Pistols and revolvers chambered in .22 have become a popular choice among new shooters, experts, and hobbyists alike. While uses vary from self-defense, varmint control, hunting, training, and plinking to EDC (Every-Day-Carry), the appeal of a 22LR remains the same for all shooters.
22 cal. handguns offer decent performance at reasonable prices. And you can easily find .22LR cartridges all over the market. Affordability, however, comes at a price. Rimfire ammo is prone to ignition failure and feeding failure. If you are not careful when picking your ammo, you might not get consistent performance out of your firearm.
Even with the multiple issues inherent in .22LR ammo, there is a way you can ensure reliability and still get perfectly-placed shots round after round. It all depends on the kind of .22 handgun you are using.
Here, we’ll take you through 8 of the best .22 pistols that you can actually depend on for survival as well as pocket carry options and fun bench-rest shooters.
This has to be the most complete little 22LR handgun. The Walther P22. It is a thick, light, and ergonomic pistol that you simply cannot hate. A compact profile makes this .22LR. pistol suitable for concealed carry and even training.
If it is your first time going to the range, the P22 is a good place to start. As you’ve guessed, it is practically recoilless. This means that you can go several rounds with easy transitioning after each engagement. Because of its soft recoil, most ladies feel this pistol is the best entry-level .22 long rifle. And, the fact that it packs 10 quick-fire shots of .22 ammunition, you can tell that it has the potential to deter attackers. It would be an excellent choice for the elderly and people with disabilities who simply need a reliable firearm in self-defense situations.
This isn’t a gun for the ladies alone. If you know your guns, you’ll tell that this is the scaled-down version of the P99(a 9mm pistol). It is every bit as efficient, nonetheless. Guys are sold on the modern flair and tactical features this pistol has to offer.
First, it is a DA/SA pistol that can be operated in either condition. The beauty in it is that you can carry your pistol loaded with a round in the chamber, hammer down. Manually cocking your P22 places it in SA (Single Action mode). This uses less than half the pressure required when the pistol is in DA (double action) mode. 10.8 pounds (DA) compared to 3.9 pounds (SA).
Another tactical feature you might appreciate as an expert is how accurate it can be even with its 3.4-inch barrel. It uses an autoloader system with a brief reset on its SA mode – which requires less than 4 pounds of pressure – resulting in really accurate shots.
The bad news is that you never really get 100% off your Walther P22Q with cheap bulk box ammo. Even so, they do come around and function better after a couple of break-ins. But if you need this pistol to run like the wind – especially in self-defense situations – you’ll just have to stick to the costly premium-grade stuff, which are very reliable ammo to carry.
If you are in the market for a reliable, easy-to-shoot EDC .22LR, the Ruger SR22 is arguably the best pistol for you. The rugged design of this pistol makes it look and feel very similar to the Walther P22. The difference is that it is not as finicky with ammo as your Walther P22. The Ruger SR22 was designed to be reliable right out of the box, not only to shoot premium high-velocity rounds but also your regular bulk box ammo.
Even so, once the Walther P22 gets broken in, and running in peak condition, you’ll appreciate that both these guns are reliable options. Their single stack, compact profile makes them reasonable pistols to carry.
In terms of usability, the people at Ruger have gone out of their way to give you a piece that will fit all. The whole pistol is designed ergonomically, so it fits comfortably in the hand. The grip has a rubberized finish and has a small hump to help retain a better grip while firing. Also, the grips are removable, so shooters with smaller hands have the option of changing to a smaller grip that sits more naturally in their hands.
With regard to accuracy, you’ll find that your SR22 offers excellent results with Single Action (SA) shooting. There is much less trigger pressure in this mode than with Double Action (DA) mode. While you might be able to maintain remarkable accuracy 30 yards out with this pistol, you’ll agree that it gives optimal results at 15 yards downward. Depending on the distance, of course, you can also get some good shots shooting single-handedly.
You get an ambidextrous manual safety which makes the SR22 perfect for both right and left-handed shooters. Having the decocking safety on this pistol was very thoughtful for preventing any accidental firing. There is also a magazine disconnect, which is absent in the Walther P22.
The magazine disconnect creates a love-hate situation though. On one hand, your pistol won’t fire accidentally with the magazine removed, even if you forgot about the chambered round. On the other hand, in dire times when you cannot find your magazine (for various reasons), you could still use a gun that lacks the magazine disconnect as a single-shot pistol against advancing attackers.
Overall, this is a light and compact 3.5-inch firearm which I believe is an excellent candidate for self-defense, and for those who love to have their pistols by their side at all times.
