.22LR is a fascinating round (well, to me, anyway). It’s used for everything from plinking, to pest control, to personal defense, even Olympic competitions use the little .22LR. I did a review of the North American Arms mini-revolver, and included a lot of ammo testing from that tiny handgun. Like many of us, I have a variety of .22 firearms, and I thought it’d be interesting to see how a few types of ammo would perform from different types of guns. Sometimes a round can be fantastic from a rifle, and terrible from a handgun (or, the other way around.) Accordingly . . .

I’m going to be conducting a series of three-barrel tests where I put the same ammo through three different guns with widely varying barrel lengths. The guns used in this testing are:

  1. a North American Arms mini-revolver with 1 1/8″ barrel;
  2. a Bersa Thunder 22 with a 3.5″ barrel, and
  3. a Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle with a 16″ barrel.
The testing consists of firing multiple rounds of each kind of ammo into a block of ClearBallistics synthetic ballistic gelatin to determine the velocity, penetration, and expansion characteristics of each ammo type, from each gun.
In this first round of testing, I’m reviewing:
  1. CCI Velocitors, a hyper-velocity 40-grain hollowpoint
  2. Aguila SuperMaximum, a hyper-velocity 30-grain hollowpoint
  3. Aguila Sniper Subsonic, a low-velocity heavy 60-grain solid
  4. Winchester Power Point, a standard-velocity 40-grain hollowpoint
This is the first of a series. I will be conducting more tests of different types of .22LR in the future so that we can all get a better idea of how each round performs from each type of gun that you may be interested in using the ammo in. Ideally I’d like to find “one round to rule them all”, one reliable round that penetrates between 12-18″ from all three guns. Seems like a tall task, but worth the effort if I can find it.

SPOILERS:

The PowerPoints didn’t really excel at anything. Disappointingly, they failed to cycle the handgun properly, so I wouldn’t use these in my semi-auto. The bullets all fragmented from the rifle, and from the handgun they didn’t really penetrate deep enough to meet the standards I’m looking for.

The Sniper SubSonics were fantastic from the rifle and very good from the handgun, but terrible from the mini-revolver (none penetrating more than 7″). They tumbled from the handgun, so even though they don’t expand, they could still end up doing a notable amount of damage. And, if you’re firing them through a silencer, these subsonic rounds should be very quiet.

The Supermaximums were intriguing; they were schizophrenic from the mini-revolver (two of the five were lousy, three of the five were superb).  From the handgun and the rifle, they were nothing special. They weren’t bad, but the handgun rounds fell a little short of the desired distance. From the rifle they came up short and all fragmented. They would indeed put the hurt on something, but other rounds perform better.

The Velocitors were stellar from the rifle and from the handgun. They were a mixed bag from the mini-revolver; just like the Supermaximums, we had two that came up quite short, and three that were simply magnificent. From the handgun, these were the best performers, reaching very deep and expanding, too. And from the rifle, they were pretty much a textbook example of how you’d like .22LR rifle ammo to perform.

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15 Responses to ShootingTheBull410’s .22LR 3-Barrel Quest Begins!

  1. Thank you. You are the most logical and thorough reviewer of ammunition I’ve ever seen. I like that I don’t have to rely on old wive’s tales and superstition and can look at your simple, straightforward tests and see exactly what I need to see about ammunition performance.

  2. Interesting. Am I to assume that the velocitors were faster than the rest? It seems like .22 needs to be moving quickly to have a chance of expanding or penetrating correctly.

    • Velocitors are rated at 1435 fps, and I can tell you that they have quite the fireball out of the 21″ barrel of my Savage Mark II.

    • The Velocitors are definitely faster than standard pressure rounds. They’d be the best damn .22 LR SD ammo in the world if they were easier to find.

    • “Am I to assume that the velocitors were faster than the rest?”
      Not necessarily. It depends on the gun barrel length, and the bullet weight. The Aguila Supermaximums are lighter than the Velocitors (30 grains, vs. 40 grains) and it’s a lot easier to get a lighter bullet moving faster than it is to get a heavier bullet moving faster.

