Handgun Reviews for Women: Which .22 is best?

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Ladies, have you been wondering what the best .22 pistol for women is? You’ll find far more detailed reviews online, and I’ve even provided links for each handgun I review, but from a woman’s point of view, here is what I liked and disliked about three different .22 handguns.

image: grey-haried women wearing ear protection and dark glasses firing best 22 pistol outdoors

Where I Started

The very first handgun I ever fired was a .22 Ruger, if I recall correctly. My husband and I took a quick, spontaneous detour to an indoor shooting range, and before I knew it, I was suited up with “eyes and ears,” aka safety goggles and ear plugs. Moments later, there I was. Standing in front of a target, with hubby alongside giving me my first shooting lesson with a .22 pistol.

3 Great Things About .22 Pistols

I still love shooting .22 handguns, and what’s not to love? 

  • The ammo is cheap,
  • there’s virtually no recoil,
  • and it’s generally very easy to become proficient with these little troopers.

To top it off, it’s not a bad self-defense weapon, either, but training and practice are key!

Which is the best .22 pistol?

In this article, I review three .22 handguns that I have personally owned and/used. They are the Walther P22, the Ruger Mark III 22 LR, and the Sig Sauer Mosquito.

Walther P22

This little pistol was the very first gun I personally owned. It’s light, compact, and has a solid feel in the hand.

If you decide to carry a .22, this fits easily into a holster and is fairly easy to conceal with a loose fitting blouse, shirt, or with a jacket. You can read a review of CanCan Concealment holsters here and the Flashbang holster review here. I own the Black/Black version and prefer it. If I ever need to pull out a gun at nighttime, I don’t want there to be a flash of anything light-colored or metallic to give away my position or the fact that I’m armed. I prefer, what I call, Ninja guns!


The P22 comes in other colors, including pink. (If you ever buy a pink gun, please don’t tell me. That’s just plain embarrassing!)


It also comes in two different barrel lengths, 3.43 and 5 inches. I own and use the smaller version.


The P22 comes with two easy-to-load magazines. With smaller and hands that aren’t exactly construction-worker tough, I appreciate magazines that don’t require an enormous amount of force to insert each and every round. 

The P22 magazines are lightweight at just 1.8 ounces each, empty, and are small enough to tuck an extra inside a cosmetic bag. (See? I told you this review was for women!) Each magazine holds 10 rounds. The magazine release is directly under the trigger and is easy to find and operate. All in all, everything about the construction of the P22 is woman-friendly, but how does it shoot?

How does the P22 shoot?

After firing well over a thousand rounds with this pistol, I’ve noticed a real difference in accuracy depending on the ammunition used. This gun is a little finicky about what it’s fed. I find that I have more jams, which is precisely what you never want to experience in a self-defense situation. 

Unlike our other handguns, I’ve found that the Walther gets really dry, and I have to keep a little bottle of oil on hand every time I use it. Also, because the gun is so lightweight, my accuracy is never as sharp as with a heavier .22 pistol, such as the Ruger Mark III.

Are laser sights worth the money?

When my husband bought the P22, he went all out and paid extra for the laser sights. Now, I don’t  have the steadiest hands in the world when it comes to shooting. I mean, I’d make a really lousy surgeon. So, on the range when I was lining up a shot using the laser, the little red dot would dance all over the target. It’s hilarious, really, and I would start to laugh, sending the laser all over the range, literally. Now the only time we pull out the laser is when our cats are bored and need something to chase.

Does the Walther rate as the best 22 pistol?

All things considered, I give the Walther 3.5 out of 5 stars based on its great size and weight for carrying, light recoil, easy to load magazines, and decent price tag at $350 or so. 

I mark it down a bit because accuracy is harder to maintain and its tendency to jam when not using the recommended ammo. You can read a detailed review of the updated P22 here. This handgun is easy for kids to operate and shoot, under supervision!

Ruger Mark III, 22 LR (Discontinued 2016)

“Ooooh! I like!”

Those were the first words out of my mouth when I got my hands on the Ruger Mark III. It fairly screeches, “Spy gun!” with its long barrel and very cool look. 

