.22 Handgun for Self-Defense?

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Sure beats having absolutely nothing else. Nobody wants to get shot with anything, even a ‘bitty little .22 mouse gun’.

    The one time I needed a gun for ‘social comfort’ was a .22 PPK copy (Erma RX-22), a very handy kit gun I still own. Its a reliable gun and for its size, very accurate as well. I was busy with fixing a windmill, when I was approached from behind by a pair of illegal aliens seeking work. They did nothing threatening – they were just looking for work and directions to the nearest city.

    I would prefer something with more power, but I would feel safe with a rimfire handgun (especially a .22 magnum).

  2. riverrider says:

    worked for the oregon shooter, and some say the newtown gunman. also worked for a local boy that took on an angry husband with a 45 auto. twenty two=1, 45=0. until recently the most used caliber for murder was .22lr. there was one in every household just about.

  3. Pilfer Proof says:

    Practice, Practice, Practice! ..22LR hit to the cranium….lights out! Everytime!

  4. Mystery Guest says:

    “Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.”
    Some are allergic to bee stings.
    Only cunning thing a liberal relative once said, I don’t think they are going to ask what caliber done them in.
    No it ain’t perfect and to most the last shot they want.
    Wish I had one of the bee stingers.

  5. The cop who trained me on self defense carried a pocket 22 magnum. With a swapout cylinder for regular 22’s it works for both defense and hunting.

  6. Why not have a .22 pistol as I believe a .22 rifle is a must for small game and you can use the same ammo for both. I am big on keeping your calibers to a minimum.

    • I would use one for defense. I would prefer a nice 1911 . A 22 would do the job better then throwing rocks. If I had to I would use a 22lr pistol not many goblins would say THAT IS JUST A 22 !! I think I would use a combination loadout in the magazine. Stinger hollowpoint then a solid stinger then solid.

      • I disagree, pick a load for the gun and stick with it. Different loads will give you different ballistics characteristics. You won’t be able to adjust your aim based on previous shots fired because each cartridge will behave differently.

        In my opinion, it is better to have a single type of cartridge in the gun, and practice the hell out of it.

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          Eric I think the different loads (HP or solid point) will come into play in a rifle as they generally are shot over a grater distance then a pistol or revolver. when shooting a handgun for defense the distance is under 25-feet and the trajectory disparity of different bullets is quite small. It’s smaller then most peoples ability to shoot a good group so it just doesn’t come into play. What does come into play is what the bullet does on target. And as far as 22 ammo for people 40 gr solid bullets are best. HP ammo is better for small game.

          When out in the bush I often have different loads in a revolver so I can do different things with the gun. With my 357 Mag I go from shot shells to 180 gr hard cast lead.

          But for home defense I would not want to use a shot shell in any caliber handgun.

          True story: 25-years ago I shot a bird with CCI 22 long rifle shot caps, it was a 15-foot shot. I could not miss at that distance and saw all the leaves in the tree move from the shot. and the bird simply flew off seeming unaffected. I did a bit more testing of 22 shot shells and then sold all of I had back to the gun shop.

          • j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

            There is one practical use we found for rimfire shotshell. My brother used to have a homing pigeon coop, and occasionally, an opossum would break in to kill some birds. The shot shell was effective when used at POINT BLANK range, without any fear from a bullet passing through and damaging / hurting anything beyond.

            If shot at distance, shotshell does spread out pretty quickly from rifled barrels (the spin distributes the shot quickly). A smooth bore rimfire extends the range.

            • “shotshell does spread out pretty quickly from rifled barrels (the spin distributes the shot quickly)”

              When I was a kid, we used .22 shotshells in a .22 shotgun for kitchen rats in the West Indies. Worked quite well as the pellets didn’t penetrate a #10 can at 15- 20 feet or so. Maybe a solid hit would have, but not a glancing one. A .22 shotgun is such a specialized piece of gear tho that I doubt many people would have enough use for one to pay the price. Rat traps would be more effective, if less fun.

