Our .22LR Pistol Picks: 10 Rimfire Beasts For Unbeatable Range Fun

Kenzie Fitzpatrick

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Disclosure: Products are selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases from a link. How we select gear.

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.

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. 

In this Article:

.22LR Pistol Comparison

Below is my list of the best .22 LR pistols for 2022. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, reliability, and cost.

Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of .22 LR pistols.

ImageNameWeightAction
Best Overall: Glock G44 .22 LR Pistol14.64 ozStriker Fired
Best AR Pistol: POF-USA Rebel 223.25lbHammer-fired, Direct Blowback
Best Budget: Heritage Rough Rider 33.4 ozDouble-Action, Single-Action Revolver
Best for Concealed Carry: Walther P22 17 ozDouble-Action, Single-Action Hammer Fired
Best for Plinking: Ruger SR22 Rimfire17.5 ozDouble-Action, Single-Action Hammer Fired
Beginner Pistol: Browning Buck Mark34 ozBlowback Action, Single-Action Trigger
Browning 1911-22 15 ozSingle Action, Hammer-Fired
Ruger Mark IV34.4 ozStriker-Fired, Single-Action
S&W SW22 Victory36 ozBlowback design, Single-Action
Taurus TX 2217.3 ozStriker Fired

.22LR Pistol Reviews

1. Best Overall: Glock G44 .22 Pistol

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.5/5
Quality:
4.5/5
Value:
4.5/5
Overall:
4.5/5

Specifications:

  • Weight:  14.64 oz
  • Capacity: 10
  • Length: 7.28”
  • Barrel Length: 4.02”
  • Height: 5.04”
  • Action: Striker Fired

Pros

  • Reliable Glock technology
  • Full-sized firearm (same as the G19)
  • Internal components are steel
  • Great trainer gun
  • Same controls as other Glocks

Cons

  • Smaller rounds will require longer break-in period
  • Expensive relative to other options
  • No threaded barrel option
  • .22LR does not always feed well out of the included magazines
Glock 44 22LR Gen 5 - Left Profile White
Just like a G19, but rimfire ready.

Somehow, Glock made it 35 years without making a .22LR pistol. 

A knockout for Glock’s first .22 pistol

Secure in the knowledge that their G19 9mm compact is among the best-selling modern pistols 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. 

Best 22 LR Pistols_Glock G44 .22 Pistol-4
Amazingly the G44 is the same size as 9mm Glocks, meaning it'll work in holsters and range practice won't feel like you're handling a kids gun.

One of the few striker-fired rimfire pistols

It’s surprisingly difficult to make a reliable rimfire 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 round struggles to pull off consistently due to the lip on the round.

Best 22 LR Pistols_Glock G44 .22 Pistol-5
Adjustable rear sights? Check.

This is also why the below Smith and Wesson M&P .22LR pistol looks exactly like the 9mm version, except it’s actually hammer-fired. 

Glock 44 22LR Gen5 - Right Profile Alt
A tried and true rimfire Glock.

Just Like the G19 but in .22LR

Glock pulled off a near-perfect clone of their incredibly versatile Glock 19 in terms of dimensions, appearance, and layout, surface controls, & feel —  hell, the lightweight pistol fits in the same holsters and accessories. 

They also used their polymer/steel hybrid slide on the G44 to ensure the balance required for maximum reliability was achieved without needing to engineer a new solution just for this little .22 LR semi-auto popper. 

Best 22 LR Pistols_Glock G44 .22 Pistol-7
It certainly looks the part -- just with less muzzle blast.

The G44 is an incredibly fun gun that 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 — polymer frame, ambidextrous slide stop, and crisp trigger included.

Of course, without the muzzle blast and recoil of full-powered 9mm rounds.

