Why You Really Should Get A .22lr Handgun

by Sam Hoober
Alien Gear Holster's Sam Hoober argues why you should have at least one .22LR handgun in your collection.

.22LR Handgun Revolver
Why You Really Should Get A .22lr Handgun
Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober

USA –-(Ammoland.com)- There may be no more pleasing pistol to shoot than a .22 handgun. The shooting is easy and the ammunition is cheap…if you can find any. There may be no better tool in learning or sharpening shooting skill.

There are also few guns as useful, as a good .22LR pistol is also handy at hunting small game if you're good enough with it. Hours of fun at the range for a pittance AND food on the table. What's not to love?

No Better Practice Round Than .22LR

There is no better practice round than .22LR, as the utter lack of recoil gives a person the means to work on shooting fundamentals. As a result, it's the perfect round for teaching young shooters as well as letting experienced shooters keep their skills intact.

The round is good for every kind of shooting except for self-defense, so a concealed carry holster for a .22 pistol isn't really the best idea.

Plinking is incredible fun, honing accuracy in target shooting all the way up to hunting and Olympic shooting, as a great deal of Olympic shooting events are done with .22LR. Some aren't, but most of them are – including the biathlon.

For the concealed carrier or handgun hunter, keeping shooting skills honed is a must which is why it's said that a lot of people who carry every day put in more time at the range than the average police officer. However, the .22 can also let you focus on shooting fundamentals that can get missed if one concentrates solely on tactical drills, allowing one to focus on things like trigger control – which is one of the most common causes of inaccurate shooting.

Granted it isn't as if shooting 9mm is all that difficult or even that expensive; practice rounds go for pretty cheap…but not nearly as cheap as 22lr Handgun.

It also happens to be a good game-getting round, which was always part of the .22's appeal though this role is largely reserved for small game. A lot of people out there still put squirrels, rabbits, grouse and other small game on the table with this round. While far more challenging with a handgun, not impossible – and if carrying one while hunting larger game, it might be a good way to get some camp meat.

Getting A 22lr Handgun Without Going Broke

Heritage Arms Rough Rider Small Bore 4.75in 22 LR is a great 22lr Handgun.
Heritage Arms Rough Rider Small Bore 4.75in 22 LR is a great 22lr Handgun.

Unfortunately, the hitch in getting a .22 pistol is that there aren't too many out there that are what could be called “cheap and cheerful.” There are a BEVY of economic .22LR rifles out there and from some of the big brands too; Remington, Mossberg, Marlin, Ruger, Savage and so on – the long guns that practically everyone owns – all sell a cheap .22 rifle.

Not so much with 22lr Handguns.

Virtually all the big names in handguns sell a .22, but they're a bit on the costly side. For instance, Ruger's Mark IV .22 auto starts around $400 and goes up from there. Walther's .22LR auto pistols are a bit more reasonable and can be found generally around the $350 mark in many stores, though some can be found for much less.

That said, a few import companies sell affordable plinker pistols, such as Chiappa and American Tactical Imports. While they may not be overwhelmingly common in most gun stores, they can be obtained online and shipped to an FFL for not a whole lot; some cost less than $200 before FFL fees and shipping.

The Heritage Rough Rider series is a very good bargain plinker in the world of 22lr handguns. While single-action – and basically a clone of the Colt SAA – it can be had for less than $200 in most cases and can be used with either .22LR or .22WMR cylinders, perfect for plinking at the range and putting a few cottontails or grouse in the game bag.

Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at Alien Gear Holsters, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry.

  • 71 thoughts on “Why You Really Should Get A .22lr Handgun

    1. If I could have only one gun it would be a 22 LR. I personally own numerous 1911’s in both 45 acp and 9 mm as well 44 magnum revolvers. Still I like the 22’s in my collection (2 Walther P22s, Ruger Mark III Hunter, S&W k22, S&W 617, S&W 18, and several others. All will kill an attacker DRT (Dead Right There). My 22 rifles are numerous from a single shot remington to a model 63 Winchester to an Anschutz to a Savage Mark II TR. Combined with a suppressor they are not only lethal but quiet. I use this combination on everything from rats to hogs which are often harder to bring down than humans.

