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.22 Magnum (WMR) Complete Guide: Ballistics, Applications, & More

.22 Magnum (WMR) Complete Guide: Ballistics, Applications, & More
March 22, 2022 Edited September 27, 2023 16177 view(s)
.22 Magnum (WMR) Complete Guide: Ballistics, Applications, & More

Though it was immediately popular upon its release and was arguably the only successful rimfire cartridge design to come out of the 20th century, the venerable .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire has spent recent years in the shadow of its cheaper, more popular cousin, .22 Long Rifle, along with newer, snappier cartridges like .17 HMR.

But does .22 Magnum - once the quintessential ranch gun and varminting cartridge - still have a place? We’re going to take a look at the history of this cartridge, its ballistic performance, and the applications it excels at – and whether it’s an option worth considering for the modern shooter.

.22 WMR Ammo on Workbench

 

History

The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire cartridge, often abbreviated .22 WMR or .22 Mag, was first developed in 1959 by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company as a way to bridge the gap between the popular .22 Long Rifle cartridge and centerfire .22 options of that era.

Because .22 Magnum is an elongated version of its .22 Winchester Rimfire (WRF) parent case, a gun chambered in .22 WMR is fully capable of firing .22 WRF - though many magazine-fed .22 Magnum autoloaders have trouble feeding the shorter WRF cartridge and would require each round to be chambered manually. That also means that a .22 WMR firearm can fire .22 Remington Special, which is identical to Winchester Rimfire except for having a pointed bullet instead of a flat-nosed one.

However, keep in mind that a firearm chambered in .22 Magnum cannot safely fire .22 Long Rifle cartridges - even though the bullet diameter is the same, the differences in case dimensions would result in split cases, escaped gases, and potential damage to the chamber throat.

Ironically, though Winchester designed the cartridge itself, they were one of the last major firearms manufacturers to produce a firearm that was actually chambered for it – by the time Winchester began selling their Model 61 slide-action rifle, Smith & Wesson and Ruger had already put .22 WMR revolvers into production, and both Savage and Marlin were able to able to adapt existing rifle designs to the new cartridge quickly enough to beat Winchester to the punch, as well.

Compared to .22 LR, the longer, wider, and thicker case dimensions of .22 WMR allowed for hotter grain loads and higher chamber pressures, and its original 40-grain, .224-inch diameter bullet boasted a muzzle velocity of 2,000 feet per second.

In short, .22 WMR offered a faster, flatter-shooting round with improved penetration and expansion, quickly establishing itself as an excellent varmint cartridge ideal for hunting small game out to about 130 yards in skilled hands.

 

Ballistics

Though .22 WMR was initially loaded with a blunt-nosed 40-grain bullet, commercial loads are now available ranging from 30 to 50 grains, and more aerodynamic polymer tips are offered by manufacturers such as Remington, CCI, and Hornady. Because a 30-grain bullet was found to offer the optimal balance of velocity and energy, it’s the most common .22 WMR ammunition you’re likely to come across, and the one we’ll use to look at the cartridge’s ballistic profile.

Trajectory chart for 22 WMR

As you can see, the round sheds velocity relatively quickly and begins to experience significant drop past the 125-yard mark, though making accurate shots out to 150 yards is still entirely possible. In the 75-100 yard sweet spot, .22 WMR is a remarkably fast and flat-shooting cartridge, and at 100 yards it is still delivering just over 140 foot-pounds of energy.

Of course, .22 WMR performs optimally out of a rifle barrel, but the cartridge is still able to maintain roughly 80% of its muzzle velocity when fired from a handgun, making it a popular choice for revolver enthusiasts who can quickly swap between .22 LR and .22 WMR with the use of a convertible cylinder kit.

22 Magnum and 22 LR Ammo on Workbench

 

.22 WMR vs. .22 LR

Because .22 WMR was designed to improve upon .22 Long Rifle for the purposes of hunting and varmint control, it’s also worth comparing the two cartridges side by side.

Comparison chart of 22LR and 22WMR Trajectories

.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire outperforms .22 Long Rifle in terms of trajectory, speed, and energy on target – at 50 yards, .22 WMR boasts 215 foot-pounds of energy compared to .22 LR’s 113 foot-pounds, and that difference becomes even more stark when comparing heavier bullets: each using 40-grain bullets, .22 WMR boasts twice as much kinetic energy at 100 yards as .22 LR has at the muzzle.

22 Magnum AR-15 Shooting

 

Applications

Hunting

.22 Magnum’s less dramatic drop-off and significantly higher kinetic energy make it a superior short-to-medium range hunting cartridge, and it’s more than capable of ethically bagging small game such as rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and coyotes with more margin of error in shot placement than .22 LR allows.

