Lever-action, single-shot, bolt action, semi-automatic and pump. All of these describe styles of the ever-popular .22-caliber rifle.

When we picture a .22 in our mind one of these traditional guns is sure to appear. However, a new style is emerging as a great sporting tool.

Lately .22 rifles are being built on tactical rifle frames. These guns may look a lot different, but when it comes to putting a round in a squirrel’s ear, they all work the same.

So with squirrel season in full swing in Missouri, what better time to take a look at America’s favorite rifle caliber.

Literally billions of rounds of .22-caliber rim-fire ammunition are fired each year. Most of it is shot while plinking and hunting squirrels and rabbits. Small varmints, like groundhogs, are also heavily hunted with rim-fire guns.

Today almost all of the rim-fire ammo used is of .22-caliber with but a few limited exceptions. However, this was not always the case.

One of the most sought-after “Yankee” guns of the Civil War was a Spencer carbine. Its very large magazine capacity and the fixed cartridge it used made it a very desirable weapon.

The cartridge used in the Spencer was a rim-fire cartridge of about .52-caliber. There were also many rim-fire handguns in this era. Thirty-caliber, .38-caliber handguns along with the .44-caliber Henry rifle were all rim-fire guns.

The rim-fire ammo being used today is primarily as follows: .22-Short, .22-Long, .22-Long Rifle and .22-Winchester Magnum. There are a number of variations which include standard velocity, high velocity, solid bullets and hollow-point bullets. One or more of these variations can be found in a single cartridge: for example, a .22-Long Rifle, high velocity, hollow point.

The 5mm-Remington Magnum never really caught on, and it is probably not unfair to say that, even though it is a relatively recent introduction, it is already a dying cartridge. The other, more popular rim-fires will for sure be with us for as long as we have the right to bear arms.

The lifespan of the various .22-caliber rim-fires is assured by their comparatively low cost, very low noise level, good accuracy and sufficient energy to take small varmint and small game at ranges to 50 yards. Under certain circumstances the ranges can be stretched to 75 or 100 yards.

But the use of any rim-fire cartridges at ranges beyond 100 yards falls into the stunt category and will result in the loss of a lot of crippled game.

Of course, the ability to practice almost anywhere with a .22 is reason enough to ensure its longevity for another century. In these areas, there are several special oddities of .22 rim-fire ammo — the .22CB-Short and the .22CB-Long.

These are nothing more than a .22-Short or Long loaded to a reduced velocity of about 675-fps (feet per second). These cartridges allow the use of the .22 on indoor ranges.

The low-velocity projectiles ensure that the noise level will be about on par with a high-velocity air gun and that relatively modest backstops will be adequate. These guns are a favorite of trappers because they cause very little, if any, pelt damage.

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