22LR for Self-Defense: Pros, Cons, and Considerations

22LR for Self-Defense
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22LR for Self-Defense: Pros, Cons, and Considerations

Using .22 Long Rifle (.22LR) ammunition as a defensive round is a topic of significant debate among firearms enthusiasts and self-defense experts.

While discussions on self-defense often focus on larger caliber handguns, the .22LR cartridge has garnered attention for its potential suitability in certain situations.

Despite its reputation as a plinking or small-game round, many gun owners argue that .22 LR can be pretty effective in self-defense scenarios. Factors such as reduced recoil, lower ammunition costs, and ease of handling make it accessible to shooters of varying experience levels.

Here's an overview of the pros and cons, allowing you to make an informed decision based on individual needs, training, and circumstances when considering the .22 LR for self-defense.

Pros of .22LR for Defense

  1. Low Recoil: One of the main advantages of .22LR is the minimal recoil it produces, which makes it easier to handle and shoot accurately, especially for those who are recoil sensitive, such as individuals with limited hand strength or beginners.

  2. High Capacity: Due to the small size of the .22LR cartridges, firearms chambered in this caliber can often hold more rounds than those chambered for larger calibers. More rounds could mean more opportunities to stop a threat.

  3. Less Noise: .22LR firearms are generally quieter than those firing higher-caliber rounds, which can be less disorienting in a defensive situation, especially in confined spaces.

  4. Training and Familiarity: For those who regularly train with a .22LR for target practice due to its affordability, using the same caliber for defense can translate to better proficiency and confidence with the firearm under stress.

.22LR is both inexpensive and plentiful!

Cons of .22LR for Defense

  1. Low Stopping Power: The most significant drawback of .22LR is its lack of stopping power. The caliber does not create a large wound channel, which is less likely to immediately incapacitate an attacker compared to centerfire handgun calibers like 9mm or .45 ACP.

  2. Reliability Issues: .22LR ammunition is rimfire, which is generally less reliable than centerfire ammunition in terms of ignition. Misfires and duds are more common with .22LR, which could be a critical failure in a defensive situation.

  3. Penetration: While .22LR can penetrate deeply enough to reach vital organs, its performance can be inconsistent, and it is more likely to be deflected by obstacles or heavy clothing.

  4. Overpenetration Concerns: Despite its small size, .22LR can still overpenetrate, especially in indoor settings. This poses a risk of harming unintended targets, especially in crowded or residential environments.

Make no bones about it, .22LR is small! That needs to be a serious consideration when thinking about .22LR as a defensive round. By the way, the dime on the right actually has a higher value than the .22LR copper-plated hollowpoint on the left!

.22LR compared to three popular defensive calibers, from left to right; .22LR, 9mm, .45 ACP, 5.56 NATO.

Concealed Carry Pistol Options

Concealed carry pistols in .22LR are gaining traction among those seeking lighter, easier-to-manage firearms without the recoil of higher calibers. This trend is driven by the desire for comfortable daily carry options that are not only easy on the user during prolonged practice sessions but also sufficient for self-defense in specific scenarios.

Also, there is something to be said for the "deep concealment" type firearm, that can be kept in a pocket (in an appropriate pocket holster!) for those times when you want something but can't carry the .44 Mag revolver you love so much.

With advancements in firearm design and improvements in reliability, several .22LR pistols now offer the compactness and ease of use needed for concealed carry while maintaining adequate performance.

These options are particularly appealing to new shooters, those sensitive to recoil, and experienced shooters looking for a cost-effective training tool. Below, we explore a few standout models in the .22LR category that blend functionality, ease of handling, and discretion for everyday carry.

Phoenix Arms HP22

The Phoenix Arms HP22 is a compact, semi-automatic pistol designed for affordability and reliability. Its small size makes it highly concealable, which appeals to those looking for a backup or a very lightweight carry option. This is on my list not just because of my obsessive curiosity with SNS (Saturday Night Special) guns but also because at its price point, it is obtainable by a lot of folks who might have concerns about needing a self-defense weapon but might not have the budget to by the newest Sig P365 on the market.

