Rimfire Ammunition Selection

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Rimfire Ammunition Selection

Rimfire Ammunition Selection

Christian Westcough


I see a lot written about the consistency and accuracy of rimfire ammunition. It seems everyone is looking for the best factory ammunition out there, testing all the different types,from every brand, to find that one unicorn bullet that prints one-hole groups at 50 yards. For some it’s a quest that has no end, a search for the Holy Grail of Lots.


In certain respects it is a search that will never end. Rimfire ammunition is notorious for being inconsistent from one lot(production run) to the next. Serious bench rest shooters when they discover that unicorn bullet will buy up as much of that lot of ammo as they can, knowing that once it is all used up the search will have to start again.


Not every shooter, however, demands one hole consistency. Many a Precision Rifle competitor will settle for ammo that groups adequately for hits on steel at 50 meters and beyond. For hunters, a minute-of-kill-zone is sufficient.

Photo: Rimfire ammunition needs to be consistent and precise. How consistent and how precise depends upon the purpose it is being used for.


Bullet Types

Something I see written and talked about only occasionally, and certainly less than discussions about accuracy, are the terminal ballistics of rimfire ammunition. Is this because it is viewed as less important? When it comes to centrefire cartridges used for larger game, such as deer, terminal ballistics are frequently discussed and are considered of prime importance. So why is it different with rimfire ammo?


For the small game hunter, as with larger game hunters,terminal ballistics of your bullet should be considered equally as important.


I hunt rabbits and not just for pest control. I’ll also take a fair few for the table so it is important that I have a .22lr bullet that is both consistently accurate and which cleanly kills my quarry. I want reliable head and chest shots only, no gut shots. With my Bergara B14R I’ve used my competition ammo on rabbits with success, confident that I can make accurate shotsall the way out to 100 meters and beyond. I have found, however, that the round-nosed bullets I shoot in PRS matches sometimes don’t have the terminal ballistics to dispatch an animal quickly and I’ve seen chest shot rabbits disappear into hedgerows. Retrieving them is a hardship to be avoided.


For rabbit hunting, other small game and pest control Itherefore prefer to use a hollow-point bullet. They pack a bigger punch, expanding in the animal to create the internaldamage that will put an animal down upon impact. Even larger game like hares will fall quickly to a hollow point.

Photo: Hollow point .22lr ammunition. The small game hunter’s choice.


At the moment my hunting bullet of choice is the Sellier & Bellot Subsonic 40gr HP (Hollow Point). They don’t give me one hole groups but they certainly provide me with great levels of consistent accuracy and, crucially, the one punch knock out I’m looking for.


S&B also offer a Supersonic version: their 40gr HV (High Velocity) round. The HVs are a good looking round with a silver-coloured case telling them apart from their little subsonic brother, which have a more traditional bare brass case, but I don’t use the high velocity rounds for hunting; I want to keep a low profile around the farm and a subsonic round lacks the sonic crack of a high velocity round.


No such concerns with noise at the range, where a high velocity round is great fun in semi-auto pistols and rifles! Not that HV’s won’t do a job on game. It’s simply a matter of personal preference.


Photo: Sub-sonic rounds are great for quiet small game stalking and accuracy when target shooting. Subs’ also work well in semi-auto's or try out High Velocity ammo for some extra power.


The cost of rimfire ammunition

You can’t really talk about rimfire ammunition without the cost coming up. Why? Because its cheaper than centrefire ammunition. Significantly cheaper. Yet there is a big difference in price between .22lr types and brands, from budget brands that offer little more than plinking fun for little money to ammunition that is manufactured to the highest tolerances and then matched, at a premium, to your barrel.The former offers very little in the way of accuracy. The latter provide one hole groups for price of a second mortgage.


If you have the budget, or a second mortgage, go straight to a manufacturer that offers a bespoke service. For the rest of us? Determine your budget then buy 100 rounds of each type of ammunition from each brand within that price point and get testing!


Remember your application: hollow points for hunting and, typically, round nose for competition.



Testing rimfire ammunition for your rifle

100 rounds? Ideally, yes, because each brand will have a proprietary coating on their bullet and you’ll need to put 50 rounds down your barrel before it is ‘seasoned’ to that round. Once seasoned, you can start shooting for groups to determine the performance of the round. I like to test at about 70 meters. Far enough to show how the round performs at a reasonable distance but not too far that other environmental factors come in to play and give false results.


The past few months I’ve been testing Sellier & Bellot rimfire ammunition in my Bergara B14R. I like it so much the S&B40gr Subsonic Hollow Point offering is now my small game ammo of choice.


Sellier & Bellot of the Czech Republic recently opened a brand new state of the art rimfire manufacturing facility. Packed full of the latest technology, they now produce ammunition using very tight production tolerances where it matters: bullet weight, primer ignition material and propellant charge. The result: higher precision and consistency. Hard to believe until now they were producing their rimfire ammunition by hand (and it showed. I was never a fan of S&B .22lr ammo until they changed their manufacturing facilities and now I’m converted)!


Do I recommend S&B .22lr rimfire ammunition? They shoot great in my guns and have taken a fair few rabbits since I’ve been using them, but the honest answer is you won’t know if they are right for your rifle until you test them in your rifle. So let me say this, I absolutely recommend that the 40gr Subsonic HPs for hunting and the 40gr High Velocities for semi-auto pistols and rifles make it on to your short list for testing.


At a budget friendly price point you might be pleasantly surprised to find S&B ammo is the unicorn you’ve been searching for… or at the very least a reliable work-horse of a cartridge.

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