I settled my crosshairs on a squirrel. He sat up on a pine branch about 15 yards away. I squeezed the trigger on my .22 and watched as he exploded in my scope. Literally evaporated. I had never seen a .22 do that. I was agog. I was hunting squirrel for dinner and I didn’t want them in tartar form. Before venturing out on this hunt I picked up a box of .22 LR made by CCI. These are no regular .22, these are .22 shotshell. A box of 20 set me back $7.00 (pre ammo panic). It was a little pricey for my Scottish blood but I liked the idea of it. The shells have a little plastic nose filled with #12 shot in 31 grain. The box reads approximately 165 pellets per shell. It says the range of this shell is 250 yards. That’s a long way. A .30-06 drops an inch in that distance. Why then did the squirrel burst if I was only 15 yards away? I was pondering that question as I watched the pine needles drift gently to the forest floor. I suddenly heard the strangest thing. The beast I just dispatched was chittering away. Had the poor creature returned to haunt me so quickly? No. The squirrel did not explode, the needles of the tree did. It turned the needles around him into a fine greenish brown mist. The pellets decimated the needles and spent all their energy in the process. I followed him through a few more trees until he presented a better shot. I would give CCI another chance. It was the same distance as the first encounter but had a purely unobstructed lane. No needles, no snow, just me and Mr. Scurrius. Pop! The critter did a jig and ran like he was on fire. The shotshells had failed me. I bagged him with a proper hollow point and went to inspect the hide. I found one small hole near his rump that didn’t have a pellet in it. It was more of a laceration than a penetrating wound. I don’t think an animal would even hear this round at 250 yards.

I took these trick shells to the range for some serious scientific scrutiny. Using a revolver at five yards I got a decent pattern with good penetration. Not a single pellet from a six round volley would hit the target at 15 yards. I tried the same distances with my Stevens Model 954 and got dismal results. If there’s insufficient power to propel the pellets a mere 15 yards, there is certainly not enough oomph to cycle the action of a semi-auto. Each, and I repeat each, round jammed. I finally managed to get some pellets to hit the target at 15 yards. If every shell has 165 pellets, then six shells should have 998 pellets. Does the target below look like it has 998 holes in it?

CCI .22 Shotshell ReviewThe problem has four components: Housing, Bang-Bang, Numbers, and Rockwell.

1. Housing

I shot 100 rounds and almost half the casings deformed. A dozen split completely down one side. With poor casing, the energy of the powder is wasted before it has a chance to act on the shot. It also causes failure to feed and stove pipe problems as discussed above.

2. Bang-Bang

Even if the housing didn’t suck there’s simply not enough powder to push the shot. Below is a dissection showing the dismal amount of powder and the, ahem, wadding.

CCI .22 Shotshell Review

3. Numbers

The box reads “approx. 165 pellets”. There’s maybe a hundred per shell, tops.

4. Rockwell

The shot is way too soft. I could flatten each one with a pair of hemostats. I’m not expecting something that will take out a raccoon but these things are only hard enough to kill sparrows (at less than 15 yards).

At 5 yards they are devastating, beyond that they loose power and grouping quickly. If these shells were loaded with a little more powder and some denser, harder shot, I think they would be effective against close range small game. Until then save your money. CCI makes a wide selection of other ammo. Their .22 LR Velocitor makes short work of tree rats, bunnies, and other tasty critters. CCI has the power to make this .22 shotshell into something really unique. If they ever revamp this load I’ll give it another shot. For now I’ll stick with real bullets and leave the novelty alone.

-Richard Hammack


Invincible Style

The Condor Triclimate Jacket by Northface is the best jacket ever made. My better half has given me some amazing clothes over the years and this jacket is among the best. It’s a wearable work of invincible style.

