I’ve long suggested that the .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge should be awarded the Greatest Car-tridge in the World title. Who among us didn’t start out shooting this little gem? Who among us doesn’t want to start out our grandkids shooting it? And who among us doesn’t smile when we’re shooting this rimfire cartridge? As great as the long-rifle rimfire is, this doesn’t mean that we couldn’t improve on it where downrange performance is concerned.
The .22 LR cartridge was developed by the J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. around 1887 and quickly took over the world. The long rifle was designed around a 40-grain lead bullet driven at 1,150 fps or so. The ante was upped again when Winchester introduced its new 1890 pump rifle chambered for a stronger rimfire round loaded with a flatnose, 45-grain solid bullet. Offering nearly twice the energy, the new WRF round was the first rimfire .22 round that outworked the original long-rifle load. Based on a longer and larger case, the old WRF just marched on until 1959 when Winchester announced another .22 rimfire cartridge that blew the socks off every other .22 rimfire in the business.
Dubbed the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, the new round added 600 fps to the velocity generated by the WRF, and it topped the .22 LR by more than 800 fps. Accounting for 2,000 fps out of rifle barrels, the .22 WMR cartridge hits nearly 1,600 fps out of short barrels as well. While the .22 WMR isn’t found in every shooter’s locker, it should be. If the .22 LR is the world’s greatest cartridge, the .22 WMR should probably take second place. Capable of excellent accuracy, there are several loads that will do a good job on called predators out to 50 yards or so. Like the .22 LR, you don’t have to pick up your brass prior to heading to the reloading bench either. Shoot, smile, and shoot some more.
I’ve got several .22 WMR firearms in the locker, and to say that I love the cartridge would be an understatement. Although the cost of shooting this little gem is higher than shooting any .22 LR rig, the increased performance quickly makes up for the cost in my book. Even my longer-barreled Freedom Arms 252 won’t generate much more than 1,000 fps with a long-rifle cartridge, and stuffing all five holes with hotter ammo like CCI Stingers or Remington Yellow Jackets won’t up the ante much greater than 1,200 fps. Churning out between 100 and 120 ft-lbs of muzzle energy, only the hot loads can hold 100 ft-lbs at 25 yards. In any light, the .22 LR cartridge is a 25-yard small-game and maybe 50-yard target load from a handgun. Kick up the velocity to 1,400 fps or so, generating more than 150 ft-lbs of energy in the process, and the WMR should nicely double that range in one fell swoop.
While Winchester started the WMR game, everyone who is anyone currently loads this round today. Remington added three new .22 WMR loads to the game early this year, and I’ve had a ball running these loads through two great little rimfire rigs over the past couple of weeks. Currently, Remington catalogs three WMR loads: R22MI, R22M2 and PR22M1.
The .22 WMR cartridge was designed around a 40-grain bullet, and Remington’s R22M1 and R22M2 loads are designed around the same bullet weight. Loaded with a 40-grain JSP, the M2 load drives a good-looking JSP bullet to just shy of 1,400 fps from 6- to 8-inch barrels. The Freedom Arms 252 features a 7 1/2-inch barrel that sports a smooth, electronically rifled barrel and a pair of firing pins that ensure complete ignition with each squeeze of the trigger. A tackdriver in spades, my 252 also came with two cylinders so I can enjoy either long-rifle or magnum-rimfire shooting out of the same rig. It takes about 30 seconds to change the five-shot cylinder from one to the other. I’ve got a 2X Leupold M8 scope in Freedom Arms rings and base. Capable of one-hole 25-yard groups with either cartridge, this rig has accounted for hundreds of little animals in the time that I’ve had it. This past summer I “got lucky” on several 100-yard prairie dogs, and the little magnum did a good job anchoring them, too.
At any rate, I used this proven single action as my number-one test mule. The second test mule consisted of a brand-new S&W 648 equipped with a 6-inch tube. To keep the comparison fair, I also slipped a 2X Leupold M8 scope on this rig with an S&W base and Tasco rings.
