Reason for the high cost of 22 RF match ammo.
Ran across this article after the turkey today. It will help with the reason match ammo is so high.
In the subconscious mind of most shooters, the .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle rimfire cartridges form part of the bedrock of shooting sports. Their ubiquitous availability, affordable price, consistent quality and wide product range are taken for granted. Few shooters stop to consider the many difficulties inherent in the design and manufacture of these cartridges.
If you set out to design a self-contained cartridge that is difficult to make and suffers from numerous design shortcomings, it would be the humble .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle (.22 rimfire).
On a good day, the ignition potential of the .22 rimfire priming system is weak. Because there is no anvil, the lead styphnate rimfire priming compound requires the addition of ground glass as a frictioning agent. Ground glass is not "bore friendly," but without it, .22 rimfire priming will not function. And, to date, no lead-free priming compounds suitable for .22 rimfire have been found.
Ignition begins on the side of the case where the rim is crushed by the firing pin; there is no flash hole to focus the ignition gasses into the center of the powder charge. Failure to press the priming compound reliably and evenly inside the annular rim cavity can lead to misfires and high variations in muzzle velocity.
It is important to remember that the .22 Short and Long Rifle cartridges were originally designed for and loaded with easily ignited black powder. However, smokeless propellants have dramatically different ignition requirements and burning characteristics. Propellant makers soon found that the .22 rimfire design was not friendly to early smokeless propellants. They struggled for decades to find suitable smokeless propellants and the search continues to this day.
Essentially, the .22 rimfire requires unique smokeless propellants with a high energy content that are easily ignited and burn progressively. Limited case capacity dictates a dense powder with a small flake or ball configuration. Propellants with large flakes, sticks or coarse grains cannot be used as they will not drop uniformly through the holes in .22 rimfire plate-loading machines.
To facilitate ignition, .22 rimfire bullets must be heavily crimped into the case mouth to increase shot-start forces. Of necessity, this deforms the bullet. However, even on a good day, only about half of the propellant in a .22 rimfire cartridge burns completely.
The weak case head is the Achilles heel of the .22 rimfire cartridge. For this reason, Maximum Average Pressures (MAP) of .22 rimfire ammunition must be kept below 24,000 psi. Rimfire cases must have enough spring-back to assure consistent extraction in blowback-operated semi-automatic guns, yet remain soft enough to prevent splitting. This is a narrow margin that also eliminates steel as a .22 rimfire cartridge case material. Design parameters require all rimfire cartridge cases to be rimmed. Necked rimfire cases require several additional production steps which adds considerably to their cost. Rimfire cartridge cases cannot be reloaded.
All .22 rimfire bullets tread a fine line between function and accuracy. The bearing surface of .22 rimfire bullets is the same diameter as the outside surface of the cartridge case. This makes lubrication of such bullets difficult as the case-diameter bullets must be lubricated on the outside where it may be wiped off or contaminated. Lubricants for lead, center-fire bullets are unsuitable for rimfire ammunition, and, unfortunately, copper-plating serves no ballistic purpose, does not eliminate the need for lubrication, adds cost and damages the bullets.
Case-diameter bullets also limit bullet shape, weight, balance and bearing surface. Another significant problem is that .22 rimfire bullets have an undersized, cupped base that the propellant gases must expand reliably and evenly into the rifling grooves for proper sealing and stabilization.
Headaches of .22 Rimfire Production
Centrifugal force is used to push the priming compound into the hollow rim of the cartridge case. This is accomplished by dropping a wet pellet of priming compound into the bottom of the cartridge case, inserting a closely fitting steel pin, then using the pin to spin the case at speeds of approximately 10,000 rpm for a few seconds. This is a tenuous process at best and frequently fails to completely fill the rim with priming compound.
Preparing the small, wet primer pellet and inserting it in the cartridge case is hazardous hand workópart art and part training. The moisture content of the priming compound must be carefully controlled within narrow limits, otherwise the mixture will not work at all. The ground glass in the priming compound increases wear on the steel spinner pins and excessive smearing of the priming compound up the case sidewalls (a common problem) can adversely affect ignition and interior ballistics.
