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Why lead .22s?

This is a discussion on Why lead .22s? within the Ruger Rimfires forums, part of the Pistol & Revolver Forum category; Why does .22 LR ammo with bare lead bullets exist, as opposed to copper-plated bullets? I'm totally stumped on this one. It can't be a ...


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Old October 24th, 2010, 08:11 PM   #1
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Why lead .22s?

Why does .22 LR ammo with bare lead bullets exist, as opposed to copper-plated bullets?

I'm totally stumped on this one. It can't be a cost issue, since my MK III loves to eat the lowest cost copper-plated bulk packs I can find. I'd have to pay more for bare lead.

Do lead bullets have some advantage that I simply fail to see? Seems like a copper jacket would be nice to help prevent fouling the barrel with lead.

I'm guessing there must be some advantage to bare lead given that it's widely available. Perhaps some of you can clue me in as to what that advantage might be as I sure can't see it.

Thanks



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Old October 24th, 2010, 11:31 PM   #2
 
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Here's what I've found.

The lead bullets, without the "jacket", are generally standard velocity or around 1080 feet per second, while the jacketed bullets are high velocity, or around 1280 feet per second. This isn't always true but seems to be common.

I think it's part of the bullet's design and lubrication and may also come down to "sales appeal" as well.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 12:07 PM   #3
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I personally have never seen a copper jacketed .22 LR. The copper on .22 LR bullets is a copper “wash” or plating where a “wash” would be defined as a very thin plating but the terms are used interchangeably, so I am told. Many target rounds are unplated lead but these are more expensive due to other reasons. If anything, with all other things equal,copper plating would be more expensive due to the cost of the material and the additional process of putting it on.

Copper jacketing helps reduce lead fouling for the lower velocity rounds and I suppose copper plating does the same. I have been using both copper washed and lubricated lead bulleted rounds in my MKIII 22/45 with no issues for over 7,000 rounds. You can get Winchester and Remington low cost lead bulleted .22 LR rounds in bulk packs as cheap as some of the copper washed versions depending on the sale of the week. I use CCI Minimags in many different versions including LRN. I don’t see any performance differences but that could well be me.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 01:36 PM   #4
 
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I like lead .22s when shooting metal targets, so they will splatter, intead of ricocheting.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 02:13 PM   #5
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There's a lot going on behind the scenes for 22 rimfire ammo. First and most important is keeping the customer happy by making ammo accurate with minimal bore fouling. This can be done a few different ways but the manufacturing costs are a huge consideration.

The best but most expensive way to make cartridges that meet "match grade" specs is to start with a precision diameter brass case. Next is to inject a precision amount of primer "mix" in the rim for uniform ignition. Of course a precision powder charge is needed too. Last is the bullet ... the topic of discussion. Precision match grade bullets are a lead alloy that match bullet hardness to chamber pressure for the cartridge. Match grade bullets are held to very precision standards for weight, diameter, and shape ... the most critical parameters for accuracy. Because of these issues, match grade 22 rimfire ammo is quite expensive ... typically $15/hundred or more. Match grade ammo is made in "standard velocity", vs "high velocity" for most non-match grade ammo.

The next level is "Premium grade", which is much cheaper than match grade. This ammo typically sells for less than $10/hundred. Premium grade ammo has fairly precision powder charges, primer mix, and uniform cases but uses "plated" bullets. Because plated bullets don't foul as bad as unplated ... the alloy is not critical so manufacturing costs are considerably less. Premium grade ammo is a couple hundred fps faster than match grade and almost as accurate ... and in fact may be more accurate in some guns. Some examples of premium grade are: CCI Mini-Mags, Winchester Silver Box, Remington Green Box, and Federal Champions.

The cheapest grade of ammo is "bulk pack". This ammo does not have the precision of premium grade, is much cheaper to produce, yet can be fairly accurate and fouling free. That's because the plated bullets that are often irregular in hardness, weight, and diameter. Besides, bulk pack ammo cases, powder charges, and priming compound can vary quite a bit. Some examples of bulk pack are: Federal 550 rd, Remington 550 rd, Winchester 333 or 555. Typical cost for bulk pack ammo is under $4/hundred.

