The .22 round is now 159 years old, and shows no sign of becoming any less popular with age.
Shooters have been relying on it for over a century, and it is now older than many of the weapons we have handled, let alone owned.
There are many reasons to own a few good .22 caliber weapons. Preppers swear by them, if only because .22 rounds are available everywhere, can be stored and carried easily, and cost next to nothing.
If you are preparing for the apocalypse, you probably already have a few .22s around, but some of the rest of us haven’t shot one since we were children.
While .22s remain amazing weapons to take down squirrels and other small game, they have many other uses.
While not often chosen as self-defense weapons, for some people their light weight and lack of recoil makes them ideal for this purpose.
Add to this the fact that .22s are normally much cheaper than larger, centerfire rifles and pistols, and getting a decent .22 starts to look like an attractive proposition.
WHY A .22 PISTOL?
I know what you’re thinking – whilst .22 rifles are great while out hunting small critters, a .22 pistol is simply too underpowered to make sense.
This is true, in some ways. I wouldn’t recommend a .22 pistol to someone looking for some serious firepower. The small, light round doesn’t cause that much damage, and in some pistols can be unreliable. However, there are a few reasons why .22 pistols are a useful part of your armory.
It all depends what you are looking to use your pistol for. If you are a serious hunter, or are into prepping, I probably don’t need to tell you why this is. When hunting small game, or to defend yourself against wild animals, a .22 pistol has more than enough power.
And whilst a .22 will not stop an attacker dead in their tracks, it will certainly slow them down. In the right hands, a .22 LR cartridge can some serious damage.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at our six favorite .22 pistols for various purposes.
BEST OVERALL .22 PISTOL
For most purposes, we think that the Ruger SR22 is the best .22 pistol out there. You’re going to see Rugers appearing quite a lot in this list, and with good reason.
The SR22 has been around for donkey’s years now, and is a good example of why the old designs are the best. Instead of trying to re-invent the .22 pistol every year, Ruger stick with the design that is tried and tested in the field.
Ruger initially became famous for their 10/22 rifles, and they’ve carried over the rugged design of those to this handguns. They’ve removed all of the annoying design features that characterize too many modern .22 pistols, and stuck with what works.
We’ve tested a lot of .22 pistols over the years, and this is arguably the best. Let’s take a look at some of the features that make it stand out as a great .22 pistol.
- First and foremost, the controls here are what you would expect from a modern, full-sized pistol, which makes shooting this .22 much like a Glock. The safety is the same, with a frame mounted catch that is easier to use than any slide-mounted safety mechanism.
- The accuracy offered by the SR22 is great right out of the box, although you can always add aftermarket sights to improve your ability to shoot at range. The standard sights are of the standard 3 dot variety, and the rear assembly is adjustable.
- Another adjustable feature of the SR22 are the two palm swells on the grip. These can be removed and swapped out, which makes adjusting the pistol for different hand sizes simple and easy.
- In our tests, the SR22 was not fussy at all about the ammunition it took, firing everything from the weakest junk cartridges right up to powerful rounds with no trouble. The large, flared base of the .22 LR round still – after all these years – has a tendency to get jammed in poorly made pistols, and we are pleased to report that there were no such problems here.
On the other hand, there are some drawbacks of the SR22 that might mean it is not suitable for everyone:
- In truth, the only negative I can find about this pistol is that it is not the absolute lightest one you can find. I’m not saying that it is heavy, just that less solid pistols can be lighter.
Overall, this is our best overall pick for today because of the no-nonsense design, and the reliability offered by this classic pistol.
If you are looking to get a .22 pistol for self-defense, plinking, or for a survival situation, you could do much worse than giving this one a look.
BEST .22 FOR SELF DEFENSE
A lot of serious enthusiasts will tell you that the .22 cartridge is useless as a self-defense round. It is true, undoubtedly, that getting hit by a .22 round is unlikely to kill anyone.
However, unlike hunters, in a self-defense situation you don’t necessarily need to kill your attacker, but merely stop them.
Getting hit with a .22 hurts enough to stop even the most determined assailant, trust me. The other factor to consider when choosing a self-defense handgun is the fear factor.
Nobody wants to get shot, and in a heated situation no-one is going to notice the caliber of your gun.
For this reason, our choice for the best .22 pistol for self-defense is the Sig Sauer 1911-22. This is a .22 pistol based on the 1911 design. I know that this is going to annoy the traditionalists, but hear me out.
The fact that this pistol follows the 1911 design means it points very well, and is therefore very accurate.
In addition, in a dangerous situation, you are pulling an impressive-looking gun from your holster. Nobody is going to know this isn’t a full-sized 1911.
In addition, this is simply a great .22 pistol, for a variety of reasons:
- Like I said about the Ruger above, the fact that this pistol is identical to a full-seized handgun means that you will get used to it quickly. On the other hand, if you are buying a .22 pistol for a beginner, they can begin to get used to the way a “proper” pistol works right from the beginning.
- It is also astonishingly accurate for a .22 LR pistol. This might, of course, be because we are used to shooting 1911s, but I also think that the high manufacturing quality of this pistol has something to do with this.
- For self-defense purposes, the fact that this pistol is based on the 1911 size is great. This not only means that it looks like a serious handgun, but also means that it fits well in a range of concealed carry holsters.
That said, there are some negative features of this pistol:
- The major problem we had was that our model had great difficulty firing cheaper ammunition when we first tried it. After a thorough strip down and clean, and the application of some lubrication, it started to perform better. It seems that it needs to be broken in.
Overall, the Sig Sauer 1911-22 is our choice for the best .22 pistol for self defensebecause it looks and feels like a much more powerful gun than it is, and the classic design means that you are more likely to hit something in the heat of the moment.
In the end, a .22 LR round is much less powerful than a .45, and if planning on using the smaller round for self defense you have to make up for this somehow.
BEST VALUE .22
One of the reasons why .22 pistols have become so popular over recent years is their price.
For casual shooters who just want to have a bit of fun with a pistol, for training purposes, or even for getting your kids into shooting from an early age, getting a cheap .22 handgun is a good way forward.
Our choice for the best value .22 pistol is the Sig Mosquito. This is a brand new design, and has several features that make it great value.
It’s based on the famous P series of Sig pistols, but is a bit smaller. 7/8ths smaller, in fact. This makes it a little more lightweight than its larger cousins, and also helps to keep the price down.
This does not mean, however, that you are getting a badly designed gun. This pistol, despite its diminutive size, still includes many of the features of more expensive pistols:
- In most respects, the Mosquito is just a slightly smaller replica of the P series, and as such gives you the same deadly accuracy, and a well-balanced grip that people who have fired Sig pistols before will be familiar with.
- The three dot sights are easy to adjust, so you can get them set up exactly how you need them.
- In comparison to the “full” P-series pistols, this .22 also incorporates some extra safety features. The safety here is easy to use, and in just the right place for most shooters.
- The Mosquito is extremely popular with law enforcement and serious shooters, because it allows an easy and cheap way to train. Firing a few (hundred) rounds off down the range with this gun is great practice for when you’ve got your full-sized Sig on hand.