Unless you live under a rock here in California, you must know by now that the use of lead ammunition in certain parts of the state has been banned. This ban, as described on the California Department of Fish & Game Website , effectively put an end to rimfire hunting for ground squirrels and other “non-game” animals. The first company out of the block with a solution to the new regulations was CCI-Ammunition’s TNT Green 22 Magnum Rimfire.
The CCI TNT 22 Magnum ammo is listed at 2050 feet per second, with 280 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle with a 30 grain hollowpoint. CCI also lists the same at 1317/116 at 100 yards. It is slightly slower than their lead TNT 22 Magnum ammo which is listed at 2200fps/322fpe (muzzle).
I got a telephone call from a hunting buddy of mine about 2 weeks ago. He was at a local store of all places and claimed to be looking at a stack of the new CCI Green 22 Mag Ammo behind the locked glass. I told him to get his wallet out and buy me a couple of boxes. It took some wrangling and promises of buying him breakfast, but he finally gave in and bought a couple of boxes. Now came the wait. I was swamped at work, so getting out for a day of shooting seemed like a long way off. Finally, Labor Day weekend came around so I got to go out on a late afternoon Sunday hunt (which with traffic here in SoCal, is hardly ever possible). We arrived at the ranch around 4:30PM and there were some thunder clouds off in the distance which was cooling the area off. There was a light breeze and temps were in the low 80′s. Perfect temps to find some ground squirrels and bunnies who were looking to eat some of the fresh fruit and vegetables that is grown on the ranch. I pulled out a box of the new ammunition and got set-up to shoot a couple of groups. Although I do not spend a lot of time at the bench shooting paper, I knew by my first group that this non-lead Green ammo was pretty accurate. I had set-up a target at 50 yards when I took my first shot. I knew right-away that I had fudged the shot, as I had not shot my .22 Magnum for a while. So, I settled down and concentrated on my trigger-pull and breathing. The next few shots fell within a nice little group, with two of them touching each other.
Up until now, this ranch was off-limits to anything lead for the non-game Ground Squirrels, except for our airguns. You see, because of the new law, we were using our pellet guns to handle the depredation and although they are very effective, some of the ground squirrels don’t always cooperate and stay within range. This was the first time since July 1, 2008 that I would be able to take rimfire rounds in my pocket and hunt both rabbit and ground squirrel. Here is a quote from the adopted regulations:
“Modifications to Methods of Take for Nongame Birds and Mammals (Section 475, Title 14, CCR) were also adopted to prohibit the use of lead projectiles in the same areas when hunting coyotes, ground squirrels, and other non-game wildlife. These regulations become effective July 1, 2008. If you hunt in this area, you will be required to use nonlead projectiles to hunt big-game and non-game species beginning July 1, 2008. In addition, while hunting these species in this area hunters may not possess any lead projectiles/ammunition and a firearm capable of firing that lead projectile or ammunition…”
The first spot was a small, grassy bowl on the edge of a fruit orchard. On arrival, I loaded up my Browning A-Bolt with the TNT Green ammo and scanned the area. Normally, there are ground squirrels up and around, but there was no activity. Right about the time I decided to move on to another spot, I took one more glace and noticed some movement under a pile of wood. At first I assumed the movement was a ground squirrel, but when I pulled up my gun and acquired the animal in my scope, I was surprised to see a small cottontail rabbit dusting itself in the soft dirt at the mouth of a hole. It took less than a second for me to click off my safety and pull the trigger on the unsuspecting critter. I saw the bullet hit, but the sound of the impact told my buddy that I wasn’t messing around, there really was something crawling around inside the wood-pile. There was a definite pop, which surprised me because I wrongly assumed that these bullets would not explode on impact, based on their non-lead construction. That misassumption became even more pronounced once I pulled the rabbit out of it’s final resting place. The rabbit had exploded. Not just a few guts hanging out the side, but literally blew-up with chunks and pieces hanging on twigs, spider-webs and small brush growing around the wood-pile. I wasn’t concerned about the damage, as I rarely eat rabbits this early in the season, but this ranch has provided me with blanket depredation for all animals causing damage to the crops, animals or property. So, for the sake of visual proof, I collected a few pieces and tolerated the gut contents running all-over my fingers and brought it back 50 yards back to the truck for some pictures/video.
The damage is evident in the images, these bullets are destructive!! I was originally a non-believer, but this quick test showed me different. It was time for some more testing, so my buddy and I went looking for more “test-subjects” in the form of ranch varmints. I was lucky to come across a couple of more rabbits, but I spent more time missing (my fault), then killing. Hopefully, the ranch owner won’t read this, as I might get the boot for not doing what I should be!! Thankfully, I came across a rabbit that I had previously missed 4 times before so I was able to redeem myself. Eventhough the video is shakey (you can thank my buddy), you will see how the shot put this rabbit down immediately. A shot to the head and it was out like a light. Sorry about the terrible video. My buddy is definitely more of a hunter than a videographer:
As the sun set and the air cooled on the ranch, I felt great about the day’s take. It felt good to be able to use a rimfire again for ground squirrel and other game/non-game animals in the non-lead area. Although I will do more testing, I believe this ammunition will perform well and fill the gap for those folks with .22 Magnums that have been put away after the lead ban went into effect. It may also spark new interest in the .22 Magnum, as it is the one of a only a few rimfire ammunition choices on the California Certified Ammunition list.
— By: Eric Mayer
CCI’s 22-Magnum TNT GREEN Ammunition