Is a .22 Considered a Rifle?
Hunting with rifles has been a favorite American pastime since its inception. The term rifle has different meanings for different people, but the premise remains the same. Firing a projectile through a threaded barrel for accuracy is the general definition. There are large caliber rifles, which tend to steal the spotlight, and there are smaller ones, which serve more of an everyday purpose.
Large caliber rifles are referred to as centerfire rifles, meaning that they get their firing charge from a primer in the center of the cartridge. This is struck by a pin which causes the explosion and ignites the powder.
Smaller rounds like the .22 caliber and .17 caliber varmint rounds are what is referred to as a rimfire. This means that instead of having a primer mounted in the center of the cartridge, the firing pin strikes the rear of the casing, on the “rim” and causes the explosion and powder ignition.
Are .22 Caliber Rifles Popular?
The capabilities of the .22 caliber rifle are often overlooked by the wide range of rounds available on today’s market. The hunting industry is littered with odd centerfire rounds, and the list grows seemingly by the day. Small caliber firearms fly under the radar when it comes to the world of shooting sports, but are as effective as ever when it comes to taking most small game species, and even some big game.
In a world where firearms are deemed evil and unsettling, we see what outsiders view as the norms portrayed in movies and on T.V. more than ever.
In the film industry, the heroes are outgunned by the villains, but make masterful shots to save the day. Gangster characters carry .50 caliber Desert Eagle handguns plated in solid gold. The news channels on television play revolving loops of armed guards at airports and border crossings with black rifles and talk about their devastating capabilities in the hands of wrongdoers.
Where are all of the .22 caliber rifles in these portrayals? Well, They aren’t big enough or scary enough to make the cut, apparently. Without a large casing and a deafening bark, a .22 is not as marketable to action stars or supervillains.
Are .22’s as Loud as Other Rifles?
While they may be small in stature, like any great underdog, they more than make up for this in sheer capabilities. A well-placed .22 caliber rifle round can be just as lethal as any other rifle round. Even more so when you factor in the audible signature of a .22, which is far less than any other round in the conversation.
This makes it a great round when you need something quieter.
What Can I Hunt with a .22?
For years, the .22 has been the perfect small game round for harvesting anything from squirrels, to rabbits, fox, and prairie dogs. The small round is accurate for roughly 100 yards and the ability of most .22 rifles to fire semi-automatically makes them great for dispatching moving targets.
Trappers have loved the .22 as well because the bullet is extremely small, the damage to pelts is kept to a minimum when euthanizing furbearers caught in traps. The round does a great job of humanely taking the animal, without fear of ricochet or potential damage to the trap. .22 rifles are lightweight and easy to handle for users, and .22 handguns are even easier to hike a trapline with.
The small game has always been in the wheelhouse of the .22, but it is even more versatile when in the hands of skilled hunters and marksmen. It provides a challenge when hunting due to its lack of knock-down power, so the importance of a well-placed shot becomes paramount for success.
Can You Bird Hunt With a .22?
Bird hunting is not recommended with a .22, or any other rifle for that matter. It is just not safe to be shooting into the air with a .22. An exemption to this rule is hunting grouse with a .22 caliber rifle.
These game birds are legally able to be harvested with the small rifle round and are normally shot in the head or neck for an instant kill. On a squirrel hunt, you can safely shoot upward by waiting until the animal is on a limb or flat against a tree, otherwise, it is not safe to fire into the air.
Raccoon Hunting with a .22
My favorite critter to chase with a .22 is raccoons. For years, houndsmen have used dogs to tree raccoons and then harvest them with a .22 caliber handgun or rifle. It is one of my favorite methods of hunting, and I use a Ruger 1022 takedown with a red dot halo sight when I’m participating in these hunts. Using hounds to hunt is frowned upon by some people, but it is a tradition that I love and practice proudly.
Will a .22 Kill a Coyote?
For a larger game like coyotes, a .22 will do the trick, as long as the shot is placed to where vital organs are going to be terminally damaged. A head, heart, or lung shot with a .22 will end a coyote in no time. A misplaced shot in a muscle group or appendage will not prove to be lethal.
The .22 is best used at night when coyote hunting; this allows you to get a lot closer to the animal and increase the effectiveness of the round.
Can You Kill a Deer With a .22?
While you are not legally allowed to hunt deer with a .22 caliber rimfire rifle in most states, the round could physically kill a deer. In some states, you are allowed to use a .22-250 or .22 magnum rifle, but those are centerfire rounds that have more knock-down power than the rimfire .22 long rifle cartridge.
While the poor placement of a .22 caliber bullet on a deer will barely harm the animal, a well-placed shot will be as fatal as the largest rounds. When hit with a .22 caliber bullet in the vital organs or arteries, a deer will go down in seconds. Taking a deer with a .22 centerfire cartridge should be seen similarly to taking one with archery equipment, as the importance of well-placed shots outweighs velocity.
Who Uses a .22?
Because of their easy operation and effectiveness on small varmints, the .22 caliber rifle is a standby for farmers and ranchers policing their properties. Keeping a .22 round is a great way to eliminate that squirrel infestation of a grain bin. They also make short work of the groundhogs that have dug a maze of ankle-breaking holes in the fields.
Being quiet and effective is great, but arguable the best feature of the .22 caliber round is being economic to shoot. While larger rounds could cost over a dollar per trigger pull, buying a 25 round box of .22 ammunition is only a few bucks. That is half the reason why large-caliber rifle producers have developed .22 caliber versions of their high-dollar rifles. The .22 versions are referred to as trainers and can be shot with the same mechanics as the larger caliber rounds for pennies on the dollar.
Why Don’t Hunters Use a .22 For Big Game?
Moving from capabilities to practicality, let’s discuss using a .22 to hunt. The best size game to pursue with a .22 caliber rifle are small game animals. Small varmints up to about the size of a fox are a perfect size. You do not want to chase a game larger than that with a .22 because the likelihood of making a high percentage shot on a larger animal that will dispatch them ethically is rare.
The better bet is to use a .22 to hunt rabbit size animals. Prairie dogs and groundhog size nuisance animals are the perfect critters to go after with this round. Because they are much smaller, a single .22 round is lethal with almost any shot, even if it is a bit off target. You always plan to make a high percentage shot on any animal, but sometimes things happen and the animal may move or flinch, causing the bullet to stray from the target zone.
Can You Mount a Sight on a .22?
It helps to have a scope on your .22 rifle. Because the rounds are consistent out to about 100 yards, having a decent scope will help your chances of keeping that round in the target area. The quality of your scope does not have to be top of the line with a .22 because the bullets themselves are not highly accurate.
If you shoot 5 times at a target 20 yards away, you may hit the inside of a 3-inch bullseye 4 out of 5 times. As you move the target out to 50 yards, your chances move to about 3 for 5 in the bullseye, and once you are shooting at 100 yards, the chances of getting one round in that 3-inch bullseye are slim.
Does a .22 Damage Meat?
The last benefit to hunting with a .22 that we will discuss is the meat preservation aspect of the round. Since the round is moving subsonically, and the impact pressure of the round striking the animal is quite low, the meat of the game animal is minimally harmed. This makes a .22 a great survival rifle when meat is the main purpose of the hunt. The lightweight ammunition also aids in the survival perks of this caliber.
As we have discussed, a .22 is the perfect small game rifle. It can be used for almost any pest or varmint, and can also be an awesome survival tool. While it is not the best for a larger game, it could be used in an opportune or emergency situation. Overall, it is one of the most versatile rounds in the world, and 100% worth owning.