain JHP hunting ammunition is also my general purpose, practice and plinking ammunition. Plinking and practice are probably the best uses for the .22 WMR FMJ bullets.
Special purpose ammunition
There are also loads designed for special purposes. An example would be the CCI .22 WMR shot load. CCI recommends their shot shells for pest control, which I take to mean killing rats, mice, and snakes at very close range (under 15 feet). For longer ranges, use standard small game or varmint hunting ammunition.
.22 WRF (Winchester Rim Fire) ammunition may be used in .22 WMR guns in the same way that .38 Special ammunition may be fired in .357 magnum rifles and revolvers. .22 WRF ammo will probably not cycle autoloading actions, and may cause feeding problems in repeating arms due to its shorter overall length.
The .22 WRF is a fine small game hunting cartridge as well as being useful for plinking and practice. CCI does not recommend the use of their .22 WRF ammunition in .22 WMR revolvers because of its copper jacketed bullet. The Winchester .22 WRF load uses a Lubaloy plated lead flat nose (LFN) bullet and is fine for use in revolvers.
.22 WMR ammunition is not specifically manufactured for self-defense, so you will not find self defense loads in any of the manufacturers' brands listed below. This is because while there are some "deep concealment" handguns (notably the mini-revolvers from North American Arms) that are chambered for the .22 WMR cartridge, no rimfire cartridge is ordinarily recommended for self-defense. The gun makers are giving the customers what they want, while the ammo makers are constrained by the physical reality that no .22 WMR cartridge is a "man stopper."
While no .22 WMR load is really adequate for self-defense, any gun is better than no gun at all. So, if a .22 WMR rifle or pistol is all that is available, it makes sense to at least use the best ammunition available for the purpose. According to the statistics that I have seen, that is the 40 grain jacketed hollow point bullet. The top example is the Winchester Super-X load, which is what I carry in my NAA Black Widow mini-revolver.
Manufacturers and brands
A number of manufacturers produce .22 WMR ammunition. This article will only cover brands and loads that are reasonably well known in the U.S.A. Fortunately for our international readers, these brands are also well known in the rest of the world. Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of the brands that will be included in this roundup:
Small Game Hunting
Small Game Hunting
Small Game Hunting
Small Game Hunting
Copyright 2005, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.