2. Best Rimfire AR Pistol

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.7/5
Quality:
4.3/5
Value:
4.5/5
Overall:
4.5/5

Specifications:

  • Weight: 3.25 lb
  • Capacity: 25
  • Length: 21.25”
  • Barrel Length: 8″
  • Height: 7.5”
  • Action: Hammer-fired, Direct Blowback

Pros

  • Very versatile
  • Very similar to all other AR platforms
  • Lightweight
  • Threaded barrel is suppressor-ready
  • Dripping in M-Lok slots

Cons

  • Limited aftermarket trigger options
  • Proprietary bolt and charging handle 
  • Non-ambi controls
  • Polymer receiver
The lines and build on the POF Rebel are really impressive.

Loads 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 large-format rimfire 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 .22LR 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 .22LR doesn’t require it.

Best 22 LR Pistols_POF Rebel 22-1
Picatinny up top & M-Lok on the sides ensures you can get an optic & light up front without compromising either.

The receiver accepts AR-15-compatible stocks and braces, as well as AR trigger and selectors, so you’ll have loads of customization options for your next range session or varmint hunt.

Best 22 LR Pistols_POF Rebel 22-2
Ambi controls would have been nice...

That said, rimfire 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 is a real challenge with the lip on the rimfire casing creating an uneven stack.  

Best 22 LR Pistols_POF Rebel 22-4
The side-charging action is a fun spin on a tactical .22LR pistol.

Overall, it’s everything you could want from a reliable .22LR pistol — with the possible exception of and ambidextrous safety and controls.  It’s a unique little pistol that does exactly what a rimfire pistol should: be consistent, easy to shoot, and versatile for self-defense or general shooting needs. 

Best 22 LR Pistols_POF Rebel 22-5
Controls are on the left-hand side, which isn't exceptional, but the flared mag well gives the Rebel a tactical vibe and helps speed reloads.

3. Best Rimfire Revolver

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4/5
Quality:
4/5
Value:
4.5/5
Overall:
4/5

Specifications:

  • Weight:  33.4 oz
  • Capacity: 6
  • Length: 11.79”
  • Barrel Length: 6.5”
  • Action: Double-Action, Single-Action Revolver

Pros

  • Very cool aesthetic
  • Smooth and stable trigger pull
  • Classic safety mechanism
  • One of the most affordable pistols around
  • Super reliable

Cons

  • Reloading is never very quick
  • Few accessory options
  • 6 round capacity
  • Period-correct sights
Best 22 LR Pistols_Heritage Rough Rider-2
Yup, RTFM kids.

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.

Best 22 LR Pistols_Heritage Rough Rider
The Rough Rider's cylinder looks as classic as the rest of it.

Super reliable, classic design

Furthermore, the Heritage Rough Rider is a great choice if you want a reliable .22 long rifle single action revolver 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.

Best 22 LR Pistols_Heritage Rough Rider-5
There's really very little to the Rough Rider, which works in it's favor. You get the reliability of a revolver with the shootability of a .22LR.

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. The Heritage Rough Rider does harken to a different time in the world of firearms. It’s not packed with stainless steel, and there’s no red dot in its future. 

While this does make it a little slow to reload compared to other revolvers on the market — let’s be honest, this is not a high round count plinker — 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 .22LR pistol for backyard plinking or even for handling small pests like raccoons or squirrels if they’re invading your property.

Best 22 LR Pistols_Heritage Rough Rider-1
The only safety you'll ever need.

4. Best .22 LR Handgun for Self-Defense

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.7/5
Quality:
4.2/5
Value:
4.2/5
Overall:
4.1/5

Specifications:

  • Weight:  17 oz
  • Capacity: 10
  • Length: 6.3”
  • Barrel Length: 3.42”
  • Height: 4.5″
  • Action: Action: Double-Action, Single-Action Hammer Fired

Pros

  • Double or single-action trigger
  • Very lightweight and small size
  • Easy to hold thanks to the textured grip
  • Fixed barrel for reduced vibration
  • Excellent sights

Cons

  • Slide button is a bit small
  • German mag release presents a learning curve
  • Heavy trigger
Best 22 LR Pistols_Walther P22-3
The Walther and its stick.

A .22LR concealed carry & self-defense powerhouse

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 concealed carry, if you’re comfortable carrying a rimfire pistol.

It is easy to argue that the Walther P22 kickstarted the modern rimfire 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, borrowing many features of the Walther PPQ pistols, but in the .22 caliber.

