While the .22 LR is undoubtedly the most common caliber in the world, it does leave something to be desired in terms of effectiveness on anything beyond, say, soup cans and cottontail rabbits. Is it a deadly caliber? You bet it is. There is, however, a distinction between shear lethality and the ability to do so efficiently with rimfire ammunition.
The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) was designed for just this purpose: provide a hard-hitting .22 using a standard weight .22 bullet, and the results have been impressive.
22 Mag Quick Answer Box:
Is 22 WMR the same as 22 Mag?
Yes, .22 WMR ammo is the same as .22 Mag ammo. Why does it have 2 different names? In a word, it comes down to marketing. Winchester introduced the cartridge in 1959 as the Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR), but the common abbreviated name for the round is the .22 Mag.
What’s the difference between 22 Mag and 22 Hornet?
The .22 Hornet cartridge is a descendant of the .22 WCF cartridge, which was developed in the 1920s at Springfield Armory. 22 Hornet bullet is larger in size and weight than the .22 Mag cartridge. The .22 Hornet has advantages in both velocity and energy over the .22 Mag cartridge.
Can you deer hunt with 22 Mag ammo?
The .22 Mag cartridge is not a recommended cartridge for deer hunting, it may be mighty, but it lacks the mass of rifle caliber ammo. In many states, it is illegal to hunt large game with an underpowered cartridge. The .22 Mag cartridge is intended for hunting game 20 Lbs. or less.
What is .22 WMR Ammo used for?
Before there was an explosion of high-performance centerfire calibers based on the .22 caliber platform, the .22 LR reigned supreme in all sorts of varmint control. However, all shooters understood that it was not adequate for the larger varmints and smaller predators of the world, namely the coyote.
Winchester set out to upsize the .22 LR by using a common bullet but lengthening the case to create a magnum rimfire caliber. The end result was the still popular .22 WMR caliber, which offers much better terminal ballistics for use on small and medium-sized predators.
The .22 WMR takes a common .22 40gr bullet and almost doubles the velocity and energy, creating a simple rimfire which can easily and cleanly dispatch common varmints and at longer ranges.
History Of The .22 WMR
The .22 LR was well into its much-storied tenure when the .22 WMR was dreamt up. Initially released in 1959, .22 WMR features a larger case, based on the older .22 WRF design, allowing for velocities that make for a more potent rimfire round.
And potent they are! A .22 WMR carries 50% more energy at 100 yards than a comparable .22 LR has at the muzzle. Yes, that is correct.
Anyway, the WMR came about because varminters, landowners, and sportsman wanted a lot more oomph than the .22 LR could ever dream of while retaining the low cost and light recoil of a rimfire.
Bullet Types And Uses
The interesting thing about the WMR is it using a common bullet with the .22 LR but producing radically different results, although there are some bullet options which do not exist in the .22 LR market.
40gr full metal jacket (FMJ) and total metal jacket (TMJ)
These are the bread butter of .22 WMR cartridges. Made for a variety of utility shooting, they fire flat and produce good ballistics. In essence, they make a good all-around load suitable for dispatching soda cans and varmints alike. They also are the cheapest loads available, which is a powerful factor in shooting anything.
There is one significant caveat to this which needs to be said here. Do not expect to pay .22 LR prices for .22 WMR ammo because you won’t. You will spend closer to the price point of cheap .223 ammo.
So what is the point of choosing the .22 WMR instead of a centerfire? Well, it is a great in-between and is readily available, unlike a lot of the other in-between calibers (.22 Hornet, etc.). Sometimes you don’t need the thump of a .223 (or larger), but need more than .22 LR.
Another pro feature of the WMR is the commonality between platforms. While not quite as prolific as the .22 LR, there are still a number of different handguns and rifles chambered in WMR and sufficed to say a handgun in .22 WMR is far more potent for self-defense than one in .22 LR.
Jacketed hollow points (JHP)
Unlike the .22 LR, JHP really means something in the WMR; with the ballistics of this cartridge, it will do some very real damage.
JHPs in WMR range anywhere between 28- to 40 grains and produce a broad spectrum of velocities ranging from blistering-fast to stupid-fast.
Winchester 28 grain JHP is a lead-free JHP which screams along at 2,200 fps, whereas 40gr JHPs are around the 1,900 fps range. None of those numbers is the least bit shabby when you consider it is coming from a relatively small rimfire cartridge.
The Hornady V-Max® has been a mainstay of hunters and sportsmen for a number of years now and their .22 caliber bullet is no exception. Designed for a 100 yard zero, the .22 WMR V-Max® posts 2,200 ft/s velocity and 322 ft. lbs. at the muzzle. Downrange you can expect a little over 1,400 ft/s and around 130 ft. lbs. at 100 yards with no drop. Ideally used at ranges of around 100 yards or less, the 30 grain V-Max® drops down to 1,002 ft/s and only retains 67 ft. lbs. of energy at 200 yards while dropping over 16”.
While not the most ideally suited of the hot rimfire calibers at ranges over 100 yards, it is fair to state that most users wishing to apply the .22 WMR are already aware of this and intend a centerfire caliber for longer shots. The .22 WMR offers a lot of low-cost rifles and the ammunition is still considerably cheaper than a comparable centerfire V-Max® cartridge and show to be exceptionally lethal at 100 yards and nearer.
Despite its diminutive caliber, the .22 WMR enjoys a decent presence in the self-defense market. When you see muzzle energy as high as it is, you can understand why it has a place in this market, especially when you consider a firearm like the Kel-Tec PMR-30 which gives the shooter a 30+1 capacity in a medium-frame, lightweight autoloader with very little recoil, or the deep-concealing mini-revolvers in the North American Arms lineup and it makes sense.
Hornady FTX® is available in .22 WMR as a 45gr bullet which shows 1,000 ft/s and 100 ft. Lbs of energy at the muzzle of a handgun, since it is a handgun specific cartridge. These numbers are not bad when you take into consideration the application.
Should I Buy A .22 WMR Rifle?
When you consider the .22 WMR you have to understand it’s limitations; it is not nor will it ever be in the league of the .22 centerfire calibers. But it was also never intended to compete directly with them. It is a great caliber to bridge the gap between the .22 LR and the smaller centerfire .22s like the .22 Hornet and .223 Remington.
It can be used for a bunch of different purposes and is considerably lower in cost in terms of firearms and ammunition than centerfire cartridges. If your shooting doesn’t require as much reach or punch as the common .223 Remington, maybe take a look at the .22 WMR; it might just surprise you at what it has to offer.