Big surprise—an Italian rimfire pistol brand shot well in three different rifles. Big loser: $8-a-box CCI Green Tag.
Shooting a .22 LR rimfire rifle accurately presents a special — and unavoidable —problem for performance-oriented shooters: You can’t load your own ammo. Thus, to wring the best groups out of your squirrel gun, your free rifle, or your silhouette piece, you’re going to have to lot-test rounds in your gun. But there’s a big world of ammo out there, and you can spend a great deal of time and money looking for what is essentially the Holy Grail of accuracy. Like a knight’s fruitless quest, it’s possible you may search and search for the grail, but ultimately come up empty.
Unless some accuracy-obsessed researchers put you on the right road, which is just what we did. We purchased 33 commercially available .22 LR ammo brands from three mail-order sources, spending more than $1,500 in the process. We examined the biggest names in the high-end .22 ammo business, including Eley, Federal, Lapua, Fiocchi, and RWS, as well as more common rimfire fodder from Remington, CCI, and Winchester.
What did we find after more than six weeks of testing? If we were going to place an order for .22 ammo today, we would start with multiple lots of Fiocchi. Our goal was to shoot every one of the rounds in a static, windless environment in three very different guns, with the faint hope that we’d find some rounds that shot well across the board. Fiocchi’s Pistol Super Match (lot number 013502) was the only brand to shoot sub-MOA in all three guns. Though it’s not marketed for rifle shooting, the Fiocchi Pistol ammo shot best-of-test 0.69-inch average groups in a Cooper benchrest .22, 0.88-inch groups in a Walther GX-1 free rifle, and 0.93-inch groups in a KFS NS 550 bolt-action gun (which we are planning to review as a hunter-class silhouette gun in a future issue).
Also, other brands shot well, in some cases phenomenally well. RWS Special Match (lot 467CM127) shot the smallest average group size in our test—0.31 inches in the Walther—and it also shot well in the Cooper. Federal Gold Medal Match (lot 308) shot the next-smallest group of 0.50 inch in the Walther and was under an inch in the Cooper as well. Other top brands included RWS R50 (lot 438EP514), Fiocchi Rifle Super Match (lot 013509), Eley Match Xtra (lot WQ3058), Federal UltraMatch (lot 371), Eley Target Rifle (lot FS66), Lapua’s Master label (lot 6369C), and Eley Tenex (WR764). If we were beginning a lot-testing series, we would begin with these rounds. Though we can’t guarantee they’ll shoot well in your gun, their performances certainly suggest they are a good place to start.
In contrast, we wouldn’t buy the lots of CCI Green Tag, Winchester T22 Target, Federal Gold Medal Target, and Remington Target 22 we tested. They appear toward the bottom of the accompanying gun-by-gun results tables, and we think you would be wasting your time and money fooling around with them. Our opinions of each brand/lot of ammunition follow.
Fiocchi Pistol Super Match. Though this brand isn’t labeled as a rifle ammo, it certainly shot well in our test guns. Lot number 0135020 shot best in the Cooper, notching an average group size of 0.69 inch. The smallest group we shot in the Cooper was 0.53 inch, and the largest was 0.91 inch. The NS 550 shot average groups of 0.93 inch, with the smallest groups being 0.81 inch. The Walther free rifle recorded 0.88-inch average groups, with the smallest being 0.72 inch. We bought the Fiocchi pistol ammo from Champion’s Choice for $13.50 per 100.
Other Top Performers
Federal Gold Medal Match. Lot 308 of this ammo shot very well in the Cooper and Walther rifles. It was the sixth most accurate round in the Cooper (average 0.95-inch groups, with a minimum group of 0.62 inch and a maximum of 1.14 inch). It shot the second-best groups in the Walther (0.50 inch average, 0.35 inch minimum, and 0.64 inch maximum). The ammo didn’t perform as well in the KFS gun, however (1.34-inch average). Gold Medal Match sells for $13 a hundred.
