.22LR Ammunition Shootout: Two Rifles, 17 Brands

By Thundervoice

The first gun I ever shot was a .22LR rifle. I remember that day well, as my Dad took me to a range when I as about nine and taught me how to shoot a Remington Model 511 that he acquired as a kid. It was a rifle which I still have and will pass on to my son someday. While I don’t shoot that rifle often, it is probably my favorite firearm.

Josh Wayner’s TTAG piece on 22LR reminded me of my stash of 22 ammo waiting to be used. I have enough 22 ammo now to be picky about what I buy in the future. The TTAG Summer Content Contest was just enough impetus for me to knock something off my “to do” list – have a “.22 shoot-off” competition so that I can make more informed decisions of which type of 22 ammo I should buy the next time I feel like restocking my stash.

The premise of my shoot-off was simple. I wanted to shoot each type of .22 ammo that I have in my stash to see which is the most accurate with two different rifles. As my sentimental favorite firearm, there was no doubt that the Remington Model 511 would be one of the rifles. That rifle has a 25 inch barrel, 16:1 twist, and open sights.

Since Josh said that the “Ruger 10/22 rifle is probably the most popular single 22 rifle ever made,” I figured that would be a good choice for the second rifle. My 10/22 has a 20 inch barrel, 15:1 twist, and a Bushnell TRS-25 red dot sight.

I decided to shoot 10 rounds of each ammo type with each rifle, using a dedicated target for each rifle and ammo combination. With 17 different types of ammo, that made for 34 targets, 340 rounds, and about 2.75 hours of shooting on a hot Texas Saturday at the range.

While I can typically shoot a six-inch or better group at 100 yards with the Model 511, I elected to shoot the rifles at 25 yards to keep the group sizes smaller and make it easier to use the open sights on the Model 511. At almost 60 years of age, I’ve had to go to monovision with my contacts, which makes shooting with open sights more challenging that it was in my younger days.

 

I shot from a sitting position using a support for the forestock. I would shoot 10 rouinds of a given type with the Ruger, then 10 rounds of the same type with the Remington. I would then reload the magazines of each with the next ammo type, then pull a BoreSnake through each barrel before starting the next round of shooting.

The cycle for a given ammo type was about seven minutes except when I had to reset targets. This rate kept the barrels from getting too hot, even with an ambient temperature that started at 90 degrees and climbed from there. I could set targets for six ammo types each trip downrange, which meant I had to go downrange three times. I shot 10 rounds through each rifle before starting with the actual shoot-off so that the barrels would not be cold for the first round.

The ammo used in the experiment was purchased at various times from various locations at various prices over the last 3.5 years. Most came from either Wal-Mart, Academy, or Gander Mountain (especially during their liquidation sale). I decided to randomize the shooting order so as to not favor any particular ammo type.

The table below shows the ammo types listed in the order in which they were shot, along with advertised velocity, bullet weight, cost/round, and the 9- and 10-shot group sizes.

A few notes about the information in this table. The ammunition types listed are not intended to be an all-inclusive list of .22LR ammo, it’s just want I had on hand. The bullet type indicated the weight in grains and two other features: 1) whether it was copper plated (CP) or lead (L) and 2) round nose (RN) or hollow point (HP). The Remington golden bullets are brass plated (BP). The Winchester M-22 bullets are black copper plated. The velocity was taken from the packaging or looked up on the manufacturer’s website.

The cost per round was determined by selecting the lowest costs from websites or my local Wal-Mart on July 13, 2018. I checked prices on the Academy Sporting Goods, Ammunition Depot, Bud’s Gun Shop, Cabelas, and MidwayUSA websites. Bud’s was the closest to having all of the ammo types on my list and generally had the lowest prices. Packaging quantities (rounds/box) varied from 40 round to 1000 round boxes as shown with the cartridge type in the table and reflects both what I shot and the basis for the cost/round. The 10-shot spread is the largest distance between any 2 of the 10 shots.

The trigger pull on the Model 511 is noticeably lighter than the 10/22 and that resulted in at least two flyers, so I used the nine-shot spread for evaluating the relative accuracy of the different types of ammo. These results indicate that the bolt action rifle with the longer barrel (Remington Model 511) was generally more accurate than the Ruger 10/22, based on the average group size of the 9-shot string, although it is worth noting that the smallest groups were shot with the Ruger.

