Range Report: Federal Range & Field .22 LR

As promised, I went to the range (DFW Gun Range, my all-time favorite) to test some “new” .22 ammo, to whit, the new budget Federal Range & Field variants.

So here are the two we’re going to be looking at:

and its hollowpoint brother:

Federal claims that the two are ballistically identical, so that’s what we’re going to test, fired through  my trusty Marlin 880SQ — but on a benchrest, not a bipod:

Added, in response to a comment below: I always run a boresnake through the barrel between testing different brands; then I fire a couple of fouling shots into the backstop, and then continue with the test. It’s not a “cleaning” (in the sense of a full field-strip cleaning), but for me it suffices.

First, a quick test of the zero, using my go-to CCI Mini-Max 36-grain hollowpoints as a benchmark, in a 5-shot string (and point of aim for all rounds was the center of the diamond):

No problem, with a called flier. They shoot a tad high because they’re light 36-grain bullets. So a couple clicks down on the scope, and I was ready to start the test. First came the Federal 40-grain “Range” ammo:

Ahem. That, dear Readers, is a 5-shot group, the very first time I’d ever shot this ammo. I’m pretty sure that someone else could do better than that, but not by much.

Now, the 38-grain “Field” variant:

Honestly, I didn’t do the ammo justice because the guy in the next lane was shooting an AK with a muzzle brake, and the concussion / bright flash was causing me to jerk the trigger as I tried to fit the string in between his shots. Failure. So I waited till he was reloading, and tried the 38-gr rounds again:

Much better, with the called flier on the left. Yes, as I suspected, the lighter 38gr Field hollowpoint bullets do strike a teeny bit higher than the 40-gr Range solids, but not by much, and it’s a good, solid group nevertheless.

I shot both ammo types a dozen or so more times each (without any significant differences from the initial groups), and I can honestly say that I think the Federal Range 40gr lead roundnose ammo is the bee’s knees — and its low price makes it a definite entry into the “plink all day” category. The Field 38gr copper hollowpoints? I’m going to hold off for a while and maybe do a little more testing — maybe compare it to other .22 hollowpoint ammo. It doesn’t seem to offer as tight a group, but as I said, I’m going to give it another session to make sure.

Finally, let me offer the usual caveats: these results came from my rifle, my scope and my level of shooting skill. Your results may differ — and in fact, they probably will, so it’s up to you. Rimfire guns are also notoriously picky as to their “favorite” ammo, and what works beautifully in one rifle will be awful in another. The Marlin 880SQ seems to love the Federal Range 40gr LRN ammo — and as proof I’ll show you another target result, using Winchester Super-X 40gr LRN this time:

I have a jillion rounds of the Super-X stuff because I got a honking deal on it about a decade ago and bought accordingly. I normally use this ammo exclusively in my Taurus pump-action because that’s what I plink with, but the grouping above is typical for this ammo in my guns: quite some variation between cartridges from the same box (which didn’t happen with either of the Range & Field types). A variation doesn’t matter when I’m looking for minute-of-Coke-can, but it does if I’m doing some serious shooting.

Anyway: my conclusion is that this new budget ammo from Federal performs much better than a budget cartridge can be expected to. Give it a shot for yourselves.

Up next: Federal Automatch .22, which should arrive in the next few days. Watch this space.

*Reminder: I get no kickbacks from any ammo manufacturer whatsoever for these tests. I perform them on an ad hoc basis, according to my whim or choice. Mostly, I buy the ammo for myself; but if anyone wants me to test ammo and sends me a couple boxes, I’ll do it gladly with the proviso that I will be impartial and outspoken. If I think the ammo sucks, I’ll say so, using those words; and if it’s excellent, I’ll say that too.


  1. Serious question: under what circumstances is there an actual need for hollow points in .22 LR ammo? My usual quarry when hunting with a .22 is rabbit or squirrel. I’ve never checked a recovered bullet, but I doubt those critters even have enough mass to cause a hollow point to mushroom as intended, at least at .22 LR velocities. I’ve always found the standard 40 gr round nose to be more than enough to put paid to Brer Rabbit and Squirrel.

    1. Grizz,
      That’s a very valid question. I’ve only ever been able to recover a few .22 bullets from targets — mostly those shot at a distance where the bullet doesn’t go straight through and disappear — and I have to agree with your hypothesis. Where a hollowpoint .22 does make a difference is if you’re shooting at something that’s not small. For rats, rabbits and squirrels, there’s little difference between a solid and a hollowpoint; but anything larger (raccoons, foxes, skunks etc.), any increase in bullet diameter makes a one-shot kill more likely. And hollowpoints do expand in larger game because the target’s greater inertia coupled with the speed of the arriving bullet will cause the bullet to expand, sometimes to as much as double. And the more energy you dump into the target, the better.

  2. Kim;
    With .22 rf ammo, when testing different lots or types of ammo, it is best to either clean the bore after each different brand of the propietary lubricant on the bullets or to fire at least 20 rds of each to season the bore for the new brand. After cleaning, at least 15 ~ 20 rounds are needed to season the bore with the new bullets lubricant. Then you will get the results you seek comparing different brands of ammo.
    My experience is that CCI ammo is usually the best performer in the low priced .22 rf stuff.

    1. Velo,
      I always run a boresnake through the barrel between brands; then I fire a couple of fouling shots into the backstop, and then continue with the test. It’s not a “cleaning” (in the sense of a full field-strip cleaning), but for me it suffices.
      Sorry; I should have explained that in the post. I’ll add this comment as an update.

    2. @Velocette,
      A buddy of mine shoots a Smith and Wesson model 41 pistol. Sweet gun, to be sure, but is notoriously picky about ammo. His go-to practice ammo (he shoots on a pistol team) is CCI Standard velocity. I recently caught an online deal where a 500 round “brick” of CCI Std was $30. Bought as much as I could afford. Next range trip I’ll probably run some through my Browning Buckmark because the pistol didn’t really like Federal Auto Match.
      – Brad_in_IL

  3. Welcome back, Kim. Reading your in depth posts on firearms and ammo is akin to finding a long lost friend. I’ve used your previous site for research before buying firearms, ammo and such. Good to see you back in the saddle again.

    1. USMC,
      Thankee for the kind words.
      I may — repeat MAY — resurrect some of my older tests and re-post them when I have the urge; but time passes on, things change, and a lot of the tests are no longer relevant.
      Maybe next year, when I finally end my European Vacation, I’ll settle back into doing more tests. We’ll see.

  4. Nice Shooting!
    Federal Range is definitely going on my list, though I’ve always been partial to CCI Blazer.

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