.22 LR v .22 Air Rifle

Not the tiniest of ammunition, but the all time favorite for small game, the rim fire .22 Long Rifle (LR) has been round for ever. (Well since 1887).

22lrA good round developing about 100 ft.lb (at the muzzle) worth of “smack down” with the familiar 40 grain soft lead bullet.

Compared to what I use for hunting which is a simple cheap little air gun pellet weighing in at only 21 grains and through my UK legal Air Rifle it develops just 11.7 Ft.lbs

bisleyOK, you can stop laughing now because you’re all thinking no comparison and ballistically you’re quite correct.

Ballistic coefficients (BC)?
For beginners BC is its shape, it’s aerodynamics, and how it slows down from air drag. With a high BC, it cuts though the air like a hot knife through butter, low BC and the air acts like molasses slowing the projectile REALLY FAST.
The 22 LR 40 grain soft lead, 1040 fps, BC is 0.169 (Internet figures, not great, not bad)
Th
e 21 grain air pellet at 500 fps, BC is 0.034 Chrono’d, (Absolutely DIRE)

Trajectory of both over 50 yards (zeroed at 50 yards)?
Green is the little air gun pellet
22ballisticsSo what’s the appeal of the obviously underpowered air gun pellet over the .22 LR? It can’t be trajectory, it can’t be “smack”, could it be accuracy?

Accuracy.
As I used to shoot 97-99/100 prone at 25 yards with a .22 Martini-Henry Target Rifle, I can’t really fault the 22 LR in any way.
Having said that, 93-97/100 prone on the same range with the air gun pellet in my PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic) it is pretty even.
In inches terms that 0.12″. Not really worrying about is it?

Accuracy is about the same just low on the “smack down power”.
Although do you really need the power?

I regularly go out rabbiting and pot the occasional hare should one be stupid enough to come into range. That’s my main prey with grey squirrel, wood-pigeon, collared dove, and if I’m really lucky, a duck.

My maximum effective kill range is only 35 to 40 yards.
At that range 8.75 ft lb of smack which is tiny when compared to the 22 LR (86 ft lb).
Yet I often come home with a net full of eatables. Can’t be power.

The advantage for me (UK-based), is I don’t need a license for a firearm, I can use my air gun in an urban environment safely when pest controlling, and with the moderator on the front, it’s virtually silent.

Does the US hunting world bother to moderate (silence) their 22’s? I’ve got it in my mind that moderators are banned in some US states, is that still right? Certainly in the UK a moderator (silencer) is a listed accessory on a firearms license.
Not on an air gun though.

My absolute maximum range is pathetic too.

Initial Angle: 25.0 deg Terminal Angle: 57.5 deg
Terminal Range: 406.7 yd Terminal Velocity: 119.1 ft/s
Terminal Time: 7.7 s Terminal Energy: 0.7 ft lbs

I’m thinking you’ve got to be a lot more careful as the little 22 LR slug can carry way over a mile.

Initial Angle: 35.0 deg Terminal Angle: 66.1 deg
Terminal Range: 1980.0 yd Terminal Velocity: 281.3 ft/s
Terminal Time: 20.6 s Terminal Energy: 7.0 ft•lbs

(Both data worked out using  JBM Ballistics)

Why is that important?
Because we all miss occasionally and when shooting upwards into trees, the bullet or pellet just keeps on going till it does its ICBM bit and falls to Earth. It only takes 163 fps (2.3ft lb)  to penetrate skin and 213 fps (4 ft lb) to break bone  (Belkin, 1978)

OUCH! Your little 22 LR slug is WAY over that. Mine? Perhaps a bruise.
Boy, have you .22 LR  users got to be careful about back drop when shooting.

Whilst talking about shooting into trees.
Most anyone who shoots tree game must have had a ricochet or two because even if you penetrate the prey, green wood has a nasty knack of returning the bullet or pellet to the sender with little reduction of power.

I’ve had a few pellets come back at me one taking out my safety glasses frame (never go out without wearing a pair) and putting a nice “dent” into my eyebrow.
I know a 22 LR coming back will do serious damage as I’ve seen what one did to a fellow pest controller when it came back off two trees and dug into his knee. He’s still limping on cold days, that’s 6 years ago.

Ummm. So I can’t shoot fox (which I trap) or deer with my little air rifle and its pathetic power and range. Not looking good for me is it?

Yet, for safety, covert operation, cheapness of ammunition, licensing, and putting the listed food on my table, I’m quite happy with my little 22 Air Pellet.

