It is common knowledge among firearms owners that reporters are famously ignorant about firearms. The media displays this ignorance in almost every print article and televison story they produce. Failure to understand the difference between a semi-automatic and a selective fire (fully automatic) weapon is probably tied with the confusion between a clip and a magazine as the most common error put forth by the press.
A reporter named Michael Rosenwald at the Washington Post has created a new standard in misreporting, elevated to the level of full-on fake gun news. Mr. Rosenwald falsely claims that the .22LR round, the smallest and weakest commercially produced round in existence, is in fact a “high-powered rifle round”.
Excuse me. I had to stop typing as a slow chuckle developed into a full belly laugh, and then grew to a roar.
When a number of better informed individuals confronted Mr. Rosenwald on Twitter about his factual misstatement, he went on a rant, doubling and tripling down on his error, coupled with some rather poor attempts at mocking those who corrected him.
Let’s simply review the facts. To begin, a little firearms terminology 101. A bullet or round is the metal projectile that is forced through the barrel of a firearm by the explosive pressure of expanding gases, and which flies through the air until it strikes an object or falls to the ground as a result of gravity and the laws of physics. A cartridge consists of a metal casing packed with propellant and a primer, and into which the base of bullet is inserted and secured such that the tip of the bullet remains visible.
The .22LR cartridge was introduced in 1887. It is a rimfire cartridge (a rim strike ignites the primer) that can be fired from a pistol or a rifle. The Federal 40 grain .22LR, as an example, exits the muzzle of your rifle or pistol at 1080 feet per second and delivers 104 foot/pounds of force at the moment it is fired. Both the speed at which any round travels and the force it delivers degrade over space and time. A .22LR round is generally effective for small game such as rabbits and squirrels, or target shooting at a maximum range of 50 to 100 yards.
Not very powerful, Mr. Rosenwald, and the reason the .22LR is the caliber of choice to teach children firearm safety and introduce them to target shooting.
Most ammunition manufactured and used today is centerfire rather than rimfire, as rimfire cartridge walls are too thin to handle the high pressures created by modern gunpowder loads. Higher pressure translates into greater power, or in other words, pressure creates more energy to deliver the round (bullet) to the target at a higher velocity.
The 5.56 cartridge used by the US military in the ubiquitous and scary black rifles (officially called M-4’s and M-16’s) is significantly more powerful than the .22LR, yet was designed to injure rather than kill enemies on the battlefield, and is appropriate for medium-sized game such as coyote. As an example, the 62 grain Federal XM855 Green Tip used by the US military and available for commerical purchase (5.56 ammo is incidentally the most popular rifle ammunition in the USA) leaves the muzzle of a rifle barrel at 3020 feet per second, and at that moment delivers 1255 foot pounds of force. It is therefore approximately 3 times as fast and has 12 times the energy of Mr. Rosenwald’s pea shooter. The 5.56 also has an effective range of over 500 yards.
The 5.56 round is heavier and will travel further and faster than the .22LR, delivering significantly more destructive force and definitely “high-powered” in comparison, yet it is only considered an “intermediate-powered” round, and is easily bested by your average deer hunting rifle, which fires a .308 or 30-06. These rounds are about 3 times as heavy and travel almost as fast as the 5.56, AND have just under 3,000 impressive foot punds of force behind them, legitimately qualifying them as “high-powered rifle rounds”.
It is blatantly obvious at this point that Mr. Rosenwald did not complete the research required to intelligently and accurately discuss high-powered rifle rounds. We sincerely hope that the press in general and Mr. Rosenwald in particular conduct better research in the future, so as to avoid making embarrassing factual errors whilst speaking about firearms.
Coincidentally, it is after all the media’s job to inform, rather than misinform the public.