All rimfire ammo, including 22lr, is not considered to be a long range cartridge. General opinion is that it s a short range cartridge designed to dispatch small game animals or pests, with it's main purpose being plinking.
This article and site are focused on stretching the capability of these little rounds to their limits and beyond both in long range accuracy and precision.. Why? It's really a lot of fun and realistic practice for long range big bore shooting. Except for recoil (and learning to ignore it is a good thing) shooting a rimfire rifle at 300 yards is like shooting a 308 at 1000.
As with big bore, ammo is one very important component in being successful at long range rimfire shooting. Quick answer: CCI standard velocity is the most accurate ammo I have found at long range. This is because it is well matched to most 22lr barrel designs and the consistency of the manufacturing processes are unsurpassed.
What basic categories of 22lr are available?
High Velocity The speed of sound is around 1100 fps. The speed of high velocity 22 ammo ranges anywhere from 1100 to to around 1500 fps. Subsonic is in the 800 fps and below range, standard velocity is usually at 1100 to around 900, and hyper velocity ammo is greater than 1400 fps.
Each category of bullet velocity is designed for specific purposes.
Subsonic 22 ammo is designed to be quiet, especially when fired through a suppressor. Using a suppressor it can be fired in neighborhoods without disturbing the neighbors. I you are going to do this realize that this ammo is still very deadly.
Shots should never be taken when the rifle is pointed at something you don't want to destroy. Also, remember that 22 ammo has a tendency to ricochet. Take every precaution to make sure your shots are safe.
Being able to target practice in the back yard is a good thing and a lot of fun. Don't expect it to be of much value in helping with long range shooting though. This ammo is very slow. The amount of drop is huge. 700 feet per second is very slow and because the speed is below what most 22 barrels are designed for it is not very accurate. I haven't found a rifle that shoots it really well yet.
It comes in really handy for elimination of small pests that might be giving you a problem around the house. Dispatch is quick and quiet.
Standard velocity is what I mostly shoot. It is usually not jacketed but just a bare lead bullet. This tends to allow very good expansion at 22 velocities which makes it an acceptable hunting round for proper size game.
If you are an accurate shooter, and can place your shots consistently, you can actually take game as large as deer with a shot behind the ear. Not many people are that consistent and I don't recommend this for everyone. There is nothing worse than wounding an animal with a bad shot only to have it suffer a long death.
Most target and benchrest shooters use ammo in this category. It may be very expensive match grade ammo but I have never seen a serious competitor use anything other than standard velocity ammo in the one thousand feet per second range.
Although I know quite a bit about rim fire rifles, I am not an expert around barrel design. I do however believe that most 22 barrels are designed with barrel twists that are perfect for standard velocity. That is why this category of ammo is the most accurate. See my article on standard velocity ammo.
Because I love accuracy at longer ranges, I always shoot standard velocity ammo. There is a lot of different brands out there, most of it match ammo at 10 to 25 cents per bullet. I have found the CCI stand velocity shoots just as well for meat around 5 cents per bullet. Check the price here on Cabela's.
High Velocity Ammunition is designed to deliver a little more oomph for the casual or recreational shooter. Plinking or hunting small game can be a ton of fun with this class of cartridge.
There are many designs of bullets offered including round nose, hollow point, flat point, bare lead, and others. This the most popular and best selling category for most manufacturers. In turn, this is where the manufacturers spend the majority of their time developing new and innovative improvments that will drive sales.
The advantages of high velocity compared to other velocity categories are:
-slightly flatter trajectory within the operable range of the 22 lr caliber
-high velocity is faster with slightly more energy until around 75 yards. Both velocity and energy start to fall off quickly when shot out of a rifle.
The disadvantages when compared to standard and sub sonic velocities are
- with the ballistic coefficient of 22 caliber rim fire the wind affects trajectory more than standard velocity. This is why target and bench rest shooters use standard velocity.
-there is turbulence on high velocity ammo when it slows down and comes back through the sound barrier. This causes a slight amount of wobble causing inaccuracy. The turbulence lasts for only a fraction of a second but it is enough to move the bullet off target.
