Once we finally spied the bushytailed bandit in the crook of a tree and got a solid light on him, my first shot landed with a thwack but wasn’t immediately fatal.

“Hit him again, Clem!” my raccoon-hunting buddies hollered. The dogs were barking. The ‘coon was trying to hunker down. And my Thompson-Center .22 rifle, which I really love and have used for years, was jammed with the spent shell stuck in the chamber.

I cursed, whipped out my pocket knife (all y’all carry a pocket knife, right?) and got the blade tip under the edge of the rimfire case. Once out, the next one fed cleanly, as did the two after that. Then another jam. Fortunately, the raccoon was on the ground by then and the hounds were making sure it was dispatched.

I finally figured out what was happening. For whatever reason, one brand of hollow-point ammo wouldn’t eject and would seize in the chamber after firing. The other brand, which had a solid point, wasn’t giving me any problems. I gave all the hollow-point ammo to my buddy, who gladly took it, and didn’t have any issues from thereon.

Was it the bullet? The grain size? Something with the shell? A dirty chamber? Whatever the case with that particular ammo, it didn’t work. I tried it at the range and it happened again. So, out with that ammo. It didn’t work for my rifle and that’s that.

The .22 rifle, after the BB gun and air rifle, likely is one of the first things we ever shot as kids. It may have been in the woods on a squirrel hunt or at the range for targets. Could’ve been a Christmas morning present and you walked out into the back pasture to safely knock a can off a fence post. The 20-gauge also is another grand starter gun, but we’ll talk about scatterguns another time.

With the .22 rifle we’ve been able to pursue a host of game: squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, woodchucks, varmints, snakes and probably some other things here and there. I like the .22 in winter after the leaves have dropped for squirrels and raccoons. That’s partly because it’s more fun than with a shotgun (which is better when the leaves are on), and if either critter is waaaayyyyyy up high in a tree the .22 will reach out and touch ’em. I prefer to use a rest or shooting stick, if time permits, for a more stable platform.

Which Ammo is Best?

Before your small game seasons open, head to the range with several different brands and grain sizes of .22 ammo to see what works best.

Why? Because even with a .22, you want to make clean, accurate shots and put down game as quickly and humanely as possible. If a head shot with the .22 will drop a squirrel or raccoon, why waste ammo and time hitting it anywhere else?

My current lineup includes the CCI Quiet-22 Segmented Hollow Point, the Eley High Velocity Hollow Point and the Federal Premium Hunter Match. It’s also a hollow point bullet. All of those go against my previous results, although the ammo that jammed was a different brand. It’s out of the mix.

I may add one or two others into the testing. Once done, I’ll have a report on what I used, results and such.

What’s your favorite .22 ammo and what do you hunt? Leave some comments below. I’d love to hear from other small-game hunters.