It’s almost a coming of age moment in a youngster’s life when he or she gets to fire that first “Real” gun. I know it was for me. I had already had a BB gun and a pellet rifle to practice with. You can read about those in more detail Here. But, there is something different about that first live round of ammunition. The loud crack. The smell of burnt powder on our hands. At that moment we were entrusted with an honest to goodness firearm and regardless of the diminutive caliber, that 22 rifle was a huge step forward in the process of maturing as responsible shooters. It’s a pleasant moment to think back to for many of us, but for others, it might not have ever happened. For those of you in the latter category, it isn’t to late to get your rimfire fix!
What Is 22 Long Rifle?
I try hard to remember that not everyone has had the same experiences as I have and to add some of the basics for those that need a little extra info to catch up. The Union Metallic Cartridge Company most likely developed the 22 Long Rifle cartridge (or 22LR) around 1884. It was preceded by the 22 short and the 22 long, which are both still available today. That’s a pretty impressive useful lifespan for a cartridge over 130 years old to still be one of the most popular today! The 22 LR, just like the short and long, is a rimfire cartridge. This means that the firing pin strikes the outer rim of the casing to detonate the powder versus a centerfire cartridge where a primer is pressed into the center of the casing for the firing pin to strike. The 22 LR is loaded with bullets weighing 32-40 grains, for the most part, and capable of delivering them from rifle length barrels at anywhere from 1000-1600 feet per second. The cartridge provides this velocity while maintaining a relatively soft report and very little recoil. While the firearms and ammunition market are in a bit of an uproar this year with the election and the shortages from COVID, 22LR is still pretty inexpensive and a lot of fun to shoot.
Why Preppers Should Have A 22 On Hand.
I mentioned in the previous paragraph some of the benefits of this light shooting caliber. There are many more for us as preppers to consider.
Size: I don’t have a decent scale handy, but I can tell you that the weight and space taken up by close to 200 rounds of 22 LR is going to be similar to the space needed for 30-40 rounds of .223/5.56 ammo that feeds most AR15 rifles and will still not be as heavy. Simply put, we can carry a whole lot more 22 LR ammo than any other useful cartridge.
Range: In the hands of a practiced shooter, the 22 LR is capable of shots at 100 yards or more, however the bullet does its best work between the muzzle and 50 yards or so. Beyond the that, it takes some compensation or sight adjustment to correct for the bullet drops at 75 to 100 yards. As preppers, this means that the 22 round is perfectly capable of reaching out to the ranges that we would normally hunt small game, or dispatch vermin and pests that are trying to damage our gardens or get into our homes and buildings.
Energy: There is such a thing as too much gun. Keeping in mind the basic rules of gun safety that you can read Here, we know that it is important to know that our bullet will not exit our target and continue on to injure something else. While the 22 LR is a lethal round and should never be underestimated, it is much better suited for closer shots on small game, especially when shooting up in a tree at something like a squirrel. The second advantage of modest energy is that we can preserve much more of the meat from small game with the 22 LR. Faster or larger calibers can either rip apart the valuable meat of a squirrel or rabbit, or almost cause the animal to explode from the shock wave. Either way, it makes for thin soup and that’s no good when we need all the protein we can find.
What Makes A Good Survival 22?
Even when discussing a category as specific as 22 rifles for preppers, I have to start by saying that it’s still not a one size fits all choice. If we find the need to have a rifle that can be packed out or stashed, there are a number of takedown models on the market that all work very well. There’s even the Henry U.S. Survival that disassembles and the barrel, action, and magazines are stored in the butt stock of the gun.
For most purposes other than packing in a small space, I prefer a full size or carbine length 22 rifle. I’ll do a video soon on the Ruger 10-22 which is possibly the most popular semiauto rimfire rifle ever sold. As long as the rifle we chose will function properly with the ammo we have and hit accurately enough to humanely kill the small game that we may need to hunt, I don’t wade far out into the weeds as far as brand loyalty. Buy as good a quality rifle as you can afford, maintain it, and enjoy it!