      Shoot straight and stay safe.

      1. Dear Doc, I received an e-mail notification from this site, regarding a comment you directed toward clark kent and presumably myself. You indicated he and I were full of sh-t , and I was a dumba$$. I suggest , with more politeness than you, that you read my previous post regarding the 22 cal. . Personally, my 22 cal. revolver was my carry weapon for many a year until I could afford my 1911. You suggested a shotgun. I own a Rem. 870. I dressed it with a 7 shot mag. extension, and an Uncle Mikes Sidesaddle. I actually have never installed any barrel other than the 20″ slug barrel. It rests beside my bed w/2 rounds of OOB in mag. and the hammer is down. I slept with my old H&R mod. 949 for many years. I always had full confidence in my ability to place a 22cl. bullet exactly where I wanted. Now, I do agree w/you that Mr. kent is uneducated regarding the 22. Reason for only 2 rds in 870 mag.,is I don`t want spring to get a ‘set’. Sidesaddle holds 6 more. Having served &survived 2 tours in sunny SE Asia, I can reload relatively well. Good enough for who it`s for, as it were.

        1. David, I meant my comments ONLY for Clark Kent. I agree with you. I apologize for any confusion or ill will I have caused you. You Sir have my highest respect for your service to our great country. Thank you. I should have been more polite to Mr. Kent but I found his remarks not only wrong but condescending as well. His post are also inappropriate for this discussion. He is a troll. Have a great day Sir. Long live the 22 LR.
          All the best,
          Doc

      2. I’ve read through your many posts here extolling the virtues of the .22lr for self-defense and had to put in my 2 cents worth. No one will ever dispute that the .22 will kill, but the object of a self-defense round is to STOP the threat ASAP. I spent my adult life in many different law enforcement positions including what we used to call “SWAT” teams, urban police departments and rural sheriffs departments….none of which carried .22’s as side arms. If that little round is as effective as you seem to believe, don’t you think every department in the country would be carrying them? And just the savings in ammo costs would have LE administrators clamouring for its use. Any firearm is better than empty hands when the chips are down, but I surely hope you never come up against a 6’5″ 350 lb biker hopped up on meth who thinks you just crapped on his parade…because trust me, there ain’t a handgun made that would make me comfortable in that situation!

        1. OC – you are missing the point. If someone can take the balls off a fly with at .22lr, but can’t hit the broadside of a barn with a 9MM then they will use what they can handle. I don’t think anyone would say the .22rl is the best self defense round, but if it works for someone and other rounds do not then the .22lr is the best for them. It’s been said here many times. The three rules of self defense is SHOT PLACEMENT, SHOT PLACEMENT, SHOT PLACEMENT!

          1. And if you think that under the duress of a life threatening situation your shot placement is going to be ideal, you’re sadly mistaken. Law enforcement officers who train hard for these very situations have somewhere around 50% hits! A marginal hit from just about any modern centerfire handgun round (other than maybe the .25ACP) will be more effective at STOPPING the fight than the .22lr. As a weapons instructor I’ve taught numerous new shooters of small stature, with arthritis, or who were just plain scared of firearms to effectively shoot 9mm, .40 S&W and even .45 ACP handguns if they were willing to invest the time and do the work. It’s obvious no one is going to change your mind on this subject, but misinformation like yours could cause someone else to be hurt or worse. The number of people out there who truly can’t be taught to handle anything bigger than the .22lr is very small. My advise has been, and always will be to carry the largest caliber handgun you can effectively shoot and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!!

            1. OC – Let me be blunt. Hey dumba** if you can’t hit the side of a barn without duress, then you sure as hell can’t hit it with duress. Plain enough for you?

