At some point, my grandfather came to believe 22-caliber holes fired through the interior of a barn roof would not leak during rainstorms. So, when invasive starlings chose to roost inside our hay and tobacco barn, making a mess and displacing native barn swallows, he decided to eradicate them with his rimfire rifle. I wasn’t made aware of this plan, and I don’t think my father was, either. But, bit by bit, we began noticing perfectly round holes appearing in the tin barn metal—and very jumpy starlings.
Grandpa’s plan was not particularly well thought-out, and it led to no small period of friction between my grandfather, who busied himself perforating our barn roof, and my father, who was tasked with patching up the holes. But I tell this story to illustrate a point: rimfires aren’t perfect for every application.
Either of his own accord or after being persuaded by my father, Grandpa eventually opted to shoot starlings with 22 LR shotshells in the trees surrounding the barn. That was my first exposure to these rounds, and despite the fact the loads don’t get the attention or love of more conventional rimfire ammo, there are times when they serve an important purpose.
Best For Pests
There are many occasions when a 22 LR shotshell is the only option for pest control, but the good news is rimfire shotshells do an impressive job dispatching small birds, rodents and reptiles. The standard CCI 22 LR shotshell contains 1/15-ounce of No. 12 shot, which might not sound like a lot compared to the average conventional shotshell but is more than enough to stop small pests cold at close range. At short distances it’ll stone a starling, a rat or mouse, or a snake if the shot is in the right place.
So, how far is too far? That depends on the barrel length of the rimfire that you’re shooting. Since they have longer barrel rifles offer improved accuracy with most rimfire shotshell loads, and I was able to hit a softball-sized target at 15-yards consistently with a bolt-action rifle. With my Smith & Wesson Model 617, which sports a 6-inch barrel, effective range was about half that.
So no, rimfire shotshells aren’t long-range rounds, but they’re great for dispatching vermin around your house (or barn). In this capacity, they’ve replaced the garden gun of days gone by. But that doesn’t mean the .22 shotshell is without a place. There’s still nothing better for dispatching small vermin at close range.
Pest control is the primary reason to keep a box of .22 shotshell loads handy, but that’s not the only task these loads can accomplish. When I was growing up, wild upland birds were common in my corner of the country, and so were bird dog trainers. A gentleman down the street was a successful trainer of English setters, and at any time he had a half-dozen of those dogs bouncing around his kennels or romping in the back yard. When it came time to introduce those dogs to gunfire he did so using a long-barreled .22 bolt-action and .22 shotshell ammunition. He fired the shotshell loads into the surrounding trees as his dogs worked to introduce them to gunfire.
When I asked him why he used .22 shotshell instead of a starting pistol like other trainers, his answer was simple: he didn’t own a starter pistol, but he did own a lot of .22 rifles. He also said he believed that dogs learned to associate a gun with gunfire. He didn’t want to start his dogs with a mild crack from a pistol and then suddenly transition to a louder bang from a shotgun. Instead, he carried a long gun at all times, even during early training sessions. As far as I know, he never had a setter spook at gunfire after those early trainings.
A Bit More Punch
The 22 LR shotshell is effective for very small pests, but perhaps the rats or rattlesnakes where you live are a bit too large for a rimfire shotshell. That’s fine, because CCI offers shotshell loads for centerfire handguns as well. Stepping up to 9mm loads No. 4 or 12 provides even more punch, and there are 40 S&W and 45 Auto offerings that instantly turn your semi-auto sidearm into an effective varmint gun.
Wheelguns don’t need to feel left out, since CCI offers 38 Special/357 Magnum, 44 Special/44 Rem Magnum, and 45 Colt shotshell loads as well. It’s like having a small caliber shotgun with you in camp, and you’ll be able to dispatch larger vermin than with 22 LR shotshells.
For most of us, though, the .22 shotshell is a worthwhile addition to your ammunition rack because it allows you to quickly dispatch pests with a low-recoiling load that doesn’t have the same effective range as a traditional .22 lead bullet. Plus, .22 shotshells are just plain fun to shoot.