9 Great Uses for the .22lr Cartridge

There’s hardly a cartridge that is more fun than 22lr. Since the black powder days (the 1800s), it’s been a popular little shooter. But, what’s it really good for?

Introducing People to Shooting

22lr is the perfect caliber to introduce to new shooters. It’s the most fun, simplest to shoot, and doesn’t intimidate some people like a larger rifle can at first. 22lr is the caliber you should start people out with.

By far, my favorite thing to do with a 22 is to use it to introduce people to shooting. I have turned many people towards a positive view of guns after taking them out to shoot my 22s. Most people who aren’t into guns are nervous and uncomfortable around them. Show them guns aren’t scary

If you’re not used to shooting, the sound and recoil of hunting rifles or shotguns are distracting, oftentimes concerning, and can be overwhelming. If someone has fun the first time, they’ll come back again. Don’t scare them off.

Know someone who doesn’t really like guns? Offer to take them shooting. In my experience, most guys will take you up on the offer. Bust out the Ruger 10/22 or Browning Buckmark. Don’t forget the Heritage Rough Rider for a little cowboy action.

After a while, they’ll probably be comfortable enough to try something larger like a 9mm pistol or that AR which doesn’t look so scary anymore. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. Just give them a fun gun to shoot, and make it easy for them to hit the target.

Pro Tip* For brand new shooters, let them use a red dot. It makes it easier to hit the target since they don’t have to learn to line up the sights. Let them hit paper first. That’s how it’s fun. They can start building skills later, just get them to hit paper early on. And keep targets very close.

If you take a person shooting for the first time and they just can’t hit the target, they’ll be discouraged from trying again.

Bullseye Shooting

The 22lr is awesome for target shooting and bullseye competition. It’s cheap, quiet, and a blast to shoot. With a precision rifle, 22lr can have hair-splitting accuracy and boast impressive groups on your target. And, 22lr guns tend to be cheaper than larger calibers.

Once you have a little skill, start hunting them bullseyes! Whether you’re looking for bragging rights, trophies, or just increasing your skill, bullseye shooting will do it. There are tons of 22lr leagues and clubs that host official bullseye shooting events.

Who doesn’t love cutting a hole right in the X on a bullseye? Most 22lr bullseye matches are done at 50 feet, and the bullseye is not much over 1/4 inch. Because of the small, slow bullet, a lot can happen in 50 feet, especially on a windy day.

There are a number of 100-yard matches, and they use larger bullseyes. Shooting a 22lr at 100-yards is like shooting 250-yards with a hunting rifle. The little bullet has a lot of wind play and drop to it. Shooting 22lr to 100-yards or past will test your skill as a shooter.

Plus, it’s cheap, and you can shoot it all day. There aren’t many guns that you’d want to shoot 1,000 rounds or more in a day. With the 22lr, you can sit at the bench all day long and work on your skills for a hundred bucks worth of ammo.

Silhouette Matches

The most fun game in shooting may be a silhouette match. Hearing the ping of a bullet striking a steel target is exciting and addictive. Rimfire silhouettes are cheap and last a long time. If you have a dedicated outdoor range, you need a few silhouettes.

A lot of gun clubs have a rimfire silhouette range. My local club has a 250- yard range with about 200 different silhouettes strewn across it. They’ve got all shapes and sizes. Most of them are animals, and here’s usually a bonus if you can spot and hit the sasquatch.

Think you are a good shot? Try scanning the 200-yard berm for the 6-inch tall rooster and making it ring before the ten-second timer goes off. Get creative with games and rules. Silhouettes are flat-out fun.

I like the spinning steel targets, and especially the dueling tree-style targets. Those things are awesome for some serious one-on-one competition. If you’ve never shot silhouette, find yourself a good rimfire silhouette range. Whether competition or just plinking, you’ll love every minute of it.

Small Game Hunting

The 22lr is often a perfect tool for hunting animals 50 pounds and under. It doesn’t have a lot of power or velocity, but given its options in ammo choices and bullet styles, it’s a very capable small game hunting cartridge.

I’ve put meat on the table for many years with my Ruger 10/22. It’s a reliable little cartridge that despite being a pipsqueak, works well and has helped fill my freezer for many years.

By far, the most popular game to hunt with a 22lr are squirrels and rabbits. It doesn’t take any special ammo for those. Anything will do, hollow point or not. In fact, I don’t recommend the more expensive ammo because it’s usually just not needed unless you are shooting past 75-yards.

The Ammo I’ve used the most for small game is the Remington Golden Bullet in 525 round boxes, and only because it’s cheap. I’ve used almost every ammo out there and for me, they all hit a rabbit at 50-yards. In my experience, most small game is shot under 50-yards.

But, if you want to bust a squirrel’s head at 100-yards, maybe try solid-nose CCI mini mags or Federal Gold Medal Match. those are pretty good loads. Hyper-velocity loads like CCi Velocitors, CCI Stingers, and Aguila Interceptors tend to be less accurate.

If you wean to hunt animals over 30 pounds ( coyotes, beaver, large raccoon) with a 22lr, then I would recommend the Velocitors or Interceptors, but not the stingers. Stingers are so very lightweight and fast, but they don’t penetrate well.

CCI Velocitors and Aguila Interceptors are hyper-velocity with a 40-grain bullet. They are about twice as powerful as standard Velocity 22lr. Not super accurate, so not for squirrels, but alright on larger small-game. And if you want a nice utility 22lr for hunting, look to the Ruger 10/22.

