Skip to comments.Lethality of the 22 LR(field tests)
Posted on 09/15/2012 1:34:42 AM PDT by marktwainEdited on 09/15/2012 6:23:03 AM PDT by Admin Moderator. [history]
So you think the 22 Long Rifle round is whimpy! Well, it's time to give this tiny 22 LR bullet the resepct it has earned and deserves. I have seen up close and personal what damage the 22 LR is capable of doing and I have a lot of respect for this little bullet, and you should too. It's not my caliber of choice when choosing a battle rifle but it can be used for defense, hunting and survival. Lethality of the Aguila SSS 60-grain round
Tests have revealed 16"-24" of penetration into ballistic gelatin at 200 meters using the Aguila SSS 60-grain bullet. I have not personally shot my Savage Mark II rifle that far yet but, at 100 yards I can keep all my rounds within 2 inches and there is no keyholing. I believe this round would prove fatal to anyone unlucky enough to be shot with it. Also, I have no doubt that this bullet would penetrate the human skull at 100 yards. The following article was posted by DesertFrog on: Sniper's Hide: For the Serious Tactical Marksman Lethality of the 22 LR standard velocity round
I've been shooting the 22LR for many years and even bought a new bolt action 22 LR rifle (Savage Mark II BTVS) so I could train more cheaply for tactical precision rifle matches. As I started to train, I actually became impressed with what could be achieved with the 22LR in short and medium distances and wondered about the actual lethality of the round, so I decided to do some research in that area.
I mean, I know that the 22LR has been a good hunting round for small critters/varmints such as rabbits and squirrels but occasionally you hear it is used as well for killing deers, coyotes and bigger animals - heck, on the internet, you can even find a story about the elephant being killed with a 22LR on the internet, LOL!
During my research, I came upon several instances whereby the 22 LR has also been used by the military and law enforcement as well. There were several stories of Chechen snipers using the 22LR in urban setting or Israeli snipers using it in "crowd control".
I started talking to several many people through bulletin boards to find more information about the lethality of that round, specifically from a tactical viewpoint - I.E. How effective and lethal is it? Any information about its lethality should also of interest to the average target shooters or even plinkers, being that it is one of most available/cheap round. Having the correct information could make people more aware of the possible consequences of not treating the 22LR with respect - I think we've all heard "It's just a 22! It's not that powerful, etc....
To get back to the subject, talking to hunters on various message boards and filtering out the "I heard that or someone told me", here are some of the typical feedback/information I received from people who actually did it:
Lots of varmint kills up to 150 yards (This distance came up the most). Larger animals kills at shorter distance - Deer/Coyotes at 100 yards and some even 150 yards . Mention of a larger animal kill at 200 yards. Mention of actual rabbit kills at 175, 225 and 330 yards.
Overall the distance of 100 to 150 yards came up in 50% of the responses.
To go back to the "tactical" aspect and the actual effectiveness/lethality of the round in military/law enforcement settings - no real information was actually available. There were lots of stories and hearsay of people getting shot with 22s and how effective it was (or wasn't) but no ACTUAL and PROVEN information - the main feedback was that shot placement was the most important in a military/law enforcement setting but there were no answers as to what would happen if someone was shot with a 22LR at medium distance (200 to 300 yards). When would the round stop penetrating several layers of clothing/skin and become completely ineffective and useless from a tactical point of view.
Gathering all the information from hunters, target shooters, etc....I personally came up with the conclusion that the 22LR "may be" effective up to 200 yards and possibly penetrate several layers of clothing which are usually something like a "t-shirt, a shirt and a jacket" and frankly I would not have been surprised if it didn't penetrate at all.
Actual information not being available, I decided to conduct a test myself to see how far would a 22LR round penetrate 3 layers of clothing and penetrate skin as well. I looked at several options such as using ballistic gel, wet newspaper, etc... but finally ended up with the cheapest option and, what I thought the somewhat most realistic as well: purchasing a frozen turkey, thaw it and wrap it in 3 layers of clothing. This would be a good test to see how far the 22LR would penetrate.
Here is an account of my "experiment" and Boy! Was I in for a surprise in many levels....
The test took place in the California desert at my usual shooting place for long distance shooting - far away from civilization and very safe. As it happens sometimes, nature has its own mind and does not always follow your plans. The weekend I chose and got ready for (including thawing the meat) ended up being quite windy.
How windy? Here is a look at my tent during the trip - yep, that's the wind pushing the side of the tent nearly flat. Wind was an average of 25 MPH with gusts up to 30 MPH and lowest at 18 MPH.
This was a nightmare for any rimfire shooter and frankly I was extremely close to just pack it up and go home after doing some shooting with my 308. I thought shooting the 22LR in these conditions (the wind was quite violent and shifting constantly between 18 and 30 MPH) would be absolutely impossible.
The main goal of the trip was this research and I already purchased the turkey so I decided to at least "try it" with much reservation as to being able to actually hit the target. Having participated in many tactical long distances matches over the years, I decided to follow my own hard learned lesson: "When in doubt, follow what the book says" or, simply, trust your ballistic information, instruments and basic field craft. Because I use the 22LR for training, I pretty much replicated my setup and had at hand all I needed such as ballistic data card for elevation and windage, wind meter and range finder.
