These are the rimfires that remain with us in the 21st Century
Over the years there have been quite a few rimfire cartridges in calibers as small as .17 to larger than .50. However, by the early 1900s most of the rimfire cartridges were obsolete and about all that remained were .22-caliber rimfires. Since then, we have seen the introduction of several new rimfires, and today there are only really six rimfire cartridges that are commonly used, with one that’s barely hanging on. Here’s a look at the rimfire cartridges of the 21st century.
Though not nearly as popular as it once was, the 22 Short is America’s oldest self-contained metallic cartridge. It’s been around for 165 years. Aguila, CCI, Remington, and Winchester all offer .22 Short ammo, but combined there are less than 10 loads to choose from. The cartridge will push a 29-grain bullet to about 1000 fps and can be fired in most .22 Long Rifle single shot rifles or revolvers. Though it will work for small game at short ranges, it is best used for plinking.
.22 Long Rifle (LR)
Probably the most popular cartridge in the world, the .22 LR has been with us since 1887 and was originally loaded with black powder. It’s used for plinking, competition, and hunting, and today there are hundreds of supersonic and even subsonic .22 LR loads to choose from, with bullets weighing as little as 25 grains to as much as 60 grains. A standard 40-grain bullet load will have a muzzle velocity of about 1200 fps. But high velocity loads like the CCI Stinger, which has a slightly longer case but is compatible with most .22 LR firearms, will push a 32-grain hollow point as fast as 1640 fps.
.22 Winchester Magnum (WMR)
This high performance rimfire cartridge became available in 1960 and has remained popular ever since. Standard 40-grain loads have a velocity of about 1900 fps. With the introduction of the .17 HMR in 2002, the popularity of the .22 WMR waned. Ammunition manufacturers countered this drop in popularity with new .22 WMR loads and today there are a wide selection with everything from polymer tipped 30-grain loads at 2250 fps, to 50-grain JHP bullets at about 1550 fps. The .22 WMR is the most versatile of all the modern rimfire cartridges, and while it is not compatible with the shorter .22 LR cartridge, some .22 WMR revolvers come with .22 LR cylinders.
.17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR)
Introduced in 2002 the .17 HMR took the rimfire world by a storm. Pushing a poly-tipped 17-grain bullet to 2530 fps it was lightning fast, shot incredibly flat, and was very accurate. Soon, heavier bullets became available, and the cartridge became a favorite for prairie dogs, woodchucks, fox, and even coyotes. It remains very popular and is the second fastest rimfire cartridge currently offered. All told, there are about 20 loads to choose from.
.17 Hornady Mach 2 (HM2)
Attempting to capitalize on the immense popularity of the 17 HMR, in 2004 Hornady introduced the .17 Mach 2. Unlike the .17 HMR, which was based on the .22 Magnum case, the .17 Mach 2 was based on the CCI .22 LR Stinger case, which is just slightly longer than a .22 LR case. Initially the .17 Mach 2 took off because of its ability to launch a 17-gain bullet at about 2100 fps. However, its popularity did not last. Today there are only a handful of loads available for it.
.17 Winchester Super Magnum
Winchester introduced this cartridge in 2012. It is unusual in that it was not based on any current rimfire cartridge; it was crafted from a .27-caliber nail gun blank. A 20-grain bullet from this cartridge has a muzzle velocity of about 3000 fps, making it the fastest rimfire cartridge in existence. It is a bit much for use on edible small game, but it is fantastic for predator hunting. With a cost of as little as $0.40 per shot, it is much more affordable to shoot than a comparable centerfire option. Still, it is not as popular as the .22 LR, .22 WMR, or the .17 HMR.
5mm Remington Magnum
This cartridge was introduced in 1970 for the Remington 591 and 592 bolt-action rifles. It fires a 30-grain 0.204-caliber bullet at about 2200 fps. The cartridge became moderately popular for small game and varmint hunting but was never loaded by a manufacture other than Remington. By the turn of the century no rifles were being made for this cartridge and it faded away under the shadow of the .22 Winchester Magnum. Fortunately, if you have one of these rifles, Aguila does now offer 5mm Remington Magnum ammunition.