Choosing The Right Rimfire Cartridge

By Jace Bauserman

Man looking down the scope of a rifle

It was sad. The would-be gun buyer would pick up a 22 WMR then a 22 LR—and then back again. He would walk away rubbing his head, only to return minutes later to inspect various 17 HMRs. He wasn’t getting a lot of help from behind the counter and his frustration was growing. Finally, he stormed out of the store without a new rifle in tow.

Picking the right rimfire cartridge shouldn’t be that stressful. Shooting, after all, is supposed to be fun. Make your buying experience more enjoyable by taking the time to learn the similarities and differences of the most popular rimfire cartridge offerings with this helpful guide.

22 Long Rifle

After being introduced in the 1880s, the 22 LR has been used for small-game hunting, competition and just shooting fun. A great all-around cartridge, ammunition is usually affordable and available (under normal market conditions). Those looking to teach a youngster to shoot should look to the 22 LR, as the recoil is nearly non-existent and it’s offered in many styles. Considered by many to be the most popular caliber in the country, the 22 LR is also an ideal choice for varmint control and for filling the freezer with small game.

Quiet 22 semiauto packaging with someone behind loading a magazine

One common question of potential 22 LR buyers is, “Can I shoot a 22 Short from my 22 LR?” The short (no pun intended) answer is yes, but semi-auto shooters might experience feeding problems and accuracy issues. Because it takes the shorter bullet a tad longer to reach the barrel rifling, spot-on accuracy is harder to achieve. Those in the market for a 22 Short—ideal for traplines, plinking and more—should look to 22 Short-specific firearms.

22 WMR

Released 75 years after the 22 LR, the 22 WMR sports a longer case, which means added propellent. The result was a round that was considerably faster than the 22 LR, which reduced drop and boosted energy at longer ranges.

CCI Maxi Mag 22 WMR Packaging on top of Maxi Mag cartridges

For example, CCI’s VNT 22 WMR has a muzzle velocity of 2,200 fps—a good 1,000 fps advantage over most 22 LR loads—and a 100-yard velocity of 1,571 fps. While the 22 WMR is used for target shooting, most who tote this caliber use it for small game hunting, as well as varmints, foxes and even called-in-close coyotes.

17 HMR

Growing in popularity, mostly due to its sizzling velocity and solid downrange accuracy is the 17 HMR. Designed in 2002, the 17 HMR was developed by necking down a 22 WMR case to take a .17 caliber bullet. Those seeking a no-recoil round capable of dropping coyotes and other varmints at distances up to 200 yards have become enamored with the caliber. It’s even an option for turkeys in states that allow the use of rimfire cartridges during fall turkey seasons.

CCI VNT 17 HMR being loaded into a magazine

Due to the velocity 17 HMR rounds produce, drop loss and wind drift are reduced. The round, being a rimfire, is affordable and still offers an intrinsic accuracy standard of 1 MOA or better. Impressive. Often fitted with a polymer tip, the 17 HMR promises flat shooting and better downrange energy than the 22 WMR. Top yours with a quality scope and experience exceptional rimfire accuracy.