There were no failure-to-fire, failure-to-feed, or failure-to-eject rounds with any of the 340 rounds shot. This is most likely due to shooting only 10 rounds of each ammo type in the semi-auto rifle. In my .22 steel competition experience, it’s not unusual for me to experience one or two FTFs during a competition (around 125-150 rounds). This varies depending upon the ammo used. While I have my preferences to avoid FTFs, I don’t have hard data and don’t want to put anecdotal data in print.

The second table shows the results sorted by group size (nine-shot spread in inches) for each rifle. Only two of the nine-shot groups were over two inches (barely) and only eight were between 1.5 and 2 inches. The other 24 nine-shot groups were all less than 1.5 inches (5.75 minutes of angle).

As can be seen in the second table, there are differences in the order of the ammo types. The CCI AR Tactical, RWS Target Rifle, and CCI Mini-Mag HP were in the top five of both groups.

The photo of the targets shows the results for these three ammo types for both rifles. The grid shown on these targets is one inch.

There were also some significant differences in the performance order. For example, the Remington M-22, which is the round I have been using in .22 steel competitions lately, was in the top five for the 511 but next to last with the 10/22 and the WWB ammo had a similar relationship. The Browning Performance Rimfire was at the top with the Ruger 10/22, but near the bottom of the list for the Remington 511. I’m guessing that the inconsistency in these rankings is partly due to inconsistency of the human shooter (me).

Although not presented here, I also sorted the results by the 10-shot spread. The order changed quite a bit for a few of the ammo types.

For the Ruger, the average difference between the 9- and 10-shot groups was about a quarter-inch, with a maximum difference of about a half-inch. In comparison, the average difference for the Remington 511 was about a half-inch, with a maximum of 1.6 inches.

The larger differences with the Remington are due to two ammo types (Browning Performance Rimfire and Remington Golden Bullet 40gr) where I shot a flyer with the 511 rifle (most likely due to the lighter trigger on the 511). If I delete those ammo types from the statistics, the averages and maximums for each rifle are close.

One of the more accurate rounds was the RWS Target Rifle. This ammo is German-made and costs almost 15 cents/round (top targets in photo). If I remember correctly, I bought a handful of boxes at Gander Mountain during their liquidation sale without any idea whether it was worth buying. On the other hand, the most expensive ammo, Federal Gold Medal Ultra Match, at 16 cents/round, did not produce as small a group as several of the other ammo types.

So what did I learn from this experience?

  • Perhaps the most important is that a one-inch group at 25 yards is almost four minutes of angle. This level of accuracy is laughable for most rifles. I’m confident that I could shoot tighter groups with my rifles if I used a steadier support, including support near the rear of the rifle. The4 MOA I got at 25 yards is better than the six-inch group I often shoot at 100 yards (6 MOA). While 3 MOA accuracy is nothing to brag about, remember that we are talking about 22 ammo and unmodified rifles.
  • Now that I have done this once, I’ll repeat it again in the future, although maybe not with all 17 types in one sitting. The next time I do this, I want to borrow a lead sled or a similar rest to see how much difference that makes.
  • I did not report this in the results, but there were some significant differences in the point of impact between the different types of ammo. This is likely due to the different velocities and bullet weights (duh!) but the relationship between POI and velocity/weight were not obvious when I analyzed the data. The differences between POI might also be related to differences between advertised velocity and the actual velocity out of a given barrel. Given that there was a five-inch difference in barrel lengths, I would expect the velocities with each rifle to be different. I did not measure velocity but that would be good information for someone to add to this database if anyone wants to take on that effort.
  • There were some fairly significant differences in the groups with each rifle. This may be due to the fact that I shot a little faster with the 10/22 due to it being a semi-auto and that the red dot made sighting a little faster. It is also worth noting that the red dot for the Bushnell sight is a 3 MOA dot so the average group size for the 10/22 is only about a half inch larger than the size of the red dot.
  • It took almost three hours of shooting to go through all 17 types of ammo. That’s a lot of time hunched over a couple of rifles. I felt like I was not shooting as well toward the end, but when I look at the results, several of the larger groups were in the top five types of ammo in the evaluation. So it may be that I hadn’t warmed up at the beginning and that the ammo types shot at the beginning would have better results if they had been shot later in the day.
  • The signs of variability that I have mentioned above indicate that there is more work to be done to identify the best cartridge for a given firearm. With this information as a base, I can keep better notes the next time I do some precision shooting with either of these rifles.
  • I shoot in 22 steel competitions on occasion and enjoy shooting my 22 at the range on occasion. I don’t shoot my 22 as much as I used to now that I reload my other calibers, but shooting the 22 is still a lot of fun, especially trying to get a small group at 100 yards. Over the last few years, I have noticed differences in accuracy between cheaper plinking ammo and more expensive target ammo. I have also noticed failure-to-fire events during 22 steel competitions with some of the ammo types I use. I need to keep better notes on the rounds used and FTF in future competitions.
  • For the most part, I can continue to use the same ammo for the steel competition in my Ruger 10/22. Those are generally the CCI AR Tactical, CCI Mini-Mag HP and Remington Golden Bullet 36 pt HP. These competitions are timed events shooting at large steel targets, so speed is more important than precise accuracy.
  • The love for my Remington Model 511 was reaffirmed. I’m looking forward to using it next month in a long-range rimfire silhouette contest (not a speed event). With the information from my experiment, I know I’ll be using the remaining stock of my RWS ammo for that competition.

