.22 Revolver Buyer’s Guide [2021]

Cover Photo Credit – Dennis van Zuijlekom from Ermelo, The Netherlands / CC BY-SA

As the corny gun joke goes, the flat-earthers’ least favorite weapon is a revolver, but I beg to differ.

Six or eight bullets, plus the Lilliputian caliber, are the things many enthusiasts wish to have in their arsenal. But what is the best .22 revolver? This article hopes to help you find the answer as we dive into the following best options out there.

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About .22 Revolvers

The tiny .22 cartridge came well before the Glock, the AR, or even the iconic 1911.

To this day, people love .22 revolvers for their short-range accuracy and the subtle kick when you squeeze the trigger. These might also be one of the best guns for novices to practice their shooting.

Regardless of your skill level, here are the things to consider when you’re looking to add a .22.

What are the Benefits of the Best .22 Revolver?

To begin, the .22 caliber ammo is inexpensive and readily available. Many enthusiasts would agree that a good .22 revolver is more accurate than a lot of semi-automatic handguns.

In addition, you should be able to shoot more than a few thousand rounds with basic maintenance. And it’s not uncommon for these guns to become a family heirloom.

Some models even allow for straightforward tune-ups such as pull weight adjustments. Changing the grip is a walk in the park, and you could also add a scope without too much hassle. Though the latter might be a bit of an overkill for this caliber.

Finally, there is the price. These revolvers are among the most budget-friendly and you can find a really great deal for just a few hundred dollars.

How Many Shots Should You Get?

Six-shot revolvers are pretty much the standard, but you can easily find a five-shooter or even eight.

In considering the number of shots, you should include the gun’s intended purpose. Contemporary revolvers are engineered to be concealed weapons, which is one of the primary reasons for capping the number of shots.

More bullets in the barrel translate to greater weight and size, which are usually not something people wish for in a revolver. Although, there are cannons like the .450 Marlin and the .454 Casull. But these are in a category of their own and scratch a different itch.

If you like to let off steam at the local range, a five or six-bullet cylinder should be just enough. You may need to reload the gun more often. But, for me at least, there is pleasure in manually loading each chamber and hearing all the clicks.

On the other hand, some enthusiasts may advise to get more shots in your .22 if you’re getting the gun for protection. When push comes to shove, however, your targeting skills and mental stamina will be more important than the number of bullets.

Which Barrel Length Should You Get?

In general, the .22 caliber barrels can be 2” to 5”. And it would be wrong to blindly assume that longer barrels improve the gun’s accuracy. However, you might be able to shoot with greater precision with a longer barrel. This is in part because of the greater sight radius.

The noise levels are pretty much the same no matter the barrel length. You can hardly hear a difference, even though a sound pressure meter might show otherwise.

The situation is similar to the velocity. That said, a 5” barrel is going to be faster than a 2”. But the discrepancy is usually not that significant if you have your eyes set on a good snub-nose revolver.

I’m assuming that you’ll be using commercial .22 ammunition. Should you go for hypervelocity bullets, the speed of the slug will be greater … with a catch.

Hypervelocity rounds might not be as accurate as the standard .22. Anyway, feel free to try them all as long as you can hit with consistency.

With this in mind, some novice shooters are afraid that Viper or Stinger rounds might cause damage. But there’s nothing to worry about. As long as you don’t skimp on the gun and take care of it, a .22 will be just fine.

Double-Action vs. Single-Action Revolvers

Remember the westerns of some forty or fifty years ago? The sheriffs, the desperados, and the gunslingers would have to bang on the hammer with their supporting hand to fire rounds in succession.

These are single-action revolvers. When you pull the trigger, the hammer lands on the cartridge and then you need to cock it manually.

On a side note, it may look really cool on the screen. But it’s a whole other matter when you’re doing it for real.

In contrast, a double-action revolver cocks and frees the hammer in one squeeze of the trigger. And going with one or the other is your call, though it’s safe to say that the double-action is more convenient and faster for most.

Best .22 Revolvers

Ruger LCR

This .22 is the size of a pocket-rocket (almost). The gun features a polymer housing and an aluminum frame and comes in at a weight of 14.9 oz. But then, the 1.87” cylinder can house eight bullets, which should be plenty in anybody’s book.

Ruger LCR 22 Long Rifle 1.87in Matte Black Revolver - 8 Rounds 

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The LCR is a hammerless revolver. This makes it dual-action and somewhat more convenient to use. You do need a full trigger reset to engage the cylinder mechanism at a full cock. That’s true of any dual-action revolver.

What I like the most is the smooth trigger, courtesy of the friction-reducing cam.

Overall, the Ruger is among the best choices for concealed carry. It’s mostly due to the negligible weight and size. Furthermore, the cylinder has deep flutes that shed extra ounces.

Nevertheless, there are some limitations to the LCR’s small form-factor. In general, the small sight is tricky to see, and the contrast paint helps, if not for the fact that it wears off pretty fast. A good way to counter this would be to upgrade the stock sight with a good after-market issue.

