Lethality of the 22 LR standard velocity round

Discussion in 'Firearms' started by E.L., Apr 5, 2008.

  1. E.L.

    E.L. Moderator of Lead Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    This is interesting. Also good news since so many of us are shooting .22lr now that ammo prices have gone through the roof.


    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.


    My conclusions:

    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).
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 18, 2015
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  2. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

    wow hell of a post( dispels alot of bs!)..._
  3. BigO01

    BigO01 Monkey+++ Founding Member

    The biggest set back for the 22 rimfire is the lack of penetration through heavy bone found in the human chest .

    While this sounds like a disadvantage for the round if one aims a little higher for the neck area you can still "in my opinion and experience" inflict a "Stopping" wound .

    As I have posted on other forums years ago I was squirrel hunting with my scoped 10/22 and CCI MiniMag hollow points , on a shot about 50 yards I hit one directly in the shoulder and the bullet expanded so dramatically it tore the animals "Arm" on the exit side completely off . I couldn't have done it any more cleanly with a knife .

    I am convinced that one of these fired into a humans neck would create enough of a shock wave that it would cause immediate paralysis if not death to the spine then you have the trachea and jugular that you could cut with the bullet which would cause either severe bleeding or an inability to breath .

    All but the most determined of individuals would halt their actions immediately with such wounds inflicted and seek medical help , in my opinion anyway .
  4. E.L.

    E.L. Moderator of Lead Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    While I always thought it was a little small, and could not reliably penetrate the head of a large animal, it is used every day in numerous federally inspected meat plants. I have talked to guys on the kill floor that said that they use it every day. It works very well on hogs, and sometimes cattle take an extra shot or two, or three....etc. Then again, I know of a case where a bull was hit in the head five times with a .45 and just shook them all off with blood squirting everywhere. Most of the time it is used with no problem. I never would have thought it.
  5. ozarkgoatman

    ozarkgoatman Resident goat herder

    I have shot 300+ lb. hogs in the head with el cheapo Remmington 22lr hollow points and dropped them like a ton of bricks. I remmeber reading a story in the newspaper when I lived in Wis. about an Indian squaw in northern Wis. that was picking berries. A black bear stood up and roared at her she shot it with a 22lr pistol through the mouth and killed it. IIRC it was the biggest or one of the biggest bears ever shot in Wis.

  6. Mountainman

    Mountainman Großes Mitglied Site Supporter+++

    I've shot a couple full grown Mule Deer at 50 yards, broadside through the lungs and they did not make it 50 yards when they fell over.
  7. the dog

    the dog Monkey+++

    my buddy has killed 1000's of hogs and cattle with a standard 22lr hollow point.if it will drop a 2000 pound bull...welll deer and a man are in trouble.i asked my buddy hwat one gun he would want if he could only have 1 to live on his homestead and from the forest.his answer was 22 mag.i like my over/under 22mag/20 gauge.but it would not bother me to only have a 22lr.but i like stick and string mostly....it is quiet....lol.
  8. sniper-66

    sniper-66 Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Being a medevac guy, I will tell you that more people are killed with .22lr than all other rounds put together. The problem with .22 is that most shoot it through reletively short barrels, so the round doesn't get the ability to gain full potential of it's velocity. In most cases, the bullet is able to enter the body, but doesn't then have the velocity to exit the body, so it tends to pinball around. One man was shot through the eye socket, the bullet made seven passes around his brain before the completely destroyed bulled lodget inside his other eye. The man was dead before his knees buckled. I used to have a book that showed a inuit indian hunting caribou with a single shot .22, he would walk up to within 25 yards of his herd, pick one out, shoot it through the eye and stated that he has never missed.
    I'm always amazed when people talk about the 5.56 mouse gun and it's inability to adequately take something down. I have offered on several occasions to have that individual go stand on the 300 yard target line and let me shoot at them to test their theory. No takers yet.
  9. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    That's about all I can afford to shoot anymore, I haven't shot much .223 or .308 in quite sometime, gotta hold onto what little I have left.

    Thank you for posting this [beer]
  10. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    The two things I woud say on .22s for larger critters is that the solid round nose ammo tends to do beter than the hollow points since it penetrates boetter (especialy if it hits bone) and so tends to be a lot more reliable and second that range dose become a big issue a lot quicker than cetnterfire ammo.

    I have killed more hogs than I could count between my own butchering and working kill floor in a butcher shop (largest being just over 700 lbs) as well as dozens of cattle (largest being a bit over 2000 lbs swinging sides so over 2500 walking) with .22 lr. With lead round nose solid rounds and proper placement at point blank range only a small handfull required a second shot, with hollow points (got a box of them for the kill floor once by mistake) it frequently took multiple shots as they would flatten on the skull. I have also show a bull with proper placement in the forehead with one 3 times when was at about 30-35 yards and the bounced off then the bull went through a fence and was last seen running down the road, last blood spot was near 3/4 mile away and he was never found.

