After testing more new models, we’ve updated our top recommendation to the Glock G44 .22 LR Pistol. We’re keeping the other recommendations on our list, but now recommend them as runners-up or budget options.
Handguns chambered for .22 LR rounds are some of the most popular in the world. That’s largely because of their extreme versatility – manufacturers have been able to create rimfire pistols for a wide variety of needs and experience levels.
Today we live in what will certainly be looked upon in the future as a Renaissance period of dependable and feature-rich .22LR rimfire semi-automatic pistols.
Once just a specialist category of firearms relegated primarily to smallbore Bullseye-style competition shooting and military handgun marksmanship training, the current batch of .22LR autoloaders has gone far beyond that, offering standard features and capabilities that were unheard of in generations past, and at an affordable entry point.
Further, they stand ready to clock in for today’s modern user, who has more practical shooting needs.
Quick List: The Top .22 LR Pistols
|Best Overall: Glock G44 .22 LR Pistol|
|Best AR Pistol: POF-USA Rebel 22|
|Best Budget: Heritage Rough Rider|
|Best for Concealed Carry: Walther P22|
|Best for Plinking: Ruger SR22 Rimfire|
|Beginner Pistol: Browning Buck Mark|
|Ruger Mark IV|
|S&W SW22 Victory|
|Taurus TX 22|
What to look for in a Quality .22 LR Pistol
No two .22 caliber pistol are alike, and you’ll have the option of both pistols and revolvers. So be mindful of the following features as you research and you’ll be more likely to grab a great gun that you’ll enjoy for a long time to come.
1. Barrel Length
Ever since the pocket-sized Mossberg Brownie of the Prohibition-era and then later the Beretta Minx hit the scenes in the 1950s, offering a downright lilliputian rimfire handgun with a barrel in the 2-inch range, there has been a steady effort to make ultra-concealable .22 semi-autos.
Today, Beretta still makes a modern version of the Minx, the Model 21 series, and both Ruger (LCP 22) and Taurus (PT22) market similarly shrunken pistols, pitched to the concealed carry market. However, these guns all suffer from increased malfunctions for a variety of reasons as well as rapidly declining accuracy at distance, due largely to the abbreviated sight radius and poorly designed sights.
Likewise, competition-length barrels, like the 6-inch bull seen on the Volquartsen Black Mamba LLV, are taking it a little far for average use. With that in mind, pistols with barrels falling in the 4-inch range split the difference, providing a platform for decent adjustable sights (and optics cuts) while offering a nice sight radius at the same time.
In the semi-auto .22LR pistol game, the common denominator tends to be a minimum of a 10-shot magazine capacity. This is what is seen on Ruger’s MK IV, the Glock G44, the S&W SW22, Walther P22, and so forth. This keeps them easily available in states where magazine restrictions artificially inhibit what is in the gun case at your local dealer.
A few manufacturers offer a bit larger mag that still fits flush in the grip frame, notably KelTec– with their P17 and CP33 models– and Taurus with their new and very popular TX22. Anything less than 10 shots and you should consider a revolver.
Again, there’s no right or wrong answer. But more rounds are usually better for backyard plinking and can make these guns more fun to shoot. Self-defense or concealed carry pistols (being smaller on average) can do their job just fine with fewer rounds (5-6 rounds can be all you need) – which helps to reduce the size of the firearm and improve conceal.
As the pressures involved in rimfire pistols are slight when compared to firearms meant for full-power centerfire defensive rounds, over the years there have been a variety of bargain-basement .22 handguns hit the market.
Inexpensive 22-caliber pistols and revolvers, often with zinc alloy frames and thin plastic grips, from obscure firms in Germany, Italy, and Spain who ordinarily made blank-firing starter pistols, flooded the market after World War II and they could often be had for about $12 in the 1960s.
The thing is, you got what you paid for as the guns were typically junk. Federal legislation dropped the ban hammer on a lot of these cap guns in 1968 but today there are still a few companies– hailing from much the same places as before– that make low-quality jam-a-matics, only this time they are large enough to meet the “sporting purposes” test imposed by the ATF on imports.
When it comes to selecting a decent .22LR semi-auto pistol, try to stick with recognizable household names.