The first think you notice, though, is that it would be very difficult to conceal this pistol without a wearing a long, black trench coat. However, it’s a boffo target shooting pistol and could be used for self-defense if you carried it in your car or stored it in a safe location at home. I’ve talked with gun nuts who tell me they love and own several of the Ruger Mark .22s.


Again, I prefer the all-black version for reasons mentioned above, but you’ll find it in other, probably more attractive, versions.


Ruger provides two choices of barrel length with the Mark III, 4.75 and 6 inches.  I tested the model with the 6″ barrel.  Any time you use a longer barrel, you’ll notice increased accuracy and less recoil.  The shorter pistol weighs 35 ounces, the longer weighs 37 ounces.

Safety Features

This pistol has a few safety features moms will appreciate. 

First, it’s equipped with a magazine disconnect safety feature, which prevents the gun from firing when the magazine is removed. It’s very possible for a round of ammunition to remain in the chamber, just waiting for a pull of the trigger. This feature would prevent an accidental shooting in that situation.

A second safety feature is the Mark III’s manual safety, which is easy to operate, and when the gun is loaded, a small metal bar protrudes along the left side of the receiver, or chamber.  It can easily be seen or even felt with a finger, leaving no doubt as to whether or not the gun is loaded.


Loading, inserting, and releasing magazines are all simple and comfortable with this pistol. Again, my hands are probably about as strong as the average woman’s, and I hate struggling when it’s time to reload magazines. Just about everything with the Mark III is woman-friendly.

I found that my accuracy increased rapidly once I fired a few rounds at my target. The heavier gun and longer barrel provide an enjoyable shooting experience, and it was point, click, and hit right where I wanted the round to go.

Does the Ruger Mark III rate best 22 pistol?

I give the Ruger Mark III 4 out of 5 stars, and only mark it down because it isn’t a gun useful for concealed carry. Its price point is in the mid-$300 range, making it nicely affordable. For the woman looking for an accurate, easy to operate handgun, this one is a winner! 

Sadly, the Ruger Mark III was discontinued 2016, although perhaps you can still find one somewhere. I’ll leave this review for those who might come across one. They now have the Ruger Mark IV, which is said to be easier to clean and troubleshoot, however, I haven’t use it.

Sig Mosquito (Discontinued 2013)

Prepare to fall in love with almost everything about the Sig Mosquito. Sig Sauer is my favorite gun manufacturer, second to none, so it was natural that I would begin longing for a Mosquito of my own.

Almost perfect…

I’ve used the Mosquito at the shooting range several times, and every time I start off loving it. I love the ergonomic grip, the size and weight of it, and the fact that it’s a .22 and, usually, fun to shoot. In many ways it’s the ideal. 22 pistol, and the fact that it’s a member of the Sig Sauer family is a huge plus. But then it jams, and jams again, and I realize that maybe it’s not so perfect after all, which is a shame.

To be fair, part of the problem with the particular gun is that it’s a range loaner and doesn’t get cleaned on a regular basis. However, “failure to feed”, FTF, has been an ongoing problem with this particular pistol, especially in the older models.

I tried using different types of ammo, and had better luck with CCI’s Velocitor .22 ammunition hollow points. The guys at BulkAmmo sent me a couple of boxes to try out, and this particular ammo turned out to be a good match with the Mosquito (as well as the Walther P22 and Ruger III). If you’re going to rely on a .22 for self-defense, don’t take chances with cheap ammo if you’re using this pistol.  You don’t want to risk a jam at a critical moment.

(I keep a couple of magazines loaded with CCI ammo for when I’m using a particular handgun for concealed carry, but when I’m at the range, I use cheap Walmart ammo for practice.)

The Mosquito weighs a comfortable 24.6 ounces, with magazine, and has a price tag of about $400.

One of the reasons for the popularity of the Mosquito is that it looks and feels like a “real” gun, or at least that’s what hardcore gun-nuts say! It’s frame size is very close to the typical 9 mm or .40 caliber handgun. It doesn’t feel like a toy, but then, as a Sig Sauer, I didn’t expect anything less. In my experience, the slide, magazine ejector, and trigger are comfortable and easy to use. 

