We’ve already covered the usefulness of the .22LR round for prepping and survival purposes in several previous posts:
Is the Marlin Model 60 a good prepping gun?
Searching For A .22 Caliber Pistol
The Often Overlooked Twenty-Two
Self-defense Guns…for people who don’t like guns
The .22 long rifle cartridge is great for hunting small game and can be used for self-defense in a pinch. It is also a very inexpensive round. But how does the .22 WMR round compare, from a prepping point of view? Let’s take a look.
CCI has .22 WMR ammo with either 30 or 40 grain bullets. The 40 grain bullets are rated at 1875 fps from a rifle and over 1400 fps from a 6-inch revolver. The 30 grain bullets cruise along at 2200 fps from a rifle and 1600 fps from a 6-inch revolver.
The .22 LR has less velocity, but about the same bullet weights. You can find .22 WMR ammo a little higher in weight than 40 grains, but most rounds are the same as the .22 LR. CCI offers more .22 LR cartridges, with a wider range of bullet types and velocities than .22 WMR, and this is true of most other manufacturers. So the .22 LR offers more of a choice of ammo types.
For CCI ammo, the 40 grain “Standard Velocity” LR round is subsonic at 1070 fps. The Mini-Mag high velocity round zips along at 1235 or so fps. The Velocitor reaches 1435 fps, despite being heavier than the Mini-Mag. And the hyper-velocity Stinger round tops its peers at 1640 fps. Those are rifle muzzle velocities.
Notice that the .22 WMR round from a pistol can equal the speed of .22 LR rounds from a rifle. But, as you might imagine, at the highest range of these velocities, the bullet expand explosively. That’s a little messy for small game hunting. On the other hand, you might be able to take game that is a little larger with the .22 magnum. The higher velocities also give you greater range in the magnum. The ballistic coefficients of .22 rimfire rounds is terrible. So velocity is what gives you more range.
For self-defense, the explosive expansion of several of the .22 magnum and a few of the .22 long rifle rounds has its pros and cons. It does plenty of damage to soft tissue, but does not penetrate as well. I suppose you could use a target-type round, like the CCI total metal jacket (40 grains, 1875 fps). Without any expansion, the round should go through and through. But that type of wound is of limited effectiveness against an attacker. What you really want is expansion and penetration.
To that end, Hornady has developed a .22 WMR self-defense round: 45 gr FTX Critical Defense. The round expands, won’t clog with material from clothing, and penetrates 9 to 10 inches. They pitch it as comparable to the .380 ACP, but the ballistic gel image that they offer as proof gives a clear advantage to the .380 round.
On the other hand, the .22 WMR is less expensive than the .380, while still being suitable for hunting.
On the subject of cost, there are quite a few discussion threads in different gun forums comparing .22 LR to .22 WMR. The biggest gripe about the WMR is cost. It is significantly more expensive than the LR, even two to three times the cost. However, it’s still less than almost any center fire ammo in any caliber. And if you are buying the gun for prepping, for use in possible future disaster scenarios, you’ll want to buy and store your ammo. The idea is not to find a gun to shoot on a weekly basis, but to find one that will best serve if the SHTF. So I don’t see the greater cost for the .22 WMR ammo as much of a factor.
However, one of the main problems with choosing the 22 WMR over the 22 LR is the choice of guns. (I’m in the market for a new rifle, and considering a lever-action in 22 rimfire.) You have far fewer options in the magnum caliber. Henry Repeating Arms makes a lever-action in WMR.
It’s a little pricey at just under $500 (as of this writing).
Marlin offers rifles in .22 LR, both semi-auto and lever-action, but nothing in 22 WMR.
Ruger has bolt-action rifles in 22 WMR, and a few revolvers. Their Single-nine revolver takes nine 22 WMR rounds in a single-action revolver. A similar model is available as a “convertible” gun — one gun but two calibers. The gun comes with two cylinders, one for 22 LR and the other for 22 WMR. Very useful. You can plink with the 22 LR all day for little money. Then you can up the power of the gun with 22 WMR whenever you wish. (The gun pictured to the left is the NAA Mini Master convertible revolver.)
My Marlin model 60, which I bought not to many months ago, was an excellent 22 LR rifle, a semi-auto with a 14+1 round capacity for under $200 at the time. But if it were available in 22 WMR, that would have been my choice. I consider the 22 LR to be a viable (if marginal) self-defense round, as long as you have the accuracy. But the higher velocity of the 22 magnum certainly pushes the 22 rimfire more in that direction.