The Neos is a really cool “atomic age-looking” 22 pistol, which resembles the forgotten Whitney Wolverine. It is a very easy .22 to operate, especially for a novice. It generally makes an outstanding choice for a vast category of shooters.
You get to choose between the 4.5-inch and 6-inch barrels, which are both lightweight at under 37 ounces, perfect for younger shooters and older women. You’ll notice that even if the pistol grip is sharply swept back, it is a lot thinner. So, if you are a shooter with small hands, this is your ticket into an attractive .22 pistol. Also, you shouldn’t have any trouble yanking the slide. In fact, the U22 Neos is far and away the easiest to slide compared to other .22s in its league. It an excellent choice for arthritic hands.
The ambidextrous design manual safety for this gun is a plausible safety feature that you left-handed shooters will find quite handy. Slightly pulling back the slide will reveal if you have a round in your chamber. Though, there should have been a more distinct indicator for a loaded chamber.
What we love most about the Neos U22 is how easy it is to field strip. Be sure you don’t have any round in your chamber and that the mag is removed. From there, it’s just a matter of locking the slide back – you should find a slide release/lock – and turning the thumbwheel located right above the trigger loop. No need to break out a tool when putting it back together either.
Another remarkable feature for this pistol is that it quickly converts into a neat carbine. Basically, you’ll have to get the carbine conversion kit which you screw on to the frame. Your converted pistol will offer a longer barrel, additional contact points, better controllability, and improved precision.
While it may not be the most accurate .22 out there, it’s certainly a fun gun that can satisfy all, depending on how you outfit it.
Here’s a lightweight rimfire pistol which you can shoot all day and not get tired. While it’s not as light as most other handguns in our list, you’ll definitely appreciate how portable the 22/45 Lite is compared to its brothers in the Mark IV series.
You’ll notice how closely the ergonomics and design try to follow the M1911 “government” pistol silhouette. Most shooters would use this gun to train and get introduced to the 1911 models. It is also an excellent option for hobbyists looking for a reliable, accurate pistol. It features threaded barrels that can fit suppressors if you want to take your gun to the shooting range or plinking at the recreational pack.
Accuracy isn’t an issue with this gun. You also have to know that it’s not a serious, precision-shot gun either. You might have some trouble with standard velocity ammo, but switching up to high-velocity bullets or the 40 grain above 1300fps Winchesters, you should be clear. We found CCI mini mags to give the best performance with most .22 rimfire guns, and it’s no different with the Mark IV 22/45.
Field stripping your Mark IV is a breeze. This pistol has an easy single-button takedown system that you’ll love every time you are out in the range. Pressing the takedown button to the rear of the receiver below the bolt swiftly detaches the barrel and the bolt assembly slides right out. Be sure your Mark IV is unloaded, magazine removed, and that safety is on when you take it down. Reassembling is fast and slick too.
The only nits you might pick from the Ruger Mark IV 22/45 Lite is that the front blade is black, which can be an issue when you’re trying to shoot a black bull’s eye. The front sight could get lost between the black blade and the dark target.
Other than that, this is an amazing gun, easy to manipulate and fun to shoot for extended periods. We do appreciate a gun with ambidextrous safety levers like this. It comes in a vast range of styles, and none of them is too flashy.
For a .22 pistol, the Browning Buck Mark has a huge reputation for being a high-quality handgun in terms of accuracy and reliability. It is certainly better built than your Ruger. Even so, with the improvements featured in the Ruger Mark series, the Browning Buck Mark is nowhere close to being as easy to use or as easy to take down as the Ruger. I figure it’s a win-win.
The Buck Mark features a fresh polished design and attractive aesthetics with about 20 different modes you can choose from. You must love how the grip angle makes your Buck Mark fit perfectly in the hand. Its grip is comfortable, and the whole design makes it well-balanced for perfect shots.
Browning offers a wide selection of accessories. You can get rails, triggers, and grips to customize your gun in any way that pleases you. I love the trigger on the Browning Buck Mark Camper and wouldn’t replace this for the trigger accessory. It is light and crisp with little travel. A quick reset on your trigger together with a soft recoil makes it easy to maintain accuracy shot after shot.
Field stripping your Browning Buck Mark will be a challenge if you left your tools behind. You’ll need an Allen wrench to remove the top cover that holds the sight mount. With the top piece out of the way, you can pull the slide back – just a little bit – and pull it up together with the firing pin control. It’s not the easiest process, but it is definitely easier than what Rugger had in their initial releases, before the Mark series. Reassembly is pretty much straight forward if you took it apart yourself. Be sure to apply some blue thread locker so the screws can hold the top piece firmly so that it doesn’t loosen from vibration.
