Not all firearms like all 22 LR ammunition equally. Case in point: the semi-automatic 22 LR pistol, which performs most reliably in conjunction with a certain type of ammo. In this article, we’ll discuss what makes for good rimfire ammo and share our picks for the best ammo for 22LR handguns.

How Rimfire Pistols Work

Box of 22lr ammo with a ruger pistol

A semi-auto pistol doesn’t use all of a cartridge’s available energy to send its bullet down the barrel. It uses some of that energy to operate the mechanisms which (A) expel the spent shell casing from the chamber, and (B) load a new round from the magazine into the chamber. This is why a 22 LR semi-auto handgun needs to fire ammo that generates a sufficient amount of chamber pressure in order to fully cycle.

How much chamber pressure does a 22 LR semi-auto handgun need to fully cycle? That is partly dependent on the handgun itself, as different makes and models tend to perform optimally with different types of ammo.

That said, it is safe to assume that your 22 LR semi-auto pistol needs ammo with a higher muzzle velocity. The speed of sound, which is 1,125 feet per second, is a good starting point, although we personally don’t like going lower than 1,200 fps. In addition to a higher muzzle velocity, a semi-auto 22 LR round should have a bullet weighing in the ballpark of 36 to 40 grains.

Because semi-auto 22 LR handguns have more moving parts, they typically leave less room for error than a revolver or bolt-action rifle. That’s why we advise higher-quality ammo for more reliable performance, although budget-friendly ammo is acceptable if you don’t mind periodic failures to feed or extract.

Whichever ammo you buy, please be realistic with your expectations. Even a great pistol firing great 22 LR ammo is prone to occasional failures. The 22 LR’s rimfire primer is just inherently less reliable than the centerfire primer you would find in a 9mm, 223 Rem or 12 Gauge round!

Best 22 LR Ammo for Semi-Auto Handguns

We’re going to recommend a few of our favorite loads of 22 LR ammo for semi-auto handguns. If you can’t find any of our recommendations at the store, you should still be fine if you pick something similar to the ammo listed below.

Keep in mind that 22 LR muzzle velocities are typically recorded with rifle-length barrels. A semi-auto pistol will deliver a lower muzzle velocity than what our data suggest, but our data still tell you enough to make a good selection. Just remember: muzzle velocity faster than 1,200 fps!

Remington Cyclone 36gr LHP

Muzzle Velocity: 1,280 fps
Muzzle Energy: 1,31 ft lbs

Remington Cyclone is a good pick for a semi-auto when you’re trying to save some money. This particular ammo’s lead hollow point (LHP) projectile suits it for hunting (with the caveat that 22 LR hollow point bullets usually fail to expand when fired through a pistol-length barrel). Hollow point 22 LR ammo isn’t so much more expensive than solid point alternatives (such as a lead round nose, aka LRN) that you would waste money by using this ammo for target shooting.

Buy Remington Cyclone 22LR ammo here.

CCI Mini-Mag 36gr CPHP

CCI mini mag 22lr ammo for pistols

Muzzle Velocity: 1,260 fps
Muzzle Energy: 127 ft lbs

No 22 LR ammo recommendation is complete without CCI. The Idahoan manufacturer is one of the most highly regarded names in the rimfire ammo world, and their 22 LR is usually the remedy for even the pickiest semi-autos. This round’s copper-plated hollow point (CPHP) also helps keep a barrel cleaner than a naked lead bullet like the LHP.

Get 36 Grain CCI Mini-Mags for Your 22LR Pistol Here.

Aguila Supermaximum Hyper Velocity 30gr CPHP

Aguila Supermax is a solid choice for 22lr pistol shooters

Muzzle Velocity: 1,700 fps
Muzzle Energy: 192 ft lbs

We said earlier that you should stick to bullets weighing around 36 to 40 grains, but there are always exceptions. A 22 LR round with an extremely lightweight bullet probably also has an extremely high muzzle velocity. Those features add up to generate the chamber pressure you need for reliable cycling.

Remington Golden Bullet 40gr CPRN

Muzzle Velocity: 1,255 fps
Muzzle Energy: 140 ft lbs

Another standard cheapie for target shooting, Remington Golden Bullet ammo features copper-plated round nose (CPRN) bullets. In addition to reducing barrel leading, the CPRN’s solid point profile makes it perfect for target shooting (and not remotely incapable of hunting as well).

Buy Remington Golden Bullet 22LR ammo here.

Winchester Super-X 40gr CPRN

Winchester Super-X 22LR

Muzzle Velocity: 1,300 fps
Muzzle Energy: 108 ft lbs

Nothing revolutionary here – just another solid example of how a 40 grain bullet and fast muzzle velocity combine to deliver dependable performance in a semi-auto pistol.

Whatever you choose, the 22LR is a fabulous plinking option and is often the most economical way to train. So, even if you don’t plan to keep a rimfire gun bedside, it can make you infinitely more qualified as a marksman when it’s time to rely on a larger caliber in a pinch.