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 regarding ammo, preferring hotter loads like CCI Mini Mags to cycle properly. 

Best 22 LR Pistols_Walther P22-2
The pistol doesn't look like a rimfire gun.

A real contender for our top choice

This rimfire firearm features an extremely soft recoil, making it easy to handle no matter your personal experience level or sensitivity, which makes it easy to shoot for those who carry concealed.

Best 22 LR Pistols_Walther P22-4
Worth noting - the German-style trigger-guard-mounted magazine release lever is confusing to some and presents a learning curve. 

Furthermore, the barrel threaded and a mere 3.42 inches in total length, again within striking distance of the Walther PPQ. When paired with interchangeable backstraps and smooth tactical styling, the Walther P22 is a real contender for our top choice.

Fast target acquisition

The P22 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.

Best 22 LR Pistols_Walther P22-6
Decocking the Walther.

The P22 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 Plinking Pistol

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.5/5
Quality:
4/5
Value:
4.2/5
Overall:
4.1/5

Specifications:

  • Weight:  17.5 oz
  • Capacity: 10
  • Length: 6.4”
  • Barrel Length: 3.5”
  • Height: 4.9″
  • Action: Double-Action, Single-Action Hammer Fired

Pros

  • Very comfortable use
  • Good size and weight for most folks
  • Grip can be removed for smaller hands
  • Sights are adjustable
  • Easy, single-action trigger

Cons

  • Has a magazine disconnect – can’t fire at all without a magazine 
  • A bit pricey just for fun
  • Grip is a little slick
  • Sights might snag if you plan on concealed carrying
Best 22 LR Pistols_Ruger SR22
The SR22 feels great in hand.

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. 

Best 22 LR Pistols_Ruger SR22-1
Adjustable iron sights straight out of the box

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.

Best 22 LR Pistols_Ruger SR22-3
A DA/SA trigger and ambidextrous surface controls give the SR22 a lot of features not found on other .22 LR pistols

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!

Best 22 LR Pistols_Ruger SR22-5
The grip could use more stippling, but the .22 LR doesn't throw of much of a kick.

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.

A classic sight picture.

6. Best Rimfire Pistol for Beginners

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.7/5
Quality:
4.5/5
Value:
4.7/5
Overall:
4.6/5

Specifications:

  • Weight:  34 oz
  • Capacity: 10
  • Length: 9.5”
  • Barrel Length: 5.5”
  • Action: Blowback Action, Single-Action Trigger

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Swapping out parts is tricky without a workbench
  • Heavier than other options
Best 22 LR Pistols_Browning Buck Mark Camper UFX

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. 

Best 22 LR Pistols_Browning Buck Mark Camper UFX-1

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.

Best 22 LR Pistols_Browning Buck Mark Camper UFX-3

Looks great & easy 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.

Best 22 LR Pistols_Browning Buck Mark Camper UFX-4

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

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.5/5
Quality:
4.3/5
Value:
4.3/5
Overall:
4.4/5

Specifications:

  • Weight: 15 oz
  • Capacity: 10
  • Length: 7.75”
  • Barrel Length: 4.25
  • Height: 5.5″
  • Action:  Single Action, Hammer-Fired

Pros

  • Light at under 1 pound
  • 5.4 sight radius
  • Made with lightweight composites

Cons

  • More expensive than other rimfire pistols
  • Has the same, not very useful, sights as the m1911A1
  • Beavertail safety makes this gun a little more difficult for new shooters to learn

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. Most Reliable .22 Pistol

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.5/5
Quality:
4.5/5
Value:
4.3/5
Overall:
4.5/5

Specifications:

  • Weight:  34.4 oz
  • Capacity: 10
  • Length: 9.75”
  • Barrel Length: 5.5”
  • Height: 5.5″
  • Action: Striker-Fired, Single-Action

Pros

  • Proven platform
  • Extraordinary accuracy
  • Single-button takedown
  • Easy to clean
  • Great sights

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Dated style
  • Sights can be finicky
  • No red dot mount

Ruger entered the firearms market with a .22 LR 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 as a competition race gun for those with an interest in precision shooting. 

