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.22 LR Ammo: Cost, Performance, Variations

The .22 Long Rifle (LR) rimfire cartridge is arguably the most common cartridge in the world.

It’s long been a favorite cartridge among small game hunters and sport shooters because it has light recoil and it makes relatively low noise. Cases of .22 LR ammo are also relatively inexpensive compared to other cartridges, which is why target shooters use it to train and plink.

Most types of firearms, including pistols, rifles, revolvers, and some smoothbore shotguns, have been adapted to work with .22 LR ammo. There are a wide variety of conversion kits on the market that can adapt guns that normally take more powerful cartridges, like AR-15’s, to the .22 LR cartridge.

A used .22 LR casing.


Hunters often use .22 LR ammo to kill varmint and small game like rabbits, squirrels, ground hogs, and coyotes. As a small game hunting cartridge, .22 LR performs best is most effective in the range of one to 150 yards from the target. Outside of that range, the bullet begins to lose its velocity.

Target Shooting

.22 LR ammo is an ideal training cartridge, especially novice shooters. A common problem novice shooters have is flinching in the anticipation of recoil. Flinching leads to bad technique and a host of other problems.

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.22 LR is a good teaching cartridge because it has light recoil, which helps students develop good form right from the get go. And, cases of .22 LR ammo are relatively inexpensive compared to other cartridges, costing roughly $4 per 50 rounds.


.22 LR ammo is available in four groupings:

  • Subsonic
  • Standard-Velocity
  • High-velocity
  • Hyper-velocity

Subsonic rounds are the most accurate and quietest type of .22 LR ammo. They’re also the heaviest of the four. Subsonic rounds are weighted to produce a muzzle velocity less than the speed of sound, so that they don’t produce as much sound. This type is a popular choice for small game hunters.

Standard-velocity rounds have a muzzle velocity that is near supersonic. These rounds perform better through long rifle barrels rather than short barrels on pistols.

High-velocity rounds are made with smokeless powder, which is more efficient than black powder. The smokeless powder gives the cartridge a 20 percent boost in velocity.

Hyper-velocity  rounds contain lighter bullets that have muzzle velocity of 1,400 to 1,800 feet per second.

All .22 LR ammo cartridges have a heeled bullet design. The heel is the narrower portion of the bullet that fits into the casing. The outside of the bullet and the casing both have the same diameter.


In 2014, the nationwide supply of .22 LR diminished. Throughout most of the year, gun owners have noticed empty shelves where there were once several cases of .22 LR ammo. The nationwide ammo supply is recovering, but .22 LR remains the most in-demand cartridge on the market.

That aside, the .22 LR remains a popular sporting and hunting cartridge among sport shooters. It’s an inexpensive, accurate, and fairly quiet round that has light recoil, all of which will make it a popular cartridge for years to come.

Featured image via Flickr 

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.22 LR Ammo: Cost, Performance, Variations