 

comments

  1. avatar Skonkworks says:

    Thanks. But shoulda used the lead sled from the start. Did you take a bathroom break?

  2. avatar Stereodude says:

    Shouldn’t the rifle(s) be clamped in a vice or similar fixture to make the gun completely stationary for this sort of a test so that you’re only testing the ammo and taking the shooter out of the equation?

    Also, shouldn’t you measure the velocity of the bullets to determine consistency?

  3. avatar OggyMn says:

    Enjoyed reading. Thanks for taking the time to do this. Good luck with the competition

  4. avatar tdiinva says:

    Great empirical test but you really weren’t testing the accuracy of the ammo. One 10 round data is not enough. You were testing the accuracy of the rifle/shooter combination. You would need to run at least 30 runs with the same ammo to determine how good each ammo is. The key parameter isn’t the mean accuracy but the standard deviation. It would be a lot of fun do it. Have at it. I would like to see the results.

    1. avatar LKB says:

      +1. Sorry, but an “accuracy” test of ammo with test guns with open sights / RDS, a single shooter with admittedly old eyes, and a single 10 round group from each sample introduces so many confounding variables as to render the test statistically meaningless. Fun to do, no doubt, but it just doesn’t yield any reliable data about the comparative accuracy of the ammo.

      Put some decent glass on the test rifles and use a lead sled / Ransom rest to reduce the effect of the shooter variable, and run a statistically significant number of groups from each type of ammo, and then there might be some useful data.

      1. avatar 16V says:

        But he felt that he was making something statistically relevant. And isn’t that what really matters? Truth is in the mind of the believer…

        /sarc off

      2. avatar Matt says:

        My 2 cents as well. I am a pretty good shooter and depending on the ammo I use either 3, 5 or 10 round shots. I usually use 5 and 10 unless it is a bigger bore and I don’t have a lot of ammo on hand.

        My 10/22 with almost all ammo at 50yds can shoot under 2 inch groups, which is better than pretty much all ammo test results I see here when extrapolated to 50yds. Granted, I am running a 4×32 scope which would help in the accuracy department, but 25yds even with irons helps there.

        CCI is almost always my best performer, other than Aguilla match ammo. ~.7″ 50yd 10 shot groups with Aguilla match on the regular. CCI Minimags are roughly my next best at 1.25″ 50yd groups and even Velocitors turn in ~1.4″ 50yd group sizes. If I threw away my worst flier, most of those group sizes would shrink by 25-40%.

        Still the factory Ruger barrel. Honed the chamber with some 000 steel wool as part of trying to “correct” some stove piping issues I wasn’t getting 100% cured with different extractors. Volquartsen edge extractor, Power Custom extended bolt handle and comp hammer. Volquartsen auto bolt release.

