If you've ever been around someone who's really serious about .22 rimfire accuracy, you know about picky. One thing a lot of people don't realize about firearms is that some can be really picky about what they like; what shoots amazingly well in one rifle or pistol may give lousy accuracy in another. Some shoot almost everything well, some only one or two types.
I've got a BSA Martini model 12/15 rifle I picked up a while back that fits in the 'good with everything' category. I've sat down at a nice, solid bench with it and a dozen different brands/types of ammo over time, and it shoots as well at 50 yards with Federal Lightning ammo($.69/box) as it does with Wolf Match or Aguila match ammo($3 to $4/box). I haven't tried the Lapua($7 to 10/box) or some of the other serious match-grade stuff; being chea- uh, fiscally conservative, laying out $7 to $10/box for .22's just doesn't register. Not when I get 1/2" groups with the 'economy' ammo at 50 yards.
But for the serious accuracy hound? Oh, he'll buy a box or two of each, carefully clean the bore between each brand/type. He'll check out the different sites for anything that might tweak the ammo just that final little bit to get the dream groups; like putting a different lube on the bullets(here and here).
The one advantage .22's have for those who go all out is that a $10 box of ammo still holds 50 rounds; a 20 round box of centerfire match will probably start about $15 or so, depending on cartridge/brand.
I'll never make a serious match shooter. If I can find a .22 round that, off a solid rest, groups 1/2" or a little less at 50 yards, I'm real happy since that's the best I'd ever be able to shoot in the field. Likewise, when I work up a centerfire rifle load that'll group an inch at 100 yards, I know it'll take care of anything I'm going to try in the woods. The people who are SERIOUS about accuracy will keep trying different case/primer/powder/bullet/lube combinations forever, or with .22's different brands/lubes/bullet mods, looking for the golden combination for that firearm.
Notes: I'll admit to plans to buy a box or two of CCI or Eley match stuff to try in this and another .22, someday when I'm feeling rich, but unless the stuff all goes through the same hole in the target, it'll just be to try the stuff out.
On centerfires, it can be amazing the difference one component can make. I once worked up loads on an 8mm Mauser. With Federal or Remington brass holding the same primer/powder/bullet combination, group size was identical with the Remingtons hitting right at 1" higher; with Winchester brass, the group was about 6" and about 5" higher and to the right.
On tweaking ammo, there's an interesting gadget here that swages the bullet of a .22 to either a more accurate(possibly, depending on firearm) bullet diameter or a more efficient hollowpoint shape, depending on which rod you use. Hmm, tax refund should be in soon...
Update: Welcome Carnival of Cordite readers!