The .22 rimfire has always been uber-popular: low cost, light recoil, relatively quiet report.  Today, events have conspired to make it more relevant than ever.

The estimated ten million first-time gun owners who’ve “joined the club” in the last couple of years constitute a pool of new shooters both broad and deep.  All the above advantages apply. The less the kick of the gun hits hand or shoulder, the less the startling crack of a gunshot assails the ears – and the less the practice session impacts the pocketbook! – the easier it is for those new shooters to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship and the safe handling of loaded firearms.

For us regular shooters, the .22 is as relevant as it has always been.  No, it doesn’t let us practice recoil control to fully prepare for serious use of our more powerful rifles or pistols.  But for “aim, hold, squeeze” practice in putting bullets where we want them to go, the .22 is absolutely relevant.  For defensive handguns, drills such as draw to the shot practice with a gun the same size and shape out of the same holster, everything is the same except for recoil recovery for second and subsequent rounds. Cost? You’re doing well to find 9mm cartridges for 35 cents apiece, and figure way more per high power rifle rounds, but you can find .22 Long Rifle ammo for roughly a dime a shot.

My late first wife was a big fan of lever action Winchester rifles, and had quite a collection of them. The one she was most likely to actually SHOOT was the .22 Long Rifle version, the Winchester 94/22.  She got along well with my current spouse, the Evil Princess, and one of the several things they had in common in addition to bad taste in husbands was that they’d spend more time shooting a .22 than a larger caliber gun.  By actual count, the EP has put more rimfire rounds through her multiple Ruger 10/22 rifles and our Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 than centerfire rounds through the “evil black rifles.”  She has a couple of Ruger LCP .380s for when she “dresses like a girl” and needs to conceal something smaller than her usual 9mm, so there’s a .22 caliber LCP for cheap, high-volume draw-and-fire practice with the mouse gun.  On my side of the house, there are .22 conversion units for several of the service pistols, and understudy .22 revolvers for the assorted six-shooters, too.

And, let us not forget, .22s are FUN.  In dark times, it’s easy to remember that safe fun is a perfectly good reason to own firearms…and the more you can shoot them, the more fun they are to own.  

34 COMMENTS

  1. Re: “mouse” guns. Somebody smart said, “I don’t want to stand in front of a .22 round.”

  2. Well, Being of sound body, I gave away to family members all my 22 hand guns and most of the rifles . Now I’ m looking for a 22/22mag. on the inexpensive side so I can practice.

  3. I just happen to be waiting on a Rough Rider lR/MAG to come in. Long rifle is next. Not good for every use but extremely good at what they do.

  4. Looks just like the range at Hernando about 13 years ago…….
    You are such an inspiration to many……It was such a pleasure meeting
    you there and watching you shoot, unfortunately, I did not let you in
    on the secret of keeping that big ole mag off the deck……
    Best Wishes from an Appleseed Instructor, Paul ‘BrownBess’ Brown

  5. My favorite .22 rifle, a SIG 522 and my favorite .22 pistol is a S&W M&P22 compact.
    I have .22’s in Ruger, Henry, SIG, H&R, Browning, Remington, HK and S&W. Why? Simple,
    they’re fun and cheap to run even with today’s prices for ammo. Taught my wife and
    daughter to operate an AR with the S&W 15-22, to use an MP9 with an HK SD56A and
    to operate a M&P9c using the M&P22 Compact. 22’s make great teaching, muscle
    memory tools. When we need some wild game or if the varmints get to disrupting
    farm life, a scoped 10-22 w/ Log Rifle HP’s or Henry Lever with .22 Short HPs are
    my go to rifles for that chore. 50 years ago, I knew a man who would bright light
    deer and shoot them in the head with a .22. Sold the meat to a restaurant across
    the state line in Kentucky when times were hard.
    In my humble opinion from 73 years on this planet, the .22 is one of the most
    useful tools man ever invented.

