Whether or not 22LR is a suitable self-defense round is a hotly debated subject in the firearms community. Many will immediately discount it as too weak or ineffective to be used as a self-defense caliber. Others will say that it is entirely capable of taking down a target with the right shot placement. Today on The Rimfire Report we’re not going to discuss specifically if 22LR is a good self-defense caliber but instead, we are going to examine which of the available ammunition out there is the best for defensive 22LR carry.
The Rimfire Report: What is the Best Defensive 22LR Ammo?
Lucky Gunner recently produced a very insightful testing video using a variety of target and defensive 22LR ammunition out of two types of guns. One was a longer 4″ barreled Ruger MK IV pistol while the other was a 2″ snub nose revolver – something akin to what you’d use for concealed carry. As with all of Lucky Gunner’s tests, they’ve published the full set of test results online for all to see. Today we’ll take a look at these test results and determine what might be the best defensive 22LR Ammunition.
Penetration and expansion 2″ Snub Nose
A good metric for determining whether or not your ammunition is having any meaningful impact on your intended target is by examining the penetration and expansion of the projectile after it has entered the target.
The FBI Standard is to have the projectile penetrate between 12 and 18-inches into the target. According to Lucky Gunner’s tests, all of the ammunitions tested out of the 2″ snub nose revolver had at least one round fail to break even the 11″ mark with some brands of ammunition such as Remington 36 gr Viper TC and CCI Standard failing to break the 12″ minimum with any of the rounds fired out of the 2″ barrel.
Neither of the two rounds had any significant expansion after entering the target – likely due to the short barrel length and the resultant reduction in velocity in combination with the lack of a hollow point configuration. Both of these rounds seem much better suited to target shooting or plinking.
Best Defensive 22LR out of a 2″ Snub-Nose?
The best two performing rounds out of the 2″ snub-nosed revolver were Winchester 37 gr Varmint HE and CCI 40 gr Velocitor CPHP. Both brands of ammunition managed to have 3 of the 5 rounds fired break into the FBI Standard penetration zone of 12-18.” CCI 32gr Stinger CPHP made a close bid for 3rd place as far as penetration but ultimately fell one round short and with zero expansion despite the hollow pointed bullet.
The interesting note here is that between the Velocitors and the Winchester Varmit HE rounds only the 37 gr Varmit HE had any expansion with the rounds expanding out to an average of 1/4-inch. It is also interesting to note that out of all the ammunition tested through the snub-nosed revolver that the Winchester Varmit HE had the highest average velocity of 1,003 fps.
So if you’re planning on carrying 22LR into a concealed carry situation it would seem that 37gr Winchester Varmit HE might be your best bet. Not only is this round capable of penetrating to the minimum FBI standard depth out of a 2″ revolver, but it is also the only round that showed any expansion whatsoever. A close second would be the CCI Velocitors as those had similar penetration but no expansion.
Penetration and Expansion 4″ Ruger Mk IV
The same ammunition used with the revolver test was also used to test the performance of the rounds out of a longer 4″ barrel Ruger Mk IV pistol. In my mind, this pistol is better suited to target shooting and small game hunting but perhaps there are those of us out there who may find a home defense use for the gun.
Even with a relatively short jump in barrel length the test results produced yielded an average 124 fps increase in projectile velocity. This time, all of the ammunition tested had at least one bullet penetrated the 12″ depth marker, however, The CCI 32gr Stinger CPHP only had one bullet penetrate this depth with the remaining 4 rounds only showing marginal increase in penetration depth despite an average increase of 190 fps over its 2″ barrel test results.
Although the CCI Stingers did not consistently penetrate deep enough to meet the FBI Standard, they did show the greatest overall expansion out of all the ammunition tested with the average expansion being .32-inches which is the largest out of these test results.
Best Defensive 22LR out of a 4″ Ruger MK IV?
The best penetrating out of the group for the 4″ barrel was once again the Winchester 37 gr Varmint HE and the CCI Velocitors. This time around the rounds consistently penetrated at an average of 14.9-inches and 15.6-inches respectively. Both rounds are able to make good use of the extra 2-inches of barrel length to deliver consistent penetration depth.
So in the event, I was forced to carry a 22LR caliber pistol I think it is safe to say that I’d use either the Winchester Varmit HE or the CCI Velocitors. A close runner up might be Federal 40 gr Champion which did well in the 4-inch test but didn’t do so well in the 2-inch test.
What do you all think of these test results? What ammunition would you choose if you were to carry a 22LR snub nose? What about a longer barreled pistol like a Walther P22? Let us know down in the comments and thanks for stopping by for another edition of The Rimfire Report.
Credit for all photos and information used for this article goes to LuckyGunner.com/labs.
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