With the 2018 Winter Olympics occurring this February, we received several questions from customers at our nationwide indoor shooting ranges about the type of firearm being used in the biathlon race. The biathlon is a combination cross-country skiing and target shooting competition that requires incredible stamina, endurance and athleticism.
Think about how hard it would be to cross-country ski up and down hills for 12 miles in frigid temperatures - and then lie on your stomach or stand and fire at (tiny!) circular targets positioned 160 feet away. Pretty amazing athletes.
Women’s Biathlon at PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
The rifles they use are bolt action - .22 LR. Which leads us to discuss the differences in .22 ammo, as it’s not all the same and important you know the details.
Otherwise known as rimfire ammunition, .22 caliber ammo can be considered the most popular sporting and shooting cartridge ever. Its light recoil and excellent short-range accuracy has made this round a favorite of target shooters and varmint hunters for many decades. The ammunition is also readily available and inexpensive.
It’s called “rimfire” because the primer is contained within the cartridge, which is ignited when the firing pin strikes its bottom edge. This is in comparison to “centerfire” ammunition, which typically has an easy to identify priming cap in the bottom of the round.
With rimfire ammo, the cartridge wall needs to be thin enough that the firing pin can crush it and ignite the primer. Because they require less brass and don’t need an additional firing cap, rimfire cartridges are less expensive to manufacture than centerfire ammunition.
However, this firing method also limits the caliber size. You couldn’t shoot a .45 ACP using rimfire manufacturing, because the thin brass couldn’t safely contain the amount of powder needed to propel this larger bullet.
FOUR BASIC TYPES OF .22 CALIBER AMMO
.22 S (Short) – rare and hard to find, just not used that much anymore
.22 L (Long) – not as prevalent, but available. Used in lever action rifles, like Henry, Marlin or Winchester
.22 LR (Long Rifle) – most common type, used in both rifles and pistols
.22 Mag or .22 Winchester Magnum (.22WMR) – similar to .22 LR with more velocity, power
This photo can give you a visual reference on the difference between each cartridge:
From left to right: first is .22LR, second is .22 Long and third is .22 Short
RULES OF .22 AMMO
First, remember that caliber is not a suggestion! Using the wrong ammunition can result in malfunction or damage to the gun and create a safety hazard. It often won’t load properly in your gun to begin with, but this isn’t universal.
Whatever is stamped on your firearm is what your firearm can shoot. If your gun is not clearly marked or you are unsure, always check with an expert resource beforehand.
For example, a popular Ruger 10/22 rifle will only take .22LR ammo…a short or long .22 round will simply not load into the magazine due to its size.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
Almost all magazine fed .22 pistols will require .22LR/.22WMR ammo.
Ruger SR22 pistol
Some revolvers will shoot all S/L/LR because they are not magazine fed, again check the stamp.
In addition to the Ruger 10/22 and SR22 shown, other popular .22 pistols and rifles are:
- Marlin Model 60 / Model 795 - Rifle
- M&P15-22-AR Style 22 – Rifle
- Ruger Mark IV – Pistol
- PMR30-22MAG semi-auto – Pistol
- Smith & Wesson Model 17 – Pistol (revolver)
At Shoot Point Blank, educating you on gun safety and enjoyment is a primary goal.
.22 pistols and rifles are great firearms and a ton of fun, perfect for the recreational shooter for many reasons, especially for those just getting started.
But remember it’s vital to understand the difference in .22 ammo for your and other’s safety. So, if cousin Bobby hands over a box of .22 shorts and says they are fine for your S&W M&P Comp 22, you can tell him to think again!