    So in short, if its inside 25 yards, you put the shot where it needs to be and use non-hollow points then while it may not be my first choice I wouldnt hesitate to take a shot on anything that walks in my region (largest being rare small bears or feril hogs) and wouldntbet against its effictivness out to 100 yards on large critters or want to be down range of it for several hundred yards BUT wouldnt count on single shot instant kills on anything deer size or larger past 25-30 yards out. If I had to choose just one though then it would be a REAL likely contender.
  11. MbRodge

    MbRodge Monkey+++

    I've been a fan of the expression for a long time so I"ll say it here:

    "A hit with a .22 is better than a miss with a .45"

    It is easier to teach accuracy to the wife and kids with a .22 since the kick is nonexistent they don't learn the bad habit of fire anticipation. Instead of pressuring the wife into firing the .45 which scares the crap out of her, focus on teaching her to hit a quarter sized target with a .22.
  12. FalconDance

    FalconDance Neighborhood Witch

    ........ pbfft, and everyone makes fun of me when I say I love my 'lowly' .22 ........ That'll teach y'all to dismiss us testoserone-challenged female folk who don't carry/don't wanna the big bad calibers as being too cute for words! ;).
  13. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    I was shot by 22 cal and was hit twice, I am glad it was a 22 or my life would be a whole lot different now if I even had a life after wards depending on the caliber.

    my experience with 22's is: I have killed big game and small game with a 22 I have been shot with that caliber.
    With that being said,It would be the last caliber I would pick up to use if I want something dead.
    I will read the article and get back to this thread.​

    I was shot at a distance of less than 100 yds closer to 50 and none of the bullet's went through.
    I see a real use for a 22. as long as you know its limits.
    And know this after I was shot I could have easily kept functioning after taking those hits.​
  14. MbRodge

    MbRodge Monkey+++

    That's why I emphasized being able to hit a quarter size target. If you can hit a quarter you can hit a human eye. Even if it isn't lethal (and I doubt it wouldn't be) the target will be out of commission due to the simple fact that he won't be able to see you.
  15. E.L.

    E.L. Moderator of Lead Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I know there is a really interesting story behind this, please give us the details.

    BINGO! The .22LR is a great round, but I would never want to have to depend on it for self defense. Now would a 30 rd. mag full ruin someone's day? Hell yes, but lots of self defense incidents are settled with a round or two. It is a great round for training, and killing animals, especially small ones. I grew up with my grandfather telling me that years ago, that is what they killed all of their deer with. Of course they were better trackers, and had the patience, skills and time to track their game down if the hit was marginal. The article did open up my eyes to the longer distance potency of the round though.
  16. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member


    It wouldn't surprise me if he was playing cowboys and indians with .22's [gone]
  17. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    I have a buddy who carries a .22LR revolver for CCW. He figures, if he has to use it, put all six into the perp's face, and it'll give him time to run away or get to the shotgun in his car.
    I've had the displeasure of having .22's zinging overhead and nearby - once was an accident/stupid shooter shooting across a lake not minding what's 'downrange'. The other was purposeful - guy shot at me while I'm in my own yard! Neither hit - luckily! Definite 'pucker factor' though.
    Basic thing is, ANY caliber can kill!
  18. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Kind of like someone put it on the thread with the article 'some things are better than other things, anything is better than nothing and a .22 is a whole lot better than nothing'. If I knew I was headed into a gun fight and had my choice I would choose any number of cals before the .22 but I would much rather have the .22 than a bow and arrow, much less a knife or pointy stick or a rock. I also would not CHOOSE to have just one gun but if I had to head out the door to live in the wilds with just one then I would most likely choose a .22 rifle (hopefuly suplemented with a large cal handgun) simply because for about the space and weight of a couple hundred centerfire rounds I could carry a few thousand .22s and could make meat with it. Then too that thinking of my region where the only common predators (2 legged excluded) would be coyotes or dogs and the largest prey would be deer or rare ferril hogs. If I was in Alaska and likely to deal with a lot of wolves, grizleys and so on then I would likely look at it different.
  19. Thunderbird

    Thunderbird Monkey++

    Once when my buddies and I were out shooting we ran some tests.
    Calibers used: .22lr, . 222, .223, .270, .308. 375 H&H, .458 Win mag with solids. The rest were soft point hunting ammo, I do not recall the specific brands or bullet weights.
    The test put out 12 1 gallon plastic milk jugs in line and determine the penetration. Distance from the muzzle 10 to 15 feet. The results:
    .22lr 7-8 jugs
    .222-.223 2-3 jugs, shrapnel got the #3 jug.
    .270-.308 5 jugs.
    375 H&H 7 jugs
    .458 Win Mag 10 jugs
    The .22lr will penetrate water like media, The velocity is low enough to prevent expansion, not enough velocity to turn the water into steam (using tons of energy) the mass just enough to carry it.
    Just do not get in front of a .458 Win mags with solids, They also went through 12 in 100 year old oak barn beams. Nothing else came close.
  20. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    We will save this one till we have a beer together. I still tend to drop when loud pops go off unexpectedly.
    Lets just say some times you find your self in the right place at the wrong time,
    or you should have zigged when you zagged.[chopper]
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