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Which .22 Rimfire Cartridge: 22 wmr vs 22lr?

According to the U.S. ammo industry, over five billion rounds of .22 rimfire were manufactured last year. Most of those were .22LR (Long Rifle). Even with that amount of production, at this writing, there is little .22 rimfire available on the dealer's shelves, and when you can find it, the price has almost doubled.

22 wmr vs 22lr

The .22LR has been with us since about 1887 when the Savage Arms Company, working from the .22 Long, figured out that by lengthening the cartridge case and using a 40-grain bullet pushed by an improved powder, they could develop an excellent small game round that was more powerful than any .22 in its day.

Now, 134 years later, the .22LR is as in demand, if not more so, than ever. Most of us who are shooters started with a .22 rifle shooting .22LR.

In today's world, the cartridge is popular for blinkers, target shooters, small game and small varmint hunters, and for use in farm pest control.

The New Kid On The Block

22 WMR The New Kid On The Block

For 72 years, the .22LR had the small game/varmint market. Then, in 1959, Winchester introduced a new, more powerful .22 called the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR), more commonly known as the .22 Magnum.

Winchester developed the .22WMR to respond to small game and varmint hunters who requested a .22 rimfire round to accurately reach 100-plus yards and carry more downrange energy to the target.

They accomplished this by developing a thicker .22 case, which allows it to have higher pressures than the 22LR. The case was designed to be larger in diameter and length than the .22LR. The bullet diameter was designed to be .224 inches, whereas the .22LR is .223 inches.

The timing was just right, as it was just the beginning of the development of the new wave of .224-inch bullets designed for centerfire calibers. Several shots have been loaded in the .22WMR, adding hunting value. The .22WMR, when shot from a rifle, carries more downrange energy at 100 yards than the .22LR does at the muzzle.

Because of this the .22WMR caught on with small varmint hunters, and now is a good choice of handguns and rifles offered in the powerful little cartridge.

Since it costs more to make .22WMR cartridges, shooting needs to pay costs about twice the .22LR.

Difference Between .22LR or .22 WMR Ammo

Feature .22 LR .22 WMR
Parent case .22 Long .22 Winchester Rimfire
Bullet diameter .223 in (5.7 mm) .2285 in (5.804 mm)
Land diameter 212 in (5.4 mm) .219 in (5.6 mm)
Neck diameter .226 in (5.7 mm) .2435 in
Bullet weight 30-32 grains 30-50 grains
Max Pressure 24,000 psi 23,206 psi
Case length .613 in (15.6 mm) 1.055 in (26.8 mm)
Overall length 1.000 in (25.4 mm) 1.350 in (34.3 mm)
Price Affordable Moderate

The difference between .22LR (Long Rifle) and .22 WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire) ammo lies in their size, power, and intended use:

Caliber and Size

  • .22LR: The .22LR is a standard rimfire cartridge with a bullet diameter of .22 inches (5.5mm). It is one of the most common and widely used ammunition types worldwide. It is available in various configurations, including subsonic, high-velocity, and hyper-velocity.
  • .22 WMR: The .22 WMR, also known as .22 Magnum, is a more powerful rimfire cartridge with a bullet diameter of .22 inches (5.5mm). However, it is longer and slightly larger than the .22LR cartridge. The increased size allows for a larger powder charge and delivers more energy to the projectile.

Power and Velocity

  • .22LR: The .22LR is a relatively low-powered cartridge, typically used for plinking, target shooting, and small game hunting at close ranges. It has a lower velocity compared to .22 WMR.
  • .22 WMR: The .22 WMR is more powerful than the .22LR and has a higher muzzle velocity and energy. This increased power makes it suitable for small game hunting at longer distances and provides more stopping power.

Intended Use

  • .22LR: Due to its lower power, .22LR ammunition is commonly used for recreational shooting, target practice, and training purposes. It is also used for pest control and hunting small game, like rabbits and squirrels, at close ranges.
  • .22 WMR: The .22 WMR is more appropriate for hunting small to medium-sized game at longer distances. It is often used for varmint hunting (such as coyotes and foxes) and performs better against tougher targets.

Availability and Cost

  • .22LR: .22LR ammunition is widely available and more affordable than other ammunition types, making it a popular choice for many shooters.
  • .22 WMR: .22 WMR ammunition is less common and might be more expensive than .22LR due to its increased power and specialized use.

22LR Ammo

22LR Ammo Check Price

22 WMR Ammo

22 WMR Ammo Check Price

The main differences between .22LR and .22 WMR ammunition are their size, power, and intended applications.

.22LR is a popular and versatile choice for recreational shooting and small game hunting at close ranges.22 WMR offers more power and range, making it suitable for varmint and small game hunting at longer distances.

Which .22 Rimfire Is Right For Me?

