The Best .22 LR Ammo

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Small game fear it, kids love it, and it won’t murder your wallet – the best .22 LR ammo!

From your first gunshot as a child to the latest competition caliber you shot last weekend, .22 LR never stops.

For most of us, .22 LR was the first cartridge we ever shot. It’s rare that a caliber has as many applications as this one does but it really can be a do-all.

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The “Best Ammo” Depends On Your Application

As with most things, you need to match your tools to the job. There is a really wide range of .22 LR ammo out there these days.

best 22 LR ammo
Image Caption: (left) Aguila Super Extra Copper Plated .22 LR and (right) Lapua Center-X. Two of my favorite .22 LR cartridges!

Some of it is pretty niche while some are meh at everything.

Choose and choose wisely.

Plinking / Training

This is a pretty general category where almost anything will at least be okay. The main goal is either cost or reliability or more likely a mix of the two.

best 22 LR ammo
Image Caption: Two Ruger Wrangler .22 LR single-action revolvers!

The cheapest option will likely be the only kind of reliable, but spend a little more and you can still save dollars per round compared to centerfire options.

Hunting

Lead bullets are pretty effective at killing game, but some are better than others. 

Look for something with some extra muzzle velocity to really make sure whatever it is you’re trying to put down goes with the first shot.

HP .22 LR exists but practically it doesn’t seem to make much difference that I’ve seen.

Long Range Precision

Be ready to pay extra for the good stuff, but you’ll still rarely see it for over 30 cents a round even in these dark times.

Super-premium long-range .22 LR ammo might come as a surprise to some, but with things like NRL22 and PRS Rimfire becoming massively popular right now, there have been some outstanding ammo options released.

best 22 LR ammo
Image Caption: (left) Bergara B-14r in .22 LR in a MDT ACC chassis and (right) Terminus Zeus in 6.5 Creedmoor in a MPA chassis. Both have Athlon Cronus scopes.

Whatever you choose, keep it subsonic. .22 LR passes from supersonic to subsonic at less than 100 yards and becomes highly destabilized during that trans-sonic barrier.

Self-Defense?

For right now we do not recommend .22 LR for self-defense. It simply has too many problems to be trusted with your life.

We’re testing some newly released options, but we want to wait until we have more experience with it before we give it a go/no-go.

Bottom line — no, for now. Maybe.

Best .22 Long Rifle Ammo

Remington Thunderbolt

Okay, we might be using “best” a bit loosely with this one. It’s cheap and plentiful. 

Muzzle velocity varies wildly from shot to shot, duds are not uncommon (I once had 12 out of 100), and you will definitely need to clean your gun after shooting these because they are super dirty.

Those downsides are helped offset by the fact that it is really cheap and it will (normally) cycle semi-autos.

If you want to turn a couple of dollars into a whole lot of noise, this is a classic option that doesn’t disappoint.

Federal Auto Match

Surprisingly cheap and surprisingly well made, Federal Auto Match is some solid ammo. Plinking prices at almost match grade quality.

The box I’ve chrono’d had some outstanding standard deviation and extreme spread, almost on par with things like Center-X and SD Match.

It seems to get a little squirrely at about 100 yards, so I can’t recommend it as a long-range precision round.

But under 100 yards, this is some good stuff!

CCI Standard

Maybe the most common .22 LR ammo type out there, CCI Standard is a gold standard for reliability and ease of use. 

This is the Coke of .22 LR, the Honda Civic, the reliable option that never fails you in any way.

It’s also pretty decent even in a match environment. If you’re new to something like NRL22, this is the ammo I recommend for your first match.

Really, it’s the ammo I recommend for just about everything if you’re going into it blind. CCI Standard is the best do-all .22 LR you can find.

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CCI Stinger

If the standard doesn’t have enough power, get you some Stringers!

1,600ish FPS at the muzzle, these little guys are really moving. That’s partly because they are 32gr instead of the standard 40gr, but what they lack in weight they make up for in speed.

These will cycle even the most stubborn semi-autos and are great for shooting cans of pop with.

They also make for a solid hunting round due to the extreme speed. Small game beware of the Stinger!

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Aguila Super Extra

Copper-washed ammo to give it a more FMJ style, I really dig this stuff. Pre-COVID I got it for 4 cents per round, but even these days it’s often one of the cheapest options on the market.

I stocked up deep before the bad times came so I’m still shooting from my stockpile.

Thousands of rounds later, it’s been awesome.

Duds are very rare, it’s decently accurate, run in my semi-autos, and the copper-washed bullet helps keep fouling down and lead off my hands.

This is generally my first choice when I’m plinking and having fun.

Aguila Super Colibri

Loaded with basically just the primer, this is about as quiet of a subsonic as you can make. It also is barely crawling along at about 425 fps at the muzzle.

For shooting super quietly, this is one of the absolute best! But it won’t cycle a semi-auto and it is going to drop like a rock.

Still, I keep a box or two around for introducing new shooters to guns. Even without a suppressor, this is quiet and comfy to shoot.

SK Rifle Match & Long Range Match

I have no idea what the difference is between these two types of ammo, but they are both pretty great. What works best for me depends on what rifle I’m shooting, but all of my rifles normally like at least one or the other.

I recommend you give both a shot.

If I can’t find Center-X, SK Rifle Match is my backup option for competition and my go-to pick for training long-range ammo.

Both the Rifle Match and Long Range Match are subsonic, reliable, and deliver great accuracy.

Lapua Center-X

This is my #1 go-to choice for match-grade .22 LR ammo. I’ve shot thousands of it and never had a dud.

If you need ammo that is accurate, reliable, and you know will always work — this is the one.

I normally get around 1,060-1,085 FPS with a 22″ barrel depending on the weather, this makes it pretty solidly always subsonic so I never have to worry there.

It can be hard to find right now, but it’s worth it if you’re serious about long-range.

On an NRL22X stage shooting at 380 yards, I got 6 out of 10 hits on a 10×10 target. That is crazy good!

Wolf Target Match

Kind of hard to find right now, but if you can this is basically the cheapest match grade ammo you can find. While not on par with Center-X or SK ammo, this is pretty good stuff.

Wolf isn’t really known for making super-high quality ammo, but their .22 LR option is shockingly good. Like, super shockingly good.

If you want to compete on a budget, this is the ticket.

Wrapping Up

.22 LR is one of the greatest cartridges ever made, it’s cheap, it’s easy, it can do more than most people give it credit for, and it’s almost never impossible to find in stores. We hope you find the best .22 LR ammo that suits you in this review.

Depending on what your use case is, there is ammo built for you.

We’re in a golden age for this little cartridge and I’m loving it!

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