Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rimfire Ammunition For Reliability

Getting a rimfire semi-auto pistol to function for several hundred rounds in a row without a single stovepipe, mis-feed, failure to fire, or other malfunction is truly a challenge under any conditions. You can be sure, though, that if it’s going to malfunction, it’s most likely to happen in a match where time lost clearing the problem will cost you dearly. Rimfire pistols, just like computers, KNOW the worst possible time to act up, and they seem to take fiendish pleasure in your misfortune!

For maximum rimfire reliability, you just can’t beat a revolver since the revolvers are a much simpler mechanism. A lot of the problems with a semi-auto, like feeding and extracting for example, aren’t even part of the process with revolvers.. Rimfire cartridges were never designed to be loaded into a magazine and automatically fed into the chamber for each shot. Rimfire .22 cartridges in a semi-automatic pistol are something of a round peg in a square hole, but even so, rimfire semi-autos can be made to run reliably all day long, it just takes a lot of attention to a whole bunch of little details.

Ammunition is first on the list of details. If every single round doesn’t fire when it gets a good hit from the striker or firing pin, all of the gun tuning in the world won’t help.

When you get a failure to fire, (FTF) take a good look at the impression caused by the firing pin. Is it a really good dent, or is it a light strike? If it’s a good solid dent and it didn’t fire, try putting the round back into the chamber, rotated so the firing pin will hit it in a different spot, and see if it fires with a second hit. Some pistols hit the rim a lot harder than others, so if you are getting a fair number of FTF’s, try some of the cartridges on a different pistol, or even better, in a bolt action .22 rifle. If the particular brand of ammunition works in one gun and doesn’t fire reliably in another, the suspect gun may need some attention.

From my experience, most rimfire ammunition properly struck, will fire just about every time. I use approximately 20,00 rounds of one brand of bulk pack .22 ammunition every year in practice. In a rapid-fire rimfire pistol environment I average three or four FTF’s per 550 round brick. That’s not too bad, and in practice an occasional FTF is not a bad thing as it makes you practice clearing the problem quickly. I have tried another well-known brand of bulk packaged rimfire ammunition and have found it would average perhaps ten FTF’s per brick, sometimes even more. It was annoying enough that I only buy that brand if nothing else is available.

For match use, I use more expensive ammunition that comes in individual plastic boxes of one hundred rounds. This particular brand and type of ammo produced almost an entire season of match shooting with only one or two FTF’s, if I remember correctly, and even those may not have been the fault of the ammunition. Although I do shoot a small amount of the match ammunition in non-match conditions for testing, most of it gets used in competition, and I went through well over six thousand rounds of match ammunition this year. That gives you some sort of idea of the kind of reliability you can get from a properly tuned and maintained rimfire semi-auto pistol.

What ammo do I recommend, you ask? Since what I am writing here may be read some time in the future, and since manufacturer’s specifications, tolerances, and quality control, or lack thereof, may change, I hesitate to either recommend or condemn any particular brand. Ammo that really sucks right now may be the best out there in a couple of years. I will go so far as to say that one state famous for their spuds also produces some very fine rimfire ammunition! If you see me at a match I’ll be glad to tell you what I’m using, but for now, I can only suggest trying different brands and see what works for you.



At Saturday, October 31, 2009 11:33:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

thanks for the post, it reminds me to check a few things since I've sometimes had ftf problems with my Buckmark. I also have a S&W 617 with no such problems. Big problem around here, though, is simple availability of .22 bulk (there continues to be some of the more expenesive single box...none of that Spud State single box stuff... Since we live in the same general region, could you indicate how you are able to come up with 20,000 +/- rnds this year?



At Sunday, November 01, 2009 6:36:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Completely said...


I've had the best luck getting CCI from Natchez Shooter's Supply (see link on right sidebar), and usually at the best prices, too. I've also been able to get ammo from CAbela's on line and Walmart. If you order it from Natchez or Cabela's you may have to wait a month or so, but they eventually get it in. Walmart, you need to check early in the day, and every day, if you can. You should check the websites of Lucky Gunner, Cheaper than Dirt, and Sportsman's guide too.

.... Mr. C.

At Sunday, November 01, 2009 5:13:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Thanks Mr. C, I appreciate the comments and start finding some ammo! :-)


At Sunday, November 01, 2009 6:32:00 PM, Blogger Billll said...

I have that problem occasionally with my Ruger Mk 1. When I start getting FTFs, it's a sure sign that the hammer spring, conveniently hidden in the widget assembly that holds the whole gun together, needs to be cleaned out and oiled.

PITA to get at, but well worth the effort.

At Monday, November 02, 2009 7:29:00 AM, Blogger Ride Fast said...

Guys like you make the California legislature cry. You use more ammo per day (in training alone) than they think you should be allowed to buy in a month.

Carry on!

At Wednesday, November 04, 2009 5:23:00 AM, Blogger Shy Wolf said...

I got really bummed out last spring after buying several bricks of ammo made by the "R" company. In the first brick alone there were 43 FTF in my S&W, slightly fewer in the MKIII. Checking the dimple, the pin mark was deep and sharp on each round. Using your 'test logic', I tried them in a bolt action. No go. They were the absolute worst ammo I've ever shot and, perhaps wrongly, will never buy "R" ammunition again regardless of batch number.
The Spud Ammo is probably the best I've used, but also the most expensive I use, so it's not for practice. The "F" brand is my usual round, and has so far been very satisfactory.

At Monday, January 30, 2012 10:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very useful information mr c,
I would like to get a 22lr revolver, any suggestions for new guns (as older s&w seems to difficult to find!)


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