Typically, I expect velocity will drop off roughly 50 fps as a barrel is shortened by an inch, but in this case it didn’t prove out that way. While my shooting coursed over several days, the temperature (34 degrees F) and humidity (56 percent) didn’t materially change, so there is no answer why the 6-inch S&W even beat the velocity generated with the 7 1/2-inch Freedom Arms rig with Remington’s 40-grain JSP (R22M2) load. Still, that’s just what happened. The S&W launched this load at 1,390 fps, generating 171.6 ft-lbs of energy at 15 feet. Downrange this load held on to 1,304 fps and 151 ft-lbs. While the 6-inch S&W took velocity honors with this load, the big SA managed to hang on to the accuracy honors. At 25 yards the S&W accounted for five groups that ran from .77 inch to just a hair under 11?2 inches. With the load averaging 1.06 inches, I’d have to suggest that few rimfire loads could beat it.
The big Freedom Arms SA kicked this load out the door at 1,362 fps, giving up 28 fps in the process, but it kept the load under an inch at the same time, averaging .95 inch in the process. As one might expect, if penetration is the goal, this is the load we’d pick. In 10 percent ballistic gelatin this load penetrated more than 12 inches (I can’t come up with an exact figure here because I was too cheap to cast up three blocks of gelatin). Fired from the 6-inch S&W, the load created a uniform and deep permanent cavity. I think this load would damage critters headed for the pot the least.
The second new Remington load hinges on a 40-grain hollowpoint bullet. Loaded to the same general level, this load left the FA single action doing 1,396 fps while it managed 1,384 from the shorter S&W. The instrumental energy works out to 170 to 173 ft-lbs 15 feet from the muzzle, and this load held on to 150 ft-lbs and 1,300 fps downrange. The S&W averaged an even inch when all five groups were measured while the stainless steel FA averaged .64 inch with the same load. In ballistic gelatin I almost got a big surprise. The hollowpoint bullet sheared off some of the nose early in the trip, but the main bullet made it almost to the backside of the 16-inch gelatin block. Penetrating 14 1/8 inches, the JHP left an impressive permanent cavity as well. Offering excellent performance out of both rigs, this load looked like a winner, too, until I shot the last round in this work.
Dubbed a Premium load by Remington, this new load is topped with a great-looking Hornady V-Max spitzer bullet that weighs 33 grains. If bullet weight is the reason this load shoots so well, the WMR should have started out at this weight. The 7 1/2-inch Freedom Arms single action averaged 1,554 fps with this load, generating 176.9 ft-lbs 15 feet from the muzzle. The 6-inch S&W generated 1,471 fps and 158.5 ft-lbs of energy as well. Downrange the FA accounted for 1,447 fps and 153.4 ft-lbs of energy while the S&W managed 1,366 fps and 136.7 ft-lbs. While the S&W accounted for an average group that measured 1.19 inches from center to center, the Freedom Arms combination accounted for an average of .57 inch, with a best group that went .15 inch. A .15-inch group is one that has but one hole. One doesn’t often run into such groups, suggesting that this combination is a winner any way you look at it.
In 10 percent ballistic gelatin, this load also looks like a winner. Penetrating to 8 3/4 inches, the 33-grain V-Max bullet created a large, uniform permanent cavity at the same time. Offering explosive results in gelatin and accuracy that is out of this world, this load would be my choice anytime I’m looking at anchoring small animals (prairie dogs, for instance) out to 75 yards or even slightly more.
Because it carries a suggested retail price running from $6.60 (R22M1 and R22M2) and $9.28 (Premier), shooting a WMR might be more expensive than shooting a long rifle, but this cost comes with much more performance to boot. It’s your call, of course, but I’d put this cartridge solidly behind the long-rifle cartridge for the award of World’s Best All-Around Cartridge. The WMR offers gilt-edged accuracy and is capable of being fired in a dual-cylinder revolver in concert with the long-rifle cartridge, and there’s no reason not to enjoy this increased performance once in a while. Capable of generating more than 175 ft-lbs of energy, the .22 WMR should really be compared to a centerfire .22 round where costs are concerned. In that light, the .22 WMR offers an inexpensive alternative. Yep, I smile when I’m shooting a WMR, too.
Next time you’re shopping for WMR ammo, note that Remington has upped the WMR ante, too. You can’t go wrong with any of this trio.
|SPECIFICATIONS: REMINGTON .22 WMR LOADS|
|REMINGTON WMR LOADS:||.22 PR22M1||R22M2||R22M1|
|Premier 33-grain Hornady V-Max||40-grain JSP||40-grain JHP|
|Price (Per box of 50)||$9.28||$6.60||$6.60|