Now I sit back and wait for all you US shooters to (figuratively I hope) shoot me down. (Probably noisily, expensively, and with tales of rabbit shoots with whole pick up trucks full of bunnies).

There again I can only eat one bunny at a sitting and my freezer has plenty of jointed rabbit waiting time in the stew pot.

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31 Responses to .22 LR v .22 Air Rifle

  1. equippedcat says:

    Silencers are covered by U.S. Federal law, which requires you to apply for and pay $200 tax for each silencer to be legal at the Federal level. State laws extend the restrictions, with about a dozen states prohibiting them outright and some of the others states allowing their possession but not use (i.e. as a collectable only).

    For quietness and effectiveness, how about arrows fired from bows or slingshots modified to shoot arrows?

    • Thank you for being my first US comment and the information.
      I’ve tried the sling bow and it lacks the pin point accuracy of the airgun.
      It’s not as silent, you need room to draw it and shoot.
      Such movement when drawing is a dead giveaway when after small game from close ranges.
      In the UK using a bow or crossbow for hunting is illegal.
      Both aren’t as accurate, their effective range is even worse than my airgun, they are big, and cumbersome.
      TP

      • equippedcat says:

        Sounds like the most effective airgun available is the best choice in the UK (for small game) and for that matter having one in the US is probably wise (since you may not want to advertise your hunting in a SHTF situation AND eventually we will probably be disarmed too).

        Thirty years ago the Feinwerbau seems to have been the air rifle of choice and I think I still have one somewhere. Is it still the best choice?

        Can you (legally) hunt medium and big game in the UK, and if so, how?

      • I love the way you put (legally) in brackets my friend.
        It’s an interesting thing to answer too.
        So, if you don’t mind, I’ll also do a little article on game in the UK after answering you.

        Briefly, yes, using firearms and snares (subject to restrictions).
        Medium game defined as fox, small deer, and wild boar,
        Large game is (surprisingly enough) large deer.

        Getting a license to hold a decent firearm, .308 (ish) is difficult.
        Mainly if you are stinking rich or one of the landed gentry, no problem.
        Lesser weapons i.e. 22LR, 22 Swift, .17 WMR are available BUT the regulations on their use are WAY ABOVE draconian bordering on stupid. PISTOLS ARE OUT COMPLETELY!

        Having said that, it doesn’t stop the nutters legally obtaining them and killing people.
        In 2010 141,775 persons legally held firearms BUT that is not necessarily all firearms as airguns rated at over 12 ft lb are classed as “bang sticks”. (Yep, truly pathetic).

        It’s estimated that there are over 1 million illegal weapons but I’m thinking that’s just scratching the surface.
        Funny enough there are less murders from the illegal owners than the legal owners due to the nutters preferring mass murder to shooting the odd criminal.
        UK gun laws are a farce.

        The regulations to hunt deer and boar are difficult to navigate.
        You need deer stalking qualifications.
        It’s not just a tick test either, class work, field tests, and an accompanied shoot before they sign off on you.

        Deer shooting is strictly controlled with a quota scheme,
        And also it’s a HUGE part of the “rich leisure” income in places like Scotland.

        So that’s it in brief but as said, next article will cover larger table items.
        Thanks for your comments.
        TP

  2. I do enjoy my firearms, as for laws, well we all know they don’t work.

    I also agree with your well written exposé on the benefits. And highly recommend a decent .117 or .22 air gun, thankfully no regulations on power here.

    Great stuff!

    And again I will say, (screw their stupid laws) i mean, follow the law! 🙂

  3. nuge67 says:

    Another U$ comment. While I love my .22 Rifle I have recently purchased 2 air guns to hunt with.. In the U$ we can have higher FPS than you can. Both of my AG’S are under the sound barrier. To hunt quietly and cheaply. I’m loving my AG’s and hardly touch my .22 rifle now.Good article.

    • Thank you for your comments.
      What do you use, spring or Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP).
      Regarding power, it’s funny but for the most part I don’t actually notice the lack of power.
      Comes from having good field craft thus most of my prey is taken between 20 – 30 m tops.
      Even at the heavily restricted FPS / ft.lb (508fps / 11.3 ft.lb on average) I always use a moderator.
      When rabbiting (subject to a clean kill) I can normally dispatch a fair few bunnies whilst they are wondering why their friends are “having a nap”.
      The price of pellets has soared here and I’m now paying £4.50 ($7.40) for a tin of 200 quality or 500 “back yard (close range)” 22gn pellets.
      You’ll probably gasp at that pricing but Hey, this is rip off Britain.

