After testing more new models, we’ve updated our top recommendation to the Glock G44 .22LR Pistol. We’re keeping the other recommendations on our list, but now recommend them as runners-up or budget options.
What are the best .22 pistols available?
Handguns that are 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. No matter what you need a handgun for, chances are you can find a great model chambered for .22 LR, and they generally cost 25-50% less than larger caliber handguns – so you get more bang for your buck!
In addition to their versatility, .22 caliber handguns are typically quite reliable thanks to their use of rimfire cartridges, which have been around since 1884 and are decidedly proven little poppers. Plus these little pistols are incredibly easy to learn with.
While there’s a .22 LR pistol for just about everyone, finding that ideal pistol can be tricky, so let’s dive into all that .22 LR pistols have to offer and how to select the right one for you.
This is our favorite .22 LR pistol for lots of reasons.
A knockout for Glock’s first 22LR pistol
We all know that 22’s pistols are loads of fun to shoot – and you can’t beat the price per round. These are the easiest handguns for new shooters to learn on, and the full-sized frame makes practice more productive and learnings more applicable to other caliber pistols.
One of the few striker-fired rimfire pistols
It’s surprisingly difficult to make a reliable .22LR pistol due to the balance required to ensure the recoil spring can completely pull the slide forward to feed the next round from the magazine – a feat the diminutive .22 LR round struggle with.
This is also why the below Smith and Wesson M&P .22 pistol below looks exactly like the 9mm version but it’s actually hammer-fired. Glock 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 popper.
- Reliable Glock technology
- Full-sized firearm (same as the G19)
- Internal components are steel
- Same Glock trigger feel
- Smaller rounds will require longer break-in period
- Expensive relative to other options
- No threaded barrel option
Based on the full-size MP platform
For starters, it’s a scaled-down version of the full-size M&P pistol (one of our top handguns for beginners) and features a fixed front and adjustable rear sight with white dots, making lining up your shots easy, quick, and more consistent.
The single-action trigger facilitates smooth pulls every time.
Furthermore, the weapon weighs less than a pound (15.3 ounces) – making it one of the lightest .22 LR pistols you’ll find.
Quality finish and grip ergonomics
The M&P .22 has a polymer, ergonomic grip with a fixed back strap.
Meanwhile, the rest of the weapon is made with carbon steel and aluminum alloys that keep the overall weight low while assuring long-term durability.
There’s even an excellent “Armonite” finish on the slide to improve rust resistance and give the weapon a modern, matte look.
Overall, it’s everything you could want from a reliable .22 LR pistol from one of the best manufacturers in the business. It’s not fancy and it’s not all that unique, but it does exactly what a .22 LR sidearm should: be consistent, easy to shoot, and versatile for self-defense or general shooting needs.
- Very versatile overall
- Comes with a comfortable grip
- Crisp, single-action trigger
- Made with excellent materials
- Front sight can’t be adjusted
- Non-adjustable grips
Best Budget .22LR pistol:
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.
- Very cool aesthetic
- Smooth and stable trigger pull
- Comes with a great safety mechanism
- Very affordable for most
- Super reliable
- Reloading is never very quick
- Few accessory options
Best for Concealed Carry:
Anyone looking for the quintessential concealed carry .22 LR handgun will want to check out the Walther P22.
A real contender for our top choice
This 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 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.
- Double or single-action trigger
- Very lightweight and small size
- Easy to hold thanks to the textured grip
- Good magazine capacity
- Excellent sights
- Slide button is a bit small
Best for Plinking:
The Ruger SR22 is another quality handgun, but it’s especially good if you want to have a great time at a target shooting competition or for regular backyard plinking.
Eats any ammo
For starters, 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.
- Very comfortable use
- Good size and weight for most folks
- Grip can be removed for smaller hands
- Sights are adjustable
- Easy, single-action trigger
- Has a magazine disconnect – can’t fire at all without a magazine
- A bit pricey just for fun
Best .22LR Pistol for Beginners:
Browning Buck Marks are high-quality pistols and are very well constructed, featuring aluminum alloy materials that ensure durability while keeping the overall weight of the weapon at a reasonable 34 ounces.
Perfect for learning how to shoot
This 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.
- 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
What makes for the best .22 pistol?
No two .22 LR pistols 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.
First, consider the handgun type. Pistols can come in a wide variety of formats and styles. Semi-automatic pistols are well-regarded for their consistency and their ease of use, which can make them useful for learning or backyard plinking purposes. Generally a .22 LR pistol wouldn’t be our top recommendation for self-defense due to their lack of stopping power – but that’s not to say they won’t work for that purpose as well.
Revolvers are even more reliable than standard semi-automatic handguns because of their simpler design – there are no slides, springs, or magazines to worry about. But they’re generally not as accurate at long ranges, can produce more felt recoil due to the lack of any recoil compensation, are slower to reload, and they don’t work very well as a hunting sidearm. Plus revolvers have decidedly limited options when it comes to accessories.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to pistol type; just think about what you want before you “pull the trigger” and you’ll increase your chances of landing a bullseye.
Size and Weight
Next, think about the overall size and weight of a handgun before you buy it. Smaller weapons are much better for concealed carry purposes or for self-defense. Meanwhile, larger or full size handguns may have longer or threaded barrels – this translates to better accuracy at a distance, so they’re better for target practice competitions or hunting. They also offer rails and mounts that enable a user to add accessories and enhance the utility of the pistol.
Conversely, larger handguns tend to weigh more than their smaller counterparts and can be a little harder to wield – although that additional bulk can lessen felt recoil. Smaller pistols offer the user smaller grips and less overall bulk which can make them easier to carry and use – especially for youth or women.
Single or Double Action?
Pistols come in both single and double-action varieties. The “action” refers to how many actions a trigger pull produces. Single action triggers only let the hammer go, so they don’t require as much force from your finger. But they may require you to pull the hammer back in between each shot.
Double-action triggers both pull the hammer back and release it, so you can fire multiple shots in rapid succession without using your thumb to pull the hammer back manually. But they require more finger pressure to do the job.
Most .22 LR handguns have capacities between five rounds and ten rounds, with most non-revolver pistols hovering around 10 rounds on average. 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.
Ultimately, the Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact is a perfect pick if you’re in the market for a .22 LR pistol that does a lot of things right. It features a comfortable grip, an easy trigger pull, and a pair of solid sights to help get shots on target at a variety of distances. Even better, it’s easy to use and will help make anyone more proficient with a pistol.
More on handguns:
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After testing more new models, we’ve updated our top recommendation to the Glock G44 .22LR Pistol. We’re keeping the other recommendations on our list, but
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