Owners of the Mosquito report they were able to solve most or all of the FTF problems by, first, breaking in their new gun with 500-1000 rounds of CCI ammo. Some owners claim their Mosquitos are now happy with any .22 LR ammo, even the cheap stuff.

Does the Sig Mosquito rate best 22 pistol?

If your purpose for choosing a .22 pistol is for cheap practice, there are less expensive choices that are just fine with cheap ammo. If you want a handgun that has a solid feel and quality appearance, has the Sig Sauer brand name, and is good. Most of the time, the Sig Mosquito is a good choice.

For More Handgun Reviews and Info

If you’re loving handgun reviews and info, check out the podcast and website of my friend Bob Mayne, Handgun World.

What do you think are the best pistols for women?

Originally published 8/5/2011; updated by Team Survival Mom.

51 thoughts on “Handgun Reviews for Women: Which .22 is best?”

  1. SurvivalMom,
    I have been handgun shooting since I was a young girl. I'm way past young now.
    It is my opinion that you are off base by encouraging women to purchase a 300.00 plus pistol in a .22 cal for use of a defensive weapon. Unless of course you can consistently shoot inside the eye socket, and even at that, you need to get off at least two shots in that rapid fire grouping to ensure your perp is not still running toward you.
    That is pretty durn hard to do in less than 2 seconds with a moving target lunging toward you.

    Ballistic tests show that a .22 cal is a good choice for plinking and target shooting and practice of shooting skills, and not for use as a defensive weapon. For these other usages, it's inexpensive and cheap fun.

    If you truly want to defend yourself, ballastically, you need to move up to at least a 38 Special. if you are a petite weight.
    The knockdown power using a revolver, required to defend yourself is more assured in the use of 38 Special, 9mm,.40cal and preferably a .45cal lightweight, small grip pistol..
    My hands are small and I keep a concealed carry revolver of a
    Lady Smith and Wesson .38 Special on me at all times as my backup, in a low calf holster. It is so light, that I don't even know it's on me anymore. My primary defensive carry is a Glock 26, a 9mm, (one of the Baby Glocks), which has a smaller hand grip than the full size Glocks. It too, is lightweight, compact and is a semi-auto which uses a magazine and holds 10 rounds plus one in the chamber. I carry two magazines.

    Using one of these small pistols or semi-autos, you really should actually
    try out the holsters by shopping at a storefront gun shop or a gun show. Wear several types of holster styles for your handgun, until you find the one that fits perfectly when you kneel, sit and walk.

    My suggestion is for women to rent multiple different calibers and carriage s on different models Before they make any purchase based upon someone else's recommendations.

    I liken choosing and purchasing handguns to making personal lingerie purchases.
    Every woman is unique and has different body shapes, heights, weights, hand, arm, and pectoral muscle strengths, and individual defensive carry needs.
    I honestly hope sharing this information helps.

    Happy Plinking!


    1. TheSurvivalMom

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. My reviews are just that. Reviews. Whether or not someone wants to go out and spend $300 on the firearm of her choice is her business. I’ve given my experience along with basic facts about the gun. I don’t recommend a specific caliber for self-defense and just stated that a .22 isn’t a bad choice. As you say, so much depends on the individual.

      I’ve read quite a bit of research on comparative calibers when it comes to stopping power. You can read one of those here if you’re interested, http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/node/7866. I’ve interviewed the author and his credentials and experience are more than impressive. The most important factor is that a woman, or anyone for that matter, be very comfortable with her self-defensive weapon, and many women are not when it comes to the more powerful calibers. It’s easy to say that a 9mm or .40cal, or whatever is the only one to carry and for self-defense, but if a woman isn’t comfortable and hesitates using it, it can make a bad situation worse. Also, tight groupings are fun and all when target shooting, but several shots placed within the space of a 3×5 card in less than ten seconds is more than adequate when it comes to self-defense, and then of course, there’s my motto, “Anyone worth shooting once is worth shooting more than once.”

      Next time, please include your name and your blog or website so we can learn more from your experience. Thanks!

