Many people disregard the 22 lr cartridge (lr stands for Long Rifle), calling it ineffective and pointless, as the small bullets may not stop an assailant advancing on you, and that 22 lr pistols can only be used for training (and even then, in a limited capacity). However, due to the soaring ammunition prices in the last few years, 22 lr pistols are seeing a resurgence in popularity. Yes, the bullets are small, and most people do prefer to use a different caliber pistol as their main self-defence weapon. But all gun users need to practice. And practicing with larger caliber bullets, such as .45 S&W, .40 ACP or 9mm, will not only blow holes in your practice targets, but also in your wallet!
Buying a 22 lr caliber pistol is better than having no pistol at all when it comes to self-defence, and 22 lr pistols tend to be the most keenly priced on the market. Also, most gun users will have a larger caliber pistol as their main self-defence pistol, and they will add a 22 lr pistol to their gun collection as a cost effective way to be able to have regular training sessions at the range without seeing their bank account drained of funds. Roughly speaking, you can buy around 250 rounds of good quality 22 lr ammunition for the same price of around 50 rounds of larger caliber ammunition. That equates to around five times the amount of live fire practice, which all helps when you are developing your skills as a shooter. Think about it; even the light-weight 22 bullet is far more deadly in the hands of a skilled shooter, than a 9mm in the hands of a novice. Far too many people are buying pistols built for large caliber bullets, but then not spending anywhere near enough time on the range practicing their shooting skills because of the cost of bullets.
If you are new to training with guns, an added bonus of 22 lr pistols are the low levels of noise and recoil. This stops new shooters from developing bad habits early on, such as flinching – bad habits are much more difficult to get rid of later, than being nipped in the bud right at the beginning.
Five 22 lr Pistol Options
So you’ve decided to buy yourself a 22lr pistol. But what is the best 22lr pistol? Here’s our top 5 22lr pistols. We’ll look at several aspects to help you make your mind up, such as quality of build, performance, design, handling, and of course, cost.
This is our cheapest 22lr pistol on our list, but don’t let that put you off, as this has beaten about ten other more expensive 22lr pistols. It costs a mere $280, with a standard 10 round magazine capacity. It weighs either 32 or 36 ounces, and a barrel length of 4.5 or 6 inches, depending on the model, so therefore, one of our larger and heavier pistols. This is a solidly built 22lr pistol, with a good finish, good accuracy, good reliability, and a good trigger. Field stripping is reasonable, although takes practice. The main drawback is a skinny grip with a strange grip angle. The design is rather ‘different’ looking, almost ‘futuristic’, which might buy it some fans, but the skinny grips and grip angle definitely puts us off a little. What others say about it “If I bought a U22, I would buy it just for the novelty of using it a few times but the gun would primarily remain a pistol. It is a .22 terrific for plinking and accuracy with styling to keep the younger generation interested.” – Brett Solomon on thetruthaboutguns.com “A quick glance at the NEOS is enough to conjure images of Buck Rogers (or whatever is the modern super equivalent would be for you younger tykes). The futuristic design is for more than looks. The NEOS features a high grip angle and when you consider your stance and form—shoulders rolled forward and extended toward the target—you can easily understand how the NEOS becomes part of that natural extension.” – Dave Dolbee on cheaperthandirt.com
One of our smaller pistols on our list, this 22lr pistol is only 17.5 ounces in weight, with a tiny 3.5 inch barrel. This does mean that those with larger hands should avoid it as you will find it difficult to operate. It’s also very keenly priced at $340 and has the standard 10 round magazine capacity. Despite its price, however, this is a solidly built pistol, with a good finish (polymer frame with an aircraft aluminium slide). It also boasts decent accuracy, is reliable, has good sights, and field stripping is simple. It operates in single and double action mode, and, in single action, has a decent trigger. However, the double action trigger is heavy. Despite the drawbacks, though, this is definitely one of our favourites.
Smith & Wesson M&P22
Weighing around 24 ounces with a barrel length of 4.1 inches, this is a small to medium sized 22lr pistol with a magazine capacity of 10 or 12 rounds. It’s also reasonably priced at $380. Ergonomic fit is great, as is the finish (metal frame with a polymer grip, and an aluminium aerospace alloy slide). It also boasts ambidextrous safety, field stripping is simple, and works with most 22 bullets. This is easily one of the best 22lr pistols on our list, what with the higher magazine capacity, look and feel – Smith & Wesson seem to agree, as they back this pistol with a lifetime warranty.
Ruger Mark III & 22/45
These are the original and classic 22lr pistols, and still retain their gold standard when it comes to durability and reliability. These pistols are priced between $325 and $400, with many models below $350. There are people out there using their granddads pistol, and they are as accurate and reliable as they were decades ago. Magazine capacity is the standard 10 rounds, with quite a long barrel length of 4-6 inches (depending on model). They also weigh more than modern pistols (at around 37 ounces for the heaviest models). Still, they have great balance and fit ergonomically into your hands. Some users more used to modern pistols may find the styling dated, or even ugly, but that’s a matter of personal choice. The main issue, however, is that these pistols are a nightmare to field strip. Therefore, this is not one of the best 22lr pistols, but we’re still in awe of the fact that, even to this day, it blows many of the other much more modern 22lr pistols out of the water.
One of our heavier and larger 22lr pistols, this comes in at a weight of 34 ounces, with a barrel length of 5.5 inches. It has the standard 10 round magazine capacity, and costs anything from $350 to $400. This guns is built like a tank! Although not as old as the Ruger Mark III & 22/45, these have been around for a while, and they have a great track record when it comes to reliability, durability and accuracy. They have solid triggers, with good ergonomics and balance. Field stripping is simple, although you do need tools. Style-wise, these pistols do look dated, but many like the old-style rugged look. They work with nearly all types of 22 ammunition, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better combination when it comes to performance and cost. One of the best 22lr pistols you will find out there.
Our Pick For The Best 22lr Pistol
So, what is the best 22lr pistol? For absolute reliability, durability, and the ability to work with even the cheapest of 22 ammunition, our winner is the Browning Buckmark. It is on the larger side, as well as being heavier than most other 22lr pistols, but as these guns are likely to be used on the range, rather than for concealed, self-defence reasons, these disadvantages can be overlooked. If you want something more modern, and have smallish hands, look no further than the Ruger SR22. Very keenly priced, and yet this pistol does not feel ‘cheap’ in any way, and it’s also a doddle to field strip. Just use it mainly in single action mode. For larger hands wanting something more modern, get yourself the Smith & Wesson M&P22. Great build and durability, easy to field strip, availability of a 12 round magazine capacity, and still keenly priced – what more do you want?
What Do You Think – What Is The Best 22lr Pistol?
Different folks will have different opinions on what the best 22lr pistol is, and most likely there are a bunch of pistols out there that we did not mention on our list that perhaps could/should be. So please let us know what you think the best 22lr pistol is by leaving a comment in the comments section below.