Although the 22 bullet is comparatively weak, it’s still one of the most popular rounds for training, hunting, and sport shooting. Nevertheless, your bullet can still travel long distances while remaining lethal if you miss the target. So, how far can a 22 bullet travel?
A high-powered 22 LR bullet shot from a rifle with the correct barrel elevation can travel over 1.3 miles. However, a 22 caliber rifle is only accurate to 300 yards. Arc range, bullet-style, cartridge power, barrel length, and weather will all affect the distance a 22 bullet can travel.
Read on to learn what a 22 bullet is precisely and how to get the furthest distance when shooting one. We’ll examine the different types of 22 rounds and how shooting them from a pistol or a rifle changes their range.
Not only that, but we’ll also show how accurate a 22 caliber rifle can be when appropriately shot in realistic circumstances.
What Exactly Is A 22 Bullet?
Understanding what a 22 bullet is will help us determine how far they can travel. In addition to the 22 bullet’s small size, these rounds have several features that make them function differently from other rounds.
A 22 bullet has a .22-inch caliber, or 5.6mm. The suffix that comes after the 22 refers to the length of the cartridge.
Because of their small size, 22 bullets have a lower muzzle velocity than other rounds, reducing their lethality, plus their recoil and the loudness of the report.
The 22 bullets we’ll discuss are rimfire, meaning that the primer is on the lip of the shell casing alongside the primer compound. Instead of hitting the center of the round, the firing pin strikes the rim, igniting the compound. In turn, that ignites the propellant. Being rimfire also allows the bullets to be smaller and cheaper, at the cost of being complex to reload.
The four main types of 22 bullets are:
- 22 short
- 22 long
- 22 LR
- 22 WMR
While the 22 short is the tiniest round (designed for pocket pistols and revolvers), the 22 long and 22 LR are rifle rounds. However, you can also find many pistols chambered for 22 LR. The difference between these two rounds is that the 22 LR has more propellant than the 22 long, and so will travel further.
On the other hand, the 22 WMR is a high-powered magnum round with heavier bullets and more propellant.
Now that we know the main types of 22 bullets and what makes them unique, we can figure out how far they can travel.
Factors Affecting the Range of Bullets
Arc range is the angle you raise the barrel by before shooting. According to the NRA, an arc range of about 30 degrees is best to shoot a projectile at its maximum range.
Of course, this won’t be very accurate, making aiming difficult. But then again, shooting 22 bullets at extreme distances is precise (unless you’re a trained sniper).
In normal circumstances, you would hold the barrel parallel to the ground. You would keep it horizontal while aiming, then fire. For most distances, this is best since a bullet losing altitude won’t be an issue, and you won’t need to compensate with your scope.
However, if we’re trying for maximum range, this issue matters. Gravity impacts bullets. For example, if you shoot your gun flat style 1m off flat ground at the range, the shot can only fall a meter before it hits the ground and stops moving.
On the other hand, if you raise the barrel 30 degrees and then shoot, the bullet will travel upward and forward, so it can fall a greater distance before hitting the ground.
We all know that longer barrels are more accurate, but this applies to a bullet’s maximum range. Shooting a 22 LR bullet out of a pistol will have different results to shooting it from a rifle.
See, a longer barrel means that the propellant’s explosion can act against the bullet for a more extended period. And obviously, a faster bullet will travel further before losing its altitude and hitting the ground.
Once a bullet leaves the barrel, it quickly begins decelerating, so any increased acceleration from within the barrel is vital to reaching a 22 bullet’s maximum range.
The style of the bullet you’re shooting is also important to consider. Not all bullets are equal, and round nose bullets are less aerodynamic than those with a pointed tip. The sleeker the shot, the less air resistance it faces. It will decelerate at a slower rate.
The bullet grain (weight) will also impact how far it can travel. Heavier bullets travel at a slower speed since they have more mass, absorbing more energy from the propellant. So, more power is required to speed them up to the same velocity as a lighter bullet.
Furthermore, heavier bullets are also blown off course by wind more efficiently. We won’t be factoring wind into account for this article, but this accuracy problem is good to know.
Now, most 22 rounds are LRN (lead round nose) bullets, while a smaller number have copper plating. Because of this style, 22 bullets are not exceptionally aerodynamic. However, to compensate, they are light, weighing in between 27 gr. (1.8 g) and 50 gr. (3.2 g).
Copper plating is also an essential factor. Unlike lead, copper can act as a lubricant and reduce the projectile’s friction inside the barrel, letting the bullet travel further.
More propellant will increase the speed of the bullet. This acceleration is most noticeable in magnum rounds (22 WMR) and hyper-velocity rounds.
Hyper-velocity 22 bullets also use slow-burning powder, which increases the amount of time the bullet spends inside the barrel. This slow-burning powder allows the bullet to accelerate more as the expansion force of the propellant behind it lasts for a longer time.
