Enhance Your Training With Rimfire/Centerfire Combos

Colt 1911 M45A1 in Burnt Bronze and Walther Government .22 semi-automatic pistol

For most of my working life, I’ve been an instructor in some field of endeavor — riding instructor, flight instructor, computer instructor, shooting instructor, etc. In each of these disciplines, the key to successfully integrating a new user into the fold is smoothness. I used to cringe when I heard of a pilot taking one of their friends flying for the first time and subjecting them to loops and rolls along with steep climbs and descents. I always tried to make someone’s first ride so smooth the newbie didn’t feel the moment when they left the ground or arrived back on it. Starting a new shooter should mimic that type of experience, and the best way I know to start a new shooter is with a .22 firearm.

Rimfire Counterparts

The industry has blessed us with a few .22s that mimic larger caliber guns, and these are perfect for starting new shooters. They are also great for ongoing proficiency training. In fact, I use them for my own proficiency. Shooting any gun correctly and being accurate will improve your skills as a shooter. If you shoot a .22 that is a twin of a larger caliber gun, the transference of any developed skill is going to be high. Your training won’t cost as much, and it won’t put as much wear on your hands and shoulders. It won’t be a 100% substitute for shooting the higher caliber gun, but it will help and in some circumstances be a necessary step in training.

Smith and Wesson M&P 22 and M&P 45 semi-automatic handguns
S&W’s .22 M&P closely mimics its brothers in .9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.

.22 Handguns

What kind of rimfire/centerfire twin combinations are there? A lot of the .22s in my collection are fun to shoot, but they don’t have a direct correlation to any of my centerfire guns. That’s why I’ve added rimfire guns that do match centerfires to my family’s collection whenever possible. The M&P is one of the earliest examples. In my training to become an NRA Instructor, I attended classes with groups of people, and paying attention to what they were shooting was part of my education.

M&Ps were prevalent. When I asked their owners why, the most common response was related to felt recoil. Many felt the ergonomics of the M&P mitigated a lot of the recoil normally felt in a handgun. When I tried the M&P and compared it to the handguns I’d been shooting, I had to agree. As a trainer, I’ve found the M&P to be a great platform. The fact that S&W made a .22 version that was the same size and configuration really made it a winning combination for me.

I’ve looked for others because shooting .22 handguns such the Ruger Mark series, Browning Buck Mark, and S&W Victory may be fun, but those guns are all built more like WWII Lugers than any modern defensive handguns. One of the handgun centerfire/rimfire matches I found was the Colt .22 1911 made by Walther. Another relatively new combo that works well for training is the Taurus G3 and TX-22. The G3 is a purpose-built, full-size defensive handgun, and the TX-22 is not only a .22 LR that is the same size and roughly the same configuration, but it loads and operates more like a centerfire than most rimfire semi-automatics.

The Glock G44 is very similar to the G19 and it, too, has a magazine that loads more like a 9mm than most .22s. In addition to guns such as the TX-22 and G44 there are conversion kits. The conversion kit I have for a SIG P229 makes shooting the gun cheap and fun because it’s a SIG and it’s recoil-free.

Having a .22 caliber revolver that matches the operation and ergonomics of a larger caliber of the same model is also beneficial. Ruger’s SP101 is available in multiple calibers starting with the .22 LR. Heritage, Uberti, and Ruger all offer .22 versions of the SSA-style revolver. You can shoot them all day on a rimfire budget, and anything you do to improve accuracy will transfer directly to shooting .357, .44, or .45 SSA revolvers.

Ruger SP101 .22 LR and .357 Magnum revolvers
Ruger offers its SP101 revolver in .22 as well as .327 Magnum, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum.

.22 Rifles

It works for long guns, too. I started shooting .22 rifles at around nine years old. Hitting a squirrel with the rifle required more concentration and a steadier aim than with a shotgun. At Boy Scout camp, I went through hundreds of cheap rounds earning progressively higher junior marksmanship badges until I had them all. The time spent shooting .22 rifles as a kid meant when I started shooting an M16 in Basic Training, the Drill Sergeant didn’t have to spend much time with me before I qualified.