While you might get a bit of bloodshot meat on very small game, it’s still a far cry from the damage that a centerfire .22 cartridge would cause, which makes it an excellent choice for varmint hunters who want to tackle a versatile range of game while keeping ruined meat and pelts to a minimum.

 

Target Shooting

While .22 LR remains the undisputed champ when it comes to cheap plinking ammo, .22 Magnum’s flatter trajectory and superior ballistic coefficient make it the better choice for shooters who are interested in precision target shooting or rimfire competitive shooting events.

And while it may not be as cheap as .22 LR, a trip to the range with a few boxes of .22 WMR won’t break the bank, either, which is good news for those of us who prefer to practice with the exact same equipment that will be used in matches.

 

Varmint / Pest Control

As we’ve seen from the ballistic comparisons, .22 WMR packs quite the punch for its size, and the same qualities that made it instantly popular as a hunting cartridge also make a rifle or handgun chambered in .22 WMR an excellent choice for a do-it-all ranch gun.

Standard loads are more than capable of dispatching common pest animals such as groundhogs, gophers, prairie dogs, and foxes, and CCI produces ammo loaded with No. 12 shot that are ideal for handling snakes, mice, and rats without fear of overpenetration.

 

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire is a great little cartridge that has stood the test of time and carved out a niche for itself in the world of rimfire hunting calibers.

While it may not be as cheap as .22 LR, and while more modern rounds like .17 HMR may have slightly edged it out in terms of velocity and effective range, .22 WMR is still the cartridge I would turn to if I wanted a versatile rifle that was inexpensive to shoot, soft on the ears, capable of handling larger varmints like coyotes, bobcats, and foxes, and was still accurate enough to punch ¾” groups at 100 yards without much fuss.

[Check out our .22 Magnum AR-15 Uppers to experience .22 Magnum in a semi-auto platform! Comment your thoughts about .22 Magnum below.]

