Ammo Test: Hornady 22 Magnum 30 Grain V-Max

The 22 Long Rifle cartridge is perhaps the most popular cartridge out there. It is cheap, available, and boasts light recoil, yet it still has enough power to do the jobs it was intended for. Its primary purpose is hunting smaller game when paired with a rifle. As a personal defense round, the 22 LR is a controversial pick. But over the last 10 years or so, its larger cousin, the 22 Winchester Magnum cartridge, has gotten a pass.

Three rounds of 22 Magnum next to a NAA Mini revolver.

The 22 Magnum was initially introduced in 1959 as a more powerful option to the 22 LR for small game hunting. That power premium has translated to small, short-barreled revolvers and manufacturers such as Speer and Hornady have released premium defensive hollow-points for the Magnum. But most 22 Magnum ammunition is intended to be fired from longer rifle barrels. When fired from a short barrel, these loads are robbed of needed velocity. The question inevitably comes up: Are you getting enough velocity using these loads in order to achieve good performance on target?

In my own testing, all standard 40-grain loads give adequate penetration, but no expansion. But what about the lighter 30-grain loads that are available for the 22 Mag? To that end, I decided to test the Hornady 30-grain V-Max varmint load to see how it would perform in the context of personal protection.

22 magnum hornady v-max ammo
Most 22 rimfire loads use round-nosed bullets. The Hornady V-Max has a distinctive sharp red point for greater aerodynamics at range. Not that it matters much when it comes to pocket pistols.

The 22 Mag. Hornady V-Max

Most 22 Magnum rounds use a 40-grain round-nosed solid or hollow-point bullet. But there are a few 30-grain loads out there. These lighter-grained bullets promise higher velocity, a flatter trajectory, and a more explosive impact on target. These loads excel at killing smaller varmint animals at distance.

Most, like the CCI 30 grain +V come with a round-nosed hollow-point projectile. The Hornady V-Max load uses a jacketed ballistic tip projectile. The V-Max has a red polymer tip that makes the round more aerodynamic and acts as a wedge against the lead core when it hits a game animal.

Velocity Test

The Hornady V-Max has an advertised muzzle velocity of 2200 feet per second, whereas most 40-grain loads run at about 1850 feet per second. However, these numbers are arrived at through rifle-length test barrels. As it turned out, the Hornady load was close to advertised. I fired five rounds over my Caldwell Chronograph from a distance of 10 feet. Out of my Henry Frontier Carbine’s 16-inch barrel, the Hornady V-Max achieved an average velocity of 2241 feet per second. I next loaded and fired five rounds from my North American Arms Mini Revolver with a 1 5/8 inch barrel. My average velocity was only 1172 feet per second for about 92 foot-pounds of energy.

The Hornady V-Max loses nearly half of its velocity when fired from a typical pocket-sized handgun chambered in 22 Magnum. But it still has more power than a comparable light-for-caliber 22 Long Rifle load out of the same barrel. The CCI Stinger 32-grain hollow-point needed a 3¾-inch barrel in order to get a comparable average velocity of 1196 feet per second. Going for the Magnum round is worth it in short-barreled handguns.

22 mag hornady v-max ammo gel test
Although the NAA Mini revolver gives us the least amount of ballistic potential, the Hornady 22 Magnum V-Max still penetrates admirably.

Ballistic Test

To test the effectiveness of the Hornady V-Max load, I next set up a pair of Clear Ballistics 10% ordinance gelatin blocks fronted by four layers of denim. The denim is meant to represent multiple layers of clothing, or alternatively, having to shoot through an arm to reach the intended part of the target. The gelatin represents muscle tissue.

At a distance of 10 feet, I fired four rounds using my NAA Mini revolver into the blocks. The first round punched through the denim barrier and tumbled violently after the 4-inch mark. The round veered downward, exiting the first block at the eight inches and skirting under the second block. That round stopped at 17 inches.

hornady 22 magnum v-max gel test
A closer look at the V-Max’s wound tracts. The rounds are traveling so slowly that they did not open up. What we get in exchange is excellent tumbling damage and adequate penetration.

My three remaining rounds also tumbled, leaving ¾ inch stretch cavities between the 2-6 inch mark. All of these projectiles landed base first. One stopped at 10¾ inches. The other two stopped at 13 inches. After some quick differential calculus, that came out to an average depth of just over 12 inches. There was no expansion of the projectiles.

The Bottom Line

There are a few pitfalls to using smaller calibers for personal defense. But perhaps the most underrated aspect is ammunition selection. Rounds like the 22 LR, 25 ACP, and 32 ACP give mixed results in the same medium used here. Some ammunition penetrates better than others. Others have great expansion properties, but little penetration. Some have both. With the 22 Magnum, there is less guesswork. Traditional rifle loads, even when hobbled by a short barrel, give penetration that is as good or better than the best loads available in those other calibers. As it seems with the Hornady 30-grain V-Max, even lighter varmint loads are rounds that can be contended with.

Terril is an economic historian with a penchant for all things firearm related. Originally a pot hunter hailing from south Louisiana, he currently covers firearms and reloading topics in print and on his All Outdoors YouTube page. When he isn't delving into rimfire ballistics, pocket pistols, and colonial arms, Terril can be found perfecting his fire-starting techniques, photographing wildlife, and getting lost in the archives.

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