I’ve got a few lever-action rifles, including a .30-30 and .44 Magnum. I also have a Henry .22 lever-action that I encourage the grandkids to shoot and enjoy shooting myself. In fact, plinking with that lever-action .22 can result in hours of fun. Every trigger pull that results in a ‘pinged’ aluminum can or a hole at or near the center of a target will result in a much better chance of success when shooting a .30-30 at a deer or the .44 at a hog.

.22 Magnum

Another fun option is .22 Magnum. Rock Island’s .22 Magnum 1911 has almost no recoil, but it is very loud and spits fire. A gun like that could be used in a self-defense situation because the scary, loud, fire-breathing bark will make someone think you’ve shot at them with something much bigger than it really is.

Taurus TX22 semi-automatic pistol with a supressor
Adding a suppressor to a .22 Rimfire pistol makes practice even more fun.

Several of my .22 LR revolvers also come with .22 Magnum cylinders. These make it easy to swap from one caliber to another. Shooting a .22 Magnum is a great way to help a new shooter get accustomed to handling something with a little noise and bite — without experiencing recoil.

Final Thoughts

Rimfires may not be great personal defense or big-game hunting choices, but they sure can help get your skills to the point where you’ll be more likely to have success with larger caliber guns when the need arises. The going rate these days for .22 LR ammo is running as cheap as $3.50 per box of 50. That doesn’t match the 50 cents I paid for a box as a kid. However, in today’s dollars, that’s a bargain that can keep you shooting when money may be too tight to buy more expensive rounds.

On days when my family or shooting buddies and I go to the range just to have fun, we take more rimfires than centerfires just so we can shoot a lot without worrying about our pocketbooks or wear-and-tear on our hands and shoulders. My recommendation for anyone who is serious about developing and maintaining shooting skills is to get at least one .22 handgun, one .22 rifle and shoot them both a lot.

Do you like to plink while you train? What is your favorite .22 conversion or rimfire/centerfire combination? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Glock 44 with a box of CCI Mini-Mag .22 Lr ammunition
  • Uberti .22 LR Single Action Army and .45 Colt SAA
  • Colt 1911 M45A1 in Burnt Bronze and Walther Government .22 semi-automatic pistol
  • Young man with a Remington Bucket o' Bullets shooting a revolver
  • Ruger SP101 .22 LR and .357 Magnum revolvers
  • Taurus TX22 and Taurus G3 semi-automatic handguns
  • Two lever action rifles
  • Taurus TX22 semi-automatic pistol with a supressor
  • Smith and Wesson M&P 22 and M&P 45 semi-automatic handguns
  • SIG P229 with a .22 LR conversion slide and magazine

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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 (5)

  1. Ruger 22/45 and Ruger SR1911 share the same accuracy expectations, as both are pretty capable of driving tacks if the need arises. The G44 also comes apart for cleaning just like the G19, or any other Glock for that matter. I believe most other .22 semi-autos have fixed barrels in some form, rather than the G44 standard Glock procedure take down. Obviously the one HUGE complaint about the G44 is the 10 round vs the G19 15 round magazines. Pretty sure Glock gets at least one daily reminder on that sore subject. The Ruger Rimfire Precision, with the brilliant, and simple, ability to make the bolt switch from a 1.5″ throw to a 3 inch throw like it’s 308 big bolt brother, also aids in muscle memory when using the much more economical .22lr vs the 308. A lot can be learned about ballistics as well when using a .22LR rifle and stretching to 100 yards and beyond, without the sore shoulder, as when stretching the 308 out to 5X or 10X what the 22LR dose at 100+ yards. TIP: After firing a considerable amount of .22LR, and lead deposits start to form in the rifling, for the last two shots of the day, sending a couple of .22LR CCI Copper (these are copper, not just copper plated) down to clean out the lead makes for an easier cleaning when on the bench. There are also some very realistic, full blowback, including some FULL AUTO, BB guns for those who’s budget may be more limit. It’s hard to beat 6,000 BB’s for around $10. Talk about fun: To run around 300 BB’s down range on FULL AUTO, cost about $3 total. Who’s laughing now? LOL

