With a rare weekend not teaching and realizing we hadn’t shot a match since first quarter 2016, the Evil Princess and I did a quick look for what was available and found a .22 steel match at the friendly Little River Sportsmen’s Association.  We grabbed some bulk box .22 ammo, threw an ACOG atop her 10/22, blew the cobwebs out of the Clark Custom 10/22 I had used years before to make Rifleman at my first Appleseed event, and as an afterthought grabbed an out of the box S&W M&P15 .22 rifle I had won at a match in 2010 or so. For pistols, we grabbed two of the EP’s Ruger 22/45 pistols, the only .22s we had on hand for which we had four magazines) and headed for the shoot.

We didn’t win a damn thing, but the shoot was still a hoot.  We were reminded that when you’re “away from the game,” you get slow. Lesson learned.  We were reminded of something else: autoloading .22 rimfires are not the most reliable firearms on Earth.  Long and narrow with a big protruding rim at the rear, the .22 Long Rifle cartridge is not ideal for feeding from box magazines. On our whole relay, only one shooter escaped malfunctions, and the EP and I both had several.

Our ammo had been purchased during the long ammo drought of the Obama administration, brought on by the well-grounded fear that there was an anti-gunner in the White House.  In discussing the matter with other shooters who regularly hit this neat little .22 match, the general consensus was that CCI Mini-Mag is currently the most reliable ammo for self-loading .22 firearms.

The Evil Princess took some iPhone video, and on the way back I remarked, “You should be able to put together a helluva montage of jam-clearing vids.”  “Oh, (expletive deleted)!” she replied. “I didn’t think of that, and I deleted most of them.  They mostly had comments you wouldn’t want on the Backwoods Home blog, anyway.”

Still fun.  And cheap.  (The ammo, not the Evil Princess. She is fun, but not cheap.) Yes, we all kvetch about the price of .22 ammo, a direct result of its near-unavailability for the last eight years.  I recall being offered a 500-round brick of economy grade Winchester .22 in West Virginia in 2013…for a hundred dollars even. (I passed.)

On Facebook today, friend (and occasional commentator here)

22 Ammo on sale today in Lewis County Washington. Photo courtesy Tom Walls.
22 Ammo on sale today in Lewis County Washington. Photo courtesy Tom Walls

Tom Walls posted a photo of Federal’s good quality American Eagle .22 ammo for sale in Lewis County, Washington at $2.89 per box of fifty.  While that provokes us geezers into fits of what the Evil Princess diagnoses as “fogey-ism” – “When I went to the Western Auto and bought .22 Long Rifle for my dad when I was a boy, it was fifty cents a box!” – we have to remember that just about everything else costs ten times more now than it did then.  That would translate to .22 Long Rifle at under thirty cents a box if old money were new…not as bad a deal as we seem to think it is today.

My take-away? .22 rimfire in a semi-automatic firearm is not reliable enough (and certainly not powerful enough) for life-or-death firearms use…but it’s still affordable…and it’s darn sure still FUN!


Evil Princess runs her RB Precision Evolution stocked Ruger 10/22 under Trijicon ACOG. You know they’re serious when the sight costs more than the rest of the gun.

LRSA RBP Evolution Ruger 10/22


Lee Turner does a masterful  run with Ruger 10/22 rifle.

Or watch video here.

Overall match winner Lee Ovaert shows how it’s done. Pistol is S&W Model 41 target .22 with C-More optical sight.

Or watch video here.



  1. Of course, American Eagle doesn’t come in boxes of 50. They switched to boxes of 40 several years ago…

  2. Handguns and rifles chambered in .22LR remain my favorite shooters, especially old High Standard auto-loader pistols, which outshoot any of the aluminum and plastic junk guns sold today.

  3. I, like most folks who were raised in rural areas, could write a book on my relationship with the .22s. As a kid, I harvested everything from squirrels and rabbits to quail, dove, and duck with a .22, usually using shorts. (ground shots on the birds, illegal probably, even back then, but a common practice). Even today, I have a twinge of conscience that I’m wasting money when I shoot a squirrel with that high priced shotgun shell.

