Pushing the 22 Long Rifle cartridge well out of its comfort zone

Published on 25 December 2019
Author: Peter Moore
We look at the dictates of pushing the 22 Long Rifle cartridge well out of its comfort zone.

A wide range of products for 22 Long Rifle shooting

There’s little doubt that the humble 22 Long Rifle (22LR) cartridge and the rifles that fire it are the most prolific guns on the planet. Often bought as a first rifle or for vermin control, they are also great for fun shooting, the marque has undergone quite a change in the last 10-15years.

With lots of choice from single shot to semi-automatic in many guises. Equally quality barrels, better triggers and tactical-type furniture are taking this supposed 50-yard cartridge out to distances not imagined even 5-years ago.

22 Long Rifle shots further and further away

My guns include two semi-autos an AR15 and StG44. More fun guns, although the former is surprisingly useful for rabbits. But the workhorse is a 20” T-Bolt Sporter that with the right ammo, easily capable of consistent headshots out to 100 yards.

However, there’s a new game in town and that’s pushing the envelope in terms of seeing how far you can accurately shoot that little .22 pill. In fact, this new idea has caught on in a big way with shooters up and down the country trying their hands for fun and also competition, some even taking it out to 300 yards!

Useful accessories for a 22 Long Rifle

So, what do you need to push a 22Long Rifle out to 200 yards? Some use heavier barrelled rigs, with free-float forends, match triggers, and improved stocks, others just a standard sporter. Most seem to favour a bolt-action, which when compared to a blow-back actioned semi, is probably more consistent, firing as it does from a closed breach.

Barrel length is not critical as any 22LR cartridge has burnt all its propellant at 12”. I would say 16” is about right, also the lack of heat build-up tends to keep the barrel more consistent anyway.

Add in a decent scope with either a ballistic reticle or target turrets that can take you out to the distance, a reasonable trigger and possibly a bipod and you’re there.

Factors that may work against you

There are two big anomalies, wind and ammunition quality.

The wind factor

Ammo choice is also my hunting load; Winchester’s 42 Grain MAX sub-sonic. It launches at 1071fps from my 20” gun. Zeroed at 50 yards, at 100, speed is down to 896fps with a drop of -7.73”. At 200 it’s 785fps/-58”. If you factor a 10mph wind at 90⁰ things get really interesting. Lateral drift at 100 is 1.65”, not bad, but at 200 increases to 10.5”.

So, is faster better, well on paper maybe? Let’s take a CCI, 36-grain Mini Mag, launching at a quoted 1280fps, speed/drop at 100 is 1014fps/-5.36” and 879fps/-48” at 200. Wind at 100 is 1.93” and at 200 11.5”.

The quality factor

Out on the ground, the heavier/slower bullet seems to be the better choice. But one other factor has to be considered and that’s the variable nature of 22Long Rifle ammo.

Made in millions, powder charges are necessarily low and not always consistent. From any box of 50, you will get velocity fluctuations at both ends of the scale, which will throw some big flyers at the range increases.

However, the challenge is addictive and in the right conditions, the result is a little short of amazing and most pleasing.

But I would not advocate longer range hunting if you and your gun can shoot keep a maximum range of 100 yards.