a 22 rifle being fired in the prone position

How Far Can A 22 Bullet Travel?

It’s considered a weakling of the ammunition calibers, but despite this it has many active users throughout the US. It comes in a few different forms but is still lethal.

For many, it’s simple backyard practice or a good beginner caliber but fired from a riffle the round will travel way beyond a placed target.

So an important question to ask me be, exactly how far can a 22 bullet travel?

A 22 short round fired from a pistol will travel around 200 yards (170m) at sea level when aimed flat. A 22LR cartridge in a rifle will be accurate to 300m so can be zeroed to that distance. The round though is capable of going much further but a great deal of bullet drop needs to be accounted for. A magnum 22 round can extend the range by around 10 to 20%.

The range can be extended by firing at an angle into the air but the above distances reflect how you would use a firearm practically.

A great deal of articles concentrate on the maximum range, but that can be achieved by accepting totally abnormal shooting conditions, like aiming the rifle into the sky.

a standing 22lr round nose ammunition

The distances we are going to talk about in this article are reflective of how people actually shoot.

Now, there are many different 22lr rounds available, with differing power and bullet trajectories, so it’s not a completely simple question to answer.

The 22 bullet is the same diameter as the 5.6 and 223 rounds.

What Is A 22 Bullet Or Round?

In its most basic form, anyone who refers to a 22 bullet is referring to the caliber of the round.

The suffixes after the cartridge refer to the length of the cartridge.

Typically there are four different styles of cartridge you may come across.

  • 22 short
  • 22 long
  • 22 lr (long rifle)
  • 22 wmr

The 22 short rounds are designed for 22 pistols, so the cartridge will fit in the magazines.

As you progress through 22 long, and 22 long rifle they are designed for 22 rifles rather than small handguns. 

The 22 wmr stands for 22 Winchester magnum rimfire.

It stands to reason that a longer cartridge contains more propellant so that the round travels faster, and thus father.

a selection of 22 lr rounds

Factors That Affect Range Of 22 Rounds

By factors that affect range, I am talking about things that are directly under your influence. Of course wind and built up areas effect the likely traveling distance of any round, but what we are talking about here are the things that you can do, assuming equivalents conditions and an open range.

For the perspective of this article, let’s assume gravity, temperature, air density and a whole list of other external factors are equivalent.

Arc range – Normally you fire a rifle, or pistol, certainly when aiming or zeroing in a flat style. By that I mean your weapon is pretty roughly horizontal to the ground layout.

A rifle on a range may be 1m off the ground on flat ground so the bullet only has 1m to drop before it hits the ground and ends its travels.

If the distance it fires normally is 400m before the kick up of dust then firing into the air at an angle means the bullet will travel furth, just as a result of simple ballistics.

Bullet style – Some rounds are designed to be more aerodynamically sleek. This cuts down on the air resistance so the bullets don’t slow down as much.

Additionally, the grain of the bullet (weight) will affect range.

Cartridge power – The cartridge power, whether magnum or just a larger amount of propellant will force the bullet out faster, and increase the muzzle velocity.

High powered cartridges vastly increase the range the bullet will travel.

Barrel length – A longer barrel length, even with the same cartridge will produce a greater range for a bullet. When the propellant fires the bullet, the longer barrel gives the expansion of force behind the bullet a greater amount of time before dissipating. Once a bullet leaves a  weapon he explosive kick is no longer there and immediately begins its journey towards deceleration.

To put it simply, a 22 pistol fired flat with 22 short ammunition, will not put the bullet downrange as far as a rifle firing 22 wmr aimed into the sky at a 45-degree arc.

3 standing 22lr cartridges

How Far Does A 22 Pistol Bullet Travel?

Almost all the 22 pistols will be designed for the 22 short round, but many will take the 22LR round as well.

So the actual question should be, how far does a 22 short or 22LR style ammunition travel?

With a pistol and short barrel loaded with 22 short, the bullet will probably travel around 150 to 200m before hitting the ground.

However, if you put a high velocity cartridge in their of the 22LR style then significant increases from even a handgun can be achieved. 

According to a study from the physics factbook, the extended range for a pistol shooting 22 LR ammunition producing a muzzle velocity of 1255 m/s with a 40 grain round can give a range of 2000 yards (1800m).

That’s quite a jump. I suspect that is with a changed firing arc. No firm proof of this but I’d say 500 would be a maximum for a 22 pistol shot.