        2. Ist of all, thank you sir for Your Service in a difficult and dangerous occupation. 2nd. The 350 # biker hopped up on meth that thinks I just crapped on his parade ? Ist choice is to run. If running is not an option, and my lifetime 22 revolver is all I have, I`d place the bullet in one of the bikers bloodshot eyeballs. No sweat. Moving or standing still. Crazy ? I agree. The question here is what firearm would you suggest for a first one. I chose the 22 revolver, for it`s lack of discernable recoil, altho Hatcher proved there is pressure to the rear when a cartridge is fired. The 22 is generally considered almost like a capgun, or pellet gun. Safe,fun to shoot. Not thought of as dangerous as a large caliber. Or as intimidating as a large caliber recoil. Safety first, As a first gun, a 22 will give a new shooter great experience.

    2. I own a Ruger Single Six convertible.22/.22Mag that I purchased in 1976 at the ripe old age of 21…I’m now 62 years young and I fired many thousands of rounds through the thing before I realized it was a “Bicentennial Model” with a serial number ending in 00101. I bought it to shoot, so no regrets, and it still makes little bitty holes in targets if I do my part. It’s harvested a pickup load of rabbits, squirrels and grouse for the table, 4 or 5 dozen coyotes, a couple dozen foxes, and 2 bobcats for fur so it’s repaid the $75 or so that I remember paying for it. As a younger man I spent every spare minute hunting, fishing and trapping and the little Ruger was a constant companion. The .22Mag cylinder was handy for the bigger critters and always made hunting them a better challenge than using a rifle.
      About 6 or 7 years ago I purchased a Browing Buckmark….it too is a great little pistol but I don’t shoot it as well as the old plow handle gripped Ruger. My grandkids prefer the semi-auto and they shoot it very well, but with one kid shooting and 2 loading magazines, it gets a bit spendy! It hasn’t paid for itself in table fare yet, but the smiles on my grandkids’ faces are priceless!!

    3. When I got back into shooting a few years ago I began with a Charter Arms Pathfinder revolver in .22LR, six-shot and a five-inch barrel. After relearning the basics I was ready to move up to more “serious” firearms but I kept that little wheelgun and used it to train my grandchildren in handgun skills. My granddaughter even took her NRA “First Shooter” class with it and passed with flying colors. Now I keep it for refresher use, for anti-snake duty around the property and because it’s just so nice to plink with! Sure I have other .22’s; a Puma SAA 7.5-inch with a .22 Mag cylinder and a Ruger SR22 but the Charter is my favorite. A day popping 40gr. with it is way more relaxing than an hour drilling with .45ACP, and far cheaper also.

    4. Just gave an in excellent condition .22 s/l/lr remington targetmaster to a good friend for their young daughter. Dad shot it, loved it. An accurate single shot that is great for teaching shooting and firearm safety.

      1. I wish you success with that endeavor. You can find it, if you look around. I used to buy 500 rd. boxes of LR for $7.00 / box.In the 70`s. Now, good grief, I can`t afford it, if I can find it. When I was a kid, that 500 rd. box cost $3.00.

    5. I have a H&R 9 shot revolver that I purchased back in 70’s. I still shoot it often, and thousands of rounds fired. It was a cheap little piece when I purchased it, but is even available now?

      1. From previous message the revolver is a Model 926 single or double action. Does the Company still exist?

      2. Mine seriously broke down. No ‘smith’ will touch it. I`ve shot it since I was 18. I`m 70 now. Also, author claims the 22 is no good for a defensive round. Police fear it because they claim the owner probably knows his weapon very well. I`d never harm a law enforcement officer & would willingly give aid. My old H&R would hit where I wanted whether a bunny escaping, or a squirrel high up a tree. I replaced it w/a Smith, 6 shot, swing out cly.. Shoots OK. But I trained my self to reload after firing & the Smith is not conducive to reloading 1 or 2 spent rounds. I miss my 49er.

    6. I carry a 22LR as my CCW. I have no problems doing so due to the fact that the ammo I use is JHP 1500 FPS and 165 FP two or three of those strategically placed will hurt no matter who it is hitting..

        1. Yup; you can throw your 22’s at the suspect if your primary sidearm jams. P.S. What is a ‘Berata?.

          1. @Clark Kent – A ‘berata’ is an internet troll who berates other posters who misspell words or make grammatical errors in their postings. It’s derived from the name for a long tailed rodent that is larger than a mouse.

