I recently received a welcome note, explaining the rifle I used in this article is still out there, and doing yeoman's work in teaching young people to shoot. It's a lowly .22 Marlin I had for many years, and had 'modified' somewhat searching for better accuracy. Sold to a friend some time back, it since changed hands again, and is now ensconced on a military base someplace helping to relieve the boredom and gather skills in a pack of youngens.
I have since discovered one make and model of .22 rimfire ammo that every single .22 I own shoots well, and some shoot astoundingly well. Given the current rimfire ammo drought, I'll save that for another day, as nobody likes salt rubbed in a wound. That pleases me quite a bit. Article redux from 2008:
I've been building up to this range test for a few weeks now. Tweaking the rifle and gathering rimfire ammunition to squander.
had two goals, besides the obvious one of spending a day trying to wear
out the Marlins barrel. I wanted a look at the velocity numbers of
various makes of .22 ammo, and I wanted to pin down what the Marlin
As a side bar, I was very curious if velocity
consistency is a key to rim fire accuracy, as it is in a center fire.
With my heavy barrel varmint rifle I look for less than 20 fps variation
shot to shot. This tells me I have a load with consistent internal
ballistics. I expect the same from any match ammunition I load,
including pistol rounds.
My plan for the days testing was to fire
a twenty round string of each cartridge. All from the same rifle, same
targets, same bench, same shooter, etc. Fired into four groups of five
rounds each, this should provide a rough but fair result in the search
for the most accurate (as far as this Marlin is concerned, anyway).
every round over my chronograph and recording the data, I would then
have a decent record of each brands average velocity and it's
variations. I wasn't sure what the data would show, but it would be
interesting to see the results and chart them. The
shooting day started at 9am for me, and abruptly came to a temporary
stop at 9:05. A nest of yellow jackets had adopted the fifty yard back
stop I chose, and my initial setup target was their new God.
had planned to attach a dozen targets to a sheet of cardboard, cutting
out some down time spent hanging paper. The Cardboard had a target on
it I use to set up and align the chrono. For some reason the little
wasps thought this target was the most fascinating thing ever seen, and
swarmed it. Hovering by the hundreds in front of it, worshiping like
Obamaites at the convention.
Four partial cans of wasp spray only
thinned them out a little, so I came to an agreement with the little
buggers. I left them the target they loved so much, and I hung mine a
few feet over to the right. The separation agreement worked well for
all concerned. I proceeded to fire a dozen foulers, and set up the
alignment of the chronograph. The rest of the day I co-existed with the
yellow jackets in a strange form of shooty peace. Each time I looked
through the spotting scope, I could see mounds of little wasps crawling
over the large target. The smaller targets I was shooting for record
they completely ignored. Each
target was numbered, for a total of sixteen targets. The numbers
matched those at the top of data sheets I had preprinted and arranged in
a binder. Each page was used to record the make and model of the
cartridge, along with all the velocity data collected. The speed of
each round fired was noted, along with average velocity, highs and lows,
extreme spread, standard deviation, and average deviation for the
Accuracy was measured hours after the shoot, looking only
at the numbered targets in the binder. Groups were checked and
averaged without knowing what cartridge was mated to which target. The
target data was then transferred to the cartridge data sheets for
comparison. This round-about method helped me leave my own ammunition
prejudices aside as I looked for results. In
this first chart (click to enlarge for easier reading), I have listed
each type tested, it's average velocity, extreme velocity spread, and
average group size.
At first blush, the results would seem pretty
confusing. The ammunition with the best accuracy did not always have
the least velocity variations. The question remains in my mind... how
much of the data is flawed simply because I needed to concentrate
more....to shoot better?
Anecdotal evidence suggests this may be a
significant factor. Many of the targets showed four shots touching,
then a flier an inch away. The velocity numbers don't always explain
Some targets were clear, with large groups dispersed
evenly around the bullseye. Others showed excellent promise for tight
groups, till a blasted flier opened it up. Fliers are always a
question..... was it the ammunition or the shooter? The
data showed that wide velocity variations were not solely the realm of
cheap ammunition. While Federal bulk pack had a huge spread, so did
some very expensive RWS subsonic.In
addition, accuracy seemed to be dependent on velocity numbers to only a
small degree. Far more important were bullet weight and style. The
ammunition loaded with lighter bullets of a more conical shape shot the
worst from this Marlin 780. CCI Quik-Shok stood out from the crowd in
that manner, with very high velocity bullets fired into groups so large their was no reason to measure them. The Marlin clearly despised the Quik-Shok round.
impressive, velocity and accuracy wise, were the relatively expensive
match rounds. Both the Eley and the Fiocchi shot a few astounding groups
and both had the lowest velocity variations of the pack. Where the
Federal bulk pack made consistently large groups, the Eley would land
four rounds in one wide hole, then another hole half an inch off the
groups center. On the other hand, at $70 a brick (500 rounds), I won't be rushing out to buy a case of Eley anytime soon.
the range of reasonably priced ammunition, both the PMC Sidewinders and
the Federal Champion 510 ammunition built promising groups without wild
velocity variations, although 80+ fps is still a pretty wide spread.
CCI Subsonic hollow points did the same.
What did I learn, after
firing sixteen different rounds with serious intent? Clearly I can go
buy a few bricks of Federal Champion and have a reasonable expectation
it will perform decently in this Marlin. CCI Subsonics will make an
excellent small game round for the rifle as well. Past that..... The
Match ammunition? For what it costs, I think I'll pass. I'm not doing
any shooting with this rifle that demands that kind of potential,
especially at the price. 0.75" - 0.80" groups at fifty yards make this
a fine squirrel rifle, and at $2.80 a box for the Federal I can shoot
as much as I like. I had
planned to test half a dozen types of .22 short as well, but their
accuracy was so poor from the Marlin that it became pointless. CCI CB
Long was also tested, but its such a different animal that it doesn't
belong in this mix at all. One fact I did come away
with... every rifle is very different. Replacing the Marlin 780 on the
bench with my new CZ452, it was a different ball game. The Eley that
had 40 fps variations in the Marlin had only a 13 fps spread in the CZ.
The Federal bulk that had so-so accuracy in the Marlin grouped
exceptionally well in the CZ. The longer barrel on the CZ resulted in lower velocities as well. I would have enjoyed being able to announce "This .22 Ammunition is the best! Your rifle will love it and you will be pleased!".
But.... I can't do that. Each rifle is different, especially in rim
fire. The only conclusions I can draw are the obvious ones..... each
shooter will have to run these tests (at least the accuracy portion) for them self, with each different rim fire rifle they are interested in. On the other hand.... that just means a lot of shooting. How bad can that be?