Rimfire Roundup (Best Hunting Loads for .22 LR, .22 WMR, .17 HMR)

Updated on December 31, 2018
LJ Bonham profile image

LJ Bonham is a semi-subsistence hunter, hunting magazine editor, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.

Source

Every hunter needs a good rimfire rifle. They are excellent for inexpensive training and hunting, but which cartridges and loads are best?

Until 1960, when Winchester introduced the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, the question had three simple answers. .22 Short, Long, or Long Rifle were a hunter’s main choices on the market. The .22 magnum changed the way hunters looked at rimfires. Before it arrived, people viewed these diminutive rounds as fit for either target practice or game no larger than rabbit.

In 2002 rimfire stepped into a new universe when Hornady developed the .17 HMR, or Hornady Magnum Rimfire. Now hunters had some real choices, but with complexity comes confusion. People wondered which rimfire best suited a particular need. Can just one cover all possibilities?

What’s In, What’s Out

All the rimfires use bullets which have much lower ballistic coefficients than those found in center-fire cartridges. As a result, they all lose velocity at a rapid rate when they travel down-range. Although, some rimfires bleed speed more than others. With some exceptions, the .22 Long Rifle and .22 WMR use 30 – 40 grain lead or copper plated bullets, the primary difference in performance is the velocity at which each cartridge propels those bullets. The .17 HMR uses bullets half the nominal .22's weight to achieve its higher velocities.

The .22 Short and .22 Long are not included in this discussion as they much less popular, available, and effective than the ubiquitous .22 Long Rifle (LR). Since spent rimfire cases are not reloadable, only factory velocities are used in this comparison.

In the Zone

The primary difference between the three rimfires comes down to effective range. Game size is a secondary, but important, consideration, though. The effective range, or target engagement envelop, is divided into three zones: 50 yards or less, 50 – 100 yards, beyond 100 yards. Game weight affects these zones; the larger the game the closer a hunter should get to insure quick, humane kills.

  • 50 yards or less: The original, and still best place for rimfires. Even the fastest, most accurate ones will produce their best results in this range zone. In this zone, a hunter can take most small game and vermin up to turkey, beaver, fox, and coyote with any rimfire.
  • 50 – 100 yards: The .22 LR gets left behind by the others past the 50 yard line. The .22 WMR and .17 HMR are adequate for all small game in this zone.
  • Beyond 100 yards: Although there is some overlap with the .22 WMR between 100 – 125 yards, this is the .17 HMR’s neighborhood. Beyond 150 yards, though, even it is best suited to the smallest game such as squirrel, grouse, rabbit, and prairie dogs.

Rimfires are perfect for small game such as this snow shoe hare.
Rimfires are perfect for small game such as this snow shoe hare. | Source

.22 Long Rifle

The traditional, and still most common Long Rifle load is a 40 grain bullet fired at 1050 to 1100 fps. The biggest decision here is whether to choose a solid or hollow point, and pure lead vs. copper platted bullets.

The answer boils down to one simple question. “Are you going to eat what you shoot?”

If you intend to eat the critter you shoot, copper plated, solid nose bullets are best. While pure lead bullets will work, the plated ones transfer little lead to the meat along the wound track. Eating lead is very--repeat very—bad for you, and you should limit how much is transferred to game.

Likewise with bullet nose configuration. The solid, round nose bullets will deliver just enough energy for a quick kill with a well-placed shot. Hollow points, on the other hand, will blow rather large holes in small beasts. A grouse I hit with a high-velocity, .22 LR hollow point on one occasion, came back almost in two pieces. They are just too much bullet even at Long Rifle velocities. Reserve the HPs for the larger vermin and predators where you need massive energy transfer.

Although their size may lead a hunter to believe a hollow point is better for turkeys, the solids are still best for maximum penetration on chest shots though those Kevlar-like feathers. In most cases, head shots on turkey are the best option with the Long Rifle round.

.22 Long Rifle (far right)
.22 Long Rifle (far right) | Source

Specs. for Selected .22 LR Loads

Load
Muzzle Vel. (fps)
50 Yd. Vel. (fps)
Muzzle Ener. (ft-lbs.)
50 Yd Ener. (ft-lbs)
Drop @ 100 Yds. (in.) 50 yd. zero
CCI std. vel. 40 gr. LRN
1070
977
102
85
-7.6
CCI subsonic 40 gr. SHP
710
674
45
40
-17.8
Winchester 36 gr. LHP
1280
N/A
131
N/A
-3.7
Winchester M-22 40 gr. LRN
1225
N/A
140
N/A
-3.6
American Eagle Suppressor 45 gr. LRN
970
908
94
82
-9.0
 
 
 
 
 
 

How Far With a .22 LR? The Results Will Surprise You.

.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire

The .22 WMR is a real wonder. It has almost no recoil, yet can put down even larger coyotes out to 100 yards, or so, with good placement. Even with solids, it may prove a bit much on squirrels, upland birds, or rabbit inside 50 yards. It comes into its own in the 50 – 100 yard realm and is a good choice if you hunt areas with mixed brush and meadow where a gun which reaches out a bit farther than the .22 LR is helpful.

