For the beginner shooter .22 ammunition can be very confusing.

In this article I take out much of the mystery of .22 rimfire ammunition.

If you are a beginner shooter or know someone that is, this article will certainly simplify everything you need to know starting out.


A few years back at a local gun shop my wife and I were looking at a really neat old vintage single shot .22 rifle that was marked on the barrel “.22 LONG”. I remarked to the Mrs. too bad it’s not in the easier to get .22 Long Rifle cartridge. Upon hearing that, a young man looking also at the used guns aisle remarked “that gun will take .22 Long Rifle”. I took the opportunity to explain the major differences between the two and without a word the man left the department without saying a word. He did not know the difference between the two cartridges. If that rifle would have been bought and the longer .22 Long Rifle cartridge would have been jammed into the shorter .22 Long chamber nothing good would have come from that fiasco. That is where education comes into play on the differences between the common and not so common .22 rimfire ammunition.

Many manufacturers, seasoned shooters and even gun writers (myself included at times) forget that everyone is not as well versed as we are in our shared hobbies. Take a walk into a big box retail store and ask for a certain caliber cartridge. Now watch the clerk at times try to figure out what you just asked for. How about the new shooter who wants the light recoil .22 handgun or rifle for target practice and possibly hunting? They might just buy the wrong ammunition without proper intervention.

Let’s first examine what makes a .22 a “.22”. The designation .22 describes the width of the bullet itself. It is 22/100 of and inch in diameter, well more or less. If you took a micrometer to different ammo manufacturer’s selections there might be slight variations but that is for a more in-depth study in the future. The “rimfire” part of the name explains that the priming that ignites the main charge in the cartridge is contained in the rim itself. Anywhere on the edge of the rim where a firing pin will impact will set the cartridge off and send your projectile downrange. So far, so good, pretty simple right?


You might have hear of .22 Shorts, .22 Longs, .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum… among some other now obsolete and hard to find versions that have faded into the past. The .22 Long Rifle cartridge is by far the most popular, cheapest and ultimately more firearms are chambered for it. How you will know what caliber firearm you have is check what is marked on your barrel or in your specific firearm’s instruction manual. Once again, pretty simple. The .22 Long Rifle cartridges are not only for rifles. Many handguns are also chambered for that making some confusion there. They sport anywhere from a 29 grain to a 40 grain on average in weight projectile. This load is great for targets, small game and pests. Made by most ammunition makers, it is usually marked “.22 Long Rifle”.


What about the .22 Long cartridge sometimes encountered in gun shops or in old collections? Well the casing of the .22 Long cartridge is actually the same length of the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. It does though have a shorter 29 grain projectile and a shorter chamber length than the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. In fact, the .22 Long cartridge is the father of the .22 Long Rifle cartridge that has mostly made it obsolete. Will a .22 Long fit in a .22 Long Rifle chambered rifle? Technically yes but not vice-versa since, once again the Long Rifle is a longer cartridge. The firearm might function with it or cause jams. Best stick with Long Rifle ammo since it is cheaper and easier to find anyway.

What is a .22 Short then? Well that’s the grand daddy of all the above rimfire cartridges. It is a short length case with a small 29 grain projectile. It is an old cartridge that will fit in the longer chambers of the .22 Long and .22 Long Rifle cartridges. Some rifles and handgun will function with all three cartridges interchangeably. This is true only if that firearm is marked as such. Once again, only shoot what your firearm is chambered for by the manufacturer.


Now the .22 Magnum breaks the mold. It fires a slightly larger diameter projectile from a much longer and wider case. It also is much more powerful than any of the previous .22 rimfires and quite pricy these days also. These will not fit in any of the previous cartridge chambers.


While there are some old and mostly obsolete .22 ammunition out there like the .22 WRF or .22 Extra Long cartridges pay no attention to them as your firearm will not chamber them. Only the really old classics made way back when will fire these rarer old cartridges.

Read your instruction manual, take your time and do your research. Half of the fun of shooting is learning all about the different calibers, their histories and trying them out. Be safe and have fun!

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