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Posted:  10/29/2012 8:30 AM #34852
CTD Blogger

Joined: 7/14/2009
Posts: 10828
Last Post: 8/20/2014
Subject: Mighty roar of the mousy 22
( By: Richard L Johnson-Heresy!  No gun writer is allowed to advocate for the .22 LR as a self defense caliber, right?  Well, I suppose I didn’t get that memo.  Maybe it is in the spam filter of my e-mail account. Don’t worry – It is not my intention to start a holy war over which caliber is better than another. I think we can all agree that given a center mass shot, any of the major calibers, such as the .357 Magnum and .45 ACP, are superior to the .22 LR in terms of stopping bad people from doing bad things.

But that is not to say the little rimfire cannot be an adequate self-defense caliber.  I hope to illustrate that the .22 might be a viable option for self defense in certain situations.

Physical Disability

I’ve never walked out of the house carrying a .22 as a self defense gun.  I hope I never have to.  But, I can foresee certain circumstances under which I would.  What if I was struck by an illness that simply left me so weak that I couldn’t tame the relatively mild recoil of a 9mm?

I know there are thousands of people in the US who rely on the little cartridge to defend themselves and their loved ones.  Many of them do so because of the low recoil the .22 LR generates.  For shooters with various disabilities, illnesses or injuries, something with very low recoil is a requirement.

Consider the elderly woman with osteoporosis, or the young man with a neuromuscular disease that confines him to a wheelchair.  There are any number of situations and ailments that can make the .22 LR a better, or perhaps the only, choice for self defense.

The unfortunate reality is criminals prey upon the weak.  You rarely read “Bodybuilder mugged” in the newspaper.  Criminals are looking for the easy targets.  If the target is “easy” due to age or infirmity, better they be armed with a rimfire that a harsh word alone.  The .22 can be the difference between having some control of your fate in a violent encounter and just being a victim.


Shooting .22 LR ammo is a lot easier on the wallet than shooting any centerfire cartridge.  For about the price of a box of 50 .45 ACP rounds, you can get a 500 round brick of the .22. So for the same price, you can get about 10 times the range practice.

With any defensive shooting, shot placement is the most important consideration.  We’ve all heard the old saying that a hit with a .22 is better than a miss with a .44.  Although self-evident, there is truth in that bit of wisdom.

If ammunition costs are prohibitively expensive on your budget, the .22 LR can make a lot of sense.  One brick of ammo can give a new shooter enough time to become very familiar with the workings of the gun, plus have plenty left over to work on trigger control, accuracy and speed.

Revolver or Semi-Auto?

If you do pick a .22 as a concealed carry gun, what options are available?

In a self defense handgun, I prize reliability above all else.  If the gun doesn’t go bang when I stroke the trigger, I am in a very bad place.  Many of the current generation semi-automatic pistols have proved themselves reliable in even very harsh conditions.  So, for a centerfire cartridge, I am comfortable with carrying one.

For rimfire handguns, especially small ones for concealed carry, I am much less confident of the semi-auto pistol.  Based on my experience, the .22 LR can be a finicky cartridge in a semi-auto, requiring careful matching of ammunition to the gun.  Even then, 100% reliability is not a given.  That makes me a bit leery of them.

Revolvers, to my mind, are the way to go when toting a concealed handgun chambered for the little rimfire rounds.  For example, revolvers do not depend on slide velocity to cycle properly.  Also, should one of the rounds misfire, simply pull the trigger again instead of going through the “tap, rack, bang” drill.

Since the .22 operates at a relatively low pressure and has a diameter much smaller than a .38 Special, revolvers chambered for the rimfire cartridge often hold eight or more rounds.  In a small-framed gun, that is a nice step up from the five rounds normally held in a .38 or .357 Magnum revolver.

For carry, I’d suggest looking at the Smith & Wesson 43 C or the Ruger LCR-22.  Both of the guns are hammerless revolvers that hold eight rounds.  Both guns are small and compact with barrels just under 2”.  The S&W is a little lighter and a little more expensive (11 ounces, $689 MSRP) than the Ruger (14.9 ounces, $525 MSRP).  For that extra money, the Smith comes standard with the XS Sights white dot front sight.

There are a few alternatives, including the Charter Arms Pathfinder and the NAA mini revolvers.  Each offers its own advantages, but for my money I’d stick with the Smith & Wesson or Ruger.

At the end of the day, I’d rather have a .38 snub in my pocket or a 1911 on my hip.  But there are circumstances that can make a .22 a better choice.  When it comes to self defense, nothing is a guarantee and our choices in handguns are generally a compromise to begin with.

But the important thing to keep in mind is that the .22 you can use is far better than any gun you cannot.  Its like Al Capone supposedly said:  You can go a long way with a smile, but you can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun.

Posted:  10/30/2012 7:03 PM #34891

Joined: 7/15/2011
Posts: 1
Last Post: 10/30/2012
The first handgun I ever fired was my father's old Ruger revolver (Single-six, convertible .22 LR and .22 Magnum). We still target shoot often. He's now 82 and has a hard time with the recoil of larger calibers. Even a full-sized 9mm handgun is difficult to shoot and quickly reacquire target. Considering trying the largest frame .380 I can find him. Might be better. For home- defense, he keeps the Ruger loaded with .22 magnum rounds. He can still easily handle it. I agree with the author that an accessible .22 that is comfortable is much better than a large caliber that he can't effectively use anymore. I know if I were a bad guy, I wouldn't want to be shot with anything...even a .22.

Posted:  10/30/2012 9:34 PM #34892

Joined: 10/30/2012
Posts: 0
Last Post: 1/1/0001
More great info in defense of the .22

Posted:  10/30/2012 9:47 PM #34893

Joined: 10/30/2012
Posts: 2
Last Post: 10/30/2012
Something is better than nothing and if in defense at a close range the .22lr is a nasty round that will play pac-man to vital organs in the body.  Mt mother is in her mid 60's and does not have much hand strength.  I have armed her with a Ruger .22LR revolver using CCI hollow points and, I rest well knowing that any close encounter will afford her 8 quick accurate shots to whomever may want to bid her harm.@import url(;

Posted:  10/30/2012 11:13 PM #34894
Chuck B

Joined: 10/30/2012
Posts: 1
Last Post: 10/30/2012
Here is more "ammo" for the 22lr  I always tell my students that a 22lr with you all the time is better than the .45 ACP that you only carry sometimes.

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