Ammunition

Is the .22 LR Suitable for Defense?

CCI .22 LR Velocitor ammunition box with bolt action rifle

When it comes to personal defense, many of the students that go through my class have their head on straight. They wish to avoid using the firearm at almost any cost. The bottom line is that they will use the firearm only to save their life or that of a loved one.

I try to impress situational awareness and thinking on these students. If you do not do drugs, frequent rough bars, associate with prostitutes or gangs, or run off at the mouth at the worst possible time, then you might be pretty safe in America. There is always the predator wanting you to be his victim, but if you have situational awareness and a positive demeanor, the perpetrator may often choose another victim, and you will not even know it. Many of us dodge the bullet due to training and awareness.

Most victims meet the perpetrator half way through some action of their own. Some students want to qualify with the .22. That’s ok for beginners as the .22 is the most excellent training cartridge we have. But using the .22 Long Rifle cartridge for defense requires quite a stretch.

While any firearm is useful as a threat and will dissuade many, motivated attackers or assailants bent on harm, rape, or murder may not be so easily turned. We need a firearm with sufficient wound potential to stop the threat. The .22 is good for small game about the size of a squirrel to that of a possum or raccoon. It isn’t suitable for use against men that may be about the same size as a deer. The 9mm and .38 Special are a realistic minimum for personal defense.

That being said, there are many incidents in which the .22 caliber rimfire has been used in personal defense. When there is nothing else available, good folks have prevailed. Others have failed. I am going to concentrate on the pistol in this report. I have, on file, several incidents with the .22 rifle in which a total of four dangerous felons were stopped with a single shot. Two died on the spot.

In each incident, including one that involved a frightened young teen and a home invasion, good shot placement and penetration carried the day. In another, a home invader took 15 peripheral hits—none to the vitals. He was taken to the hospital and while being wheeled to the examination room in a wheelchair, rose up, grabbed the chair, and threw it at the doctors.

With the pistol we do not have the advantage of the easy handling or the practical accuracy of the rifle. As an example, a relative was murdered along with a friend in an unfortunate domestic incident in which the attacker was armed with a shotgun. The defender fired six .22s into the chest of the attacker with no effect. The murderer survived without complications.

In another case, a homeowner fought back against a home invasion with her Ruger Standard Model target-grade pistol. She fired nine times and hit every time, causing three armed felons to flee. She was brave and lucky—one felon expired the rest recovered, and all were captured. Results with the pistol are poor compared to the rifle.

The argument is often made that the .22 is all that some shooters can afford or that it is all the recoil some can handle. The existence of specialized modern handguns such as the Smith and Wesson Shield .380 EZ and Springfield 911 which are easy to rack and offer low recoil, are a counter argument.

Recoil is subjective, but I believe that anyone who may handle a .22 can probably handle a full-size .380 ACP pistol. Not that the .380 ACP is a powerful handgun, but it is superior to the .22. Then there is the option of a .38 Special revolver loaded with 148-grain wadcutters. This is a classic ‘widow’s load’ that offers much greater wound potential than the .22 or .32. But that is common knowledge; let us let the .22 stand on its own merits.

As a deterrent, the .22 is as good as any firearm and sometimes the presence of a handgun is enough to stop a fight before it begins. However, there are times when a felon needs to be shot to defend your person. Not long ago, a pastor in a nearby town was stabbed during a home invasion and shot the assailant four times with his .22. The assailant turned, collapsed, and expired.

However, some felons take a lot of shooting. Some are shot once and stop the attack, others must be shot until they have lost enough blood to drop. Even with the 9mm and .38, multiple shots are needed at times.

The felon may change his mind and realize he has made a bad choice in victim selection. The felon may faint upon being shot. He may not. A shot to the nervous system is chancy as even heavier calibers sometimes fail to penetrate the skull. A 9mm or .38 with a round-nose bullet may skip around on the edge of the skull.

While eye socket shots sound like they would do the trick, this is a very difficult shot to perform under stress and goes against the rule of firing for center mass. Center mass is the center of the target that you see. The .22 has another advantage in this regard, given it is an accurate handgun that you have practiced with. You will be able to fire eight or nine accurate shots in the time it takes to fire three or four directed 9mm rounds. The .22 makes up for a lack of practice just as the 9mm is easier to achieve good results with quickly than the .40 or .45. That’s physics.

We are not shooting to kill but shooting to stop. Shooting to kill isn’t morally acceptable, we are only firing because of adversary’s actions are so terrible that he must be stopped. It cannot matter morally or legally if he dies as a result of being stopped. Even if hit with a heavy caliber, the dying part may take quite a few minutes. The problem of stopping a felon is a severe problem for a tiny bullet. Let’s consider this, does the .22 have the necessary penetration to reach vital organs? The answer is yes and no.

Range Test

I used my standard test material, water jugs, and fired a number of loads into the water jugs, with 12 inches pegged as the minimum acceptable level of penetration. The Fiocchi 40-grain HV load and the CCI Velocitor were dead on the money for acceptable penetration. Bullets lighter than 40 grains, bullets designed to break up into pieces, and the quite and suppressor loads fell far short, with some penetrating only five inches. That’s fine because they were designed to kill pests and small game. They are not designed to wound humans.

As for the myth of the .22 bouncing in the body, I can find no evidence of the .22 bouncing or tumbling in any media I have used. As a young officer I went to the hospital more than once to take reports on folks shot with a .22. I saw several through and through wounds. In one case, the entrance and exit wound were perfectly lined up on this skinny guy that seemed nonplussed in my interest. He was taped up and given antibiotics.

The .22 may bounce off bone but any RNL bullet may. I will mention the head shot or the face shot again. Many years ago the famous New York City detective, Frank Serpico, was shot in the face with a .22. While the wound was severe, he survived and despite his wound, returned fire, and wounded his assailant.

We now come to the crux of the argument and a stern warning against using the .22 for personal defense. First, revolvers are more reliable than selfloaders some say but the .22 rimfire demands a hard blow to the priming compound to properly ignite the primer. As a result most .22 revolvers have a stout hammer spring. This means that the action is actually heavier than a .38, so hand strength is taxed.