    7. I have TWO of the RUGER SS 6’s, one is an old “Three screw” model and the other is a newer version. The older one is a 6 In barrel while the new one is a 9.5 barrel topped with a 1.3X scope; either one will accept a 22 WMD Cylinder, but it is cheaper just shooting 22LR at the range,

    8. I have a Heritage Roughrider .22 revolver,and while I would never call it a “High quality” handgun it does what it’s supposed to do,go bang when you squeeze the trigger. Not a terribly accurate pistol,but fun nonetheless. As to the availability of .22 ammunition,it’s all over the net,many places at $40-$50 for 500 to 550 rounds. Around the same in my town. Great round to practice,train and plink with!

    9. I do as well like the .22 long rifle for both pistol and rifle practice and just plain fun. No recoil, cheaper ammo ( I still have a few boxes marked .89 cents for 50) from days a few years back. I also have a Ruger Mark II heavy barrel a Smith 21 target and 2 single action .22’s with cylinders for .22 mag. One or those being a Heritage rough rider. Additionally i have a keltec 22 mag handgun that is loaded with 30 rounds of Hornady critical defense .22 mag. Even a Berata 22 flip top loaded with stingers is a great small backup as is my 22.mag North American Arms for a deep concealment gun Yes I do have other calibers that can and do get the job done in every way but they cost more to buy feed and shoot. Get a .22 for just p[lain fun and then learn what you can about its other uses

      1. Yup; you can throw your 22’s at the suspect if your primary sidearm jams. P.S. What is a ‘Berata?.

        1. Shut up Clark Kent! You obviously have no idea what you are talking about troll. The .22lr is responsible for more kills than any other round, and has been used to great success by hit men, the military, and the mafia for up close kills, and no that’s not from some movie it’s from 20 years experience. So go find somewhere else to make crap up or just keep your incorrect facts to yourself.

          Sorry now I agree 100% with the .22 being an excellent round to teach shooters with, I taught my boy to shoot with a Ruger 10/22 and a Henry lever action H001. He also just got the Ruger SR22 for last Christmas. I have a conversion kit for one of my Colt 1911’s and I practice with that quite a bit too.

          SSG G OUT!

          “Death Waits in the Dark”

        2. Everyone here except Clark Kent aka Superman appears to know what they are talking about. You, Mr. Kent are as full of s#1t as a Christmas Turkey. I have been shooting for 61 years and know what a 22 LR will and will not do. I suggest you just get a 12 ga. shotgun and fire from close range. Your ignorance is overwhelming. In technical terms you are what we call a dumbass. And, I call BS on your around the skull story. BTW Does your mother know your posting on a grownup site?

    10. The article seems to omit older used– but not collectible– .22 revolvers. I’ve owned a High Standard Sentinel for 60 years, and I can’t begin to count the number of rounds that have been through it. It holds nine rounds and still performs flawlessly. One of the best points about the .22 LR round is that it didn’t beat guns to death.

      1. Pete – I have a Ruger Mark I and would not trade it for the world. I love shooting both the Ruger (semi-automatic) and the revolver, though the revolver is better to teach the little ones with.

      2. Amen. I bought a used.22 Single Six for a song. If I get rich, I might buy a double action. The only disadvantage of a SA .22 is that it is slow to reload. Easy to practice with, and with enough practice, it is easy to hit what you want and where.

        1. @Cal L, Yes, and the single action is such a simple design that it is good for teaching beginners. They can keep there minds on the fundamentals of shooting, rather than more complicated procedures that might come up.

    11. The one that got away.. Was my dads High Standard Double Nine. It had eye appeal because it was a “cowboy” gun it held nine would fire either single or double action. It was what I learned to shoot pistols with . I have no idea what ever happened to it.

      1. I have a nickel Double 9 I got for my 12th birthday over 40 years ago. Still use it to train new shooters.

    12. Thanks, folks, for the advice on the .22 LR in a revolver chambered for .22 WMR. I had a vagure recollection of seeing that the case OD was a touch smaller, leading to exactly the issues mentioned. I appreciate the feedback and advice.