The Condor is an elegant beast. The deep blue of the outer shell beckoned me to climb the Eiger or hunt some U. a. middendorffi in the Kodiak Archipelago. The collar comes up to the jaw when fully zipped. It has a both an inner and outer storm flap from top to bottom that will keep out gale force winds. The hood is not lined but is still warm. The ripstop nylon exterior kept me bone dry in a sudden downpour on the approach to Mt. Harvard and it doesn’t snag on brush. I’ll often remove the shell and wear it solo for early spring fishing. Not enough to overheat but enough to keep the breeze off and keep you dry.

The Triclimate, as a whole, is the world’s best jacket. The inner jacket is the world’s second best jacket. This inner easily zips free of the shell and stands alone as a force to be reckoned with. It’s fleece lined and will keep you warm when the temperature plummets. It looks good as a casual knockabout jacket when in more urban environments.

This jacket rules. No two ways about it. Besides keeping you warm and dry, it holds all your stuff! Seriously, it has eight pockets. Who needs eight pockets? You do.

All this stuff fits in the jacket easily. It’s more than enough to get you through an accidental night or two in the woods. (Lamp and awesome radio not included)

Maybe you aren’t lucky enough to have a hot fiance that gives you amazing jackets. It doesn’t matter. Spend the money. This thing is worth every cent.

-Richard Hammack

Post Season

Maybe you put down that trophy you had been stalking for days. Maybe you winged a hail mary on the last day and hit nothing but dirt. Regardless of how last fall’s hunt was, the post season is no time for slacking. Here are some tips for next season.

1. Range Time

Did you really miss or had you knocked your scope out of alignment while running around in the woods? Yes the shot placement you got on the broadside 200 yard shot was good, but could you replicate that shot with another 50 yards? Maybe your animal has quartered and there’s a little breeze. Ultimately all hunting boils down to marksmanship. We spend so much time learning how animals behave and how to hide from them. Because there is so much to learn about ecology and biology, we forget that at the moment of truth, information is meaningless if you can’t shoot straight. You can be an absolute nature noob and still randomly come across game. Unless it falls on your gun you still need to know how to shoot.

2. Care and Feeding

Without good equipment you are a naked monkey waiting to be mercilessly slaughtered by mother nature. Your equipment keeps you together, you need to return the favor. In the post season, you don’t clean your guns after the range. You get out the manual and disassemble and reassemble it. Give it a deep clean and inspect all the parts for wear or fatigue. The same goes for all the rest of your equipment. Replace the batteries in electronic devices like headlamps and GPS. Look through clothing for stains and holes. Take apart and inventory your survival kit. Replace all the used and worn stuff. Nothing like finding out your waterproof match case had a little crack in it when you’re freezing to death in the woods.

3. Review

The amount of finely detailed topographic and visual mapping that can be accessed in a instant is staggering. Bring up google earth and look at where you hunted. Where did you see game and how did it relate to the topography? Use this information to plan your next hunt. Go back and see what the moon, the temperature, and the precipitation were doing. See if there is any correlation between those markers and animal behavior in the area you hunted. Are you hunting the same area next year or moving to a new spot? Bust out the maps and start planning!

4. Exercise

The only reason I don’t hunt my Elk this way is because I respect local game laws (which disallow spears). If you had a hard time keeping up with the animals there’s probably a reason. Deer are not known to sit around smoking cigarettes and watching TV. Elk do not get staggering drunk and eat fast food at 2am. Take a look at your lifestyle and see if it’s slowing you down. Hitting the gym has so many advantages it’s not even funny. Focus on your legs and cardiovascular system to make those mountains into hills and miles into meters.

5. The Invaders

Invasive species are everywhere. If you don’t know about these critters start looking at your local wildlife management office or website. In my wonderful state of Colorado we have an endless supply of invasive species and native populations that need extra control. Find out about year round seasons for animals where you live. Like most of North America, Colorado is infested with European Starlings. It’s not exactly stalking trophy Elk in the wilderness but it gets you outside and keeps your skills sharp. It’s an excellent pursuit that can aid in scouting for other, bigger game. You’ll also get the double benefit of helping native species and local ecosystems.

The season never ends. It only takes pauses. Get your body, mind, and gear in shape for next year and you won’t be disappointed.