      • nuge67 says:

        Yes using a pellet rifle imho increases your hunting ability. Same way bow hunting with a traditional bow does. You need to be close and undetected.
        PCP simply does not make sense to me. In a SHTF situation they will be 100% useless. I have 2 springers (.177 and .22) and a few pump guns that are roughly the same speed and power as you can use over there. For now I have been hunting with the springers but I know in my heart I need to use the pump guns more and get confident and kills with them. In the shtf situation I see the pumps the only way to go myself.

      • I have a springer and a PCP but, unlike most children, I also own a high pressure hand pump to recharge it. 2000 psi from empty within 5 minutes. Neat huh? Thus I don’t need a divers bottle.
        Come a time when law doesn’t matter, it’s easily tunable to 45 ft.lbs . All that power but QUIET.
        Pump action toys here top out at round 8 ft.lbs despite the manufacturer claims. Thus they are only fit for phone box ranges.

      • nuge67 says:

        In your situation with the pump a PCP will work. I guess what I should have said was for me a PCP is useless. Too much money invested.
        I want to get more comfortable with the pumpers we have here for the lack onmaintneence they require. I love my springers, the range andthe force they hit their target with but they do require more maintnence.
        Seems you and I are on the same page just different parts of the page.

      • I clear vermin on request. That would be anything from rats to rabbits to pigeon and crow.
        Urban, rural, or something in between demands that I use a “silent” tool to do the job.
        After all there are so many fluffy bunny lovers here in the UK and they all get upset and indignant when a horrible little man comes and clears their neighbors fields or whatever of vermin.
        So I go in, quietly, having told the police (not that it stops them coming round and blowing my nights activities) work, clear up, and leave mostly without anyone seeing me.
        As for warehouses and feral pigeon. One drop of blood left and it’s a MAJOR CRIME.
        So the fully moderated PCP is a dream tool.
        For some field work I like my springer BUT apart from a once a year strip down (unless it gets wet), new spring and seals, the Weihrauch I use just keeps on going. It’s 25 years old in April!

      • nuge67 says:

        that sounds like a good gig. And your rigs sound great and perfect for what you do with them

  4. kassabi1a says:

    I was given my first .22 when I was 6 and I love the gun like it was my third arm. It has always been my go to play in a SHTF scenario for a number of reasons. The top reason though is the size and availability of ammunition for it. Boxes of 500 rounds at $20 doesn’t break the bank to stock up on and you can find them in any store that carries ammo.

    Even though I’ve always considered it relatively quiet as far as a firearm goes, you do make a good point that it isn’t any where near as quiet as an air rifle.

    • Hello Justin.
      It’s not exactly a heavy hitter is it but IN THE RIGHT HANDS can be as lethal as any projectile weapon.
      With HV hollow points out to 100 meters it will certainly put someone down.
      I only use my PCP air rifle in the UK now as licensing laws and restrictive use make it impossible to use one in urban environments for pest control. Still that made me a better stalker.
      From what I read though, I recommend stocking up on ammo, lots of it.
      As people are finding, the small calibers don’t draw so much attention by the authorities (YET).
      Additionally, long term, ammunition will be good for barter.
      Thanks for your comments. TP

    • Hi there.
      Funny how something I wrote ages ago has captured so much attention. This is by in far the most looked at bit of scribbling I’ve written. Glad you found it interesting.
      Thanks for the re-blog. TP

  5. Reblogged this on disturbeddeputy and commented:
    Something to be aware of.

  6. Mike says:

    Love how detailed and technical your article is.

  7. ed says:

    Thanks for your excellent answer regarding “range”. I’ve been scouring the internet seeking an estimate of how far the pellets might travel.

    • You’re welcome.

      Although effective range is determined by what you are shooting at.
      There are too many YouTube videos showing long range shots which ,although some are good, the majority result in a wound and not a one shot, one kill desired goal.

      Thus they encourage long range ineffective field work, a lot of pain for the targets, and nothing for the pot.

      Ultimately it’s going to be down to how good your field craft is. That and keeping to the minimum ft. lb requirements for a clean kill.

