In late 2019 into 2020, there seems to be a rekindled love in the industry for firearms chambered in .22. Glock released the Glock 44 in .22 LR, Kel-Tec released the CP33 and P17, Taurus has the TX-22, Kriss released a .22 LR rifle, Ruger released an LCP in .22LR, and the list goes on.
This has brought a lot of attention to the classic rimfire round. Although far from a traditional defensive round, it has played the leading role in many successful defensive gun use scenarios, begging the question of whether or not the .22 LR should be used as a defensive round?
Let's break down the ins and outs of using the .22 caliber as a self-defense round.
Many people may be asking why anyone would ever want to use the .22 LR as a self-defense round. There are plenty of other rounds out there that are affordable, capable, and accessible for self-defense. The main reason someone would choose a .22 LR is that they cannot handle the recoil from larger calibers or have the ability to hold up bigger guns like pistol caliber carbines. While rare, many people may not have the strength to handle even a .380 ACP. Concealed carriers owe it to themselves to be as well-armed as possible and to carry a caliber more substantial than .22 LR if they can, but some simply can’t.
Ammunition in this caliber is super cheap, so you can get in a lot of training for very little money - which is good because you'll need to be well-skilled if you are using .22 LR for self-defense. While you should practice proper shot placement with every caliber, with .22 LR, you already behind the power curve.
.22 LR has hardly any recoil. Even when fired from the smallest guns on the market, the .22 LR is plenty easy to control. Easy to manage calibers means you can get quick and accurate follow-up shots. The .22 LR is an easy gun to shoot, and for a new shooter, that can be a huge deal.
The most significant disadvantage is going to be the rimfire system. Rimfire rounds tend to be less reliable than centerfire rounds. A round failing to ignite can be a significant issue in an automatic handgun.
The second issue that most .22 LR fails to expand when they strike a soft target and can have penetration issues. You’ll need premium grade ammo for defensive purposes for your .22 LR.
This is a great question since the .22 Magnum is substantially more potent than .22 LR and is a much better self-defense round. Companies like Speer make self-defense .22 Magnum loads that excel in ballistic tests. The only downside of .22 Magnum ammo is ammo cost and occasional availability compared to .22 LR. 22 Magnum has a little more recoil and snap, but hardly. This is the best rimfire route to take for self-defense. It still has the reliability issues of rimfire ammo, but it’s a significant step up from .22 LR.
If you have to carry a .22 for self-defense, you might as well do it right. Due to reliability issues with rimfire ammo, I’d take a revolver. Should a round fail to ignite, it’s simpler and much quicker to pull the trigger again with a revolver. An automatic handgun would require you to stop and correct the misfire by manually ejecting the round.
The revolver should have an exposed hammer. If you are shooting a rimfire revolver because of hand strength issues, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to work the heavy 13+ pound triggers on a double-action revolver with any accuracy. If that’s the case, the exposed hammer allows you to cock the gun into a single-mode for a much lighter trigger pull. As previously mentioned, .22 Magnum would be a better choice than .22 LR.
Guns like the Ruger LCRx have an exposed hammer and offer you up to 8 rounds of .22 LR or six rounds of .22 Magnum with an exposed hammer if you have the hand strength to manipulate a heavy trigger but cannot handle the recoil of a rimfire round you’ll be well served with either the traditional LCR or LCRx.
The S&W 317 kit gun gives you eight rounds of .22 LR in a medium-sized platform. The longer 3-inch barrel would give you a bit more velocity from the already ballistically challenged round.
The ultimate .22 carry gun would be the 351 PD in .22 Magnum. It is a snub nose gun with an exposed hammer and a 7 round capacity. It weighs only 11 ounces and comes with Hi-Viz fiber optic orange front sight.
For .22 LR, the CCI Stinger has proven to be a solid performer. It can penetrate through a layer of denim and go over 13 inches into a block of ballistic gel. CCI ammo is high-quality ammunition, and it’s proven to be more reliable than your standard bulk pack ammunition.
For .22 Magnums, the aforementioned Speer Gold Dot ammo has proven to be a good performer. The round is designed for use in short barrels and is a great companion for the 351 PD.
The good news is these revolvers are typically built on established frames. Outside of the 317 Kit Gun, the Ruger LCRx models and the 351PD will fit in holsters made for their 38 Special brothers. At CrossBreed, we have many holster options for them - all supported by our Customer Care Team and backed by our Lifetime Warranty!
It’s a tough decision to make, but if you go rimfire for self-defense, you can approach it with a bit better education about the pros and cons of rimfire guns for self-defense.
Does a rimfire fit into your personal protection plan? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments below, we want to hear from you!
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.
He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms based hobbies.
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