The Ballistics Argument

Here is the problem with the .22 that renders the ballistic arguments mute. The .22 isn’t reliable enough for personal defense. How often have you fired a brick of 500 rounds of .22s? No matter how reputable the maker, chances are you will have a misfire along the way. This is why there are no surviving .32, .38 and .44 rimfire cartridges. They are not reliable as center fire cartridges. The priming compound will not ignite from time to time.

Second, the bullet isn’t crimped in the case. The heel of the bullet juts into the cartridge case. Occasionally, on feeding, this bullet will be turned and cause a misfeed. Even the famously reliable Ruger Standard Model will misfeed more often then a Ruger American 9mm, as an example—a lot more. The combination of ancient priming technology, and a tendency of the bullet to be loose in the case, make the .22 LR unsuited for serious use.

As an example the greatest single amount of .22 Long Rifle high velocity I have fired without malfunction spread among three handguns was 1,600 rounds. That is a lot of ammunition to some—but not the 30,000 rounds fired by Glock during the FBI test program or the 700,000 rounds fired by SIG pistols in the French police testing program. .22 Long Rifle handguns are well made of good material in some cases. But the ammunition itself is fractionally as reliable as centerfire ammunition. The Army decided this in 1873 with regard to rimfire ammunition.

If the .22 is all you have, practice often. Load a high velocity 40-grain bullet. Clean the pistol thoroughly, and keep it well lubricated. Shoot straight, and pray the day never comes when this will be your first, or last, line of defense.

What is your opinion of the .22 LR for self-defense? What is the minimum caliber you would recommend? Why? Share your answers in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (96)

  1. 22 is my favorite caliber. 30grain to 60 grain. 710fps to 1900fps.
    I shot a pig with 9mm, it ricocheted the 22 penetrated. Go figure.
    We carried them in Vietnam they were perfect.
    My favorite, most preferred bullet…

  2. I spoke with a Doctor recently and he said that people don’t understand how elastic the human body is. He said most of the time you don’t know the caliber until you find the bullet. He said wound tracks from a 45 or a 22lr are different but not enough to make much of a difference . They all go through bone with the new ammo today and most don’t come out the back. Actually he said .22’s don’t bounce but for some reason the human body seems to move them they are often found moved away from the original track. Shot placement kills, and vitals must be hit. If not the caliber doesn’t matter as much. Bullets react differently in gelatin but not that much in the human tissue. That said it is not strange for a patient but with a 9mm or higher to be talking and the one shot with a .22lr be dead. In real shootings his opinion is pick the caliber you are most accurate with and if .22 is it, use a good 40 gran solid because that is more then enough to do the job. He said in the real world caliber though different obviously is not as different as people think when using a handgun. Rifles are a different story. .22lr is as great as is a 45 if you can put it where you want it with modern ammunition.

  3. With respect, the term “widow makers” applied to the .38 wad cutter
    referred to it’s lack of stopping power, thus creating police widows. Not
    to any power as a round.

  4. When it comes to the .22 Mag, it’s not really the velocity here, but your get more projectile options. Polymer tip, fragmenting, premium hollow points, that gives it much advantage over the L.R. round, especially out of shorter barrels.

  5. I would think the CCI Stinger .22 LR would test fairly well? It’s 36 grains, but rated at 1600 FPS instead of 1435 FPS like the 40 grain CCI Velocitor. As you know, increasing velocity has a much greater effect in increasing overall energy. Of course the rated velocity of any bullet would lower as barrel length is decreased.

  6. While a .22 LR might not be the optimum choice, the ultimate question is, what caliber do you want to be shot with? The other question is, will you let someone shoot you with a .22 LR?

    If all you have is a .22LR, use it.

    There have been many stories of those who have been shot multiple times and kept fighting, including one who had been shot in the heart, fatally, and kept fighting for a period of time before collapsing and of course the famous 1986 Miami Shootout.

    If all you have is a .22LR, if the event you are attending or the clothing you are wearing makes a .22LR the best option pistol to carry, do so.

    The old caliber debate. The sad thing is, with all the criticism of the .22LR, it is simply overlooked how good the round can be, and if it is all you have, it will work.

    A .22LR, .32 ACP (used by European militaries and police for many decades), .32 Mag, .380, .38, 9mm, .357, .40 and .45 are all good, and while a .25 ACP might be weak, if it is all you have, use it.

    The old caliber debate never ends, and there will always be those who simply criticize anything under a .38 or 9mm. Remember, a .380 is a 9mm short.

  7. The .22 may be all you have in which case it is better than nothing….however, it is a poor ‘choice’ if you are choosing it over a larger caliber.

  8. I have worked in EMS, law enforcement and fire services in my life. After all that my only conclusion is that any caliber can be used. The main point is to know your caliber’s limitations, strengths and weaknesses. Know your self and your firearm.

  9. Somebody always asks about 22 Magnum (.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire / .22 WMR) in any .22 LR conversation. Here is a chart of recorded velocities from a whole range of barrel lengths measured by the inch. It’s a handy website that some folks might want to bookmark for future reference purposes:
    http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/22mag.html

    Generally speaking, the shorter the barrel, the slower the round. (There are exceptions: For the CCI Gamepoint 40 gr. JSP _and_ a few others, an 18″ barrel nets a slightly higher velocity than a 19″ barrel. All caliber bullet / powder recipes will reach maximum velocity at some certain barrel length and going beyond that adds nothing.) But as the charts generally show overall, when you get down to concealed carry length 2 and 3 inch barrels, even the super speedy .22 WMR is going slower than typical average fps velocities for comparatively much bigger 9mm. (You can look up typical 9mm velocities at the same website above.) If you have a full sized house handgun with a 4, 5, or better yet 6 inch barrel (or longer), then you might get enough velocity to penetrate a little better and get the job done, but a rifle length barrel would obviously be far more ideal. A 40 grain projectile approaching 2000 fps is going to have much more energy to impart than the same thing going well under 1000 fps. (Just remember, a 55 grain .223″ projectile going well over 3300 fps would be worlds better. Ask any combat veteran!)

    But if you simply just have to use .22 WMR for home defense, then go with a carbine style rifle or at the very least, the biggest handgun with the longest barrel length possible. No guarantees with minimal calibers when larger more powerful ones don’t always give the needed results, of course. This is all just food for thought. 🙂

  10. Put up a couple of 2 liter plastic bottles filled with water.
    Shoot one with an ordinary 22 LR
    Shoot the other with a CCI Stinger.
    The results are night an day.
    Sure an 9mm or 38 cal is better, but I think the
    Stinger is plenty potent.
    I would sure hate to be shot with one.

