About 14 years ago, Hornady introduced the .17 HMR. This was a .17 caliber rimfire cartridge made by simply necking down the .22 Magnum case. The .17 HMR is blistering fast and shoots very flat. Soon everyone was pontificating that it would be the end of the .22 Mag., and for a few years that was the case. However, savvy hunters realized that the .17, as flat shooting and fast as it was, wasn’t as versatile as the .22 Mag.
The versatility of the .22 Mag. lies in the wide range of ammunition available for it. With bullet weights ranging from 28 to 40 grains, and with rifle muzzle velocities spanning 600 fps – from about 1,700 to 2,300 fps – the .22 Mag. might not shoot as flat or fast as the .17 HMR, but it is unquestionably a more practical cartridge.
A 40-grain FMJ load for the .22 Mag. will penetrate almost 20 inches in 10 percent ordnance gelatin. This is a great load for head-shooting tree squirrels because it won’t damage excessive amounts of meat. On the other hand, CCI’s 30-grain JHP load screams out of a rifle barrel at more than 2,300 fps and expands like a bomb. This makes it a great load for ground hogs or prairie rodents.
For those seeking one load for all things, Hornady’s 30-grain V-Max will penetrate about 8 inches in ballistic gelatin, and it’s more than sufficient for fox, bobcat and coyote. Remington’s 33-grain AccuTip is another versatile load that performs similarly. Though this advice is very general in nature, when selecting .22 Mag. Ammunition, expect the heavier bullet weights to penetrate deeper and the lighter bullet weights to create more violent but shallower wounds.
I’d not suggest the .22 Mag. as the ideal defensive handgun cartridge, but keep this in mind: Older or less physically capable folks might not be able to handle a centerfire handgun. Fortunately, the ammunition companies have recognized this and now offer personal protection loads for the .22 Mag. Hornady has a Critical Defense load and Speer a Gold Dot load. At handgun velocities, both can be expected to penetrate about 1 foot in 10 percent ordnance gelatin, with the bullets expanding to more than .30 caliber.
With all the focus on doomsday prepping and having a survivalist mindset, think about this: Considering all the gear you’ll be carrying in a survival situation, weight matters. Two pounds of ammunition seems reasonable, and that equates to 24, 12 gauge shells; 45 rounds of .45 ACP; or 280 rounds of .22 LR. With the current favorite, end-of-days rifle – an AR-15 in .223 Rem. – 2 pounds of ammo will not fill three 30-round magazines! And, if you opt for a bigger gun, such as an M1A in .308 Win., 2 pounds of ammo gives you about 35 shots!
Two pounds of .22 Mag. ammunition equates to 250 rounds. That’s a lot of rabbits and squirrels. And, with nominal muzzle energies of 312 foot-pounds, you get about 5.6 foot-pounds of energy per grain of cartridge weight. That’s comparable to centerfire rifle cartridges, but you can easily stuff 100 .22 Mag. cartridges in your jean’s pocket. It’s also a deer poacher’s favorite; just ask any game warden.
The .22 Mag. is magnificent!