The biggest stumbling block on a .22 semi-auto pistol is their diet– the rimmed .22LR cartridge itself. Designed originally for revolvers, where a rim must exist for the case to seat properly in the cylinder and then later be self-extracted, that same rim makes feeding in a vertical-stacked magazine problematic.
Couple this with the fact that rimfire ammunition suffers a higher failure rate per round than centerfire ammo due to the nature of both its design and production– which favors an economy of scale to fill bulk-pack boxes and tubs by weight to make the rounds as inexpensive as possible– and you are bound to have jams, light strikes, and other malfunctions when shooting .22s.
Going past that, unjacketed lead bullets, the most common load, cause extensive fouling of barrel rifling and actions. All of this adds up to the fact that .22LR semi-autos are almost doomed to fail and that they only succeed due to superb designs.
Keep in mind that the successful .22 pistol makers come from a background of having rugged and reliable firearms, to begin with. That is why you see companies like Browning, Smith & Wesson, and Glock on our list. They have perfected low recoil functionality and overcome problems such as properly stacking those pesky rimmed .22LRs in a magazine so that they feed correctly.
While the .22s handguns of old were extraordinarily basic, the better ones on the market today include features formerly only seen on combat pistols if at all. To better adapt to a wide range of users, several of the better pistols are supplied with different backstraps to increase the modularity of the gun.
To accommodate muzzle devices and suppressors– which are legal for consumer ownership in 42 states — direct threaded barrels are increasingly common on production guns. Adjustable rear sights are also the standard rather than the rare exception, as are sights that are dovetailed to the top of the frame and thus readily upgradable.
Accessory rails, which allow the mounting of lights and lasers on the dustcover of the frame forward of the trigger guard, are also a great feature to look for as they add versatility.
The Best .22 LR Pistols Reviewed
1. Best Overall: Glock G44 .22 Pistol
What we liked:
- Reliable Glock technology
- Full-sized firearm (same as the G19)
- Internal components are steel
- Same Glock trigger feel
What we didn't:
- Smaller rounds will require longer break-in period
- Expensive relative to other options
- No threaded barrel option
Somehow, Glock made it 35 years without making a .22LR pistol.
A knockout for Glock’s first .22 LR pistol
Secure in the knowledge that their G19 9mm compact is among the best-selling defensive handguns in the world, the Glock Model 44 is identical in size and layout to the G19, while running a pound lighter due to its hybrid polymer/steel slide.
This allows G19 owners to have the side benefit of picking up a G44 for inexpensive training to help keep their skills sharp. About the worst detractor on these guns is that they do not come suppressor-ready and quality aftermarket threaded barrels are sometimes hard to find.
One of the few striker-fired rimfire pistols
It’s surprisingly difficult to make a reliable .22 LR pistol due to the balance required to ensure the recoil spring on a semi-auto can completely pull the slide forward to feed the next round from the magazine – a feat the diminutive .22 LR round struggles to pull off consistently due to the lip on the round.
This is also why the below Smith and Wesson M&P .22 LR pistol looks exactly like the 9mm version, except it’s actually hammer-fired.
Just Like the G19 but in .22 LR
Glock pulled off a near-perfect clone of their incredibly versatile Glock 19 in terms of dimensions, appearance, and layout, surface controls, & feel — hell, it even fits in the same holsters and accessories.
They also used their polymer/steel hybrid slide to on the G44 to ensure that balance required for maximum reliability was achieved without needing to engineer a new solution just for this little semi-auto popper.
The G44 gives the G19 owner a training pistol that offers enough ammo savings to pay for itself while also giving the next generations of shooters an introduction to the same tried and true Glock platform.
Of course, without the muzzle blast and recoil of full-powered 9mm rounds.
2. Best .22 LR AR Pistol
What we liked:
- Very versatile
- Perfect for training
- Very similar to all other AR platforms
- Inexpensive ammo
- Threaded barrel is suppressor-ready
- Dripping in M-Lok slots
What we didn't:
- Trigger compatibility with aftermarket options limited
- Proprietary bolt and charging handle
- Non-ambi controls
- Polymer receiver
Lots of fun in a small package
While a little selective about ammo quality, after a 500 round break-in the POF Rebel can be a great .22 LR pistol — ideal for introducing new shooters or for folks who want to train but reduce the cost of doing so, given the relative price of the little .22 LR poppers.