  11. I agree 100% with the author of this article. I own a number of handguns but weight is a consideration that simply cannot be ignored.

    If I am only going to be in a low crime area, I will often opt to carry a Beretta 21A Bobcat Inox. this 22LR 2.4in Stainless Pistol carries 7+1 Rounds. This is a tiny pistol that easily fits in ones pocket.

    For higher crime areas, I carry the Ruger LCPII .380. This is one fantastic pistol. Ruger fixed all the problems of the original LCP. This pistol is truly fantastic as well as being a lot more accurate than one might imagine. It kicks a bit as it is so light but it is one great little palm size gun.

    For those occasions where I know that I am going to be travelling through higher crime areas, I carry an S&W shield in .40 which is also a Hell of a good pistol that has fantastic accuracy.

    Finally, for areas where I consider it unsafe to even be in, I carry a Kimber .45 as my optimal life insurance policy. If you really need the knock down power a .45 is hard to beat.

    One last thing, I carry most of my firearms in Sneaky Pete holsters. These look like cellphone or tool pouches and are worn right on one’s belt. They are the next best thing to open carry. A firearm in a Sneaky Pete holster is considered to be a concealed carry weapon.

    The Sneaky Pete holsters have a magnetic closure that makes it extremely easy to get to ones firearm. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

    NOTE: As much I might sound that I am pushing this companies products, I am only a (many time) Sneaky Pete return customer and I have no financial interests in the company or it’s products.

    I also highly recommend signing up for some insurance in case you have to actually shoot someone. The legal issues and the expense of lawyers can be crippling. Alway carry insurance.

  12. Never bet your life on rimfire. Sure, use it to train and to teach the kids, but buy yourself a real gun, it’s cheap insurance.

  13. While a .22 may not be the weapon of choice, let’s not forget the damage done when Hinckley shot Reagan, Brady and the SS agent. That was with a .22 revolver. He only hit Reagan with a ricochet but it still almost killed him. So is a .22 ideal? No. Is it better than nothing? WAY better!

  14. My brother in law was a Marine coming back from Vietnam. He said that in a firefight guys would get hit with incoming Kalashnikov rounds and not be slowed down. I suppose a lot more were severely wounded or died than kept on fighting, but adrenaline is a mighty powerful deterrent to giving up your own defense; no matter the caliber.

  15. Your very first argument against the 22lr is the 380 EZ or whatever completely ignoring other obvious problems such as obtaining a concealed carry pistol permit or even just a pistol permit are sometimes very difficult to obtain. P3rsonally my choice is a 20 ga. side by side coach gun. Mine has external hammers and ejectors. It is very easy to rapidly reload. My “carry gun” is an M1 Carbine. I do not carry firearms in public places because the laws here where I live of incredibly repressive bordering on tyrannical.

  16. Brad, Holy Cow. If they are deserving to be shot, they are anything bad we can call them. They are anything we class them. Why so defensive about it?

    Don’t why anyone argues for the little .22. Even a glancing round from my .44 special 240 grain JHP may do a hell of a lot more shock and wounds than the 22 placed well.

  17. I hope to never need it, but a Deranger 22 mag is my pocket gun. I carry a 40 cal Glock in my waistband and yes I also carry a 32 TomCat on my ankle. You just never know when the @#$% is going to hit the fan. In this day and age when just standing around listening to a band can be the last thing you ever do thanks to some felon, moron, or just some plain old wackjob that can pull a gun and just start killing everyone around them, I go nowhere unarmed, period.

  18. A 22LR will ruin someone’s day. Stop a charging drug addict, no. That is why you have at least 6 in your gun. I wouldn’t think I would try 100 yard shots, but a leg wound would change someone’s rate of advance. A 22LR pistol is an up-close and personal kinda self defense weapon.

  19. The .22 is a nice round but in a defense mode it requires pin-point accuracy to make it effective. Especially in the winter when a perp or target may have several layers of clothing on, this would require a head shot. As was stated earlier, in a time of stress, this may not be possible.
    Secondly, a .22 round sounds like a “pop” gun next to a 9mm, so this also would not deter a person intent on a gun fight.

  20. Small thought. Wanting to conserve money, shooting 22LR CCI Mini Mags 40 gr8 high velocity, beyond being cheap and easy, ultimately generates mour practiced familiarity with the firearm. Point: carry, use the firearm you’re personally comfortable-familiar with. You can pull out a pricy cannon. If you’re not comfortable with it, knowledgable-familiar with its delivery expectation, your luck demand goes way up while successful outcome goes way down.
    Finally, the gun you have at that moment is the gun you use.
    Some great .22 pocket autos out there.
    Phoenix 10 rnd. $119.00. Great pocket auto.

  21. If we are fighting and my .22 pistol barrel is against your chest, I don’t think caliber matters that much.

    If you are climbing my fence and you see me look though the scope of my rifle, you won’t care whether it is a .22, Ruger Ranch Hand, or AR-15, unless you are a Liber who thinks AR-15s are “scarier”!

  22. A .22 is certainly better than nothing, and is certainly lethal with proper shot placement.
    I prefer 9mm for 2 simple reasons. #1 I can shoot it nearly as fast and accurately as I can with my .22 Buckmark, and #2 High capacity.
    The Buckmark can only hold 10+1 rnds, while my G17 can hold 17+1rnds.
    I also CC a G26, with a 12+1 rnd mag and I always keep a 33rnd mag nearby, just in case.

  23. How deadly can you be with a .22 rimfire?

    Well here is a true account as recorded in history of a 63 year old petite woman armed with only a single shot rifle chambered in .22 Long (that’s .22 long not .22 LR so we are talking about only a 29 grain bullet and with probably much slower velocity) and so armed with only that single shot firearm this woman brought down a record grizzly bear. See the full story here: https://www.ammoland.com/2017/06/bella-twin-the-22-used-to-take-the-1953-world-record-grizzly-and-more/#axzz5GY7vn5df

    Shot placement is everything!!!

