CCI Mini-Mag HP Ammunition Reviews

CCI Mini-Mag HP Ammunition

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CCI .22 LR Mini-Mag HP Ammunition My Hunting Standard

Nov 4, 2011 (Updated Jul 2, 2013)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Decent price; Good accuracy

Cons:Performance highly dependent on individual firearm; Inconsistent expansion

The Bottom Line:

You'll need to determine if it works in your rifle; but, if it does, then it provides a good balance of accuracy and effectiveness for the price.


In much the same way Winchester White Box is the ‘standard' against which other, centerfire, ‘value' ammunitions are measured, CCI's Mini-Mag HP (hollowpoint) ammunition serves as something of a benchmark in ‘value' varmint hunting ammunition.  While a bit more expensive than comparable offerings from other companies and certainly less cost effective than ‘bulk' ammo, you get what you pay for.  But, I guess that's the question - "What are you paying for?"

CCI - The Company


Cascade Cartridge, Inc. (CCI) was established in 1951 by Richard Speer.  His brother, Vernon, had already met with success in bullet manufacturing, so Richard started out by producing cases; later, with his partner Arvid Nelson, the company ‘made a name' by producing primers.  The rest is "history" as they say, with CCI production facilities still located on the same property outside of Lewiston, ID as it has for nearly 60 years.  Now owned by ATK, an "aerospace, defense, security, and sporting products company" with considerable breadth, CCI Ammunition is just one brand placed in the commercial products section of the ATK Security and Sporting division; with other recognizable names including, but not limited to: Federal Premium Ammunition, Speer, RCBS, Alliant Powder, and Weaver.

Velocity Categories... Standard, High, and Hyper


Mini-Mag HP's are designated High Velocity .22 LR ammunition.  Unfortunately, this can be a confusing subject and often leads to numerous misunderstandings in gun shops, let alone the many department stores where this ammunition can be found.  In my experience, even the supposed ‘expertise' found in the specialty shops isn't always ‘guaranteed' when it comes to differentiating between these velocity categories.

Before someone immediately shouts - "But, this or that reference says..." - let's stipulate that many of those references are based on the 1992 American National Standard Voluntary Industry Standards for Pressure and Velocity of Rimfire Sporting Ammunition for the Use of Commercial Manufacturers.  This report, produced by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI), is currently the downloadable version from their site and, so far as I know is still the ‘standard.'  As an example of the problem, however...

I could be wrong as I'm not aware of all the variations out there; but, I believe, at the time of this post, that the lowest velocity load ‘recognized' as "hyper velocity" being produced is the Remington Viper, with a current listed muzzle velocity of 1,410 fps.  SAAMI lists one test cartridge as HypV with a 36 gr. truncated cone solid bullet at a velocity of 1,385 fps.  But, I believe that's an ‘old' velocity; despite many listings.  Remington's website currently lists the Viper with a 1,410 fps velocity.  On the other end, Aguila claims they have "the fastest velocity .22 Ammo;" e.g., the Aguila SuperMaximum at 1,750 fps with a 30 gr. hollowpoint.  In addition, there are those who argue that "hyper velocity" should be capped and a "super maximum high velocity" category created. 

Put simply, the ‘top' of the high velocity category and ‘bottom' of the hyper velocity category has changed since that 1,385 fps.  Likewise, there is ‘debate' in some circles that the hyper velocity category may no longer be ‘the most' one can get from the .22 LR cartridge.  In other words, what may have been ‘the standard' has likely changed with technological advances.

Add to this discussion the fact that SAAMI allows for a margin of error used in creating a standard for rimfire velocity specifications is plus or minus 90 feet per second (fps).  This means that the cartridge used to ‘establish' the 1,385 fps ‘floor' for hyper velocity loads is an average velocity, with the range of velocities exhibited being 1,295 - 1,475 fps.  Using the exact example SAAMI provides, if an "high velocity" product specification is 1,235 fps, you have to remember to account for SAAMI's plus or minus 90 fps.  In other words, any given round in that box of .22 LR HV can have an ‘acceptable' muzzle velocity of 1,145 - 1,325 fps.