Ammunition makers also struggle continuously to find suitable rimfire powders. The ideal .22 rimfire propellant must be competitively priced and compatible with plate-loading systems. It must have a high energy content, ignite easily and burn progressively while leaving a minimum of unburned propellant. Very few propellant powders meet these requirements.
Due to the weak ignition, powder residue from partially burned and unburned powder are constant problemsójust ask any indoor shooting-range operator. The high ballistic performance required by many modern .22 Long Rifle loads places severe interior ballistic requirements on propellants. On the other hand, low MAPs can cause uneven expansion of the lips of the cup on the bullet's base and poor accuracy. In some instances, high MAPs can blow the lips of the cup base completely out.
In order to obtain the high muzzle velocities advertised for many .22 Long Rifle loads, MAP limits must be pushed to levels that leave little margin for error given the weak case head. Also, the proper case hardness gradient must be maintained to prevent extraction and/or ejection problems in spite of variations in brass strip and tooling.
Rimfire .22 ammunition makers fight a constant battle with bullet lubrication. It is ironic that such a cheap cartridge requires highly specialized, micro-crystalline, synthetic-base waxes for lubrication and costly systems for application. Often, what works today does not work tomorrow due to minor variations in temperature, humidity, bullet hardness, propellant variations, etc.
Bullet hardness (antimony content) can be a particularly difficult problem as small variations can result in lead buildup of rifle bores and inaccuracy. Rough handling of .22 rimfire bullets on the factory floor can easily have an adverse effect on accuracy.
Crimping the .22 L.R. bullet into the case mouth properly remains a constant problem. Too heavy a crimp may push MAPs over the limit, adversely affect accuracy and cause leading. Too light a crimp may result in erratic breech pressures, high variations in muzzle velocity, excess unburned propellant and malfunctions in semi-automatic firearms. As if this were not enough, the driving knives on the crimping operation mangle the bullet.
Overview of the Impossible
We have seen that the inherent characteristics of the .22 LR rimfire cartridge are its own worst enemy and the leading cause of its manufacturing difficulties. However, before we condemn its design, we must remember that the .22 LR rimfire cartridge is a product of the technology and art of the 19th century. With the benefit of today's technology, ammunition makers produce safe, reliable, low cost .22 LR cartridges of average quality in mind-numbing quantities. However, they cannot produce a match load on demand. That is the art.
On the other hand, the .22 L.R. is nothing if not adaptable. Its repertoire includes instruction, training, practice, qualification, informal competition, formal competition, plinking, pest elimination, small game hunting and even personal defense. Few other cartridges are this versatile. And, that is why the .22 L.R. rimfire cartridge remains a bedrock of the shooting sports.
No wonder the stuff costs so much. And no one wants to try and make it.
C-Young: While I agree with what you have to say about 22-lr and how they are made and the problems with their manufactor I have to wonder why all of a sudden in our shooting history Rimington Federal and others decided to quit making rimfire ammo that is competitive and produce junk (bulk ) ammo that they sell and make a profit off of to people that just want to plink and could care less about compitition and benchrest shooting in general.If they can make the junk and make a profit then why can't they make good competive ammo? In this country in this sport we have to depend foreign made ammo .Why not an American manufactor? Case in point Federal at a point sold of all their machinery and got out of the business of makeing great compititive ammo. Why ? Their answer was they could not make enough money so they got out. Enter Elley Lapua etc- As soon as they started selling ammo here the prices jumped up more and more every six months or so and continue to do so. There was nothing eles to buy to compete with except the forigen stuff. So the price goes up and up and folks here keep buying and paying the high price. There are many over the last year that have said it aint worth it and in these hard economic times got out. I have complained about the prices and what I think is gouging the American public, as you well know and had some to tell me if you can't afford it get out. I have just about done that. Price of ammo -cost of gas, food, lodgeing cost of entering a compitition compaired to what you get back is a little short`. It is like you say no wonder no one wants to buy it - Some can't afford it. Look at what you spend for a year to compete and it really piles up. You could probably buy a new car on what some are willing to throw away. Most can't do it, a lot are decideing not to do it any more. Eley does not care if you or any American decides not to buy their ammo , they will sell it reguardless( Europe China or who knows who. Say what you will to me but it is hard to justify what it costs today. Rba is dying ,you can't deny that and who is next. What was fun as a kid and what was fun for me a couple of years ago is long gone and if things continue to go as they are it will be gone for others too. I wish you well C Young and hope you had a good Thanksgiving. garrisone.
