Ask any experienced shooter about their first experience with firearms and, more often than not, they’ll reminisce about shooting old cans with a .22 rimfire rifle.
There are a couple of reasons that this will be the common response. One, .22 rimfire ammunition is the most popular ammunition in the world and chances are that if a person shoots recreationally, they’ve likely used a .22 rifle. Two, rimfire ammunition and firearms are arguably the best option to get a new shooter started in the shooting sports due to the limited recoil and noise.
In this article, we’re going to dig into the rimfire category and give you the knowledge you need to decide if rimfire shooting is a path you want to pursue.
What is rimfire?
There are two types of cartridge design in the world of ammunition – rimfire and centerfire.
Rimfire ammunition contains priming compound in the “rim” or around the base of a cartridge casing. When the trigger of a rimfire firearm is pulled, the firing pin strikes the edge of the cartridge, which then detonates the priming compound, ignites the powder, and sends the projectile downrange.
Centerfire ammunition is used for higher calibers and utilizes a primer that is a separate component located in the center of a casing’s rim. Unlike rimfire, the firing pin strikes the center of the chambered cartridge, detonates the primer, ignites the powder, and sends the projectile downrange.
Rimfire ammunition is considered the most popular ammunition in the world and is primarily used for recreational target shooting or “plinking” and small game hunting. In recent years, it has also become a popular cartridge for competition shooting.
To shoot rimfire ammunition, you’ll need a firearm that is chambered for a rimfire caliber. Popular rimfire cartridges include .22 Long Rifle (LR), .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR), and .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM).
.22 Long Rifle – The most popular ammunition in the world
Rimfire ammunition has existed since 1845 and over time, it has evolved to include different calibers and variations. The most popular rimfire caliber is .22 Long Rifle or “.22 LR”. This cartridge was created by Stevens Arms Company in 1887. While .22 LR is now manufactured by several different brands, it remains the most popular cartridge in the world 136 years later.
The beauty of .22 LR is its ease of shooting. There is limited recoil and noise that makes the .22 LR perfect for training a new shooter or honing an experienced shooter’s skills. It is also inexpensive allowing for target shooters to keep having fun and putting round after round downrange.
.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire – .22 WMR
Introduced by Winchester in 1959, the .22 WMR was the answer to small game hunters that wanted a rimfire round that shot faster and flatter than the .22 LR. The .22 WMR utilizes the same projectile weight as the .22 LR but has a longer case allowing for more powder which makes it faster and more accurate at longer ranges.
While this round is not as popular as it once was, you’ll still find plenty of .22 WMR firearms and ammunition available today. The .22 WMR paved the way for the next advancement in rimfire ammunition, the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, or .17 HMR, which is a similar round but with a lower projectile weight and a necked down casing.
.17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR) and .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) – Rimfire evolved
More recent additions to the rimfire family, the .17 HMR was introduced in 2002 and the .17 WSM was introduced in 2012. Both advancements of the .22 WMR, the .17 HMR and .17 WSM shoot even faster and flatter.
These rounds quickly became popular and remain so because it allows hunters and shooters to achieve accuracy at greater distances than with .22 LR and .22 WMR.
When rimfire ammunition was introduced, there were only a few firearms that supported it. Today, there are several options a new or experienced shooter can choose from. Rimfire rifles have long been one of the most popular platforms for rimfire ammunition. There are several different action types in rimfire rifles including: bolt-action, lever-action, semi-automatic, and even pump-action.
Today, you’ll often find rimfire rifles in bolt-action or semi-automatic configurations. You can’t go wrong with either for small game hunting or plinking.
In addition to rimfire rifles, several handguns are chambered in .22 LR. Rimfire handguns are great options for training new shooters and are also a great training aid for experienced shooters that want to work on the fundamentals of handgun shooting. You’ll find plenty of options including semi-automatic and revolver configurations.
Rimfire – The perfect starting point
All in all, rimfire ammunition and firearms have brought joy to countless hunters and target shooters for over 100 years. For many, it was the first firearm they ever shot and is still the firearm they take to the range the most.
With a low-cost point for both firearms and ammunition, rimfire is a great option for the new shooter looking to start their shooting sports journey.