The setup for the turkey was as follows: 3 layers of clothing wrapped around it and taped in the back (although care was given to not make the clothing too tight either) and a white paper on top so we could see the impacts at long distance.
The test was done at the maximum distance of 300 yards because honestly, I thought that penetration would probably not occur at that distance and because, above 300 yards, using my elevation knob and even mildots was pretty much useless.
A 400 yards shot is basically an 80 MOAs drop. Even shooting at 300 yards requires me to place my elevation for 200 yards 927.5 MOAs) and use 6.6 MILS (actually already off the mildots reticle so there is somewhat of a guess).
The clothing layers were composed of the following: One usual heavy cotton t-shirt, one heavy cotton shirt and a canvas raincoat.
The wrapped around turkey looked like this:
My son was with me and it took use considerable time to find the right location. Safety was definitely an issue but also, in order to have any chance to hit the target with winds that strong we had to shoot within the wind. Even then, because of the constant shifting of the wind from 7 to 5 O'clock, I had doubts we could even pull it off. So instead of 300 yards, we actually started at 250 yards which allowed me to use my elevation knob zeroed at 200 yards and my mildots reticle and thus "less guessing".
As you can see the package is quite small at 250 yards!!!! The wrapped Turkey was a bit bigger then a human head, it wasn't a big turkey to start with - I actually bought the cheapest one ($12.)
We positioned ourselves on top of the Jeep. My son used my 308 and the Leupold 6.5-20X to spot me (if we could do so) and I shot the 22LR.
Equipment was as follows:
Savage Mark II BTVS in 22 LR Bushnell 3200 Tactical Scope - 10X Mildots Ammunition was Wolf Match Target - 40 Gr Bullet - 1050 fps
Note that shooting in that position was not the most stable and 25-30 MPH wind actually WILL shake you around. I calculated the wind cycle to range from around 18 to 30 MPH. It was a quick wind cycle with periods of 18 MPH lasting only a 4-5 seconds at best. I decided to shoot at the lowest point of the wind cycle and simply use 0 windage as I was shooting in the wind.
My first round went slightly to the left missing the target by a couple of inches, my second round did the same on the right side and my third one actually hit the small turkey dead center. I was actually amazed!!! I was ready to shoot 50 rounds in those windy conditions to have some "Hope" to hit the target because, from what I was told, the 22LR is so unstable in the wind at long distance. Yet despite the atrocious conditions - using elementary ballistic information and field craft, shooting it in 18 to 30 MPH was factually quite easy. From a tactical viewpoint, every single shot would have hit a center mass target.
Inspecting the 250 yards target was quite revealing....the bullet had gone through the 3 layers as if it was nothing.
Encouraged by the results and the fact that we could hit the target, we placed the turkey at 300 yards. I spotted for my son and he took the shots. Again we were amazed that despite the wind we had 4 hits out of 10 rounds!!! If someone had told me he can shoot such a small target in those conditions, before we did so ourselves, I would have laughed.
Here was the result:
Note that the 300 yards round in the center seemed to have keyhole. The probability is that the bullet hit some of the sage brush that was moving around wildly in the wind because no other impacts showed signs of keyholing and we were somewhat shooting through the moving brushes.
Now the huge surprise was the following. After taking the shot at 250 yards I was quite happy to see that the bullet had penetrated the 3 layers of clothing but I would have never thought of actually checking the BACK OF THE TARGET.
After shooting the 300 yards and taking back the target to the Jeep, we realized that one round had gone through the whole turkey, the clothing layers in the front AND the layers in the back as well!!!!!! And this had to occur between 250 yards and 300 yards. This was MUCH MORE than I ever had anticipated for the standard velocity 22LR round!!!!!
Not only that but because the clothing was wrapped around and folded/taped in the back, it was the equivalent of shooting through 3 layers of clothing in the front and 6 LAYERS of clothing in the back plus on layer of duct tape!
We did one more shot at 100 yards and the round went through easily. The turkey was the equivalent of 7 inches of meat and bones.
Unwrapping the target showed that the rounds at 300 yards (assuming that the round that went through was probably the 250 yards round) went through the turkey and got stuck under the skin. Still penetrating 7 inches of bones and meat.
I've gained a new respect for the 22LR and its efficiency. The 22 rounds is very underrated. It many ways, it is much more powerful then I anticipated.
From a tactical viewpoint, it was also very interesting that despite the atrocious conditions, basic ballistic information and field craft (wind cycle, shooting in the wind, etc...) make it possible to shoot effectively that round at medium distances.
300 yards can be a VERY doable and an effective shooting distance in normal conditions. We did it in terrible conditions.
Although I probably won't do further tests, I can imagine that round penetrating layers of clothing and be effective at much longer distances then 300 yards - maybe 500 yards and beyond.
But now I consider proven that within 300 yards it can be accurate and extremely lethal!!!
I hope this helps others to gain more respect for the small 22 Long Rifle bullet and thus make sure we all practice safe shooting, even if it looks like a tiny little round! This was my test of 22 LR ammo accuracy!