.22 Rimfire Is Right For Me

Choosing a small game/varmint hunting caliber often becomes confusing regarding .22 rimfires.

There is the .22 LR and the .22WMR. They are both rimfire cartridges, but each has advantages and disadvantages the small game/varmint hunter needs to consider.

22 LR Ammo Pros & Cons

22lr Ammo has many pros & cons that helps a shooter to make a choice for hunting & shooting. To know the details about why 22lr ammo is considered a good choice for new shooters, check here.

Advantages

  • Image The .22 LR advantages are that it is less expensive to shoot — about half the cost of the .22 WMR.
  • Image Ammo for the .22LR is usually found anywhere ammo is sold.
  • Image A wider selection of rifles is in .22LR, especially in semi-auto models. Due to it being a much lower muzzle-velocity round — depending on the load selected, usually between 1,150 fps and 1,650 fps — there is less downrange energy.
  • Image The .22LR damages less meat on small game.
  • Image The .22LR is generally considered the best choice for squirrels, grouse, and rabbits taken for the cooking pot.
  • Image Also, the report is quieter than the 22 WMR.

Disadvantages

  • Image 22 LR has a limited effective range, especially for hunting purposes. It is best suited for short to medium distances.
  • Image Due to its relatively low velocity, .22 LR ammunition is more susceptible to wind drift, affecting accuracy at longer distances.
  • Image Semi-automatic firearms chambered in .22 LR may experience occasional cycling issues, especially with lower-quality ammunition.

.22 WMR Pros & Cons

Advantages

  • Image It is a good option for small varmints such as woodchucks, beavers, crows, foxes, armadillos, prairie dogs, etc. The much faster round—muzzle velocity range, usually from 1,910 fps to 2,250 fps — reaches out further with more downrange energy than the .22 LR.
  • Image Most consider the .22LR a 50-yard small game round, while hunters use the .22WMR up to 75 yards in pistols and 100-plus yards in rifles.
  • Image The cartridge's higher velocity contributes to better accuracy and less bullet drop, making it easier to hit targets at longer ranges.
  • Image .22 WMR bullets are generally larger and heavier than .22 LR bullets, offering better terminal ballistics and penetration.
  • Image .22 WMR firearms are generally simple, lightweight, and easy to maintain.
  • Image Also, the .22 WMR is available in more advanced bullets, such as the AccuTip-V and V-Max, that can increase downrange accuracy and explosive on-target expansion for small varmints and pests.

Disadvantages

  • Image Compared to .22 LR, .22 WMR ammunition is more expensive, which can limit the frequency of shooting and practice sessions.
  • Image 22 WMR ammunition generates more noise and muzzle blast than .22 LR, which can be considered when shooting without hearing protection.
  • Image While more powerful than .22 LR, .22 WMR is still not considered an optimal choice for self-defense due to its relatively small size and limited stopping power compared to centerfire defensive rounds.

Questions Often Asked

New shooters often ask if the .22LR cartridge can be shot in a .22WMR firearm. The answer is no.

The .22LR cartridge will fit into the .22 WMR chamber, but due to the difference in size, the fit is loose and, if fired, can damage the firearm or injure the shooter.

Never have .22LR ammo around a .22WMR to avoid a dangerous mix-up. A similar question is, can a .22 WMR cartridge be loaded and shot from a .22LR firearm? No, the .22WMR case is wider and will not fit into the smaller chamber of a .22LR.

Often, when the .22WMR is discussed, the question arises as to whether it could be considered a self- or home-defense caliber.

Most self-defense instructors consider the .22WMR on the lowest end as a caliber for self-defense. It beats a knife or stick but could be more efficient than the larger centerfire calibers designed to stop a deadly threat.

It is worth noting that one of America's most experienced gunfighters, the late and great Bill Jordan of the U.S. Border Patrol fame, wrote that the .22WMR "will not only outreach a switchblade but will pack plenty of close-range authority into an easily carried and concealed package."

With that said, We still consider the .22WMR a hunting caliber and leave self/home defense to larger calibers and gauges.

Final Verdict

There is a place for hunting for each of these .22 rimfires. When making a choice, consider the above points and choose the .22 that best fits your needs and budget. The .22LR is a good option for hunting small game to eat, plinking with the grandchildren, target shooting, and the lower ammo cost and shot report.

On the other hand, for farm pest control work, hunting mid-size varmints up to 100 yards with a scoped rifle, and packing as a trail gun, we prefer the .22WMR.

Author:
Lisa Earnest

Lisa Earnest

Aug, 08, 2023

Lisa Earnest has been a part of the Bulk Cheap Ammo team since 2018 and serves as the editor of Bulk Cheap Ammo content.

With a flair for language and an unwavering dedication to shooting sports, Lisa's diverse expertise combines to create an unforgettable experience for our audience.

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