If you grew up in a family that taught you about guns, you know the importance of a .22 rifle. It’s a rite of passage. One’s first real gun as a kid. There is nothing intimidating about it. A youth showing that he or she safely uses firearms can easily handle it. But you don’t have to be a kid to own and enjoy one. My .22’s are still some of my favorite guns. I still have the first one that I was given as a kid. If you still have yours, I’m going to tell you why. If you don’t have one, then you probably don’t have a gun. And if you have a gun and no .22, then you’re going to want to get one. For the sake of clarification, when I refer to a generic .22, I mean the .22 Long Rifle variation of ammo (the most common type). Some rifles are able to use the long and short versions also. Here’s why a .22 is a must have:
1. They’re Cheap
First time gun buyers often ask me what kind of gun they should get. The two questions I always ask are a) What do you plan on doing with it? and b) how much are you looking to spend? Many times the answer to b is “Under $100.” For that price you will most likely get one of three things: a .22, a steal, or junk. For $80, I picked up a Westernfield bolt action .22 rifle at a gun show. It’s a rifle that was actually produced by Mossberg just with a different brand name. It’s super accurate, magazine fed, and operates perfectly. It can also shoot .22 shorts and longs. Most .22’s are usually more than $100, but still very affordable. One of the most popular semi-automatic rifles of this caliber is the Ruger 10/22, which is less than $300.
2. The Ammo is Cheap
The cheap ammo for a .45 ACP is about 30 cents per bullet. The expensive ammo in .22 is about 8 cents per bullet. The cheap target ammo is often less than 2 cents per bullet. So for a day at the range, which one would you rather have?
3. The Ammo is Abundant
This might not sound like a big deal, but when you can go anywhere and easily pick up ammo or borrow it from your friend, it’s a huge asset. It means any time you go to the range, you’ll be able to shoot it–a lot. It’s also easily available in large quantities, in boxes of 525 or 1000 rounds. While these big boxes usually have the lowest quality ammo, they’re perfect for a fun day of shooting.
4. Many Types of Available Ammo
The picture shows types of .22 ammo which I personally own. But the list goes on. You can get tracers, “sniper” ammo which has a big, ridiculous looking 60 grain bullet, and super accurate match ammo. Each different type has a specific purpose which makes this caliber super versatile. The shot shells in the picture are often called rat shot or snake shot, because it’s ideal for close range shots from the hip to get rid of pests. It’s filled with small shot which isn’t effective for much more than that specific application. Sub sonic bullets don’t break the sound barrier, which produces a loud crack (a small sonic boom). Shooters like this slow ammo for two reasons: 1. If they’re using a suppressor, it keeps it quiet and 2. The slow speed doesn’t affect accuracy like breaking the sound barrier does. The list of .22 ammo types is a long one and makes owning a .22 potentially a new experience each time you go shooting.
5. They Come in Many Types, Shapes, and Sizes
Semi-Automatic, Revolver, Lever Action–for just about every style of firearm that exists, there is a .22 version of it. The cowboys of the late 1800’s used to carry a rifle and a revolver both chambered for the same ammunition. I took a lesson from their book and often bring a couple different types of .22 when I go shooting. Having .22’s of different styles allows you to have an awesome day at the range because you can shoot an AR style rifle, a pump action rifle, and a semi automatic pistol all from the same 525 round box of ammo. They can be really small like the North American Arms revolver that some people wear on a belt buckle or full size like the H&K 416 Clone. Even if you don’t like it out of the box, some are so common, like the Ruger 10/22, that there are endless ways to customize it.
6. They Are Quiet
The noise made by .22’s is so low that shooters often use rifles without ear protection (the handguns are still very loud). But when you shoot with conical bullet (CB) ammo or Aguila’s powderless Colibris, the only thing you can really hear is the sound of the hammer dropping. It makes it a lot more pleasant to shoot without ear protection while at the same time not going home with your ears ringing.
7. The Recoil is Non-Existent
One of the most intimidating things for children and new shooters is the recoil involved with larger caliber firearms. This is understandable, as some guns are outright unpleasant solely because it’s like getting punched every time you pull the trigger. I’ve seen people get bloody shoulders, bruises, and headaches from long days at the range with high powered guns. You won’t ever have that problem with a .22. This fact will also improve your accuracy, because you won’t flinch before every shot anticipating a kick in your shoulder.
8. They Are Accurate
Or at least they can be. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be used in the Olympics, by the military for training, and by competition shooters to improve their skills. Even cheap ones can have a high degree of accuracy, like my $80 Westernfield. Since the only thing you have to worry about when shooting a .22 is getting holes in the target, it helps you improve your shooting skills without getting distracted by excessive recoil or noise. The same basic skills that are required to shoot a .22 accurately are required to shoot any firearm accurately. You’ll be able to carry these skills over to a .50 BMG Barrett if you so choose.
9. The Most Universally Practical Caliber
This caliber is used for killing pests (as I mentioned above), hunting small game, self defense, and teaching safe and accurate gun handling. The blanks are even used in some nail guns. If you’ve ever seen those gator hunting shows, you’ll notice they use this small caliber to kill their catch. Never doubt the effectiveness of a well placed .22 shot.
10. They Are Extremely Fun
This kind of sums up every other point, but the fact that they’re cheap, quiet, and have low recoil makes them very enjoyable to own and shoot. They’re easily shot by people of just about every age and body type. In addition, since the ammo is so cheap and abundant, you can go out to the range with virtually unlimited ammunition.
Next time you’re at the gun show or the gun store, consider these points. Buy your first .22, or add to your collection. It will make you appreciate shooting more and get you out the range more often.
- Tactical Rifles: Get ’em While They’re Cheap (breitbart.com)
- Guns and Ammo: Get Them While They’re Cheap (breitbart.com)
- FNS-40 Contest Entry: Confessions of a Concealed Carry Noob (thetruthaboutguns.com)
- Ammunition remains in short supply (goerie.com)