I don’t think there is a single capable shooter who would claim that the .22LR cartridge doesn’t hold any training value. Just about everyone agrees: the .22 is excellent for training and provides the extra benefit of being great for introducing new shooters to the shooting sports.
Most of the justifications for using a .22 are obvious. Limited recoil means that you are less inclined to develop a flinch, allowing good practice for follow through and trigger control. No matter what round your centerfire is chambered in, .22 is going to be cheaper. The cost advantage is hard to ignore. Ultimately when these two factors are combined, they allow you to build good habits through many solid repetitions.
Beyond the obvious
What may not be so obvious is that a .22 allows for some good training that might not even be possible with a centerfire firearm. When you consider the limited facilities you might have available to you, the .22 opens up even more options.
If you shoot rifles, trajectory is one of the key skills you need to master to really consider yourself a capable Rifleman. If you have a 500 yard range in your back yard, you might be able to practice compensating for trajectory on your centerfire rifles (and if that is available to you, definitely do it!).
For most people getting beyond 100 or 200 yards at their local club is a little hard.
Take for example the average 5.56MM round out of an AR15. With a 300 yard zero, at 500 yards this round might drop approximately 3 feet. At 200 yards the same round is actually about 6 inches high. At 100 yards you are still pretty close to 3-6 inches high. Inside of 200 yards the round requires relatively little compensation.
A .22 at 200 yards on the other hand might drop anywhere between 3 and 7 feet depending on the exact load you are shooting.
In this case a .22 can be a great tool for learning how to compensate for bullet drop. Even better if you can place steel at multiple or unknown distances out on a range. Learn how to measure range to the target with your reticle and compensate to hit the target.
Wind is also hard to practice compensating for unless you have a lot of wind and a range long enough for it to really have an impact. Your .22 rifle will be impacted far more by wind over a shorter distance than say your .308.
At 200 yards in a 10mph cross wind a .308 round would only get pushed about 4 inches off target. Your .22 on the other hand might drift 15-30 inches in a similar wind. This provides for another great opportunity to practice advanced skills without the heavy burden of an expansive range.
Reactive targets are certainly fun, but they are also great for building decision making skills under pressure. Unfortunately steel can splash back pretty badly, so it requires more space between you and the target. Paper can be shot at safely with the muzzle on the target, but that is not the case with steel.
A centerfire round, especially a rifle round, will have far more energy than a .22 and therefore it requires far more distance to the target to be shot safely. It is generally not a great idea to shoot steel with a centerfire rifle inside of 100 yards. Shooting steel closer can decrease the life of the steel and increases the likelihood of splash back. A .22 on the other hand can be safely fired at steel much closer. Steel at 7 yards with a .22 is both safe and great for training.
When you also consider that rifle-grade steel is much more expensive than .22-grade steel, you can start to see why a .22 is beneficial. Ever been to a range that doesn’t allow rifles to be shot at their steel? It’s because that steel is too soft to handle repeated hits from a centerfire rifle. These rounds will damage the steel and make it unsafe as ricochets will become both common and unpredictable.
If you have a .22 that mimics your carry pistol or duty rifle, you can practice engaging steel targets safely and far less expensively than you would if you were to do so with your carry pistol or duty rifle.
If you don’t already use a .22LR for training it might be time to start. The benefits of training with a .22 are numerous. You can easily enjoy more practice for less money, and more importantly, you can expand the types of training you can do by taking advantage of the limitations of the .22LR cartridge and treating these limitations as strengths.
What do you use a .22 for in your training?