Pistols: I can’t think of much that comes close to the fun of plinking cans with a 22 rifle other than doing it with a 22 caliber pistol. A good 22 pistol or revolver can be hours of fun and good training for the larger caliber pistols we carry for defensive use. They also can be a fun and challenging hunting tool that is easily packable to use as game presents itself. You can add a pistol scope with a longer eye relief to make them even more deadly on game. Click below for one I like.
Accessories: 22 rifles are getting more and more aftermarket support these days and we can doll up many of them, especially the Ruger 10-22, with all sorts of hot rod trigger groups, tactical stocks, and high capacity magazines, however for practical use, I prefer simply adding a low power telescopic site like the one below. The scope gives us the advantage to make slightly better aimed shots at small game and gives us a better chance to put food on the table if small game is beyond 20-25 yards. Click the picture below for one of my favorite rimfire scopes and the second one down for a great aftermarket stock for your Ruger.
Ammunition: Within 20 to 25 yards, it’s not likely that we will notice a huge amount of difference in 22 LR ammo unless we shoot carefully from a bench. That said, there are some ammunition considerations that I’d like to offer. As a youngster I thought faster was better so high velocity or hyper velocity 22 ammo was the thing to have. When I started shooting competitively, I discovered quickly that standard velocity, or sub sonic velocity ammo had some great benefits. First, it is just as effective on small game and with less damaged meat than the hyper velocity rounds. Second, it is usually more accurate, though within small game ranges, its a nominal difference at best. The third benefit is one of the biggest for us as preppers. Standard and subsonic ammunition is right at or below the speed of sound. Much of the noise given off by a rifle is from the supersonic crack of the bullet breaking the sound barrier. The combination of a subsonic bullet speed and small powder charge make the 22 LR capable of repeated shots almost as quiet as a pellet rifle but with significantly more energy with the right ammo.
Targets: Because of the lower energy of the 22 LR, there are lots of inexpensive targets that we can purchase and use for fun and practice. Click the picture below for a fun resettable target stand from Caldwell.
Survival Situations That We Shouldn’t Depend On The 22 For
If you gather even a modest size group of gun guys together and discuss calibers, I’m willing to bet that at least one person will offer up the “fact” that more people have been killed by 22’s than any other caliber. Now, I’m not going to research the FBI crime statistics in an effort to discredit this claim. It may very well be the truth, however my position is that the death rate humans shot with 22 LR is irrelevant.
The 22 LR round has many great uses in the prepper arsenal, but self defense is not one of them. I wholeheartedly agree with the people who say that its better than nothing, but it still is not my first choice to defend myself against predators, man or beast. The ugly truth about self defense is that it is none of our business whether the attacker lives or dies. Our concern, in the moment, is that the attacker ceases the actions against us. While humans and most animals large enough to kill a human by brute strength or with weapons will likely die from multiple shots of 22 LR, they may do so after they have completed their attack upon us. For self defense, I prefer a long gun in a medium to long range rifle cartridge, a shotgun with buckshot or slug ammo, and a pistol in a serviceable defensive caliber, in that order. I’ll concede that in dire situations, the small round can be used for quiet subversive work, but it still is not my idea of a primary defensive cartridge.
Final Thoughts on 22 LR For Preppers
Regardless of the level of preparedness an individual wants to reach, I can’t think of a single reason why he or she shouldn’t have at least one good 22 rifle and pistol in their arsenal. They are a great introductory firearm for new shooters and a practical hunting and pest control tool that is inexpensive to shoot and not cumbersome to carry. For semi automatics, I recommend the Ruger 10/22 as one of the best out there for quality and aftermarket support. If you like the look and feel of a lever action, I have really enjoyed my Henry carbine. A number of manufacturers make great bolt action 22’s now. I personally love the CZ brand of rifles, but Savage, Marlin, and others provide great guns for reasonable prices these days. For pistols, Look to the Ruger 22/45 or Mk4, the Browning Buckmark, or, for a similar feel to the Glock 19 many carry for self defense, try the new Glock 44.
Whatever you choose, hang up a set of swingers or a row of old cans and have fun while getting better!
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