              • j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

                A .22 bore shotgun is very specialized. Some down here use it to kill woodpeckers which do damage to home structures for example. Others use pellet rifles (which make great small vermin removers).

                Rat shot was used in the past to shoot starlings inside of farm equipment structures (the droppings would damage the metal implements before they were sold).

          • I’d have to argue in favor of using only one round for a rifle especially regardless distances.

            I zero all my .22s with a specific cartridge (CCI for example) and write it on the scope or stock (use white medical tape- it’s H2Oproof).

            Out of curiosity, I also tested several different brands including Stingers and MiniMags through the same rifles. In every instance, even at 25 yards, the difference in POI was as much as three inches difference between rounds.

            However, I did find that Stingers were the most accurate “common” load for all my rifles.

            In my handguns I find the groups tend to open even more (of course: shorter sight radius and more hand shake).

            My advice: Zero for one round and stick to it. Just be sure it provides the accuracy you desire.

            • “My advice: Zero for one round and stick to it.”

              I agree, JSW. The problem for me in Hawaii for the last several years is that ammo has been so hard to find that I couldn’t even consider sticking with one brand/loading. It has been take whatever is available and be thankful.

              My .22 handguns are most accurate with Remington standard velocity solid points. Haven’t seen any here in years.

              The online ammo companies don’t ship ammo to Hawaii, so that isn’t an option.

              • That’s why I have gone to about 3 types of 22 “Hunting” ammo in storage. I prefer Winchester Power Point, either the original 40 gr or the new 42 gr HPs. After that it is the CCI Mini-Mag (36 gr hp’s) and CCI SGB (40 gr FP). I have some CCI Velocitor but not enough to evaluate. CCI Mini-mag solids and Federal Auto Match are my “Target” loads.

                Bulk “play” ammo is either Federal or Winchester, my guns seem to have issues with Remington bulk.

                As new supplies are becoming available I am swapping out my 3rd and 4th choices for ammo in a category and replace them.

                I is hard to believe that I have almost reached the “stockage level” that I have envisioned so I get to be either a little pickier or shoot more (I prefer the second).

                • “…Bulk “play” ammo is either Federal or Winchester, my guns seem to have issues with Remington bulk…”

                  That is interesting to me, JP, in that none of my rifles, even my Remington, and handguns, will not operate on Remington ammo and tend to digest anything made by CCI and Federal, except the Target label. Several shoot the Winchester white box fairly well, except the Ruger, which functions best on Feds.

                  On the other hand, my brother’s rifles won’t shoot anything but Remington.

                  Go figure, huh? Again, it’s all in the testing to find what your weapon prefers.

              • My heart goes out to you and your fellow statesmen, Penrod. I must admit that I’ve been testing and collecting ammo since 1976, so I’ve a bit of a head start on lots of people.

    • TPSnodgrass says:

      Wholeheartedly agree on the logistical attractiveness of caliber consolidation!

  7. Not really ideal IMO but certainly doable. Like all other firearm’s, regardless of caliber, training is key.

    Quite often a .22LR/.22 mag revolver is part of my kit. It offer’s a compact mean’s to forage and a backup to my EDC handgun. During hunting season it travels with a longarm to take small game when the opportunity present’s itself. I have lost track of the grouse I have harvested with a .22, from feet to yard’s.

    I too am one who keep’s to basic caliber’s for their kit, mostly the proven reliables. Simplifies training and logistic’s. Also a fan of combo gun’s. Chamber insert’s for my other cartridges ensure’s redundency.

  8. Pilfer Proof says:

    I don’t own one, but wish I did – the Kel-Tec PMR 30 is an awesome pistol……22 mag., 30 rounds, great sights, great trigger…only downside is it is full-size. Same mantra – Practice, Practice, Practice!

  9. …..reminds me to keep planting garlic….

  10. For many years my BIL carried a 22 Mag High Standard derringer as a pocket gun. In my GHB the primary is a 357 rifle w/a secondary revolver. But the Ruger SR22 with a spare mag and a suppressor is also a part of the kit. It does not weigh very much and has multiple used.