RWS Special Match. Lot 467CM127 of this ammo shot well in the Cooper and Walther rifles. It was the second most accurate round in the Cooper (average 0.87-inch groups, with a minimum group of 0.80 inch and a maximum of 1.16 inch). It shot the best groups we saw in the Walther (0.31 inch average, 0.20 inch minimum, and 0.46 inch maximum). The ammo didn’t perform well in the KFS gun, however (1.77 inch average). We bought our test Special Match for $14/100 from Champion’s Choice.
RWS R50. Lot 438EP514 of this ammo shot well in the KFS and Walther rifles. It was the most accurate round in the KFS (average 0.90-inch groups, with a minimum group of 0.75 inch and a maximum of 0.99 inch). It shot the sixth-best groups we saw in the Walther (0.67 inch average, 0.45 inch minimum, and 0.89 inch maximum). The ammo didn’t perform as well in the Cooper gun, however (1.50 inch average). R50 sells for $17.50/100.
Fiocchi Rifle Super Match. Like its sibling, lot 013509 of Fiocchi Rifle Super Match shot very well and very consistently. It was the tenth most accurate round in the Cooper (average 1.08-inch groups, with a minimum group of 0.97 inch and a maximum of 1.25 inch). It shot under an inch in the Walther (0.83 inch average, 0.75 inch minimum, and 0.89 inch maximum), and was the sixth most accurate ammo in the KFS gun (1.17 inch average, 0.86 inch minimum, and 1.46 inch maximum). We bought the Fiocchi rifle ammo from retail vendor Champion’s Choice for $13.50 per 100.
Eley Match Xtra. Lot WQ3058 of this ammo shot well in the Cooper and Walther rifles. It was the seventh most accurate round in the Cooper (average 1.04-inch groups, with a minimum group of 0.94 inch and a maximum of 1.13 inch). Also, it shot the seventh-best groups we saw in the Walther (0.71 inch average, 0.62 inch minimum, and 0.88 inch maximum). The ammo shot in the middle of the pack in the KFS gun (1.37 inch average). It sells for around $10/100.
Federal UltraMatch. Lot 371 of this ammo shot near or below MOA in all three rifles. It was the fifth most accurate round in the KFS (average 1.12-inch groups, with a minimum group of 0.96 inch and a maximum of 1.25 inch). It was the eighth most accurate round in the Cooper (average 1.06-inch groups, with a minimum group of 0.88 inch and a maximum of 1.20 inch). It shot even better in the Walther (0.95 inch average, 0.67 inch minimum, and 1.23 inch maximum), but that performance put UltraMatch the middle of the pack for the free rifle. It often sells for around $21.50/100 rounds.
Eley Target Rifle. Lot FS66 shot 0.94-inch group averages in the Cooper, 0.95-inch groups in the Walther, and 1.27-inch group averages in the KFS. It costs about $6 a hundred, making it a best buy. We recommend including this brand in any testing because of its low price.
Lapua Master. Lot 6369C shot 0.96-inch group averages in the KFS gun, 1.02-inch groups in the Walther, and 1.17-inch group averages in the Cooper. It costs about $11.50 a hundred. Because of its consistent near-MOA accuracy, this ammo is worth a look.
Eley Tenex. Lot WR764 shot 0.93-inch group averages in the Cooper, 0.90-inch groups in the Walther, and 1.40-inch group averages in the KFS. It costs $16/100. Though it’s one of the more expensive brands, this ammo is worth testing in your own gun, we think.
The Rest Of The Field
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. However, because they didn’t shoot as well as many other types in multiple guns, we can only give them qualified buy recommendations.
RWS Target. Lot 585P4 of this ammo shot well in the KFS and Walther rifles. It was the eighth most accurate round in the KFS (average 1.24-inch groups, with a minimum group of 1.02 inch and a maximum of 1.46 inch). Also, it shot the fifth-best groups we saw in the Walther (0.63 inch average, 0.57 inch minimum, and 0.67 inch maximum). The ammo performed poorly in the Cooper (1.51 inch average). It sells for $6/100 rounds.