    • When I lived in California’s Noth Coast area a few decades back, I met a youngish man who was pretty stove up. He’d been hurt in a sawmill accident back and shoulder injuries, and Worken’s Comp did not do right by him. He had a Wife and six or eight kids to take care of. Still lived on the acreage his Grandpaw had homesteaded long ago. I ws visiting one time and we were working oh the other side of the road, over on the part of the land where grandparents had built the first log house, probably back in the ‘teens. The house was still stnding, though not even as nice as some “fine fokes” would use for their chickens. But it was the home in whicih he grew up. The kitchen window )with the handpump at one end of the sink) fced up a gentle draw that went uphill for a couple hundred yards. Lush greens wre growing the full width of it, right up to that back kitchen window. They now used that house for “putting up” all their canned produce to keep it through the winter for family food. He told me how, in the fall when they worked there a lot putting food by for the winter, they would often see deer grazing on the lush greens in that draw. He had an ancient .22 bolt gun, octagon barrel, and when they’d see a deer a ways up the draw, his Dad would takt up that rifle, chamber one round, and drop that deer right in his tracks at up to 100 yards distance. So they’d process him along with the green beans, tomatoes, carrots……. four deer for a season seemed to work out just right.
      I asked him what he thought would happen if the State goons caught wind of his meat source. He said well, they know that if they come and arrest me, theyll have to feed ME in jail, and pay for my trial. They’d also have to feed my wife and eight kids, cause I’ll be locked up and unable to feed them myself. So they leave me alone. I’m fine with that arrangement. They seem to be fine with it as well.

  6. Plus the .22LR semi-auto handguns are much better to train on when the student has issues with grip strength – including/especially working the slide.

  7. Does anyone else remember when you could buy 500 rounds of .22 at Service Merchadise for $9.99??

    • Actually yes. When I was a kid in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula 2 or 3 of us used to purchase 50 packs of .22LR at the local small town hardware store (that actually sold hardware!) on Saturdays for 99 cents, and sometimes even a bit less. Lawn mowing & raking money…
      We could even carry our rifles through town on the way to the – informal – range without raising an eyebrow! All of us had ‘hunter safety’ lessons and respected the weapons and the people around us.

    • No but I DO remember the 440 round bulk packs of US made copper plated hollow point 36 grain bullets at BiMart for $12. I also well remember the all but overnight meteoric rise in the price . I was mighty glad I had taken advantage of the “regular pricing” of twelve bucks or less for the bulk packs.

    • When I was a kid, K-Mart normally had the white 500 round “bricks” of Winchester Wildcat .22 LR ammo in a large pile on the gun counter for $9.99 each. I shot a lot of that stuff through my first .22 rimfire rifle, a $50 Ruger standard 10/22, also purchased at K-Mart, which at that time had a walnut stock and aluminum barrel band and buttplate instead of the current stained hardwood and plastic units.

      • Ah, yes…Kmart. Up until twenty-five years ago, our Kmart was “the store” to shop at. The new Target was good, but didn’t have the deals Kmart offered, and the first Walmart (of three that our valley now has) had not yet become the behemoth it is today.

        Unfortunately, after Kmart leadership’s doubling down on its insistence to sell pornography (there was a massive nationwide family group oriented boycott, if anyone remembers), the company went bankrupt within only three years and never recovered. It merged with Sears but continued its reliance on the porn sales for much-needed income, and now both companies are pretty much gone.

        Kmart was a great place to shop at back in the ’80s. My mom would perk up and chase the overhead voice when the Blue Light Specials were announced, lol.

    • I still have a couple bricks of Winchester Wildcat .22LR with price tags (remember those?) showing $9.99 from 1992.
      The Roses Dept store would run Wildcats $0.99/box or Super X for $1.09/box.
      Used to pick up a couple bricks on payday every time they had the sales.

  8. All my firearms, with the exception of the marlin 1895 guide gun, are fun to shoot. The .22’s are simply the most fun.

  9. My first handgun was a Ruger Single-Six & first rifle was a 10/22. My latest .22 is a Taurus that feels much like my Smith & Wesson M&P 9s & 45. Several months before deer season I step out the back door & shoot steel with my scoped bolt action .22 rifle every few days. And finally, prices for bulk .22LR have come down some from the craziness of last year.

  10. For some strange reason, many women are attracted to ‘bad boys’ who have a lot of guns and often marry them. Look at Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. My advice to those guys, check your beds for unwanted girl pies before you get under the covers Mr. Depp was lucky that Amber did not take after Lorena Bobbit and cut off more than the tip of his finger.

    I’m sure Annie Oakley’s husband was very well behaved. As good a shot as she was, that woman could sever things at ranges much longer than her arms with a .22 rimfire rifle.

  11. you can find .22 Long Rifle ammo for roughly a dime a shot
    When I got my Marlin No. 1 under the Christmas tree, a box of 50 .22LRs cost about a dollar. Of course, a dollar went a lot further in 1977.

    Last week I took a California lady to the range who was afraid of guns, and didn’t want to be. She had never touched one before, but had moved in with her son, and he had several. She shot a .22 bolt action her Texas sister had brought, and then a couple of 9 mm pistols. She’s going home with a perforated target to show off.

  12. Somewhere is a story of an aircrew member shot down in SEA. He had a .22 lever action rifle or carbine that he actually used to shoot his way to a rescue. Possibly quieter than the jungle noise, low flash in daylight, accurate enough at jungle range, light weight ammo, quick and handy. No reason not to also carry a .357 sidearm in a tanker holster for close defense against big cats and gaur.

