Rimfire Cartridges

The rimfire cartridge uses an ignition system where the priming compound is contained within the rim of the thin metal cartridge case. The firing pin strikes the rim which compresses the priming compound causing it to detonate and ignite the propellant. In the mid to late nineteenth century numerous rimfire cartridges were developed some in calibers of 0.50 inches or larger. Only 22 rimfire is in common use today.

Lore of Guns Home Page
Explore this site
Speer Plastic Bullets

Cheap to manufacture, many millions of "22's" are made every year throughout the World with 22 long rifle being the most popular rimfire cartridge by far.

In general rimfire cases are made of soft brass although some 22 long rifle ammunition manufactured in Russia used steel cases*.

Commonly rimfire cartridges are sold in boxes of 50 cartridges or bricks containing 10 boxes of 50 cartridges each. Today some 22 rimfire ammunition is also sold in plastic boxes of 50 or 100 rounds. Occasionally manufacturers will sell less expensive high velocity ammunition packaged loose in cans or boxes on a promotional basis.

Table of Dimensions for American Rimfire Cartridges

Name Bullet Weight   Bullet Dia.   Muz. Vel.   Case len   Base Dia. Rim Dia.  
(grains) Inches FPS (Rifle)   Inches Inches Inches
17 HM2 17 0.172 2100 0.714
17 HMR 17 0.172 2550 1.058
5 mm Rem Mag 38 0.205 2100 1.020 0.325
22 BB Cap 20 0.222 780 0.284 0.275
22 CB Cap 29 0.222 727 0.420 0.275
22 Short 29 0.222 1130 0.423 0.275
22 Long 29 0.222 1180 0.595 0.275
22 LR Standard vel 40 0.222 1155 0.595 0.275
22 LR High vel 40 0.222 1255 0.595 0.275
22 Ext Long 40 0.222 1050 0.750 0.275
22 Rem Auto 45 0.223 920 0.663 0.240 0.290
22 Win Auto 45 0.222 1055 0.665 0.250 0.310
22 WRF 45 0.224 1320 0.960 0.241 0.295
22 WMR 40 0.224 1900 1.052 0.241 0.291

Group I

Rimfire cartridges that have a cartridge case diameter of 0.223-0.226 .

.17 Hornady Mach 2 (.17 HM2)
Introduced by Hornady in 2004. Derived from 22 long rifle case
22 Bullet Breech Cap (22BB Cap)
Introduced in 1845, the 22 BB cap is the shortest and lowest powered 22 rimfire cartridge. It relies solely on the priming compound to propel the bullet. It is a very short range cartridge 25 yards or less.
22 Conical Bullet Cap (22 CB Cap)
Loaded with a small amount of powder, it is even less powerful than the 22 Short
22 Short
Introduced in 1854, the 22 Short Rimfire has the distinction of being the oldest self contained cartridge design still in continuous production. Originally it contained black powder but loads made today use smokeless powder. This was the cartridge most frequently used in carnival shooting galleries. While it does not enjoy the popularity that it once did, there a still a number of guns chambered for it. As well some people use it to target shoot indoors.
22 Long
Introduced in 1871, the 22 Long cartridge uses a case of the same length as the 22 Long Rifle and a 29 grain bullet of the same type as the 22 short. It is used mostly in vintage rifles specifically chambered for it. The 22 Long is still made but not commonly available. 22 Shorts can be used in rifles chambered for this cartridge but 22 Long Rifle cartridges must not be used in firearms chambered for 22 Longs, as these guns were not designed for the higher pressures generated by that cartridge.
22 Long Rifle
Introduced by the Stevens Arms Company in 1887, this is by far the most popular rimfire cartridge in the world. It is has been refined over the decades to be the most accurate rimfire cartridge ever developed. There are many loadings and many brands available using different bullet weights and designs. Most commonly 22 long rifle cartridges will be loaded with a 40 grain lead round nose bullet or sometimes a 36 grain lead hollow point bullet. The two basic categories of loads for this cartridge are Standard Velocity and High Velocity. 22 LR High Velocity cartridges are the least expensive rimfire loads and are the largest part of the market. Standard Velocity or Subsonic are generally used for competitive target shooting or by small game hunters who want to avoid the sharp crack of the supersonic high velocity bullet.
22 Long rifle hyper velocity load. - These cartridges use a light weight copper plated hollow point bullet to obtain speeds of around 1500 feet per second. Bullet weight is usually around 32 grains. Though they have a fairly flat trajectory up to 50 yards, they lose speed fairly fast.
22 Long Rifle Ammunition and Ballistic Tables
22 Extra Long
Introduced circa 1880 this cartridge was designed to hold approximately 6 grains of black powder although a smokeless powder loading was introduced later. Though no longer in production. 22 shorts, 22 Long and Standard Velocity 22 Long Rifle will function in firearms chambered for this round as long as they are in good condition. High Velocity 22 long rifle cartridges should not be used.

Group II

Cartridges Related to the 22 Winchester Magnum with a case diameter of 0.245 inches.

17 Hornady Magnum Rim fire (17HMR)
This is a 22 Winchester Magnum case necked down to 17 caliber. It is uses a special 17 grain polymer tipped bullet. In the short time that it has been in production, it has become surprisingly popular. Several companies now manufacture this cartridge and firearms chambered for it.
5mm Remington Magnum
This cartridge uses a 22 Winchester Magnum case that is necked down to 5 mm. It was very short lived and only the Remington 591 and 592 rifles were chambered for it.
Original ammunition for it has become a collectors item but new ammunition using a 30 grain bullet is being manufactured at least for now by Centurion Ordance Inc. In light of the success of the 17 HMR, it was probably a cartridge ahead of it's time.
22 Remington Autoloader
Only used for the Remington Model 16 semiauto rifle. Shortened version of the 22 Winchester Rimfire Case.
22 Winchester Rimfire (22WRF)
Except for a shorter case length it is dimensionally equal to the 22 WMR. The cartridges are now collectors items. It will work in firearms chambered for 22 Winchester magnum but it does not have enough power to cycle 22WMR Autoloaders .
22 Winchester Magnum (22WMR)
The muzzle velocity of this cartridge exceeds 1400 feet per second which means that to avoid excessive leading, jacketed bullets must be used This makes this round much more expensive than 22 long rifle ammunition. It was introduced in 1959.

Group III - Orphan Rimfires

20 Wingo
One of the more unusual rimfire cartridges that have been developed over the years is the 20 cal Wingo. Rather than having a conventional swaged lead bullet, this cartridge is a small shot shell designed to be used in a specially designed single shot shotgun. It was developed by Winchester for indoor skeet shooting in the 1970's. Used in only one location in San Diego, CA. It didn't really catch on and the cartridges and related accessories have become collectors items. Aka 5mm Wingo The action of the gun somewhat resembled that of the Martini Henry and was made by Webley in Britain.
22 Winchester Auto
Used only in the Model 1903 Rifle. Currently out of production.
9 mm Rimfire
The 9 millimeter Rimfire shotshell was used in European "Garden Gun"s and the Winchester Model 36 bolt action shotgun. This cartridge is no longer produced in the U.S. The model 36 had a fairly brief production run, it was only made from 1920 to 1927 (Wahl 470).

* With the few lots of steel cased rimfire cartridges that I have tried, I have had frequent misfires and the accuracy of this ammunition was barely acceptable. I also suspect that steel cased rimfire ammunition is rather hard on firing pins.

Wahl, Paul "Gun Trader's Guide No. 13"   Stoeger Publishing Company 1987 p.470

James, Rodney   "Gun Digest Book of the .22 Rifle"   Gun Digest Books 2009 p. 26