22LR Ammo for Hunting

For anybody who picks up a 22LR rifle to go hunting, appropriate terminal ballistic performance should be the first thing they consider.  The 22LR is one of the lowest powered, but widely used, hunting calibres on the planet.  Choosing the right sort of ammunition is critical to hunting success and the humane taking of life.

For hunting small game, like bunnies, or shooting pest species, a high velocity hollow point is the right choice.  Accuracy is important of course, but can be over-rated in the 22LR as it is in centrefires.  The key point to remember is that an accuracy of 1 to 2 MOA is fine for hunting.

CCI Velocitor 22LR accuracy

Perfectly acceptable hunting accuracy


Lapua 22LR target ammunition accuracy

Excellent accuracy but not a great choice for hunting

Even with a rifle capable of sub MOA accuracy when shooting targets off a bench, it is a rare shooter indeed who can shoot much better than 2 MOA from impromptu field positions.  For that reason I would not consider for a second taking target ammo hunting.  The slightly less accurate (off a bench remember) high velocity hollow points are what I would take every time.

The terminal ballistic performance of the projectile is your over-riding consideration.  A comparison of the retained energy of a 40 grain 22LR is shown below.  The difference is that one is a high velocity hollow point and the other a standard velocity solid.

22LR energy at range chart

It is not just the sheer energy difference either.  A major influence is the terminal behaviour of the hollow point versus that of the solid.

The hollow point will rapidly expand on contacting the target.  This causes a very rapid transfer of the retained energy of the projectile to the target.  This is what delivers the shock that knocks the animal off its feet.  Even with a solid projectile delivering the same amount of energy as a hollow point there would still be a distinct advantage to the hollow point due to its much more rapid dissipation of energy.

That can be a difficult aspect to measure or model.  One way of showing it though is by shooting at a suitable ballistic medium.  For 22LR this happens to be the humble, cheap block of laundry soap.  That performance gives an indication of what happens when your shoot a small game animal with a 22LR hollow point.  The effectiveness of a high velocity hollow point 22LR on game is many times greater than that of a standard velocity solid and should always be the first choice for hunting.

22LR CCI Velocitor impact on ballistic media