High Performance .22 Rimfires
Their Performance in Small Game and Varmint Revolvers
written and photographed by Mike Cumpston
edited by John Dunn
Click on any thumb-nailed photo for a larger image that opens in a new window.
The universe of the .22 rimfire is so extensive that to attempt a comprehensive approach to the Long Rifle cartridge alone would be tedious in the extreme. Fortunately the array of high speed and hypervelocity long rifles has grown fairly large. Most of the loads demonstrate precision accuracy in rimfires geared toward field use and their moderate cost encourages their use for general shooting. With this in mind, I decided to restrict my observations to several loads that are particularly suitable for small game and varmint-hunting, are in good distribution and with which I have some experience in a number of rimfire handguns.
The tabulated data represents an average of ten rounds fired over a ProTach Chronograph at approximately 85 degrees temperature 460 feet above sea level. The handgun data is derived from a Smith and Wesson Model 617 with a Weaver 1.5-4x scope mounted. It is a fairly generic field revolver if any such thing exists and I note that the comparative group size and velocity figures closely resemble results from the same cartridges as fired in several other S&W and Ruger revolvers of the same approximate size. E.g.: Remington Golden bullets usually out group CCI Mini Mag Hollow Points in the several revolvers and present average velocities in the high 900 fps range. At the same time, the CCI load consistently produces velocities in the medium to high 1000-fps range. Previously observed fifty-yard groups from a couple of .22 rifles show the same ranking of accuracy velocity as the revolver.
* From revolver one un-factored round clocked 973 increasing ex spread to 206. The groups in the table from the Remingtons and CCI mini mag are from 25 yards while the Stinger, Velocitor and QuikShok groups were from 50.
As a matter of interest to some readers, I also clocked these loads from a Remington 521T Target Rifle. Some accuracy observations are presented but I did not do extensive group shooting on the present occasion -mainly because of my personal limitations with the iron-sighted rifle.
Remington 521T 25” Barrel
Because constructing comprehensive tables in the web page format is somewhat involved, I decided to discuss each load separately presenting the ballistic data along with the textual findings below. Groups were fired from the revolver. All loads were checked out at 25 yards and the most promising loads were also fired for group averages at 50 yards.
To capture bullets and observe hollow point performance, I used a dense, fat-marbled raw beef brisket three inches thick backed by a wet telephone book and placed inside a plastic cooler. All bullets from all loads captured in this manner exhibited significant hollow point expansion at both 25 and 50 yards. QuikShok fragments were found in the brisket and telephone book while all others completely penetrated the brisket and were found either in the telephone book or lying against the bottom of the cooler.
Examples of bullet expansion by ammo type
Remington Golden Bullet HP
These velocity figures are comparable to those observed in an iron-sighted K-22 and a semi-auto Mossberg New Haven rifle. The round appears to be the same Remington Hollow Point available in bulk packages of 500 given the identical nature of the velocity, observed accuracy and round to round consistency. The current lot is clearly marked “Golden Bullet” and supplied in 50 round boxes. There were no misfires or squib loads with these but my last 500-pack produced squib loads that stuck bullets in a revolver barrel on two different occasions. The low velocity of this round relative to the CCI Mini Mag calls into question its effectiveness as a game taking round. The large Golden Bullet HP did exhibit classic mushroom expansion with no visible difference in bullets recovered from 25 or 50 yards.
The same load chronographed ten to fifteen years ago averaged out in the mid to upper 1000 fps range and seemed less prone to squibs and misfires. Aside from the low velocity and occasional round failure the Remington load is accurate. My records show it producing a .98” five shot group at fifty yards from the 521 T and on that occasion, it out grouped several dedicate target loads.
Remington Yellow Jacket
The Yellow Jacket 34-grain hypervelocity load closely followed the introduction of the CCI Stinger and earlier samples mirrored the current velocity averages. In the early 1990s accuracy seemed much better than currently observed although I noted at that time that the solid point Remington Viper load was quite erratic and inaccurate. Twenty five-yard groups were larger than any of the groups fired at twice the distance with the other loads. One round of the ten shot string was not included in the tabulated average. This was an outlier that clocked 973 feet per second and increased the actual extreme spread from 82 to 206 fps. The accuracy of this round was so unsavory that I didn’t bother catching expanded bullets.
CCI Mini-Mag HP
Years ago, I settled on this load as my field-standard for .22 rimfire rifles, pistols and revolvers. This was in the late 1980’s and came about because I was getting occasional misfires and squibs with the Winchester Western and Remington GB hollow points. All were showing good hollow point performance on small game out to 25 yards and somewhat beyond but the CCI load was the most prone to fire every time. In the early ‘90s I clocked all of these loads from Ruger revolvers getting velocities in the high 1000-fps range. Auto pistols seem to be a bit more efficient with the long rifle loads in general. These loads were doing 1060 from a MK II 4 ¾” Standard Auto. The Mini- Mag clocked a full 1125 fps from my 7.5” Ruger Competition Target and was a decisive performer on Jackrabbits at ranges of 25-40 yards. My first fifty yard 10-round group from that scope-mounted pistol measured 1.1”. The load was turning circa half inch groups from the Mossberg New Haven and regularly produces 5-round 25 yard groups in the one inch category from my several .22 revolvers.
