Jul 10 2013

Looking for “upscale bulk” .22LR ammo?

An unsolicited testimonial for CCI #0056 subsonic hollow point
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“Rob, I love my .22LR rifle but I’m bumping up against the limits of bulk ammo. Can you recommend a quality ammo with the versatility of bulk that’s still cheap?”

The simplest recommendation is to stop buying whatever’s on sale. Just stick with the one bulk ammo you like best! Sure, it might cost a dollar more than “today’s hot buy” — yet for an extra buck you’ll get the ammo you know. Believe it or not, YouTube’s popular .22LR handgun trick-shooter does most of his stunts with one specific bulk ammo.

Two major factors make bulk .22LR so popular. First & foremost: it’s cheap. You can buy a “brick” of 500+ rounds for roughly $20. Second, it includes a hollow point. This means you can use the same plinking ammo for hunting or pest control if the need arises.

I recommend CCI #0056 as an “upscale bulk” ammo.

Before 2013, any gun store would sell you a full case (5,000+ rounds) of any bulk ammo for under $200. Things have changed: ordering a case remains out of the question for the near future. I do believe things will go back to normal someday and, when it does, you’ll want to stock up on your favorite bulk ammo. And stick with it.

CCI #0056 Sub-Sonic HP (hollow point)

CCI #0056 Sub-Sonic HP (hollow point)

YouTube’s popular .22LR handgun trick-shooter admits he can’t afford to shoot anything better than bulk ammo due to his high monthly shooting volumes. Me? Hey, if I shot at his volume, I too would order bulk ammo by the case!

I don’t pop 300-500 rounds every week — and I suspect you don’t, either — so you & I can afford to pay a little bit more for the good stuff.

That’s why I recommend CCI #0056 Sub-Sonic HP (hollow point) as an “upscale bulk” ammo. It costs roughly 60% more than cheap .22LR but it’s money well spent.

“Upscale bulk” ammo?

CCI #0056
Caliber .22LR
Weight 40 grains
Shape Hollow point
Lube Wax
Copper None
B.C. 0.118

CCI introduced #0056 in 2003, so it no longer enjoys the fanfare seen in their more recent “Quiet-22” and “Segmented” products. It proves more reliable & consistent than today’s cheap bulk ammo, with better long-distance accuracy plus a quieter report. On top of all this, #0056 can serve as a linchpin for truly diverse shooting applications — especially if you own a supressor.

CCI picked their “magic value” of 1050 fps for this round. A 40gr bullet at this speed provides enough blowback to reliably cycle semi-auto firearms such as my Smith & Wesson 22A-1 pistol and both of my Mossberg 715T tactical rifles. And because it’s subsonic, it doesn’t give you the trademark “rifle crack” of a bullet traveling above Mach 1.

CCI settled on two “magic” values for their subsonic ammo: 710 fps and 1050 fps. I describe these values as “slow subsonic” and “fast subsonic.” I suspect CCI picked their fast subsonic value because it matches Mach 1 at 0°F, a common winter hunting temperature.

When I asked CCI about the slow subsonic value, they said “we wanted a round that was really quiet with a little more energy than the .22CB rounds.” But this answer doesn’t really explain why they settled on a “magic” speed — because it necessitates different powder recipes for bullets ranging in weight from 29gr to 40gr. I’m willing to bet CCI’s experiments proved 710 fps yields the best slow subsonic accuracy from a standard 24″ SAAMI barrel.

A linchpin for other CCI rounds

The phrase “diverse shooting applicatons” takes on a whole new meaning when you combine #0056 with these related CCI products:

  • #0074: segmented 40gr HP matches the #0056 trajectory
  • #0970: segmented 40gr HP, slow subsonic, 68 dB
  • #960: round nose 40gr, slow subsonic, 68 dB
  • #????: segmented 40gr HP matches “Velocitor” trajectory (not yet available)

CCI #0056 and its “segmented” brother #0074 look different but they share the same trajectory & energy out to 100 yards. No need to dope your scope! Want to plink? Go with the cheap #0056. Need to take down a mature racoon? Chamber the expensive #0074. Rabbit or possum? Go with #0056. Coyote worrying your livestock? Chamber #0074.