Wait a minute?!  If an High Velocity (HV) cartridge can reach 1,325 fps and stay within standards and a Hyper Velocity (HypV) cartridge can be as ‘slow' as 1,295 fps and still be within standards...?!?!    

That's not even taking into account other variables such as elevation, bullet type/weight, case length, etc.  Naturally, there's also the discussion of powder type to generate such velocities within a SAAMI accepted pressure range.  In short, it is very easy to get lost in the weeds when discussing what is or is not Standard, High, or Hyper Velocity .22 LR ammunition.  While it would be extremely easy to simply say that there is no ‘accepted' absolute in terms of a definition, there are some loose guidelines which can be used to provide a certain context to the discussion.

Suffice to say that as a general rule of thumb the following can serve as a guide, though not an absolute, to understanding the difference between velocity categories...

1.)
 Standard Velocity (SV) = approximately 1,080 fps (the speed of sound) up to approximately 1,200 fps

2.) 
High Velocity (HV) = approximately 1,200 fps up to 1,400 fps

3.) 
Hyper Velocity (HypV) = greater than 1,400 fps

Insofar as subsonic or ‘super maximum high velocity,' I'll leave that for another time.

CCI Mini-Mag HP - Factory Specs


The important point is that with a listed velocity of 1,260 fps, Mini-Mag HP's are considered High Velocity cartridges.  This round has a copper-plated, 36 gr., hollowpoint bullet; effectively splitting the difference insofar as bullet weight between the 32 gr. Stinger and 40 gr. Velocitor.  (see links below)  Unlike the Stinger which gives up substantial bullet weight for hyper velocity speeds, the Mini-Mag HP only gives up 10% of the Velocitor's bullet weight for speeds which can touch the low end of the Velocitor's ‘accepted' velocity range based on SAAMI specs.

The Velocitor has a velocity listing of 1,435 fps.  That means, based on SAAMI's +/- 90 fps standard, the velocity range is actually 1,345 to 1,525 fps.  Since the Mini-Mag HP has a listed velocity of 1,260 fps, if we apply the same SAAMI standard of +/- 90 fps, the range one can expect from a Mini-Mag HP is 1,170 - 1,350. 

That doesn't mean you're getting an ‘inexpensive Velocitor.'  In reality, according to the company's "Load Chart," what the Velocitor still has more ‘punch' at 50 yards than the Mini-Mag HP at the muzzle; 134 ft. lbs. vs. 127 ft. lbs. respectively.  This means at distance, the Velocitor is the superior cartridge by a considerable margin.  But, what if you don't need that ‘distance?'  I mean, do you really need the expansion of the Stinger or the ‘reach' of the Velocitor for the ‘average' squirrel hunt?

I can hear it now.  When the Stinger and Velocitor cost $6.50 - $7.00 for a box of 50 and the Mini-Mag HP's can be had for $6.97 in a box of 100 rounds at the local Wal-Mart, there must be a tradeoff in there, somewhere.  Well, let's take a look.

Standard and Method for Evaluation


It's about time we look at actual performance and whether theory reflects reality.  To do so, a ‘standard' for testing needs to be established.  The first thing I'll say in that regard is that I am not a "professional gun writer" in the context of having access to companies who might donate copious quantities of ammunition or machine rests or a rack full of different firearms for comprehensive testing.  Thus, sample sizes in terms of both rounds fired and variations in firearms is, of necessity, limited in comparison to what one might see in a ‘gun magazine.'

With that said, three rifles were used.  Since SAAMI testing utilizes a 24 inch barrel, two CZ 452 LUX rifles were used; one with iron sights used primarily to establish velocity and expansion data, one with a Burris Timberline, 3X - 9X x 32mm scope for establishing accuracy.  The 452 LUX, recently discontinued by CZ, has a 24.8 inch barrel; which is as close as I'm going to come to the SAAMI barrel length. 

