Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! The Rimfire Report is an ongoing series all about the rimfire firearm world. I’m sure many of you are feeling the ammunition squeeze and rimfire junkies like myself are not insulated from the current inflated price of ammunition. Before this spike in ammunition prices, most of us could have expected to pay about six or seven dollars for a 100-round sleeve of standard velocity .22LR ammunition. Now that price has skyrocketed to over $12 per sleeve if you can even find it on shelves. Today we’ll be attempting to circumvent the inflated prices and unavailability of the ammunition using nail blanks and commonly available 22 caliber pellets.
I tried a similar experiment last year in attempting to reload .22LR ammunition using a few household chemicals for primer material and propellant. Many of the comments wrote off the exercise as “pointless” as “22LR is relatively cheap and ALWAYS available.” While I don’t generally disagree with the statement that .22LR is relatively cheap, I personally haven’t seen more than a handful of massively overpriced boxes of .22LR on the shelves in recent memory.
So today we’ll see how this little experiment worked out and what conclusions I came to regarding the use of nail blanks and 22 caliber airgun pellets for replacement .22LR ammunition.
Disclaimer: Nail Blanks and 22 Caliber Pellets are not meant to be fired out of a traditional firearm. This is purely a hair-brained experiment done by a deranged rimfire junky and you risk injury to yourself and damage to your firearms if you attempt to duplicate this.
The Rimfire Report: Ammo For The Apocalypse – Nail Blanks and 22 Pellets
I am by no means the first person to attempt this type of experiment and the concept was first brought to my attention by Jeff of TAOFLADERMAUS who was able to successfully muzzle load 22 caliber pellets and then shoot them using nail blanks which can be bought at the local hardware store. In general, the rounds were pretty accurate and also showed great penetration potential.
However, loading each pellet and charge doesn’t exactly make for a quick and expedient replacement for a firearm so I thought I could attempt to stuff the cylinder of my Taurus 942 revolver to see if a case could be made for a quicker option with multiple rounds without the need to reload after each shot.
Since I can’t find any ammunition in the stores or available from retailers online, I was forced to go to GunBroker to see what the going rate was for .22LR. I found on average that it hovered somewhere around 30 cents per round for standard velocity 40-grain ammo so I’m going to use that as my metric to see if this alternate option is in fact cheaper.
At my local hardware store, I found that a box of 100 nail blanks (Ramset brand) cost $7.64. This is about the price of what .22LR would normally cost were it not for the ammunition shortage combined with the increased price of materials. I also ordered a mixer pack of 5 different types of 22 caliber pellets for testing purposes. Because of some reliability issues, I ended up settling on one type of 22 caliber pellet which ended up being lead-free and claimed to be 20% harder than comparable lead pellets. At the end of the day, you can expect to pay about $0.08 per pellet unless you start purchasing in greater quantities.
Other than the nail blanks and pellets, not much else is needed save for perhaps some toilet paper for wadding. What I found during my research is that not every .22LR revolver cylinder is the same size and not all cylinders will properly hold the pellets in on their own. I was to wad up some toilet paper in order to hold the pellets in place until they are fired. So as far as price goes, each round was costing about $0.16 for the nail blank and pellet combo vs nearly double that for standard factory ammunition.
Accuracy, Velocity, and Reliability
For this combo to be reliable I felt that the rounds needed to be reasonably accurate, reliable, and have enough velocity to be used for hunting purposes. My test revolver wasn’t exactly the best option for the accuracy department and if I would have had a choice, I would have opted to go with a Heritage Rough Rider Rancher Carbine. This would have been a better demonstrator for accuracy but I feel like my snub-nosed revolver worked well enough as a proof of concept.
I didn’t notice a huge difference in accuracy between the 5 different types of pellets I tested. From a distance of about 10 yards, I was able to reliably place shots within a 3-in target with my small revolver. With something like a revolver carbine accuracy would have been much greater and each of the holes put on my targets didn’t seem to indicate that rounds were tumbling or key-holing in any way. Stability seemed great.
Due to the pellets being much lighter than even a 36-grain .22LR hollowpoint, I was getting some pretty high velocities. The rounds themselves were not very consistent and I am not sure whether this is due to how the pellets sat inside of the cylinder or if the nail blanks themselves were inconsistent but I saw velocities ranging anywhere from 1,300 fps all the way up to nearly 1,700 fps. These velocities would be more than enough to deliver a killing blow to the small game if you planned on using these for hunting.
I didn’t have a single failure to fire with any of the three types of Ramset charges I used. However, I did run into a pretty massive problem when I attempted to setup up my testing from a “2” (brown) rated charge to a “3” (green). I found that when I increased the charge, subsequent reloadings were sometimes not possible due to the skirt of the pellet being left behind inside of the cylinder. Because of the results I had with the green nail blanks, I never bothered to step it up to the yellow ones.
It seems that the skirt of the pellet is far too weak to handle the nail blank charge and as a result, I had to manually clean out each cylinder after firing rounds with the “3” nail blanks. Even with the harder copper-plated projectiles that had a much thicker skirt, I was still getting leftover bits of pellet inside the cylinder which had to be pushed out with a tool before loading any new pellets.
Through my testing, I found that there was only one consistent loading that worked every time without the need to clean the cylinders before each reloading. The combination of the “3” brown Ramset charges and the lead-free 14.66-grain projectiles worked the best and still produced velocities in the 1,300 fps range even out of that short 2″ barrel. With this loading, I was able to hold 3-inch groups at 10- yards and even plink comfortably at 20 yards on steel plates without issues.
I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you’re absolutely in desperate need of ammunition to sustain yourself. I do think that using this concept in a revolver makes it a more viable one but I also don’t think it’s in any way practical given that ammunition is still available but at insane prices. Aside from all of that, I had a lot of fun experimenting with the different types of pellets I was able to get my hands on and may attempt this again with some heavier 22 caliber pellets that look more like traditional bullets to see if I can get some better results.
As always, thanks for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report! If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them below and let us know how things are for you in the rimfire world. I’d be interested to know if any of you have tried something like this before and what your results were!