        No other work done.

        I rarely shoot at 100yds, but I can still usually turn in ~2″ groups with Aguilla match and less than 3″ groups with CCI Minimags. Sure, plenty of match grade 22s which can do one shot groups with really expensive match ammo at 50yds and itty bitty groups on a calm day at 100, but I am very happy with my 10/22. It’ll head shot a squirrel at 50yds easy if I am doing my part and have a good field expedient rest.

        1. avatar Dave M says:

          Two completely different 10/22’s and a Ruger American with 22″ barrel all shoot under 1″ @ 50 yards without any mods, but all with 3-9 power scopes. This is with a large variety of ammo. However, Aquila Match Ammo gave me rather bad/inconsistent groups while their Super Extra gives superb results. Remington Thunderbolts & CCI ammo are consistent one hole shooters.

  5. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

    Interesting read but I don’t interpret results to be that significant.

    I had some Winchester super X hoarded by my dad during the late 80s and some brand new I was shooting a few years back. I know this was extreme age difference but I was shooting a much tighter 10 round grouping consistently with the older ammunition, although I had a few duds.

    Also, anecdotally I think Remington golden bullets are worst inconsistent ammunition made. The powder loading is so inconsistent that you go from supersonic to subsonic round to round and I constantly worry about squibs.
    Also blown out ends of cases in some guns and Remington was what I was shooting in a mp15 22 when the extractor pulled out (new improved model that supposedly didn’t have extractor problems.)

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      I have had more problems with Winchester White Box than any other 22 ammo. It’s the only 22 ammo that I have had failure to extract on my Savage Mk II. The only problems that I have had with Golden bullets are from batches produced during the shortage.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        My Savage (same as yours) has a distinct preference for Goldens, and it has been a lot of fun plinking out at 100 yards with a 4x scope. At 25 yards, I could shoot five shot groups as small as a dime. I pretty much stopped shooting .22s during the shortage because there was very rarely any on the shelf (old codgers were showing up an hour before the truck and buying it all to sell at gun shows), and I did not see any Goldens at all for almost ten years.
        The CCI Minimags are a “blast” to shoot out of the rifle (literally) but not nearly as accurate. Too fast for the rifling? No idea. And the rifle does NOT like lead bullets at all, (or at least the ones I put through it).
        It is my view, confirmed by others shooting a variety of other calibers, that a rifle will demonstrate a preference for certain velocities and bullet weights, so it may not be that any one ammo is inherently any more accurate than another (as long as the velocities are consistent), but that you just have to find the one(s) that suits the rifle best.

      2. avatar Dave M says:

        Strange how results can be so different; I have found Winchester White Box to be one my absolute favorites. The totally ironic thing is I can not use it in a Ruger Single Ten .22LR Single Action revolver; go figure.

  6. avatar Spectre_USA says:

    I have spent much worse Summer afternoons, by far!

    This looked to be a pleasant outing with some good information garnered.

    Thanks for bring us to the range with ya!

  7. avatar JasonM says:

    You should use a better gun to test the match grade ammo. I just tested out the Federal Ultramatch in my Kidd 10/22 from a table with a bipod and rear bag (and my scope only set to 11x due to human error), and was able to consistently get around .2″ groups at 25y (.17″ was my best, .22″ was my worst), and under 1″ groups at 100y (.63″ was my best, .84″ was my worst).

    Also, Federal appears to have discontinued the product recently, so many distributors are selling it for $8 per box.

    1. avatar John in TX (Was CT) says:

      Gun/ammo combination is a major factor, even at 50ft (to say nothing of 75, as tested in this article).

      Eley (using far more scientific procedures than were displayed in the argument, mind) goes so far as to stockpile ammunition from particular batches of .22LR because they provide noticeable improvements to consistency with a particular client’s gun.

  8. avatar achmed says:

    Nice test thanks for posting.

    I was also amazed- and to be honest slightly suspicious – that Rem Golden Bullet shot that well. But your rifle might just like it.

