Is the 22 Mag Rimfire Useful?
Dr. John Woods 08.12.19
Exactly what value or purpose is the 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) cartridge? Back in the day, the 22 Mag was often assigned the role of “rat killer.” Livestock and crop farmers always had a 22 Mag around the barn to control vermin that ate their way into seed and feed bags. I suppose that role is still being played out. It terms of overall utility, is the 22 Mag really needed? What use is it today?
Rimfire cartridges have been around a long time, dominated mostly by the universal 22 Long Rifle (LR). In terms of rimfire cartridge development, obviously manufacturers felt there was a market for a more powerful rimfire round and thus the 22 Magnum was created. How does it compare to the standard 22 LR rimfire?
A relatively standard 22 Long Rifle cartridge uses a bullet in the 40 grain range, but many bullet weights and types are made. The 40 grain loads by CCI, Remington, and Winchester for example have a muzzle velocity of 1235, 1255, and 1300 feet per second. Those rounds generate a muzzle energy range of 135-150 foot pounds. These loads have been proven capable of taking small game and pests at close ranges.
The 22 LR is also a plinker’s delight, taking down millions of green bean cans and other targets of opportunity. The 22 LR is a great training round for teaching new shooters the fundamentals of gun handling, safety, targeting, and shooting.
But whatever the 22 Long Rifle could do, certainly the 22 Magnum can do better. By comparison the 22 Mag — also using 40 grain bullets — issues muzzle velocities of 1875 to 2250 feet per second in CCI, Federal, Hornady, Remington, and Winchester loads. That produces muzzle energies of 312 up to 337 food pounds. As you can see, that is more than double the ratings of a standard 22 LR.
The 22 Magnum then becomes capable of taking larger game varmints and pests including rats, snakes, rabbits, beaver, and maybe even a coyote at reasonable ranges with a well-placed shot. There are many options for 22 Mag loads as well.
Self-defense? Certainly there are some that use small derringers or like handguns for self-defense, or as close quarters back up. With a close, well targeted shot, the 22 Magnum could certainly deter a threat. Some say, any gun is better than no gun. It may not be a first choice, but it is a choice? For all these reasons, the 22 Magnum remains popular and looks to stay that way.