The .22 long rifle (.22LR) round is one of the oldest rounds still in use today. It was created in 1887 by the J. Stevens Arms and Tool Company. It’s one of the most versatile cartridges in existence, and all types of firearms—pistols, revolvers, rifles, submachine guns, and smooth bore shotguns—have been produced in .22 caliber.
The .22 is a small round, measuring just 5.6 millimeters in diameter, so what shooting contexts is the .22LR perfect for?
The Top Options on the Market Today
Viable Uses for the Firearm
The .22 is a deceptive round, and its power and wounding capacity are often underestimated. However, with the right hardware, .22LR is viable, and sometimes a great, in almost any shooting context.
- Concealed Carry
- Home Defense
- Recreational Shooting
- Target and Competition
Using .22LR for Concealed Carry
Defensive shooters often shrug .22LR off as being too weak for concealed carry. However, the lethality of .22 ammunition has been demonstrated in several real-world incidents. While it may not be as ideal for concealed carry as a 9mm handgun, it has some characteristics that make it a decent option in certain situations.
.22 pistols can be ultra concealable.
Since the .22 is such a small round, pistols chambered in .22LR don’t need to be very large in order to accommodate the round or offer high magazine capacity. This means that .22 pistols can be great backup guns, or used in situations where you need deep concealment.
.22LR ammunition is inexpensive.
For the price of one hundred 9mm rounds, you can probably get twice that many .22 rounds, maybe more. The cost of training with a .22 handgun is incredibly low, which means that you’ll really be able to take advantage of the light recoil.
easy to control.
.22LR is incredibly easy to control.
No matter what round you use for concealed carry, shot placement will always be king. There are no points for a miss in a critical situation. This is an area where the .22 really shines. The round has such light recoil that it’s super easy to crank multiple shots off with exceptional accuracy.
A revolver is even better when using .22 for self-defense.
One critique of the .22 when it comes to concealed carry is the reliability. The .22LR is a rimfire round. Rimfire rounds are prone to misfires (it’s not tremendously common, but more common in rimfire rounds than in centerfire rounds like 9mm). Many experts recommend using a revolver if you’re going to carry a .22 for personal defense.
The logic is as follows:
- Remedial action for a revolver is simply to pull the trigger again. So, if you do have a misfire during a defensive incident, you can just keep working the trigger rather than having to go through the process of tapping and racking a semi-auto handgun.
- Some .22 revolvers hold just as many rounds as small 9mm semi auto pistols, sometimes more, so you’re not really losing anything in terms of ammo capacity with a revolver.
That means that if you’re looking for a good .22 pistol for concealed carry, you shouldn’’t be afraid to put some revolvers on your short list.
Using .22LR for Home Defense
The .22 is viable for home defense for many of the same reasons that it’s good for concealed carry. However, if you’re considering using .22LR in a home defense firearm, a .22LR rifle is a better choice since you don’t need to conceal it, and it gives you more muzzle velocity and accuracy.
If you use a .22 rifle for home defense, consider outfitting it with a good optic .
Using .22LR for Recreational Shooting
The low cost and easy handling of the .22 make it a no-brainer for a recreational gun. But more specifically, the .22LR is an excellent round for teaching children to shoot and handle firearms safely, and is even perfect for helping adults who are new to guns develop some familiarity and comfort since it’s easy to shoot and not very loud.
Target and Competition Shooting
For competition shooters, .22LR is an excellent training tool. However, it’s also perfectly legitimate as a game-time competition round. Target pistols and rifles are available chambered in .22, and the round is plenty accurate for most competition shooting distances.
This is one that many people don’t think about, but if you keep an emergency kit at home for natural disasters or any other reason you might need to get out of the house quickly, a .22 pistol and several boxes of ammo are great tools to have in your survival kit.
The .22LR is perfectly adequate for hunting small game and won’t add a lot of weight to your loadout.
Top .22 Pistol Reviews
Since you see that .22LR is viable for so many things, having a .22 handgun in your collection can’t be a bad thing. So, here are the top models to check out this year:
Pistol for Concealed Carry
The Walther P22 is shaped a lot like the Walther P99, but chambered in .22LR. It packs the features and function of Walther’s flagship gun into a .22 platform.
The Walther P22 comes with more tactical features than most .22 pistols, which is one of the reasons it’s such a good option for concealed carry. The P22 comes standard with a picatinny rail for mounting laser sights or flashlights, and a threaded barrel.
Additionally, the P22 has controls that are located in the same spot as most larger semi-automatic pistols, so you can use the P22 as a backup gun without much training, since practicing with your standard carry gun will build skills that transfer just fine to the P22.
Then, the P22 carries 10 rounds in the magazine, which is excellent for a concealed carry gun or backup gun. In terms of other shooting contexts, 10 rounds is plenty for use in competitions or plinking.