  24. Shot placement is the answer. You need the highest caliber that you can confidently control in a high stress situation. Before we became politically correct and fearful of defending ourselves, many many years ago, the International Chiefs of Police Association magazine printed an article regarding effective shot placement. It stated that a shot to the groin area was most effective. That is a large area oftentimes as wide as the torso. The groin area is a a very sensitive area with a multitude of body organs which are in close proximity of each other. The nerves traveling to your feet bundle in the pelvis. Hitting a nerve will cause excruciating pain; have you ever been kicked in the testicles and felt like you were up for a good fight? Blood vessels come together in the pelvis as they pass through to the feet. Hitting a blood vessel can lead to extreme blood loss and can cause your attacker to lose consciousness or bleed out in minutes, thereby stopping aggressive behavior. The pelvic bone supports the upper body and breaking this bone will put your attacker on the ground. This tactic is no longer acceptable for training, because many find it politically incorrect and poor sportsmanship. You have to ask yourself if you want to be a good sport, a nice guy, or if you want to survive a deadly encounter.

  25. A friend of mine that was a deputy and worked with one of the old die hards carried a 44 mag. When they went out on a call the bad guy pulled a thirty-eight and started firing away. The bad guy took two of the 44’s before giving up. He survived the mag shots. The moral of the story, when the addrinalin is pumping it’s hard to get the job done. Know your gun, practice often, and hope and pray your never put to the test and if you are try to stay in control of your emotions as best as you can. P.s. I like my nine.

  26. You sell the lowly .22 way short. You do realize that most people that learn to fire weapons, use them safely, and become proficient with a firearm start out with a .22 right? As far as self defense, incoming rounds have the right of way, no matter the calibre. With the right ammunition, right weapon, and your proficiency with the weapon, you would have no problem dropping a person at 100 yards. Shot placement is everything. If you’re recoil adverse, or a small sized woman, that .22 may very well save your life if used properly. Why do you think it’s the weapon of choice for assassinations by the Mafia? Because the bullet tends to fragment once inside the brain pan making ballistics nearly impossible to determine and doing a hell of a lot of damage as it does so. During my 20+ years as a police officer, all but 2 of the killings that I investigated were done with the lowly .22. Something to think about. I always cringe when I hear “experts” saying that the 38 caliber is a “minimum” because it causes people to think that if they can’t afford a hand cannon, then they might as well have nothing and, my friend, anything is better than nothing in a gunfight. If you can use it effectively, caliber means nothing. All of the 44 magnum, 45 cal. bullshit is just that. Personally I carried a .357 revolver during the bulk of my career and some of the guys used to laugh about it until the night a dope deal went bad and their 9mm’s were bouncing off the windshield as the POS tried to run us down, the .357 didn’t bounce off, as a matter of fact, it penetrated the cars door, him, and the other door. The driver was not killed but it stopped him in his tracks. But give the option of no gun at all or a .22 I’d take the .22 every time.

  27. I have no problems with the 22…either in LR or MAG. I have several bolt 22LRs as well as handguns in 1 semi ( Ruger 22/45) and 2 revolvers… one 9 round 22lr and one NAA that has both 22LR and 22 Mag cylinders. I have a 22LR conversion for my AR15… Why those 22s??? one is they are fun to shoot and… they are low cost to feed. I have a lot of bricks of 22 and it didn’t break the bank.

    Now for my CC… I have choices with many calibers…from 380-9mm-45-40…. most are my carry in winter as they are larger frames… so… I have some 38spl revolvers as well as 380s that hide well in the summer but…the one I usually grab and “throw ” in my pocket(s) is the NAA 22MAG in Speer Gold dot 40gr Hollow point. Yes not a long distant shooter but as in the LEO critical distance of 21 feet… is no slouch. I know the “punch” of the powder is not high but the bullet is 40 and the 223 is 55 in most instances.

    Now… what is needed along with the 22s is practice. Cheap ammo makes for long and often practice.. So this is in MY honest opinion and I have been alive and safe for many of my 71 years…sans 2 1/2 years in Vietnam.

  28. The best caliber for self-defense is the one you have on you at the time. A .22 LR may not be the most effective, but it beats using harsh language.

  29. .22LR is a great teaching tool, a great small game or vermin control tool. It is not, nor will it ever be a good carry weapon. On the other hand, having a gun, even a .22 LR is vastly superior to having no weapon at all. I love to shoot a good .22. Pistol wise, I’ve 2 autoloaders, a Walther P22 Target and a 1927 High Standard Model B, and 1 revolver, a Heritage SAA with the .22LR or .22WMR by swapping the cylinders. All 3 are fun to shoot, accurate and economical to shoot now that the .22 drought is over. One of the 3 goes with me to the range everyyime I go. Sometimes I start the session with a .22 to warm up, then switch to either my CC weapon or one of the other larger caliber pistols. If I’m having a poor session, I’ll go to a .22 rather than send more expensive .380, 9mm, .40 or 10mm or .38 Special/.357 Mag ammo on a session which I’m unable to tighten the groups up for whatever the reason (@ 58, sometimes my eyes give me grief, or arthritis is flaring up). .22LR is my go to when teaching my Grandson or Grandaughter how to shoot and safely handle a gun, or forvthem I’ll take a .22 pistol and the bolt action to work on prone, kneeling and standing , as they both show interest in joining the Jr. Marksman league when they reach 12

  30. Is there a subcompact pistol that is double action, exposed hammer, semi-automatic similar to the Taurus PT 101 P?

  31. I have been carrying with my ccw in Michigan for quite awhile now. When I first began to carry, I only had an H and R 9 shot revolver in .22 caliber. That is what I carried, as I didn’t have enough money to just go and buy another gun, even something as cheap as a HiPoint. Was that the best choice of carry guns? Of course not, by a long shot. But the thing is, if that is all that one has at the time, then you use it. I realize that the round is not known for it’s quick incapacitation of a bad guy. Often you hear the people talk about how many have been killed by the .22. That is probably true, but that doesn’t mean that they were stopped from their attack on the good guy before they could cause him harm.
    On the other hand, when I took my training to qualify for my ccw, the instructor told us about a case from only a couple of months before, where a person who had been shot 9 times with a 9mm walked into the hospital on his own two feet. That was not a typo, 9 times he was shot, and still was on his feet.
    This is just to illustrate that shot placement is critical, and that you cannot count on any handgun to have so called stopping power.
    While I carry either a Taurus G2 in 9mm, or a 1911 commander length in .45 ACP, if I was forced to sell them and go back to a .22, I would not consider myself totally unarmed. Under armed, perhaps, but remember, we all do what we must do, and it is not always by choice. I know that many people, one of my sons included, carry one of the small new .380’s and with the modern bullets, are considered well armed. I myself don’t feel that way, simply due perhaps to my own prejudices. But for me, if I can carry a gun big enough and strong enough to shoot a .380, then I figure that a 9mm is not going to be that much bigger and the round is enough better to go with the 9mm over the .380.

