Small But Mighty: The 5 Best 22LR Hunting Loads on the Market

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   09.19.21

Small But Mighty: The 5 Best 22LR Hunting Loads on the Market

22LR is one of my favorite cartridges to shoot with. Not only is it fun to plink targets or practice your accuracy on a budget, but it also happens to be one of the most widespread small game hunting calibers in the world. As small as the 22LR is, the little round can still pack a punch and put down a bunch of four and two-legged animals that we find here in North America – a vast majority of which are considered varmints. Today I’ve gathered what I considered to be 5 of the best 22LR hunting ammunition offerings currently available on the market. These rounds are all going to be reliable, consistent, and specifically designed for hunting small game and varmints.

Although not as popular in the United States as it is in other parts of the world. A lot of you probably grew up using 22LR as your first hunting round probably on squirrels and other small varmints. Many of the selections on this list will behave differently out of different rifles and even behave differently when used in the same rifle. You should always check your zero before you go out and hunt! With all that in mind, lets get started!

Small But Mighty: The 5 Best 22LR Hunting Loads on the Market

Small But Mighty: The 5 Best 22LR Hunting Loads on the Market
Photo: Aussiehunter

1. CCI – MEAT EATER 22 LONG RIFLE MINI MAG AMMO

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CCI - MEAT EATER 22 LONG RIFLE MINI MAG AMMO

Created with the inspiration and name of well-known hunter Steve Rinella the CCI MiniMag “Meateater” lineup of 36-grain hunting ammunition features a reasonably fast 1,260 fps bullet velocity out of standard 16″ barrels. The Meateater lineup uses a 36-grain copper-plated hollow point and in my experience, these feed well out of all my semi-autos and are great out of rifles with even longer barrel lengths. CCI ammunition always uses the cleanest propellants and primer material so this ammo is also great for keeping your gun clean, even when you practice with it.

Pros/Non-fouling components and reliable copper-plated hollow points

Cons/36-grains can be kind of light on larger small game like turkeys, and coyotes

Bottom Line/Great for varmints like squirrels and prairie dogs!

2. Federal, Game Shok, .22LR, CPRN – 40 Grain

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Federal, Game Shok, .22LR, CPRN - 40 Grain

Federal has some of my favorite self-defense ammunition on the market and they also have one of the better non-hollow-point 22lr hunting ammunition out there as well. Federal’s Game Shok ammunition features a 40-grain copper-plated round nose bullet that packs 137 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. This ammo is great for longer-range shots on small game like groundhogs, or even pest birds. Best of all, Federal’s Game Shok is pretty light on the wallet in terms of hunting ammunition.

Pros/Less expensive than competitors, round nose for reliable feeding

Cons/Lacks expansion capabilities at longer ranges

Bottom Line/Great for longer range engagements on smaller critters.

3. CCI SGB Small Game Bullet)

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CCI SGB Small Game Bullet)

This 40-grain flat point bullet features the same ballistics as the standard CCI 40-grain lead round nose. This means you’ll get good velocity, trajectory, and the same impact point so you don’t have to make any adjustments to your optics or sights for accurate hits. The flat point bullet means that you’ll be sure to get a good amount of expansion up to 50-yards away and make sure all the energy is delivered into your target instead of passing through it.

Pros/Features identical ballistics to 40-grain CCI offerings meaning no sight adjustments

Cons/A bit more expensive per unit than other hunting ammo in the 22LR class

Bottom Line/A worry free way to make sure your shots count without adjusting your optics or sights

4. Winchester Subsonic 42 MAX

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Winchester Subsonic 42 MAX

Winchester 42 max has been one of my favorite types of rimfire ammunition ever to exist. Sadly it is fast disappearing from shelves and stockroom but occasionally you can still find it out there in stores and online. The Subsonic variant of the 42 max features a heavier bullet and a consistent trajectory regardless of distance meaning your shots are more predictable than supersonic hunting ammunition at longer ranges. Finally, the 42 max works well out of nearly every semi-automatic 22LR firearm.

Pros/reliable, consistent and heavy hitting

Cons/Exposed lead bullet fouls your gun up more

Bottom Line/Great for longer range engagements and for reducing noise in suppressed or unsuppressed firearms

5. CCI 22L LR Subsonic Segmented Hollow Point

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CCI 22L LR Subsonic Segmented Hollow Point

Featuring one of the industries only fragmenting 22LR rounds. the CCI Segmented Hollow Point is a subsonic offering that allows for maximum stopping power on small targets. These fragmenting rounds a great for ensuring a clean and quick kill on most small game but the round does limit your kill range to within the speed threshold where the bullet will consistently fragment. Being a subsonic round this is further reduced but the reliability of this ammo when it comes to putting down targets quickly is why it made it on this list.

Pros/Consistent kills regardless of shot placement

Cons/limited range due to muzzle velocity and expansion capabilities

Bottom Line/Great for suppressed firearms

What kind of small game can I hunt with 22LR?

22LR is entirely humane and effective at killing a variety of small game including foxes, squirrels, groundhogs, woodchucks, prairie dogs, and even turkeys. Even though 22LR is capable of taking small game down you should still prioritize shot placement over any perceived stopping power any ammunition claims to have – make those shots count.

How far out does 22LR remain lethal?

For most small game, 22LR will remain lethal out to about 200 or so yards. A lot of the rounds on this list are subsonic so you’ll have to do a lot of practice to make sure your shots are landing where you expect them to. I’d personally recommend that longer-range shots beyond 100 yards be taken with something that is moving a bit faster like 17HMR or 17 HM2.

About the Author

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Luke is currently a full-time writer for TheFirearmBlog.com, OvertDefense.com, AllOutdoor.com, and of course, OutdoorHub.com. Luke is a competitive shooter, firearms enthusiast, reloader, outdoorsman, and generally takes an interest in anything that has to do with the great outdoors.
Luke is also a private certified pilot and is currently pursuing his commercial pilot’s license in the hopes of becoming a professional pilot. Some of Luke’s other interests include anything to do with aviation, aerospace and military technology, and American Conservancy efforts.
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