Using actual jackets on 22 rimfire ammo is restricted to 22 WRM (magnums) or 17 cal where velocities are too high for lead. Lead (assuming proper hardness) will work quite well up to 1700 fps but after that, it will leave nasty lead fouling in the bore. As fouling builds up with each round fired, accuracy will drop off. Accuracy and bore fouling always go hand-in-hand. As it turns out, at 22 LR velocities, lead or plated lead bullets actually perform better than jacketed bullets and are way cheaper to manufacture.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 02:17 PM   #6
 
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KJS . . .

The bottom line, I believe, is that there's no need for a copper jacket on a bullet that moves through the barrel as slowly and with as little pressure and heat behind it as a typical rimfire .22.

In addition, at the speeds .22 rimfire bullets strike game, there's no need to use a jacket to control expansion. The design of the lead bullet (typically hollow points for game) can take care of that. For target shooting, this is not an issue.

Lead .22 rimfire bullets do foul barrels, but a good .22 rimfire bore (good machining, lapping on a match grade bore) can shoot a great many more rounds before it needs cleaning than a comparable high-velocity centerfire bore.

The jacket isn't necessary for a .22 rimfire bullet, and the cost of adding a jacket to a the bullet is not justified. Bronx Boy is right (as usual) .22s that appear to be jacketed are not, they're copper "washed".
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Old October 25th, 2010, 02:19 PM   #7
 
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Looks like Iowegan and I were posting at the same time!
Nice to have you back . . .
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Old October 25th, 2010, 03:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSwenson View Post
I like lead .22s when shooting metal targets, so they will splatter, instead of ricocheting.
I'd never thought about that, but then I've never shot a metal target. Makes perfect sense.

I'll definitely keep that in mind should I take on something harder than paper in the future.

So much to learn about guns.

Thanks to everyone who replied. I really appreciate all the insight you guys gladly provide to a novice. Special thanks to Iowegan for a VERY complete reply, and from a gunsmith no less.

Last edited by KJS; October 25th, 2010 at 03:21 PM.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 03:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Durangogun View Post
The bottom line, I believe, is that there's no need for a copper jacket on a bullet that moves through the barrel as slowly and with as little pressure and heat behind it as a typical rimfire .22.
Yeah, I've noticed that .22 barrels don't get nearly so dirty so fast as something like a .357 where I'll definitely see copper fouling (coming out as blue), assuming the blue isn't totally obscured by black filth from powder residue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Durangogun View Post
The jacket isn't necessary for a .22 rimfire bullet, and the cost of adding a jacket to a the bullet is not justified. Bronx Boy is right (as usual) .22s that appear to be jacketed are not, they're copper "washed".
In my original post I mistakenly said copper jacket once, when I really meant copper plated.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 03:48 PM   #10
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Iowegan, is there anything you don't know about guns?

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Old November 1st, 2010, 07:08 PM   #11
 
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I buy only copper washed .22 ammo because it is cleaner. I plink with open sights and am not concerned with eye popping accuracy.
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Old November 1st, 2010, 07:40 PM   #12
 
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I prefer the lubed match bullets because I prefer the smell. :-)

Open sights can produce eye-popping accuracy!

-Daizee
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Old November 1st, 2010, 10:25 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by daizee View Post
Open sights can produce eye-popping accuracy!
Can is the key word. At my skill level any ammo is going to be capable of far greater accuracy than I'm capable of. Shooting a pistol offhand as I do doesn't lend itself to groups the size of a dime for a novice level shooter like me.
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 08:33 PM   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSwenson View Post
I like lead .22s when shooting metal targets, so they will splatter, intead of ricocheting.
Lubed lead or copper washed makes no difference with .22LR as far as splattering/ricocheting. Both splatter on my metal plates and both will ricochet off rocks if they hit just right....

There is no real "better" except what works best in YOUR gun... Some guns like lubed lead better, some like copper washed better, some dont care... Try both, see what works for your gun, and use that...

Keep this in mind though.... there are no copper washed match bullets.....
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Old November 3rd, 2010, 04:49 PM   #15
 
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You pay more for the qc and consistent manufacture. You sure can see the difference at 50-100 yards with the right equipment.

Short range shooting, I don't think it makes a lot of difference.
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