The 22 LR or .22 Long Rifle is one of the most common pistol calibers. It’s cheap, small, and lightweight. For this reason, many people opt to buy .22 pistols. I’m here to tell you that there are other reasons why you should go with a .22. Here’s some of the top options we will be reviewing today.
- Ruger Mark
- Smith & Wesson® SW22 Victory™
- Browning Buckmark
- Walther P22
- Smith & Wesson Model 41 Performance Center
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What Makes a .22 Pistol Great?
Over the years, I’ve tried loads of guns. Pistols, revolvers, rifles, you name it. Although you may catch me with just about any firearm at the range, the old .22 is almost always by my side. And I’ll tell you what — a .22 pistol handgun has never left me hanging.
Knowing what to look for in a .22 pistol isn’t something you can rely on your intuition for. Even if you are a seasoned firearm enthusiast, if you don’t have enough experience with a caliber, you can’t claim expertise on it.
A while back, my friend gave me his .22 to try out at the range. I have to say, I was surprised by how well it performed. That’s when I got into .22 pistols in earnest. I’ve tried many thus far and made almost as many buyer’s mistakes. Now, I’m here to make sure that you err as little as possible. Here’s how to pick the best .22 pistol for your needs.
This is by far the most understated aspect of .22 pistols. Why? Because it’s not the type of affordability that you’d expect. A .22 pistol doesn’t have to be cheap. The manufacturers are aware of this. It’s in the long run that a .22 pistol will save you money because 22 LR ammo is very cheap.
So, don’t let the price of a .22 pistol deter you from buying it. Even if you’d rather get a 9mm, you have to consider the fact that the ammo is multiple times more expensive.
.22 pistols are famously small and compact. They are very lightweight and generally small in dimensions. This is why they’re popular for concealed or everyday carry (EDC). You can carry a .22 in an IWB (inside the waistband) holster, but an OWB (outside the waistband) holster may just be enough.
Due to the small size and weight, most .22 guns are very comfortable to carry.
Of course, as you will see below, exceptions do exist. But then, not everyone is looking to get a .22 pistol for everyday carry.
The quest for low recoil is usually lined with upgrades for most weapons. With .22 pistols, the right amount of recoil is easy to reach. In fact, most .22 pistols have the recoil of an airsoft or paintball gun. Well, almost, anyway.
This makes .22 pistols particularly convenient for people who are on the weaker side, or perhaps even disabled – they have the right to 2nd Amendment protection too. With .22 pistols, low kickback is the name of the game and that’s always a good thing.
Guns are loud — so loud that you run the risk of seriously damaging your hearing when firing in enclosed spaces (an indoor firing range, for instance). But you already knew this. Although hearing protection is still advised for any firearms, .22 pistols are significantly softer than larger calibers.
Although .22 pistols are seldom used for hunting, this can be a great advantage if you want to hunt small game. Keep in mind that .22 rifles are significantly louder than .22 pistols.
Is it Good for Self-Defense?
The verdict is still out regarding whether .22 pistols are good for self-defense. Look, the .22 caliber is small and can’t offer a ton of stopping power.
But the point of self-defense isn’t bringing huge amounts of firepower to the game. On the contrary, the goal is intimidation and deterring the attacker(s) without actually letting it loose.
So, sure, you can carry a large-caliber pistol or the oft-advised shotgun with buckshot. But you can also do it with a .22 pistol. Not a lot of stopping power, but it will at least intimidate or incapacitate an attacker. This is why many choose a .22 pistol for self-defense.
A Gateway Gun
Some people get a 9mm or even a 10mm as a first weapon. For others, this may be simply too much. A .22 pistol is a weapon that I’d give (and I do) to anyone who has little or no prior experience with firearms. As such, a .22 caliber pistol can be a great introduction.
Best .22 Pistols
As previously stated, my journey to find the top rated .22 pistol was a long one. I am a perfectionist and I’m looking for the ideal amount of comfort, accuracy, recoil, everything really.
I can’t claim that my opinion of the best .22 pistol is universal. All I can do is suggest my top five .22 pistols complete with some of the details.
The Mark series of .22 pistols put Ruger on the map. The new Mark IV has undergone a lot of improvements since the initial model. The original was very difficult to disassemble and clean, which was what deterred many people from buying the weapon.
However, the Mark IV can be broken down with a single button press. The components are very easy to clean. If you’re a fan of 1911-type weapons, you’re going to love the ergonomics of the Ruger Mark – they’ve been translated into this .22 pistol.
Although it is quiet like most other .22 pistols, it still has a threaded barrel. This means that you can attach a suppressor for even less noise and added velocity.
The Ruger Mark supports a 10-round mag, which is good enough for most people. There are many holster types available for it, including IWB and OWB.
This .22 pistol is lightweight, durable, modular, accurate, and reliable. Its simple build and ease of disassembly help avoid jamming. If you’re looking for a survival weapon, you should definitely consider the Ruger Mark.