Given the Ruger 10/22 is, arguably, the most popular semi-automatic on the market, a 1980's era, wood stock 10/22 carbine with a Tasco 3X - 9X scope of the same vintage was pressed into service.  Having seen more than its share of squirrel hunting, the 18 ½" barrel was replaced last year and still isn't (at least in my opinion) ‘completely' broken in - yet.  The idea was to ‘balance' the testing so as to provide a range for the more common barrel lengths found in hunting rifles.

As we just established, "high velocity" range is considered to be 1,200 to 1,400 fps, approximately.  As was also noted, SAAMI standards allow for a standard deviation of plus or minus 90 fps; meaning that with a listed velocity of 1,260 fps, we should expect to see velocities ranging 1,170 - 1,350 fps out of the CZ 452.  Insofar as the Ruger, I can't find a ‘chart' which predicts an average loss of velocity per 1" reduction in barrel length similar to what SAAMI provides for centerfire rifles.

Of course, there is the old ‘debate' regarding 16 inch barrels being ‘optimal' for .22 LR vs. those who profess the ‘gospel' that .22 LR increases velocity up to 19".  Critics then point to bullet weight, barrel twist, powder... Oh, no.  Here we go again.

Given that 180 fps (SAAMI's +/- 90 fps) is a rather large range, I would normally look more toward the Standard Deviation (SD).  The trouble is that rimfire ammunition is notoriously unpredictable.  While I hope for an SD between 10 and 20 in centerfire factory loads, given the vagaries already discussed, it might be more realistic to expect an SD between 20 - 30 with rimfire ammunition; with ‘reality' probably resting much higher for bulk packed .22 LR.  In that context, given that the Mini-Mag HP is a ‘value,' hollowpoint ammunition, ‘reality' might be more ‘realistic;' if you get my drift.

Chronograph Results


A Chrony F1 (chronograph, see link below) was set up 10' from the muzzle of both the CZ and the Ruger.  (While SAAMI uses 15', but circumstances do tend to trump theory and given the shorter Ruger barrel, I figured the distance was a reasonable compromise; with 10' being sufficient to mitigate muzzle blast issues.)  All velocity testing was done offhand.  The elevation was 5,500 ft. on a partly cloudy afternoon with temperatures ranging from 80 - 83 degrees F over the course of the velocity data collection.  Winds were 5 - 10 mph from 8 o'clock, with humidity hovering around 40%.

For the purposes of establishing velocity, 2 boxes, from different lots were taken and 10 rounds from each were taken for both rifles; i.e., 20 rounds for the CZ and 20 rounds for the Ruger.  The results were as follows:

CZ 452 LUX


Mean Velocity =1,358.79
High = 1,424 fps; Low = 1,311 fps - ES (Extreme Spread) = 113 fps
Standard Deviation (SD) = 25.35

Ruger 10/22


Mean Velocity = 1,351.14*
High = 1,476* fps; Low = 1,292 fps - ES (Extreme Spread) = 184 fps*
Standard Deviation (SD) = 60.03*

(*  These numbers are ‘adjusted' to account for a particularly ‘hot' load.  Though a singular event, it does represent a potential problem with any rimfire ammunition; regardless of manufacturer.  In this case, while shooting from the Ruger to obtain velocity readings, one round clocked a very fast 1,591 fps.  If that one round were included, the SD would have jumped significantly; which is saying something when the adjusted SD is 60.03!  However, the mean average velocity would have only risen by almost exactly 30 fps.   Fortunately, I did not experience the same issue when shooting with the CZ.)

This puts the mean velocity in the CZ slightly above the SAAMI range; though not out of line considering the ‘extra' 0.8" of barrel length over that of the SAAMI test barrel. 

