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Where’s the .22 Rimfire ammo?

FRED BONNER | CONTRIBUTED STRAIGHT SHOOTER: This target shooter is shooting an AR-15 look-alike chambered for a .22 long rifle cartridge. Recent popularity in shooting these look-alike military weapons has helped to lead to a shortage of rimfire rifle ammunition.

FRED BONNER | CONTRIBUTED
STRAIGHT SHOOTER: This target shooter is shooting an AR-15 look-alike chambered for a .22 long rifle cartridge. Recent popularity in shooting these look-alike military weapons has helped to lead to a shortage of rimfire rifle ammunition.

For nearly three years now hunting and shooting enthusiasts have been aware of the shortage of .22 rimfire ammunition. Sporting goods dealers have been trying desperately to buy more of this usually very available ammo, but it’s still in short supply. What’s going on?

Ammunition manufacturers are reporting that they have their factories working full time trying to keep up with the demand, but for some reason, the stores simply can’t get enough. Shooters that do practice a lot with their rimfire rifles and pistols are accused of “hoarding” their .22 ammo. Some .22 enthusiasts feel that a rumored huge federal government purchase order for military type ammo took precedence over the manufacturing of rimfire ammo, but out government denies this.

Of course there’s always the survivalists who tend to favor the rimfire guns because they’re very capable of putting food on the table when the SHTF and the outdoorsman can carry a lot of the small but effective .22 ammo in his pockets. Don’t forget that for years the world record for grizzly bears was held by a Canadian woman who shot and killed the bear with a single shot .22 rifle loaded with a .22 short. According to reports, she put the rifle’s barrel a few feet from the attacking bear’s open mouth and fired. The bear died and, for some years, she held the world record for grizzly bear.

Ballistic testing with the highly favored .22 long rifle ammunition has shown that this popular rimfire bullet can be surprisingly effective as a lethal cartridge. In actual test, the high velocity 40-grain bullet from a CCI Velicitor fully penetrated 8 inches of frozen beef roast wrapped in 16 layers of denim material and that was at a range of 300 yards. That’s impressive for a .22 long rifle bullet. It’s no wonder that this little .22 LR cartridge is considered to be the most popular rifle cartridge in the world.

There are literally dozens of rimfire cartridges and the list of them is growing every week. The .22 rimfire cartridges include the CB cap, short, long, long rifle and the .22 Winchester Magnum Rifle. Several ammo manufacturers load full metal jacket bullets as well as jacketed soft point in these magnum cartridges, making them very efficient for medium game as well as self-protection cartridges.

Several years ago, the ammunition and gun manufacturers introduced an entirely new line of rimfire bullets utilizing the .17 caliber bullet. These small and light projectiles don’t pack the ”oomph” of the .22 projectiles, but they’re fast and flat shooting, which makes them acceptable for varmint hunting. The little .17 Hornady Mach 2 cartridge is based on a .22 long rifle case with a 17-grain, plastic tipped bullet. It’s a fast, flat-shooting bullet that’s sheer death on squirrels and other small game.

One theory having to do with the rifle case popularity and subsequent shortage of .22 rimfire ammo is the sudden interest in rifles (and handguns) designed like nothing I’ve ever seen before. These new rimfire weapons are designed closely after various military weapons such as the AR-15 or AK-47 and a host of other military weapons from the past and future. Many of the better-known, full-bore, military weapons can be converted to shoot the rimfire ammo. This enables the shooters to practice with the relatively inexpensive (when you can find it) rimfire ammo.

With Sunday hunting now a reality here in North Carolina, there’s new interest in using suppressors on hunting guns. These devices can be attached to the muzzles of properly threaded rifle barrels and they will seriously reduce the loud noises of guns. Many of the newer rimfire rifles come from the factory with threaded barrels ready for suppressors (silencers?) to be attached.

When you see the cost of a lot of the really big game rifle ammo that can run as much as a hundred dollars for a box of 20 cartridges. Ammo for the truly big game animals such as elephants and rhinos can cost as much as fifty-dollars per cartridge. Even the high dollar non-toxic waterfowl shotgun shells can cost as much as five-dollars per shell these days. No wonder the little rimfires are taking the nation by storm.

There’s even a relatively new shooting magazine on the shelves nowadays that is titled “Rimfires.” It’s devoted to rimfire weapons exclusively and when you see the numbers of new rimfire weapons that are springing up all over the world, you can see just how popular the rimfire weapons are. Many of the new rimfire weapons are virtually indistinguishable from their military kin. This could cause problems with law enforcement when you may see some youngster headed out squirrel hunting toting a look-alike AK-47 or AR-15.

There’s even a soon to be announced air rifle (of course not “rimfire”) that’s virtually indistinguishable from the military rifles. Its weight, looks and functions are much the same as its military kin and the new air rifle is capable of selectively firing in (get ready for this) semi or fully automatic modes. The rifle will be available in both .17 and .22 caliber and I’m told, a 30- caliber hunting air rifle will be coming out soon. These look-alike air rifles can come from the factory already outfitted with suppressors and should be ideal for training to get ready for the   full blown military weapons.

Don’t discount the conventional looking .22 rimfire weapons however. There are many of these appearing on today’s market and they are in the classic wooden or synthetic stocked models.

There’s even a renewed interest in competition target shooting as well as shooting the rimfires in the World Olympics.