In a match-up of 20 Long Rifle brands, this $2.50-a-hundred budget bullet beat up on several pricey products.
To fire a .22 LR rimfire handgun accurately, the shooter must lot-test rounds in his revolver or semi-auto gun—a daunting task when you consider all the commercially available .22 ammo brands for sale. However, we recently lot-tested 20 samples from seven manufacturers in a variety of guns, trying to find a brand and lot that shot well across the board. Though there’s no guarantee that top-ranked rounds fired in our guns will shoot well in yours, we have concluded that good ammo tends to shoot well in most guns, and bad ammo doesn’t shoot well in any.
That seems obvious, doesn’t it? Still, many shooters believe that in lot-testing, like in marriage, there’s only one perfect mate for a given gun, and to find that mate, you’ve got to do the shooting equivalent of cruising bars—that is, shoot and shoot until you score the “right” lot for a given gun. However, after sampling choice lots provided only to Olympic rifle and pistol shooters and national championship–class shooters, we think differently. We believe some lots of ammo are absolutely better than others, and they will tend to perform well in many different firearms. Thus, by testing ammo in a range of guns, we can find lots/brands that outperform other lot/brands in most cases. When we identify those products in multigun tests, we believe it is likely that ammo which shoots well in several guns will tend to shoot well in most guns.
The value of this winnowing down is obvious. If you’re a pistol shooter, you can select ammo brands from Eley, Federal, Lapua, Fiocchi, RWS, Remington,Winchester, and other makers. When you place an order for test lots, you can easily run up hundreds of dollars of charges by buying multiple lots of ammo to run through your gun. Instead, our recommendations on currently shipping brands and lots allow you to pick from a handful of brands that have proven their ability to shoot in several kinds of guns. It may be possible for you to try only three lots of ammo, rather than 30, to get the accuracy you require. At the worst, you may be able to eliminate some brands/lots from your personal lot testing, because ammo that shoots big groups in our test guns probably won’t shoot dots in yours.
If we were going to place an order for .22 pistol ammo today, we would start with these five brand/lots: Lapua Pistol King 5540S, which sells for $9.75/100, Eley Tenex WR960, which costs $16/100, Federal Gold Medal UltraMatch 315, which runs $21.50/100, Eley Bench Rest Gold WS1351 ($18/100), and what we think is a best buy: Federal Classic 3AR117, which costs only $2.50/100. Our explanations for these picks and other buy/don’t buy recommendations follow:
How We Tested
Our test guns were a Smith & Wesson Model 41 with a 7-inch barrel and a Tasco Pro-Point mounted on a Weaver base. The second firearm was a Model 17 Smith & Wesson with an 83/8-inch barrel. This gun was topped with a Leupold 1.5X scope mounted with a Redfield base and rings. The third test gun was a High Standard Supermatic Trophy with a 5.5-inch barrel and factory iron sights.
We used a Ransom Pistol Rest with windage base mounted on a 24-inch-square plywood base that was 1.4 inches thick. This platform was C-clamped to a 1-inch-thick steel sheet attached to a steel pipe concreted in the ground. We shot all our test groups outdoors at 25 yards. We fired 10 five-shot groups to collect our accuracy data, spotting the rounds with a Nikon 20- to 60-power Field Spotting Scope. Using a Parker-Hale cleaning rod and jag, we cleaned the guns with Pro-Shot Lead and Powder solvent between lots and then fouled each gun before shooting the next test lot. We measured all the groups to the nearest tenth of an inch using a Neal Jones benchrest-scoring device. To collect the 10-shot chronograph data, we used an Oehler Research 35P chronograph.
The First Flight
The Lapua Pistol King 5540S shot the best in the Smith & Wesson Model 41, shooting a very tight 0.45-inch average over 10 five-shot groups. It ranked second in the High Standard Trophy semiauto with a 0.60-inch average. In the Smith & Wesson Model 17, it didn’t do as well, notching 0.96-inch groups on average. The Eley Tenex WR960 shot the second-best groups in the Smith & Wesson Model 41, 0.55 inch on average, and the Smith & Wesson Model 17, 0.73 inch on average. It shot 0.75-inch groups in the High Standard. The Federal Gold Medal UltraMatch 315 came in third in the Model 41 (0.59-inch average groups), eighth in the High Standard (0.74-inch average), and seventh (0.84-inch groups) in the Model 17. Eley Bench Rest Gold WS1351 shot consistently well across the board, recording 0.61inch, 0.79-inch, and 0.76-inch groups in the Model 41, Trophy semiauto, and Model 17, respectively. But the cheap Federal Classic 3AR117 matched all those rounds in accuracy, shooting groups averaging 0.63 inch, 0.70 inch, and 0.85 inch in the Model 41, Trophy, and Model 17, respectively. Without doubt, it was the best value in the test.