One interesting note is while the Rebel comes with a10-round mag by default the break-in period can be shortned considerable with the use of Ruger BX-22 25-round magazines.
Clearing the inevitable jam is quick and easy
Quality finish and grip ergonomics
The POF Rebel has a largely polymer lower, and an ergonomic grip that is swappable with any AR-compatible grips. It’s not going to offer the same durability as a true black rifle, but the .22 LR doesn’t require it.
The receiver accepts AR-15-compatible stocks and braces, as well as AR trigger and selectors, so you’ll have loads of customization options.
That said, .22 LR magazines are known to be pretty unreliable, but luckily the Rebel is compatible with Ruger BX-22 mags, which are some of the best of the bunch — they shoot & feed consistently, which a real challenge with the lip on the .22 LR’s casing creating an uneven stack.
Overall, it’s everything you could want from a reliable .22 LR pistol — with the possible exception of ambi controls. It’s a unique little pistol that does exactly what a .22 LR pistol should: be consistent, easy to shoot, and versatile for self-defense or general shooting needs.
3. Best Budget .22 LR pistol
What we liked:
- Very cool aesthetic
- Smooth and stable trigger pull
- Classic safety mechanism
- One of the most affordable pistols around
- Super reliable
What we didn't:
- Reloading is never very quick
- Few accessory options
Want to feel like an Old West cowboy? The Heritage Rough Rider is the perfect choice for you. Just take a look at the aesthetic and you’ll see that it’s designed after the old-fashioned revolvers of bygone decades.
Super reliable, classic design
Furthermore, the Rough Rider a great choice if you want a reliable .22 LR pistol but don’t want to break the bank, as these generally run just a little over $100.
It’s a single-action pistol that only needs 6 pounds on the trigger, resulting in a smooth pull and a great feeling with every shot you squeeze off.
Slower to reload
Furthermore, the cylinder for the revolver doesn’t extend from the receiver; instead, you load rounds into the fixed cylinder for added stability and use an ejector rod to remove the spent rounds.
While this does make it a little slow to reload compared to other revolvers on the market, it’s a minor downside and adds to the nostalgic feel of the Rough Rider.
Designed with safety in mind
Single action revolvers are also incredibly safe due to the need to cock the hammer manually, which is another great reason to consider a revolver.
All told, it’s a great .22 LR pistol for backyard plinking or even for handling small pests like raccoons or squirrels if they’re invading your property.
4. Best .22 Handgun for CCW
What we liked:
- Double or single-action trigger
- Very lightweight and small size
- Easy to hold thanks to the textured grip
- Good magazine capacity
- Excellent sights
What we didn't:
- Slide button is a bit small
Anyone looking for the quintessential concealed carry .22 LR handgun will want to check out the Walther P22. It’s one of the best .22 pistols for self defense and concealed carry.
It is easy to argue that the Walther P22 kickstarted the modern rimfire semi-auto pistol market when it debuted 20 years ago. Essentially a scaled-down P99 of James Bond fame, the P22 was polymer-framed with an accessory rail and included adjustable combat-style sights and aggressive texturing on the grip frame and slide.
Further, whereas guns like the Ruger Standard had to visit a gunsmith to accept a suppressor, the P22 could be quickly made suppressor ready. On the downside, they are notoriously finicky when it comes to ammo, preferring hotter loads like CCI Mini Mags to cycle properly.
A real contender for our top choice
This semi-auto firearm features an extremely soft recoil, making it easy to handle no matter your personal experience level or sensitivity.
Furthermore, the barrel threaded and a mere 3.42 inches in total length. When paired with interchangeable backstraps and the smooth tactical styling, the Walther P22 is a real contender for our top choice.
Fast target acquisition
It features a three-dot combat sight for quick target acquisition and, even better, can be used with either a single or double action trigger depending on your preference.
It’s also the perfect size for most concealed carry holsters. These kinds of options are great if you’re concerned about ensuring you can use your self-defense sidearm for multiple uses.
The semi-auto weapon can fire 10 shots in a single magazine, so it’s great for extended self-defense or split-second retaliatory fire. Add to that an overall low weight of only 17 ounces and you’ve got a quality pistol through and through.