    1. A firearm is a force multiplier; a .22lr may not be much compared with a .45ACP, but it’s a lot better than bare hands. Sure, I’d prefer a 9mm, but if all I had was a .22 I’d certainly take it.

      That said, I’d rather save a few more dollars so I could afford a decent .380 or subcompact 9mm — or a few dollars more and get a compact 9mm. The .22 (if I already have it) would stay around though, because a .22 is fun to shoot and useful against small pests.

  32. .22 long rifle, naw! However, using the same caliber as a .22 mag, would make more sense, since the cartridge size has more pushing power.

    Also, the .22 rimfire cartridges, have a greater chance to produce dummy rounds which will fail to fire, as opposed to the greater reliability of a center fire cartridge.

    1. .22lr in a revolver I would think one could use as a self defense round because if one round fails you don’t need to clear in just move on. I don’t have a problem clearing a round from my ppk/s 22lr but I practice a lot.

  33. I resent you saying “the felon” instead of say the intruder or attacker. What if it was the attacker has never been convicted of a felony. I have known some fine people who have been convicted of a felony. And it was for a bad check. I also know some fine “felons” who have changed their ways. How can anyone be a ex-felon if people keep judging them for a past act instead of what they are today.
    OK enough of that. I do know from experience that a 22 will drop a 150 deer with 1 shot. I have killed over 100 in my life that way. It is all about bullet placement. On most kills if the deer wasn’t spooked he will fall right over. I hope in the future you think about who you may offend.

    1. Brad: The author is a former cop. Cops are trained to believe that when another person is in the process of causing serious bodily harm or death to another person, those acts are a felony crime. Now a lawyer comment, having been a cop and later an attorney and prosecutor, my comment is that before a person is charged with a crime, the DA looks at the elements of the crime, step one, two, three, etc. At the point where the alleged bad guy commits the last act in the process, such as being in somebody else’s home at night, with a gun in hand… the felony is complete, even before he fires a shot. So, my point is, the intruder is then a felon. It makes no difference whether he gets killed and never gets convicted or gets away and never gets caught. He is a felon at the point he has committed the elements or steps of the crime. OK lawyer speak, but you get the idea, it has nothing to do with somebody else who may have been convicted of some other crime some other time and place. Just trying to explain, why his use of the term is technically correct. FWIW

  34. Great article! I’d welcome an additional one about the .22 mag with similar information seen in practical experience, ballistic performance, etc.
    Thank you, Bob!

  35. Not a 1st choice for me either. Having said that I know that (other than wat) the .22 have killed more people than ANY caliber in existence. That should put to rest any doubts of leathality. A well placed .22 to the temple, liver, lung, heart or several other areas beats a glancing shot with .357 to arm or leg any day. Placement is God!

  36. Not to disparage anybody’s thoughts or opinions, but in my life I have worked 4 law enforcement jobs and have observed dead folks from 22 pistols. I have harvested well over 100 deer, pronghorn, and a couple elk. I have applied finishing shots to maybe 20 or so animals including a couple deer hit by cars. It is common to kill cattle with a 22 rifle, with little bullets moving 1,200 fps. Problem is pistols are just really slow. I have chronographed many from 2, 4 and 5.5 revolvers. Most will not get much over 900 fps, that is like a 22 pellet rifle. I have several 22 revolvers, SW, Ruger, Charter, Taurus, etc, and several semi autos that I sues with a suppressor Love them, but here is the problem. Having arrested many, many bad guys, what I know is they do not stand still. The idea that you are going to get off more than one shot, while they stand there with their 15 shot 9mm, is well, nuts. More realistic is you get your 3 shots with the 22, and they get their 3 shots with their 9mm. Or what if they have a 45 or 10 mm, or maybe 12 gauge with buck shot they just stole and your still get your 3 shots with your 22 and they het their 3 shots with their 12 gauge?

  37. Not to disparage any part of any statement in this article; one 22 round me & most of my constituents swear by is the CCI Stinger. At 1640 fps it packs a wallop. Even at the lesser velocity from a pistol. I’m curious to know some real life self defense statistics as well as test range results ( such as the one mentioned here). We have, in the last 3 decades, proven the accuracy & reliability of this round. It certainly will kill game larger than a racoon with a well placed shot. I agree that the presence of layered clothing can reduce its effectiveness although I’m not convinced a T-shirt would make any difference. We and our spouses are proficient; it is not a daunting thought to be reduced to head shots. Besides, if the first two double shots don’t thwart an attacker, the closer they get the bigger target the head is.
    Thanks for the expert advice!

  38. i carry a .25 cal Pheonix. Fortunately i haven’t been tested with it. i keep a .45acp close by as a backup piece. Both are cocked and locked at all times. i do subscribe whole heartedly to the premiss that being judged by 12 is far better than being carried by 6.

    The person who talked about situational awareness is spot on.At what distance is self defense out the window? A .22 in the ear really going to mess up somebody’s balance and a barrel up the nose shot will drain the attackers sinus.There is a problem though if you engage in a gun fight at 20 or more paces. The one with the firstest and mostest usually carries the day. Not really sure a .22 or my .25acp gonna bring home the bacon.

  39. Of course the .22 is the last best choice, but please know these two things; If it is the difference of caring verses not caring rests on other calibers being too much to cary, by all means carry a .22! ANY GUN IS BETTER THAN NO GUN! Second, so many people forget that a looney toons guy in 1981 Dropped a US Secret Service agent, a DC officer, Scrambled the brains of the White House press secretary and lastly almost killed a sitting president with what? Wait for it… A .22 revolver! by the way, this CAPTCHA program on this site needs to be fixed!

  40. I agree with the 22 LR reviews but it is better than nothing. The 22 WMR however is a great choice and is superior to the 380.