  9. avatar Bloving says:

    Something I’ve enjoyed with this contest: it has motivated a number of readers to go dust off an older, somewhat neglected piece in their safe and go shoot it to write something about it.
    Good articles needn’t be about the latest new gear that season – sometimes a chance to reminisce about an old favorite or a memorable hunt can make for a great entertaining read.
    🤠

  10. avatar Son Of Alan says:

    Without any a decent scope with magnification. I would think the results would be more chance than accuracy.

  11. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Great write up. Thanks for the effort.
    Looks like I’ll be a bit pickier when buying .22lr in the future.

  12. avatar JeffR says:

    I did some testing like this awhile back but eventually gave up when I realized there where too many variables involved for the testing to be useful for others. Headspacing can play a major role in which .22 shoots best from your rifle. Differences in barrel harmonics can play a role in which specific velocity a barrel may like best. And then, of course, how a given ammo performs even in your own rifle will vary from lot to lot. It was still useful. I discovered that my particular rifles tend to like SK and Lapua but even then, their performance varies lot to lot.

  13. avatar 16V says:

    Since Josh said that the “Ruger 10/22 rifle is probably the most popular single 22 rifle ever made,”…”

    UGH. Every single time there’s a .22LR article this ridiculous myth pops up. 5MM Ruger 10/22s do not equal (nor exceed) 12MM Marlin Glenfield 60s.

    There’s a metric f-ton of accessories for the 10/22. The accessories are ubiquitous. The Model 60 does not, and you have to look hard (relatively speaking) for them.

    But, the fact is that there are well over twice as many Marlins out there. Which makes the 10/22 a distant second to the most popular .22 rifle ever made…

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      Marlin Glenfield 60 — first rifle I ever owned. My Dad bought it for me when i was about 12. Wish I still had it.

  14. avatar Michael in AK says:

    Nice fun day of shooting. Just reinforces my belief that guns are picky about ammo and the human equation is important.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      All .22 rifles are picky about their ammo. All of them. My Annie 1807 is picky about ammo. Some batches/brands results in a super-tight group at 50 yards. I go buy a bunch more of that.

      Some high-priced ammo won’t group worth a darn. I buy only the initial 500 rounds of that.

      Then if you took my results and applied them to someone else’s Annie, or Win 52, or Remington 37, etc – you’ll find different results.

      1. avatar Jimmy james says:

        What he said. Reason i havent bought an Annie. Dont want to go thru the testing required to find what it would like and then find out it likes $10 a box ammo. The other thing about 22rifles and ammo is that most of the off the shelf rifles have TERRIBLE TRIGGERS not conducive to accuracy testing.

  15. avatar Rick Bunn says:

    While there are some variables to consider, thank you for the work and the article. One problem with the 10/22 is the stock trigger is a contributor to bad shots. I have two 10/22 and both required trigger work. Also, the barrel band can cause problems. Remove it and groups get better. The Remington 511 is a nice gun and will shot very well, but the sights are a bit less the precise. Each rifle will ‘like’ different ammo. Would be interesting to try this again with both rifle fitted with a 9X scope. The lead sled might help but if you take your time at 25 years, not much.

  16. avatar tmm says:

    “You have a stash of 22 ammo?” (says the guy who started buying guns in Dec 2012)

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      “You don’t?” (says the guy who started after you)

  17. avatar Charlie says:

    I have experienced chamber fouling using Remington Golden Bullets (the 525 round value pack) in my Ruger MK-2 (model KMK-512). This resulted in failure to chamber and failure to extract problems after firing 25 rounds or so. A gunsmith, who ought to know, said that the cases were lubed with a compound that oxidizes and leaves a residue in the chamber.

    Has anyone else seen this problem with Remington Golden Bullets?

    Charlie

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      After 20k+ rounds — no

      1. avatar Charlie says:

        Above you mentioned the Golden Bullets produced during the shortage. I’m pretty sure that’s when I got these.

        Charlie

  18. avatar Bmc says:

    To everyone criticizing the author for his methods of testing, I say the following.
    Go buy 17 brands yourself. Find two rifles you prefer and set up your own super sterile, unrealistic test.
    Using lead sleds and every other clamp type devise is futile. It’s simply unrealistic testing in a real world environment. Especially out of basic .22 rifles that are used for plinking and fun shoots 99% of the time.
    Sometimes a person wants to contribute some fun facts and observations. Enjoy it for what it is.
    I have the utmost respect for this author to go through the amount of personal data testing he did. It was his method, his style of shooting, and I find it to be the most interesting kind as well. Kudos for him taking time out of his life to put this together, spend his resources, and precious time to share with us.