    • One of the most useful survival guns would be a sound suppressed Ruger 10/22 rifle with a lighted reticle 1X-4X scope and several magazines including at least one Butler Creek 25 round magazine with steel fed lips for use against any two legged predators.

  13. John Taylor is known for his detailed information on large bore rifles for African hunting. His book, “African Rifles and Cartridges” is considered a classic.

    Despite being known as an “Elephant Hunter (Poacher)” and big-bore guru, John Taylor used all kinds of rifles. It is interesting to read what he wrote about the humble .22 LR round. Let me quote him:

    “The modern .22 Long Rifle Rim-Fire is really an astounding little weapon. Given a good scope sight and a steady shot, it’s almost unbelievable the variety of animals you can shoot with it…..It’s a simply splendid weapon for the elephant-hunter with which to collect something fresh for his own pot and give himself a change from jerked meat, or biltong. To a very great extent he can feed his men with it also. The beauty of it is that it makes no noise at all, and so doesn’t put game on the alert as a more powerful weapon would. I would happily undertake to walk thru from Cape Town to Cairo armed with nothing but a scope-sighted .22 Rim-Fire and a powerful hand gun, and I am quite confident I would not go hungry.”

    I would not be so eager to make that walk myself! 🙂 However, I have no African experience whereas John Taylor hunted there for decades.

    Still, the above quote shows the high opinion that John Taylor (a man known to use rifles up to .600 Nitro Express caliber) had for the little .22 Long Rifle round.

    • Pondoro Taylor could walk across Africa with only a .22 rifle and powerful handgun, which at that time would have been a .44 Special with Elmer Keith’s heavy handloads or the rare .45 caliber Mars pistol, but could only do so safely if he could run like a cheetah and climb like a monkey. I’m sure Tarzan often wished he had a Holland & Holland .500 N.E. double in some situations.

      • @ Tom606 – “…which at that time would have been a .44 Special with Elmer Keith’s heavy handloads or the rare .45 caliber Mars pistol…”

        I suspect that the “powerful handgun”, referenced by John Taylor, was a British Webley .455 top-break revolver. This was the standard military revolver in the British Empire for many decades and was, therefore, widely distributed throughout the Empire. John Taylor spoke of carrying one and even relayed a story, in “African Rifles and Cartridges”, where he used one of these revolvers to kill a lion. The cat was prowling around a native hut, one night, and trying to get to some goats that were penned up. John Taylor snuck out and ambushed the cat as its attention was focused upon the goats. He shot it in the shoulder area with the heavy 265-grain FMJ bullet from the .455 Webley. This may have damaged the spine because it knocked the cat down. Old John then put a second shot into the top of the cat’s head and the cat made the trip to the “happy hunting grounds” in the sky! 🙂

      • It’s possible that Taylor was referring to one of the Howdah type pistols. One or two barrel cut down rifles chambering dangerous game cartridges. Originally used to defend your elephant mounted riding basket from tigers and such.

      • TN_MAN & Will:

        I suppose a .455 Webley is powerful compared to the .32 S&W many folks back in the early 20th century carried for personal protection. I have a Webley MK VI made in 1924 and it’s a very well made revolver. I keep it handy in case of an attack by bloodthirsty Zulu or Mau Mau savages.

        A Howdah does make sense and was widely used in India for hunting on elephants, but is only good at point blank distance as it normally has no sights and is hard to aim.

        I doubt it happened but Pondoro could have corresponded with Elmer Keith and took his advice about carrying a S&W or Colt SSA in .44 Special with loads firing a .250 grain hard cast SWC at 1200 fps. Both those guys were about the same age but lived half a world apart. They would certainly agree on using large caliber rifles for hunting, especially for dangerous game. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re trading stories over drinks now in the Happy Hunting Grounds.

      • @ Tom606 – “I doubt it happened but Pondoro could have corresponded with Elmer Keith and took his advice about carrying a S&W or Colt SSA in .44 Special with loads firing a .250 grain hard cast SWC at 1200 fps.”

        Taylor does not mention anything, in “African Rifles and Cartridges”, about Keith’s work with powerful handguns. However, he does say that he read Keith’s book entitled “Big Game Rifles and Cartridges”. It is possible that this book inspired Taylor to write his similar book on African hunting. Taylor says that he mostly agreed with Keith’s views on guns and hunting with one notable exception.