      1. Thank you !!! Every one acts like a .22lr is like a spit ball. I have small hands and CTS,I don’t feel like a larger cal. pistol is what I feel safe using.And I need to feel like I am in control.Just got my first revolver and it’s a Ruger LCR .22 LR .Very pleased with it ,the bullets are cheap and don’t be fooled into thinking that a .22LR bullet will not kill you.Well placed shots with a gun you feel safe to use WILL SAVE YOU.A lot of dead people could tell you that.I don’t need to feel like I have the biggest set of balls or beat my chest to prove a point.At 61 I realize I may be old but I ain’t stupid and they can keep their big ole pistols and I will use my Ruger LCR and feel just as safe.

        1. I too have a Ruger LCR .22 LR and love it! We had bought three Taurus and Smith and Wessons, but the slide was too difficult and the trigger pull too hard ( for my Concealed Carry class I actually had to wear a glove to shoot) As a result I was afraid to carry my weapon. With my Ruger LR, I am so comfortable with it that I always have it with me.

      2. hi, I tried the Walther P22, and I found the trigger to be so long and hard that it put me off the gun entirely. I’m looking for an affordable target pistol, hopefully .22 due to ammo prices. I do have some arthritis in my hands, so recoil and racking need to be easy on my hands. Any suggestions?

    2. I’m a retired Marine and we have a saying that comes right from the shooters handbook. “Marines” shooters creed.

      It’s not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it’s the hits that count!!

      My wife carries a Ruger LC22 which is perfect for her 5’1″ frame with tiny hands. She has (2) 10 round clips, 20 shots available!! Because this pistol doesn’t have massive recoil and muzzle blast, she shoots it very well. Hit’s count, and accurate hits with a smaller caliber trump poor shots with a bigger handgun any day!

      A 40 grain, .22 long rifle bullet at 5 feet distance has as many foot pounds of energy as a .223/5.56, 55 grain military round at 500 yards. Hit’s count!

  2. Hey Survival Mom,
    My wife has the Ruger Mark III. She LOVES it, We shopped around, and she found that it was the most comfortable to hold. after putting a few round down range, she was hooked.

    She is by no means a gun gal, but she has taken a real liking to that one. I have had her shoot the Walther. It just didnt fit her right. Not to mention that it jammed a bunch. I think that was mostly do to ammo.

    I would recommend the Mark III to anyone. Lets face it, 22lr is a fun to shoot, I don't care who you are.

    Keep up the good work on the blog!

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      I've had similar experiences with the P22. In fact, I'm going to try out a new brand of ammo this weekend and see if it solves the problem. Strangely, my daughter does just fine with it.

  3. I am very interested in your review of the .22 revolver. Over the past few years I have been more inclined to get firearms without magazines. Magazines are just something else to carry and/or keep track of. Lever action rifles, pump shotguns, and revolver pistols!

  4. My wife has the Walther P22. We're both happy with it. The first commenter is right, a .22 isn't the best option for a self-defense pistol. But it's better than nothing.

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      Generally, the larger the caliber the more stopping power it has, but do read the research article I cited in an earlier comment. Many of the differences aren\’t as great as most people think. If a person isn\’t comfortable with a larger caliber, they\’re better off carrying something lighter, OR if it\’s home defense, learning how to use a shotgun. I\’ve used handguns that left bruises in the palms of my hands and I\’d wince before firing! (Believe it or not, these were all smaller guns. I use a .357 Desert Eagle just fine.) When it comes to personal protection, there cannot be even a moment\’s hesitation. Training and lots of practice are key.

  5. I'm very comfortable with my S&W .22 revolver. It's up to the individual as to the choice she makes. Much like which foods we store, this is based on individual desire and need. My husband and I own 4 weapons between us. He prefers semi-automatic pistols, both .22 and .40. I can use all, but do have my own preferences which is as it should be.

  6. Mahalo, Survival Mom! This is most timely for me! I have been looking into the purchase of a self-defense weapon.
    Thank you for the research and suggestions based on your experience. Thank you for this blog! Keep up the great work!