5. Best for Plinking
What we liked:
- Very comfortable use
- Good size and weight for most folks
- Grip can be removed for smaller hands
- Sights are adjustable
- Easy, single-action trigger
What we didn't:
- Has a magazine disconnect – can’t fire at all without a magazine
- A bit pricey just for fun
The Ruger SR22 is another quality .22 caliber pistol, but it’s especially good if you want to have a great time at a target shooting competition or for regular backyard plinking.
Coupled with the fact that it has most of the advanced features you look for in these guns– accessory rail, adjustable iron sights, modern texturing, and ergonomics– along with a DA/SA trigger and ambidextrous surface controls, and the SR22 is a solid win.
Eats any ammo
Addressing the success of the Walther P22, Ruger introduced their own very similar pistol a decade later. Unlike the Walther, the Ruger SR22 proved to be less ammo sensitive, so it will chew through any kind of boxed ammunition – giving you consistent performance even if you don’t pick up premium or pricey stuff.
Incredibly comfortable & customizable
Furthermore, this pistol features an ergonomic grip that’s super comfortable to carry thanks to the rubberized finish.
Even better, the grips are interchangeable – so you can customize the shape of the grip to fit smaller (or larger) hands, improving hand fit, comfort, and control.
Useful safety features
It’s fired with a single action trigger and comes with an ambidextrous thumb safety that doubles as a decocking lever, giving the user many options to control the firearm.
It also features a magazine disconnect safety, which prevents the gun from being fired without the magazine fully inserted.
These kinds of safeties were designed to prevent accidents stemming from the common misconception that a pistol is empty when the magazine is withdrawn from the firearm. This is of course not the case if there’s still a round in the chamber.
Again, it’s a great fit for general shooting or having a ball at the range with shooting buddies, because you know they’re going to want to shoot it!
Flaws worth noting
The only potential downside is that – thanks to the magazine disconnect feature – you can’t fire the weapon without a magazine fully inserted.
This means it might not be a great self-defense weapon if you forget your magazine (or it somehow becomes dislodged) or are used to carrying with a single round chambered as a deterrent against an attacker.
But ultimately, it’s a quality pistol made with great materials and designed for ease-of-use overall.
6. Best .22 LR Pistol for Beginners
What we liked:
- Comfortable grip
- Trigger pull is very smooth and crisp
- Excellent adjustable sights
- Made with lightweight/durable aluminum alloy
- Matte black finish looks good and resists rust
- Swapping out parts is tricky without a workbench
- Heavier than other options
Introduced in 1985, the Browning Buck Mark replaced the company’s long-running and popular Challenger series pistols, which used a tapered barrel, with a model that incorporated a lightweight allow frame, slab-sided barrel, and Pro-Target adjustable grips.
First debuted with a 5.5-inch barrel and wood grips, a better fit these days is the more standard 4-inch model with ambidextrous URX grips. It is tough to go wrong with this accurate blowback.
Perfect for learning how to shoot
The gun is a perfect choice if you want to teach someone how to use a pistol but they don’t have much experience with firearms in general.
Looks great & a lot of fun to use
While not a functional note – the weapon certainly looks great. The grip is comfortable, ergonomic, and balanced to help maximize target acquisition and accuracy at a distance.
The single-action trigger pull is particularly crisp and resets easily, allowing you to fire multiple follow-on shots quickly and stay on target.
We also really like the front and rear targeting sights, which when paired with the balanced grip make learning how to use a pistol a bit easier and a lot of fun.
In the end, it’s affordable and easy to use, making it a great starter pistol or just a reliable backup sidearm if your larger caliber pistol is out of commission.
7. 1911 Option
What we liked:
- Light at under 1 pound
- 5.4 sight radius
- Made with lightweight composites
- More expensive than other .22 LR pistols
While the Colt Ace hasn’t been in production in generations, the Browning 1911-22 is the next best thing.
In fact, it is better in a few ways.
A rimfire doppelganger of the M1911 on an 85-percent scale, the American-made Browning is lightweight (under a pound) through the use of composite materials, but still brings a long 5.4-inch sight radius and traditional 1911-features like a commander-style hammer and beavertail grip safety to the party.
