Introduction of the 22 Long Rifle cartridge

What firm first produced the 22 Long Rifle cartridge? Jack

Jack–I think the .22 Long Rifle was first made by U.M.C. in 1883 or 1884. The 1882 U.M.C. catalog does not list it. I do not have the 1883 catalog, but it is listed in the 1884 catalog.

W.R.A.Co. did not start making it until 1890.

USCCo introduced the black powder 22 long rilfe cartridge in 1888 or at least that is the first listing.

My UMC notes on the .22 LR cartridge seem to be incomplete. The first listing for the .22 Long Rifle is for “.22 LR Mushroom,” dated December 1899. The black powder version of .22 LR by UMC is, in my shop notes, from December 1903 but that entry alludes to a previous production, showing that ccahnges had been made to the head .in 1899, they changed the form of the head. I do not have the earlier notes, if there were any.

The first entry I have for Smokeless .22 LR by UMC is from August 1907.

Reading between the lines, so to speak, it is highly probable that UMC’s first production of the .22 LR was before even the 1899 “Mushroom” round. Wish I could put a date on it but I don’t have any UMC catalogs that early.

John Moss and others–Please refer to the catalogs section of the IAA Homepage for an extensive list of U.M.C. catalogs (and others). The 1882 and 1884 catalogs I referred to in the above post are both available there as well as MANY pre-1900 U.M.C. catalogs back to 1866.

As for the .22 L.R. Mushroom, it is first listed in the 1896 catalog. The 1895 catalog lists only, .22 Short with a Mushroom bullet.

The first “Smokeless” rimfires are listed in the 1896 catalog which lists .22 Short and Long, in both Lead and Mushroom as “New” for that year. As John noted, the .22 L.R. Smokeless was introduced in the the July, 1907 catalog as a “New” product.

According to “The American Cartridge” book by Charles Suydam the J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. developed the .22 Long Rifle in 1888 for the Steven’s .22 caliber rifle. It was refereed to as the NEW 22 long rim fire and was developed for the 200 yard Creedmoor Range.

Ron - I guess I should have said that I don’t have any 1883 UMC catalog. I said, instead, that I didn’t have any early catalogs because I don’t. I didn’t bother to mention the catalogs you guys so nicely posted because you had already mentioned the one-year gap in information for 1883.

Catalogs are a great source for this type of information, but can’t always be trusted to be 100 percent correct. Sometimes production is delayed on items after they have already been listed in catalogs. I have run across this in my in-depth research about the 9 x 18 Makarov cartridge. It seems especially true of American manufacturers. I reiterate, though, that catalogs are the first source I try to check out when looking for dates of introduction, so I am not being critical of that practice or quoting catalogs for introduction dates.

Thanks to all for their helpful responses. For a long while I have heard that the 22 LR was introduced by Stevens in, or about, 1888. The quote Roger mentioned from Suydam is the most specific reference I was aware of until recently. A friend who is much interested in single shots told me that John T. Dutcher’s Ballard rifle book, published several years ago and a well-regarded work, cited a catalog or advertisement (I’m not sure which) from 1887 in which the Marlin firm announced the availability of the Ballard rifle in 22 LR. There was, of course, a close association between Marlin and UMC, and UMC was Marlin’s first choice as a provider of Marlin-specific cartridges.

Due to the greater overall length of the 22 LR as compared to the 22 short and 22 long it likely would not chamber in the many 22 revolvers marketed in the 1870s and 1880s, and because of its heavier 40 grain bullet no rifle or pistol chambered for either the short or long would properly stabilize the bullet, even if it could be chambered. Therefore it seems most likely that the introduction of the 22 LR cartridge and rifles chambered for it were essentially simultaneous. On the face of it Dutcher’s citation to 1887 seems well worth considering. Jack

Jack, The .22 Long and .22 Long Rifle use the same length case. The OAL difference is the bullet length. I’m not sure if the rifling for the Long is the same as the Long Rifle but the Short is different. If I’m remembering correctly it has a slower twist. A 1:16 twist was developed to stabilize the 40 grain bullet in the Long Rifle. I understand that the Long was never considered to be an accurate round.

PS: In “The book of the Twenty-Two” there’s a statement from a September 13, 1888 issue of Shooting and Fishing magazine that includes a quote from the J. Stevens Arms and Tooling Co.:

“We kept calling upon the Union Metallic Cartridge Co. to produce a good 22-caliber long cartridge. Finally, after a year or two had passed, Mr. Hobbs sent up a box of long rifle cartridges and wished us to give them a good test.”

From this it can be assumed that UMC Co. may have produced the first .22 Long Rifle ammunition. The test were conducted in 1885 and were written about in 1988. It is assumed that the date of inception was around 1887.

Roger: As an ordinary thing I believe the rifling pitch of both the short and long were slower than the 1 in 16 that seems pretty standard for the long rifle’s 40 grain bullet. The quote from The Book of the Twenty-Two is very interesting, and I hadn’t seen it before. It could well be that Stevens urged the development of the long rifle–it really is basically the long case plus the extra long’s 40 grain bullet–but I’d be pretty certain that if Marlin had wanted to make the Ballard available in that caliber UMC wouldn’t have objected. And I’d like to see the exact quote from the Dutcher book too. Jack

It’s curious that that UMC has the Long Rifle listed in their 1884 catalog in a 100 rd. box (Ron is right), then again in their 1885-86 catalog in 50 or 100 rd boxes. Maybe this reflects the fore-mentioned two years (possible longer) of Stevens wanting them to develop it per the article. They may have been considering it and developing it during that time span and started advertising it in their catalogs assuming that it would take place in a short development time span but actually taking longer than anticipated.

Interesting information. Something else that might be added to the “what happened?” column is that, per the Wikipedia, the mid-1880s saw one of those late nineteenth century depressions that helped slow things down for a while. Jack