We come now to a cartridge whose name is a contradiction in terms. The word “magnum” has been used (and more often misused) in a number of ways over the past century, but CCI’s Mini-Mag .22 LR sets a new standard. It might as easily have been called the “small-big,” but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so smoothly.
Having gotten that off my chest, my point is that the Mini-Mag more than lives up to its name(s). As a .22 Long Rifle, it’s small, handy, and relatively cheap. As a “mag,” it hurls a 40-grain solid bullet at a measured 1,235 fps, and it does so with a level of reliability, in every pistol I’ve tried, to an extent unmatched by any other ammunition.
In my experience, semiautomatics with detachable magazines are not the most reliable of guns. Most are quite finicky about their ammunition, even though .22 LR specs are the most standardized of any cartridge in the world. A few years ago, for example, a box of 500 Remington bulk .22 LR would not feed in a single semiauto pistol I owned (High Standard, Browning, or any other brand). I finally relegated it to use in a single-shot rifle.
To take my old High Standards as an example, I have nine or 10 magazines, and at one time I had six different pistols. I marked each mag as to which gun(s) they functioned with, then test-fired ammunition to see what cycled reliably. A typical magazine was marked “101 Field King—Federal Gold Medal.”
Out of an assortment of ammunition, including Federal GM, Norma Match-22 and Tac-22, Aguila, SK, RWS, and several varieties of Eley, only CCI Mini-Mags wok with every gun.
For the last year or two, my backup car gun has been a Beretta Model 71. It rides with three magazines, all loaded with Mini-Mags. Now some would question carrying a .22 LR for self-defense, and they’d be right, but the Model 71 is a hideaway, always in the same spot, always available even if I forget to pack a bigger gun.
In my arsenal, there are two High Standard derringers, one in .22 LR, the other in .22 WMR. Having shot them both a lot, if I had to depend on one for defense, it would be the .22 LR mainly because it plants its bullets closer to where I want them. It has two Mini-Mags in its chambers and two more in the loops on its pocket holster.
In recent years, an enormous amount of effort has gone into developing better tactical ammunition for everything from the .22 LR to the .45 Colt. In the former, some has been pretty fanciful, such as particularly explosive hollowpoint bullets and bullets designed to fragment. When I was a kid hunting woodchucks with a Cooey single-shot .22, I learned early that solids did not kill instantly, but .22 LR “Mushrooms” (as they were then called) did. This is all very well on a small animal like a gopher, but it does not necessarily translate to a human body.
As far as I can determine, professional assassins who use .22s prefer a solid, put in exactly the right place, that will penetrate to where it’s supposed to go. My Beretta Model 71 was, according to lore and legend, preferred by Mossad agents assigned to track down and dispatch Arab terrorists responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes at Munich in 1972. Frankly, that’s good enough for me.