For concealability, the P22 has a perfectly reasonable grip and barrel length. However, the gun is just a tad more than 1-inch wide, which makes it easy to conceal for people of a smaller stature, or in positions with less concealment, where you might need to carry a backup gun.
There are a couple drawbacks to the P22 in terms of concealed carry. First, it has a manual safety, which will require training familiarization if you come from a striker-fired pistol without a safety.
Additionally, the trigger is a double/single action. So the first trigger pull is long and heavy, and subsequent trigger presses are short and light. This type of trigger takes a fair amount of training to use well.
The last thing to look at is the magazine release: the P22 has a paddle magazine release. This is standard for many Walther pistols, so if you’re already a Walther shooter, you probably won’t have an issue. However, if you’re more familiar with a button release, there’s a learning curve for this gun.
But, all caveats aside, the P22 is an excellent option for those who want a semi-automatic .22 that’s good for competition, plinking, or concealed carry.
Ruger LCR 22
Revolver for Concealed Carry
Ruger LCR 22
The Ruger LCR is one of the most popular concealed carry revolvers around, since it comes in so many calibers and is quite affordable. The Ruger LCR 22 is one of the greatest LCR models, since the .22 is totally manageable, even with the small frame.
Something people have been critical of the LCR for is the aluminum chassis. This makes the gun really light, but in larger calibers can present durability issues, and most people prefer a steel frame for revolvers chambered in .357 or .44 magnum. However, the aluminum frame presents no issue for handling .22LR. This means the LCR 22 is a great, lightweight revolver.
Even though the frame is made of aluminum, the cylinder and barrel are made of steel to enhance the durability and add as much accuracy as possible to the 1.87 inch barrel. The cylinder is fluted to bring the weight down even more.
The LCR 22 has a comfortable rubber grip, that’s shaped very ergonomically for such a small sidearm. Some shooters may not like the finger grooves. Fortunately, the LCR is popular enough that there are some aftermarket options when it comes to grips.
Many revolvers have fixed sights, and the LCR is only a partial exception here. The front sight is changeable. However, the rear sight is integrated into the top strap of the gun, and cannot be swapped out. The standard LCR sights aren’t great for low light shooting, and shooters with vision struggles may find them to be difficult to see.
Fortunately, there are manufacturers that make improved front sights for the LCR 22.
Since the .22 round is so small, the LCR 22 is able to cram 8 rounds into the cylinder, which is pretty respectable for a revolver, and is more rounds than you would get from some single-stack 9mm handguns.
Lastly, the LCR 22 has an internal hammer, so it’s more snag free than most revolvers, which makes it easier to draw from concealment. Combined with the size, the smooth exterior of the LCR 22 makes it one of the ultimate pocket pistols on the market.
For concealed carriers, the LCR 22 is a good option for a backup gun, and is viable as a primary weapon when deep concealment is necessary. The LCR 22 probably isn’t quite capable enough for home defense, but it could be used as a fun plinking firearm.
The Sig P226 is legendary in military and counter terrorism forces around the world. The Sig P226-22 brings the exceptional ergonomics and performance of the P226 to a .22LR platform.
The thing that’s made the P226 so popular through the years is the ergonomics. The grip is uniquely shaped, but incredibly comfortable. Additionally, all the controls are extremely well placed so that they’re all easy to reach. The most notable of these controls is the decocker, which is positioned so that it’s easy to manipulate with the thumb of your firing hand.
As elementary as this sounds, many guns have the decocker in places that are much more difficult to reach. Additionally, the slide release is right next to the decocker. Lastly, the magazine release is where the tip of your thumb rests. Pretty much all the controls are centralized for use with the thumb of your firing hand, very smart design.
The P226-22 also has an exceptional trigger. Even though it’s a double/single action trigger, which is one of the most complex trigger types to manage, it’s very smooth and the double action trigger press is lighter than many handguns. This helps mitigate some of the troubles many shooters have with double/single action triggers.
The P226-22 is also equipped with a picatinny rail for mounting a laser or flashlight, which can be handy for home defense situations at night. If you use a weapon mounted light, be sure to train with it, since poor use of a weapon mounted light actually gives you a tactical disadvantage. However, a light may not be entirely necessary, since the P226-22 comes standard with night sights.
One last cool thing about the P226-22: the P226-22 can be easily converted to 9mm, .40 S&W, or .357 Sig if you want to move up to a larger caliber, or use .22 for practice ammunition, but 9mm for defensive ammunition. The .22 magazines hold 10 rounds, which is fine for training or home defense, and higher capacity magazines are available for the other calibers.
The Sig P226-22 is an excellent home defense gun since it’s full size and versatile. Additionally, it’s an amazing recreational or plinking gun, and could even turn some heads in competition shooting.
Ruger GP100 22LR
Ruger GP100 22LR
The GP100 is one of Ruger’s most popular revolvers. In .357, it’s a handy gun. In .22LR, it’s just plain fun. The GP100 22LR is a great gun to have in the safe for blasting pop cans without spending too much money.