      I guess the only way to make that one right is to send it to Smith and have them supply a new cylinder for the .22 LR. My guess is the gentleman who originally bought this revolver new many years ago had got both…. but when his estate was sold off, somehow that cylinder got separated and was not with the gun when I got it. Sad…. but it is a sweet revolver anyway, and I felt I got a decent buy on it.

      1. Tionico – I would be willing to bet that a new revolver would be cheaper than a cylinder from S&W. .22 WRM can be found and the price is dropping.

    13. Browning URX with red dot set up for steel challenge, ruger 10/22 full of aftermarket parts for target shooting, and my old tried & true Remington nylon 66. The first firearm i ever fired almost 32yrs ago. One day that rifle will be the first firearm my daughter shoots. 22lr brings a smile to everyones face

    14. They are fun and economical to shoot, excellent for survival and in certain circumstances great for self defense. Back when the country of Rhodesia (1980s later to be changed to Zimbabwe under new revolution government) and its white farmers were under attack by hostile militants a 65 year old woman in a rural farm house was attacked by six men one evening. The military/police later contacted her and found 6 dead machete armed men throughout her house–each one with one single shot in their forehead from her .22 pistol.

      1. I am calling crapola on that story. I have seen the 22 LR zip around the skull of an adult male and exit on the opposite side (and it was a contact wound).

        1. I’ve killed many a feral hog with a single 22 LR bullet placed behind the ear. Placement, placement placement.

        2. Would you believe this one ? My wife & kids can verify it, because they were there. 1973, location Hearts Content, Allegheny Mtns., Pa. . We were packing up from our picnic, when we spotted a very large adult black bear following his/her? nose to a picnic table 3 campsites away. Wife & I threw kids in car,she paniced, told me to get in too. I partially did, only enough to grab my H&R .22 cal. 9 shot revolver. I ran toward that bear whose nose was just about touching the table where 6 elderly folks were sitting like statues & their table full of food. Yelling while running waving one arm and firing 2 shots into the ground as I went. The bear,fortunately,turned tail and ran back into brush. Had he/she not ran? My ability with that revolver gave me confidence that I could have easily placed the remaining loads in his/her eyes. Which was my intended target,should the bear contest me.

    15. I have the .22 pistol pictures. Mine has the .22Short/Long/LR cylinder and a .22 mag cylinder. I love to shoot it and my kids learned how to shoot with it. That was back when .22LR was cheap and you could get them anywhere. Still my gun of choice to shoot and when the grandkids get old enough I’ll teach them on it.

    16. I’ve got a Sig Mosquito and like it, also got the newer model, can’t remember what its called, but the think I like about both is that the whole slide moves, much like a llarger calibre semi-auto. Their heft and “hand” are much like a larger bore as well, I have some holsters for conceal carry, and practicing wiht those littler ones drawing from concealment is helpful. Both are quite accurate, well made. I beleive retail on them is at the $400 mark, but so what? Sig are quality arms, there is no doubt my grandkids will still not be able to wear them out… and I don’t even have kids yet.

      I’ve also got a Smith revlover, a smallish one in stainless, chambered for .22WMR that is loads of fun, too. Not sure whether that one can also fire the .22LR cartridge. I may play with that some time, see how the round fits, etc. Any definitive word on this?

      1. DO NOT try to shoot .22LR from a .22WMR cylinder. See if you can get a suitable cylinder for your Smith, or bear in mind that the aforementioned Heritage can be had with both (as can many other similar revolvers).

      2. Tionico, I strongly recommend against putting 22LR in a 22Mag. The 22 LR case is about 10 thousanths smaller in diameter, and when fired will try to “swell” to fit the chamber. At best it will be very hard to extract, at worst it will split full length (and possibly blow the head off) and vent combustion gasses in directions that you wouldn’t like (like your hand or face). You could fire 22WRF (Winchester RimFire), but if you can find it, it won’t be any cheaper. No, the Winchester Magnum Rimfire is a unique animal. At least it’s back below $15 a box online.

