Ever since its introduction, it has become a staple of America just like baseball. Many hunters have a fond childhood with this cartridge, and it is no surprise. The high accuracy, low recoil, and cost of ammo make them accessible and a great option for beginner shooters and veteran shooters alike. It is a great cartridge to practice with.
Rimfire cartridges have been around for quite some time, but they have received very little innovation in the 20th century. Popular cartridges such as the .22 LR (Long Rifle) came into existence in the late 1800s and were loaded with black powder. Then, in the early 21st century, Hornady brought these cartridges into the spotlight again with their .17 HMR. You can say that rimfire cartridges are making a comeback, and they are coming at you stronger than ever. These cartridges finally receive the upgrade they so sorely needed. Now, these cartridges are better than ever and I am here to give you a list of 5 cartridges that I think are worth checking out. Some of them just deliver an outstanding performance whereas others got their place in this list because of their longevity.
Finally, we have the .22 Long Rifle, which was initially loaded with black powder and a 40-grain bullet. J. Stevens Arms & Tool Company developed this cartridge in 1887. Then, the cartridge got an upgrade into smokeless powder and soon became the most popular rimfire cartridge on Earth. You see it everywhere from match shooting to backyard pest control. It comes in all flavors, be it subsonic, hypersonic, hollow-point, suppressor-friendly, hunting and match variants, the list goes on. It does much better than the .22 Short and Long in both velocity and accuracy.
Winchester introduced this cartridge back in 1959. The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, or .22 Magnum for short, used to be loaded with 40-grain bullets which enabled them to clock their velocity around 2,000 fps. Nowadays, you find loads ranging from 30-50 grains that deliver anywhere between 1,500-2,000 fps.
Before the .17s got their makeover, the .22 Magnum used to be the only “modern” advancement of the 20th century that put it above the .22 LR. Its trajectory is not as flat as the .17 HMR, but you get about 300 foot-pounds of energy. Though not as popular as the above cartridges, the .22 Magnum still packs a mighty punch and it has been used in handguns and rifles for pest control as well as to take down small-sized predators.
3. .22 Long
This one is an old cartridge. It used to hold black powder back to at least 1871, housing a 29-grain bullet and five grains of granulated powder. Then, it got an upgrade in the form of smokeless, high-velocity loads. Looking at the velocity, the original black powder .22 Long did better than the Short and Long Rifle. However, when modern smokeless powders came along, the .22 Long fell behind a bit and rests between the Short and Long Rifle.
You can still find some manufacturers that load the .22 Long with a 29-grain bullet and the velocity is around 1,215 fps. Fun fact, many firearms that are chambered in the .22 Long Rifle other than semi-auto platforms are compatible with the .22 Long as well. While this is outclassed by the Long Rifle that is much more popular, the .22 Long is still a decent cartridge.
The .17 WSM took the title from this cartridge, the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire. Credit where it is due, Hornady was the first to bring rimfire cartridges the attention they deserved after nearly a century of neglect. They took a .22 WMR and necked it down to house .17-caliber bullets, which are commonly 17 grains that can go up to 2,500 fps. It was an instant success. It was powerful and accurate up to about 200 yards, which is well above many other rimfire cartridges on the market today. One thing that made this cartridge so successful, and even more popular than the .17 WSM, is the fact that they work with manufacturers to build rifles that can house the HMR. The WSM is more powerful, but the HMR offers better compatibility and you can find such rifles from Remington, Ruger, Savage Arms, Anschutz, and more.
The .17 HMR used to be the fastest rimfire cartridge money can buy, at least until Winchester released their .17 WSM. It can push bullets over that 3,000 fps (feet per second) mark and is deadly accurate. The parent cartridge is a .27-caliber nail gun blank that is necked down to .17-caliber. The brass case is slightly thicker with a 33,000 psi average pressure. With all this power, the WSM can turn a 20-grain projectile into a dead ringer at 200 yards.
The only downside is that getting it to work on a semi-auto is going to be a challenge, not to mention that it is chambered in fewer rifles than the HMR. Still, you get a lot more power behind this cartridge, which might be exactly what you need to take down larger critters at longer distances.