-using jacketed bullets, which most in this category do, at 22 velocities, I have shot these bullets into ballistic gel with little or no expansion. Penetration is not bad at around 14 inches but there is very little deformation. This not good for hunting or self defense. You need bullet expansion to maximize the would cavity.
With that said, I do like the CCI segmented rounds for hunting. They are designed to break apart after entering the body cavity. In my experience these work great on small game.
Hyper Velocity 22 ammo was designed to all provide maximum shocking power and bullet expansion from this little caliber. I have personally conducted tests into ballistic gel comparing CCI 22 Stinger at slightly over 1600 feet per second and Aguila Super Maximum advertised with a muzzle velocity of close to 1800 feet per second.
Without a doubt, the Aguila left a much larger permanent wound channel than the Stinger. This tells me it would be much more effective on game. But the Stinger is much more accurate at 50 yards although that is not saying much.
Out of any rifle I choose, the Stinger usually shoot around a 1.5 inch group at 50 yards. The Aguila would at times be as high as 2.5 inches. This was shooting from a sled using a Savage FVSR and Ruger 10/22. These are the same rifles that shoot 0.5 inches or less at 50 yards. You can only imagine what this stuff would do at 200 yards.
The chart below contains velocity data for several offerings from three major manufacturers today. As you can see, muzzle velocities vary greatly as each brand is designed for a specific purpose.
What velocity category is best for long range shooting?
As long range rimfire shooters our main objective is accuracy. Most competition shooters, including benchrest, use standard velocity ammo. There is a reason for this.
The twist rate designed into the normal 22lr barrel is matched to the velocity and weight of the standard velocity class of ammo. In other words, most 22lr barrels are designed to shoot standard velocity. Below is a table of numerous 22lr offerings by 3 different manufacturers to prove this point.
Note that most of the match grade ammo produced is in the standard velocity category.
How does the cost of CCI standard velocity compare to match grade ammo?
There is a lot of great match grade 22 lr ammo on the market. The list is way too long to mention them all here. It is all priced pretty high for 22lr. The last box of Eley Edge I bought cost 24 cents per round once shipping costs were added. Other match grade stuff runs much more than that. You can almost spend as much as you want on this stuff.
Out of a good rifle that is well set up, most of it will produce very good if not extraordinary results. There a lot of variables that determine just how good but is all very consistent. You pay for what you get..........or do you?
I haven't done a formal test side by side comparing CCI standard velocity with some of the match grade ammo but I do keep track of the group sizes I shoot with different brands ammo. Out of my savage fvsr at 50 yards, my average group size shooting Eley Edge (which is the the best match grade ammo I have found for this rifle so far), I shot a 3/8 inch group. Pretty much one hole.
Shooting CCI standard velocity right behind it (after the barrel cooled of course) I got a group center to center of slightly less than 1/2 inch. The current difference in price is substantial. Eley Edge 4 times the cost of CCI standard velocity. I can honestly say I did not get enough accuracy improvement to justify the cost of the Eley.
Here is a price comparison taken a couple years ago by dayatherange.com. Prices are little lower now but the comparison is still pretty good.
Is CCI standard velocity as accurate as expensive match ammo?
With all of the rim fire rifles I have owned, CZs, Savages, Ruger 10-22s, Marlins, Anschutzs, I used to go through exhaustive testing to find the most accurate combination of rifle and ammunition, and I continue to do that if I were still into 22 benchrest competition. A couple of thousandths of an inch determines winners and losers in that game.
Not to say that every shooter wouldn't like to have a group that is .005 of an inch tighter, but in every other activity with a rim fire rifle, that much more accuracy really doesn't matter. Especially when the cost is 4 or 5 times greater.
With all of the rifles I mentioned above I would take several different kinds of ammo to the range on day 1 of owning the rifle. After many hours of testing all of the major, normal cost brands available, many more times than not, CCI standard velocity shot the tighest groups.