Weather and Other Factors
Some factors affecting bullet range are out of your control, like the weather. Unfortunately, atmospheric conditions play a significant role in bullet range.
Wind, rain, or snow can reduce a 22 bullet’s range by significant amounts or blow it off course entirely. Likewise, temperature, air density, and gravity also play a role.
However, nobody can change the weather. So, we’ll always assume that you’re shooting on an open range under suitable conditions for this article. While this ideal scenario won’t always be the case, it is the best-case scenario.
How Far Can the Different Types of 22 Bullets Travel?
22 Pistol Rounds
Although its original designers intended it to be the only round for pistols and revolvers, manufacturers often chamber modern handguns in 22 LR instead of 22 short. You’ll find that this is especially common in sports shooting.
Regardless of which 22 bullets the pistol shoots, however, one major issue across them all is barrel length. With a standard short-length barrel and a 22 short round, your shot will travel between 150 and 200m before it hits the ground.
That distance is, of course, if you shoot the gun from standing height (like you would if you wanted to hit a target). However, we can go far further with an improved firing arc and a 22 LR round.
The Physics Factbook estimates that a 22 LR bullet shot at a muzzle velocity of 1,255 fps will travel 2000 yards before hitting the ground with a good barrel elevation. That’s nearly two kilometers. However, this theory is untested (shooting guns into the air is hazardous, and 22 bullets are hard to spot on the ground).
Realistically, a 22 LR shot from a pistol with a great arc range would travel 500m.
Of course, a pistol will lose accuracy far before its bullet has traveled 500m. Most are accurate to only 50m, and that’s before we factor in our skill.
22 Rifle Rounds
Although the 22 LR is more popular, some 22 long rounds are worth noting. The CCI stinger is a hyper-velocity round that combines a highly lightweight copper-plated bullet with an increased powder load to achieve a muzzle velocity of 1,640 fps.
A CCI stinger (or similar hyper-velocity 22 long or 22 LR bullet) can travel over 1.3 miles or slightly further than 2 kilometers when fired from a long-barreled rifle at the ideal angle.
However, the rate at which the bullet falls is essential to remember, so I stress that we need good arc range to shoot a 22 round so far. Shooting a high-powered 22 LR cartridge from a rifle at standing height will give far less impressive results.
Suppose you shoot the rifle 1m off the ground (straightforward at most open ranges). In that case, you wouldn’t see it fall until it had traveled about 125 yards or 115m. Only then would it fall a few inches.
It drops rapidly afterward. It would take just 250 yards, or 230m, to fall about a meter for a 22 LR round. And if that’s the height you shot the rifle from, that’s all the distance you’d get.
That isn’t impossible to account for, though. Using your scope properly and firing from the same 1m height, you can factor in the drop and hit bullet travel distances closer to 450 yards, or 365m.
We’re not saying your bullet will be very accurate at that distance (because wind still matters in real life). However, it is a realistic maximum range for a 22 LR rifle that still gives you a chance of hitting something.
A 22 magnum round is more powerful than your standard 22 bullets. However, it has a heavier and, therefore, slower shot. Nevertheless, if we do the math, we can find that if you fire a 22 WMR, you can expect it to travel 10-20% further than a 22 LR.
The increased power compensates for the heavier bullet. Overcompensates, even. At 100 yards, while a 22 LR has a 1 ½ inch drop, the 22 WMR doesn’t fall whatsoever.
Suppose we carry over this principle to our earlier calculations. In that case, we can assume that a 22 WMR round fired from a rifle 1m off the ground will travel 20% further than the 22 LR. In that case, it’d be accurate to about 275 yards, or 250m.
If you fired it with the correct arc range, you could expect the 22 WMR to travel roughly 1.56 miles or 2.5km.
How Accurate Are 22 Caliber Rifles?
One thing that’s important to consider is that effective range is different from maximum range. While effective range is the distance within which a bullet will still be lethal, the maximum range is how far it travels before hitting the ground.
Therefore, while a 22 caliber rifle might be accurate at long distances, it won’t necessarily be effective. Good to know before trying to snipe your next deer.
Account for the bullet drop and zero in your scope correctly. You can be surprisingly accurate with high-powered rounds using a 22 rifle. For example, if you can get a ¾ inch group at 50 yards, you’d get:
- A 1-inch group at 100 yards
- A 3-inch group at 200 yards
- An 8-inch group at 300 yards
- Inaccurate past 400 yards (but can still penetrate over 1 inch of wood)
Therefore, we’d say that a 22 caliber rifle is effectively accurate at 300 yards. With a 3 inch group, you might not be able to shoot a rabbit in the eye, but you can shoot a deer in the head. After that distance, however, it isn’t worth taking the shot.
To conclude, a 22 LR round shot at the ideal arc range from a rifle could travel over two kilometers. However, it would stop being effective long before that.
A 22 caliber rifle has an effective range of roughly 300 yards, assuming you’ve zeroed your scope, are using a high-powered round, and account for bullet drop.