Rimfire Madness (Part 2): Comparing .22LR Hollow Point

On a previous episode of Rimfire Madness, I reviewed and compared several .22LR solid cartridges. I covered load quality, consistency, accuracy, and velocity in depth. As part of that review, I promised to follow up with a comparison of common .22LR hollow point cartridges. I’m a man of my word and, hopefully, satisfied your wants and desires with a slightly different analysis of hollow point cartridges. So, without further delay, here’s a performance review of select .22LR hollow point loadings.

.22LR Hollow Point – Brands and Loads

Not unlike target and plinking ammo, the options for .22LR hollow points are endless. While not a particularly powerful cartridge, the .22LR is a capable caliber on the range and in the field. For hunting and varmint eradication, .22LR is potent enough to work on small game up to and including raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, and other similar-sized animals. When hunting, the .22LR loading should be capable of a quick and humane kill. This requires the bullet to transfer as much energy as possible into the target (e.g. terminal ballistics). In this case, .22LR hollow point cartridges are perfect for the job.

.22LR hollow point ammo tested
A variety of .22LR hollow point cartridges were tested for consistency, accuracy, and terminal performance.

For this review, I compared six common .22LR hollow point cartridges from several reputable manufacturers. While dozens more rimfire hollow points are available, these cartridges were selected based on current popularity and availability. Winchester, Federal, CCI, and Remington are among those brands represented. All of these cartridges were, in one way or another, copper-jacketed loads. The only exception is Winchester Ballistic Silvertip .22LR, which is advertised as a plated segmented hollow point (more on that later).

Brands Tested
The tested cartridges spanned four commonly available brands including CCI, Winchester, Federal, and Remington.

Speaking of Winchester Silvertip, this cartridge’s advertised velocity of 1,060 fps (feet per second) is notably slower than the other .22LR hollow point loads tested. Winchester obtained their advertised velocity from a handgun barrel rather than a rifle barrel length (more commonly used for testing). With the exception of CCI Stinger’s blazing advertised velocity in the 1,600 fps range, the remaining cartridges were in the 1,200 fps range.

Rifle and Testing Parameters

In the previous iteration of testing, I focused on .22LR solid projectiles. In this section, the testing will focus on similar parameters while adding an additional caveat presented by .22LR hollow point ammunition. The rimfire hollow point parameters tested were:

  • Quality – appearance, frequency of failure to fire, quality control
  • Velocity – consistency of velocity (standard deviation) and velocity obtained versus advertised
  • Accuracy – 10 shot groupings obtained at 100 feet
  • Terminal Performance – three shots fired from a pistol into water to observe the expansion

As in the previous testing, the rifle chosen to evaluate this plethora of rimfire offerings was a Ruger 77/22 Target. This rifle has a 24-inch medium profile tapered target barrel and BSA Sweet 22 3-9x scope. Over the last few decades, that rifle has sniped its fair share of squirrels and other small to medium varmints and predators. In the past, it performed exceptionally well utilizing CCI Stinger ammunition.

Shooting rimfire into tub
While entertaining, I managed to choose one of this year’s colder days to splash bullets into water to test terminal performance.

In the terminal performance category, I used a Ruger 22/45 Lite pistol equipped with a Yankee Hill Machine Mite suppressor. I chose this particular pistol because its short barrel reduced velocities significantly compared to the rifle. Effectively, the lower velocities hindered .22LR hollow point expansion and demonstrated if the ammunition would provide reliable expansion at lower velocities, such as those fired from handguns. Why the suppressor? Well, why not? Let’s review the results from a day of shooting cardboard and water.

.22 LR Hollow Point Quality

The quality of .22LR is largely defined by the ammunition’s reliability. While I didn’t run into ignition issues (e.g. misfires) with any of the tested .22LR hollow points, there were issues with terminal performance, which I’ll discuss later. Accordingly, none of the tested ammunition failed to fire, nor were there any glaring issues with bullet or case construction. While discussed at length in the .22LR solids review, I’ll briefly revisit the need to inspect your ammunition before firing it. Bulk rimfire ammunition can have issues with ignition and overall consistency in production.

Quality is partly in the eye of the beholder — and that entails the firearm it’s used in. What shoots well in one firearm, may not perform well in another. If one lesson is taken from this testing, it’s to measure your ammunition’s performance in your firearm before using it for its intended purpose. In the case of hollow point ammunition, it’s probably some kind of varmint hunting. Accuracy and reliability are measured with little cost other than some ammo and time spent on the range.

.22LR Hollow Point Ammo Consistency

The six loadings tested were ran through a chronograph with 10 shots per type. The 10 shots evaluated how consistent each load’s velocities were, developed an average velocity across multiple shots and provided a standard deviation across the velocities. Standard deviation measures the cartridge’s load consistency. The greater the standard deviation, the more inconsistent the powder charge, primer ignition, or case quality of the cartridge. Ideally, no standard deviation is an impossible, but desirable, goal.

Most cartridges were acceptably within range of advertised velocities. Remington Golden Bullet and Winchester Silvertip provided the most erratic velocities with standard deviations approaching or exceeding 4% for those cartridges.

By using a longer barreled rifle (24 inches), I hoped to maximize each .22LR load’s velocity. Overall, the vast majority of the ammunition tested performed within an acceptable range of advertised velocities. These velocities decrease significantly when fired from shorter-barreled rifles and handguns. While most ammunition tested had advertised velocities in the 1,200 feet-per-second (fps) or more range, Winchester Ballistic Silvertip was advertised at 1,060 fps.