All this is to say that that the bullet will travel quite a bit past where you are aiming. The accurate range for a pistol shot is less than 50m so we are talking about serious distance anomaly.

The bullet can be more powerful than you are accurate.

How Far Does A 22LR Rifle Bullet Travel?

When you combine a slightly more powerful cartridge with the extended rifle barrel to aid muzzle velocity you will see the effect of a longer range.

If you look at a typical 22LR ballistics chart like the one below, you can get an idea os how accurate the 22LR is in a rifle and pretty much gauge the distance that the bullet may travel.

Additionally, this fits with the data I pulled from this bar graph.

a bar chart about 22 ranges

What it shows is that is you had a power cartridge in the 22LR caliber you have mostly flat trajectories till about 125 yards (115m) or so, when the round drops a few inches. At 250 yards (230m) the round has dropped a meter.

Thus if your rifle is 1m above a flat plane then the bullet will impact the ground at around the 250 yards (230m) mark.

If you account for the 1m bullet drop with the scope the round would probably travel around 450 yards (365m) before seeing dirt.

So the truth is a 22LR bullet is probably accurate in the 100 to 150m range, will travel 350m with 100m zero on the scope with flat ground and accounting for 1m bullet drop, but could be rudimentary aimed, with massive bullet drop out to 1200m.

At that range, though, it’d probably be like a bee sting if it hit you.

I mean, look at the bullet drop you have to account for to get a 500m shot out of a 22LR cartridge

a 22 lr ballistics chart

So yes, a 22LR bullet will travel out to 500m (half a kilometer) as long as your zero your sight to account for a 6m bullet drop.

Not exactly how most people shoot. Well, at least I hope not.

How Far Can A 22 Rifle Shoot Accurately?

As can be seen from the above graphs for 22LR ballistics, for a decently powerful 22LR round you could zero the scope at around 100 yards (92m) with very flat trajectories.

Accurately is a subjective term, meaning different practical things to different people.

Bullet drop is predictable, as gravity is constant, so accounting for that you could reasonably assume that you could have a longer range for the 22LR and with a well zeroed scope.

And you’d be, right?

With that in mind, I came up with the following video while trying to answer the question

I was trying to learn what size the group spreads by as you increase the range.

What I found was

  • A ¾ inch group at 50 yards produces
  • 1 inch at 100 yards
  • 3 inch group at 200 yards
  • 8 inches at 300 yards
  • Ineffective at 400 yards

Thus the effective limit was probably around 300 yards.

So a good shot could probably take a headshot to a rabbit at the 200 yard limit and the target needs to be much larger, like an elk for a headshot to be reasonably accurate at 300 yards.

Bear in mind a 22LR will go though 1 inch wood at 400 yards.

How Far Will A 22 Magnum Bullet Travel?

A magnum cartridge by definition is going to have more power. With that greater power it stands to reason that the bullet will travel farther.

The very first comparative bar chart suggests about 20% further.

Pulling up this graph though shows a similar reality.

a 22 lr ballistics chart

As you can see a 22 magnum round is a good 10 to 20 percent further than a standard 22LR.

However, looking around YouTube, I found this little gem of a video comparing the 22lr to the 22 wmr for range and accuracy.

What’s interesting as a summary is that

  • At 50 yards accurate ½ inch groups for 22Lr and 22 WMR
  • At 100 yards 5 inch drop and 1 ½ inch drop for 22LR. No drop and 1 ¼ group for 22 WMR

So it seems that a 22 magnum round will go about 20% further than a standard 22LR, and as such can make distances of around 275 yards (250m) if zeroed around 100m and fired on the flat and level.

Final Thoughts

As you can tell, the question of how far a 22 bullet will travel is complex in itself to answer.

Fired from a 22 pistol with low power ammunition on the flat and level it will probably be around 150m.

A 22 bullet fired from a magnum cartridge in a rifle and trying to zero the scope for a massive bullet drop you could well get over 500m. Not particularly accurately, but the distance you could achieve.

A 22 round is capable of penetrating a plank of wood at 400m so it is still deadly at that range, if not particularly accurate.

It should be noted that there is a difference between range, effective range, maximum range and accurate range.

A 22 round might only be accurate to an 8 inch group at 300 yards but the round will still travel if the target is missed.

A key point here is that the further you are above ground when you fire the further the round will travel. A 22LR round fired in the prone position hits the ground earlier than when ford standing up.

Gravity act on the bullet the moment it leaves the barrel and obviously, firing nearer the ground can mean the bullet has less far to drop.

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