  7. You probably remember my stance that a person should carry the largest caliber they can comfortably and accurately control, so I will not really harp on that – if a .22 meets those standards, then more power to you, but no one has ever left a gunfight muttering, "Darn, I wish I brought a smaller gun!" 😉

    I will, however, thank you for putting up these reviews – .22 handguns are invaluable for training anyone, especially given their low recoil/noise and cheap/plentiful ammunition. I really need to expand my armory in that direction, but there are so many other interesting toys out there too ;).

    One thing weapon-mounted lasers are really good for is dry-fire training at home – as you say, your grip is weak, but you can improve that by practicing shooting in your spare time, and seeing how the laser moves as you pull the trigger. I am willing to bet that after a few months of dry-firing (with appropriate snap-caps) at home every other night or so, you might start to notice a difference!

  8. notupotia, et al. – We can go back and forth forever over ballistics between the .22 and whatever.

    The simple reality is that for a great many people – man as well as women – a .22 is easier to shoot and more reliable to aim and hit the target consistently than larger calibers. And that's the name of the game – consistency to hit the target. What's the good of using a 9mm or .357 if you miss 2 out of 5 shots? Plus, there is ample historical anecdotes of people being shot with much larger calibers and close range and surviving well compared to a .22 at further ranges and not.

    Also, there is the reality of deterence factor. With all the compact 9mm's and .380's is someone pointed a P22 or a Sig .22 at you unless you really know your handguns most people will think it's a larger caliber. I know someone with a steel S&W 65 that everyone *thinks* is a .357 by sight.

  9. Texasgiant Galveston

    More people have been killed with the .22 than just about any other caliber Just because there are so many of them out there. The P22 is a perfect blend of size, reliability, and ability. While my wife packs a Colt 1911 in the Defender configuration and is spot on accurate with it on any day I tend to carry a P22 and just got a NAA Black Widow in .22mag!. I have not been to the range to drive the Black Widow and will not carry it until I am confident of its capabilities and MY limitations. There is circle of personal control that follows you everywhere and shrinks and widens with every step throughout the day. YOU MUST KNOW what tool you have at your disposal and what YOU can do with it and WHEN to do it.
    Head up and lights on. Don't walk, talk or look like a victim. If you need a reload you should have called in sick that day or you weren't paying attention before it started. And BTW, How the heck does anyone get carjacked? You are in command of a 5,000 lbs weapon! Drive like hell or park it on their chest! Take your chances, odds are they cant hit a moving vehicle and you have good cover anyway.
    Godspeed and pray you never have to learn what you are made of.

    1. Regarding the car jacking – Easy to say, hard to do. Besides the tactical situation (if your in the middle of traffic stopped at a red light for example), you can talk big about running them over but when it comes to it that's something most people will hesitate about it. Why? Because you and I and they are good people at heart, law abiding, and just want to be left alone to lead our lives with our families. We know that no matter what the reality is it is WE who will be dragged to court, called all sorts of monsterous names, and even if not sent to jail willbe sued for millions. This is the reality of the American society today. The animals run free and the law abiding citizen is in the cage.

  10. The first (and only time) I shot a lightweight revolver I put it down and never wanted to shoot it again. It was light, but packed a real punch in the recoil that only a full adreneline rush would make you want to fire again. I absolutely LOVE my 40 caliber slim. It fits my small hand AND my purse.The trade off on fewer rounds, in my opinion, is more than made up by the stopping power of a 40 cal hollow point. The recoil is about the same as a stacked magazine.
    As most women can attest, our wardrobes do not easily allow one to carry the same way (ie waist, ankle, etc.), so my husband got a FlashBang holster for me and he hasn't seen his Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 since! Works great with Victoria Secret bras, not so great with Casique.

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      Absolutely, Kiley! In my case the little revolvers that did that were .380s. They literally left my right hand sore and feeling bruised. That's why the smallest gun is very often not the right gun for a woman, although a lot of gun-sellers will try to convince their women customers otherwise.

    2. TheSurvivalMom

      Thanks for telling me about the FlashBang holster!! Wow! I'll post a demo video of it here on the blog.