(“Waitaminit, Rob! Did you actually recommend a subsonic segmented .22LR for coyote control?!?” Let me clarify: I recommend #0074 for coyote if you can deliver a true BLUSH shot {Brain LUngs Spine Heart} out to 100 yards. Always consult your local DNR for depredation restrictions on ammo & firearms.)

If you put CCI ammo over a chronograph, it probably won’t match the advertised speed. Most .22LR rifles come with 16-22″ barrels vs. a SAAMI standard 24″ barrel.

16.5″ barrel
+ suppressor
98 ft-lbs 93 ft-lbs
1050 fps 1025 fps
sub-sonic sub-sonic

If you use a mildot scope, CCI #0056 can also serve as a linchpin for its “segmented” cousin #0970. It moves slower with half the energy and limited noise, making it a great short-distance hunting round with only a 68 dB report at the shooter’s ear.

That’s assuming you can find #0970 for a decent price in the current marketplace. You may only be able to find its inexpensive round-nose brother #960. These two share a very similar trajectory & energy out to 25 yards. If #0056 is your linchpin, then #960 might serve as your “follow-up shot” ammo.

If you buy a suppressor, ask the manufacturer if you can safely shoot CCI’s slow subsonic ammunition. Some manufacturers declare a minimum speed; others discourage certain brands of ammo.

Now, it doesn’t exist yet … but I fully expect CCI will debut a “Segmented Velocitor” round. When they do, you can add it to your reportoire of .22LR ammunition, further increasing the diversity in your shooting applications.

Yes! Subsonic bullets can mushroom

A nearly pure lead bullet in CCI #0056 yields impressive expansion at subsonic velocities

A nearly pure lead bullet in CCI #0056 yields impres­sive expan­sion at subsonic velo­cities

The “mushroom effect” is an important issue in hunting. Widespread use of alloys to harden lead has created a myth that only a supersonic bullet can expand its hollow point. Let’s dispel this myth, shall we? This photo reveals a whopping .380″ mushroom in a simple “milk jug” experiment.

Why does #0056 expand so well at subsonic velocity? The bullet appears to be nearly pure lead, which makes it very malleable.

What are the cons for this ammo?

I suspect price is the biggest turn-off for most people — just ask YouTube’s popular .22LR handgun trick-shooter! I mean, let’s face it: you can buy a brick of Remington “Golden” hollow points for roughly the same price as a half-brick of CCI #0056.

Availability is another serious problem. Large stores tend to order bulk ammo by the pallet, whereas they might only put in for a case of CCI #0056. Thankfully, today’s ammo search engines make it easy to find .22LR online and compare prices.

Length comparison of CCI 0056 (left) vs. Remingon Subsonic

Length comparison of CCI 0056 (left) vs. Remingon Subsonic

Kinetic energy is another issue for some people. The average bulk ammo delivers 25% more ft-lbs than CCI #0056. In reality, though, #0056 will pass through almost any varmint tagged “in profile” just like bulk ammo — without the trademark “rifle crack” of a supersonic bullet.

The length of a cartridge can prove insurmountable, be it too short or too long. This photo proves CCI #0056 is ever-so-slightly longer than Remington’s subsonic hollow point. As such, it won’t always feed correctly from the magazine of a Marlin 795 (semi-auto) nor a Marlin XT-22 (bolt). Also, the #0056 bullet appears to have a slightly taller base than the Remington Golden. This, too, might be an issue.

Feeding problems in the Marlin 795 & XT-22 stem from their magazine design. It has nothing to do with the receiver.

On the bright side: you can buy a single box of #0056 to test it in your firearm(s). If it doesn’t pass muster? Eh, at least you won’t be stuck with an entire brick. In fact, you can make me an offer to buy the remainder — because I’m always in the market for CCI #0056…