      3. Don’t shoot any LR in a WMR. The WMR is a tapered cartridge and the LR is straight. You could get a split cartridge and/or a face full of blow back. There was a sweet German Colt SAA (I believe it was Rhome firearms) revolver that had both LR and WMR cylinders. I sent a lot of lead downrange with that one.

      4. There is a video on YouTube of a guy who experimented with firing 22LR rounds through a 22WMR cylinder on a Heritage Rough Rider. The 22LR rounds fit, but are sloppy loose due to being slightly smaller in circumference. They did fire, but using a chronograph he demonstrated that the rounds lost about half of their velocity versus firing from an actual 22LR cylinder. He also found that the casings slightly bulged out being that they don’t fit firm in the 22WMR cylinder. He hypothesized that if he had been using lower quality (he was using CCI ammo) ammo, they very well might have burst in the cylinder.

    17. .22 LR pistol is truly the best way to teach a new shooter or even experienced shooter techniques and improving shot placement.

    18. I was shooting a .22lr when I was probably 6yrs old. We had Remington bolt action that was sweet. When I was 10yrs old my folks got me a JC Higgins .410 bolt action from Sears which was a blast but my fav was still the .22.
      I’m 64 now and they’re (5 of them currently) still my favorite shooters. Esp the Romanian training rifle I picked up for 40 bucks. And although a .22lr hollowpoint isn’t gonna rip anybody’s arm off, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to get shot with one.
      Thanks, this article has me looking at the Heritage SAA…

      1. @Robin M, was your Remington bolt action a Model 341 “Sportsmaster”? The 341 is quite forgotten now. Remmy only made this C.C. Loomis design from 1936 to 1940. Renown for accuracy the war and cost of making them were its demise. Not enough profit margin for Remmy.

    19. The .22lr is responsible for more people kills than any other cartridge (according to the FBI). Whether people can shoot it better, they are everywhere already or the low recoil allows a novice to put more than one round on target, I surely dont know. Everyone in my family (including the kids) plinks with my .22lr all day long. Im pretty sure any of them could put a couple of rounds where they would do the most good.

      1. Jim S – A friend once told me there are three thing in defensive shooting – Shot placement, shot placement and shot placement. If you can’t hit the broad side of a barn the biggest caliber in the world will not help. Stay safe.

      2. Actually, the 22 LR is responsible for many good guys getting killed after shooting the bad guy with same due to the failure of the cartridge to STOP THE LETHAL THREAT PRONTO.

        1. I hate to say this Mr. Kent..but..you’re full of S**t!! oR ELSE YOU CAN’T HIT THE MARK!! The 22LR is just as deadly as any round for self defense, you just have to know where to hit!! I’ve taken many deer down with my Remington bolt action & a deer is a lot hardy an animal than the human! I wouldn’t have a qualm one using my 22 pistol to defend myself or my family..of course I know exactly where to place my first & only round.

    20. Being from a poor family all we had in our arsinal was a 12ga single shot shot gun with more kick than a young mule, also a 22 single shot rifle. The 22cal got more use with short ammo and it worked very well at putting meat on the table. Almost every one had one and used for small game and occasionally taking white tail deer. Shot placement was critical so lots of time was spent practicing. I still use a 22lr hand gun for small game with much success. The 22lr is just a great little gun, I still love shooting it, if it can be used as a personal defense weapon is questionable if one trust they can put a round in the kill zone I think they are just as good as the larger caliber. I carry one for self defense and I am comfortable with it.

      1. ‘Kill zone’ is immaterial. Whether or not the suspect dies is up to the ER doctors. STOPPING THE LETHAL THREAT PRONTO is what is needed in a self defense cartridge. For that purpose the 22 LR is worthless.

        1. Hey Superman, I have not found anyone, who says that .22’s are worthless, willing to take a .22 round. Shot placement leaves you just as dead, regardless if it is a .50 AE or a .22 LR. The only difference is the range, and how much of a mess you have to clean up.

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