The CCI rimfire primers, like their center fire component primers, are tough and require a decisive hammer fall for ignition. Smacked with sufficient force, they virtually never deliver failures to fire or squib loads. Bullets caught at 25 and 50 yards unfailingly showed classic mushroom expansion with no visible difference at the two ranges.
I believe this load came out in the early 1980s. As the first Hypervelocity rimfire, it was a real sensation at the time. The dealers were hard pressed to keep the round on the shelves.
The original loads were super accurate in my Remington 541S Sportier, a MK I Standard Auto with 4 ¾” barrel and a 5” High Standard Trophy. They were, and are, less accurate that the Mini-Mags in my Ruger Single Action revolvers.
My first experience with the Stinger came during a rare snowstorm outside of Lyndale in East Texas. I put a single round through the chest of a marauding skunk causing him to expire instantaneously and without fanfare. I used the 5” High Standard to make a 60 yard shot on a sitting Jackrabbit with the same results. He simply fell over, kaput. ‘Coons and Armadillos were well within the capabilities of the Stinger and exhibited impressive wound channels upon examination.
Over the years, the Stinger load has maintained just about the same ballistic profile with loads clocked last week closely resembling those I averaged in the early 1990s. Accuracy in my current crop of .22 Smith and Wesson revolvers is consistently fine although some guns have been wildly inaccurate with the load. A possible explanation for this is that the 32-grain high velocity bullet is very vulnerable to distortion from the feeding sequence or irregularities in chambers and barrels. I have been surprised to find in recent shooting with a number of handguns that the load is actually out-grouping my standard favorite, the Mini Mag Hollow point.
Nothing identifiable as a Stinger Fragment was recovered at 25 yards. Out of five rounds fired into the brisket, it appears that all exploded into small pieces. Four of five bullets fired at 50 yards were recovered fully mushroomed to the largest diameter of the lot and showing the print of the “Penta-Point” hollow cavity on the front aspect.
This is the new hypervelocity load featuring a full 40-grain hollow point at trajectory flattening velocities and with superior accuracy. The above data proves that a chronograph will tell you how fast your bullets are going unless you clock the load TWICE-in which case you will never be quite sure again. Much the same situation occurs if you have TWO chronographs. The present data shows the Velocitor going slower from the rifle and faster from the revolver than when I checked them the first time.
Recovered bullets had expanded at both ranges showing varying degrees of expansion. This bullet has a shallow hollow point and all presented a relative small frontal area with a long bullet shank intact.
This round features a standard appearing hollow point bullet scored length wise and then horizontally at the base of the nose. The result is a bullet that breaks into two or three pieces and creates an enlarged wound channel. Velocities are at the top of the high velocity long rifle range. I recently finished off a shotgun-wounded crow with two of these from the model 617. Each bullet caused a wide wound tract and massive tissue damage.
None of the ten bullets fired into the brisket failed to completely fragment. Pieces of the pre-stressed bullets were found in the 3” layer of meat and in the telephone book behind.
Whether or not the interested reader can use these results to predict performance of the individual loads in his own handgun is problematic. I wrapped up the exercise by firing selected loads in four additional revolvers with barrel lengths in the 6- 9.5” range. The barrel length or make of the revolver was no predictor of relative velocity. A 6.5” barrel Ruger Bisley provided consistently higher velocities than my 617 or any of the other handguns. An 8 3/8” Model 17 and a 9.5” Ruger Single Six failed to demonstrate any advantage to the longer barrels. In the four additional revolvers, the CCI Mini Mag delivered velocity averages ranging from a low of 1031 in the 6” K-22 to 1110 fps in the Ruger Bisley. Stingers ranged from 1253 in the K-22 to 1358, and Velocitors spanned the 1100 fps range from 1104 to 1193. All revolvers delivered the selection of rounds into a roughly similar velocity range and it can be predicted that performance on appropriate small game and varmints would be indistinguishable out to fifty yards and probably beyond.
CCI Mini-Mags provide predictably fine accuracy in all of my rimfire arms and have proven completely equal to the task of taking the full spectrum of small game and varmints. The Velocitor's “Gold Dot” bullets are advertised as providing “controlled expansion” and it does seem that they are geared toward providing moderate expansion with the potential for deep penetration at short and medium range. The QuikShoks demonstrate limited penetration and outrageously wide wound channels for a .22 rimfire bullet while delivering fine accuracy to the fifty-yard mark.
If I were to select a clear standout among these loads, I would be tempted to pick the Stinger. Accuracy was consistently excellent and the bullets provided the largest expanded diameter at 50 yards while evaporating at half the distance.
Regardless of specific brand, the various high performance Long Rifle loads have proven equal to a wide spectrum of small game and varmints and provided memorable experiences in the game fields.
The author, holding a cottontail harvested with a 6.5" Bisley .22
since the website crashed AUG 2003