Black Label models are semi-customized with a skeletonized single-action trigger, fiber optic sights, and extended/enhanced surface controls.
8. Ruger Mark IV
What we liked:
- Proven platform
- Extraordinary accuracy
- Single-button takedown
- Easy to clean
What we didn't:
- Dated style
- Sights can be finicky
Ruger entered the firearms market with a .22LR semi-auto pistol– Bill Ruger’s Standard– in 1949 and continued to make successive versions of the gun ever since.
Today’s incarnation, the Mark IV, has the same familiar layout as the popular plinker but has been redesigned for a simple one-button takedown to aid with cleaning, a must when using notoriously dirty rimfire ammo.
Using cold-hammer-forged barrels with ultra-precise rifling that yields exceptional accuracy, Ruger makes no less than nine versions of the Mark IV catering to everything from tactical use to small game hunting and competition.
9. S&W SW22 Victory
Taking a cue from the Browning Buck Mark and Ruger Mark IV, Smith & Wesson debuted their most current .22LR semi-auto pistol in 2016 when the SW22 Victory hit their catalog.
Shipped standard with a top Picatinny rail for the easy addition of optics or large format sights, the SW22 is also available in more premium Performance Center models that include Tandemkross hiveGrips, flat-faced triggers, and carbon fiber barrels. Now that’s nice.
10. Taurus TX 22
For decades, Taurus made a series of .22LR revolvers that were well received. Following up with the PT22, a compact semi-auto mouse gun, the Brazilian company moved to introduce a full-sized TX22 autoloader in 2019.
With intuitive ergonomics that include memory pads and a high-cut grip, the Taurus also brings adjustable sights an accessory rail, and a threaded barrel along for the ride.
Best of all, it has a 16+1 magazine capacity and has received almost universally positive reviews since its debut.
Plus it is easy on the wallet, coming in less than many other options. For an optics-ready version, check out the new TX22 Competition.
History of .22 LR Pistols
While the .22LR rimfire cartridge dates to the 1880s– and its parent .22 Long and .22 Short even further back– the first semi-auto pistol chambered for the humble little round to hit the commercial market was the Colt Woodsman in 1915. Designed by the famed John Moses Browning to be a target pistol from the outset, the base model ran a fixed 6-inch barrel and had a very sharp grip angle, akin to the Luger, to aid in natural point ability.
Popular, the Woodsman remained in production for over 50 years and saw such competitors as the Walther Olympia/Sportpistole, High Standard Supermatic, and HD series, with some models running counterweighted barrels up to 10-inches in length. Full-on Olympic-level pistols by the likes of Anschutz and Volquartsen carry on this story today.
Besides target pistols, by the 1930s the notion of using otherwise full-sized combat guns chambered in the “sub-caliber” .22LR took hold. Such a concept allowed for student marksmen to learn proper weapon manipulation and nomenclature while practicing their fundamentals such as grip, sight alignment, and trigger squeeze– all while using cheaper ammo that came without the sometimes discouraging recoil of full-house centerfire loads.
This concept saw the birth of models as the extremely well-made Colt Ace, which looked and felt like Colt’s M1911 but swapped out .45ACP for .22LR. Copying the standard 105-degree grip angle of martial pistols like the M1911, Smith & Wesson soon introduced the Model 41 with much the same theory of use in mind.
By the 1960s, rimfire pistols that were still plenty accurate but more affordable, such as the Ruger Standard and Browning Nomad/Challenger, began to arrive on the market.
With generally shorter and thinner barrels than competition guns and without the layout of military trainers, these inexpensive blowback .22s gave rise to the more informal practices of “plinking” style shooting, in which users didn’t have to be a member of the Bullseye club to knock down some tin cans and have some fun with a few bucks worth of ammo.
Today, the current .22LR semi-auto pistol market has continued that evolution, growing from simple plinkers into handguns with full feature sets and multi-purpose nature.
There has probably never been a better selection of rugged and dependable semi-auto .22LR pistols available to the consumer than there is today.
An almost timeless concept as the type has been around for over a century, the autoloading rimfire handgun is fully mature and ready to clock in to perform roles ranging from pest control and target practice– much like older models– to training for tactical/practical use with the aid of optics and suppressors if desired. Welcome to the 21st Century.
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