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.22 Winchester Magnum

With a wide range of loads offering different terminal performances, hunters can perfectly match their ammunition to the game being hunted.


Thirty-five years ago I convinced Dad to buy me a “.22 Magnum” because I sometimes found groundhogs too stubborn to surrender to a .22 LR, especially at longer ranges. Recently, the incredibly accurate, faster and flatter shooting .17 HMR stole some of the .22 Magnum’s thunder. It even swayed me for a time; however, with the assortment of loads now available, the 50-year-old .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) is more versatile and more accurate than ever. With substantially more power than a .22 LR it’s like a rich man’s .22. And, since it’s much cheaper to shoot than any centerfire, it can be a poor man’s varmint rifle. A .22 Magnum will change the way you hunt squirrels and is coyote-capable out to 100 yards, with the proper bullet.

There are over a dozen different .22 Magnum loads offering a wide range of terminal performance. This allows hunters to perfectly match their ammunition to the game being hunted. But to do this effectively, you have to know something about each load that is not written on the box.

From a terminal performance standpoint there are three categories of .22 Magnum ammunition. There are high-velocity loads with bullets that offer volatile expansion and shallow penetration. On the other end are the deep-penetrating full metal jacket bullets. In the middle are the loads that offer a balance between massive tissue destruction and penetration, what you might call general purpose loads.

To illustrate these terminal performance differences, I tested 10 different .22 Magnum loads in 10 percent ordnance gelatin. Unlike most gelatin tests conducted at muzzle velocity, I set the gelatin blocks at 50 yards to more closely replicate real-world hunting situations. Each load was also tested for accuracy in a fine shooting Browning T-Bolt. Accuracy will likely vary in your rifle but the good news is there are multiple loads to choose from in each category.

My pick for small, edible game like squirrels would be either CCI’s 40-grain TMJ or Winchester’s new 28-grain lead-free Green load because neither will destroy a lot of meat. For larger critters like raccoons and even crows, I like the high-velocity 30-grain offerings because of the massive tissue destruction they offer. They’d be great for exploding prairie dogs, too. For the largest and toughest critters you might tackle with a .22 Magnum, like coyotes and groundhogs, CCI’s 40-grain Game Point stands out because it penetrates deep and expands wide. Because of its balance between penetration and tissue destruction, my choice for a multi-purpose load would be Remington’s 33-grain AccuTip.

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10 Responses to .22 Winchester Magnum

Tom O wrote:
March 05, 2013

Could you please post the penetration depth for each of the different loads? Did you also capture the muzzle velocity?

Dick wrote:
February 27, 2013

Started shooting CCI 40 grain MAXI-MAG total metal jacket .22. mag rounds -- (1875 fps). Great accuracy -- frequent "same hole" groupings. Tried Winchester 40 grain 1910 fps jacketed hollow points. Groupings are similar, but elevation higher (figures due to higher velocity) but grouping also to the left. What in the world would move the grouping to the left?

Heath wrote:
December 01, 2012

22mag is one of the funnest guns i have ever shot! I have pics of targets i have shot from 150 yards with 40grain hallow points and grouped them in 2 1/2 inch circle. I have not tried winchester ammo and i am headed out right now to see if they live up to what you all are saying!

John wrote:
June 29, 2012

I converted my 22lr to a 22mag. Over a year ago and have been more than pleased with it ever since! Its my new goto gun even over my $1500 ar15. I was expecting groups to be bad due to the short barrel and the 1x16 twist but with the right 22mag ammo quarter size 5 shot groups at 75 yards im more than impressed! This article will help greatly in selecting the right varmint ammo. Thank you.

Randy M wrote:
May 14, 2012

Have you tested the New hornady personal defence round for coyote. I was wondering if it may be a better choice. I have not found any of the rounds in my area to teat yet.

Doug H wrote:
March 14, 2012

Now if they would make a special run of the Model 61 in both 22 Mag and 22 LR life would be great

Zack wrote:
February 23, 2012

Great writeup! .22 WMR's versatility and performance is underappreciated.

Larry R wrote:
February 07, 2012

Great info for me. One problem is that I can't find any table. Thanks

Richard Mann wrote:
February 28, 2011

Frank, You're welcome! RAM

Frank Clary wrote:
February 21, 2011

As always I look foward to getting my American Hunter magazine in the mail.I was glad to see the words Tested:.22win.mag.rimfire.It has always been my favorite cartridge.It is accurate,cheap to shoot, and I don't have to reload it.In the summer it's groundhogs,in the fall its squirrels and turkey,in winter it's fox.Here in Pennsylvania, if I'm not hunting spring gobblers,bear or deer, I have one in the woods. Mr. Mann Thank you for the info on your test results, it will be very useful the next time I buy ammo.