After sighting in my Savage Mark II G .22 rimfire rifle I conducted the following test with these 12 brands of ammo (shooting 10 round groups per target). The target was a Caldwell 3 inch stick-on orange circle placed in the center of my printer paper. I wanted to know which rimfire ammunition would give me the best group at 100 yards. I expected the match grade ammo to do the best, especially after hearing everybody bragging about Wolf Match Target, Aguilla Interceptor and Federal Gold Medal. All of the following brands of 22 LR ammo were tested.
1. Winchester, 40 grain solid 2. Federal Bulk from Wal-Mart, 36 grain HP 3. Federal American Eagle, 38 grain HP 4. Federal Gold Medal, 40 grain solid 5. Wolf Match Target, 40 grain solid 6. CCI Mini-Mag, 36 grain HP 7. CCI Mini-Mag, 40 grain solid 8. Remington Cyclone, 36 grain HP 9. Remington Thunderbolt, 40 grain solid 10. Aguilla Super-Extra, 40 grain solid 11. Aguilla 22 Interceptor, 40 grain solid 12. Aguilla Sniper Subsonic, 60 grain solid
The brands below are listed in order...1 through 3, 1 being the most accurate;
1. Thunderbolt 2. Aguilla Sniper Subsonic 3. Federal Bulk from Wal-Mart
The absolute worst ammo was the Aguilla Interceptor. This group was spread all over the place. It was fast, but not accurate. Aguilla 60 grain SSS ammo was used on this target. As you can see all of the rounds hit low and to the right because my scope was set for 40 grain ammo. This grouping was only 2 inches and if I set my scope for this ammo - Well, it would be quite deadly!
Thunderbolt ammo was used on this target - Grouping was just under 3 inches
Thunderbolt 22 LR ammo has gotten a bad rap about not being accurate and producing lots of duds. As you can see...Thunderbolt ammo can be quite accurate in a good rifle and I have never encountered one single dud.....ever!!! Match grade ammo is not needed to produce good accuracy (what you need is a good rifle).
My first shot was 22 LR with a scope. I was not old at the time.
The only thing I have that shoots .22lr is a tiny little boot pistol. A 5-shot revolver that fits in the palm of your hand made by North American arms out of Provo Utah.
The .22lr makes a huge loud bang for such a little gun because the barrel is only about 1 inch long providing no muzzle factor at all. The first time I shot it I was amazed at how it sounded like a dang magnum.
I heard of one guy bringing down an A-10 Warthog with a .22 once. /s
The first picture looks like a scene from “Breaking Bad”. LOL
Youtube vid - 22LR LETHALITY - 300 Yard Ballistics Test
I always poo-poo’d the .22 when I first started shooting. Seemed silly to dink around with a gun that fires a round not much bigger than a decent booger.
Then I had some old hands take
me under their wing and I noticed while I was happy to get my 9mm holes inside the diameter of a trashcan lid at 25 yards (I’m much better now), my buddies were coring out the center of sharpie drawn crosses at the same range.
Now that I’m damn near that good with a nine, you can bet if I could only have one firearm, it would be one of my several .22s.
Thanks for taking the time out to do a field test under those conditions. I am not surprised at all with the results. It wouldn’t be my first choice for home defence, but it would do the job, of course I say that with a 10 round magazine in mind. Good job.
My experience is limited to shotgun/trap and 22/range. One day I’ll get around to some caliber diversity. Like to think I can calibrate within 3 shots.
Thank you for a very well brought about article, and disregard the posts by those who have a constant ego problem with small calibers. Arm chair snipers won’t be satisfied until they can brag they have either a 30mm or a 16” Naval cannon.
The Ruger 10-22 is an interesting platform for tactical usage, also is the Ruger .22LR pistols.
Now that's just silly!
Who the hell needs to shoot armchairs? ;o)
.22 is an accurate round, if in the hands of someone who can shoot.
Problem is just as described. It can go straight through.
No major arteries dissected. No broken bones. No damage to the spinal cord or nervous system. No hydrostatic shock, causing bleeding in the brain, etc.
.22 is good for small game, you could even drop a deer if you get lucky, but it’s not at all a zombie-stopper.
Did you know Annie Oakley used almost exclusively the .22 during all her shows?
I tought all my kids how to shoot the .22, my son has a very nice looking stainless and laminated stock 10-22. I put a silver Bushnell 3x9x40 tube on it for him.
On my Ruger standard I have a 30mm Accupoint red dot scope, and on my .22 long bull barrel Ruger clone I have a suppressor I made myself. It has a 1x4x20 scope.
I had to teach myself...hence my initial stupidity and naiveté noted above.
If you had grown up in the country, in circumstances were you had to take deer with a .22 or go hungry, you would know luck doesn't have a thing to do with it.
A .22 rifle with 1,000 rounds of ammo comprise my #1 SHTF item.
Now I’m starving for venison and macaroni, of all things...
The original 22 cartridge was just a percussion cap with a .22” round ball in front of it. 22 Ammo has clearly come a long way since then.
“you could even drop a deer if you get lucky”
A well aimed headshot with a round of 22 long could drop just about anything.