    1. Sorry, but totally wrong. Out of a typical handgun the wmr will not reach advertized speed by long shot. Expect 1100fps at best, Also the magnum rounds are not plated but actual jacketted bullets which won’t expand at that speed once the hollow tip is filled with t-shirt material. So you are using a round with the effectiveness of a 25acp. The modern 380acp hollowpoint will go 10 inches deep and expand perfectly. Check out Paul Harrell on youtube and you will see a lot of these myths dispelled by his realistic meat targets.

  41. As a boy I was squirrel hunting with .22 Shorts and shot a deer at close range. The deer dropped in its’ tracks, the bullet grazed the ribs going in, hit a rib on the other side and ricocheted in the heart/lung cavity, the heart was destroyed. No not a good idea but it happened. I recently shot a deer through the heart with a 7mm magnum and it ran 50 yards. There is no accounting for what happens with a ‘kill’ shot at times. How many times do we have to be told that the key is shot placement. .Many deer have had their leg shot off by poorly aimed High-Powered Rifles. 22’s are not the first choice for SD but if one missfires rack another one or pull the trigger again. Be cool, aim well !

  42. I’d have to say “yes”. We used them in Vietnam for assassinations and didn’t need but one round to do the job…quietly and effectively…of course they were “improved” bullets, not the standard .22cal round…

  43. I would not hesitate if a 22 was all I had for protection to use it. But if someone asked what to buy for personal protection I would tell them to look at a 9mm and let them shoot mine. Many makers are offering a good firearm for a reasonable price in this caliber.

  44. I agree with comment on the killing and not wounding. I do not agree with shooting to stop and praying the perpetrator won’t sue you until you are penniless and you support his family instead of yours. Depending on where you live, a snowflake jury will ruin you. But, a dead perp can’t sue you. I read an article many years ago about an officer and a perp in a gun fight where the officer shot the perp three times in the chest with a 357 mag and the officer got hit below his vest with a 22. The perp lived and the officer died. Lucky shot?

    1. I half agree on that comment, but you left yourself open to legal problems by stating kill instead of wounding. That would assume ‘Intent’ with most DA’s. In my State anything more than two bullet holes is considered excessive whether the perp lived or not. And if you managed to bump off the perp … yes, the surviving members of the perp’s family can sue you for wrongful death and drag you through the legal system for months on end. That’s why I got insurance with USCCA to offset the cost of that. Even if a Judge rules justifiable shooting with deadly force it still does not stop other members of that family from suing you for wrongful death.

  45. I was always taught to shoot until the threat is neutralized. What that result is to the victim is moot in the process as long as the ability to harm is halted. Center mass with a good 9mm, round, .40 S&W or a .45 ACP is likely to exterminate rather than only stop. Agreed, Bob, one should save the “I just wanted the perp to stop” reasoning for the judge.

  46. It’s been about 50 years ago… There was this stupid woman in our area that wanted to scare off a 17 year old boy courting her daughter. She aimed her .22 rifle and shot him in the butt as he was running away. The bullet hit his hip bone and bounced into his heart ending his young life.

    Also, the .22 is the preferred caliber of the mafia hit man, or so I’ve heard.

    Notwithstanding the foregoing, I appreciate your article because i keep a 9-shot .22 revolver on my night stand. You have encouraged me to upgrade to a Taurus Raging Judge.

    1. Good story
      A college student in my home town shot himself in the arm for sympathy he was very messed up in the head, and his arm was destroyed and shriveled the rest of his life]
      As for hit men that myth dies hard. Beginning with Capone hit men carried two guns and at least .38s, more often .45s, and had ordered to empty both guns into the mark
      The Mossad is a different story. They used the .22 Beretta with a silencer because it was quite –but there is an important distinction between a murder gun and a defensive gun

  47. Aguila mfr’s. 22LR, 30g, not FMJ and JHP with 1750 Mv, = 203.9 Ft Lb Me.
    Problem is)?), what was the Test barrel length?

    I’ve suggested Liberty Ammo to Specify their Amm’s Test barrel lengths, no response as yet?
    Wouldn’t it be great if all Ammo Mfr’s added that to their Boxes along with the Velocity?

  48. Why not compare the .22 hollow point in your photos ? Why, because they would shoot your theory to pieces. The .22 hollow point will flatten out and even break apart and move around inside cutting blood vessels and tissue. All you have to do is to look at what Hinkley did to President Reagan and his security team and he did it wit a six shot revolver. Personally, I think you’re full of Sh#T.

    1. Harry

      Leary some manner.
      Normally I remain civil but you would never, never say such a thing to the authors face I assure you. As for your ignorant reasoning a .22 HP at best goes to about .28 in ballistic media. ]

  49. The .22 cartridges we have today, for example the mini-mags and the 40 grain Velociters, are not the clunky lead bullets I shot as a boy in the 50’s! Those old bullets would kill things, mostly innocent things, but some of the modern .22s are startiling in their velocity and effect.
    As an aside, in my .22 mag revolver most of the heavy bullets aren’t better than the faster .22 long rifle bullets, but the 30 grain v-max get a respectable 1400 (plus) fps over the Crony.
    Out of a rifle the CCI Velociter is a pretty impressive round. And it holds its energy down range much better than the lighter Stinger.
    JWC

  50. Recent critters…Three coyotes, all one shot drop, surpressed .22lr, subsonic 40 grain. 20-30 yards

    One coyote, 220 grain 300 blk Suppressed, 20 yards, 40 yard sprint before collapsing.

    Shot placement.

    Of course, .45 acp or 9 mm for carry, but anything can work

  51. I grew up on a farm and a .22 Cooey loaded with hollow point,(or mushroom), longs was what we used for slaughter day. Worked fine,but just like anything else,shot placement is the biggest concern. If you want to know how to use a tool,you practice with it. That’s all a gun is is a tool. You couldn’t hit a nail with a hammer if you never tried to,same apllies to a firearm.

