Could he please explain why this does not apply to smaller calibres as I have a .22 and firing subsonic 40 grain hollow point lead bullets I get an alarming number of ricochets compared to my .17HMR firing a 17 grain jacketed bullet at a far greater velocity where it appears I don’t get any ricochets at all.

Technical

GEORGE WALLACE says:

There are a number of variables making our lives difficult when we try to predict what will and what will not ricochet.

In fact there are so many variables of trajectory, bullet weight, velocity, nature of target, angle of impact etc etc that reliable predictions are almost impossible and that is why I used the phrase “tend to dig in” – rather than saying that they will do so.

There just aren’t any guarantees.

However, experience does show certain trends and the well-known tendency of the .22 rimfire to ricochet is, I think, caused by the combination of light weight and modest velocity.

In other words, it has little momentum. I have even known .22s ricochet off the sand backstop on a military range and hit the big number boards on the top!

Take the same shot with a .45-70 with a 500-grain cast lead bullet at similar velocity and it will dig in far enough to be almost impossible to find.

If heavy slugs hit rock they certainly can ricochet but generally their sheer weight causes them to hold up and deform so they don’t go very far.

There are several possible reasons for the apparent lack of ricochet of the .17 HMR. Those little bullets are easily deflected by vegetation (and that’s a ricochet) but when contacting a hard surface at relatively short range they may actually disintegrate or deform to such an extent that they only go a yard or two.

The lack of the familiar whistle caused by a ricochet may be either because the .17’s bullet has disintegrated, because it has ricocheted and stopped before the whistle is heard, or because it has ricocheted and created the dreaded whistle but, because of the crack of the rifle, we just can’t hear it.

Those are my own thoughts. There may be other – and better – theories, but that’s all they are because no-one really knows.