Best .22 Short Ammo

photo of boxes of 22 short ammo on plywood

Not too many shooters give much thought to the diminutive .22 Short rimfire cartridge; it’s very small, has short range, and a very light bullet. But what if those shooters were actually missing out on something interesting and rather important to the shooting world by ignoring this tiny little round?

.22 Short Quick Answer Box:

photo of the 22 Short ammo shown next to the 22 LR ammo
The .22 Short bullet (Left) shown next to the .22 LR bullet (Right).

• How big is a .22 Short bullet? The .22 Short bullet has a case length of .421 inches and an overall length of .695 inches. It shares the same neck, base and rim dimensions as the more popular .22 LR bullet. The .22 short bullet is .395 inches shorter than the .22 LR, or about three-quarters of the size of the .22 LR bullet.

• What is the difference between 22LR and 22 Short? .22 Short and .22 LR are both classified as rimfire cartridges. The .22 Short is an older cartridge than the .22 LR, it’s also smaller in size and has lower velocity and recoil when fired. The bullet weight of the .22 Short is less than that of the .22 LR, the most popular bullet weight for .22 Short is between 27-29 Grains.

• Can a 22 short be fired from a 22LR chambered gun? The .22 Short cartridge can be fired from pistols and rifles chambered for 22 LR. It should be noted that shooting .22 Short ammo in a gun chambered for 22LR can cause excessive fouling, leaving behind a ring of lead residue that can lead to slow extraction and cause chambering issues.

A good alternative to firing .22 Short ammo in a 22 LR gun is to shoot the .22 Long cartridge, it has similiar performance to the .22 short cartridge without the need for additional cleaning.

The .22 Short Rimfire

photo of a group of 22 short bullets
The .22 Short is the original metallic American cartridge.

Cartridge Overview

The .22 Short is the original metallic cartridge in America, as well as having the distinct honor of being the custom tailored for the very first Smith & Wesson revolver. Developed in 1857 and still in relatively wide use and readily available, the .22 Short ammunition still enjoys a cult following and is well suited for certain particular duties.

History Of The .22 Short Cartridge

.22 Short ammunition was designed using black powder and for use in a small revolver. In fact, the very first revolver for a great manufacturer who would go on to perfect small revolvers: Smith & Wesson. The original S&W Model 1 was a compact little 7-shot, single action revolver favored by poker players and the like. It was very popular since metal cartridges, regardless of size, were much more reliable than cap-and-ball revolvers of any variety which performed terribly in wet weather.

While awfully undersized by all modern standards, these were a breaking innovation for those who use such things routinely and for the arms market as a whole. It marked the greatest breakthrough in ordinance since firearms began replacing archery.

Though originally designed as a self-defense cartridge, it has been usurped from that role many times over by far more capable centerfire calibers which are far better suited for such a role. It is now used primarily for short distance target practice where overshooting is a concern, as well as noise constraints as a rifle shooting .22 Shorts, is very quiet. Until 2004, the .22 Short was the designated caliber for the 25-meter rapid fire pistol event at the Olympics.

Bullet Types And Uses

photo of CCI 22 short ammo outside
The .22 Short hollow-point bullet is a great choice for varmint hunters.

Although readily available as a caliber, the types of bullets available for the .22 Short are fairly limited. This is in part to the small number of manufacturers of .22 Short ammunition. CCI is a prolific manufacturer of all rimfire calibers and essentially specializes in them.

What you end up having at your disposal in the .22 Short are basic options: lead round nose (LRN), copper plated round nose (CPRN), and hollow point (HP).

At the weights and velocities which the .22 Short operates, the HP offers may as well be round nose because there is just not enough energy to elicit any effective expansion.

The uses of each bullet offered in the .22 Short are essentially the same as any of the other rimfire calibers out there, but you have to expect somewhat more, well, limited results. The HP is the best suited of the lot for varmint control. CCI’s 27-grain HP is a dedicated varmint round pushing out of the muzzle at a respectable 1,105 fps and measuring 73ft lbs. of energy. The numbers of the short are not terribly different from .22 LR at the muzzle, but it is out to any distance where the numbers drop off fairly quickly. The HP depends on the highest velocity possible to expand and also needs to carry maximum energy to deliver a deadly blow. 

photo of yostoe super match 22 short ammo outside
The .22 Short lead round nose bullet is a great cartridge for target practice.

LRN bullets are tailored for the specific purpose of match competition. They lack the velocity of the copper plated bullets, in which the copper plating acts as a lubricating surface between bullet and barrel. The lead bullets come out nearly three hundred feet per second slower at the muzzle than the 27-grain HP, but speed is not what they are made to do. They are made specifically for punching match-grade holes into paper targets at exactly prescribed distances, which is good because this bullet drops like a rock past 50 yards. But that’s okay because it works great for this. The heavy bullet is slow but the weight offers stability which lends to accuracy.

The copper-plated .22 Short bullet is a common option for .22 chambered firearms.

Copper plated round nose bullets come in the garden variety 29-grain size and are your all-around plinker and target round (not match shooting, mind you). If you need to tag a rabbit or squirrel in your tomatoes, that’s probably fine but it is just at home punching little tiny holes in empty Coke cans. A quiet little round, it is well suited for this and for the sensitive ears of young shooters.

The .22 Short Legacy

While nowhere near the popularity of the .22 LR, the .22 Short still serves a purpose (more than one, actually) and has somewhat of a cult following. Originally designed as a self-defense cartridge, if you can believe that, it was the caliber designed for the original S&W Model 1 revolver, and the first cartridge to use a metallic case.

There is not much variation in bullet weights in .22 Short ammunition because there honestly isn’t much ballistic wiggle room with a cartridge that small. If you go any heavier, there isn’t enough case to pack any more powder and if you go any lighter in the bullet and it won’t ever stay on target because any breath of air will send it wild.

The heavier LRN bullets are suitable for target shooting and are best used at specified (fixed) distances as you’d expect in a match. The copper plated hollow point is much faster and is intended to kill small pests without making a lot of noise in the process. The CPRN falls somewhere in the middle in terms of velocity vice accuracy. Not offering match grade performance, it also does not have the ballistics of the HP round. It is at home shooting cans but will rise to the occasion of the occasional pest should it be asked to.

Useful article?

Share on social media!

Let your fellow shooters know – share this article using the Facebook,
Twitter and other social media icons below.
The more we all know, the better organized and stronger the shooting and hunting community will be.