Hunting With a Rimfire

by Jeremiah Blanchard

The term rimfire applies to a specific type of firearm cartridge. A rimfire cartridge gets its name because the firing pin strikes the cartridge base rim instead of the center of base as with centerfire cartridges. A rimfire cartridge's percussion cap encompasses the entire base of the cartridge. Rimfire ammunition is generally used for target shooting, plinking and some small game hunting.

Types of Rimfire Ammunition

The most commonly used rimfire cartridge, and the most often produced cartridge in the world, is the .22 Long Rifle, or .22LR. This cartridge is used in a variety of shooting competitions, recreational sport shooting and varmint hunting. Several other versions of the .22 caliber are also produced including the .22 Short, .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (.22WMR), .22 Stinger, and the .22 Long Rifle High Velocity Mini-Mag. The newest cartridge in the rimfire category is the .17 caliber, made by Hornady. The .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (.17HMR) and the .17 Hornady Mach 2 are based use the .22 WMR and .22 Stinger case, and both are considered high-performance rimfire ammunition. Most varmint hunting is performed using the .22LR or the .17HMR, and the .22 short is generally used for target shooting competitions and plinking. All rimfire cartridges can be used for small game hunting.

Game Suitable for Rimfire Ammunition

Though you won't be able to bag that prize buck or ward off a charging bear, rimfire ammunition is perfect for small game hunting. Small game animals that typical rimfire ammunition -- such as the .22LR -- can kill include squirrels, birds, rabbits, coyotes, porcupines, skunks, various rodents and foxes. Well-placed shots will have no trouble putting these small critters down, and these weapons generally produce little recoil and have superb accuracy out of the factory. Rimfire weapons are considered ideal for young hunters learning the ropes of hunting and shooting.


Generally, all rimfire weapons vary in range distance and accuracy, even those that require the same ammunition. Though some rimfire weapons may boast a range of 400 to 500 yards, accuracy at this range is difficult even for experienced shooters. Typically, a rimfire common effective range is 200 yards or less. With this in mind, going varmint hunting in a thick field of dense brush over a long distance will be difficult. The best range for a rimfire is less than 100 yards over open terrain. Within this range you can easily see the animal or bird and have a shorter distance between you, resulting in greater accuracy.

Rimfire Shot Hunting

Rimfire cartridges are also produced to contain lead shot, typically 1/15 of an ounce. This type of cartridge looks like a miniature shotgun shell and can be fired by both the rimfire rifle and some specially made rimfire shotguns. The effective range of rimfire shot is generally no greater than 10 to 15 feet, which is why it's used primarily for varmints such as large rats or garden pests such as squirrels and rabbits. Pest control specialists typically hunt large rodents with rimfire shot. Those who enjoy extreme close-range hunting may prefer using shot.