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Most Lethal 22LR Ammo

Ammo Guides/Rimfire Ammo
Most Lethal 22LR Ammo

When most people think of lethal ammunition, they might not immediately consider the diminutive .22 Long Rifle (LR) cartridge. Yet, with advancements in bullet technology and propellant mixes, even this small cartridge can pack a serious punch. So what is the most lethal 22LR ammo? It depends on several factors, including your intended purpose. 

I generally lean away from recommending anything rimfire for self-defense. Still, the .22LR can be surprisingly effective for specific tasks and purposes. If your property is overrun with varmints, or pests, it’s hard to find a more efficient round to remove them. Let’s dive into the world of .22LR – especially rimfire hollow points – and discuss some top lethal picks.

Rimfire Hollow Point Overview

a macro photo of hollow point rimfire ammunition

Hollow Point: The hollowed-out tip of the bullet allows for expansion when striking a target, increasing its lethality. 

Before we hop into our specific ammo recommendations, let’s review what makes a hollow point bullet unique. Unlike traditional full-metal-jacket bullets, hollow points have a small hollowed-out tip

This design causes the bullet to expand upon striking a target, creating a larger wound channel. This property makes hollow point bullets more lethal than other types, ensuring quicker incapacitation of the intended target. For .22LR cartridges, this can mean the difference between a “poke” and a “punch.”

Most Lethal 22LR Ammo

We narrowed our list down to six of the best and most lethal .22LR cartridges on the market, which include:

CCI Stinger 32 grain CPHP

a photo of CCI stinger most lethal 22LR ammo

Yeah, it’s fast. CCI Stingers are 32gr CPHP rounds with an impressive 1,640 FPS muzzle velocity.

A favorite among many .22LR enthusiasts, the CCI Stinger is known for its impressive speed and accuracy. The 32-grain copper-plated hollow point bullet flies at a scorching 1,640 feet per second (fps), providing excellent energy transfer on impact. Its lighter weight also means a flatter trajectory, which is great for accurate shooting.

Lethal Feature: Pure velocity. Stingers might be small, but they attack targets like a swarm of angry copper-plated bees traveling at 1,640 FPS.

Caliber Bullet Type Bullet Weight Velocity (Muzzle) Energy (Muzzle) 50 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 75 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 100 Yards (Velocity/Energy)
.22LR CPHP 32gr 1,640 FPS 191 FT LBS 1,292 FPS/119 FT LBS 1,162 FPS/96 FT LBS 1,066 FPS/81 FT LBS

CCI Velocitors 40gr HP

a photo of CCI Velocitor 40gr HP ammo

CCI’s Velocitor is a mean little round, with 40gr of expanding hollow point mass to dump into soft targets.

The heavier sibling of the Stinger, the Velocitor offers a 40-grain hollow point bullet traveling at a still-respectable 1,435 fps. Its higher weight ensures deeper penetration and, combined with its velocity, guarantees a reliable expansion on impact.

Lethal Feature: Flat trajectory, high velocity, 40 grains of consistent, target thumping, tissue disrupting, hollow point power.

Caliber Bullet Type Bullet Weight Velocity (Muzzle) Energy (Muzzle) 50 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 75 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 100 Yards (Velocity/Energy)
.22LR HP 40gr 1,435 FPS 183 FT LBS 1,230 FPS/134 FT LBS 1,149 FPS/117 FT LBS 1,084 FPS/104 FT LBS

Most Lethal 22LR Ammo: Winchester Varmint HE 37gr HP-SEG

a photo of most lethal 22LR ammo winchester varmint he 37gr segmented

The segmenting bullet in Winchester’s Varmint HE is a nasty little 37gr round that breaks apart on impact.

The Varmint HE is a segmented hollow point bullet designed to break apart upon impact, causing multiple wound channels. Ideal for varmint hunting, the 37-grain projectile boasts a velocity of 1,435 fps, making it both fast and lethal.

Lethal Feature: Segmented hollow point bullets that fragment when striking soft targets at high velocities.

Caliber Bullet Type Bullet Weight Velocity (Muzzle) Energy (Muzzle) 50 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 75 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 100 Yards (Velocity/Energy)
.22LR HP-SEG 37gr 1,435 FPS 161 FT LBS 1,240 FPS/126 FT LBS 1,126 FPS/104 FT LBS 1,027 FPS/87 FT LBS

Federal Small Game 38gr CPHP

a photo of Federal Small Game 38gr CPHP ammo

Federal Small Game 38gr CPHP ammo offers consistent performance that won’t disappoint you in the field.

Federal’s offering in the high-performance .22LR arena, the Small Game, is designed for bunny-sized targets. The 40-grain hollow point offers consistent accuracy and terminal performance, making it a top choice for small-game hunters.

Lethal Feature: Hollow point performance with pinpoint accuracy. Consider running this in your bolt action precision rifle to achieve optimum performance with your custom barrel.

