.22 Long Rifle (or .22LR for short) is the closest we have to a “do it all” cartridge. From hunting for small game, to plinking, to target practice, to (limited) use in self-defense, it’s probably the most versatile cartridge on the market today. However, just like other larger calibers, not all .22LR ammunition is created equal. Some .22LR ammunition is labeled as “match” or “target” ammo, but what does that mean, and how much of a difference does it make when you shoot it? What is .22 match ammo, and do you really need it? 

.22 Long Rifle ammunition is one of the oldest metallic cartridges in use today. It was first introduced in the 1880’s as a variant of .22 Short. It has been in production ever since. As .22LR is a rimfire cartridge, it has a very different construction than a centerfire cartridge, such as 9mm or .223. In a centerfire cartridge, the primer is contained in a small metal cup that is located in the center of the round, hence the term “centerfire.” Rimfire cartridges have their primer sealed into a thin pocket that covers the bottom of the case and also extends into the rim of the case itself. 

Building A Better Rimfire Cartridge

Test rig for 22 match ammo

All rounds were shot out of a custom-built Savage B22 rifle at a target at a distance of 50 yards.

There are some inherent limitations to a rimfire cartridge like the .22LR. First, because the case itself holds the priming compound, the case needs to allow the force of the firing pin to set off the priming compound. This means thinner cases, which means that a rimfire round can’t handle the pressure of a high-powered load. 

Secondly, on a centerfire round, the cup that holds the priming compound is not an integral part of the case. This means that it can be popped out and replaced with a new primer, and the whole cartridge can be reloaded and used once more. However, this process is a lot harder on a rimfire cartridge. Because the firing pin on a rimfire round dimples the case itself and the priming compound is spread over the bottom of the case, it is much more difficult to reload than a centerfire cartridge. 

What Makes .22 Match Ammo Better? 

It’s not so much that the components in a round of .22 match ammo are different than in a normal .22 round, it’s consistency that sets it apart.


.22 Match ammo typically has bullets that are shaped the same as bullets inside of a standard .22 round. For the most part, the bullets used in .22 match-quality ammunition are lead, round-nosed projectiles that are not designed to expand on impact. There are exceptions to this, though, such as Federal’s HV Match round. The HV load is both higher-quality and designed to open up on impact


As with centerfire match ammunition, more care and attention is put into making the brass for a round of .22 match ammunition. Also, the bullet seating depth (how far the round is pushed into the top of the case) is more consistent than with standard .22 ammunition.


A round of .22 match ammo will have a more consistent powder charge than a normal .22 round.  

Why use .22 Match Ammunition? 

The primary reason for .22 match ammunition is right there in the name: matches. Competition shooting is the main reason to use this ammo over standard .22 ammunition. .22 match-grade ammo is the ammunition of choice for all kinds of competition, from the fast-growing sport of .22 Precision Rifle to Rimfire Challenge to regional Smallbore Rifle matches to high-level Olympic competitions. But just how good is .22 match ammo versus standard .22 ammunition? 

Let’s find out. 

To test the quality of .22 ammunition, we shot a variety of different “match” rounds through a Savage B-22 rifle that has been extensively upgraded by savagegunsmithing.com. Using a target that was fifty yards away, we shot four five-round groups of each type of ammo and measured each group center to center. We also measured the velocity of the ammo using a Pro Chrony chronograph set up at the muzzle. We recorded the minimum and maximum velocities of each type of ammo. In addition, we measured the standard deviation of the velocities to determine the consistency of each type of ammo. A lower standard deviation means more consistent velocities. This, in turn, means more consistent results on the range.

We tested six different types of .22 match ammo, and then compared them to a high-quality, “standard” .22 round. 

.22 Accuracy test

The Aguila .22 Match ammo turned in the tightest group of all our ammo

The match-grade rounds we tested were: 

The baseline, “standard” round we used was the 40 grain CCI MiniMag, a very popular general-purpose .22 cartridge. 

Test Results 

Aguila 40 Grain Round Nose Lead .22LR
Average Velocity: 1070 fps
Minimum Tested Velocity: 1027 fps
Maximum Tested Velocity: 1096 fps
Standard Deviation: 12.68
Average Group Size at 50 Yards: 0.67 Inches

Eley 40 Grain Round Nose Lead .22LR
Average Velocity: 1095 fps
Minimum Tested Velocity: 1081 fps
Maximum Tested Velocity: 1107 fps
Standard Deviation: 7.55
Average Group Size at 50 Yards: 0.68 Inches

Wolf 40 Grain Round Nose Lead .22LR
Average Velocity: 1046 fps
Minimum Tested Velocity: 1027 fps
Maximum Tested Velocity: 1107 fps
Standard Deviation: 11.9
Average Group Size at 50 Yards: 0.73 Inches

CCI Green Tag 40 Grain Round Nose Lead .22LR
Average Velocity: 1076 fps
Minimum Tested Velocity: 1062 fps
Maximum Tested Velocity: 1093 fps
Standard Deviation: 9.27
Average Group Size at 50 Yards: 0.81 Inches

Federal HV Match 40 Grain Round Nose Lead .22LR
Average Velocity: 1196 fps
Minimum Tested Velocity: 1185 fps
Maximum Tested Velocity: 1228 fps
Standard Deviation: 12.33
Average Group Size at 50 Yards: 0.93 Inches

Federal AutoMatch 40 Grain Round Nose Lead .22LR
Average Velocity: 1196 fps
Minimum Tested Velocity: 1174 fps
Maximum Tested Velocity: 1209 fps
Standard Deviation: 10.83
Average Group Size at 50 Yards: 0.75 Inches 

For comparison, here are the results for CCI MiniMag ammunition:

Average Velocity: 1248 fps
Minimum Tested Velocity: 1225 fps
Maximum Tested Velocity: 1272 fps
Standard Deviation: 14.24
Average Group Size at 50 Yards: 1.06 Inches

More Bang For Your Buck, But Also More Bucks For Each Bang 

Based on our testing, there is a clear difference between standard .22 ammunition and .22 match ammo. All of the varieties of match-grade ammunition we tested shot tighter groups and had more consistent velocities than standard .22 ammunition. However, that accuracy and consistency does come with a price. Match-grade .22LR costs more per round than regular .22 ammunition. Is that extra money worth it for plinking or everyday use? Probably not. However, if accuracy and consistency are on the line, .22 match ammo should be your “go to” ammunition.