I think I’m addicted to .22 LR shooting because it’s so pure. You get all the benefits of any other type of shooting, but without the distractions of excessive noise and recoil. I’ve also found that .22 LR is an incredible platform for seriously discreet (and immensely fun) shooting.
While most standard .22 LR ammo is naturally subsonic, a couple of companies have taken the “quiet” of .22 LR plinking to new lows. I mean that in a good way, as I’m talking about new lows in terms of noise.
I thought it might be fun to share my experiences with some of my favorite non-traditional, and supremely quiet, .22 LR ammo.
1. CCI Suppressor
CCI has been introducing a number of “quiet” .22 LR loads. One of the newest is the Suppressor line. By making the bullet heavier (45 grains), the company rates this at 970 feet per second. That varies depending on the gun you use it in, as barrel length makes a big difference in actual velocity.
This particular load, in both lead- and copper-plated versions, is intended for small game and features a hollow-point design that expands at lower velocity. It also uses a cleaner-burning powder to help prolong intervals between suppressor cleanings. It’s formulated to properly function in semiautomatic rifles and pistols.
2. CCI Quiet-22 Segmented HP
The Quiet-22 line is not specifically designed for suppressor use, although there’s no reason you can’t use it with a silencer. Its purpose in life is to be quiet without a suppressor, to the point at which hearing protection is not required. The company claims that there is a 75 percent reduction of perceived noise from standard .22 LR ammo. While I have no way to measure that, I can certainly confirm that it is quiet.
The 40-grain copper plated hollow point breaks into three sections on impact, so it’s perfect for small game and varmint control. The 710 feet-per-second-rated velocity provides plenty of quiet, but does not generate enough energy to cycle semiautomatic guns—that’s the trade-off. It’s hearing safe with no need for a suppressor, but physics being physics, you’ve got to pay the price somewhere.
I shot this one into a Clear Ballistics 10 percent gelatin block to see what happened. Even at the much lower velocity from my Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact with a SilencerCo Sparrow suppressor, the projectile immediately fragmented into three separate chunks of equal size when it hit the gel.
3. CCI Quiet-22 Lead Round Nose
The plinking and target shooting variant of the Quiet-22 Segmented is the 40-grain lead round nose version. It performs exactly like its sibling in terms of noise, but does not use an expanding or fragmenting bullet.
This one may or may not cycle your particular semiauto. The safe bet is to count on this for bolt guns, revolvers, and single-shots. If your gun happens to cycle, consider that a bonus as it’s not really intended to do that.
4. Aguila .22 Sniper SubSonic
In the “thinking outside the box” category is the Aguila .22 SSS (Sniper SubSonic) option. These are interesting, and quite frankly, loads of fun. They lob a 60-grain lead round-nose bullet at a factory-rated 948 feet per second. That fat bullet needs to fit in the same overall length as any other .22 LR cartridge, so you’ll quickly notice that the brass case is shorter than that of a standard .22 LR. The heavy bullet means that it still generates “normal” .22 LR energy levels, in this case 123 foot-pounds.
You’ll have to experiment to see if it cycles in your semi-automatic .22 LR pistol or rifle. For me, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t depending on which gun I’m using.
One more thing: most suppressor manufacturers recommend against using this ammo with a silencer due to the risk of a baffle strike. The heavy lead bullet isn’t very stable (by necessity and design) and not all guns will fully stabilize the bullet. This is a good thing, and part of the design of the cartridge. Much like a 300 Blackout subsonic projectile, it’s intended to be on the unstable side so it tumbles when it hits a target. It’s moving too slow to rely on an expandable hollow-point design, so it tumbles and likely does more damage in the process.
You can get an idea by looking at the bullet holes in paper to see if there are any signs of key-holing. Even if the holes are clean, using this particular subsonic with a silencer falls into the “at your own risk” category. It’s pretty darn quiet without a suppressor, so if you need a discreet varmint control option, this just might be your Huckleberry.
5. Aguila Super Colibri
In the “thinking even more outside the box” category lie the Aguila Super Colibri and Colibri .22 LR loads. Colibri is a type of hummingbird native to parts of Mexico and South America, just in case you were wondering. I have no idea why Aguila chose this particular name, but that’s for another day. If anyone knows, feel free to enlighten the rest of us in the comments.
The big deal about Super Colibri and Colibri ammo is that they’re “sans poudre,” or powder-less. It runs off the energy from the primer only. To make this work, the bullet is ultralight at just 20 grains. The case is normal-sized, but empty inside. The Super Colibri has a little more primer oomph and is rated at 590 feet per second. It delivers a snow-globe shattering 14 foot-pounds of energy. If you want even more quiet, try the regular Colibri. That cruises at 420 feet per second and delivers a whopping seven foot-pounds of pure, unadulterated power.
Be careful using this in rifles as there may not be enough energy to get the bullet all the way through the barrel. I’ve had pretty good luck with a small single-shot .22 rifle, but I normally use this ammo in handguns only. It won’t have enough energy to cycle a semiauto, but if you don’t mind cycling the action manually, it sure is fun, quiet, and amazingly effective on rats and snakes. Trust me, I know. Where this ammo really shines is in a .22 LR revolver as the cycling issue becomes moot. I keep my Ruger Single Six charged up with it at all times.
If you’re into plinking, and can’t make too much noise where you shoot, check out these options. Most of them make excellent pest-control solutions, too.
Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.
Images by Tom McHale