  2. A number of years ago, maybe even a bit more than a couple of decades or so, I found a Ciener .22 LR conversion kit for a 1911 advertised in the back pages of a print magazine (that alone should tell you how long ago it was) and I do not remember which magazine it was, too long ago. It seemed to be a reasonable price and I bit the bullet, pun intended, and dropped the hammer on this purchase.

    That was a superb purchase as I can now swap out the upper of my government model 1911 and practice using .22 LR. It handles the same and isn‘t going to break the bank if I shoot it a lot.

    When I took my concealed carry course about 20 years or so ago, it was at one of the city rec centers for the two classroom sessions. Our instructor stated he had his own private range for us to use for our weapons qualification. He stated that we would be shooting 50 rounds and we were to leave any and all brass where it landed after shooting. He was going to keep it.

    For the second classroom session, he wanted us to bring our weapon to the classroom the session before we went to the range so he could “check it” for suitability. As he was checking the weapons during that second class, his eyes lit up when he saw my 1911. His first question to me was why I had selected that weapon. I related that this was very similar to what I had been issued when I was overseas on a SAR/Recon team those years ago. He did not look further at my weapon, just nodded in approval. I know he was thinking that he was going to get about a box worth of .45 brass from my weapon. I was the only person with a 1911 and most of the other participants were shooting 9 mm or .38 Special.

    During the class, there had been several people who had selected .22 LR for self-defense, and to his credit, he related his experiences (he was a retired LEO) where victims had used a .22 in self-defense situations and found that not only was it was ineffective and a failure as a deterrent, but it also resulted in the death of the shooter. He went on to state that he would allow people to qualify with a .22 for the class, but he strongly advised against using .22 as a self-defense weapon. I swapped out the upper of my weapon before I went to shoot.

    However, he was not happy when I had a 50 count box of .22 LR on the bench. I fired all 50 rounds and did rather well at all the different ranges we were given to shoot. He asked me about it and I told him, I would be carrying .45 in the real world, but I used .22 for most of my practicing. As I said, he was not happy.

    Shooting with the conversion kit, has saved me a ton of money and gives me the feel of the government model, just without any recoil to speak of. I have been known to take that weapon into the field with me and it has done a fair job of picking off critters like raccoons caught in my traps after they were eating my deer corn.

  3. I also use my rimfire(s) to introduce new shooters to our world.

    My stable consists of the combination of Glocks, Colts, and Walthers. The G44/G19; 1911 Springfield Armory Operator / 1911 Rail Gun .22lr Colt by Walther; and PPQ .21lr / PPQ 9mm.

    They have all proven themselves to be the best first step into our world for the hesitant new shooter.

    Last week I was working with a 70 year old client that wanted a wheel gun. All I had left in the stable was a Chief’s special and my “No Name Gunman” in .22lr. Not quite the perfect match but a great conversation starter whenever it makes an appearance. After 50 rounds all four .22, he ran with the PPQ.

    I cannot think of a better way to introduce someone into the world of shooting.

    The Henry Lever Action and Takedown Ruger .22lr both do the same job in my rifle classes.

    Finally, for myself, The DDMK7-M4 with a .22lr conversion, and my Walther MP5-.22 with its SIG MPX-9mm cousin finish out the herd.

    Cheap shooting yes. Great training of course.

    I just wish that CCI offered either an Instructor’s discount or buy in bulk discount. Or even combo packs of .22lr/9mm and .22lr/

    Perhaps they will setup an automatic re-order system between my Ammo Locker and my bank account someday!

    It would be a whole lot easier on my ordering.

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