    One of the worst impacts of the Obama years was, for me, the disappearance of .22 ammo. After retirement, I routinely ran through 4000-5000 rounds of bulk pack a month through my various pistols. That halted after his election.

    My Browning Buckmark pistols are, by far, the most reliable with the bulk pack ammo. My Sig Mosquito was, by far, the least reliable at least early on. After about 30,000-40,000 rounds it began to become more reliable. After about 50,000 rounds, the slide developed a crack, resulting in a trip back to Sig, where they replaced the slide. Since then the little Sig rivals the Buckmarks for reliability.

    One note on semi-auto pistol reliability with bulk ammo. The 36 grain hollow point ammo tends to be less reliable than the 40 grain solids, at least for me. I personally believe this is due partly to the heavier bullet weight and the increase bearing surface engaging the rifling, give a higher rearward pressure to the slide.

    A parting note. I purchased a Heritage Rough Rider .22 revolver, on a whim (the $125 out the door price didn’t hurt the decision). I have been impressed with the functionality of the gun, relative to the price. Much has been said over the years of the unreliability of rim-fire ammo, and I’ve had my share of failure to fire’s with my pistols. After some 2,000 rounds through the cheap little single action revolver, I have not had a single failure to fire. This leads me to think that many of the complaints about unreliable .22 ammo is due to light hammer strikes, not the ammo.

  4. Our club had a turkey shoot yesterday (Sat). Friday the temps were in the sixties, Sat. temps had dropped into the 30’s with the wind howling. I stayed home and worked on a couple guns.
    Years ago I had half a dozen or so of these .22rf single shot last ditch “pen” guns. Actually, they were about the size of a roll of nickels, made by Military Armament Corp. The interesting thing about them is that they had dual firing pilns. Getting primer compound all around the rim is the bane of the rim fires.

  5. Spencer,

    I agree with your assessment of the High standard semi-auto pistols. I inherited my Dad’s Dura-Matic which I have passed down to my oldest son. I can’t remember a single malfunction with that pistol. The plastic grip, which was essentially the lower frame had a crack that my Dad had repaired with “Stanley Glue” years ago. I always marveled how that grip could have cracked to begin with, only to survive another 50 years with no further damage or separation where it was repaired. Memories.

  6. Alan Richmond, thanks for the catch! I hadn’t noticed Federal going to 40 round boxes of American Eagle .22; checked with a friend up where the photo was taken, and he confirms that the ammo depicted is in 40 round boxes. At $2.89 per 40, that comes out to a tad under seven and a quarter cents per shot, still pretty cheap when you allow for inflation.

  7. Now that .22 ammo is showing back up on the shelves, I was inventorying my stash with the thought of burning up some of my older stock. I came across a couple of 50rd. boxes of “Imperial C-I-L” shorts. It occurs to me that this ammo is no longer made. Does anyone who might dabble in collectible ammo know if it has any value other than its intended use? I believe it was manufactured in Canada.

  8. The only matches I used a .22 Semi-Auto in, was the Monthly 2700 Bulls-Eye matches in San Diego, CA, back in the early to middle 1960s, and it was the first Ruger Bull Barrel .22LR model Pistol.

    I can’t recall the brand of commercial ammo used now, but it was most likely a lead 40 grain, round nose bullet, round, and I don’t think I ever had a malfunction during any of those matches using it.

    And, a Happy Thanksgiving’s day to all of you too


  9. Verily if I were restricted to just one handgun and one rifle, both indeed would be .22s and of roughly mid-twentieth century fabrication by America’s top gun makers. Yea, vintage Winchester models 61 and 62, Marlin 39s, the venerated High Standard HD Military, Colt Officer’s Model Target, Springfield Armory’s tack-driving Model 1922….

  10. Mas , always fun shooting with you and the evil
    Princess . I have always loved shooting steel but 22 cal
    can test your shooting sanity, lol ! 🙂

  11. Saw three, count t’em, three Colt Diamondback’s in .22 caliber at a Gun Show this weekend…all three were on the same table. One in nickel, another blued, both with 6 in barrels. A third, snubbie, also blued, was unfired. The owner wanted $4000 for that one. Asking price for the other two were in the $2600 range.