Frankly, however, the results with the 10/22 were unexpected and, dare I say it, a bit disappointing.  While certainly not "too much" for the Ruger, those kind of numbers hint at the possibility that field performance in that rifle might not live up to expectation.  But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. 

There were no failures to feed and no failures to fire in either the CZ or Ruger.  There were also no failures to eject in the Ruger.  (I wish I could make such claims for all the .22 LR tested that day.)

While all this velocity data is interesting, to a point, in reality it proves very little in that, as a ‘value' ammunition, one shouldn't expect performance equal to more specialized cartridges such as the Stinger or Velocitor.  While velocity numbers don't necessarily tell the whole story when it comes to performance in the field, in this case, the ‘hint' provided seemed to be fairly prophetic.

Retained Weight and Expansion


Hollowpoint performance isn't just about ‘speed.'  It's about is about optimal expansion at a specified distance, which means maintenance of a given velocity within that specified distance based on intended application.  In this case, the question is whether the retained weight, coupled with the expansion in a ‘value' hollowpoint is sufficient to get the job done. 

CCI lists the Mini-Mag HP as ‘varmint' ammunition.  Based on simple, dictionary definitions, the term can include animals as small as mice/rats up to man-size; i.e., "a variant of ‘vermin;' an animal considered a pest, particularly those which cause damage to crops and/or livestock; a contemptible, obnoxious, despicable, annoying person."  The problem is that such a broad definition, while often taken advantage of in ‘gun shop or range' conversations to, ahem, ‘make a point,' serves little practical purpose insofar as whether it can ‘get the job done.'

To address the issue, I fired several rounds into a series of ½ gallon milk jugs filled with water at a distance of 22 yards using the iron sighted CZ.  Temperatures on that day ranged between 50 -55 degrees F; but, the elevation was the same 5,500 ft. 

Unfortunately, the bullet had a tendency to fragment.  While that isn't necessarily a ‘problem' insofar as the likely hunting applications for this cartridge, it did make data collection a bit difficult.  As a result of the hollowpoint's failure to ‘mushroom' consistently, what follows represents a simple average between the highest and lowest exemplars that could be collected ‘cleanly.'

Measured on an RCBS 5-0-5 scale (see link below), the best retention was 32.8 gr. or 91.1%.  The lowest was 28 gr. exactly or 77.78%.  This gives an ‘average' retained weight of 30.4 gr. or 84.44%.  Just bear in mind that the results from bullet-to-bullet can vary considerably.

Maximum expansion of those collected was 0.322 inches.
What does this mean; particularly as compared to the Stinger?
Simply put, if you're hunting squirrels and hit your target, the Mini-Mag's fragmentation/expansion has enough "umph" to get the job done.  If you're after ‘bigger varmints,' I'm not sure you'd want to rely on this for clean kills.

Accuracy?


I don't shoot competition anymore, so ‘paper punching' at a recognized range isn't my thing; not to mention that the CCI Mini-Mag HP isn't intended for such purposes.  Since this round is used for hunting, I'm more interested in field performance, under field conditions.  To that end, I carefully measured a 50 yard distance and tacked standard Birchwood Casey scope targets ($2.97 per 12-pack at Wal-Mart) to a stump end.  At the ‘firing line,' I laid out a tarp, followed by a Ridge Rest sleeping pad, and used my Arc'Teryx Bora 30 (see link below) as my field rest.

Elevation was the same 5,500 ft.  Temperatures were dropping as quickly as the barometer; i.e., it went from 48 degrees to 39 degrees in late afternoon in just 2 ½ hours, with increasing cloudiness.  Winds were a fairly steady 5 mph from approximately 9 o'clock, with gusts up to around 10 mph.  (Unfortunately, it was necessary to leave the jacket shell and fleece vest in the pack to create enough bulk.) 

Firing a 10-shot group from the scoped CZ 452 LUX, measured center-to-center, a 1.1" group was achieved for 10 shots.  Now, even I can't complain about that.

