Editor’s Note: This article on the .22 Long Rifle cartridge is an excerpt from the Dec. 3, 2012, issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Find it on newsstands or download it from the store once it becomes available.
Let me make my case for the .22 Long Rifle (.22LR) as the ultimate survival choice in terms of rifle cartridges. What does the .22LR have going for it that would make someone even consider it as a survival choice, let alone the best all-round?
Not surprisingly, I was able to find a chart on the Internet that compared the weights of various pistol and rifle – rimfire and centerfire – cartridges in bulk. According to this chart, there are 133.3 Remington 36-grain hollow points in a pound.
Curious, I did a bit of checking on my own using my wife’s postal scale, and found it took 143 rounds – Federal 36-grain copper-plated hollow points – to equal 16 ounces. Digging a bit deeper, I found there to be in that same pound, ten rounds of 3-inch 12-gauge steel #1 shot, 21 rounds of 170-grain 30-30 Winchester, 23 of .243 Winchester in a 90-grain Power Core hollow point format, and 17 of 150-grain pointed soft point .30-06 Springfield.
My point? Though very much concerned with pinpoint accuracy, I am also a believer in the mantra: Peace (or Continued Existence) through Superior Firepower. That said, I would opt for 143 effective though admittedly circumstantially limited cartridges over 17 or 21 or 23 bigger, more powerful rounds.
The bottom line is the .22LR offers the option to carry an absolutely ridiculous number of rounds easily; the others, not so much.
Even in the most out-of-the-way Mom ‘n Pop grocery, there’s almost a 100 percent chance they’re going to have a box – or several boxes – of some sort of .22LR ammunition lying around.
It’s true, and I can’t argue the fact the same might be said of 12-gauge 2-3/4-inch shotshells, or .30-06 or 30-30 Winchester cartridges; however, we go back to the rounds-per-pound comparison above. Should you have to trade folding money for ammunition, the rimfires are going to be much less expensive, as in $22 per 400 rounds of .22LR versus $22 per 20 rounds of .30-06.
Apples to oranges? Perhaps, but you get the point here, I’m sure. And going back to availability, if your particular situation involves the End of Days, aka Armageddon, and legal tender isn’t an issue, there’s a better chance you’re going to be able to successfully scrounge .22LR ammunition anywhere around the country, and to a large extent abroad, than anything other type of ammunition – with the possible exception, before anyone speaks up, of 7.62×39, but now you’re back to 27 rounds per pound.
Out to 100 yards, and for some, beyond that, the .22LR can be a deadly accurate cartridge. And accuracy, of course, has a bearing on ammunition expenditure, a variable that might play a very important role, particularly in a long-term survival situation. Inside 100 yards, you should be able to hit what you are shooting at easily. For more on the .22LR and accuracy, see the ammo test results to the left on this page.
.22LR Audio Level
Should audio level, that is how noisy or quiet a firearm is, even be a consideration in terms of a whether or not a firearm is the perfect choice in a survival scenario? I think certainly.
A low-level report from a .22LR which, again using the Internet, falls roughly between 118 and 134 decibels won’t (1) frighten game nearly as dramatically as might a substantially louder round. The .243 Winchester comes in at approximately 160 decibels.
And again returning to the Armageddon scenario, the softer-sounding .22LR won’t attract unwanted human attention over great distances, thereby eliminating or decreasing the instances of unfriendly reconnaissance to the sound. As a final note, the .22LR can be, should the world end, easily quieted using any number of commonly-found household items.
If it’s a meal you’re in need of, there’s really no cause to look further than a .22LR. Whether it’s ground squirrel or groundhog rabbit or sitting duck, the .22LR works. Animals as large as wild hogs or whitetails can be taken cleanly with a .22LR and proper shot placement.
There are few, if any, reasonably sized life forms, edible or otherwise, that cannot be dispatched with either a 36- or 40-grain bullet launched from a rimfire case. Would I want to go toe-to-toe with a 350-pound black bear armed only with a .22LR? Or would my first choice for moose be a rimfire? No, but here we’re discussing the acquisition of nourishment, first, and the preservation of life only when evasion and/or avoidance strategies have been tried and deemed unsuccessful.
The reality is, if you shoot a deer in a survival situation, you will need to preserve a lot of meat. If you shoot a rabbit or a squirrel, you eat your meal and move on with your 143 rounds of ammo.
The Best Survival Gun: Ruger 10/22
The author also notes that the best survival firearm is the Ruger 10/22. It offers many of the same characteristics outlined in this article on .22LR ammunition. Learn the ins and outs of the Ruger 10/22 in the Customize the Ruger 10/22 book. You’ll be better prepared for any survival situation.
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About the Author: M.D. Johnson is an outdoors writer who has published articles at numerous publications as one half of M&J Outdoors. He's authored several books about the outdoors, including "Successful Duck Hunting" and "Guide to Pheasant Hunting."
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