Trapline Gun

The 22lr is a perfect gun for a trapper. In a rifle, it will dispatch anything under 200 pounds without an issue. A lightweight 22lr pistol is the choice of most fox and coyote trappers. Even hog trappers generally carry a 22 for dispatch.

If you’ve never done any trapping, you should try it sometime. It’s a very dedicated skill set that takes care and patience, but it’s not too hard. Trapping is a perfect father/child activity since young kids won’t scare away game by being noisy or fidgety.

My dad got me into trapping. Soon, I will get my oldest into trapping. It’s become a tradition in my family to provide meat from trapping small-game. I trapped mainly muskrat, raccoon, and woodchuck. They are very easy to catch and easy to dispatch, and they’re darn tasty.

My favorite to eat is a raccoon. It’s the juiciest, most beef-like flavor you could imagine. Roasted whole over a fire, there’s not much better. Seriously, don’t knock it till you try it. Muskrat has a liver-like flavor that some do not like. Woodchuck is like a dark-fleshed rabbit. delicious and tender.

To dispatch cleanly, shoot just above the eye, either from the front or side. Right between the eyes and ears, or at the front base of the ear are the two spots trappers go for. Just remember, the bullet will probably exit the animal. Consider the possibility of ricochets.

Rifle Marksman Training

The US military has used 22lr for marksmanship training purposes for over 100-years. There are civilian rifleman programs that recommend 22lr for training. With the 22lr, you can work on all the aspects of proper rifle marksmanship.

Some of the best marksmen I’ve ever seen are on the local 22lr league. There’s a lot to be learned with the lowly 22. If you want to work on the 5 points of marksmanship, grab your 22 and get crackin.

If you aren’t familiar with them they are: body position, grip, breathing, trigger pull, and follow through. The most important being, all of them.

Project Appleseed is one of the best rifle marksman training programs out there. It’s a non-profit organization with highly affordable events and very skilled instructors. If you’ve never been to an Appleseed event, stop reading and go sign up right now. Here’s the link to their website.

Survival Gun

The 22lr is not a perfect survival caliber, but it does have some potential. It’s limited in use for survival hunting and self-defense, but many people choose to pack one in their survival gear because they are small, lightweight, and good for small-game hunting.

The 22lr is often hailed as a survival gun for several reasons. The first and foremost is you can carry 500 rounds of ammo without being too weighed down. That’s nice. The second is that it’s a good gun for hunting small game should you find yourself stuck in the wilderness.

I know some people who have advocated packing a 22lr pistol in their survival pack or bug-out bag. The idea is that it doesn’t weigh much and it can be used for light hunting and self-defense. I agree it can be used, but remember pistols are not as accurate or powerful as even a very cheap rifle.

If I’m planning a long hunting or camping trip in the woods, my 10/22 is coming along. That’s the place where a 22 is useful, in the woods. But, it’s not the one gun you should have for survival or SHTF. It’s far too limiting. But, it’s a fine additional gun.

Various 22lr firearms have been supplied to military and civillians, particularly pilots, as a tool if they unexpectedly got stuck in the wilderness. Personally, I’d rather have an AR or bolt-action hunting rifle, or both. At least give me the 22 and a .308. Both with a scope and optional irons. I’d feel confident with that.

Varmints and Pests

The 22lr is a perfect choice against varmints and pests. It will kill anything under 50 pounds out to 100-yards with ease. Many people use a 22 to kill problem opossums and raccoons in their yard or on the farm.

I keep my 10/22 ready throughout the day for varmints. We’ve had a lot of issues with opossums and raccoons getting at our chickens. Last year I lost 12 hens to one coon. This year, I have shot 5 raccoons and 6 opossums trying to get at my chickens.

We also have a large garden. We’re kind of self-sustenance homesteaders. My 22lr took 5 rabbits, 7 squirrels, a woodchuck, and a porcupine in the garden this year. That all saved me a lot. Now, I have the rifle fitted with a cheap laser to help me make shots at night too.

I am not alone. Folks across rural America keep a 22lr for hungry varmints or the odd raccoon with distemper that comes along. You really don’t want distemper coming around if you have dogs.

Teenager shooting handgun at a gun range

Taking Kids Shooting

22lr is the best gun to start kids out with. It won’t scare them, and even the smallest frame children can handle it. The low recoil and report will let them concentrate on the points of good marksmanship. Giving a youth a 22lr is a sure way to make sure they have a good early experience with guns.

I am going to start my girls out with a 22lr. I’m fairly certain one of those mini Mosins will be under the Christmas tree next year. For my oldest, it will be her first real gun. The BBgun will be passed down to the next in line.

most kids can handle a 22lr. Not just physically, but mentally. They can handle the responsibility. When exactly they are up to the responsibility is up to you as a parent. You’re the expert on your kids.

They don’t need 24/7 access to it at first, and should only use it with you around and in control of the situation until you are sure you can trust them to be safe and make smart decisions with it.

The point at which I can completely trust my kids out of my sight is when I will start seeing them as young women or young men, not as a child. That’s when their maturity and mentality are ready for that next level. I plan to get a specially engraved rifle for them when it’s time.

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2 Comments

  1. #10 – Goofing around, i.e., just for (cheap) fun. Shooting not just paper targets but also metal plates, water balloons, pop-up targets, cans or plastic bottles of soda, the odd bit of over-ripe fruit, clay (pigeons or flower pots), etc

    1. I always enjoyed shooting those little green army men. Not that easy either.