The GP100 is a high quality pistol constructed of stainless steel. The barrel is 5.5 inches, which is enough that you’ll be able to hit some pretty small things that are pretty far away, if you’ve got good marksmanship.
One of the nice things about the GP100 is that the rear sight is adjustable, and the front sight can be changed if you don’t like it. However, the standard front sight is a green fiber-optic dot, so you’ll be able to see the sights really well without any upgrades.
The GP100 also has some upgrade options, all available from Ruger, if you want to get really slick with your plinking gun.
The main feature of the GP100 is the ammo capacity. The cylinder holds 10 .22LR rounds, which is exceptional for a revolver, and just as many rounds as most semi-automatic .22 pistols hold in the magazine. This makes the GP100 a great recreational gun, since you get just as many rounds from each reload as a semi-automatic, with the simplicity of a revolver.
If you decide you’d like to use the GP100 for other shooting contexts, it’s perfectly capable for competition shooting. The barrel length, ammo capacity, and transfer bar safety make it a viable option for home defense. However, the size pretty much takes concealed carry out of the question.
For recreational plinking, you can’t go wrong with the GP100, and you could do a lot worse for competition shooting and home defense.
Ruger Mark IV Lite
Target and Competitive Shooting
Ruger Mark IV Lite
The Ruger Mark IV is one of the most popular competition .22 pistols on the market, and the Ruger Mark IV Lite takes the platform to the next level. The Mark IV Lite is an excellent, lightweight, and customizable pistol that you could take to the competition scene right out of the box.
The Mark IV is designed for competition level precision. To ensure that you’re able to hit those tiny targets, Ruger constructed the Mark IV with a internal bolt for better sight-to-barrel alignment so that your shots always hit where you’ve lined up your sight picture.
To reduce the weight, the Mark IV Lite is built with an aluminum chassis, so that you don’t shake so much, even after you’ve been holding the gun out for a while. There’s no compromise as far as durability is concerned because the bolt, barrel, and important internals are constructed from steel.
The standard sights are adjustable, and the Mark IV features a picatinny rail along the top of the gun for easy mounting of optics. The trigger is a very light, single action trigger that’ll help you keep those sights on target until the shot breaks.
The safety and magazine release are both ambidextrous, which is handy for left-handed shooters. However, lefties will still have to deal with a right handed bolt catch when the need to lock the breach open.
As if all that weren’t enough, the Mark IV is also equipped with a threaded barrel for attaching suppressors or other muzzle devices. .22 isn’t that loud anyway, but with a suppressor, hearing protection is entirely unnecessary for shooting.
Lastly, the Mark IV is incredibly easy to break down for cleaning and maintenance. The upper and lower receiver separate using a single button located on the back of the gun. No tools are needed to disassemble the Mark IV.
While you could spend more on a .22 pistol for competition, you’d only get marginal improvements in performance. The Mark IV Lite presents the greatest value on the competition pistol market.
Great Value .22 Pistol
Ruger largely made their name on the Ruger 10/22 rifle. However, Ruger has also established themselves in the .22LR pistol market with the Ruger SR22. The SR22 is the 10/22 of .22 pistols. In terms of value and versatility, the SR22 is hard to beat.
The SR22 is first and foremost a super comfortable pistol to hold and shoot. The grip is ergonomically shaped, and covered with a rubber grip sleeve that can be swapped out to accommodate different hand sizes.
Most of the controls on the SR22 are ambidextrous. This includes the safety and magazine release. Sorry, left-handers, the slide lock is not ambidextrous. However, it’s easy to reach with the index finger of your left hand.
The sights on the SR22 are adjustable, and if you find them to be a bit too plain, they can be replaced with high visibility or night sights. However, for all but the most precise shooting, the stock sights are fine. If you’d like more sighting capabilities, the SR22 comes with a picatinny rail on the underside of the frame for mounting accessories.
Since the SR22 is hammer fired, the trigger is a double/single action. But it’s not too big of a deal because the double action function features a fairly light double action trigger press.
Something nice about the SR22 is the versatility. The SR22 comes in a variety of barrel lengths, but they’re all on the same frame. So it’s possible to put a longer barrel on the SR22 by just changing out the slide. There’s also a variety of color options for those who want aesthetic customization.
Lastly, the SR22 is light, compact, and quite affordable. It’s a great all-around .22 pistol, and is the top .22 pistol for small game hunting and survival in this article.
For Concealed Carry
Ruger LCR 22
For concealed carry, the Ruger LCR 22 is your perfect option. You’ll get the most concealability and reliability from this gun.
Ruger Mark IV
Competition shooters can’t go wrong with the Ruger Mark IV Lite. More expensive pistols suffer diminishing returns on your dollars.
All-Around And Survival Use
For all-around and survival use, the Ruger SR22 is the right choice. There’s no other firearm with such a good mix of performance and price.
All that’s left is to grab your favorite .22, and go have some fun!