  52. So much overlooked. The .22 has less recoil which allows you to refocus quicker and get more shots on target. Affordable ammo allows you more practice, making you a better shot. If a .22 bullet, or 5 .22 shots center mass doesn’t stop someone, a 9mm or .38 in those same holes very well wouldn’t either. Because you missed vital locations otherwise the .22 would have stopped them.
    When I watched the video of the deputy who put 5 shots in to the chest of a criminal from a .357, who lived, but was killed by a single shot from a .22, that was enough for me.
    I don’t carry a .22, but I definitely trust it for my wife as her home defense weapons. I built her a Ruger 10/22 charger with the ATI stock conversion, and bought her a Kel Tek PLR22. Both are small and light, she can hold with 2 hands yet they are short, and have mounted lights, red dots, and laser. And still light and easy to hold. Both have 25 round mags. Gives her a lighted firearm with plenty of rounds, no scary recoil, fun to practice with, and laser to make her a good shot. Break in, and she will light you up.

  53. I have over the years 1960’s thru 1980’s on the farm I had to put down many animals who were sick with disease, broken backs, legs or injuries from the farm. I used a .22 long rifle round. One shot- One kill. Cow, horse, bull, did not matter. I would not hesitate to use a .22 long rifle in defense.

    1. I agree, IF the animal is still. I’ve done the same. I’ve also expended numerous rounds trying to put down on old feral cow that was on a trot that I didn’t want expiring in the middle of a highway. Yeah, the .22LR works amazingly well with perfect shot placement and not worth darn without it.

  54. This article is BS. Period.
    A CCI .22 Stinger hollow point will stop and kill a human being.
    There is much evidence backing this statement. It is not an opinion but simple fact.
    More importantly, the morality question on killing is rather useless if you carry a gun.
    If you are not prepared to kill to defend yourself, do not carry a gun.
    Guns and their deployment are for killing. Not wounding.
    Anything anyone else says is simply PC BS.
    You can say what ever you want in court, but if you are not ready to take a life to save your own or someone else’s by using a firearm, the hesitation that a moral question induces during a time of stress will get you killed.

    1. I agree that the .22 can be lethal, however in a situation that requires the actual use of a weapon, you are trying to STOP a bad guy period. While the .22 in the hands of an experienced shooter can be lethal, it DOES not provide the necessary stopping power in a life threatening situation. The .45 ACP formally used by the military was an excellent round, in my opinion, with better stopping power than the 9 mm. Caliber debates can go on forever and resolve nothing. For personal defense, carry what you personally are comfortable with.

    2. .22LR is an onion field gun and nothing more as far as self defense is concerned. I love .22s and have too many of them but they’re not for defense. On the job I always had one in my trunk for dispatching wounded animals or ferals or animal killing dogs. However, for defense 9mm is the MINIMUM unless in jogging clothes then the little .380 goes along. And no I’m not going to be shooting to kill. I will be shooting to stop with the understanding that I am using deadly force.

  55. “Even the best quality ammunition in rimfires sometimes fails to fire. This one took a good hit from the firing pin.”

    I don’t know who calls that a good hit – as a gunsmith with 3 decades of experience I would call that a very light firing pin strike.

    A few commenters here have all had good points in that the comparison of .40 caliber pistol ammo to .22 LR – there is no comparing them. A 12 gauge 00 buck load will certainly prove more deadly than that .40 caliber round, so why not compare them ballistically? Because such a comparison is nonsensical.

    I don’t think many people would choose .22 LR for defense as a general rule, but the fact it can be and is deadly when used for defensive purposes speaks for itself. There have been many such cases where criminals have pressed the attack against a person armed with the .22 LR and many of those resulted in the attacker achieving ambient room temperature.

    Is .22 LR ideal for this purpose? Of course not, Can it be used in an emergency when there is no alternative? You bet. There are many dead men who thought that the little 22 wouldn’t hurt them.

    I have also seen a lot of people reference the unreliability of the 22 LR round, and yet no study with the observed statistics is ever referenced, which tells me that the number of failures is well below what some are reporting. It is much more likely that the weapon has an issue than the ammo. Duds are bound to happen with any caliber of factory ammo, but the firing pin length, depth of the strike and the condition of the breech face are critical with .22 LR. – If you have ever dry fired your .22 it is just a matter of time before you start having problems, But that isn’t the fault of the ammo or the caliber, that is a mechanical issue with the firearm.

    1. Well written and informative response. I like what you said and how you said it. I wish you lived in my area, Carlsbad, CA, to take care of a trigger job for me.

  56. When I read the title to this piece I was hoping the author would touch on .22lr in an actual rifle not strictly handguns. IÔÇÖm quite confident I could send 3-4 rounds center mass from my Core-15 AR with its dedicated .22 upper before the bad guy knew what hit em. I could always swap the .22 upper out for either my .556 or 7.62-39 uppers but I cant get the thought of blasting holes clear through my house into the surrounding neighborhood out of my head.

  57. I would not advertise what you have uncle Sam is watching I have seen first hand if they want to come and get your guns their going to get them you might not be here any longer that would depend on how far your willing to go just saying I have seen it

  58. Ilike the22 I know a guy who hunted deer with one and said that’s the only gun he would use he said he had not lose one yet I know he’s hunted that way for many years he said 22 hollow point by CCI is all he will use I’m pretty
    Much the same way I have had good luck with Winchester xx those two don’t jam In my 22s wether rifle or pistol I have had to track deer for ever when me or my son have bow hunted I think I would prefer a 22 over bow hunting any day according to this guy who hunts with them and said maybe150-200 feet is the furthest he’s had to go to find them I have walked a mile and then some I think a22 would be good know where your shooting make sure your gun is clean and lubed good and I would want a target gun or the longest barrel for accuracy

  59. I can’t argue with the conclusions on 22lr as a defensive round. I did for a time carry a little Raven 22 just because it was so concealable. Though I have shot 1911s a great deal, and am not adverse to recoil, one of the least pleasant handguns I have ever shot was a Walther PPK in .380..It had a very snappy kick and yhe small grips didn’t suit me at all. If you choose to live armed, find the best fitting tool for you and practice, practice….

  60. Just like any other round, shot placement is paramount. If carrying a .22, I’d try my best to aim for the eyes for a STOP. Shots to the torso may very well kill, but they seldom stop an attacker.

