Night and day. Dogs and cats. Apples and oranges. Some things are just incomparable by nature. But by going ahead and comparing them anyway, you can usually learn a thing or two about them. Case in point: 22-250 vs 22LR.

The 22 LR is extremely versatile, suitable for plinking, competition, varmint hunting, and even self-defense if you want to carry a super-compact handgun. The 22-250 is more specialized: an absolute master of varmint hunting, and not remotely incapable of dropping a whitetail under the right circumstances.

But despite some overlap in their applications – and despite sharing a number in their names – the 22 LR and the 22-250 are about as comparable to each other as … well, apples and oranges! Let’s get a sense of just how different these rounds really are by weighing up their ballistic performance, stopping power, recoil and more.

Cartridge Dimensions of 22-250 vs 22LR

22LR VS 22-250 AMMO SIDE BY SIDE

 22 LR22-250
Parent case22 Long250-3000 Savage
Case typeRimmed, straightRimless, bottleneck
Bullet diameter0.223 in0.224 in
Neck diameter0.226 in0.254 in
Base diameter0.226 in0.470 in
Rim diameter0.278 in0.473 in
Case length0.613 in1.912 in
Overall length1.000 in2.350 in
Maximum pressure24,656 psi53,000 psi

You can’t tell everything about a type of ammunition by examining a cartridge, but you can certainly get a good feel for what it has to offer.

The 22 LR and the 22-250 have essentially identical bullet diameters, and their bullets may share identical weights as well. The 22 LR bullet usually weighs 40 grains. That’s lightweight for the 22-250, but not uncommon.

But there the similarities end. The 22-250’s case is over twice as long, a dead giveaway that the cartridge stores more propellant – i.e. the stuff that goes boom in order to propel the bullet. The 22-250 also has over double the maximum chamber pressure.

Whereas the 22-250 is a centerfire-primed round – just like the most powerful cartridges on the market – the 22 LR is a rimfire-primed round. We won’t delve too deeply into the mechanics of how the two different types of primers work. We’ll just point out that a rimfire-primed round has a relatively thin case brass by design, which greatly restricts the amount of chamber pressure it can withstand.

Nearly every rimfire-primed round will be weaker than a centerfire-primed one (with the 25 ACP being a notable exception). In other words, the 22 LR’s primer alone speaks for its almost certainly weaker performance.

Ballistic Performance

Shooting 22-250 at the range

It would be impossible to select six truly analogous 22 LR and 22-250 cartridges to compare to one another. Our ballistic data are only intended to provide an overview of how these cartridges compare to one another.

Velocity

The 22 LR never stood a chance. The 22-250 is the highest-velocity factory-produced cartridge in the world, which can easily deliver a muzzle velocity in excess of 4,000 fps. Its bullet is relatively lightweight, though, hence its effective range of only 400 to 500 yards (depending on the rifle, ammo and shooter’s skill). But within its effective range the 22-250’s trajectory is flat as an arrow, making it a master of picking off small, varmint-sized targets.

 22LR - CCI Mini-Mag 36gr CPHP22-250 - Federal 43gr Speer TNT Green22LR - Federal 40gr LRN22-250 - Federal American Eagle 50gr JHP22LR - Winchester Super Suppressed 45gr CPHP22-250 - Prvi Partizan 55gr SP
Muzzle velocity (fps)126040001200385010903675
Velocity @ 50 yds110736131074357210213420
Velocity @ 100 yds1006326098933129673181
Velocity @ 150 yds935293692630689232954
Velocity @ 200 yds879263487428378842740
Velocity @ 250 yds831235283026188502535
Velocity @ 300 yds788208779024098192339
Velocity @ 350 yds749184075422107902152
Velocity @ 400 yds714161472020207641973
Velocity @ 450 yds680141468818417381804
Velocity @ 500 yds649124565816727141646

Trajectory

 22LR - CCI Mini-Mag 36gr CPHP22-250 - Federal 43gr Speer TNT Green22LR - Federal 40gr LRN22-250 - Federal American Eagle 50gr JHP22LR - Winchester Super Suppressed 45gr CPHP22-250 - Prvi Partizan 55gr SP
G1 ballistic coefficient0.1290.1530.1380.2080.1880.218
Drop @ 50 yds4.311.094.541.094.941.12
Drop @ 100 yds0.020.010.0300.030
Drop @ 150 yds-12.84-1.89-13.35-1.88-14.18-1.98
Drop @ 200 yds-35.64-4.8-36.88-4.69-38.6-4.96
Drop @ 250 yds-69.7-8.97-71.78-8.59-74.12-9.1
Drop @ 300 yds-116.37-14.72-119.3-13.75-121.67-14.6
Drop @ 350 yds-177.02-22.48-180.76-20.41-182.16-21.69
Drop @ 400 yds-253.13-32.83-257.51-28.86-256.54-30.66
Drop @ 450 yds-346.62-46.52-351.34-39.45-346.13-41.87
Drop @ 500 yds-458.58-64.59-463.21-52.61-451.36-55.76

The 22 LR’s effective range is limited to only about 150 yards, and even hitting a 100-yard target is no small feat. The 22 LR can deliver laser-like accuracy within its range, of course. Its bullet is just going to have to follow a steeper trajectory! But really, if accuracy is your only criterion for selecting one of these two cartridges, the 22-250 has everything in the world going for it. (Note: Our data assume a 1.5” sight height.)

