Despite being designed by John Browning .25ACP is the Rodney Dangerfield of cartridges; it can’t get no respect. The esteemed Mr. Browning designed it as a better, more reliable cartridge than .22 Long Rifle for use in small, semi-automatic pocket pistols.
It was, to say the least, a big hit and was wildly popular, in part because the guns were discreet, often inexpensive and people rarely have to actually shoot other people, so it’s shortcomings were not widely advertised.
So, how close does it come to .22 Long rifle? A quick look at the ballistics will tell you ‘not very,’ but that’s deceptive. The performance figures for .22 LR are generally taken from firing them out of rifles. The .25 ACP’s performance figures are typically from firing them through a 2″ barrel. So how do they compare when both are fired on equal terms? I happen to have some pocket pistols chambered in both cartridges, so let’s find out, shall we?
Representing the .25 ACP are my F.Dusek Duo with a 2″ barrel and my Colt Junior with a 2-1/4″ barrel. In the .22 LR corner is the S&W Escort weighing in at 2″ and the Robar Mercury sporting a 2-1/4″ barrel.
For both types of ammunition we have a standard-velocity round-nose bullet and a light high-velocity HP. In .25 ACP we have the bog-standard 50gr. FMC round-nose over 1.6 gr. of Unique (factory-load equivalent) and the 35gr. Speer Gold Dot JHP over 1.8gr. of Unique. For .22 Long Rifle we have some old Sears-brand standard velocity 40gr. LRN and CCI Stinger 32gr. LHP.
I set up the Chronograph and ran some numbers. Velocities are the average of three shots. I’m sure there’s some fancy way to lay out a table for the results, but I’m just going to list them.
2″ 831 fps. 77 ft./lbs
2-1/4″ 887 fps. 87 ft./lbs
2″ 858 fps. 57 ft./lbs
2-1/4″ 912 fps. 65 ft./lbs.
.22 Long Rifle
40gr. Sears RNL
2″ 778 fps. 54 ft./lbs
2-1/4″ 789 fps. 55 ft./lbs
32gr Stinger LHP
2″ 953 fps. 65 ft./lbs
2-1/4″ 958 fps. 65 ft./lbs
So I have to say it does a pretty fair job duplicating the performance of .22 LR from a 2″ barrel. Yes, velocities can vary from gun to gun and that sort of thing, but it’s pretty clear they are in the same ballpark. This is especially true if you remember that when the .25 was invented all .22 LR was what we now call ‘standard velocity.’
It seems like everyone on the internet has a story about how they shot a .25 at something wooden and it either barely stuck in of bounced off. Given those stories I used sections of Douglas Fir 2×4 as my backstop. The 50gr. FMC blew through one section of 2×4 every time and embedded itself in the one behind. Doesn’t mean it hasn’t ever been deflected by wood, but clearly it’s not the normal result. The hollow-points did not make it through the 2×4, though they came close. The .25 ACP hollow-points did not expand in the wood, the Stingers did. The .22 RNL also did not make it through the first 2×4, penetrating about 3/4″.
So what does it all prove? Not much except that JMB did a good job reproducing .22 LR performance in small handguns. Not that surprising. Oh, and that if someone is shooting at you with a tiny pistol hiding behind 2x4s might save your ass.
I’m recasting my gel block, and tomorrow I’ll be doing some FBI-protocol testing with these guns and bullets. It will be interesting to see how they compare!
In the meantime stay safe and take care.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 24 January 2022
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