9. Best .22 Pistol for Target Shooting

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4/5
Quality:
4/5
Value:
4.5/5
Overall:
4.2/5

Specifications:

  • Weight: 36 oz
  • Capacity: 10
  • Length: 9.2”
  • Barrel Length: 5.5”
  • Height: 5.6″
  • Action: Blowback design, Single-Action

Pros

  • Fiber optic front sight
  • Easy to shoot for beginners
  • Near zero recoil
  • Enhanced grip from Tandemkross

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Expensive magazines

Taking a cue from the Browning Buck Mark and Ruger Mark IV, Smith & Wesson debuted their most current .22 LR 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 Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory 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. Best Budget .22 Pistol

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.3/5
Quality:
4/5
Value:
4.6/5
Overall:
4.5/5

Specifications:

  • Weight: 17.3 oz
  • Capacity: 16
  • Length: 7.06”
  • Barrel Length: 4.1”
  • Height: 5.44″
  • Action: Striker Fired

Pros

  • Lightweight enough to consider concealed carrying
  • Good ergonomics
  • Sights make this easy to shoot

Cons

  • Gritty trigger
  • Manual safety is overly large yet tough to engage

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 round magazine 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 .22LR Pistols

Colt_Woodsman_-_First_Series
The first semi-auto pistol chambered for the humble little round to hit the commercial market was the Colt Woodsman in 1915. Image / Wikimedia Commons

Handguns chambered for .22LR 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.

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. 

Smith & Wesson's Model 41 semi-auto .22LR pistol

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. 

Sig P322 American Firearms unique
Sig's 2022 re-entry into the rimfire pistol market with the P322 gives us a plinker that looks every bit as relevant as larger caliber pistols.

Why a .22 Pistol

  • Simple Fun. While much of the shooting world is all about tactics, self-defense, and hunting, there’s little that I enjoy more than shooting a .22 pistol. It’s a small caliber that doesn’t give much recoil and, in the right firearm, can be a world of fun to shoot. That’s something that I often lose sight of in the modern, tactically focused shooting world: anyone can just go to the range or into the woods and plink some targets for fun. That’s precisely what a .22LR pistol is excellent for and one of the reasons that I still love them.
  • Cost Savings. Second, .22 is a great training tool since the ammunition is so cheap. These days, even rimfire ammo can often cost an arm and a leg. Instead of letting your shooting skills go too stale, then it’s more than worth the time and investment to get a .22 pistol that takes ammunition that can still be found relatively cheaply.
  • Approachability. Additionally, I like .22 pistols for first-time shooters: the lack of recoil keeps people from developing bad shooting habits later. The wallet-friendliness of ammunition means that they can get a lot of practice for relatively cheap.

Types of .22 Pistols

Revolvers. Since .22 is so popular, it comes in a wide variety of formats. Some, for instance, are revolvers. While older revolvers weren’t available in such a small caliber, a few companies are making .22 caliber revolvers today. These are excellent for people who want to live out their fantasies of being a cowboy without having to invest too much or deal with the recoil impulse involved in shooting a big bore revolver. While not the most popular for self-defense, these can be fun little guns. As a first gun, these would be relatively safe and easy for a kid learning to shoot.

Semi-Auto Pistols. Many of the .22 pistols you’ll see out there in the market today are semi-automatics that feed from magazines. These come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and a lot of them are well beyond being fun range toys. While some people aren’t fans of the idea for .22 for self-defense, a tiny .22 pistol beats not carrying a firearm at all. I’d mee these pistols as training tools for sure, and a small concealed carry option is excellent for things like going exercising or doing a quick errand where I might not want to take a larger handgun. Overall, these are great options for many uses.

Large-Format Pistols. You’ll find more .22LR models of what are now being called pistol caliber carbines, or PCCs. So, for instance, you’ll have a pistol that looks and handles like an AR-15 but shoots the cheap and low recoiling .22LR cartridge. I think these are excellent for being fun range toys but have some limitations in terms of defensive applications. These are a growing part of the market that I’m excited to watch in the coming years as more people buy them for fun and to mee in competitions.