The Heritage Rough Rider single action .22LR revolver is raw and powerful. Its retro-modern design gives it a cool look and feel that you lovers of the Old West guns will appreciate. It is truly an inexpensive, little rimfire revolver that’s really fun to shoot.
This is a single action rifle, meaning that you shot easier and more accurately. You need only about 6 pounds pressure on the trigger, unlike most other DA rifles which will feel weighty on the trigger. There is very little trigger travel on this revolver, making it easy to shoot more accurately.
One advantage your Heritage Rough Rider will have over most semi-auto .22 pistols is the reliability it offers with a vast range of ammo brands. You will achieve reliable performance with anything from Remington bulk box to hypervelocity CCI mini-mags.
Unlike other revolvers you might have gotten used to, the cylinder on this gun doesn’t swing out for loading. Rounds are loaded by rotating the cylinder which is in a fixed position. The cylinder will only rotate when the hammer is pulled back to a half-cock position. You might have a different opinion if you are used to using a speed loader, but we actually appreciate the shift of concept that Heritage are trying out here.
I probably have to mention that this revolver comes with a safety system that can be useful to prevent accidental shooting. You don’t want to leave a round under the chamber with the safety in the off position. If your gun drops and hits the hammer, it will go bang!
This particular model comes in the .22 Long Rifle Only, although there are some that come in a .22 magnum cylinder. If you don’t really need as much power as the 22-magnum rifle offers, I find the .22LR to be sufficient enough. It’s an excellent choice if you are looking for a rifle for varmint control or plinking.
Here’s a nice-looking pistol that is designed like the cross between a Ruger Mark IV series and the Browning Buck Mark guns. You have a rounded barrel typical of your Ruger, and a squared back-end reminiscent of the Browning.
Ergonomically, this pistol’s grip is hand-filling. You’ll love how the handle is checkered on both the front and back for firm gripping.
In terms of accuracy, the SW22 isn’t better than the Browning Buck Mark, but it is far more reliable than your Ruger Mark IV. This means that you won’t have any issues getting consistent shots from both standard velocity ammo and high-velocity federal ammo.
An issue you might have with the SW22 Victory is the pruned safety lever. It is smaller than what you’d have in your other handguns in the same league. The good thing is that it is too small to accidentally activate.
This doesn’t have a tool-free takedown like the new Ruger Mark IV design. You need only one tool to take the gun apart for cleaning as well as for barrel change.
On the positive side, you can interchange your SW22 barrels and tremendously improve on accuracy. You have threaded barrel options that can fit suppressors too. Also, swapping a gun barrel has never been this easy. You need only get past one screw, and you are done.
Overall, this is an excellent introduction and training .22 with a nice trigger, ergo grips, and customized barrels to improve accuracy. It is well-priced too.
This Ruger revolver isn’t like others in the same line of G100 editions. It is a 10-shot rimfire revolver chambered in a .22LR. Ruger also made it’s barrel 5.5 inches to give it better performance with the .22LR cartridges.
Unlike what you would expect from a .22 cal. revolver, your GP100 will neither be compact nor lightweight. This is a duty-size 42-ounce revolver that lends itself to any shooter with no trouble. You certainly have to appreciate how the extra weight of the gun soaks up much of the recoil from the .22LR cartridges. If this doesn’t give you a raw shooting session, then perhaps it’ll be the age-old Ruger grips, which you’ll find to fill the hand quite comfortably. The controls are all too familiar, easy to locate levers and trigger. All these make the gun truly fun to operate when plinking casually or shooting at the bench-rest.
If this isn’t your first GP100 handgun, you know it comes with a safety mechanism. The Ruger’s patented transfer bar makes it safe even on a full cylinder. Having the transfer bar means that the hammer will only make contact with the firing pin when you pull the trigger. Your gun will never go bang just because you accidentally dropped it.
As far as accuracy and reliability go, your GP100 can eat various .22LR cartridges with zero problems. Loading your gun for action is pretty easy. The cylinder swings out easily and spins freely to quickly load rounds. You can then use your loaded 10-shots to control varmint. Freehand shooting to take out thieving raccoons and pesky little squirrels with body shots 25 yards out isn’t an issue.
Now, don’t expect to pay pennies for such a handsome revolver as the GP100 .22LR. Even so, it’s a fair deal for the quality.