Caliber Bullet Type Bullet Weight Velocity (Muzzle) Energy (Muzzle) 50 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 75 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 100 Yards (Velocity/Energy)
.22LR CPHP 38gr 1,260 FPS 134 FT LBS 1,110 FPS/104 FT LBS 1,010 FPS/86 FT LBS 940 FPS/75 FT LBS

Norma Hunter-22 Power 40gr HP

a photo of Norma Hunter-22 Power 40gr HP

Norma’s Hunter-22 Power 40gr HP round is a designated rimfire hunting option that doesn’t skimp on performance.

A relatively new entrant, Norma’s Hunter-22 Power impresses with its 1,263 fps velocity and a 40-grain hollow point bullet. It offers a balanced combination of speed, accuracy, and terminal performance.

Lethal Feature: Disruptive wound channel. If you need a rimfire round that creates a devastating wound channel without over-penetrating small game, this is it.

Caliber Bullet Type Bullet Weight Velocity (Muzzle) Energy (Muzzle) 50 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 75 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 100 Yards (Velocity/Energy)
.22LR HP 40gr 1,263 FPS 142 FT LBS 1,113 FPS/110 FT LBS 1,013 FPS/91 FT LBS 943 FPS/79 FT LBS

Aguila Interceptor 40gr CPSP

a photo of Aguila Interceptor 40gr CPHP ammo

Don’t let the price tag fool you, Aguila Interceptors punch way above their price point with lethal performance.

The Interceptor is Aguila’s fastest .22LR ammo. The 40-grain copper-plated solid point bullet speeds at an impressive 1,470 fps. It’s an excellent choice for those who prioritize speed and energy transfer. Hollow point? Nope, but Interceptors get the job done by disrupting tissue with high-velocity solid-point bullets. 

Lethal Feature: Speed and energy. Aguila packed this spicy little round with a charge to benefit longer-barreled rimfire rifles. 

Caliber Bullet Type Bullet Weight Velocity (Muzzle) Energy (Muzzle) 50 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 75 Yards (Velocity/Energy) 100 Yards (Velocity/Energy)
.22LR CPSP 40gr 1,470 FPS 192 FT LBS 1,270 FPS/143 FT LBS 1,190 FPS/126 FT LBS 1,130 FPS/113 FT LBS

Understanding Rimfire Ballistics

Ballistics, in its simplest form, is the study of a projectile in motion. For rimfire cartridges like the .22LR, several factors influence their performance – primarily bullet weight and velocity. A lighter bullet will generally travel faster but might not penetrate as deeply, while a heavier bullet may offer deeper penetration at the cost of speed. 

The hollow point design also plays a significant role in ballistics. As I mentioned earlier, these bullets expand upon impact. In ballistic gel tests, one can observe how different hollow points expand, fragment, or penetrate. The most lethal .22LR ammo tends to show a combination of deep penetration and significant expansion, transferring maximum energy to the target. 

The Intricacies of Performance: Barrel Quality and Length

It’s crucial to note that while the ammunition plays a significant role in the cartridge’s overall performance, it doesn’t operate in isolation. Several factors can influence how a particular ammo behaves once fired. Among the most critical are the quality and length of the rifle’s barrel.

A high-quality barrel, crafted with precision and attention to detail, can markedly improve the accuracy and consistency of your shots. Imperfections inside the barrel, such as pits or rough spots, can adversely affect bullet travel, leading to less predictable trajectories and decreased accuracy.

Barrel length also plays a pivotal role. Generally speaking, longer barrels provide the expanding gasses from the ignited gunpowder more time to push against the bullet. This typically results in higher bullet velocities. However, there’s a point of diminishing returns where more barrel length doesn’t contribute to increased speed and might even hinder overall performance.

Of course, this can be somewhat subjective, as with many things in the world of firearms. Different shooters might have varying experiences based on their unique setups and preferences. 

As we delve into the best ammo options, I’ll also incorporate ballistic and range data. These insights offer a more comprehensive understanding of each ammunition’s real-world performance, ensuring you’re equipped with all the information you need before making a choice.

Most Lethal 22LR Ammo: Sleeper Cartridges

a photo of a man shooting a rimfire rifle outdoors

They may not have the velocity or size of centerfire cartridges, but rimfire can still be lethal against a variety of small game.

While the .22LR might not be the first cartridge you think of for lethality, it’s a serious contender with the right ammo. Whether for varmint control, small game hunting, or plinking with a bit more “oomph,” selecting one of the ammunitions above will ensure you get the most lethal bang for your buck. 

That said, gun quality also plays a significant role in cartridge performance. Pairing one of these contenders with a premium quality firearm will help you squeeze every ounce of performance out of them. On the other hand, using a bottom-dollar weapon can diminish the performance of even the most expensive cartridges.

The bottom line is that lethality stems from a combination of firearm quality, cartridge quality, and shooter skill. But having a precision cartridge like those in our list goes a long way toward increasing the lethality of the .22LR.

If you’re looking for the most accurate .22LR ammo at 100 Yards, be sure to check out our article here.

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