Suppressor Hosts. Finally, some .22 pistols, like the Ruger MKIV, make excellent suppressor hosts. The 22LR is not that loud to begin with, and adding a suppressor onto a model that comes with a threaded barrel from the factory makes it into one of the best range toys that money can buy. Additionally, these quiet little handguns are awesome for hunting small game such as rodents in situations where you don’t want to wear ear protection.

Similarly, the shots are so soft that you’re unlikely to disturb your neighbors or livestock with the quiet shots out of these super-suppressible pistols.

Essential Features of .22 Pistols

Sig P322 American Firearms unique
Sig's P322

No two .22 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.

1. Barrel Length

Ever since the pocket-sized Mossberg Brownie micro pistol 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.

2. Capacity

22 LR Pistols - Magazine Capacity
Manufacturers such as Glock and Taurus have spent lots of R&D dollars to perfect magazines that stagger and correctly orient .22LR cartridges to help avoid jam-inducing rim lock.

In the semi-auto .22LR pistol game, the common denominator tends to be a minimum of a 10-shot magazine capacity. Seen on Ruger’s MK IV, the Glock G44, the S&W SW22, Walther P22, and so forth, which keeps them readily available in states where magazine restrictions artificially inhibit what is in the gun case at your local dealer. 

A few manufacturers offer a 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 ten 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 shooting these guns more fun. 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 reduce the firearm’s size and improve conceal.

3. Reputation & Popularity

lots of pistols
You want to see known names on your preferred .22 pistol

As the pressures involved in rimfire pistols are slight when compared to firearms meant for full-power centerfire defensive rounds, over the years there has been a variety of bargain-basement .22 brands to hit the market.

Inexpensive rimfire 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. 

4. Reliability

The humble .22 LR bullet
The biggest stumbling block to a reliable .22 pistol is the .22LR round itself

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 vertically-stacked 22LR ammo from a magazine into a pistol somewhat 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.

5. Features

22 Pistols - Threaded Barrel Features
Features like threaded barrels and accessory rails are important to look for on better .22LR pistols.

While the .22 LR 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.

6. Action

When I’m looking to buy a .22 pistol, I’m generally looking for a specific type of action. For folks looking specifically for a revolver, that’s what you want. Otherwise, most people will be looking at some kind or another of semi-automatic.

A little rarer, there are even a few bolt action “pistols” that Ruger and a few other manufacturers make. These are highly accurate and are popular among folks who do a lot of varmint hunting with their .22 pistols, very often suppressed and with a magnified optic, shooting from a bipod.

7. Trigger

A .22 pistol doesn’t have much recoil to begin with, which means that they can be highly accurate pistols at close range. A poorly tuned trigger can throw off that accuracy, which spoils a lot of fun. It makes sense to test out a few different triggers, if possible, to ensure you select one that’s natural and comfortable for you.

Generally, I prefer a light trigger with a tactile reset to be as precise as possible with my follow-up shots.

.22 Pistol Pricing

  • Under $200. For under $200, it’s possible to get a reasonably accurate .22 revolver or pistol. These will likely be used with slight wear or new and without a ton of fancy features. These are an excellent place to start with new shooters, as you can get into the sport of shooting for relatively little money.
  • Under $500. For around $300, you can expect to get a new, high-quality semi-automatic pistol that’s well made, reliable, and accurate. Since .22 is itself an inexpensive round, the guns in this market segment tend to be pretty affordable as well.
  • Above $500. North of $500, you’re looking at the highest end.22 pistols available. These will often come with threaded barrels, upgraded sights, and genuinely excellent triggers.

For a relatively small expenditure, getting your hands on a .22 pistol is a great way to either get someone new into shooting or lower the cost of practice and range time. Once you get into .22 pistols, it wouldn’t surprise me if you end up buying a few more of them. While some shooters see the little .22 as not much more than a kid’s caliber, those who get into these pistols tend to love them, and adding a tricked-out .22LR pistol to your collection can lead to a fantastic shooting experience time after time.

Conclusion

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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