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Kevin W.
March 22, 2022
I don’t understand where to get a magazine for this and what lower I can use if its not an adapter?
john@customerservice
March 23, 2022
we currently do not have any in stock, as for the lower it uses a standard AR lower.
Alex Kaiser
March 24, 2022
Any idea when yall will get more mags in stock for the 22MAG? Fyi..a "notify me" option would be great for future reference / recommendation. Looking forward to my upper! Thanks
Richard
March 23, 2022
The place to get the 22 magnum magazines is blackdogmachinellc.net since they introduction of bca 22 magnum they are swamped in orders. The bca upper fits an Anderson lower perfectly. Blackdogmachinellc.net is a trust worthy family owned company, I have been a customer of theirs for 10 yrs or more.
Dodger One
July 14, 2022
If you have the BCA upper it will fit like other ar15's . BCA included a 10 rd 22 win mag magazine and I was able to obtain additional mags from Black Dog Machine llc in Nampa ID. These are fit to size for ar15 lower and have had good success with these as they even offer a 14 rd mag.
MICHAEL BURLESON
March 23, 2022
does this come in a left handed version?
john@customerservice
March 28, 2022
No we do not offer a left handed option at this time.
Michael Urban
March 23, 2022
WOW guys i have been waiting for a decent 22RM forever!!! I have looked over 22LR ARs but i already have so many 22LR ,rifles i wanted something different? This is it! Along with that nice 6.5CM on sale now! only problem is i dont have the cash right now :>/ hehe Im selling my home to buy them! LOL well i mean as soon as the sale go's threw! hehehe I just hope the 6.5CM is still on sale by then? rofl
Perry Elliott Fouts III
March 23, 2022
The upper is very accurate and smooth. If I hold the magazine in place I can make consecutive shots. If not held in place the magazine falls out after one or two shots. Last round bolt hold open does not work either as the mag comes out on the last shot even if it cycles the first round or two sucessfully. even when locked in place the magazine can be pulled straight out without pressing the mag release. Maybe it is my lower. I will be trying it in other lowers.
Ray
May 6, 2022
I had the same issue one one of the two I built. I found that the magazine catch was catching on the opening. I had an Anderson lower and there was a burr causing the catch not to full engage the magazine. I used a light file took of the buyer problem solved.
Richard blaney
March 24, 2022
Customer service is great shipping is fast thank you for the new uppers
anonymous
March 28, 2022
i purchased a 22 lr and 22 mag. 22lr is whisper quite. more quiet than my pellet guns! the 22 mag sounds just like a 17hmr.zero recoil. for the price its worth it, and a lot of fun paired with bca’s red/green dot which came zeroed(we shot accurately at 50 yards) right after bolting on. nice cheap little plinking set up for everyone kids included and the bca warranty cant be beat. however, i have a milspec lower with a aero enhanced buffer tube(has the forked style for retainer) and the 22mag bcg was latching open and getting stuck(locked) i couldnt charge it, but stuck somewhere back on that buffer retainer resulting in having to break the pins open to release the upper. we then swapped it to an aero precision m4e1 lower with a mil spec round buffer tube and it cycled perfectly, for the record used a normal 223 buffer spring and weight still cycled.
chris musto
April 9, 2022
Wish there was option for vintage look with carry handle and fixed front sights
Paul Merrill
April 13, 2022
Ok. I got my 22WMR. In fact I got two. Now when is the 17HMR coming out? Hmmmmmm?
John@customerservice
April 14, 2022
Make sure you are signed up for our newsletter (https://www.bearcreekarsenal.com/bca-subscribe) for all updates on new products.
George Gohlike
April 20, 2022
BCA has got the most useful upper in the market if you want to be practical with cost of ammo , with that being said the upper high quality machine work for that kind money I want to buy stock in their company. The 22 Mag isn’t boring to shoot , it’s got a little kick perfect gun I love it no regrets on this buy , nice work BCA !
Lam
May 5, 2022
I would like to buy a 17 HMR upper
Lam
May 5, 2022
My Buffer came with the 22WMR has no weights to it. felt like is empty inside, is this normal?
john@customerservice
May 6, 2022
Yes that is perfectly normal, the 22 wmr buffers are lightweight to facilitate efficient cycling. Hope this was of help.
George Gohlike
May 6, 2022
22 mag I did cycle 300 rounds only one fail it was the ammo I have Anderson lower and used the the Anderson spring and buffer and cycled no problem really reliable and even broken in it is a positive indeed!!!
Ray
May 6, 2022
I built two of these. One worked amazingly well. Accurate at 30 yards. Haven’t shot further yet. The second one had an issue with the bolt guide under the bolt. The bolt would catch on it when moving forward. Bent it down out of the way of the bolt slightly, works well. Second issue was a machining issue on my lower. The magazine catch would not fully engage due to a small burr. Both are great guns happy with them. My only question is; the magazine is the bolt catch? Is this the intended function?
Brian Hartness
May 15, 2022
I love my 22 WMR BCA upper! I have always loved the round and to now have it in an AR platform is awesome. Now if only you guys would do a 30 carbine upper!!!!!!
George Gohlike
May 15, 2022
I still really like this set up no complaints. I used the buffer tube and spring that came with then I put my spring and tube for the 5.65 and it cycles fine .
Gregory Williams
May 21, 2022
The BCA 10.5 inch upper 22wmr works with which BCA pistol lower? Carbine length buffer tube or pistol length buffer tube
john@customerservice
May 23, 2022
Yes it does make sure to use the included lightweight buffer. Hope you found this helpful.
Dennis Franklin
June 8, 2022
