How Far Will a .22 Bullet Travel in Water?

How Far Will a .22 Bullet Travel in Water?

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We have seen movies where the hero jumps into a river to avoid a hail of bullets. It often works. They escape with mere bruises! Is it because they are superhuman? Do the rounds deflect, or does water stop the bullet on impact? And most curiously, how far will a 22 bullet travel in water?

When the .22 LR caliber is fired in water, it travels a distance of about 1-3 feet deep. The variation comes about due to differences in the density of the water body, your firing position, and the type of .22 weapon you use.

Forget all you know about underwater ammunition. In this post, we are highlighting the .22 caliber. But first, let’s take a brief look at what happens when you fire a bullet into liquid. 

What Usually Happens When Bullets Are Fired Into Water

Standard bullet ammo does not work well underwater. Their design hinders them from accomplishing this feat. How far they go in water, I would say, depends on bullet construction and speed.

Bullets are typically designed to operate in air, which is 800 times less dense than water. What happens when a shot enters the water, is that it must work extra hard to overcome the natural resistance of the liquid to advance forward. This means they can only travel a few feet underwater before coming to a halt.

The.22 caliber is one of the most common and easiest to obtain rounds. It’s a popular hunting round, and I’ve seen it perform admirably in shooting competitions (it is even used in the precision events at the Olympic Games). It travels approximately 1.5 miles in the air at the height of 12,000 feet, but how far will a 22 bullet travel in water?

How Far Will a 22 Bullet Travel in Water?

According to experts, the .22 is said to cover up to 100 feet underwater and can be fired from the air into the water. That you could also use the weapon to shoot from underwater into the air.

So, how far can a bullet travel in water and still cause serious bodily harm? The answer is roughly 3 feet, depending on the density of the water. Saltwater is denser, so the bullet will travel slower and cover a shorter distance.

Some pretty good evidence came from an experiment conducted by YouTuber, to test the firing range of a .22 into water. 

He stands on some deck and fires from a Walther P22 with a Huntertown suppressor into a plank he had secured underwater. He uses two types of ammo: CCI’s Target Mini-Mag 22 LR and Winchester Wildcat 22 LR.

The CCI Mini-Mag expanded dramatically at one foot deep and with the gun at about three feet above the water. Although the hollow-point bullet left a mark on the panel it did not penetrate. With the Winchester at the same distance, there are visible entry and exit holes. However, at one foot three inches, the shots fail to go through the panel board.

Besides the fact that this guy found a fantastic thing to do on a hot day, we learned a couple of things. We can safely deduce that a .22 LR round is effective to about a foot with someone standing above the water. Past that depth, the round loses all its velocity and will drop to the bottom.

Can You Fire a Gun in Water?

Yes, you can. But don’t expect it to perform as it does in the air. However, as technology shows no signs of slowing down, we cannot definitively know what the future holds. Thanks to continuing ammunition design and manufacture developments, we may soon see bullets as effective underwater as on land.

A Norwegian company, DNG Technology, has come up with the CAV-X. The CAV-X, also known as Multi-Environment Ammunition (MEA), has high penetration potential against multi-layer structures. This bullet is specifically designed for use in wholly or partially submerged weapons, regardless of whether the target is in water or on the surface. 

These bullets have a nose that produces a small air bubble, allowing them to move through water without deviating from their intended path. As a result, it is helpful for combat divers. According to DNG Technology, these bullets can also pass through mud and sand. 

As you may have probably guessed by now, this technology is currently being used by the military, and it might be a while before it’s available for civilian use. 

Following suit, some gun and ammo manufacturers are creating ‘cavitating’ ammunition that operates on the same principle. Essentially, they design the projectile’s tip to be the only surface that experiences drag from the liquid, thereby extending the projectile’s range and speed in water.

What About .22 Powerheads?

Also referred to as shark sticks or bang sticks, powerheads are weapons made specifically for hunting large marine animals like sharks. It is a spear point with a propellant for point-of-impact use (in our case, the .22 LR). It’s made with a chamber to hold the bullet and a firing pin to release it.

However, despite its underwater capabilities, most people prefer contact-shooting prey rather than firing from a vantage point or afar. If the round were to travel through water, it would dissipate energy and slow down. It may even fail to hit the target.

Before you rush out to get a powerhead, confirm if your state has any bans or restrictions. It would also be best if you’re familiar with local government laws on powerheads as well. In most places, you can only own one if you modify it by permanently attaching the powerhead to a shaft.

In Summary

If you wondered how far a 22 bullet would travel in water, I would say probably a foot deep when shot from the top. The distance may increase or decrease due to factors like the density of the water, your weapon of choice, and the firing position. All in all, stick to a foot deep (give or take one or two feet).

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