TESTED: Here’s a look at five of the best subsonic .22 LR ammo loads for both the field and range.
As red-blooded Americans, we’ve long ago come to embrace our ancestral need for speed. From muscle cars to overbore 22 LR Ammo cartridges that burn barrels and launch bullets downrange at well beyond 3,000 feet per second (fps), we operate on the assumption that faster is better.
The drawback, however, is the noise pollution that accompanies our fixation with speed. Just stand next to a muzzlebraked magnum or a straight-piped hot rod to get the picture. Not only is all that velocity-crazed volume hard on the eardrums, it’s also unfriendly to the pocket book, as anyone who has recently bought a box of ammunition for one of the newest long-range super cartridges can tell you.
The truth is, there’s a time to slow things down and keep it quiet, which is why subsonic ammo exists. Since the crack of a bullet breaking the sound barrier greatly increases noise, subsonic ammo is designed to leave the muzzle at less than the speed of sound, which is roughly 1,125 fps at sea level. The tradeoff is less energy on target, which makes going subsonic less desirable with many large hunting calibers. Despite what you might think, much of the noise comes from the gas escaping the barrel, so subsonic rounds aren’t exactly whisper quiet, which is why many add a suppressor to the mix.
Where subsonic ammo excels, however, is with the .22LR. Take CCI’s Mini-Mag 40-grain round-nose load, for example, which produces 1,235 fps and 135 foot-pounds (ft-lbs.) of energy, and compare it to CCI’s Quiet-22, which slows to 710 fps and 45 ft-lbs. of energy with the same bullet weight. The Quiet-22 is still plenty lethal to stop a ravenous squirrel at 20 yards and produces roughly half the noise. Also, as many a competition shooter can tell you, subsonic .22LR cartridges are typically more accurate than their high-speed counterparts.
So whether you’re looking to thin the herd of lawn-destroying gophers without alarming your neighbors, or if you simply need a low-noise alternative that helps protect your hearing while shooting, here’s a look at five of the best subsonic .22 LR ammo loads.
Subsonic .22 LR Square-Off
We tested each load at 30 yards from a bench, firing five, five-shot groups per load and measuring groups with a digital caliper. Testing was conducted with a Ruger 10/22 semiautomatic rifle and a Simmons 3-9x32mm scope. Velocity was measured at 10 yards with a Competition Electronics chronograph. None of the loads had any feeding or functionality issues in the semiauto platform. Each load was also fired without any malfunctions through a High Standard Sport King semiauto pistol to measure functionality
American Eagle Suppressor .22 LR
Federal Premium’s American Eagle Rimfire Suppressor load features clean-burning propellants that won’t unduly dirty the baffles in a suppressor. The Suppressor load features a 45-grain copper-plated round-nose bullet that carries a muzzle velocity of 934 fps. Reliable, accurate and cost effective, it’s also designed to run in semiauto platforms.
Weight: 45 gr.
Average Velocity (fps): 934
Best Group (in.): .72
Average Group (in.): .92
MSRP: $5/box (50 rds.)
Manufacturer: Federal Premium,
CCI Subsonic .22 LR
A great round for hunting that offers supreme accuracy, the CCI Subsonic .22 LR features a 40-grain hollowpoint bullet that’s extremely lethal on small game. Carrying 98 ft-lbs. at the muzzle, Subsonic .22 LR has plenty of punch for small- to medium-sized game.
Because it offers quick penetration on small-size targets, it’s become a staple among varmint hunters. Loaded with precision and consistency from the factory, it’s not surprising that CCI’s Subsonic posted a standard deviation (SD) of just 17 and a best group of .52 inch at 30 yards.
Subsonic is designed to function in any firearm that can handle the standard-velocity .22 ammo. As testing proved, Subsonic runs well in both a semiauto handgun and rifle.
Weight: 40 gr.
Average Velocity (fps): 1,039
Best Group (in.): .52
Average Group (in.): .82
MSRP: $7/box (50 rds.)
Eley Subsonic Hollow .22 LR
Known for its competition pedigree and precision loading, Eley has long been a top performer and producer of .22 ammunition. Let’s just say the company knows its way to the top of the podium.
Its Subsonic Hollow .22 LR load features a 38-grain hollowpoint bullet that’s designed to expand at a lower velocity of 1,037 fps. The 96.2 ft-lbs. of energy still ensures lethal expansion and penetration on varmint-sized critters while a nongreasy lubricant coating provides flawless operation in semiauto platforms and varied weather conditions.
Incredibly quiet and lethal, Eley’s Subsonic Hollow load delivers hunting performance with match-grade accuracy. Not surprisingly, Eley’s 38-grain load posted a best group of .57 inch and showed very little deviation in velocity.
Weight: 38 gr.
Average Velocity (fps): 1,037
Best Group (in.): .57
Average Group (in.): .72
MSRP: $7/box (50 rds.)
Remington 22 Subsonic
Big Green has been making reliable rimfire rounds for decades with a long lineage of dependability to show for it. The company’s 22 Subsonic line is no different, offering shooters consistent performance for small-game hunting and plinking alike.
Featuring a 38-grain projectile that leaves the muzzle at 1,041 fps, Subsonic is also fast enough to allow it to run in a semiauto without issue. With an energy of 93 ft-lbs. combined with a lead hollowpoint, it’s ideal for high-volume shooting on small game.
Subsonic is also effective with a suppressor, so whether you’re shooting soda cans or prairie dogs, there’s no need to give yourself a headache. Best of all, Remington offers its Subsonic loads for just 7 cents a round.
Weight: 38 gr.
Average Velocity (fps): 1,041
Best Group (in.): .61
Average Group (in.): .91
MSRP: $7/box (100 rds.)
Winchester Super Suppressed .22 LR
Another option for the suppressor crowd, Winchester’s Super Suppressed load incorporates a 45-grain, black-copper-plated round-nose bullet with a muzzle velocity of 1,051 fps and roughly 119 ft-lbs. of energy. The black copper plating helps reduce fouling of the can, while the round-nose design ensures ideal accuracy. As testing revealed, Super Suppressed lives up to the company’s claim with an average group of .96 inch and a best group of .71 inch.
Winchester designed the cartridge with clean powders and functionality for all semiautos. If you’re not worried about using a suppressor or are simply looking for a high-volume load that functions well in a semiauto, Winchester offers 500-count bricks for $30.
Weight: 45 gr.
Average Velocity (fps): 1,051
Best Group (in.): .71
Average Group (in.): .96
MSRP: $10/box (100 rds.)