The .22 Long Rifle is typically viewed as a suitable cartridge for three things—making tin cans dance at the range, punching paper, and punching a squirrel’s lights out. But honestly, the .22LR can do far more.
Is it the best cartridge for self-defense? Nope, I can say it is not. Yet is it truly a wrong choice? No, the .22LR is capable of self-defense if you understand its limitations. The cartridge is better than harsh words or a pointy stick. Plus, .22LR is relatively affordable even with today’s crazy panic-driven prices.
The .22LR also provides low recoil, and several guns are beneficial for physically challenged gun owners who cannot shoot larger chambered firearms.
So, let’s get down to the brass tacks.
- 1.Beretta Model 21A Bobcat and Model 950 Jetfire
In my humble (and over-inflated) opinion, the classic little Italian kitty cat, the Bobcat, is one of the best choices for a .22LR self-defense gun, especially since it is a traditional double-action design. It can be carried with the hammer down and the safety off with a loaded chamber. The Jetfire is a single action-only model.
Simple, rugged, and easy to load. The Bobcat and Jetfire make it perfect for people with hand strength issues. The tipping barrels make it much easier for the elderly to load the gun—no need to retract the slide to load a round from the magazine.
As smaller guns, they’re the perfect belly gun. They are easily accurate enough for phone-booth distances, especially since the Bobcat has a capacity of 7+1 and the Jetfire has an 8+1 capacity.
I have both a Bobcat and a Jetfire, and they are pleasures to shoot. These guns, while getting long in the tooth design-wise, are still viable today.
- 2.Ruger LCP II
Ruger, a name synonymous with rugged affordability, and .22LR chambered handguns took their little plastic fantastic and chambered it for the humble rimfire. With a capacity of 10+1, this version of the LCP comes with a few features that you don’t see on its .380 chambered brethren.
The most obvious is a manual safety. The other is the “pronounced cocking ears” on the back of the slide.
Ruger took one of their best pocketable self-defense guns and made it easier for some to handle. I don’t have one in my stable now. But I have put downrange with one. I can tell you this; the recoil is very controllable.
The biggest issue the .380 chambered guns have always had is a rough bite with its loud bark. The recoil is uncomfortable for some shooters, and if the recoil is uncomfortable. People might not carry it. But with the low recoiling .22LR, this LCP makes it much more likely for this specific model to be carried often by “non-gun people.”
- 3.Browning 1911-22
Browning took the classic slab-sided .45 and shrank it down, making it an 80% size pistol of the real McCoy. Initially chambered in .22LR, Browning also chambered the gun in .380.
Again, I currently don’t have a .22LR chambered model in my collection. Instead, I have the .380 model. But that’s because I wanted a .22LR chambered one, and this .380 variant fell into my lap. I just couldn’t say no at the price it was offered.
I did have the joy of shooting the original .22LR chambered guns at Browning’s booth at SHOT Show’s Industry’s Day at the Range. It was a hoot to shoot. The accuracy impressed me, and it handled like any other 1911.
Other than a magazine disconnect and a tiny little difference internally, the gun is a 1911. It also carried like a 1911. Easy to conceal and easy to handle.
- 4.Walther PPK-L
The German Wunderwaffen of the 1930s, the PPK-L is a rarer 1960s version James Bond’s gun. Chambered in .32 Auto and .22LR, these guns differ by having an aluminum frame instead of the classic steel frame.
This gun is a family heirloom to me. It belonged to my Tio Mario. It was literally his spy gun. Yes, you read that right. A Walther PPK was a spy’s gun. My Uncle was employed by the CIA and took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. As a Cuban Refugee, he was recruited by the CIA, and during his employment with them, they told him to buy a gun, and the agency will reimburse him. So, he bought this gun in a little gun shop in Miami, Florida, and that’s what he carried as a CIA spook.
Anyways, the gun shoots like a dream. The steel-framed .380 PPK is controllable, but it still has a harsh bite due to being a direct blowback gun. The .22LR chambered PPK-L is like shooting a blank only pistol. All-flash but no bashing in the hand.
The gun has a fixed barrel design leading it to be very ACCURATE.
- 5.The Classic Snub Nose Revolver
There are so many models even to list. Over the decades, Smith & Wesson, Charter Arms, Ruger, Taurus, and Colt have all made one form or another of the classic design. Honestly, what’s not to like? No magazines to deal with, honest reliability to the point that it can be shot from the inside of a coat pocket.
Strangely, out of my vast collection of wheel guns. I don’t currently have a .22LR snub nose. I have several J-Frames S&Ws in .22LR, but not with the shorter barrels.
Currently, four of the classic wheel gun makers crank out a snub nose .22LR. S&W, Ruger, and Charter Arms, and Taurus all make one variant or another. Different finishes, materials, and weight, but all with the same general layout.
Is the snub nose outdated? Is it outclassed? I think not. If you look at its larger chambered cousins, the snub nose is selling well. So much so that Colt jumped back into the market a few years back with their D-Frame, and Kimber is a new player in town.
A .22LR chambered snub nose is still doable.
There are some guns that I would give an honorable mention, but
overall, they aren’t the best choice.
Guns like the North American Arms Mini-Revolver. Accuracy and speed are two things that don’t exist with these guns. I have a .22LR only version. It is what I call my “ears, nose, and throat gun.” Five rounds in a spur trigger single action only design. These guns are not quick to shoot or reload. Yet they are excellent as deep cover carry guns and if you stick one in a mugger’s face. I can guarantee that he’ll change his mind.
As said, the .22LR, while not the best choice, is still a viable choice when your overall options are limited.