You need a quick answer. We’re here to help. What’s the difference between 22 WMR vs 22 Mag?
Nothing. They are the same ammo cartridge. Different names for the same thing.
More Details: 22 WMR vs 22 Mag
Many cartridges have multiple names. Our customers often ask if they can fire 9mm in their Glocks. As an Austrian company Glock engraves their slides with “9×19.” That is simply the European name for 9mm, which unfortunately creates a lot confusion for Americans who have only just begun exercising their Second Amendment rights. (Read more about 9×19 vs. 9mm Luger here.)
Origins of 22 WMR
Winchester introduced the cartridge they named “22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire” in 1959. The round is commonly abbreviated as “22 WMR,” but it’s just as often shortened to “22 Mag.” So, to be sure, if you order 22 WMR ammo for your 22 Mag firearm – or vice versa – you are doing the right thing.
The 22 WMR actually stirs up more questions than most other types of ammunition. We’re going to answer a few of them now because we drank too many espressos after dinner and can’t sleep.
Can You Fire 22 WMR in a 22 LR Firearm?
No, you definitely shouldn’t fire a 22 WMR in a 22 LR rifle or pistol.
The 22 WMR and 22 LR share a number in their names because they have the same diameter bullet. (The 22 WMR’s bullet is actually 1/1000” wider in diameter, but that’s hardly a huge difference.)
If bullet diameter was all that mattered then you could also fire 223 Rem in your 22 LR firearm. This wouldn’t work in practice for the same reason that you can’t fire 22 WMR in your 22 LR firearm: The 22 WMR is too long to fit in a 22 LR firearm’s chamber, and the pressure it’s loaded to is far too powerful for a 22 LR firearm to handle. Even if you theoretically could chamber a 22 WMR cartridge in a 22 LR firearm, it would only succeed at damaging the firearm (and potentially the person holding it).
We go into greater detail about the differences in 22 WMR vs 22 LR that you can check out in this article.
You can’t fire 22 LR in a 22 WMR firearm, either. Too small.
Can You Hunt Deer With 22 WMR?
No, you shouldn’t hunt deer with 22 WMR. At least not if you want to have a legitimate shot at a clean, ethical kill.
Many states have banned hunting deer with rimfire ammunition because it’s too weak to reliably deliver a fast and humane kill. As a general rule you want to hit a whitetail with 1,000 ft lbs of energy in order to minimize its pain and suffering. A 22 WMR is only capable of transferring about one-third that much energy right out of a rifle’s muzzle. Its power only weakens with distance.
Plenty of old-timers will fondly recall hunting deer with the significantly weaker 22 LR. It only stands to reason that you could also anchor a whitetail right where it stands with an expertly aimed 22 WMR. There are just too many better cartridges for the job.
What Can You Hunt With 22 WMR?
Varmints and predators.
The 22 WMR is a great choice for hunting rodents like squirrel, nutria and prairie dog. It will make just as short work of rabbit, raccoon and porcupine. (We have nothing but contempt for porcupines which torture pet dogs for no better reason than not wanting to be killed by them.)
You will want a little more gun for hunting larger predators like Northwestern wolf and mountain lion. Giving those animals a chance to retaliate is inadvisable. But for coyote, bobcat and lynx a 22 WMR will get the job done no problem.
Is 22 WMR Good for Self-Defense?
You can use 22 WMR for self-defense – but…
You will find some 22 WMR cartridges that are specialized for self-defense, such as Hornady’s Critical Defense ammo with the 45 grain FTX bullet. You will also find plenty of 22 WMR handguns marketed for concealed carry including the Ruger LCR, Charter Arms Pathfinder, and Kel-Tec PMR-30. The existence of these things alone would suggest the 22 WMR is a viable choice for self-defense.
But will you ever see a cop or soldier carrying a 22 WMR firearm? Never – unless it’s their day off and they’re going squirrel hunting. That’s because the 22 WMR simply can’t deliver as much energy or penetrate soft tissue as reliably as more powerful centerfire handgun cartridges like 9mm, 40 S&W or 45 ACP.
We would only recommend the 22 WMR for self-defense for a couple reasons. First, its recoil is negligible. That will help shooters with lighter frames to fire more accurate follow-up shots, as they won’t have to fight a lot of muzzle flip. Second, 22 WMR handguns are very small. That’s ideal if you don’t want to conceal a lot of gun as you go about your daily business.