      In my testing from the 16″ barrel, the Aguilas went an average of 1,481 feet per second, and the Velocitors went 1,348 fps. So the Supermaximums were faster than the Velocitors, from the rifle.

      “It seems like .22 needs to be moving quickly to have a chance of expanding or penetrating correctly”

      Again, not necessarily, at least not for penetration. The Aguila Sniper SubSonics were very slow, but were superb penetrators. They were slow, but heavy, and had a small diameter. That combination adds up to deep penetration. The smaller-diameter the bullet, the less force you need to push it through tissue. The bigger the bullet expands to, the more force you need to push it to a comparable depth. So, yes, if you want an expanded hollowpoint to penetrate deeply, you’ll need some velocity behind it to make that happen. But the big Aguila SSS’s penetrated deeply with only about 850 fps of velocity.

      Penetration depth is a balance of velocity, bullet mass, and expanded diameter. Heavy bullets can penetrate much deeper than lightweight bullets at the same velocity. And narrow-diameter bullets will penetrate much deeper than large-diameter expanded bullets.

  3. I doubt that you will find one round to rule them all, except maybe the CCI Minimags. Similar to the Velocitor, I believe that this round is designed around shorter barrels, and is the recommended ammo for the Sig Mosquito. I think it is highly unlikely that any of the subsonics will perform well in a blowback semiauto pistol–just not enough juice to cycle the action. Further, I suspect that the twist rates in the three barrels you’ve chosen are different, and this will have a definite effect. For example, my Savage performs excellently with JHPs (like the CCIs or Golden Bullets), but shoots inaccurately with subsonics and lead unjacketed bullets. Lastly, I think the subsonics will perform best out of the target rifles for which they are designed and not much else.

    I am also kind of surprised at your choice of a rifle. Most of the varmint .22s have barrels over 20 inches, and even the 10/22 (not particularly accurate rifle) sports an 18.5 inch barrel.

    • I’m not quite sure why I chose the Henry AR-7 for this test… I do have others available, but — for the short range testing, the simple Henry with its peep rear sight and bright orange front sight made it convenient to test from, so I went with it…

      • No doubt it is handy. I am merely assuming that maximum velocity would result from a longer barrel, and further assuming that the high velocity rounds have a slower burning powder that cannot be optimized by a very short or short barrel. Your initial test results support that supposition. Finally, I assume that the highest velocity would be achieved by a long barreled bolt action, as opposed to the semiauto action of the Henry.

  4. @ STB410:
    Are you interested in testing with a 12″ barrel? I would be willing to loan my Henry lever action “pistol” to the cause.

  5. You said the subsonics tumbled, but they’d sound great with a suppressor! Are you out of your mind? If it’s tumbling, it’s not being stabilized and could very likely cause a baffle strike.

    • I would like to think I’m not out of my mind…

      They don’t tumble in the air, they tumble after striking the gel or flesh. They’re not inherently unstable. If I had a 10,000 fps video camera it’d be easy to demonstrate it in slow-mo, but you can see how it happens in BrassFetcher’s test of them. I think there’s zero chance of a baffle strike, they are stabilized, but they’re such a long shape that they’re susceptible to tumbing (just like .223/5.56 do) when encountering flesh.

        • Interesting. I looked further into this and found this article:
          http://www.silencerresearch.com/aguila_sss.htm

          They say that it won’t stabilize in a 1:16 twist barrel, but will stabilize in a 1:9 barrel. That’s disappointing. Its terminal performance from the long barrel guns is really quite something, and it being subsonic on top of that makes it seem appealing, but if it requires a nonstandard barrel to work properly, that makes it much less attractive!

        • My experience with the 60 grain sub sonics is that out of a magazine fed weapon they’re unreliable. That xtra long lead bullet sticking from the case seems to make them sorta fragile. I wouldn’t use them in any sort of situation that demanded any reliability.

          However, single loading them thru my Winchester bolt gun results in a really accurate rifle. I rarely find them but I buy them when I do.

          For some reason I haven’t gotten around to trying them in my Ruger single six.

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