    I am friends with a couple who both have “issues” with their wrists, Both have 22 LR semi autos with them. I’ve seen them shoot, I’m glad we’re friends.

    Now that 22 LR ammo availability s starting to get better, better ammo is also coming “to a town near you”. If you can get your hands on some Winchester Power Point that would be my recommended ammo. VERY accurate and at 42gr a little heavier. I know that we have some very tough ground squirrels around here, and these are the ONLY round that will give me a “one-shot kill” on them (and I’ve tried almost every non-match type I could get in the last 10 years).

  11. TPSnodgrass says:

    We were fortunate to have been able to afford to stockpile a large cache of .22LR and .22 Magnum ammunition before the long drought that “seems” to be waning. My wife has serious carpal tunnel issues and loves her .22LR pistol and is deadly with it. While she can handle a 1911 in .45ACP just fine without any pain associated with the other calibers(other than .22LR or Magnum) the 1911 for her, is just a tad inefficient for EDC in the office she works in. When I was in law enforcement prior to retiring, I lost count of the number of homicides I responded to, where the main weapon used was a .22LR pistol or revolver. When we found no shell casings, we always figured we had a serious “hitter” we were looking for(usually turned out that way) since most of those guys I dealt with preferred the lowly .22LR revolver.(go figure) Have a brother who is an ER Doc in a major metro area, most of his shooting patients are hit with either .22LR OR FMJ 9mm(demographic thing in his locale). While I would personally PREFER to have my 9mm or a 45ACP, I wouldn’t feel out-classed caliber wise by a knuckle-head holding his sideways-canted uber-pistol at all, if all I had was my .22LR pistol. Go with what works for YOU in your situation. Any handgun is better than a sharp pencil-with the exception of a .25ACP, then the Number 2 pencil is far superior in a defensive scenario.

  12. • my Survival Rifle is the
    Ruger 10/22 Takedown.
    Very Light weight, cheap plentiful ammunition, and the “take down” is the Beauty part; excellent for hauling on a Backpack.

    • i also carry a few of these in my Pack:

    GSG Ruger 10/22 110-Round Drum Magazine

    • Ruger Takedown complements my Hoyt Buffalo Takedown Recurve Bow.

    • Canada Fire Arms Laws are very strict about Handguns, otherwise i
    would carry a .22 pistol with my Rifle, and then could use the same ammo for both.

  13. I recently had a conversation with a retired Secret Service agent ( he was duty in the mid west when president Reagen was shot ) and his advice for a .22 was ” the hottest or fastest .22 lr you can buy and hollow points. No fancy shooting, center of mass, empty your gun into who ever and a have a quick reload ready. And practice ” then step back and call 911 and holster your weapon and do what the law enforcement officer ‘s say.

  14. Chuck Findlay says:

    For years I have carried a 22 or 25 auto Beretta or Colt pocket pistol in the warmer months. It’s best to not let anyone know you are packing a gun and a pocket pistol allows this.

    In the winter (heavy coat weather) I go with larger calibers.

    But a 22 is good enough if you can place your shots right.

    And a 22 is affordable to shoot, not as affordable as in the past, but more so then anything else. So it’s more likely people will practice with it then a 9-mm or 40 S&W.

    I don’t care if you are Rambo, 6 or 7 22 bullets in the face will stop you.

    • A .25 is damn near useless. Go with .32 or a 380

      .22 is a good rifle round since the barrel is long enough for the higher velocity; however, for a defensive round for a timid shooter, a 380 would pack a good punch without too much kick. .22 in a pinch, but I would not make it my handgun defensive round.

      • Chuck Findlay says:

        I have a 380 Colt Mustang, a 9-mm Ultra PP Super but they are kinda large to stuff in a pocket of my shorts on a 90 deg day. This is why I have several pocket pistols, for hot weather.

        And while a 25-Auto is not a power house it will kill people.

