Many of us remember growing up in a house with a .22 caliber rifle in a closet or behind a door.
I grew up with two such rifles that were ready for duty if called upon to defend the homestead.
Here is why a .22 rifle is necessary for the wilds and homestead.
My great-grandfather used a .22 rifle for dispatching pests around the farm. It was also used for hunting and dispatching caught furbearers for market. That .22 rimfire rifle ate the cheaper priced .22 short ammunition and each shot better count. There was no target shooting on the farm. Between working in the coal mine and the farm all money was needed to make sure the family could make ends meet. The sons of that tough man and even the daughters knew how to shoot that .22 rifle. A well placed .22 bullet up close would also down a cow or pig. The little .22 rifle was up for that challenge way back then.
Fast forward to the modern day. Has the .22 rimfire rifle been replaced with faster and harder hitting cartridges? Is it now obsolete in the light of newer calibers like the hot .17 HMR cartridge? This is hardly the case. There are more varieties of .22 rimfire ammunition available now on store shelves and online than ever before. A shooter is not stuck with the one style cartridge the local general store stocks anymore.
Let’s look at the nuts and bolts of the standard .22 rimfire cartridge. Generally available are .22 shorts, .22 longs and the most popular .22 long rifle cartridges. The small .22 shorts used to be cheaper back in the day but the less powerful cartridges now cost a premium over the much more available .22 long rifle cartridges. As for .22 long cartridges they have a longer .22 long rifle case but a smaller, lighter .22 short projectile. They are much rarer. Some rifles will chamber and fire all the above. Check with the manufacturer of your rifle to see if this is the case with your specific model. Many auto-loaders only fire .22 long rifle cartridges reliably. Single shot rifles and manually operated repeaters many times are more forgiving of the various length and power cartridges.
With many types of .22 rimfire cartridges available (the priming solution is held in the rim instead of a center primer in such weapons as centerfire cartridges and shotshells) where do you start? The average .22 long rifle cartridge’s projectile is generally around 40 grains in weight or a bit less. You can buy these in hollow point or in solid configurations. All lead, copper or polymer coated lead or even all copper projectiles (CCI Copper-22) are available. Off the shelf .22 LR ammunition are usually high velocity loads. Lower velocity loads such as standard velocity or subsonics are also available. High velocity gives you the most power for many predators that might target the homestead.
Smaller but still a potent little package up close is the .22 short cartridge. Pick the high velocity hollow point design for dispatching chicken coop raiders up close and on the trapline.
There are also many odder offerings available too. There is a heavyweight 60 grain lead bullet seated in a .22 short case. This heavy subsonic round is said to have been used for culling deer with suppressed rifles on occasion. CCI offers both a .22 short and .22 long cartridges in their popular “CB” line. They make little noise and are perfect for eliminating troublesome pests quietly. In the last couple of years CCI expanded into their Quiet-22 line that offers the same quiet report but with a harder hitting 40 grain segmented or solid lead projectile. I have become quite fond of these aptly named Quiet-22 rounds for close range pests. Even quieter loads such as Aguila Colibri and Super Colibri cartridges are available but lack the power other loads have. There is even strange crimped or blue plastic cup .22 shot cartridges. Unless these are used in a smooth bore barrel not made in many years and not the average rifled barrel they are ineffective and expensive.
Is a .22 rifle still needed on the homestead and the woods? It sure is maybe much more than in our great-grandparent’s time. With the lack of trapping because of low fur market prices chicken coop raiders abound. Coyotes have moved into my area of northeastern Ohio in the last few decades. They prey on pets and livestock alike. There are documented cases of human attacks. A high velocity .22 caliber bullet can end the reign of terror of even the most hardened predators. For anything bigger than coyotes better step up to bigger calibers. Aggressive bears and .22 rifles make for a bad combination. Did I mention .22 rifles make great small game getters? Squirrels and rabbits are favorite chases of .22 rifle armed hunters.
A .22 caliber rifle is still a great choice for your homesteading and hunting needs. Many problems and meal plans can be fixed by one well placed .22 caliber bullet. Always shoot safely, watch your backstop of where your bullet will go beyond the target and follow all safety rules. Be sure to check all game laws and local ordinances too.