- Simple disassembly
- Suppressor support
- Factory trigger not perfect
There isn’t a weapons manufacturer as well-known as Smith & Wesson®. Typically, you wouldn’t associate the company with .22 caliber, but, of course, they have some to offer.
The SW22 Victory™ is the top-of-the-line S&W .22 pistol. It is one of the most precise and accurate guns that S&W has to offer, in-fact.
Normally, you’d associate .22 pistols with concealed carry. However, the SW22 Victory™ is a full-sized weapon – it is in no way compact and definitely not made for EDC.
The Victory is armed with a fixed 5.5” barrel, making it very accurate from the jump. However, this model allows you to swap out the barrel and easily equip the weapon with advanced optics.
This weapon is highly tweakable for a pistol. In fact, the designer has imagined it with swapping barrels in mind. As new barrel types are released, you can put them in and make the weapon lighter and even more accurate, for example. Changing barrels only takes a few minutes and requires the removal of only one screw.
The SW22 accepts muzzle devices and suppressors, which is great for those who are looking to do some hunting with the weapon.
- Extremely tweakable
- Swappable Barrel
- Accepts suppressors
- Not suitable for EDC
Straight out of the box, the Buckmark feels like a lot has been put into assembling it. The pieces fit nicely, and the finish looks great.
Although low in caliber, Browning Buckmark isn’t light. It isn’t as heavy as a 10mm, but at 2 lbs. it doesn’t make for a perfect EDC. And that’s completely fine! Just because you’re looking at a .22 pistol doesn’t mean that you’ve got to have concealed carry in mind.
With that said, it’s a great home defense gun for people who can’t or don’t want to handle higher calibers.
The Buckmark comes with one magazine with 10+1 capacity, which is pretty standard for .22 pistols. The mags are, however, a tad expensive. Sure, we’re talking about reusable features, but you should add this extra money to the pistol’s list price. In any event, .22 ammo is very cheap, so we’re talking about a one-off investment here.
I have to say that I haven’t tried a .22 pistol with such a nicely executed trigger. It’s light and has a crisp break, which is common with expensive weapons – you don’t see a trigger this awesome on an affordable .22 pistol.
Don’t think of this gun as a survival gun – the disassembly is more involved and you’re going to need a couple of Allen wrenches to do it.
- Good build
- Great for home defense
- Fantastic trigger
- Feels great
- Complicated disassembly
If you’re looking for the best .22 pistol for concealed carry, that would be Walther P22. It’s small, yet it looks something James Bond would favor. In fact, the Walther PPK is Bond’s signature weapon and it bears a resemblance to the P22.
The Walther P22 is lightweight and very compact, which makes it great for both IWB and OWB concealed carry. But the Walther P22 isn’t the smallest gun in the world. It does make for a viable survival gun and it brings more velocity than your snub-nosed revolver. It’s easy to shoot and very accurate.
At around a pound in weight, just about anyone can use the Walther P22. Not only use but execute clean, precise shots, which is what makes the P22 so special. This is all owing to the solid sights, as well as owing to its crisp trigger.
If you want to use it for hunting, don’t expect to kill any large game with it. However, if you want to shoot rabbits at a 25-yard distance, the Walther P22 will do a great job. If you want to increase the velocity and make it quieter, you can equip it with a suppressor.
- Compact and lightweight
- Perfect for EDC
- Solid velocity
- Supports various suppressors
- Accurate and easy to handle
- May not work with some .22 ammo
Accuracy is the story with the Model 41. In fact, this S&W was designed for developing precise shooting skills, originally intended for one-handed or conventional pistol shooting. The fact may be that this type of shooting competition is a lost art but learning how to shoot properly with one hand can greatly improve your precision and targeting. This is a great option if you’re looking for the best 22 cal pistol to accurately shoot at targets.
Without a doubt, the Model 41 feels like you’re holding a premium weapon. It’s not just the feel but the whole handling.
Although the 41 is a .22 caliber weapon, it pretty much works like a 1911. This is a good thing, as the ease of use is the banner of 1911-type weapons.
The disassembly is not as easy as on some .22 pistols, although it’s far from hard.
At 2.5 lbs. and armed with a 5.5” barrel, this .22 pistol is definitely not made for EDC. But if that’s what you want to do with it, you may be able to pull it off.
The trigger is adjustable, and the weapon is proven to be one of the most reliable.
- Extremely precise
- Feels and handles like a much more expensive weapon
- Easy to use
- Relatively easy to disassemble
- Adjustable trigger
- Not ideal for EDC
The Walther P22 is the best weapon on the list for everyday carry. In my opinion (although many may disagree), the true .22-caliber pistol has to be EDC-capable. It has a much better trigger than the Ruger Mark and it’s easier to disassemble than the Browning Buckmark. Unlike the Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory or the Model 41 Performance Center, the Walther P22 is great for concealed carry.
This Walther is both affordable and compact. It’s also pretty quiet, handles great, and perfect for self-defense, whatever situation you might find yourself in. It’s an excellent gateway gun that you’re going to find it hard to move on. I for one consider Walther P22 the best .22 pistol you can find.