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22 ELR: Cutting Edge Bullets Pushes The Limits

22 ELR: Extreme Long Range

It’s hard not to enjoy the iconic American cartridge, the rimfire 22 Long Rifle. Whether it’s for plinking, training, or, in this case, stretching its legs — it’s affordable fun for all ages. If you’ve been watching the precision rifle competition circuits over for the last eight years or so, there’s been a strong focus on Extreme Long Range (ELR) shooting and matches. In most of these matches, shots start at a mile and just keep going, testing both the equipment and the teams’ ability to read and adjust to changing environmental conditions. If you ever get the opportunity to send some copper at these ranges, it will not only be humbling, but an exercise in pure joy (if you hit!). The simple pleasures of clanging steel or exploding rock fragments never gets old.

Most don’t have access to these kinds of ranges locally — even a 1,000-yard range in most parts of the country is hard to come by — so ELR isn’t the most approachable of shooting sports. If we’re completely honest, ELR rigs are horrendously expensive and if you’re serious about the game, $15 to $20K for a rig isn’t out of the question. And we haven’t even touched the ammunition aspect of the sport. For most, 300- to 600-yard ranges are much more common and shooting a variant of .375 or .416 at this kind of distance is like driving an F1 car at a kart track. It never taps the true potential that they’re capable of, and the shooter doesn’t experience the environmental effects that make ELR as challenging as it is.

Samantha Smitchko sending some copper down range, working to cure projectile dysfunction.

Samantha Smitchko sending some copper down range, working to cure projectile dysfunction.

22 ELR – EXTREME LONG RANGE

For those looking to learn to be a better shooter in a wide variety of environmental conditions and geek out on math, 22 ELR might be for you. While there are a host of shooting competitions in which 22s are applied to a PRS-style match (such as NRL22), this is a different discipline entirely. When shooting .22s at extreme distance, everything is amplified. There’s a host of errors, which are usually masked with a larger bullet and a shorter range, and with 22LR they’ll be placed in sharp relief. This allows us to smooth our marksmanship skills, paying dividends when returning to heavier calibers and rifles.

Unlike the centerfire matches that spawned them, if you and your buddies or your local club want to host a 22 ELR match, as of right now there isn’t a standard set of rules. For our purposes here, a standard 36×36-inch target at 500 yards would be equivalent to the targets used at 2 miles, and you can adjust target sizes as ranges are reduced, scaling down to match the distance. This gives a local range the ability to make a 22 ELR match with whatever they have laying around — hell, old traffic signs would work as targets since there’s limited to zero damage done with rimfire. 

CuRx Bullets

22LR reloading dies and some 32-grain pills — just what the doctor ordered.

22LR reloading dies and some 32-grain pills — just what the doctor ordered.

Taking a 22LR out to 400 to 500 yards can be comparable to shooting 2 miles, when you aren’t cherry picking conditions. In RECOIL Issue 40, Rob Curtis covered four rifles that could fit the bill, but the limiting factor as with all rimfire competition is finding ammo that’s consistent with regards to velocity, and particularly extreme spread, a factor which is only multiplied at distance. 

Previously, shooters who extended their ranges to 500 yards and beyond were limited to shooting subsonic, premium lead rounds due to the effects of transitioning through the transonic zone with supersonic rounds. Bullets starting out at supersonic velocities wouldn’t remain stable and become highly erratic as velocity begins to drop into the subsonic range. Although the effects of super to subsonic transition are avoided by bullets leaving the barrel at around a thousand feet per second, these slower velocities lead to greater wind drift and more vertical drop. 

Furthermore, with rimfire your ability to find consistency in ammo is key for repeatable results, especially when you begin to add distance and environmental factors. This has led shooters to buy entire lots of ammo once they found one that fit the bill regarding consistency and accuracy from their rifle — at today’s prices, this starts to erode the budget-friendly nature of 22 ELR. 

PROJECTILE ADVANCES

With regards to bullet design, the 22LR has remained almost unchanged in 137 years, but SHOT Show 2019 news about the release of new, monolithic .22 rimfire bullets caused a buzz among ELR geeks. These allowed the end user to shoot a bullet at supersonic velocities and have it still remain stable as it transitioned through the transonic zone — something previously completely unheard of. As with every new development, it attracted people who said it wasn’t possible. We heard this lore years ago from the same folks who said turned copper solid projectiles are not accurate at distance, only to be proven wrong. 