The Second Tier
Other bullets shot very well in at least one gun, which suggests they might do well in yours, too, if you own a similar product. Among this group is Federal Gold Medal Match L1615, which fired the best groups, 0.58 inches on average, in the High Standard. It also shot well in the Model 41 (0.62 inches), but less well in the Model 17, 1.07 inches on average. It costs $13/100. Likewise, the $10.40/100 RWS Rifle Match 61Q07 shot the best groups in the Model 17, 0.70 inches on average. In the High Standard, it shot 0.75-inch groups on average, and 0.94-inch groups in the Model 41.
Lapua Dominator M 6849C was among the best ammos in the High Standard, 0.66 inches on average, and about the same (0.67 inches) in the Model 41. It shot 0.88-inch groups in the Trophy gun. It cost $14 per 100.
Other rounds that performed well overall and shot in the top ranks in at least one gun include $10/100 Eley Match Xtra FR903, which shot 0.60-inch groups in the Model 41, 0.84-inch groups in the High Standard, and 0.87-inch groups in the Model 17; Fiocchi Pistol 0135002 ($13.50/100), which shot 0.74-inch groups in the Model 41, 0.65-inch groups in the High Standard, and 0.94-inch groups in the Model 17; and $17.50/100 RWS R50 565CN247, which shot 0.64inch groups in the Model 41, 0.76-inch groups in the High Standard, and 1.00-inch groups in the Model 17.
Federal Gold Medal Target 3BY052, priced at the low cost of $5/100, shot 0.92-inch groups in the Model 41, 0.72-inch groups in the High Standard pistol, and 0.80-inch groups in the Model 17. It might also be worth a look.
The Rest Of The Field
The rest of the ammo brands we tested didn’t match up with the top 10 products in terms of accuracy, consistency, or price, we thought.
RWS Target 51QP6, priced at $6.50/100, shot 0.72-inch groups in the Model 41, 0.91-inch groups in the High Standard pistol, and 0.87inch groups in the Model 17. Eley Club Xtra FR78, which cost $7.25/100, shot 0.87-inch groups in the Model 41, 0.82-inch groups in the High Standard pistol, and 0.84inch groups in the Model 17. Eley Standard LN215, priced at $5/100, shot 0.68-inch groups in the Model 41, 0.94-inch groups in the High Standard pistol, and 0.97-inch groups in the Model 17 revolver.
Lapua Master 4739R, which cost $11.50/100, shot 0.89-inch groups in the Model 41, 0.88-inch groups in the High Standard pistol, and 0.80-inch groups in the Model 17. Fiocchi Super Match 136003B, which ran $13.50 per 100, shot 0.90inch groups in the Model 41 semiauto, 0.76-inch groups in the High Standard, and 1.06-inch groups in the Model 17.
$14/100 RWS Special Match 541WL582, shot 0.79-inch groups in the Model 41 semiauto, 0.73-inch groups in the High Standard, and 1.44inch groups in the Model 17.
Don’t Buy These
Two ammo brands shot noticeably worse than the rest of the field: Winchester Super Silhouette 2KE52N and Remington Target 22 C21A2. The $3.75/100 Super Silhouette ammo and Remington Target fodder, which costs $3.50 per hundred, shot overall average group sizes (in all three guns) above an inch. The Winchester ammo averaged group sizes of 1.19 inch in the Model 41 semiauto, 1.00 inch in the High Standard, and 1.01 inch in the Model 17. The Remington ammo recorded sub-inch groups in the Model 41 (0.95 inch), but average groups of 1.48 inch in the High Standard and 1.53 inch in the Smith & Wesson Model 17.