Some of these rifles were intended to be used for small varmint hunting, others were for competition like silhouette or local range matches, and some were just for plinking. When looking for competition ammo I did test many of the higher cost options, usually Eley, Federal, and Lapua match grade stuff. Not to say that CCI standard velocity could out shoot all of these brands hands down, but it always stayed pretty close to the best performer if it wasn't the best. I can say that for the cost of accuracy, CCI always won.
Now we all know that every rifle has it's own preference in ammo and I am not saying that is not true. What I am saying is that more often than not CCI standard velocity is the best overall performer when I consider all of the rifles I own, and that is way too many.
Below is another comparison done by dayatherange.com on the accuracy of many loads shot from 4 different rifles. I was thinking about doing a similar test myself but dayattherange.com has already done some really excellent work already.
Below is a video where the creator GunsumerReports compared several different types of 22 lr ammo out of a Ruger Precision Rimfire. Guess which ammo displayed the tightest grouping at 50 yards. That's right, the CCI standard velocity. Get a brick of it here and test it in your rifle. In the purchase chart , it is the 9th listing down. I don't think you will be disappointed.
The test was conducted using 4 different rifles including an Anchutz model 54, a Kidd custom build, a Savage mark II TR, and a CZ 452. All shots were fire from 50 yards. In the test CCI standard velocity outperformed all other ammo tested, which was all match grade ammo. Averages were taken of all 4 rifles for each ammo brand. Those are the numbers presented in the chart below.
Average group sizes were also calculated for each rifle using all brands of ammo fired through it. Again, these group were all shot at 50 yards.
What about long range?
At 25 yards, CCI standard velocity prints a one hole group out of my savage fvsr ( I'll use this one for comparison ). At 50 yards I am usually around 1 MOA at one half inch. At 100 Yards, shooting from a lead sled, I have done slightly over 1 MOA at about 1.2 inches. At 218 (which happens to be the longest range I can shoot at my local range) I have never shot for groups but on a day with little or no wind, I can hit a four inch clay pigeon most of the time.
I have also shot Eley Edge out of the same rifle at 100 yards and printed slightly less than 1 MOA and again this was using a sled. Because of the expense I haven't shot a great deal of this stuff at 200 yards but the little bit I have shot performs pretty well and may be a little more consistent than the CCI standard velocity.
I am sure that there are custom rifles out there, tuned for the specific match grade ammo they are shooting, that will shoot better than the CCI standard velocity and the data presented above, both at short and long range. But at this time, it will cost a lot more to do so. Four or five times as much according to my research.
What makes CCI standard velocity so accurate?
Most target or competition shooters use standard velocity ammunition, whether match grade or not, and there is a very good reason for that. At around 11 feet per second a bullet breaks the sound barrier. When this happens a bit of turbulence occurs as the speed of the bullet slows down and returns below that limit. That is what causes the crack you hear down range. You can especially hear that crack when you shoot through a suppressor.
As the speed of the bullet slows below the speed of sound, and causes that cracking sound, turbulence occurs that destabilizes the bullet momentarily. This action detracts from accuracy.
By using ammunition that never breaks the sound barrier this turbulence never occurs. CCI standard velocity has a muzzle velocity listed on the box of 1070 feet per second. It is at the maximum of the highest velocity possible without going through the sound barrier.
Most higher priced target grade ammo is made with the same goal in mind. The most accurate 22 ammo also shoots a 40 grain lead (not jacketed) bullet which has proven itself over and over for many years.
The CCI standard velocity is produced to shoot 1070 feet per second it is also one of the quietest rounds I shoot through my suppressor. It is not as quiet as CCI Quiet but it's also traveling 300 feet per second faster with more oomph. Staying below the sound barrier pretty much all you hear is the action working
I do not work for CCI nor am I getting any kind of payment for saying this, but this company has proven through the years and through the performance of their product that their quality standards are very high. Quality in manufacturing is about maintaining consistency of desirable attributes. I have never had a misfire or a bad batch of any of the CCI brands through many years of shooting. I cannot say the same thing for other manufacturers.