Thanks for posting the article, Craig...very informative!
That is a superb article and really taught me some things -- thanks! Of course, it is also true that competition does tend to keep prices lower and quality higher, so I too am very disappointed in the American ammo companies that have allowed the European companies to totally put them to shame vis-a-vis accuracy and consistency.
Well, people always tend to look at these things through their own personal prism. I'm cursed with shooting CF group as well and the price of powder, primers, and match bullets has been on a similar trajectory if not higher.
Originally Posted by garrisone
I agree with what you say and have posted similar views and comments on this subject. .22 target shooting is a small market when compared to the hunting/plinking market. The returns against investment aren't so high and US companies are all about returns on investment. Eley, Lapua and RWS and to a lesser degree S&B have effectively cornered the .22target ammunition market world wide. They dictate the prices, making sure that raw material cost increases are passed on to the consumer as fast as possible. But never passing on the savings when those costs fall. Its very much a sellers market which they exploit extremely well. I believe that it has gotten to a point where you have to begin questioning when does the market lead pricing end and the price fixing begin?
Rimfire Benchrest competition is dying. As are most of the target shooting disciplines both rifle and shotgun. I recently competed in a regional clay comp that 3 years ago we had nearly 200 shooters attend. This year we were down to less than 90. That's over 50% down, and some of the guys were saying that it was their last comp of the year and possibly the last one ever. All down to the huge increases in all of the costs involved in competing.
Hambone : Thanks for your reply. I have been frustated with the almost predictable rinse in the cost of 22 lr every six months or so for a while now. When the cost gets so high that it becomes a factor in wheather or not I will be able to shoot a 22 rifle it looses its appeal and desire on my part and I am sure for others to be involved. This sport has become or maybe it has always been a rich man's game. When I was a boy I got to go out and shoot with my Grandfather and it was fun and it didn't cost you fifteen or twenty dollars a box for ammo. Yeah I know that was back in the 40's and there was a big war going on at the time too. Back then Americans depended on themselvs not on forigeners for what we needed. We could make it better and cheaper than any country in the world. That is not the case now. If you can't afford the bullets-center fire or rimfire you can't use the rifle or pistol. Smacks of gun control to me. garrisone.
Speaking of Gun Control, someone copied me the other day on an article that said the person who owns the holding company that is buying up all the American gun and ammo companies is owned by George Soros (Sp?). He is out to ban all firearms, the article said.
George Sorros- Yes he is out to make sure you will not be able to protect yourself period. I wonder how he will react if the country is ever invaded and they come after him ?
Fact check there once and a while Pete, this has been on and debunked on countless gun forums already. The gun company buys of Remington, Marlin, Dakota, etc have been by Cerberus capitol, a private equity fund of which Mr Soros[ the rotton Ba.tard] holds no decesion making capacity. The sitting President is one Dan Quayle and a few other Texas folks. Not exactly the European socialism set.
Originally Posted by Pete Wass
Well Tim, it looks like they all line up at the same troth to me. Not much of a surprise I guess, it's all about the money, isn't it. Our free Enterprise System has been honed to such a fine point it only works for the top 1% anymore. Oh, I gusee some of those who sell it for them may get a few crumbs too, eh?
Originally Posted by tim
Pete, as best I can tell, you've just equated Regan trickle down economics with European socialism. No wonder Wilbur doesn't want political discussions on BR Central.
Pete, let me see if I have this straight. You are retired and live in Wis. in the summer and FL in the winter and somehow our "Free Enterprise System" has screwed you around? REALLY............................................ ....Give me a XXXXXXX break.
Originally Posted by Pete Wass
Charles, James, meet Pete. You're having fun now, eh? Private equity firm all about the money??? Who would have thought?
I'm just wondering why Pete is not at the occupy wall Street protest.
Originally Posted by tim