14 November 2012

.22 Magnum Loads

          With North American Arms and their selection of .22 Magnum mini-revolvers fresh on my mind, I thought it might be helpful to talk a bit about ammo choices. What follows is a run-down of some popular ammo selections available in this chambering, as well as some newer options. .22 Magnum ammo is truly varied in selection, running the gamut of high-velocity varmint and small game rounds, to the newer, purpose-built defense loads expressly tailored for use in short-barreled weapons such as NAA minis. What’s out there and what performs best for defensive purposes? In the future, I’ll be bringing you detailed information about actual, measured performance of some of these rounds, in an effort to shed light on how you can select the best round for your intended purposes. For now, here is a summary of what’s available.

Basic offerings:

          We’ll start with the typical, classic .22 Magnum rounds. These rounds were originally designed for taking varmints and small game. What you’ll find here is that there are two basic avenues of delivering kinetic energy to the target—driving lighter bullets at very high velocities, or driving heavier bullets at slower velocities. All things being equal, both methods are interchangeable ways of achieving the same goal of translating mass and velocity into energy. Bullet design plays a part as well, and the classic 9mm versus .45 ACP debate comes to mind. The truth is in the ft/lbs, as I’ll share later in more detailed tests. For now, here are some of the rounds available today:

CCI Maxi-Mag

40 grain JHP @ 1875 fps (rifle)

Perhaps the quintessential .22 Magnum round, CCI Maxi-Mag pushes an average-weight, 40 grain jacketed hollow point bullet at an advertised 1875 feet per second (fps) from a rifle barrel. This is a common and popular round that you can find just about anywhere, and CCI is renowned for its production of high-quality, reliable and accurate rimfire ammunition. 

Federal Premium

30 grain JHP @ 2200 fps (rifle)

           This Federal Premium .22 Magnum load falls into the hyper-velocity category, pushing a lighter, 30 grain jacketed hollow point bullet at 2200 fps from a rifle barrel. Comparable to offerings such as CCI’s Maxi-Mag HP+V and other similar varmint rounds, this variety of ammo delivers higher speeds at the expense of bullet weight. 

Federal Game-Shok

50 grain JHP @ 1530 fps (rifle)
           Weighing in at a relatively hefty 50 grains, Federal Game-Shok was the heaviest .22 Magnum load I could find at the time of this writing. Advertised to deliver a muzzle velocity of 1530 feet per second from a rifle, Game-Shock sacrifices a modicum of speed in order to push its heavier 50 grain jacketed hollow point.

Winchester Super-X

40 grain JHP @ 1910 fps (rifle)

          Winchester Super-X is a perennial favorite of many .22 Magnum shooters, and understandably so. With the lowest price point of all the ammo listed here, yet known as a solid all-around performer, Super-X is indeed a very popular choice for many .22 Magnum applications. It has also established a very good record on several mini-revolver fan and forum site, where shooters have tested it against a variety of other .22 Magnum loads. Super-X is advertised to push its 40 grain jacketed hollow point at a slightly faster-than-average 1910 fps from a rifle barrel.

Defensive loads:

          Now we enter into the newer realm of purpose-built self-defense .22 Magnum ammo. Unlike typical .22 Magnum rounds which were originally designed for hunting varmints and small game, these rounds are specifically designed for use against targets of the two-legged, threatening-your-life variety. These rounds also list velocity—but out of a handgun barrel, as opposed to a rifle. With the growing popularity of smaller caliber weapons for concealed carry, at the time of this writing, three major manufacturers are now producing rounds expressly catered to the self-defense market. Whereas the .22 Magnum round and self-defense might have once seemed like mutually exclusive concepts, these newer rounds are raising the bar for this chambering’s performance. Some even claim to match or exceed the performance of popular centerfire cartridges such as .380 ACP!  Here are the three lone varieties of this specialized ammo that were available at the time of this writing:

Hornady Critical Defense

45 grain FTX @ 1000 fps (handgun)

           Hornady’s new Critical Defense 22 WMR utilizes a specialized 45 grain “FTX” bullet. It is technically a modified jacketed hollow point with a polymer tip, the purpose of which is to ensure proper expansion and penetration through clothing, etc. Thus, this round is designed to expand reliably, penetrating to an effective depth while not clogging with material. Hornady advertises that this round performs on par with .380 ACP, delivering a 1000 fps muzzle velocity out of a 1.875” handgun barrel. At 45 grains, it is the heaviest of the three dedicated self-defense rounds available at the present time.

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel Personal Protection

40 grain GDHP @ 1050 fps (handgun)

           Speer Gold Dot is a well-known, classic choice for self-defense ammunition in centerfire chamberings. In fact, many law enforcement agencies have adopted this line of ammunition for its dependable performance. Teaming up with the rimfire gurus at CCI, Speer is now producing a 40 grain, .22 Magnum version of their famed Gold Dot hollow point. This new offering is also specifically optimized for use in short barrels, with an advertised 1050 fps from a 1.9” handgun barrel.

