It should be noted that this article is meant to be informative and is not a suggestion to carry a .22 rimfire handgun as a primary defensive tool.
With good ammunition, .22lr / WMR/ shorts can be very reliable as a round. What is not reliable is the needed energy to successfully stop an assailant whether it be human or non-human the .22 rimfire round is not the best choice for concealed carry purposes.
As I am certain to get many comments from individuals incapable of reading past the first paragraph, I am including this for those individuals. So please remember this when reading, .22 caliber handguns for concealed carry.
For educational purposes, the .22lr round has been around since 1887 when J. Stevens firearms company designed it. It is the single most popular cartridge design in the world, with several well-known manufactures designing and upgrading constantly allowing for some very good rounds overall. LR stands for Long Rifle which is the most popular .22 rimfire cartridge.
WMR stands for Winchester magnum rimfire and is a longer cartridge that is not able to be swapped for .22lr without using different chambers. There are several revolvers that offer interchangeable cylinders which allow for use of both. .22 short is exactly what it says, it is a shorter version.
While not exact, one can safely assume that .22lr can have its power doubled if you use a 22wmr and halved by using 22short. Again this is not exact as there are loadings from all that are similar in power factor depending on barrel length.
So what would I carry if I chose to carry a .22 LR handgun for self-defense?
In no particular order here are the most reliable .22lr handguns I have used over the years. First, there is the Walther P22. I have owned and used 4 different models from different years and have never had a catastrophic firearms failure with them. Additionally, due to their popularity and versatility, their design is the most frequently copied by major manufacturers like Ruger, Smith and Wesson and others.
Rimfire firearms are generally blowback operated which lends to their dirty nature, meaning if you do not keep them clean and oiled properly they will fail at rates that are greater than centerfire handguns. The Walther P22 series has an open chamber, this allows for greater reliability with heavy use.
I have only had one ammunition type fail to feed, and this includes subsonic Aguila 60 grn rounds, the Remington flat tip simply would not feed in any of the handguns used and tested. What it is not as good as others at is accuracy.
You can expect 2-3 inch 15-yard groups offhand, not terrible, but certainly not as good as some of the other handguns on the list. For overall reliability, I do enjoy this particular gun. The Walther P22 comes with two barrel lengths, the smaller at 3.42 inches is the easiest to carry concealed. With an extremely low recoil, easy trigger and standard 10 round magazine capacity this is a solid contender.
Ruger SR22 is the next on this list, it is a design based on the Walther P22 though with some perceived improvements. The slide is made from steel versus the “pot metal” approach taken with the Walther P22. While the standard Ruger SR22 does not come with a threaded barrel, it can be purchased with one.
Additionally, the Ruger SR22 is far easier to take down and clean. It is as reliable overall as the Walther P22 and more reliable than most .22lr semi-auto handguns on the market. I have only used or owned 2 of these, as a result, my sampling is far smaller.
However, both of these handguns function well and provide a tool to train others on and even carry if needed. The Ruger SR22 has similar accuracy to the P22 and also has a loyal following which allows for extras to be purchased easily and with somewhat lower cost than some manufacturers.
SIG mosquito which is now made by GSG is the next on the list, it is a relatively reliable firearm. I owned one, I had feeding issues and did every workaround available to fix them. It simply never liked some ammunition, this is normal with all firearms, the problem is that it only fed two different .22LR loadings reliably.
This is unacceptable for me. It should be noted that this firearm is included because of the reliability others have experienced, and not my own personal testing which was not good. While I would not recommend this in casual conversation, if you have one that works well and is more than 95% reliable with what you feed it, use it!
Ruger GP100 is next on the list, it is a 10 round revolver. This means that it has the same capacity as modern .22lr semi-auto handguns. It should be noted that even with the oddly placed magazine eject button on the Walther P22 reloading is still much faster using a semi-auto handgun and the trigger is better as well.
However, if you believe a revolver to be more reliable, the Ruger Gp100 is a solid choice. It is a relatively reliable platform and when maintained properly can provide years of service. As with all of the above this handgun is relatively easy to conceal and unlike the others as long as the round functions will not have feed issues.
This said, my complaint with this and other revolvers owned over the years has always come back to timing of the cylinder and hammer. Over time all revolvers will need to be reset or have their timing adjusted to ensure the cylinder rotates and lines up with the barrel properly. Higher end revolvers run longer better, but they are not fool proof and the triggers for many are actually pretty terrible and difficult to use.
There are several micro and mini .22lr handguns on the market. The better ones are made by Beretta, Taurus and North American Arms. While I have owned and carried all of these brands and the .22 LR versions specifically, I would not suggest you rely solely on them.
All of them when working with superior ammunition were reliable, however, all of them had some issues with timing concerns through feeding and ammunition sensitivity. When it comes to self-defense there are a few important requirements with the tools we use.
Reliability, accuracy, ability, and function. When it comes to firearms your choice must be reliable (as in 100% reliable in function outside of ammunition the firearm itself must be reliable with ammunition chosen for it!)
Accuracy is also important, this is a metric that is relatively hard to use for firearms. In my experience, most modern firearms are built and can be more accurate than most shooters. This being said, some are more inherently accurate than others. Securing your firearm for accuracy testing is important, using only your own hands is not a way to measure the firearms accuracy potential.
Ability, the ability of the individual using the firearm is as important as the other aspects. This simply means that using a revolver or smaller caliber is NOT acceptable if one’s ability is what needs work. If you have no time to train and or gain training from solid trainers look at alternative options for defense.
Going smaller or with a revolver simply because you cannot shoot well is not a good idea. I have taught 3-year-olds and 90+-year-olds how to shoot, all of them when taught the correct approach to “cocking” a semi-auto handgun were completely able to do so. It is simple physics and I learned this approach from one of my instructors, Massad Ayoob, grip the slide over the top with the non-dominant hand and seat your dominate hand solidly on the grip.
Pushing with the dominant hand and pulling with the non-dominant hand you cut the force necessary to cock the handgun in half, do this with equal pressure on both hands and you will come to realize that this is quite literally the easiest way to do it. Of course, if you are not holding the firearm correctly than recoil will be an issue.
Sadly, it is not recoil that causes inaccuracy it is our idea of it. By the time our mind “feels” the recoil the bullet has already left the barrel. This means that practicing proper grip and trigger pressing is absolutely essential for shooting accurately.
Function, these are the reasons you carry. What is the required function of the firearm you choose to use? Using what evidence is available coupled with first-hand experience and a working knowledge of animal and human bodies you can easily see that anything that causes bleeding can kill beings.
What is not addressed by most is that what causes death fastest is rapid bleeding, so larger or more holes is a good thing if you wish to stop threats. What is also good is the ability to break supporting structures, a round should be able to penetrate bone mass. If your intent is to brandish a firearm threateningly but never use it in defense, I would suggest a legalities class.
This approach will, unfortunately, get you prison time. Offered by politicians as a way to defend yourself the alternative is shooting into the air. In Arizona, for instance, this will result in prison time for you regardless who said it is the smart thing to do. When possible do your own testing, you can use a ham with bones to test penetration on similar tissue, this will allow you to see exactly what happens.
Well now you know what I prefer, what do you prefer and why?
Free the mind and the body will follow…
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