.22 Long vs .22 Short Rifles – What is the Difference?

The 22 long is more popular, the 22 short is better for short range shooting. They each have different ballistic performance.

Most rifles are named according to the length of their barrels. If it is above 16 inches, it is labeled a long rifle. Those that are less than 16 inches long are considered short rifles. The same applies to the .22 rifles. These caliber ammunition are available in short and long versions.

We are going to analyze both based on their history, characteristics, uses specifications as well as the pros and cons of each. Given that they are different in many ways, it should be expected that these factors will vary from the .22 long to the .22 short.

The History of 22 Short and 22 Long

The 22 short has its roots in the United States of America. The first of its kind was made by Wesson and Smith in 1857. It had a self-contained metal cartridge. This model revolver was premiered for self-defense, as evident in the 29 bullets and 4 black powder grains loaded to it.

In the preceding 30 years, the smokeless powder had been developed to be used in the rifle. This took place in 1887. By 1927, the 22 short had undergone a transition that enabled the use of a primer, which was non-corrosive. Remington oversaw the modification. The model could shoot up to 50 yards away.

The 22 long made its debut in 1871. Stevens and Remington produced it through modifying the features of the 22 short. It was later manufactured on a large scale and was available in the market by 1884 as a rifle cartridge. They were made by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, in America.

It has continued evolving and it is still available in the market. Some shooters, however, feel that it has long outlived its usefulness and are not as fond of it as they are of the 22 short.

Features of the Two Rifles

The 22 short bullet’s diameter is 5.6mm while that of the 22 long rifles is 5.7mm. The neck diameter is 5.7mm for both. The thickness of their rims stands at 1.1mm.

Both are rimfire ammunition. Their primers are found at the bottom circular base. The primer compound sparks after a shot being fired and because the rim gets crushed at the barrel’s edge when the firing pin strikes.

Most features in the two rifles have similar measurements. The overall length of both is the only feature that differs strongly. The 22 long measures 25.4mm while the short rifle measures 17.7mm.

Another differing feature is their ballistic performance. Their velocity, bullet mass and energy emitted when they are fired are not the same. The velocity acquired by the 22 short is 319 m/s. It fires a 1.9g bullet at 1045ft in one second.

The 22 long rifle has a velocity of 370 m/s when a solid 2.6g bullet is fired at 50 yards. Different bullet masses yield different velocities when fired to the furthest distances.

Uses of the 22 Long and 22 Short

Both rifles are used for sports and recreation. They are popular for hunting. Shooting lessons have to be undertaken by whoever intends on handling any of these rifles. Their main uses include pest control, hunting of small-sized animals such as squirrels and rabbits, shooting for fun or recreational purposes.

The Boy Scouts of America use the long rifle to gain a merit badge in the shooting category. The cadet 22 LR is used in basic training in the field of handling firearms.

In areas where shooting and hunting sports are highly embraced, the long rifle is more popular than the short one. This is due to its effectiveness in short-range shooting. It is used in different guns and pistols.

The 22 short is ideal for close-range shooting. It is embraced in several states for hunting small games. Some states have issued legal orders outlining the acceptable uses of this rifle. Raccoons, rabbits, and squirrel-hunting is among the acceptable practices when using a 22 short.

Hunting of large-sized game is achievable using the 22 long at a close shooting range. Depending on the strength of the rifle, it may lead to instant death. The 22 short is not an advisable choice because in most cases, it wounds the game, causing it a slow painful death. Both practices are considered unethical.


In the current rifle market, the 22 long has recorded more volume and demand than the 22 short, in terms of their manufacturing and sales. This is made possible by the long rifle’s ability to fit in different types of firearms. Smoothbore shotguns, revolvers, pistols, and submachine guns are among the rifles compatible with the 22 long.

The 22 short, on the other hand, is only compatible with selected gun models such as mini-revolvers. It was used in the Olympic event for pistol rapid-fire events. This took place until 2004 before the event was incorporated into the modern pentathlon as one of the five activities. Air pistols have since been used instead.

Pros of the 22 Rifles

  1. Both are cheap and pocket-friendly. They are popular because of their desirable features.

  2. They give one a quick chance to focus on the target again after firing a shot because of their low recoil.

  3. Their weight leads to high penetration into the targeted spot. A single well-pointed bullet is likely to kill an animal with the first shot.

  4. They have a high accuracy capability. At a short or medium shooting range, you can put more than one bullet into the same hole without overheating the gun.

  5. Their lightweight makes them easy to carry around in a bolt bag.

Cons of the 22 Rifles

  1. Their shock value is low. This makes it hard to kill an animal with one shot if you don’t target the weakest spot on its skin.

  2. It is not good for self-defense due to its low power from long ranges. You’ll need to fire more than two shots to achieve your target. This may not be the best time for second guesses due to panic and the emotional factors attached to such situations.

Both the 22 short and long rifles vary in characteristics and use. The 22 long is more popular than the 22 short for the reasons stated above. This, however, doesn’t make it less effective.