Pros

  • Hammerless
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Patented friction-reducing cam
  • Affordable

Cons

  • The sight might be tricky

Smith & Wesson Model 63

The S&W 63 is one of the most versatile guns available, even though it’s a somewhat miniaturized version of the original J-frame. A few features put it in the running for the best .22 revolver.

Smith & Wesson Model 63 22 Long Rifle 3in Stainless Revolver - 8 Rounds

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To begin, the cylinder has an eight-round capacity and the whole thing weighs 15.5 oz. There is some heft to this revolver, and that gives the weapon a nice balance.

I particularly had my eye set on the rear adjustable sight. It works well with the Hi-Viz sight on the front and the two might allow you to hit a coin in mid-air. With enough practice, that is, but regardless, the sights are great on the S&W.

This thing is well-built too as S&W went with a stainless steel barrel, frame, and cylinder. As for the trigger action, it’s light and the cylinder cycles smoothly. The barrel is 3” long, which also adds to the revolver’s balance.

The 63 comes with a synthetic grooved grip for a firm hold regardless of the weather. And it’s easy to take out the grip for a wooden one if that’s what you prefer.

Pros

  • Durable stainless steel
  • Good balance
  • Excellent sights
  • 3” barrel
  • Good grip

Cons

  • Upper price range

Heritage Rough Rider

One look at this revolver and you might recall the iconic Single Action Army gun. In any event, the Rough Rider is a powerful contemporary weapon through and through.

HERITAGE ROUGH RIDER 22LR 6.5” REVOLVER, BLUED

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At 33.4 oz., it’s among the heaviest in its class and the 6.5” barrel doesn’t make it easy to conceal. However, it’s superbly engineered and it’s certified reliable and accurate.

The gun is also precision machined for higher mechanical accuracy, which is going to show at the shooting range. Despite a single-action revolver, it allows you to shoot really tight clusters.

It’s worth noting that the barrel has micro-threads to maximize the performance of your ammo. And the gap between the barrel and the cylinder is just right.

This .22 holds six rounds and features a hammer block for some extra protection. A nice contemporary touch is the red dot that signals the gun is ready to shoot. The grips are of cocobolo wood and you can choose a few different finishes.

Lastly, the Rough Rider is inexpensive and a good deal for the power and durability.

Pros

  • Precision-machined
  • Exotic grip
  • 6.5” barrel
  • Great accuracy

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Single-action

North American Arms 22 Mag Mini Revolver

The .22 Mag Mini is a petite revolver. In total, the gun is 4” long and 2.38” tall, and it has a 1.12” barrel. Of course, it’s also super lightweight at just 4.6 oz.

North American Arms 22 Mag Mini Revolver

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The small form factor is among the best features and it stands out as one of the top concealed carries. The revolver features a stainless steel frame and a five-round cylinder.

The hammer is exposed and protrudes about half an inch. This allows for comfortable cocking, but you might actually feel the hammer if you carry the Mag Mini in your pocket. That’s not to say that this is a deal-breaker.

The trigger is engineered in line with the size of the gun and comes without a guard. The triggering action is really smooth and the Mag Mini performs best with short-range targets.

More importantly, the revolver is consistent and reliable. Not to mention how fun it is to shoot. The rosewood grip is a nice touch and it can also come with a rubber grip.

At its price, it’s among the most affordable revolvers I’ve tested. This piece might also suit some of the female gun owners for the size.

Pros

  • Small and compact
  • 5-round cylinder
  • Rosewood grip

Cons

  • No trigger guard
  • Hammer design

Smith & Wesson Model 617 Revolver

In terms of precision, design, and performance, the 617 delivers in spades. This revolver can come with a 4” or a 6” barrel and both are accurate. You also get a crisp trigger action on this dual-action revolver.

Smith & Wesson Model 617 Revolver

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Needless to say, the 6” barrel is going to give you an extended sight radius. That’s at the cost of size and perhaps a little balance. You can’t go wrong with either, though, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

This is a K-frame revolver and it works with affordable .22 LR ammunition. The cylinder holds ten rounds, which is enough for a variety of purposes.

Some would speculate that the K-frame is a bit of an overkill for the caliber. Nonetheless, it makes the gun sturdier and more reliable.

The grip is of synthetic materials and it’s grooved for a more secure hold. But then, you can easily switch it out for wood for whatever reason.

When all is said and done, the S&W 617 is one of the best in this caliber. However, it comes at a price that befits the build quality. In the end, you’ll be buying a weapon that may last for decades.

Pros

  • 4” or 6” barrel
  • Great accuracy
  • 10-round cylinder
  • K-frame
  • Good sights

Cons

  • Pricy

Conclusion 

Choosing the best .22 revolver can be really tricky. Each model above stands out as a reliable and fun weapon. All told, however, the Ruger LCR is probably the best overall for the money.

It’s hammerless and dual-action, plus you get a ten-round cylinder without too much weight. Thanks to the friction-reducing cam, the shooting is smooth. And the deep flutes make the gun stealthy as a concealed carry.

The gun’s sight could have been better. But given the overall performance, this shouldn’t be a major issue for most.

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