Will a 22 Kill a Raccoon Quickly and Humanely?

Having spent my childhood running a trapline in the woods, I have shot hundreds of varmints and small game with rifles and pistols. Some worked, some didn’t. Here’s what my experience says.

Both 22lr and 22 mag are more than adequate to dispatch a raccoon.  The 22 Magnum having twice the power is preferred, but the 22 lr is by far the most common cartridge for trappers and varmint hunters to shoot a raccoon with.

You have your answer, but there’s more.  What bullet should you use? Where should you shoot? What’s the maximum range? keep reading and find out.

How Effective is the 22 on raccoons?

  The 22 lr and 22 Mag are both .224 caliber.  They average 130- and 300-foot pounds of energy, respectively.  Given the small diameter of the bullet and the energy behind it, they both have enough penetration to kill a raccoon at most any distance you can reliably hit one at.   

   The 22, both 22 lr and 22 Mag, are low power cartridges. At the same time, raccoons are low power animals and don’t require a massive bullet to do the job.  Still, it’s something that if you don’t do your part, it won’t go well.

   To sum up the effectiveness of the 22 for racoons, it can either work flawlessly every time, or not work well at all.  I’ve heard both stories.  How can that be, well, we have to define what effective is first. An effective shot is one that kills the animal within 30 seconds without the need of a follow up shot.

   I will admit, I’ve only ever shot a raccoon with a 22 lr.  At the same time, only once did I need more than one shot, and that was with a new pistol at an awkward shooting angle. I made a bad shot on the first try. Apparently, a bullet to the but isn’t lethal.

   I have known a lot of trappers in my time, and every darned one of them carried a 22.  One fella carried a pistol chambered in 22 short, but everyone else carried a 22 lr.  Other than making an obvious bad shot, I doubt any of them ever needed a second bullet.

   If that’s the case, why do some people say that it doesn’t work?  Because some people make a lot of bad shots.  The only time a second shot is required is when you don’t hit your mark, or you picked the wrong mark.  most of the time, it’s clearly a bad shot. 

   To be able to hit your mark on a raccoon, you need to be able to hit a sticky note with most all your shots.  If you can’t, get closer or get better. 

   I will say it again, all the pros use it for a reason.  It just plain works.  Combine the effectiveness with cheap ammo and a lightweight easy to carry firearm, and you’ve got yourself a heck of a coon killer.  You really can’t go wrong with a 22 for raccoons.

 Where to shoot a raccoon with a 22

There are two spots to aim for on a raccoon. You can aim for the brain, or you can aim for the upper chest cavity.  These are the only two spots worth gunning for.  The brain is about the size of a golf ball on a mature raccoon and smaller on a juvenile. 

The upper chest cavity, lungs and heart, are about as big as a baseball, maybe a bit bigger. So, where are you going to aim for?  You have two spots to choose from.  Both fairly small, but one is very small.  It may seem easy to choose the larger target, but ironically, most professionals would not.

   If you put a bullet in the chest cavity, you have to wait for it to die.  Sometimes it can take longer than you’d expect. It takes longer, and we don’t like to see an animal suffering more than necessary.  A bullet to the brain is pretty much instant. They fall down right away. That’s what I like.

    It you are a good enough shot, or the raccoon is close enough, go for the brain. To shoot the brain, put the bullet directly between the eyes from the front, or just on the back side of the ear canal, from the side. Those are the money shots.  They always work.

   If you need to take a body shot, you have to now where the lungs are in a coon.  They are pretty far forward.  a lot of times, people aim for the middle of the animal, which ends up putting a bullet in its gut.  It will kill it, but it can take hours.  Not cool.

   The lungs of a raccoon, and most animals, are right between the armpits. From the side, put the bullet halfway up the chest and half an inch back from the front leg. That ought to go it. You can shoot the lungs from the front, but the bullet will only go through one lung.  If you shoot from the side, it will go through both lungs and the animal will expire quickly.

   If you’re concerned about damaging the hide, a head shot is the best answer. The face of a pelt doesn’t really atter if it has a small hole in it. 

22 Mag vs. 22lr for Raccoons

  The 22 Magnum is a more powerful option, and a lot of raccoon hunters would like to have one, but most only have the 22 lr and make it work.  Both will do the same on a head shot.  The 22 Magnum will give you a better, quicker kill from a body shot. 

   There 22 Magnum will do a good job up to 150 yards, where as a 22 lr losses its effectiveness after 75 yards.  But honestly, I don’t know of an instance where a raccoon was ever shot further than 30 yards away. 

   The 22 lr is cheaper to shoot.  It’s about one third the cost of 22 Magnum ammo.  if cost is your deciding factor, as it often is, go with the 22 lr.  If you want more power but still ant the rimfire, and the extra money isn’t an issue, buy yourself a 22 Magnum.

What 22 Ammo to use on a Raccoon?

   Regardless of if you are using the 22 Magnum, or the 22 lr, I recommend a hollow point bullet. Hollow point bullets expand to create a wider wound, but don’t penetrate as far. On a raccoon, we’re not worried about under penetration.  And any extra tissue damage is a good thing.

   If you are shooting for the brain, it doesn’t matter what the bullet looks like.  Any bullet will put out the lights with a brain shot. but if you are going for anything other than the central nervous system, use a hollow point or expanding bullet to get the job done quicker. 

   With either of the 22’s, use the fastest bullet you can get.  Speed kills.  Now, if you are using a pistol, it’s a bit different, but it follows the same guidelines.  Pistols shoot bullets slower than rifles. A 22 Magnum pistol is about equal to a 22lr rifle.  But a 22 lr pistol is about 40 percent less powerful than a 22 lr in a rifle.  If you ae shooting 22 lr in a pistol, still use the fastest bullet you can find

   Federal game point is a fine choice for the 22 Magnum.  CCI has a reputation for loading their rimfire bullets faster than most. Aguila is another company that makes some high velocity varmint loads for the 22 lr. The CCI Velocitor and Aguila Interceptor are good ones, but a bit pricey.

   When you really get down to it, any of the rimfire ammo in 22 lr or 22 Mag will work on a racoon. Use what you can afford. Hollow points are nice.

Jordan Buck

Jordan Buck is an outdoor writer, a man of faith, and a family man. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. Jordan has taught marksmanship, woodsmanship, and self-defense classes. He has earned black belts in four martial arts and is a certified Krav Maga instructor. He also runs his own Gun Blog and YouTube Channel. Jordan enjoys giving his time and resources to help others and has spent 15 years volunteering in a boy's mentoring program He is and will always be an American Patriot. MOLON LABE

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