A lot of hunters don’t realize that the terminal performance of .22 Magnum ammunition varies greatly from load to load. Maybe even more so than ammunition for most big game cartridges. The key to employing the .22 Magnum successfully is selecting ammunition best suited to the game you’re hunting. With differently constructed bullets weighing between 28 and 40 grains, and velocities varying as much as 15%, your choice is critical.
Avoid violently expanding, high velocity bullets for edible game, they destroy too much meat. These bullets are a better choice for prairie dogs, crows and such. These loads will also work on groundhogs but stick to headshots. CCI’s Explosive 30 grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of more than 2300 fps is a perfect example of a violently expanding .22 Magnum load.
The slower and heavier 40 grain bullets work best on edible and larger game. Winchester’s fast but moderately expanding, 28 grain, JTHP Green load is an exception. It’s also an only choice for areas where lead bullets are not an option. All of these loads will penetrate at least 12 inches in 10% ordnance gelatin and won’t destroy a lot of meat.
If you’re looking for an all-round, multi-purpose load consider the 30 to 34 grain offerings with a muzzle velocity of about 2000 fps. A good for almost anything .22 Magnum load is Remington’s 33 grain AccuTip. It will penetrate between eight and 10 inches of gelatin and still deliver an adequate amount of tissue destruction. Hornady’s 30 grain V-Max offers similar performance.
The key is to remember that all .22 Magnum loads are not created equal. You should also realize that different loads will very likely not shoot to the same point of impact nor will they have the same trajectory at extended ranges. If you switch .22 Magnum loads because the game changes, take the time to re-zero your sights and confirm bullet drop at longer ranges.
The .22 Magnum is one of the most useful hunting cartridges available. It can be used with success on game as small as tree squirrels and as large as coyotes. If you choose wisely you’ll have a smile on your face because there’ll be meat in the pot and maybe a pelt on the wall.
Large critters like coyote can be taken with the .22 Magnum but choose your ammo wisely. High velocity loads like the Hornady 30 grain V-Max will show minimal penetration up close but will drive deeper at longer ranges.