        I ALWAYS experiment with every gun and round I have and a 25-Auto will go through a pine board and a pop bottle full of water behind it. I figured the pine board was tougher then a winter coat and the water bottle a person’s body.

        • Cjuck:

          Where did you get your PP Super? Is it a Walther?

          • Chuck Findlay says:

            Yep it’s a Walther PP Super in 9×18 (9-mm Ultra) I got it in the late 1980″s at the gun shop. European police at the time had converted to 9-MM Luger (9×19) and they dumped a lot of the slightly less powerful 9×18 on the used market and I bought one. It can be loaded with normal 9-MM dies and it is power wise between a .380 and a 9-MM Luger.

            What I like about it is it has no safe switch, it’s like a revolver in that you can pull the trigger and it goes boom. On wondering if it is on safe. In a high stress event you know the gun will go off as long as you loaded it.

            (In fact I never use the safety on any gun I have, every one is ready to shoot when you pick it up. This is why I like single-action semi-autos with a hammer.)

            Walther makes very good guns and I have never regretted buying it or any quality firearm.

            • Chuck:

              Just wondering. I sold mine, unfired, in Germany to another soldier before I left in 1984. Seemed rather large for a Walther.

              • Chuck Findlay says:

                Yea it’s a bit larger then a PPK. Its about the same as any single stack 9-mm. I like it, but like I said it’s too big for use as a pocket pistol.

                Amy time a small gun like a 22 is talked about someone will rant how it’s useless (more common in the USA then the rest of the planet) and that X caliber is the smallest they would ever carry. And I think most of us agree larger does more damage. But like I said when it’s 90 deg’s out a pocket pistol fits the bill. I like the Walther a lot and still parry it, but not on a hot summer day. I have several small semi-auto pistols that work and while a 22 is lower power it’s still going to do what I need as I shoot a lot and can hit the head area of a B-27 target with my Beretta 22-short, 25-Auto and 22 long rifle at 25 feet with no problem.

                For those that post a 22 is useless, nobody has a bulletproof face and even the 22 short will go through a pine board. Go test your guns on something other then paper before you say a 22 is no good.

                This is why I like outdoor ranges, you can shoot at things other then just paper and can test bullets in the real world. I can’t begin to post all the things I have shot over the years and most of them were not paper…

                I for the most part dislike indoor ranges.

                • Hi Chuck, “I can’t begin to post all the things I have shot over the years ”

                  The most fun I ever had shooting was when I had a gravel pit available and we could shoot anything we wanted. Empty shotgun shells are a lot of fun with a .22 handgun. If you shoot the plastic part they hop a couple feet, but if you shoot the brass they ZOOOOOOM away. Great fun.

                  Golf balls are also a lot of fun, but they skitter away so far they are a pain to retrieve.

                  Shotgun shells were about perfect for me. Going for the brass is great practice, especially shooting double action with a S&W Model 63: it requires trigger control.

            • My carry is a 1960s era Walther made in Berlin black PPK 380. 🙂

            • Rod Roberts says:

              I have a Walther P 22, love it! I carry it whenever we leave the house. It has been very reliable, points well, shoots CCI mini-mags and any other ammo well. Have never had a fail to eject or a stovepipe in over 500 rnds. Light and small, it makes a good pocket gun.

      • riverrider says:

        useless? not with hornady xtp rounds it ain’t. makes a mess of your brain cavity.

        • It’s been a while. with the improvement in ammo, I should not have disparaged the .25 I sold my hammerless colt 25 years ago

    • Axelsteve says:

      My step grandpa would carry a colt woodsman in a shoulder holster under a jacket during deer season. He did that for a finishing shot on a deer so he would not have to use a 270 at point blank range.

      • j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

        Yup, I do the same as well, a Walther TPH or the Erma mentioned in 1st post fits my M65 jacket shoulder pocket very handily. They also ‘drill’ holes in a 2x lumber pretty well, a little messy on the back side though. :^)

        Here is an interesting blog post about the rimfire pistol in self defense.