As with the .22 LR, solids if you want to eat what you shoot, hollow points for the vermin. Except for turkeys. These birds are tough customers and will benefit from the hollow point's greater energy transfer if you shoot them in the chest. .22 WMR ammunition is a bit more expensive than .22 LR, but the extra reach justifies the cost.

.22 LR (L), .22 WMR (R)
.22 LR (L), .22 WMR (R) | Source

Specs. for Select .22 WMR Loads

Load
Muzzle Vel. (fps)
100 Yds Vel. (fps)
Muzzle Ener. (ft-lbs)
100 Yds Ener. (ft-lbs)
Drop @ Yds. (inches)
Federal Game-Shok 50 gr. JHP
1530
1197
260
159
-3.3 @ 100 (50 Zero)
Hornady Varmint Express 30 gr. V-Max
2200
1421
322
134
-16.5 @ 200 (100 Zero)
CCI Maxi-Mag 40 gr. FMJ
1875
1366
312
166
N/A

.17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire

The .17 HMR has taken the rimfire world by storm. It is hyper-accurate compared to the others, shoots much flatter, and hits with authority out to ranges once reserved for the .223 Remington and .243 Winchester. Ammunition proved scarce in its early years, but now you’re more likely to find .17 HMR on a gun store shelf than .22 LR.

This is a superb cartridge. It’s less expensive and easier to shoot than the smaller bore center-fires. It has a 1 MOA reputation in most guns which makes it perfect to reach out and touch paranoid prairie dogs at 150 – 200 yards without all the noise and bother larger rounds produce. It’ll also drop ‘yotes all day at 100 – 150 yards. Another tailor-made application is sniping squirrels across large meadows or picking off jack rabbits in open country.

.17 HMR (far right)
.17 HMR (far right) | Source

Specs. for Select .17 HMR Loads

Load
Muzzle Vel. (fps)
100 Yds. Vel. (fps)
Muzzle Ener. (ft-lbs)
100 Yd. Ener. (ft-lbs)
Drop @ Yds. (inches)
Hornady Varm. Exp. 17 gr. V-Max
2550
1901
245
136
-8.5 @ 200 (100 Zero)
CCI Game Point 20 gr. JSP
2375
1754
250
137
N/A
Hornady Varm. Exp. 20 gr. XTP JHP
2375
1776
250
140
-9.9 @ 200 (100 Zero)
CCI 20 gr. FMJ
2375
1776
250
140
N/A
CCI 16 gr. Speer TNT Green
2500
1642
222
96
-0.7 @ 100 (50 Zero)

Specialty Loads

There are several loads for all the rimfires which merit special attention.

Subsonic loads have been available for decades. Sometimes known as “CBs”, these are great for use in noise sensitive areas and to reduce hearing damage. Velocities range from around 600 fps to just under 1000 fps, and some are designed for use in suppressed firearms. While they are about as quiet as a powerful air rifle, the ones with velocities above 900 fps are still quite loud. The reduced velocity also reduces effective range. Hollow point bullets will improve lethality and are a good choice on rabbit-sized game. They will deliver bad news to small vermin in a hurry, too.

CCI now offers a frangible bullet in their subsonic .22 LR line. This segmented bullet splits into three pieces upon contact which opens three distinct wound channels. It is yet another way to increase lethality for subsonic loads. It is a good choice for use near dwellings and equipment since its unique design should prevent over-penetration and/or ricochet.

Solid copper and copper-polymer composite bullets are now available in .22 LR and .17 HMR from CCI. These are a good choice if you are restricted by law to non-lead projectiles, or just want to eliminate lead transfer to your game. As with their larger caliber, center-fire brothers, they may foul barrels with copper residue after just a few rounds, so use them with caution until you’ve determined how they affect your particular gun.

While not a true frangible, the Hornady V-Max, available in both .22 and .17 caliber, expands with almost explosive speed when it hits a critter. It often shatters into multiple pieces which cause immediate, massive trauma to tissue.

With the proper bullet, at reasonable ranges, the rimfires will give coyotes a dirt nap.
With the proper bullet, at reasonable ranges, the rimfires will give coyotes a dirt nap. | Source

Bottom Line

All the rimfires are great to own. They have almost no recoil, there is good ammo availability, and are they are just fun to shoot. They are a must have for any hunter. As with center-fires, it is important to match the load to the intended game and range. Bullet construction is paramount. As a general rule, use solid bullets for edible game and hollow points for non-edible. As with any cartridge, bullet placement is the most important factor.

Despite the .22 WMR and .17 HMR’s increased performance, when all factors such as ammo availability, cost, and gun availability are considered, the .22 LR is still the best all-round choice in a rimfire. Inside its range envelop, and with the right bullet, the .22 LR will do anything the others can. Although, I plan to take a much closer look at the .17 HMR someday, it is an intriguing round.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 LJ Bonham

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, skyaboveus.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://skyaboveus.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)