The Rimfire Report: .22LR Shotshells – Are they worth it?

Luke C.
by Luke C.

Welcome to the first edition of The Rimfire Report. Here we’ll discuss anything and everything rimfire related! Rimfire ammunition, especially .22LR holds a special place in the firearms community. More than likely the .22 Long Rifle rimfire round was the first firearms experience for many of us. That’s not to cast a shadow on other notable rimfire rounds like .17HMR and .22WMR, both of which we will cover in this ongoing series.

This week I’d like to discuss .22LR shotshells. Colloquially referred to most often as “snake shot” or “rat-shot,” the round is geared towards pest control. Generally, these “mini-shotshells” contain about 30 or so grains of #12 shot. The snake-shot is capable of being fired out of any .22LR firearm, although, semi-auto users should be warned that you will have to manually cycle the firearm in order to fire the next shot as the round doesn’t have the energy to operate any semi-automatic .22LR gun.

.22LR shotshells – Effectiveness

The .22LR shotshells are marketed as a pest control round and while personally, I’ve only ever shot something as large as a mouse (from 3 feet mind you), there is a hot debate as to whether or not these shells are useful or just a gimmick with no use. If you browse YouTube, you’ll notice that the two biggest questions about these rounds are the depth of penetration and spread.

In my tests, I’ve noticed quite a rapid spread and a VERY short distance for these rounds. At about 5 feet, the spread is contained in about an 8inch circle. Reaching out to 10 and even 15 feet, the spread grows quite sparse, with most of the #12 pellets falling outside the target area.

I personally wasn’t able to test the penetration effect of the .22LR shotshells but from the info I’ve gathered online, it seems that the shot is capable of penetration on small pests like roof-rats, mice, and snakes at ranges of about 5 feet. Absolutely out of the realm of self-defense or anything else but small pest control really.

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Spread pattern Demonstration

At 10 feet, the spread is quite wide covering this 2.5 target with approximately 22 pellets. I would judge this to be the round's maximum effective range as shots beyond this range cannot guarantee adequate target coverage.
From 5 feet, the round seems quite effective and this would probably be your optimal engagement range. A majority of the pellets fall within a fist-sized area.
At 3 feet the devastation is obvious. Absolutely 100% effective against Snakes at 3 feet.

.22LR Shotshells – Practical Use

In my estimation, these rounds have a use, a niche use but a use nonetheless. When I was younger, my Dad would buy these .22LR shotshells for our 10/22 to kill mice. At the time, we lived in a mobile home in rural Texas. While mouse traps would suffice, the shotshells provided an instant kill without completely destroying the walls or carpet. Overpenetration (or really any significant penetration whatsoever) is not an issue. The round is not loud enough to damage your hearing and when wearing proper eye protection any ricochets are harmless, although I would advise against shooting indoors all together if possible.

I’ve heard many stories of the round being used to great effect. On small farms or houses out in rural areas, these rounds can prove to be a quick and handy tool for dealing with various small pests. On the opposite side, I’ve seen old boxes of Western .22 Long Rifle shot still sitting around in people’s gun safes and closets that haven’t been touched. The round still may have its use, after all, the same style round comes in much larger calibers.

We’ll pass the question onto you, is the .22LR snake-shot worth the cost? Is it effective? Does it still have a place in our modern firearms world? Let us know your thoughts and experience in the comments. While I’ve personally never shot a snake or anything larger than a rat with the round I’m sure plenty of you have. Give us your story down in the comments and we’ll see you in the next Rimfire Report.

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Luke C.
Luke C.

Reloader SCSA Competitor Certified Pilot Currently able to pass himself off as the second cousin twice removed of Joe Flanigan. Instagram:

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