  8. Sinany says:

    Hi,
    This is a great and clear article ! Where I live (france) it’s nearly the same as in the uk, airguns aren’t regulated until about 16 ft lbs of energy at the muzzle, but 22LR require to be member of a club. For pests, I think that an air rifle can do the job as well as 22LR, even though here 22LR with a good sound moderator and subsonic ammos won’t be much louder than an air rifle, sometimes even less louder, but you make a point with shooting towards the trees, that made me thought that perhaps it’s not a good idea if I miss !
    Now for plinking or target shooting, I think for background shooting it’s much safer with an air rifle (except for high powered PCP), and much much cheaper, but I consider that thay aren’t as “fun” as shooting 22lr (with it’s very light recoil but still).
    Also for cleaning, it’s much faster to do with air rifle than with a firearm ^^
    Both is best imo.

    • Thank you for your comments.
      I do a lot of shooting for the table, pest, and vermin control with the air rifle within town limits.
      With the extremely good SAK’s moderator fitted, most people don’t even realize I’m shooting.
      Unfortunately it’s the sound of the pellet strike that makes the noise and there isn’t a lot I can do about that.

      The police love it of course as they don’t get any complaints.
      The customer loves it because there is no protest about what is being done.
      I love it as when clearing rabbit or pigeon, I get to eat VERY WELL for next to no expense.

      Now imagine you asking the police to use a 22lr for vermin clearing within city limits.
      What do you think the chances are of you getting permission?

      • Sinany says:

        Hi,
        So you shoot alot for putting meat on the table ? I personnaly do it only with rabits, I’m a little afraid of eating squirrels and pigeons.
        I live in the coutryside but still have some neighbours, and the police office is only 300m away, however I am aloud to shoot pests in my backyard as long as it doesn’t annoy my neighbours ^^
        For bigger animals like rabbits, I use 22lr with moderator (SAK does work extremly well, I have a SAPL one and a SAK vortex) and subsonic ammo, but for pests like pigeon or rats, I prefer using my trusty NP2 airgun with a good 6-24 x 50 scope, I feel that it is more accurate than my CZ at close distance (perhaps because there is no recoil), and the sound level of it is about the same as my CZ with sound moderator, so I personnaly choose one or another depending on what is the animal.
        The pellet strike is quite loud with 22lr for plinking, but for shooting pests it usually breaks through the skull and diggs in the earth so not so loud.
        Do you have some high end PCP air rifles (like the evanix or so) ? I found that for the same energy (about 120ft/lbs) it is about as loud as a subsonic 22lr ammo, but it’s easier to clean.
        As for getting permission, it’s not up to the police to decide, but to our mayor ^^

      • Hello.
        Interesting to read your reply.
        To remain legal in the UK most air weapons are restricted to 6ftlb for pistols, 12ftlbs for rifles.
        Above those powers they are regarded as firearms. (go on laugh, everyone else does)
        You can get a license to have one but it’s not easy and expensive with all the regulations you have to follow.

        You don’t like pigeon? Lovely rich meat.
        As for squirrel, I suppose it’s an acquired taste but not bad.
        Makes a nice stew.

        My weapons are basic.
        Very old (like me) but the PCP holds a 6mm group at 30 meters and my spring powered 25mm at the same range.
        Both set to 11.7 ftlb to avoid licensing although the PCP will exceed 80 ft/lb with the correct valve fitted.

        The SAKS is one heck of a moderator.
        Only used on the PCP as the report from the 450 mm barrel is LOUD.
        Way too loud for urban use.

        For ratting and pigeon in buildings I tend to use target wad cutters for pellets.
        A high impact force and do little damage should they pass though and strike something in the back ground.
        A lot of my work was in chicken sheds ratting and commercial premises clearing feral (town) pigeon. you need to be accurate and really careful about the backdrop, damage is very much a no no.

        In the field I use a standard half domed pellet weighing in at 21gn.
        High knock down power and reliable.

        And that’s it.
        AS for makes of weapons, I’ve never been a fan of high end famous names.
        A weapon is like any other tool.
        Like all tools it’s the user that matters not the steel.
        If it works that’s fine, when it doesn’t and I can’t fix it throw it away.

        Anyway, nice to chat.
        Stay safe, shoot straight.

  9. Sinany says:

    Hi again, I couldn’t reply to your last answer so I’m opening a new pic.
    Yes I was really intrested by the UK gun laws to see how they differ to french gun laws, the difference in france is that we have weapons classed in 4 categories, our limit for non regulated airguns is 20joules wich is about 16ft/lbs (not so much more than in the UK), after that they are considered class C weapons, wich doesn’t mean firearm however it’s regulation will be exactly the same as for a bolt action 22lr, a pump action shotgun, a hunting rifle you name it.
    So don’t worry french gun laws are as ridiculous as uk (but maybe they are a good thing I don’t really know), even though there are some différences and that french laws are a bit lighter regarding weapons.
    It’s that I don’t know how to cool pigeons or squirrels, and my girlfriend doesn’t know either ^^
    Same here, weapons are tools, but very usefull and joyflull tools imo.
    For pest hunting, the airguns and 22lr are the best (regarding noise disturbance and cost), 223 is too much for pest control I think. 17hmr is sometimes used but very rare and costy.
    I was wondering, do you guys have limited ammo for 22lr ? and for pellets of a FAC airgun ?