I just received my upper. Assembled it. When charging the buffer retainer releasing and is inside the lower unit and the spring is distroyed. Is there a problem or do I need a buffer retainer. I have used the spring and buffer provided. Thanks
john@customerservice
June 15, 2022
Please contact our customer service at (https://www.bearcreekarsenal.com/customer-service) for help. We would love to replace whatever was destroyed.
Jeff VP
June 21, 2022
Now that the 22 mag is available, I would like to get 17 hmr in a Complete upper.
Joe Tighe
June 25, 2022
Im having problems with my bolt getting stuck back in my buffer tube. I have to pull the pins to get it apart. I have tried it on two different lowers same thing.. it is like i need a shorter buffer tube
John@customerservice
June 28, 2022
Please reach out to our customer service ( customerservice@bearcreekarsenal.com) to connect you with our in house technician if your issues persist.
dallaswoods
July 12, 2022
I put a few spacers in it worked very well
Joe
July 24, 2022
Change the spring in the stock and or the stock itself dont put anything inside the stock if it needed something in the stock it would have came with that then.
Michael Bjerklund
July 13, 2022
What I discovered with mine, is that the buffer and spring provided is designed to function with a carbine style stock and buffer tube, not a full rifle length fixed stock and buffer tube. The carbine length tube is 7 inch where the rifle length is 9 and 7/8 inch. Using on a rifle length tube requires a spacer to take up the extra 2 7/8 of space for the buffer and spring to fit properly.
dallaswoods
July 12, 2022
Love it ,the upper I use most of the time
Dodger One
July 14, 2022
Got one of the BCA 22 win mag uppers and got to say I love it. Open sites are my passion and this fits the bill well as it test my shooting skills, esp'ly plinking and quick target skills work up!!
Howard Nall
July 15, 2022
Get that bc .22mag upper down to about 249, maybe I could afford one then.
Donald Pritchard
July 19, 2022
Waiting for mine to be delivered, any recommendations on brand of ammo that cycles best?
Raymond bird
July 23, 2022
Where can I find extra mags.
john
July 25, 2022
We recommend the Black Dog Machine LLC Magazines, for this caliber.
Arch Stockton Jr
July 26, 2022
I would love to see one NOT in heavy barrel, just too much to carry around.
PETER N CHURCH
July 28, 2022
What would be great is an exact smith and wesson model 63-5 in 22 magnum .
Mannie Christensen
July 29, 2022
Do you only sell 10rnd mags for the BC-22?
Charles Gattens
October 5, 2022
You can take mag apart cut the plastic stop of and now a 14 round magazine. I have 3 -14 black dog mags and now 3 10 round converted mags to 14 round all function fine.
Jeff Hoffman
August 1, 2022
We here is the following I’ve found with there 22 lr upper. The firing pin has to much surface area to the point it doesn’t dent the rim fire cases enough to even set them off. I have some Winchester m22 22 long rifle rds it would not even fine a single one of and when the same round was put through a Ruger it furies every one of them with out issues. I also had failure to fire other 22 lr rds also buy other manufacturers. And the conclusion I found was the face of the firing pin was to wide to properly dent the 22 cases to set the primers off. Also the firing pin seems a bit soft and softer then other manufacturers firing pins. I tried to contact them about this issue and I have never heard back from them since. So I’d say buyers be wear as the guns seem like they could be accurate if you can get them to fire properly. I’ve since filed down the firing pin to a better width but now I need to get back out and try the Rifle again to see if this fixes it or not. I also have one of there 22wmr too which also seems to have light striker hits but as of yet has fired most rds
Capt . Don Mull
August 1, 2022
magazines, Why is so hard to find them on your website,,,, I have your .22.250 your 243. your 308, why can you not make it easer to find them and sell them,,,
Joe Huffman
August 4, 2022
I am thinking about one of these very seriously but am wondering if you folks are going to introduce a 17hmr upper
Gregory Williams
August 7, 2022
I have 2 anderson manufacturing lowers. 1 pistol lower and one rifle lower. Both are milspec except the rifle lower has a CMC single stage trigger installed. I put my BCA 10.5 in 22 mag upper on the pistol lower and my 16 in BCA 22 mag on the rifle upper. The pistol worked just fine. The rifle shot one round and the bolt stuck open. Had to remove the buffer tube to be able to lift the upper up enough to disengage the bolt from the trigger. Do the 22magw uppers work with CMC triggers. P.s. the rifle upper works with Bca 223/556 upper and 7.62x39 upper.
Keith Jensen
October 8, 2022
When will the 22 magnum upper be available in left side charge?
Don D Randall II
November 16, 2022
I bought one a few months back and just got a round to shoot it. I have TFT every round, it pushes the bullet back into the case. When charging the round is hitting the bottom of the feed ramp. My question, is this a mag problem or a feed ramp issue?
Kenneth Cobbs
December 26, 2022
Got one about 4 months ago ordered a couple of extra 14 round magazines. All three had a little trouble with the feed, not sure what caused the issue. But after a few reuses the problems subsided. I've since changed ammo and haven't had any issues. Everyone that shoots it giggles ????.
Doug Opperman
December 27, 2022
22mag is working good for me .
Hammond ,Marvin
January 26, 2023
THIS UPPER SHOULD BE SOLD WITH TWO MAGS TO GET A BUNDLED DEAL!
Matt
February 23, 2023
