22 Ballistics – Hyper, Standard Or Subsonic Rounds – Which One?

Video 22lr subsonic vs standard

Understanding 22 Ballistics (22 Long rifle – 5.6x15mmR) whether you shoot hyper velocity, subsonic or standard 22 ammunition (around 1250fps) is essential if you want to hit small targets beyond 100 yards.

Why Understanding 22 Ballistics is Important

The 22 LR is ideal for teaching novice or beginner firearm owners the basics of exterior ballistics and how to consistently hit targets beyond their usual shooting distance.

Ammunition is inexpensive so you can practice all day at the gun range. However, before you start buying 22 ammo based only on velocity believing highest velocity is the key to better long range ballistics performance from the 22, read the following.

Let’s compare the ballistics of 3 typical 22 Rimfire rounds

The trajectory graph below (take from Shoot! ballistics software) shows 3 typical rimfire rounds at different velocities (standard, hyper velocity and subsonic).

All rimfire rounds were sighted in to zero at 50 yards using Shoot! ballistics software:


Green line is the subsonic round (40gr round nose solid lead bullet at 1050fps) Red line is the hyper velocity round (32gr bullet hollow point lead bullet at 1640fps) Blue line is the standard velocity round (40gr round nose lead bullet at 1240fps)

At 50 yards the ballistics of each rimfire round are:

22 Ballistics And Velocity Loss

Look at the Velocity(Fps) column.

Notice how much velocity the hyper velocity 22 round has lost at 50 yards compared to the standard and subsonic rounds – over 340fps! The other rimfire rounds lost far less velocity. The Standard round lost only 134fps while the subsonic 85fps.

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22 Ballistics and Wind Drift/Deflection

Look at the column named ‘Deflection(Inches)’.

This shows the bullet drift at 50 yards with a 5mph crosswind coming from the East (3 o’clock).

The hyper velocity round is affected the most (1.09 inches drift off the bullseye at 50 yards) while the subsonic round is least deflected by crosswinds at this range (only 0.62 inches). The standard rimfire round is between the two velocity extremes.

22 Ballistics – Lessons Learned

The lesson here for shooters wanting to understand 22 ballistics is that high velocity usually does not equal better downrange ballistics performance.

The hyper velocity round shoots flatter out to 100 yards, beating the other 2 rounds, but at a price (accuracy usually suffers – read below to learn more). But when it comes to velocity (therefore higher energy) and wind deflection the ballistics of the other rimfire rounds are ideal. They perform just right across the ranges you typically shoot a rimfire.

Personal Experience with 22 LR Hyper velocity rounds

Over the years I’ve shot many different 22 LR hyper velocity rounds in a range of rimfire firearms. I’ve never found them to be as accurate as standard velocity rimfire rounds (as I define above in the 1250fps velocity range).

Accuracy is a big factor when shooting a 22 rimfire, especially when hunting small game. I want that small round nosed or hollow point lead bullet to hit precisely where I’m aiming for a clean, humane kill. So for me pinpoint accuracy is more important in a 22 rimfire than velocity.

This is why I choose to shoot standard velocity rounds firing a 38 or 40gr bullet. The heavier 22 bullets also deliver increased downrange energy so vital for a clean kill on small game.

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What about Subsonic Rimfire Rounds?

A subsonic 22 LR round has its application in close range shooting (50 yards maximum) where noise could be a problem (i.e. buil-up areas or semi-rural locations). Subsonic bullets from a rimfire are ideal for close quarter pest control situations.

Maximum Range Of A 22 Long Rifle?

The downrange energy and trajectory of a typical standard rimfire round make it suitable to consistently hit small sized targets, under ideal conditions, to about 140 yards. Beyond this range the little 22LR starts to run out of steam and bullet drop and energy taper off rapidly. 22 Ballistics Conclusion

The little 22 LR firing lead bullets of between 35-40grs in weight and around 1250-1350fps appears to be the ideal in terms of accuracy, power and flat trajectory.

Our 22 ballistics demonstration above using Shoot! ballistics software and actual firing at the gun range or while hunting support this claim.

Use Shoot! ballistics app/software to search our ammo database of over 100 rimfire loads to do 22 ballistics.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>