    Wow! Pieces of art, in .22

  12. “When I went to the Western Auto and bought .22 Long Rifle for my dad when I was a boy, it was fifty cents a box!”

    I remember those days. You could also buy ammo at the roadside grocery store. Not only was it fifty cents for a box of fifty, but you paid for it with two silver quarters – not the clad junk that is issued today.

  13. A whole flood of memories thanks to this one post and the replies. Thanks, everyone!

    Ed Munsen (RIP), who was the range officer at my Boy Scout camp would vehemently growl that “You’re *not* paying for the bullets! They’re donated to the Scouts! You’re paying for use of the range!”.

    My first .22, a Marlin Model 25 with a few extras added: checkered Monte Carlo stock, sling, Tasco 4x scope…all courtesy of a family friend working at Marlin.

    Anyhow, the cartridge itself is wonderful. Thanks for the heads-up on American Eagle too. My only .22 semi-auto is a MkII target with a bull barrel, and it never gave me any trouble. Unlike the Davis J-22 which was purchased years ago so that a GF of mine with tiny hands could shoot with me. That went bye bye to a New Haven PD “gun buyback”. Since I paid $75 for that clinker and got a $100 store gift card, I came out ahead despite the lousy gun!

    Has anyone had experience with the Colibri primer-only .22 cartridges? I have a couple hundred rounds bought cheap and have fired a couple at the range for the feel, but if anyone has ever plinked or actually fired at targets I’d like a review. Thanks!

    A Happy Thanksgiving to Mas, the Missus, and all here. And may God (continue to) Bless America!

  14. FYI Mas, iPhone now doesn’t delete videos/pictures, but moves them into a “deleted photos” section, which will only delete them after a period of time (30 days I think). You should re-check your wife’s phone to see if they are in there.

    I still need to pick up both a .22 pistol and rifle. I know they are fun, and have shot them before, but I need to get a bigger safe 🙂 Want to get my kids into shooting too, they are about old enough, and definitely want to start them on a .22 rifle.

  15. Here’s hoping that Trump stops the massive government purchases of ammo, so that supplies increase and prices decrease to reasonable levels again.

  16. Ah Mas, you could have come down to the Volusia County Gun Hunt Club and shot a ICORE match this past Saturday.We had six stages for everyone’s shooting pleasure and knowing from your MAG 40 class you are a wheel gunner for sure.The match happens the third Saturday of every month.

  17. I was fortunate in that whenever Sportsman’s Guide offered free shipping on orders of $49 or $99 minimum, I always bought 10 boxes of the 525 round CCI or Remington .22 LR bulk ammo for about $18 each several years ago quite a few times, so I’m set for that caliber for awhile.

    In pistols, my most reliable .22s have been my Colt Second Model Woodsman, Ruger Mark I and II, and a German made Walther PP.

    The rimfire ammunition I have the most faith in, is the Remington Golden Bullet, either 36 grain HP or the 40 grain solid, which also gives the best accuracy in most of my .22s whether handguns or rifles. The CCI, both the Mini Mags and plain lead bullet ammo comes in second in accuracy and reliability. My Ruger 77/22 with RWS R50 ammo would put 5 shots into a .30 caliber hole at 25 yards all day long, but that stuff is ultra expensive as is a small stash of Eley Tenex I had hoarded away many years ago and rarely use. Back when I was kid, I shot up a ton of Winchester Wildcat in 500 round bricks purchased at K-Mart, using it to hunt small dinosaurs.

  18. This article caused me to go look at the certificate my grandfather framed for me. It is from YMCA Boys Camp where I certified as Pro-Marksman on a NRA Junior Diploma shooting at “50 feet” and scoring “20 or better”. Dated August 1958. It was done with a single shot 22 rifle using 22 shorts. I was 11 years old.

  19. I have very good reliability with Federal Auto Match, (bulk, I know) with my KIDD 10/22 clone. Maybe one issue in a box of 325. I had worse luck with Eley target the last time I was at an Appleseed. Quickly switched to the Federal and no problems for the rest of the event.
    Thanks for the great article. Keep up the good work.

Comments are closed.