We might try it if the Eley Target Rifle lot wasn’t available. Eley Bench Rest Gold. Lot WR1086 shot 0.87-inch group averages in the GX-1, 1.21-inch groups in the Cooper, and 1.34-inch group averages in the KFS. It costs $18/100. In our estimation, this ammo is overpriced for the middle-of-the-pack accuracy it showed in our testing. We would avoid buying this lot.
Eley Standard. Lot LN215 shot the fourth-best group average in the GX-1, 0.60 inch. It shot 1.28-inch groups the Cooper and 1.61-inch group averages in the KFS. It costs $2.50 a box. Because of its low price—less than a third of the Bench Rest Gold’s amount—it might be worth a look.
Eley International Match. Lot FS228 shot 1.12-inch group averages in the KFS gun, 1.00-inch groups in the Walther, and 1.37-inch group averages in the Cooper. It costs $10 a hundred. For the price, we think there are better choices than this new offering from the venerable Eley.
Eley Silhouex. Lot FQ1967 shot the ninth-best group average in the GX-1, 0.80 inch. It shot 1.21-inch groups in the Cooper, and 1.43-inch group averages in the KFS. It costs $9.50 a hundred, and for that price, there are better choices above.
Lapua Dominator M. Lot M6452C of this ammo shot well in the KFS and Walther rifles. It was the tenth most accurate round in the KFS (average 1.25-inch groups, with a minimum group of 1.15 inch and a maximum of 1.39 inch). Also, it shot the eighth-best groups we saw in the Walther (0.74 inch average, 0.52 inch minimum, and 0.92 inch maximum). The ammo performed poorly in the Cooper (1.55 inch average). It sells for $14/100. We think other brands offer better performance at lower prices.
Winchester Super Silhouette. Lot 2KE52n shot just over MOA in the GX-1, 1.09 inch, and 1.23 inch in the Cooper and the KFS (1.30 inch). Because it costs only $3.75 a hundred, this is worth considering as a plinking, hunting, and a training round for children.
Russian Junior. Lot 1C013 shot 1.04-inch group averages in the GX-1, 1.15 inch in the Cooper, and 1.47 inch in the KFS. Because it costs only $3.25 a hundred, this is worth experimenting with in many non-target uses, we think.
CCI Standard Velocity. Lot G24A16 shot 0.91-inch group averages in the GX-1, 1.29 inch in the Cooper, and 1.51 inch in the KFS. Because it costs only $4 a hundred, you might consider it for the same uses as the Winchester Super Silhouette and Russian Junior brands.
CCI Pistol Match. Lot K0Z714 shot 1.13-inch group averages in the GX-1, 1.20 inch in the Cooper, and 1.41 inch in the KFS. Because it costs $8.50 a hundred, it’s overpriced for the performance it delivers, we think.
Don’t Buy These
The rest of the ammo brands we tested didn’t match up with the top 20 products in terms of accuracy, consistency, or price, we thought.
Eley’s new Trainer ($5.75/100), Practice 100 ($6.25/100), Target Pistol, ($6/100), new National Match ($8.50/100), and Pistol Standard ($5.75/100) didn’t offer enough accuracy to justify their relatively high prices, we thought.
Likewise, we wouldn’t buy RWS Rifle Match ($10.40/100), Eley Club Extra ($7.25/100), Lapua Pistol King ($9.75/100), RWS FP50 ($17.50/100), and Remington Target .22 ($3.50/100). Neither would we buy the lots we tested of Federal Gold Medal Target ammo, ($5/100), CCI Green Tag ($8.25/100), or Winchester’s T22 Target ($3.75/100).
If you want to shoot your .22 silo, gallery, plinking, or hunting rifle better, take the ammo recommendations we’ve made and begin your own lot-testing, but be sure to try Fiocchi’s Pistol Super Match. That it shot well in all our guns suggests that you might have some luck with it, too.
Periodically, we will add other lots to these evaluations and continue to report on which brands perform the best in our test guns. Also, we will soon investigate if rim-diameter sorting can actually improve the performance of many of these lots by making their external dimensions more accurate. And if one of these brands/lots shoots particularly well in your guns, please share your experiences with us—we promise not to go out and buy it all up.