However, with a 5-shot group out of the 10/22, I can say that the group size roughly doubled.  Though I'd like to make another attempt with the Ruger, given that my ‘range' is now under a light blanket of snow, I suspect it may be awhile before I have the opportunity to do so.

The bottom line is that I'm certain, given a proper range, ‘official' rest, etc., groups could be pulled a bit tighter.  My only hesitation in saying that they would be pulled tighter is the group sizes tend to reflect the predictions hinted at by the chronograph data. 

But, that's not really the point.  Under actual field conditions, shooting a single string (as opposed to multiple strings, then citing only the ‘best'), a group size of 1.1" out of a CZ 452 LUX means a better than good chance of having ‘meat for supper.'  With that thought in mind...

I took an offhand (standing) shot with the iron-sighted CZ.  The target?  A milk jug previously blown apart by a Stinger.  The bottle was roughly 25 yards away and the 1" diameter blue cap was angled such that I was more likely to hit the edge than the top, if I hit it at all.

The result?  One shot.  One hole directly at 9 o'clock in the top of the cap.  In other words, dead center vertically and as close to center as I could have hoped given the angle.

Conclusion


For my general ‘varmint' hunting (read that ‘ground squirrels'), the combination of CZ 452 LUX, scoped or iron sights, and Mini-Mag HP's more than suffices.  For those who abhor such ‘violence,' bear in mind that, in this agricultural region, the overpopulation of ground squirrels is viewed as hazardous to livestock due to the holes and burrows, as well as a ‘pest' in terms of crops.  They also have a tendency to chew on sprinkler heads and generally cause damage that adds up.  There's also the fact that Plague and Hantavirus has been found; though the latter seems, for the moment, largely limited to mice in this area.  It's not so much a ‘war of extermination' as it is a reasonable ‘alternative pest control' to such things as poison baits, fumigation, and/or traps.

At this point, don't let what I've said about the Mini-Mag HP's performance in my Ruger 10/22 discourage you from trying it in your rifle.  It's an axiom when using rimfire ammunition that you have to experiment to find what works best in your firearm; i.e., even two firearms, constructed next to each other on the assembly line, will potentially (some say "will likely") work ‘better' with two, entirely different brands/types of ammunition. 

In fact, I can guarantee that there will be readers who sniff and say: "Well, it works great in my rifle."  Fine.  That's how potentially/likely ‘should' be.  All that a review can do is provide some insight based on the reviewer's experience with the product.  In that context, when I need more ‘punch,' close in, I'll go to the Stingers; usually grabbing the Ruger 10/22 in that circumstance.  When I need more ‘reach,' the Velocitors are the default choice for the CZ.  Otherwise, given the price and the accuracy (out of the CZ), I generally get the job done better with Mini-Mag HP's than with less expensive .22 LR ammunition and why pay more for the ‘special' stuff if I don't need the characteristics they are designed to excel at?

Reviews Cited Above

Chrony F-1

RCBS 5-0-5 Scale

Arc'Teryx Bora 30 

Other Ammunition Reviews

Aguila .30 Carbine

CCI Mini-Mag (HV)        
CCI Stinger   
CCI Velocitor  

Fiocchi 9mm Luger  

Magtech 9mm Luger 115gr. FMJ (9A)  

PMC .45 ACP
PMC 9mm Luger  
PMC .38 Special  
PMC .223 Remington
PMC .30 Carbine 

RWS .45 ACP 
RWS 9mm Luger 

Sellier & Bellot .45 ACP
Sellier & Bellot 9mm Luger
Sellier & Bellot .223 Remington
Sellier & Bellot .30 Carbine

Winchester USA .45 ACP
Winchester USA 9mm Luger
Winchester USA 5.56mm 
Winchester Super-X Power Point .22 LR 40 gr. Lead Hollow Point 


Recommend this product? Yes


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