Conceived by the J. Stevens Arms and Tool Co. in 1887, it was a redesign of the Flobert BB Cap. It's a rimfire, like many of the cartridges of the day. The fact that it survives as a common ammunition is a testament to the versatility of the round. The fact that it is probably the most produced ammunition in the world is a testament to the low cost, usefulness, and just plain fun available with a .22.
Some forums considered the .22 Long Rifle as a commodity. When we'd talk about firearms owned or shot, we didn't talk about the .22LR because the assumption was that everyone owned one, or two, or three.
As a law enforcement officer, I've been around lots of crime committed with a .22LR. In the words of one of my old chiefs, "It's an over-penetrating sonofabitch." That's true. That little bitty old round that everyone dismisses as a low-power round is capable of quite a bit of penetration.
Courtesy of the Western Rifle Shooters Association, the forum at Sniper's Hide has a thread about the lethality of the round. The guy making the report had shot a turkey, wrapped in 3 layers of clothing at 300 yards.
After shooting the 300 yards and taking back the target to the Jeep, we realized that one round had gone through the whole turkey, the clothing layers in the front AND the layers in the back as well!!!!!!!!!! And this had to occur between 250 yards and 300 yards. This was MUCH MORE than I ever had anticipated for the standard velocity 22LR round!!!!!!!!!!No, I'm not touting the round for long-range sniping, nor am I recommending it as a large game round. It's still a rimfire .22 for gosh sake.
That said, however, I once had the experience of watching a guy take a whitetail deer with the .22LR. We were squirrel hunting during the deer season and my hunting partner jumped a deer in the edge of a woodline. He was carrying a semi-auto .22 and in the space of two seconds, put five rounds in a nice little group of that deer's ribcage. That deer walked about ten steps and folded up. Four of the five bullets had gone completely through the animal.
Don't go deer hunting with your .22. It's illegal in most states. However, the anecdote illustrates the ability of a round that is low cost, low recoil, universally available and highly accurate.
Next time you go to the range, or to the plinking grounds, take your .22. You might become re-acquainted with an extremely versatile caliber. Better yet, take a new shooter and let them have some success with a very old cartridge.