    • Yep, you can only hold the amount of ammunition your firearms license says except air gun pellets are not firearms ammunition in their own right so you can own what you want.

      Pigeons are simple fare.
      Don’t bother getting all fancy, pluck only the breasts, no need to clean the whole bird.
      All you are after is the two breasts so slice away!
      6 pigeon breasts will provide enough meat for a very large meal for two.
      Treat it like any game bird, fry, roast, stew, whatever and you’ll find it is almost completely fat free.
      NO FAT means you need to cook it slowly!

      Pigeon pie (wife’s recipe)
      You’ll need a medium sized pie dish.

      6 pigeon breasts are gently fried in olive oil with either mint or rosemary leaves in the pan.
      SLOW is the best way else they will go tough!
      Thick Slice the cooked meat.

      Precook diced carrots, onion, potatoes, garlic, and swede.

      If using short crust pastry, line the bottom of the pie dish.
      BUT if you prefer puff pastry, only use it as a cover for the pie.

      Put layers of precooked diced vegetables and your sliced pigeon into the dish.
      Fill the dish to 3/4 full of layers of meat and veg.
      Then add a thick stock made of:-
      1 teaspoon of cornflower adding a tablespoon of cold water to dissolve the cornflower.
      Now add 1/2 cup of boiling water to thicken the cornflower.
      Add 2 vegetable stock cubes.
      When making it stir until it resembles a thick stock BUT NOT A PASTE adding water to suit.
      DO NOT ADD A WATERY STOCK to the pie as the pastry won’t cook correctly.
      Add salt and pepper to taste
      Roll out the top cover of the pie to be 1/4″ 6 mm thick.
      Place on mix sealing the edges.
      Make two cuts in the pie crust to let out the steam as it’s cooking.
      Brush top of pastry with milk (or beaten egg if preferred).

      Put in a medium oven 180 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit) / Gas 5 for 25-35 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and lightly browned.

      Serve with green vegetables and if you like roast potatoes.

      Enjoy!

  10. Ben says:

    I LOL at your UK and French gun laws…. I came here as I am trying to decide between 22 air rifle and 22lr.
    Here in Australia a firearm is defined as a piece of machinery designed to fire a projectile using gas pressure. Therefore Airsoft/Paintball = firearm, Air Rifle = firearm, Rimfire and centrefire = (obviously) firearm. I have a firearms licence that allows me to own a Class A or B firearm. Class A is air rifle and rimfire (yes a 6ftlb air rifle is in the same class as a 17 hmr!) and shotgun, class B is centrefire (everything from 17 hornet to 50bmg). No semi auto is allowed until you get to class C and good luck providing a ‘genuine reason’ to get your licence approved. We are allowed handguns though, but only for sanctioned target shooting.

    Funnily enough even Nerf guns are power restricted in the australian market as technically they come under the legal definition of a firearm. Nothing removing the restrictors and preloading the springs doesn’t fix though!

    There is a movement to get Airsoft legalised in Australia. Even though it is currently under the A class of firearm there is no genuine reason to own one, plus they don’t have individual serial numbers and don’t pass the ‘drop test’ where a cocked bolt cannot release when dropped.

    Always interesting to see how other countries fare on laws. I think the UK/France has got it right when it comes to air guns.

    • Welcome.
      I’d read the Australian gun laws a while ago. And sighed.
      Then I went out shooting for the table and came back, as usual, with a decent meal, and didn’t disturb a soul!
      I’m not too worried about owning a long arm again as in the UK the stupidity of the law is more of a pain in the butt than the pleasure of owning one.
      As the the air rifle. Now that’s a different story as I use that to make money!

      To keep my skills up on a pistol I have to travel abroad and was REALLY unhappy to have to sell my babies way back due to the milksop UK government but hey, that’s life.

      If I wanted to you can still buy 9mm’s on the black for around £600 (and a £1 a bullet) but why take a chance that the weapon has a “history”. Incidentally I read a folding stock AK47 went for £1100 plus 4 full mags recently. The arms trade is there if you want it.

      Ho hum, back to restringing the bow. LOL

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