    1. avatar Forward Assist says:

      Dude, no one is dissing the author for spending $$ and time on us. We’re concerned that his time was not spent as effectively as it should have been, and ergo neither was our time reading the well-intentioned findings.

      My suggestion for the author is to learn from the comments. And continue in his quest to be both a student of the gun and a citizen scientist. That’s how you go from good to great. There’s no shorter path.

  19. avatar HoundDogDave says:

    Interesting test, although the results are only really relevant to those particular firearms and that shooter. I purchased a Marlin Model 795 some time ago that I have yet to fire a round through. My intention is to do a very similar test with the 10 different ammo types I have bought to find out what it likes to run. I have an additional box of 50 FedralPremium HV Match 40 gr that I can use to zero my scope in at 25 yards with before I start the test. I am no marksman so I plan on 25 rounds each and throwing out the worse 5 shots in each group to minimize the effect of operator error (I assume I can be accurate possibly 80% of the time).

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      You likely should not throw out any of the shots unless you have a very good basis for doing so. Trying to cull operator error in such a way is a flawed methodology unless you can reliably establish that you consistently mess up 20% of the shots. Otherwise you could be throwing out good data on an ammo type where 20% (or less) of the rounds are loaded inconsistently.

      1. avatar David Bradford says:

        If I was planning to hunt with this gun, then yes. Back when I had my Model 60 I could fairly consistently make a ragged 1″ – 1 3/4″ hole in a target with an occasional flyer that quite often I knew was going to be off as soon as the bullet left the gun. I’ll be 60 in a couple weeks and I know for certain that my motor coordination is not what it used to be. I am also woefully out of practice so shooting errors are expected. I have no illusions of shooting competitively. I am just looking to find an ammo choice that will feed and fire relatively consistently and cheaply for entertaining myself plinking soup cans for practice. I just want to work on my fundamentals and get back into shooting regularly.

  20. avatar Richard Draper says:

    Great methodology and write up.

    Will you be doing a like comparison with 22lr noise suppression rounds?

  21. avatar California Kid says:

    To get good groups you need to shoot at least 10 rounds of 22lr to let the barrel settle in to the new ammo before shooting for accuracy. I am almost 60 years and I would no longer trust my eyes for this type of shooting. I would need to use a scope to and a good rest to get some of the human error out of the test. Still it was a good to see the test. Next time I am sure it will be even better.

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      You have a source for the claim that the barrel needs to “settle in”?

  22. avatar Paul says:

    I love doing these type of “tests” , while not really all that scientific it sure is fun. To really matter I think you would need better optics, more guns, more shooters, better rests and a couple of chronographs.
    Just for the fun of it I did a comparison test of 11 different .38 spec. loads, from HBWC target loads to some of the latest, greatest JHP defense loads. I used two different S&W J frames, a 3″ M-13, K frame, a 5″ L frame and an 8″ L frame. I shot standing, off hand and from sandbags. Did it really prove anything? …nah… but it was a great range day project and did make for some surprising results.

  23. avatar Fehrmaj says:

    That was inspiring! I got up from the computer in the middle of the comments, went and pulled my cheapest pistol ammo from the shelf and headed out the door. I picked up one of four targets my wife bought me for Christmas – for the first time – how sad is that? I setup far enough to call it a challenge and close enough to prove those targets better never be a home invader….. Thank you for testing yourself and sharing! Nearly 50 years ago I picked up my brother’s Westernfield (Montgomery Ward’s) lever action .22. If it didn’t jam while ejecting, on would be surprised, but it was extremely accurate. I still love lever action because of that rifle. The closest to that rifle was a Remington Nylon 66 – the hardest used gun I ever had, long nights of being drug through the brush in the middle of the night and weeks without being cleaned. The only thing that ever fouled the mechanism sadly was Remington ammo because of the wax build up. Keep challenging yourself and share if you can. Thanks again.

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