Overall, Remington Golden Bullet (-66 fps), Federal Champion (-26 fps), and CCI Stinger (-70 fps) underperformed from advertised velocities. Meanwhile, CCI Mini Mag (74 fps), Winchester Super X (36 fps), and Winchester Ballistic Silvertip (199 fps) overperformed. When tested, the Silvertip provided velocities in the range of 1,260 fps. This dramatic discrepancy is because Winchester’s advertised velocities were calibrated for a handgun with a 3.5” barrel.


While I’ve probably beat this disclaimer to death, I’ll touch on it again — your results may vary. Twist rate, barrel profile (e.g. thickness), chamber tolerances, and action type all affect a cartridge’s achieved accuracy. One gun may shoot a particular cartridge better than one assembled immediately after it. The same argument is made for ammunition since quality control and components vary from lot to lot.

Ammunition test with group sizes
10-shot groups fired from 100 feet for the tested cartridges. CCI Mini Mag came out as the top performer in this category by a wide margin, while Remington Golden Bullet performed as expected for inexpensive bulk rimfire ammunition.

I obtained 10-shot groups at 100 feet from a bipod and sandbag. The vast majority of groups hovered around the one-inch range, with Remington Golden Bullet providing comparatively abysmal accuracy (nearly two inches). The 36-grain copper-plated hollow point CCI Mini Mag set the standard with a 0.540-inch group at 100 feet. Out of the 13 different hollow point and solid cartridges tested in this series, CCI Mini Mag was the best performer for accuracy and made me re-think my long-ingrained belief that CCI Stinger was this rifle’s magic cartridge.

Despite faster velocities, CCI Stinger grouped lower on the designated target compared to its counterparts. Interestingly, CCI Mini Mag, cruising several hundred feet per second slower than the Stinger, also grouped low. Meanwhile, all of the other cartridges grouped around the bullseye. This difference is why it’s important to verify your rifle’s zero — especially when rimfire is involved.

Terminal Performance

Ballistics has three phases: interior, exterior, and terminal. Interior is what happens while the projectile is inside the barrel, exterior occurs between the muzzle and target, and terminal is what happens upon impact of the projectile on (and in) the intended target. The vast majority of this discussion has revolved around exterior (and somewhat interior) ballistics. While external ballistics are important, today’s focus is on terminal performance.

.22LR hollow point ammo with expended bullets
Fired projectiles from some of the tested .22LR hollow points. Clockwise from the lower left corner: CCI Stinger’s consistent mushroom, Winchester Super X’s mangled projectiles, CCI Mini Mag’s and their relatively consistent expansions, and Winchester Silvertip’s heavily fragmented segmenting hollow point.

The Winchester Ballistic Silvertip undoubtedly took the cake in the performance category. The segmenting hollow point was dramatic upon entry into the makeshift hydraulic testing tank (e.g. a large plastic tote. Sorry, I blew the budget with ammo). The hollow point’s pedals consistently fragmented into three portions with the base expanding as well. CCI Stinger was an excellent performer and consistently expanded into what my son colloquially refers to as the “forbidden mushroom.” Squirrels can confirm this from my experience.

Winchester Super X and CCI Mini Mag took a very close backseat with relatively reliable expansion. However, their performance was not quite as consistent as that observed with the Silvertip or Stinger loadings. In an interesting observation, Remington Golden Bullet and Federal Champion were cautious reminders that bulk .22LR hollow point, while inexpensive, isn’t guaranteed to perform. Federal Champion grossly underperformed out of the Ruger 22/45 with virtually no expansion. Remington Golden Bullets expanded — some — but exhibited nowhere near the consistency of the other loads tested.

Inconsistent expanded bullets
Some hollow points didn’t live up to expectations when fired from a pistol. Remington Golden Bullets (left) exhibited inconsistent expansion while Federal Champion hollow points (right) performed…underwhelmingly.

The Final Verdict on .22LR Hollow Points

Going into this testing, I had some preconceived notions about rimfire hollow point performance. CCI Stinger, while a tad pricier, has been my go-to rimfire varmint cartridge for over two decades. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an accurate cartridge and a consistent performer. Nevertheless, Winchester Silvertip is one I’ll need to test in the future the next time I grab a rimfire to handle a varmint problem or dispatch a few squirrels for some homemade dumplings (quite delicious).

Overall, CCI Mini Mag was the best performer for accuracy and terminal ballistics. The consistent expansion, reliable accuracy, and minimal variation in velocity gave it top marks in the rimfire hollow point category. This testing isn’t set in stone. After all, these cartridge’s performance may vary through different firearms. Nevertheless, this illustrates the importance of knowing how a particular cartridge will perform in a firearm for a given purpose. In this case, CCI Mini Mags were a pleasant surprise. In retrospect, I may have to change up my hunting loads. Ultimately, what hollow points will you settle on for your next varmint venture?

Tom Stilson began his firearms career in 2012 working a gun store counter. He progressed to conducting appraisals for fine and collectible firearms before working as the firearms compliance merchant for a major outdoor retailer. In 2015, he entered public service and began his law enforcement career. Tom has a range of experience working for big and small as well as urban and rural agencies. Among his qualifications, Tom is certified as a firearms instructor, field trainer, and in special weapons and tactics. If not on his backyard range, he spends his time with family or spreading his passion for firearms and law enforcement.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap