By Bryce Adam Prescott
It seems like not long ago a shooter could enter a gun store or Walmart and pick up a bulk pack of .22LR (usually around 500 rounds) for about $20 and have at least one fun trip of shooting; if not more. Unfortunately, those days are gone. Will they ever come back? Who knows. There are many hypotheses as to why the shortage and increased prices exist. Theses hypotheses vary from increased interest in shooting, more guns chambered for .22LR (which includes conversion kits), “prepping”, worries about ammo restrictions, etc. There is probably some truth in each of these hypotheses. Many also claim the small profit margins of .22LR offer little incentive for companies to pump out more ammo . . .
The amount of quality .22LR chambered guns that have come out in recent years is fantastic. The S&W M&P 15-22 opened many shooters eyes’ as to the fun and useful training that could be had by a “replica” .22LR. After that, a flood of new products came out like that Sig 522, S&W M&P .22LR pistol, takedown Ruger 10/22, various dedicated .22LR uppers, etc. (not necessarily in that order) just to name a few.
But now, with widely available .22LR costing nearly as much as .223/5.56 or 7.62×39, is there really a point to shooting or even owning a .22LR? This is a topic that is very much up for debate and I doubt that there will be a consensus anytime soon. Let’s examine some of the possible reasons to still own and shoot .22LR guns…
New shooter training
Many of us learned to shoot using a .22LR rifle when we were new. New shooters are often young, sound sensitive, and recoil sensitive. Even low recoil centerfire rounds are often too much for such shooters. The almost non-existent recoil and the low amount of noise make .22LR a perfect round for new shooters even if ammo costs a ludicrous $0.50 per round.
While the ammo is not as cheap as it once was, fortunately .22LR chambered guns have not increased in price that much. For less than $300, a person can buy a Ruger 10/22. For less than $200, a person can buy a Marlin 795. Getting a centerfire rifle is usually a $500-$600 proposal unless some surplus semi-automatic happens to be currently imported; which are becoming much more scarce.
Buying one type of ammo and being able to shoot it in both rifles and pistols is very convenient. While it’s true that this is possible with centerfire ammo, it is much easier to accomplish with .22LR.
Some game, like squirrels for example, are rendered nearly useless for consumption when shot by centerfire ammo. Centerfire ammo is simply too powerful for small animals. A hunter is much better served by using .22LR to kill such game which results in a much more usable carcas.
Ease of suppression
Suppressors are getting much more popular and .22LR is the easiest ammo type to suppress. Rimfire suppressors start at less than the price of the NFA tax stamp. Plus, .22LR is the only ammo that comes close to the “Hollywood quiet” that suppressors are rumored to have.