        It was Keith’s view that a bullet, even an expanding soft point, should completely go through an animal and leave a large exit wound. Taylor’s ideal bullet would expand and stop just under the skin of the opposite side leaving only an entrance wound. He wanted his bullets to expend 100% of their energy inside the animals. Clearly, a through shot must waste some energy.

        It never occurred to Taylor that both views were correct when adjusted for the different hunting locations. In America, animals can be isolated from herds. Most hunters hunt alone and could use a good blood trail to follow if animals are wounded. Hence, a through shot may be best in American hunting.

        In Africa, animals are tough, often they move in dense herds, and there are usually skilled trackers available to find wounded animals. A though shot is bad under these conditions since it can wound more than one animal. Tough African animals need a lot of killing therefore depositing 100% energy is useful. So, Taylor’s ideal is best for African hunting.

        Taylor only used factory ammo. He says, in his book, that it would be impracticable for a “tent dweller” like himself to take up reloading. So, even if he was aware of Keith’s heavy .44 Special handloads, he would not have been able to reproduce such ammo himself.

        Taylor used only factory ammo in all his firearms. Handguns and shotguns as well as rifles. In the incident where he shot the prowling lion with his revolver, he writes:

        “My only weapon was my old Service revolver, a faithful friend ever since the end of World War I. It spends its life under my pillow.” This would have been a .455 Webley top-break revolver since it was in standard British service in WW I. The smaller .38 caliber top-break revolvers were not adopted until well after WW I was over.

      • TN_MAN:

        Speaking of Webley revolvers, I seem to recall seeing in the old 1964 movie Zulu that a few of the British officers carried what appears to be Webley MK VI revolvers which were not available back in 1879 when the battle at Rorke’s Drift during the Anglo-Zulu War took place. It’s been awhile since I watched that movie, so I could be mistaken.

      • One more note about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. It is confirmed that the Commanding Officer during the battle, Lt. John Chard, owned a Webley RIC revolver as his personal weapon. This handgun still exists and is in the Royal Engineers Museum. See this link:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Chard#/media/File:Chard's_Webley_RIC.jpg

        It is believed that this is the revolver that he actually used during the famous battle. Supposedly it is chambered for the .450 Mk II (Adams) cartridge which was standard at the time. I can’t find anything on what model revolver Bromhead would have carried and used.

        So, the producers of this movie should have ditched the MK VI’s and rounded up a couple of RIC revolvers to use in this movie instead. This would have been, historically, the most accurate model handgun to use for the officer’s sidearms.

    • @ Tom606 – In 1879, the standard British Service Revolver was the Adams Mk III in .450 caliber. This was a solid frame revolver.

      However, in the movie, (as you noted) they substituted Webley Mk VI top-break revolvers in .455 caliber. As I understand it, this was done because suitable Adams revolvers were simply not available. See this link:

      http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Zulu_(1964)#Webley_Mark_VI_.455_Revolver

      This may not have been as “historically wrong” as it appears. Note that, even as early as 1879, Webley began to manufacture top-break revolvers. I have a copy of W.W. Greener’s 1879 Catalog which offers, for sale, a Webley-style top-break revolver with 5.5 inch barrel and chambered for the .450 cartridge. The .455 cartridge had not been invented yet.

      Given that British Officers, during this time-period, were expected to purchase their own personal weapons and could use any handgun they wished, it is entirely possible that a British officer might choose to privately purchase one of these early Webley-style top-break revolvers and carry it for his own use. Eventually, these Webley top-break revolvers would become standardized albeit in the heavier .455 caliber.

      So, it is theoretically possible that some British officer, at Rorke’s Drift, had an early non-standard Webley top-break revolver as his personal weapon. Heaven only know what was actually used. 🙂 Maybe an Adams or maybe something else. Heck, even a Colt SAA is (theoretically) possible!

  14. I’m happy IDPA opened up the .22 NFC (not for competition) division. Skills are still maintained/sharpened while not spending a ton of money on ammo.

    • .22 LR cartridges too small for your fingers? You must have hands the size of Janet Reno’s who was my hulking Bertha’s infamous late aunt and a descendant of the legendary Grendel.

  15. Previously I had clung to a doctrine of refusing to have any weapon not suitable for Serious Social Work… but certain developments with my gal have caused a certain degree of rethink, so I’m building a “convertible” pistol-to-rifle Ruger Charger “briefcase kit” (basically, modernizing the AR7-in-a-briefcase in From Russia With Love) so a rangemaster buddy and I can let her live out her “Bond Girl For A Day” fantasy–the “.22 Charger Modular Weapons System” concept might also have a role to play as a “basic instruction” starter gun too.

    Still trying to figure out how to build the recoil system on a 7″ .45 Super to retire Old Slabsides that’s rode my hip most of my adult life…

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