10.5" BCA upper on Aero ME41 lower. Using the BCA buffer and spring that came with. Aero carbine length buffer tube. First full AR15 build I've done, knew most of it, still learned some things along the way. First off, as user Jeff Hoffman mentions in his comment, the firing pin face is too broad. The first test fire at the range yielded a failure to fire about 30-50% of the rounds. The smith shaved the face of the firing ping down, now it fires reliably. Second off, the ammo... I bought Hornady 45 gr fluted hollow point... and the more common Hornady 30 gr vmax polymer tip. I wanted the heavier weight to keep rounds closer to subsonic w/ my suppressor, but they're still super sonic. Also, the flutes on the bullet tip catch on the feed ramp and bend the flute inward, causing a failure to feed. The 30 grain polymer tip has fed 100% of the rounds I've put through it so far. Third, the bolt catch is not standard. As the user Ray mentioned in his comment here... So the bolt face has a section missing at the bottom. And, the magazine catch is further forward on the magazine than a standard 5.56 magazine. The result is that the bolt catch doesn't stop the bolt far back enough. When locked open, there is maybe 1" between the front face of the bolt and the throat of the barrel. This matters when you try to insert a full magazine... the magazine spring has no more give, but the bolt is too far forward even when caught open as described... so the magazine won't insert, unless you remove 1 round so the magazine spring can eat the pressure from the bolt being in the way. Since we're already using maximum capacity 14 round magazines from Black Dog, we're down to 13 rounds per magazine to operate this way. And, the last round hold open actually catches against the magazine itself, putting pressure on the magazine and making it "harder" to remove. The best / only way to load the magazine is with the bolt closed, not open. Even when open, the bolt won't catch the first round because its too far forward to cycle the first round off the magazine. You have to use the charging handle to manually cycle the first round into the chamber. Since you have to do that either way, you might as well start with the bolt closed. And either way, you have to load your mags light by 1 round to fit the magazine at all. The only other option would be to manually hold the charging handle all the way back, while inserting a full magazine, then letting go of the charging handle which will feed the first round. This makes operating this AR15 quite different than my range preference of starting with the bolt open and using the bolt catch paddle to cycle the first round. Additionally, I don't think I would trust my life to this firearm in a defensive situation with all the non-comformity around loading and charging to get to "ready". I really wish BCA would have made this clear anywhere on their website before my hard earned dollars left my bank account. The entire point of my building this rifle was to mimic the standard AR15 controls/platform but shooting with cheaper ammo and less recoil. Fourth, putting a 1/2 x 28 threaded can on the end was not as easy as it should be. The threads of the barrel are far too deep for most 22 cans to thread on and reach the barrel flush. So I had to find 1/2 x 28 thread pitch spacers. Put one of those on first. Now the can threads on snug against the spacer. In conclusion, this is a fun little range plinker ... once you pay the smith to fix the firing pin face, get your ammo selection right, adjust to the non standard bolt catch controls and magazine loads and don't mind shooting 13 rounds from an AR15 platform, and find additional random spare parts to put a can on. THEN, you know, ITS GREAT!
William McLaughlin
September 29, 2023
This 22 upper is a great deal price ways perfect small to medium game prairie dog- to large coyote out to 150 yards no problem. Only draw back I see is the consistent complaint of light strikes with the 22 mag and the 17 this is a design flaw that's even worse with the drop in 3 lb triggers. But is easy enough to fix . The. Average Diy guy can fix it . The firing pins set around 25-30 thousands more forward so the hammer hits the bolt release preventing a full hammer strike. Remove your upper restrain the hammer as you release it note were the top of the bolt release is on hammer face mark it on the hammer.tape the top of lower from hammer pin back to trigger pin .this is to prevent damage in the next part . Now cock the hammer an set the safety on. Safe take a good , diamond or any sharp file the will cut the hammer. File about 1/64 off the face of the hammer from the mark you made down. Try to cut it square and even. Once your there restrain the hammer pull trigger and let it down all the way make sure it's not hitting the bolt release if it is repete procedure only taking a little at a time until it clears the bolt release . Vacuum or blow filings out litely oil everything reassemble and test fire all your strikes will be nice and deep. If you're not handy with tools have your local gunsmith do it for you. You can always remove the hammer from the lower to do the alteration too.you just have to keep reinstalling it to check clearance.
JOHN GOMEZ
October 25, 2023
I love this .22 mag upper. Does anyone have any suppressor recommendations for this barrel?
Larry Johnson
November 5, 2023
Do you offer one of these 22 mag uppers with 10 inch barrel? Thanks Larry
Gary .22magnut
January 24, 2024
It would be nice to have a BCA pencil barrel in .22 mag.without a gas block journal, turned down to .625" HINT HINT. I think 22 inches would be ideal. What do you all think?
Gary .22magnut
January 24, 2024
Another Great Product Inovation by BCA!
Jerry Bassett
February 2, 2024
Thank you for the information,very interested in this platform, I hope the bugs have been worked of 22mag semi auto platform,if they run like the other BCA rifles I have this will be a home run. Thank you again .
Thomas Lonergan
February 16, 2024
I just received the .22 mag upper and the bolt is stuck in the rear/open position. Seems like its caught on the top of the hammer. Any thoughts?
Pappy348
February 21, 2024
I have something over 100 rounds through my 20” SS upper and I’m very impressed and happy with the accuracy and function. This thing is a steal at the price, as accurate as any .22 Mag I ever owned.
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