      • Steve- yep! My cousin loaded his in rear of pickup, during drive home saw it up & looking @ him in rear view mirror. Great Caesar’s Ghost! tyvm!

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          I just sold (6/ 8-months ago) a Colt Woodsman I had since the 1980’s. It was in new condition as any gun I have ever seen, all the blueing was just as new. . It had the box, all paperwork, spare mag. It was made in 1954, I got it from an old guy that never fired it. I only put 2 mags through it in all the time I owned it.

          It was too nice to shoot so I sold it ($1,400.00) at a gun show to a guy that didn’t hesitate to count off the $100.00 bills. It sold by the time I got to the end of the first isle at the gun show. One of the very few times I have ever sold a gun.

          I put the money into prep supplies.

  15. Pilfer Proof says:

    In my humble opinion, if one is going to use a .22 LR for self-defense, solid point is the best ammo, because you need deep penetration (relative term). True story: about 40 years ago, I shot a hog between the eyes at point blank range with .22 LR hollow point from a pistol. The hog simply ran around the pen squealing…….I had to run to the house to get a .22 LR Solid Point and shot it again between the eyes and it stoned it. Upon close examination, the HP flattened on the skull. I’m sure .22 ammo is hotter today than 40 years ago, but it still was a good lesson.

  16. As someone who uses a .357, a .45 ACP, and a 20 gauge semi-auto loaded with buckshot for home defense, I have my preferences. However:

    While a .22 is far from ideal, all the statistics on defensive use of firearms suggest to me that caliber should be considered almost irrelevant. I know: That is Heresy with a capital H. Consider, though:

    Reports I have read say that in cases where a gun was used to stop an assault, in over 90% of those cases, the gun wasn’t fired. The presence of the gun and the victim’s willingness to use it caused the assailant to leave. So in 90+% of cases, the caliber did not matter.

    In something around 5% of cases, the victim fired the gun without hitting the assailant, but the assailant departed anyway. Therefore in those cases the caliber did not matter.

    In the remaining cases the Bad Guy got hit and either departed or Departed With Extreme Prejudice. In some of those cases the caliber probably mattered, possibly a lot.

    However, the stats say that in over 95% of defensive gun uses, the caliber did not matter because the Bad Guy did not get shot.

    Familiarity with one’s weapon and the resulting ability to hit the Bad Guy therefore seem a LOT more important in the real world than caliber, and since .22s are cheap ammo, almost any gun owner can afford lots of practice. A .22 may not be ideal, but in 95+% of cases, it is plenty.

    I know: it’s Heresy.

  17. OhSoTired says:

    I have a 5 shot single action revolver derringer with a 2 inch barrel I frequently drop in my pocket and a ruger mark II with a bull barrel–The Mark II–very accurate with no recoil–although I don’t carry the Ruger, I would not hesitate if I didn’t have a pile to choose from. I leave it in a location the wife can access short, quick and in a hurry and with no recoil–very important for an old woman–don’t tell her I said that–she can dump 17 rounds in a hurry.

  18. Crazy Joe in South Jersey says:

    Howdy Creekmore ! ! !

    RANGER is the only one I noticed using the W Word …… he wrote ” Very Light weight ” . Another comment is about The hog shot in the head is not the same as a criminal who is getting fired upon with multiple shots . If anyone doubts the pain that a .22 LR causes simply shoot yourself in the leg and let me know how it feels . If one has to hoof it then the lighter the better . If I was 40 years younger I would not want to have to carry 20 pounds of large caliber ammo but a box of 500 in .22 LR is a walk in the park .

    • As they say, the adequate tool you have with you is far better than the perfect tool you left home because it was too big, too heavy to carry around on the off chance you’d use it.

      In my situation, if I ever had to bug out, I would hide like a bunny in the bushes for days before I would voluntarily get into a gun fight: the consequences of getting even a little bit shot in a bug out situation are just too lethal. A .22 wouldn’t lead to any false sense of security, but would still do the job if one was reasonably practiced. And I’m not 25 years old anymore, either, and definitely agree with you on that angle, too.

