Keep reading to get the details on my .22 Magnum ammo review.
Henry Repeating Arms recently sent me one of their new .22 Magnum rifles for testing (check out my complete Henry Small Game Rifle review on Wide Open Spaces) and, especially since this is the first .22 Magnum firearm I’ve ever owned, I decided to do a little experimentation to find out which ammo works best in my new rifle. I purchased 3 different types of .22 Magnum ammunition from a local gun store: some 30gr Federal TNT hollow points, some 40gr CCI Gamepoint jacketed soft points, and some 45gr Hornady FTX Critical Defense ammunition. Additionally, the folks at Ammunition To Go were kind enough to send me a couple boxes of 40gr Armscor jacketed soft points. After a few trips to the range, I’ve had the chance to thoroughly test them all out in my Henry Small Game Rifle, so read on for my .22 Magnum ammo review.
While it is not really surprising (I was using a lever-action rifle after all), I did not experience a single malfunction with any of the different types of .22 Magnum ammo. They all worked great and weren’t particularly dirty. It’s possible that I might have gotten different results with a semi-automatic firearm, but I didn’t observe much variation between the different types of ammo from a reliability or cleanliness standpoint.
However, there were some clear differences in precision and consistency between the different brands. Using the standard iron sights that came with the rifle, I shot each type of .22 Magnum ammo for accuracy off a bench at a target 50 yards away. I shot 5 5-shot groups of each type of ammo and took the average size of the groups. I also used my chronograph to measure the velocity of each shot.
Keep in mind that I was using a rifle with a 20″ barrel and a 1:16″ rifling twist. If you shoot these same types of .22 Magnum ammo in a firearm with a shorter barrel or a different rifling twist, you’ll likely get different results than what I got here.
Below is a brief summary of how each different type of .22 Magnum ammo performed for me.
45gr Hornady FTX Critical Defense
The Hornady ammunition was right at the top of the pile from an overall performance standpoint. With an average group size of .9″ at 50 yards, the Critical Defense ammunition was the most accurate type of ammo of the four I shot. Since it had the heaviest bullets, it also had the lowest average velocity of the group at 1,620 feet per second. However, it also was pretty darn consistent with an extreme spread of only 69 feet per second and a standard deviation of 30.
While the Hornady ammo was slightly more accurate, I still got an average group size of .91″ using the Armscor ammo, which isn’t much of a difference at all. Since it fired a slightly lighter bullet, the average velocity was a little higher at 1,784 feet per second. However, the velocities I obtained with this ammo weren’t extremely consistent. I measured an extreme spread of 131 feet per second and a standard deviation of 41. That being said, it didn’t seem to impact the overall accuracy of the ammunition that much. Maybe my rifle just really liked that type of .22 Magnum ammo.
40gr CCI Gamepoint
The CCI ammunition was also pretty solid performer, though with an average group size of 1.2″ at 50 yards, it wasn’t quite as accurate as the Hornady or Armscor ammo. However, it wasn’t far behind them either. The average velocity of this ammo was 1,754 feet per second and it was neck and neck with the Hornady ammo as far as being consistent, with an extreme spread of 76 feet per second and a standard deviation of 22.
30gr Federal TNT
Though the Hornady, Armscor, and CCI were all very similar in their performance, the Federal ammunition was clearly the outlier in the group. My average group size was 2.1″ at 50 yards, which is over twice the size of the Hornady and Armscor groups. Not surprisingly, the 30gr bullets were the fastest of the group with an average velocity of 2,103. It also had the least consistent velocities of the four different brands with an extreme spread of 180 feet per second and a standard deviation of 54.
Also of note was the fact that, even with the rear sight all the way down, the Federal ammo was still hitting about 2″ high at 50 yards. This, along with the poor accuracy of the round, indicates to me that it is not a great choice for use in this particular rifle. You might get different results by using it in a different rifle or pistol, but I would not recommend using it in a Henry Small Game Rifle.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the performance of the Hornady, Armscor and CCI .22 Magnum ammo. All three were relatively accurate, consistent, reliable, and shot to approximately the same point of impact at 50 yards. Though the Federal ammunition did not perform very well in my rifle, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad quality ammunition and it may very well do much better in a different firearm. Just make sure you try it out at the range to see how it performs in your firearm before you take it hunting or trust your life with it.
At this point, I’m probably going to use the 45gr Hornady Critical Defense ammo as my primary hunting ammunition this fall with the Armscor ammo as a back-up. Of the four types of .22 Magnum ammo I’ve shot through my rifle, the Hornady gave me the best balance of accuracy and consistency out of the group. However, the Armscor ammo wasn’t far behind, so I’ll probably try them both out on some small game later this year. At this point I can’t comment about the terminal performance of these different types of ammo, but I will as soon as I get a chance to see how they do in the field.