  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 3 inches
  • Features: The HP22 features a vent rib barrel for improved sighting and a magazine interlock safety with a manual slide hold open. It also includes an external safety (a firing pin block safety) and a button magazine release.
  • Pros: Extremely affordable and compact, making it easy to handle for beginners or those with smaller hands.
  • Cons: While it is cost-effective, its durability and the quality of materials may not stand up to heavy use compared to higher-priced alternatives.

The Pheonix Arms HP22 is inexpensive and within reach of many people who may want a deep concealment pistol. But it sacrifices some quality at its price point.

Ruger LCP II .22 LR

The Ruger LCP II .22 LR is a more recent addition to Ruger's lineup, designed as a training counterpart to the popular LCP II in larger calibers. It's built to offer a very low-recoil shooting experience without sacrificing the familiar ergonomics of the LCP family. I enjoy how these fit in my hand, but I can only shoot them one-handed because it's so small.

  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 2.75 inches
  • Features: This model includes a manual safety, improved sights for better visibility, and a "Lite Rack" system intended to make the slide easier to pull.
  • Pros: Very light and easy to conceal, with a smooth trigger pull and excellent ergonomics for a pocket-sized pistol.
  • Cons: Some shooters may find it too small for comfortable shooting during extended sessions, and it is not recommended for primary self-defense due to its small caliber.

Reliable, deep-concealment, but SMALL! My hand swallows one of these up, requiring I shoot it one-handed so as not to shoot my support hand. But it works! 

Walther PPK/S .22

The Walther PPK/S .22 is the .22 caliber version of the classic Walther PPK, one of the most iconic pistols in history, famously known as James Bond’s gun of choice. It offers the same precision engineering and ergonomic design as the original but chambered for the .22LR cartridge. Shooting James Bond's gun just feels neat! You feel like you're holding something of quality when handling a Walther PPK.

  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 3.3 inches
  • Features: It maintains the classic Walther styling and includes a manual safety that doubles as a de-cocker. The PPK/S .22 features a fixed barrel design, which can enhance accuracy.
  • Pros: Excellent for training due to its similarity to the higher-caliber PPK. Its ergonomics and superior build quality provide a very reliable shooting experience.
  • Cons: It can be pricier than other .22 pistols, and its small grip may not suit all shooters.

You have to pay for quality, but shooting James Bond's gun is neat, and the quality is worth it.

Smith & Wesson Model 43 C

The Smith & Wesson Model 43 C is part of the Airweight line of revolvers, designed to be incredibly lightweight, making it an excellent choice for a carry revolver. Its size and shape lend to a more ambiguous print in the pocket, making it a nice choice for a deep-concealment firearm. Alternatively, without the ability to thumb-cock it, one has to contend with a double-action trigger pull.

  • Capacity: 8 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 1.875 inches
  • Features: This revolver is a double-action, has a front fiber optic sight for better target acquisition, and is constructed from aluminum alloy and stainless steel, making it extremely light.
  • Pros: Its light weight makes it very easy to carry all day. The revolver design is inherently reliable and simple to use.
  • Cons: The trigger pull can be heavy, which may affect accuracy for less experienced shooters. Also, as with most revolvers, the capacity is limited compared to semi-automatic pistols. Rather pricey!

Because of its size and shape, it is great for concealed carry and will print very ambiguously in a pocket. However, the double-action trigger (and the price) won't be for everybody!

Conclusion

While .22LR has its advantages, such as ease of use and reduced recoil, it is generally not recommended as a first-choice defensive caliber due to its lower stopping power and reliability concerns. For those considering .22LR for self-defense, it is crucial to weigh these factors and perhaps consider it as a backup rather than a primary defensive firearm.

Training and accuracy can compensate for some of the caliber's weaknesses, but it is important to understand the limitations and ensure that any defensive firearm meets the necessary criteria for stopping a threat effectively.

Concealed carry pistols in .22LR are gaining traction among those seeking lighter, easier-to-manage firearms without the recoil of higher calibers. This trend is driven by the desire for comfortable daily carry options that are not only easy on the user during prolonged practice sessions but also sufficient for self-defense in specific scenarios.

