22 March 2024

Oh, It's Just a .22...

A discussion arose about the lowly .22 cartridge a week or so ago, so I thought I'd add to that a little and throw this in. This is the Gospel of .22 from the Book of Cope...

The .22 family of rimfire cartridges includes the Short, Long (all but obsolete) and Long Rifle, but does not include the .22 Magnum in my mind, which is in a class all by itself and is .001" larger in diameter. This little family of cartridges is grossly under-appreciated and misunderstood. Many, many inexperienced or semi-experienced shooters and, of course, the wannabes don't give this little gem NEARLY enough credit. The truth is, this little feller will do nearly anything you think you're big enough to do, within reason. For the most part, this article will stick pretty close to the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. 

Every warm-blooded species of animal in North America has been taken with the .22LR, including pronghorns, deer, elk, moose, and every species of bear that exists on the North American continent. It is also used for subsistance hunting by Natives across the fruited plain and into Alaska and Canada.
Disclaimer: I, by no means, consider the .22 a big game cartridge. I'm simply saying that it has been, and will undoubtedly continue, to be used in that role from time to time. 

Because of its diminutive size, many shooters treat it as a toy. "Oh, it's just a twenty-two",  they say. Just a twenty-two?
Well, read on...

Depending on the style of bullet, the .22's small diameter provides excellent penetration despite its modest velocity. Even at ridiculously long ranges, the .22 is a killer. Its not remotely difficult to make 1-shot kills on small game out to 200 yards or so with an accurate, scoped rifle. Much larger game can be taken humanely inside of maybe 125 yards, depending on the animal and bullet style.

How is that possible? Precise shot placement. Generally, there's no such thing as an inaccurate .22. If you can do your part and the gun is mechanically sound, even the cheapest, practically worn out .22 will usually shoot, and shoot well.

The first gun that I got to call my very own was a bolt-action, Montgomery Ward rifle, made by Mossberg. It cost $19.95 and I got it for my 9th birthday in 1965. I still have it today, and it is still a tackdriver. I haven't the foggiest notion how many thousands of rounds have been put through that thing, but I can tell you, it is many.

Back to the penetration thing...
Aside from the .22's uncanny ability to generally stack bullets on top of each other, its penetrating ability helps make it a stone-cold killer. This is evidenced by a VERY large hog that I once killed with a single shot from a .22 pistol; a 6⅞", Ruger MKII. Understand that the velocity of the bullet from that handgun barrel was probably in the vicinity of 1100 fps.
Penetration? Why, yes, thank you! Here's the specifics...
The hog was standing approximately 6-7 feet away, facing me. I carefully placed the bullet precisely between his eyes and slightly high. He dropped like his legs disappeared out from under him. Two kicks, and he stretched out and was gone. Attached are pictures of the live hog, well over 1000 pounds of him, and a couple of the skull. I took over 500 pounds of mostly deboned pork in the house later that day.
That tiny little bullet entered through what is probably the thickest, hardest part of the skull, went through about 5" of brain matter, and exited the rear of the skull, going into the spinal column. I have no idea how far it traveled after that.

So... let's go back to that "toy" comment. My cousin used to have a butcher shop in Farmington, NM and I've seen countless hogs, full grown steers and cows fall to a single .22 Short out behind that shop. I've lost track of the number of deer I have killed with a .22, each and every one with a single, well-placed shot. Of course, add to that innumerable coyotes, foxes, prairie dogs, ducks, grouse, rabbits, etc, etc, etc. Toy indeed!

Whatever you have now in your personal arsenal, it is not complete without at least one, good .22 rifle!

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...

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