Winchester PDX1 Defender

40 grain JHP @ 1295 fps (handgun)
          Rounding out the dedicated .22 Magnum self-defense rounds available at the time of this writing is Winchester’s new PDX1 22 Defender. PDX1 is Winchester’s newest line of self-defense ammo, and this is their first rimfire offering within the line. A bit of confusion surrounds this ammo, with various sellers listing both a 45 and a 40 grain bullet. In truth, even a few of my suppliers and distributors are listing conflicting data, but rest assured—it is a 40 grain, jacketed hollow point. Winchester advertises 1295 fps for the velocity, though a barrel length is not listed. One might assume anything from a 2-4” barrel, based on the average performance of.22 Magnum in a rifle barrel.

Coming soon…

Will the dedicated self-defense rounds really live up to their claims?  Does regular hunting ammo perform as just well as the new kids on the block? Is there a best choice for concealed carry? Coming up next time, I’ll share test results for all of the rounds listed above. We’ll take a closer look at what you can really expect to get out of these rounds, specifically out of a short-barreled weapon. Enter your e-mail address at the FOLLOW BY EMAIL box above for automatic notifications of new postings, and stay tuned for updates and new articles. Thanks for reading!

03 November 2012

An Intro to North American Arms

North American Arms belt buckle .22 LR
          Like many, my first introduction to North American Arms (NAA) came in the form of one of their diminutive .22LR mini-revolvers. It was many years ago, probably in a random shop or gun show… I don’t recall exactly. At the time, I definitely remember thinking, “That’s pretty neat. I’ll have to pick one of those up some day, just for fun.” I also remember seeing the famous belt buckle version, wherein an actual, fully functional NAA mini-revolver resides in a large western-style buckle you can actually wear. Like many, I thought the sole purpose of these little guns was pure novelty. The price point was relatively low, and I filed the idea in the back of my mind as some-day purchase, just for novelty reasons.

North American Arms Wasp in .22 Magnum
          Fast forward to late fall, 2012. A local customer of mine asks me to handle an FFL transfer from his buddy who is in town from out of state. They tell me it’s a handgun that the buddy wants to sell to my customer, and they’d like me to run the usual paperwork. When they both arrive to complete the transfer, the seller produces a North American Arms Wasp, chambered in .22 Magnum. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this particular model, and I’m instantly fascinated. I simply can’t get over the size and I’m surprised to learn it’s not a .22LR but a much more potent .22 Magnum. I’m immediately taken with its quality. It is beautifully well made, the frame and barrel seemingly cut from a single block of steel. It’s truly a miniature version of its larger cousins, complete with a ventilated rib, skeletonized hammer, bead sight and rubber grips. The cylinder’s flutes are nicely blackened, as are the decorative yet functional grooves on the locking pin. It’s a nice accent to the brushed stainless steel finish, and I’m instantly impressed. The seller tells me about how he owns several variations and loves them all—and not just for fun. His wife carries one regularly, in spite of struggling to conceal something larger. At the end of the transaction, the new owner proudly stands up, shakes my hand, and slips the little revolver into his front jeans pocket, where it disappears completely. I’m thoroughly intrigued.

North American Arms Pug
          I started doing research immediately and was impressed by countless enthusiastic reviews both in print and online, all singing praise for NAA’s mini-revolvers and the niche they fill so well. Moreover, I learned that NAA has a loyal following of customers who put these little arms to regular work as concealed carry weapons. To be honest, I’d never considered the thought of carrying something so small in caliber or size. As more and more information turned up in my research, I learned that whether as a police officer’s backup weapon, or as the average citizen’s go-to carry gun when something larger just isn’t practical, NAA mini-revolvers have a definite place in the concealed carry spectrum. They're growing in popularity and I can see why. Who wouldn't like to have five rounds available in a package the size of a smart phone? Moreover, several major manufacturers have recently begun churning out high-performance self defense ammunition designed expressly for short-barreled .22 Magnums, making these little revolvers a more potent self defense option then they ever were before. So while the famed “Rules for a Gunfight” might say not to bring a handgun the caliber of which starts with anything smaller than “4,” the most critical rule, rule #1—is to bring a gun. One of these minis might not be much. It might not be ideal at all... but something is better than nothing. The .45 ACP you left in the safe will do you no good if it isn’t with you when you need it most.
          NAA truly makes it possible to carry at all times, in just about every circumstance and situation. Regardless of the weather, your wardrobe, body type or build, physical activity, etc., you can always carry an North American Arms mini. In the near future, I’ll be talking more about these great little firearms in an effort to help share what I’ve learned about them and how they might just be the perfect deep cover firearm for you, too. Visit beckertactical.com to purchase your NAA today.

Big thanks to Jim Davis for his photographic contributions to this article!