The new bullet design was the brainchild of Scott Taylor, owner of Defense Solutions, who specializes in ELR rifles and reloading. As the story goes, Taylor was lathe turning existing Cutting Edge Bullets in fall of 2019, then reloading and testing variations to see what would work. When he finally found the magic bullet, he brought Dan Smitchko, owner of Cutting Edge Bullets, into the fold and work began to expand the lineup that forever changed how we now shoot 22 ELR. 

Cutting Edge Bullets is known for its class-leading ELR and premium hunting bullets, and they now have three 22LR variants in their inventory. The 22 CuRX line has a 32-, 42-, and 50-grain offering, all designed to cure your projectile dysfunction. The 32-grain offering will stabilize in all standard 1/16 twist barrels and can be mag fed, making it a great option for shooters looking to take any stock or semi-custom 22 the distance due to the better BC and velocity characteristics. If your plan is to shoot inside 500 yards and never want to re-barrel or build a custom .22, the 32’s will fill that role. Although they’ve been shot out to 1,000 yards, Taylor took the 32-grain to 1,070 yards in Raton, New Mexico, making two out of 10 impacts in full-value winds. 

For those looking to step past 500 and truly stretch the capabilities of this tiny round, the 42- and 50-grain options are the ticket, though they’ll require a faster twist. The 42-grain will need to be spun by a 1/10 or faster, while the 50-grain will need a minimum of 1/7 twist. And as luck would have it, Bartlien did a custom run of barrels for Defensive Solutions who can spin one up for your next .22 ELR Rig. 

22 ELR lineup.

22 ELR lineup.

LOOSE ROUNDS

While the CuRx line isn’t yet offered in a loaded, off-the-shelf configuration, Cutting Edge Bullets is selling brass and bullet packages so you can roll your own. Their bundles include 200 bullets and the corresponding primed brass. Dies are sold separately and a simple single-stage press and scale is all that’s required to be on your way to sending tiny pieces of copper down range. 

The company has compiled a list of load data and a video explaining the load process to get the best results out of your rifle, and as more users come online, expect to see more information generated from the user base. Right now, these are largely uncharted waters, which is exciting from a development perspective. 

Most users are seeing single-digit ES in their preferred loads, and a few powders have proven to be exceptional — useful when we’re stuck with the current component shortages. Speaking of which, with the industry experiencing one of the worst droughts for ammo and the days of burning a brick or two at the range seemingly over for a while, it might be the best time to pick up that old .22 and begin to stretch its legs. You can get a lot of valuable practice from just a handful of rounds and keep your long-range skills current for way less money than sending centerfire bullets downrange.

Like most shooters, the ELR crowd have greatly reduced the amount of powder we’ve been burning. 22 ELR might just be the ticket to hold us over as we weather this storm, coming out the other side with skills still sharp and continuing to venture into uncharted territory. While the full-bore ELR scene continues pushing to greater and greater distances, the lowly 22LR might just prove to be the ultimate frontier when it comes to doing things previously thought of as impossible. 

Cutting Edge Bullets

cuttingedgebullets.com

Cutting Edge 22 ELR

Examine Path: MOA

All set to standard atmospheric atmosphere

42gr Lead

32gr CuRx

42gr CuRx

50gr CuRx

G1 BC at 200 yards

.125(AB)

0.108

0.187

0.214

Velocity fps

1,150

1,700

1,550

1,490

Range:

Trace 1:

Trace 2:

Trace 3:

Trace 4:

0 Y

0

0

0

0

50 Y

6.33

2.78

2.87

3.09

100 Y

0

0

0

0

150 Y

-8.2

-4.88

-4.48

-4.62

200 Y

-17.52

-11.15

-9.88

-10.09

250 Y

-27.81

-18.61

-16.06

-16.26

300 Y

-39.05

-27.18

-22.95

-23.05

350 Y

-51.25

-36.81

-30.49

-30.43

400 Y

-64.45

-47.53

-38.67

-38.37

450 Y

-78.7

-59.37

-47.45

-46.85

500 Y

-94.05

-72.37

-56.85

-55.86

550 Y

-110.59

-86.63

-66.85

-65.4

600 Y

-128.41

-102.23

-77.47

-75.46

650 Y

-147.59

-119.28

-88.72

-86.07

700 Y

-168.26

-137.92

-100.6

-97.21

750 Y

-190.53

-158.29

-113.15

-108.92

800 Y

-214.55

-180.57

-126.39

-121.19

850 Y

-240.48

-204.95

-140.33

-134.05

900 Y

-268.5

-231.66

-155.02

-147.51

950 Y

-298.8

-260.96

-170.48

-161.6

1,000 Y

-331.62

-293.14

-186.76

-176.34

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One response to “22 ELR: Cutting Edge Bullets Pushes The Limits”

  1. Rob Woodfork says:

    god read

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