Energy of 22-250 vs 22LR

“Stopping power” is a contentious phrase in the shooting world. Several factors contribute to a bullet’s lethality, but we can all agree that the amount of kinetic energy a bullet transfers to its target has a profound effect on its terminal ballistics.

 22LR - CCI Mini-Mag 36gr CPHP22-250 - Federal 43gr Speer TNT Green22LR - Federal 40gr LRN22-250 - Federal American Eagle 50gr JHP22LR - Winchester Super Suppressed 45gr CPHP22-250 - Prvi Partizan 55gr SP
Muzzle energy (ft lbs)127152812816461191650
Energy @ 50 yds98124610214171041429
Energy @ 100 yds811015871218931236
Energy @ 150 yds70823761045851066
Energy @ 200 yds626636889478917
Energy @ 250 yds555286176172785
Energy @ 300 yds504165564567668
Energy @ 350 yds453235054262566
Energy @ 400 yds412494645358476
Energy @ 450 yds371914237654398
Energy @ 500 yds341483831151331

The 22-250 is by no means a weakling. Many deer hunters do love it under the appropriate conditions. The round’s ability to retain at least 1,000 ft lbs of energy within 100 to 150 yards does suit it to the task of whacking Bambi’s mom. But where the 22-250 really shines is varmint hunting. At no point throughout the 22-250’s effective range does its bullet pack too little energy to kill a rodent. It’s capable of killing a coyote at ranges up to 500 yards as well.

Notably, this dedicated hunting cartridge is pretty much irrelevant as far as self-defense goes. If all you have to defend your home is a gopher rifle, by all means give it a shot – but you’ll wish you had a 12 Gauge instead.

You can theoretically kill a buck with a 22 LR, but there’s no need unless you’re trying to survive and no better firearm is available. The 22 LR is awesome for hunting squirrel, raccoon, porcupine, groundhogs, crows, and all other small game that will tolerate being within 100 or so yards of you.

Is the 22 LR ammo good for self-defense? Well, some folks do appreciate its negligible recoil and tiny handguns. That said, the minimum recommended impact energy for self-defense is 220 to 300 ft lbs. No 22 LR cartridge on the planet is capable of transferring that much kinetic energy to its target – hence the necessity of good aim if you carry a 22 LR pistol!

22LR Recoil vs 22-250

The author shooting an ar-style AR-15 rifle at the range

Less recoil makes for more comfortable target practice. It also facilitates accurate, rapid fire, as less recoil means less of the muzzle flip that throws your aim off target after every shot.

It’s easy to calculate the objective amount of recoil energy a cartridge can generate so long as you have four points of data: muzzle velocity, bullet weight, propellant weight and firearm weight. For the sake of comparing the 22 LR’s recoil energy to that of the 22-250, let us reasonably assume that all 22 LR rounds have 2 grains of propellant, all 22-250 rounds have 35 grains of propellant, and we’re firing 6 pound test rifles.

 Recoil Energy (ft lbs)
CCI Mini-Mag 22 LR 36gr CPHP0.16
Federal 22 LR 40gr LRN0.18
Winchester Super Suppressed 22 LR 45gr CPHP0.18
Federal 22-250 43gr Speer TNT Green6.36
Federal American Eagle 22-250 50gr JHP7.14
Prvi Partizan 22-250 55gr SP7.52

The 22 LR’s recoil is right next to nothing – so light you don’t even feel it. The 22 LR’s recoil energy is negligible even when you’re firing a lighter carbine or pistol. There’s a good reason little kids learn how to shoot with the good old 22 LR!

Although its recoil energy is considerably stouter, don’t imagine the 22-250 is some kind of beast that kicks ferociously. The round’s ~7 ft lbs of recoil energy isn’t enough to cause fatigue over the course of a long day of target practice or hunting. In fact, the 22-250 is often favored by women and children specifically because its recoil energy is so gentle. (For context, recoil energy in excess of 15 ft lbs tends to cause fatigue over time).

Price & Availability

The 22 LR is the most popular cartridge in the world, and it’s also tiny. That’s why it’s the cheapest type of ammunition and also readily available anywhere guns and/or ammo are sold. If you love target shooting on a serious budget, no other cartridge will serve you better than the 22 LR.

The 22-250 is also popular, albeit not nearly as much as the 22 LR. The larger cartridge naturally contains more brass and lead, so buying 22-250 means you’ll pay more money. You may not find as wide a range of 22-250 ammo, although whatever you do find is probably going to serve you just fine for varmint hunting (assuming it’s not junk).

Takeaway

Do you want a versatile firearm that’s perfect for low-budget plinking, serious competition, and annihilating bunnies and any other critters that could violate your lawn? The 22 LR’s low price tag, low recoil and quiet report are all going to impress – but its limited range and relatively little power might leave you wanting.

Do you want the highest-velocity rifle cartridge in existence to treat you to super-flat trajectories which terminate in commanding downrange energy – at least as far as varmint hunting is concerned? Then you may want to forego the 22 LR in favor of the 22-250, which will let you reliably pop critters over much longer distances. You’ll pay more for the 22-250’s significantly longer effective range, but the best things in life are not, in fact, free.

Ready for the range? Pick-up 22LR ammo for sale here with good selection and blitzkrieg fast shipping!