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A .22 Pistol For Concealed Carry? Actually...It's More Tenable Than You'd Think

Hold your horses: there's a reason why most people don't carry a .22 pistol as their primary personal protection gun. You are, in the broad strokes, better off with a 9mm, .40 S&W or .45. But this is about whether a .22 pistol can work as an implement of personal protection.

It's actually a lot more tenable than you'd think, just like it is with carrying a .22 Magnum for self-defense. It also comes with a boatload of caveats that you should be aware of. Remember, there's almost no perfect solution to any problem; you're just trading one set of problems for another.

Why Anyone Would Consider A .22 Pistol

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Why would you consider carrying or otherwise employing, in any capacity, a .22 pistol for personal defense when there are so many pistols of much more powerful calibers available? It's not as if 9mm pistols are so rare or so awful to shoot.

Typically, for two reasons.

First, a .22 pistol has barely any recoil. Recoil sensitivity is a thing. Normally, you overcome this with range time behind an (arguably) more appropriate handgun for personal defense, but let's just assume for the sake of discussion that there's someone out there that just can't get over that hurdle.

Second, a semi-automatic .22 pistol requires much less spring tension to operate. Consequently, those with small, aged, arthritic or otherwise not perfectly functioning hands may find that a .22 pistol is easier for them to operate.

Third, there are a number of .22 pistols that are very small and very light. Therefore, they are very easy to conceal.

Some people prefer to carry the tiniest pistol possible, with the idea being a tiny pistol that's no big deal to carry is one you can always keep on you. If it's too easy to carry, there won't be a reason not to do so. Some people also need the deepest concealment possible if legally carrying in a less than fully permissible environment, and then you have people that carry a very small backup gun.

All of these are reasons that a person might have for carrying a .22 pistol. Again, does that mean only a .22 will do these jobs? No, but these are reasons why somebody might.

Could A .22 Pistol Be Effective?

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Actually, a .22 pistol might be a lot more effective than you might think.

Lucky Gunner Labs found that a number of .22 LR pistol loads came close to or even met the FBI's 12"-18" penetration standard in gelatin through clothing. Perfectly? No, and not as well as loadings of traditional self-defense calibers, but closer than you'd think.

Greg Ellifritz, a police officer and firearms trainer, assembled his own study of "handgun stopping power," gathering more than 1,800 reports of use of a firearm in actual combat and gathering what data and trends he could from it. When it comes to caliber, according to the information at Active Response Training.

As it turned out, .22 LR achieved a One Shot Stop rate of 31 percent, meaning that 31 percent of people shot in the head or torso with .22 rimfire (Ellifritz includes .22 Short, .22 Long and .22 Long Rifle) were stopped. Mean rounds until incapacitation were 1.38, meaning fewer than 2 shots needed to be fired until the assailant was down, and 34 percent of these shootings were fatal. Accuracy, meaning how many shots were head and torso hits, was 76 percent.

However, it also had a failure rate of 31 percent, meaning that 31 percent of people shot by a .22 rimfire round weren't stopped at all by being shot, which is slightly more than double the failure rate of the popular self-defense calibers.

It should also be noted that .22 LR and other rimfire rounds are known to have a higher failure rate in terms of the ammunition itself due to how rimfire cartridges are made. If you shoot a 500-round brick of .22 LR, you're almost certainly going to have more failures to ignite than if you shot a 500-round case of 9mm.

In other words, what that means is that .22 pistols can be effective, but there are some requirements for the utmost of efficacy.

If You Have To Use A .22 Pistol, Here's What You Need To Do

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Okay, so let's say that you wanted to either carry a .22 pistol or were curious about what was necessary if you had to resort to it. After all, some people have them in their safe and - for the sake of discussion - let's say that it was all you could get ammunition for, or the only gun you had working for a day or two, or something along those lines.

First, accuracy is of paramount importance. It's never not of paramount importance; accuracy is almost always what wins gunfights and caliber doesn't matter one darn bit if you miss. However, what's obvious from what information is out there from testing and real-world information about the efficacy of .22 LR and .22 WMR:

These calibers have less penetrative ability than the normal handgun calibers for personal defense. These calibers are more likely to fail to stop someone attacking you than the typical personal protection calibers.

Therefore, you need to be able to put your shot exactly where it needs to go on target. That might require you to put a shot in the brain box and at that, fast. So whatever .22 pistol it is that you do have, you need to practice with it.

Load selection is critical. If there is any correlation between performance in gel testing and the load choice in Lucky Gunner's data, it was velocity. Therefore, get the hottest .22 LR load you can find. It wasn't everything, but the faster rounds tended to perform better in their tests than slower ones.

However, if you choose a good bullet, and then practice up so that you are accurate with the pistol and can run the gun with ease….22 LR actually becomes more viable than you'd think it was at face value.