  19. I think most of us grew up with a .22 rifle and figured we could do just about anything we needed with them. Now after a lifetime of hunting, woods roaming and 30 plus years of LE I have owned, carried, and seen damage from a lot of different calibers. Most shootings tended to be 9mm but there were a lot of .22’s as well. I like the .22 still. I think everyone capable should own one or five. I don’t normally carry a .22 for defense but I wouldn’t hesitate to. In teaching my kids and others to shoot, I always start beginners with a .22. I have daughters that were happy just shooting the .22. They were comfortable with it. Ruger and Walther have small .22 auto pistols that I think are very practical for some one wanting a defensive pistol in .22. I recommended the Walther to my daughter for shooting and defense. It has a rail under the barrel and holds a Surefire light and is a small comfortable package for her.

  20. riverrider says:

    there were several posting last month about the israeli’s using suppressed 10/22 rugers in riot situations, to take out the instigators. good enough for them, good enough for me.

  21. I carry a NAA 22 WMR with a laserlyte clamped to the top strap. Loaded with a fast powder defense round made for short barreled pistols. The laser is on close out, as their new model mounts on the gripshttp://www.laserlyte.com/products/naa-1

  22. Chuck Findlay says:

    One problem with a 22 long rifle in a short barrel pistol is that most 22 long rifle rounds are made for rifles or larger handguns. Most 22’s burn powder to the 6.5 inch range of a barrel. In a short barrel (2-inch or so) you need to do testing to find a round made to burn powder faster so it pushes the bullet faster to make the best use of the short barrel.

    22 shorts are made for shorter barrel guns and do OK as far as speed goes, but the bullet weight is only 29 grains instead of the normal 40 grain 22 long rifle. This is why I think my 22 short Beretta seems to penetrate as well as the 22 long rifle in a 2-inch barrel, it has a faster burning powder.

    • j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

      I own a Taurus 941UL .22 Magnum snub nose and the report is very loud, almost .38 Special loud in fact. Quite the fireball in the dark too. Makes a good signal gun in a survival situation I guess (lots of light ammunition carry and rust resistant finish are big pluses for outdoor carry).

      Very light recoil too. I have it in case I develop arthritis in old age and am unable to shoot center fire. That is my story and I’m sticking to it. :^)

  23. I’ve been shot twice before(military)……and it SUCKS….being shot with ANYTHING SUCKS!!!!….please believe THAT. while a .22 is rarely ones first choice, it can be extremely effective. shot placement always…….but if I were shooting for tactical purposes against the “golden hoard”……….being knee,shoulder/gut shot with a .22 is terribly devastating to non-professional soldiers. The demise is long, painful, and virtually certain without REAL medical care…..Nobody will sleep in THAT camp,as the moaning will be very “damageing” to moral….laughing at the lowly .22 is a sign of genuine ignorance.

    • Pilfer Proof says:

      Very well said.

    • riverrider says:

      well, i have been shot AT with both 22lr and center fire and just from that i can concur that it doesn’t matter the caliber even if its just going by your head. caught some shrapnel in the face once, hurt like hell and took the fight right out of me, though a couple minutes later the fight came back because i figured out it was “friendly fire”.

  24. Pilfer Proof says:

    This is a very interesting video:
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/gbVY4gT5P20” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

  25. As often said, the .22 is not my first choice for self defense, but if it’s all I have with me, you can be sure I’d use it.
    True- I’ve seen cattle and hogs dropped with one .22 round between the eyes, many times, and dropped a few myself. But every one of them was under control being hobbled or nose-ringed and the shot was two inches from the muzzle with a solid bullet. Penetration on thick skinned animals with a hollow point or speedy Stinger type is minimal. They’re designed for thin skinned animals, so use of one on a person might be a great way to change their attitude, but unless a lung or head shot, probably not immediately lethal. (As noted earlier, a .22 would be great for harassing and crowd control. That the Israeli military, and others, use them is for close-in, urban and the men shooting them wouldn’t miss a shot in a hurricane.)

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