  61. While I certainly agree a .22 lr leaves much to be desired for defense, I’m not impressed with the tactics chosen here to illustrate that. Comparing the expansion of a 9mm hollow point to a .22 solid tip is…cheating. Likewise, comparing the reliability of a cheap 500 bulk pack of rimfire to a quality FBI load is also not fair. I’ve had misfires using cheap 9mm and .45acp ammo, yet never a single one through tens of thousands of rounds of CCI Minimags. And please, the picture of the “good hit from the firing pin” looks pretty shallow to me. I have .22’s that I know have weaker firing pins and aren’t reliable with cheap ammo, and they still leave deeper imprints than that picture shows. If you’re trying to build a case against the .22 for self defense, at least do so fairly.

  62. Having been in law enforcement on and off spanning 40 years, I have seen lots of dead people, most from 22s and 38s, not many exotic rounds. I suppose 9mm is the favorite today and what I carry in my little Gock 43 at 18 ounces. I am also fond of the little KelTec pf9, at 11.7 ounces without mag. Fantastic little gun. That said, I have killed well over 100 deer, antelope and elk. Seldom does anything fall in it’s steps, and that is hitting them with 1,500 to 2,500 foot pounds. A 22 pistol is about 120. I have chronographed many 22s and 22 mags, and do believe a 22 mag handgun with the new short barrel rounds is near as good as a 38. Example, I did a penetration test. I took 5 one inch pine boards and stacked them with 2 layers of cardboard between each board. Then I placed them on a 5 gallon bucket full of water, read that again…. The I fired one round of CCI 22 mag from a 4 inch Smith and Wesson. To my surprise, it went through 5 inches of wood, 10 layers of cardboard and about 18 inches of water, and blew a chunk of concrete in my shop floor. Idiot! Anyway, out of a 2 inch barrel the Win brand will break 1,400 fps with a 40 grain bullet from my chrono, the 22 only gets to about 1,000. So, 22 mag maybe 22 LR, no way. Last thing, if the bad guy has a 9mm or 45 acp, do you really want to shoot him with your 22?

  63. Your example of a “good hit from the firing pin. misfire” is not impressive. With enlargement I could barely see a firing pin strike. Guess I am spoiled by the strike I get from my Winchester M52b and c rifles and my Anschutz biathlon rifle.

  64. i carry all ypes of firearms from 22lr ( hot hot summer time) to a 1911 45acp. my mother at age 85 can not hold her bersa 380acp. we had to downsize her to the 22lr. it is all about shot placement. 22lr works great at very close range, specially out of my ruger mark III 7″ barrel? target model.
    this is the caliber a lot use to execute people with. best placement is upwards in to the neck and head. misfires? well this is when practice and spare mags come in to play. in home invasions or armed robberies etc, we are talking about 5 feet. remember center mass is great unless they are wearing body armor. shooting someone with your handgun under their arm, neck, head are better ways to take down any human.

    1. not a carry .22 but for a home defense gun the old tec model with a 30 round mag and a front hand grip could be acceptable . It’s a fun gun to plink with—encouraging practice and trying for best accurate brand of ammo. another home defense choice would be a Marlin camp carbine in .45 esp in a folding stock …it uses the same mag as a 1911 so you can get up to a 30 round mag. just a couple of unusual choices

  65. 9mm is without a doubt to most preferred self defense projectile out there. Even most of the police and military use it, the 22 should be best suited as a backup. Many police officers use just that, semi auto, Ruger SR22

  66. The .22LR is better than no gun at all. Bullet placement is critical. I carry a 14 round .45ACP with 230 grain hollow point ammo as my main carry gun backed up with a 5 round .38+P in an ankle holster. As a final back-up I carry a North American Arms in .22LR.in a belt buckle holster and nobody thinks it’s a real gun. Ha Ha.Sadly to say, the North American is not very accurate. It only has a 1″ barrel. I can throw stones more accurately than shooting that gun but again the best gun to carry is the one you have with you. With all this firepower I carry with me I pity the person that tries to mess with me. But all in all, situational awareness is the best defense

  67. Article generally accurate; but the author narrows his argument down to .22 lr. in a handgun. Well sure, it’s not as effective as a .45, and it’s much more effective out of a rifle. A semi auto .22 rifle with a good handful of cartridges onboard is a very good self defense or home defense firearm. And .22 handguns will deter an attacker, or kill one, in the vast majority of circumstances.

  68. I have 3 110 rd 22 drums, if 22 is so bad stop over & try to keep advancing.while I emty them. Betcha can’t!

    1. Standard doctrine is to continue firing until the threat is neutralized. If he is still coming at you at 109 rds, you keep firing; and that’s what you tell the judge.

  69. I am a 75 year old disabled person with carpal tunnel syndrome, polyneuropathy, spinal degeneration and muscles so weak it is hard to impossible for me to stand from a chair without using my arms. I still carry a 1911 loaded with +P rounds and fire it regularly, though I must admit racking it is getting harder as I age. I find it difficult to understand why some much younger fitter people cannot at least fire a .380. Maybe it is all in the mind.

    I am reminded of my wife, also severely disabled, who would never fire anything above 9mm and definitely not my 1911. Eventually our CCW instructor persuaded her to try a 1911. The next day it was straight to the store to pick out a 4ÔÇØ Kimber. She still mostly carries a 9mm compact as it is easier to conceal, but far prefers the .45 at the range and if we are going to dubious places or at night.

    Still, even a .22 is better than nothing, but not by nearly as large a margin as I prefer.

  70. Of course a .22 is inferior to any larger caliber, but any gun is superior to no gun at all. After all, David stopped Goliath with a sling and a rock. If you have trained with a .22 and can reliably hit what you aim at, then I would say it is preferable to a larger gun with bigger recoil that you have not trained with. I think accuracy counts for a lot.

  71. I would not bet my life on a .22 long rifle round. However, seeing the results of a .22 MAG, if necessary, I’d probably take a chance with that. Locally, it is legal to take down a deer with the minimum caliber of .22 MAG. And I also have to consider the facts that rimfire ammo is not very reliable.

    My main choice of a caliber is 9mm. It is currently the most popular round in use. And the ammo is relatively inexpensive, with lots of choices of round weight for a particular task.

    1. As well as countless others found in the trunks of cars in long term parking at Chicago’s O’Hare Intl Airport or parking lots (Allen Dorfman – Teamsters Pension Fund infamy). Then again, another Chicago hood, Ken “Tokyo Joe” Ito took a couple to the head at point blank range and lived to point a finger at his two assailants who immediately moved to long term parking 😉

      It is what it is. If it’s all you got, it’s what you use to defend yourself.

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