Thursday, November 19, 2015

22 WMR Tests | CCI Maxi-Mag and Maxi-Mag +V

If you are new to 22 WMR, I'll try to eliminate some potential confusion that I experienced when I expanded my rimfire horizons beyond 22 Long Rifle.  The 22 WMR name is ammo shorthand for .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire.  You may also see the same cartridge called 22 Mag, 22 Magnum, 22 Win Mag, or some other variation that doesn't pop into my head right at this moment.  Regardless of the name, the 22 WMR is a wicked rimfire round that delivers exceptional terminal performance for hunting small game and varmints at ranges to 100 yards and beyond.

The CCI catalog lists six 22 WMR loads classified as varmint loads.  The main difference between a varmint and small game load is what happens to the bullet when it strikes the intended target.  Varmint bullets are designed to expand violently, fragment, and dump their kinetic energy into the target as quickly as possible.  Sometimes with explosive results.  Small game bullets are designed for limited expansion to minimize damage to the meat of the game animal, while penetrating deeply for a humane harvest.

It is possible to use varmint loads for small game hunting, just as it's physically possible to hunt ducks with a 30-30, but you may not like the condition of your quarry when you retrieve it.  You will be much better off using a small game load on a varmint, than using a varmint load on small game.  CCI simplifies the ammunition selection process a bit by classifying the Maxi-Max as suitable for varmint and small game.    

These two CCI 22 WMR loads are, in my opinion, those you will most likely find available if you buy your ammunition at a large national retail chain.  For this reason, I thought it best to start my 22 WMR testing with these loads.  Initially, I planned to report on each load individually.  After running the tests, I changed my mind because these two loads perfectly illustrated the terminal performance differences between small game and varmint loads.  

Test Protocol
5 test shots for accuracy and velocity.  Measured at 40 yards.

Multiple test shots into a block of Clear Ballistics gel placed 40 yards down range. Test shot velocity is measured at the gel block.

Recovered bullets are weighed and measured with averages recorded in the data sheet below.

Test Videos
Direct Link to Video on YouTube

Direct Link to Video on YouTube

Data Sheet

Click on Data Sheet for a larger image
40 yard accuracy was a bit over half an inch for both loads. 
Test Recap
Velocity - both loads ran slightly faster than the specification from CCI.  Our velocity measured at 40 yards was almost as fast as the 25 yard velocity published by CCI.
Maxi-Mag average velocity 1643 fps
Maxi-Mag +V average velocity 1962 fps

Accuracy - both loads were reasonably accurate in the test rifle.  While a full 50 yard test would have been better, the range was too muddy beyond the 40 yard line on test day. With the rifle zeroed for the Maxi-Mag, it was interesting to see the point of impact change by 3/4 of an inch with the lighter Maxi-Mag +V.
Maxi-Mag 5 shot group size .608"
Maxi-Mag +V 5 shot group size .629"  

Retained Weight - The Maxi-Mag +V travels faster because it is 10 grains lighter than the Maxi-Mag. Both bullets demonstrated significant fragmentation, which is to be expected with a varmint bullet. As you look at the recovered bullets the Maxi-Mags are perfectly formed mushrooms and the Maxi-Mag +V bullets have completely turned themselves inside out.
Maxi-Mag average retained weight 31.6 grains  79% weight retention.
Maxi-Mag +V average retained weight 18.7 grains  62% weight retention.

Penetration - If there was a surprise hidden in this test, it was the large variation in penetration between the two loads.  The average penetration of the Maxi-Mag was more than double that of the Maxi-Mag +V.  On the surface it would be easy to explain away the difference by looking at the expanded diameter differences between the two loads, but that's only part of the reason.  The sectional density differences between the two bullets also played a part in the penetration variation.  If you want to get your ballistics geek on, here's a great primer on sectional density from Chuck Hawks.  Substitute Gel Block for Game Animals, and you will see that the article applies quite well to this test.
Maxi-Mag average penetration 15.3 inches.
Maxi-Mag +V average penetration 6.89 inches.

Expansion - The Maxi-Mag +V bullets didn't just expand.  They blew up and turned themselves inside out.  The recovered bullets are flat discs of lead clinging to a sheet of copper bullet jacket.  The Maxi-Mag bullets have a traditional bullet profile with a bullet shank capped by a flattened and expanded nose.
Maxi-Mag average expansion .328 inches.
Maxi-Mag +V average expansion .396 inches.

In a perfect world, both of these loads would be readily available and you could keep a supply of each on hand for whatever type of hunting you were planning on doing.  If I had to pick one load, due to current ammunition availability issues, I would be totally satisfied with the Maxi-Mag for small game hunting and varmint hunting/control.  In this test it was slightly more accurate, expanded well, and penetrated to a sufficient depth for small game hunting.


  1. And THAT is how to do a technical article on ammo - thanks!