With advancements in firearm design and reliability, several .22LR pistols now offer the compactness and ease of use needed for concealed carry while maintaining adequate performance. These options are particularly appealing to new shooters, those sensitive to recoil, and experienced shooters looking for a cost-effective training tool. Below, we explore a few standout models in the .22LR category that blend functionality, ease of handling, and discretion for everyday carry.

BONUS - BEST SELLING .22LR FIREARMS!

While the viability of .22LR as a self-defense load is highly debatable, with a solid set of pros and cons, the use of .22LR for training, harvesting small game, and fun plinking is certain. Check out this list of the best-selling and most popular .22LR firearms:

Best Selling .22 Rifles

Ruger 10/22
The Ruger 10/22 is one of the most popular and iconic .22 rifles on the market. Known for its reliability, accuracy, and wide range of customization options, it's a favorite among shooters for plinking, small game hunting, and target shooting.

Smith & Wesson M&P15-22
The Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 is a dedicated .22 LR AR-style rifle that replicates the look and feel of the popular M&P15 platform. With its lightweight polymer construction, full-size features, and compatibility with AR accessories, it's a versatile and popular choice for training, recreational shooting, and competition.

Henry Golden Boy
The Henry Golden Boy is a beautifully crafted lever-action .22 rifle known for its smooth action, accuracy, and stunning brass receiver. Whether used for hunting or recreational shooting, it's a rifle that stands out both in performance and aesthetics.

Savage Mark II
The Savage Mark II is a bolt-action .22 rifle known for its exceptional accuracy and reliability. With options available in various configurations and stock materials, it's a versatile choice for target shooting, small game hunting, and precision shooting.

CZ 455/457
The CZ 455/457 series of .22 rifles are renowned for their quality construction, accuracy, and reliability. With options available in both bolt-action and semi-automatic configurations, they're favored by shooters for target shooting, hunting, and competition.

Best Selling .22 Revolvers

Ruger Wrangler
The Ruger Wrangler is a budget-friendly .22 revolver that offers excellent value for money. With its rugged construction, single-action design, and reliable performance, it's a favorite among shooters for plinking and recreational shooting.

Smith & Wesson Model 617
The Smith & Wesson Model 617 is a classic .22 revolver known for its smooth action, accuracy, and quality craftsmanship. With its 10-round capacity and double-action/single-action trigger, it's a versatile choice for target shooting and training.

Heritage Rough Rider
The Heritage Rough Rider is an affordable .22 revolver that pays homage to the classic single-action revolvers of the Old West. With its timeless design, reliable performance, and affordable price point, it's a popular choice among shooters for recreational shooting and cowboy action shooting.

Taurus Tracker
The Taurus Tracker is a versatile .22 revolver known for its rugged construction and ergonomic design. With its adjustable sights, comfortable grip, and smooth trigger, it's a favorite among shooters for target shooting, plinking, and small game hunting.

North American Arms Mini Revolver
The North American Arms Mini Revolver is a compact and lightweight .22 revolver that's perfect for concealed carry or backup purposes. With its small size, reliable performance, and simple design, it's a popular choice among shooters for self-defense and everyday carry.

Best Selling .22 Semi-Auto Pistols

Ruger Mark IV
The Ruger Mark IV is a classic .22 LR pistol known for its accuracy, reliability, and ease of use. Its ergonomic design and excellent trigger make it a favorite among target shooters and plinkers alike.

Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact
The Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact is a versatile .22 LR pistol modeled after the popular M&P series. Featuring a compact design, adjustable sights, and accessory rail, it's suitable for both training and recreational shooting.

Browning Buck Mark
The Browning Buck Mark is a renowned .22 LR pistol recognized for its accuracy and precision. With its crisp trigger and ergonomic grip, it's favored by shooters for both target shooting and small game hunting.

Walther P22
The Walther P22 is a compact .22 LR pistol known for its lightweight polymer frame and comfortable grip. With its ambidextrous controls and accessory rail, it's a popular choice for beginners and experienced shooters alike.

Ruger SR22
The Ruger SR22 is a versatile .22 LR pistol featuring a lightweight polymer frame, adjustable sights, and ambidextrous controls. With its reliability and ease of use, it's suitable for both training and recreational shooting.

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