  11. What matters, owning a gun you will practice with and can put multiple rounds on target with. Anything that disrupts the plumbing, bellows, and electrical system of the bad guy is effective. Ammo choices of value in handguns, CCI Velocitors, Aguila Interceptor, are some examples. Buy quality ammo, pay a couple bucks extra and avoid bulk packs.

  12. Back Woods Kidd

    Survival Mom

    Great article! I've trained my 3 sons and my daughter with my Ruger. Now my 10 year old granddaughter is shooting the Ruger. You can't go wrong with it for training and as the saying goes " Fear the individual who only owns one gun. They probaly know how to use it". Personally I carry my Sig 250 in 9mm but if I have my Ruger in my hand, it's game on for a threat of serious bodly harm or death towards myself or those mentioned above. Confidence and shot placement sometimes equal lack of caliber.

  13. Hey Survival Mom, __Been reading the blog a bit now, but I like the fact that you have gun reviews up on your site. Right now I am learning to shoot and have been going atleast once a week to my local range. I have asked all kinds of questions, and I'm almost close to purchasing my first gun. But when I ask people about little .22 caliber's for home defense, they keep insisting that I have a larger cailber, but they fail to understand the .22 is for my mother. I know her well enough to know she won't be shooting a 9mm, .40 or .45 cailber weapon. And this is even when I tell them it's for my mother as well. _Mom and I have spoken about it and she might be comfortable with a .380, she has shot one and it wasn't to hard on her. So, it's probably either going to be the Ruger Mark III in your review, or a .380 (not sure which one yet). __The only question I have and still haven't found a definate answer on, is the Ruger Mark III picky about hollow point bullets? __Great site thanks again, _RJ

    1. HI, I happen to own a Ruger, and the answer is 'No, it is not picky about the hollow point .22 ammo, as long as you take care in loading the magazine'. Basically, unless you deform the bullet tips (by careless handling, or loading the magazine improperly) you should no worries on the Ruger feeding them reliably.

  14. SurvivalMom:
    EXCELLENT article. This provides insight to novice shooters,that it IS OK to "like" shooting a handgun. The two pistols you cite are indeed excellent pistols to start with, (I would add a Browning Buckmark too).My wife "poached" my Walther P22 after shooting it once, now she wants another P22, only with the silencer package, says "that might come in handy some day…". I couldn't agree more!
    Again, any handgun is better than a stern "look", I don't see anyone "volunteering" to get shot with one either!
    Thanks from Northern Utah.

  15. FaithNotFearPrepping

    Lisa / Survival Mom,

    I was at a local gun store with my children and knew I'd be needing a .22LR pistol so I could start teaching them soon.

    He had both a Walther SP22 and a Ruger MkII! Coincidence? Not! It's great when God brings about what non-believers refer to as "coincidence".

    I looked both over very well, and let both my children hold them (both my son and daughter made shooting noises as they sighted down the barrels).

    I chose the Ruger for one big reason: the slide mechanism works like most (almost all?) semi-auto handguns. The SP22's "slide" / action is forward of the grip. (The real P22 has a traditional action, I believe).

    The Ruger is heavier, but as you pointed out, increased weight = decreased recoil. And before anyone makes the crack about recoil in a .22, I remind you I'm interested in teaching children to shoot. So anything that makes it easy and non-scary, but safe, is better.

    On a side note: when we went to purchase my wife a handgun we went to this same dealer because he was willing to spend a LOT of time letting her hold every gun in the store if necessary. If you're looking for any firearm and the sales people don't really seem interested in your opinion or comfort, go somewhere else.

  16. My wife has owned both the P22 and the PK380 for a couple of years now. The P22 behaved exactly how you described until about the 500 round point. The way we broke it in was to shoot CCI Mini-Mags for a couple hundred rounds then CCI Blazers after that. I can't remember the last time she had a failure to fire or eject using the Blazers. Rems or Federals are great if you want to practice malfunction drills. 🙂 Having said that, she carries the PK380. It has the controls in exactly the same place as the P22 including the Mag release and, in my opinion, is very low recoil for a .380. I suspect that is because the PK380 large as .380s go. So if you are looking for something that speaks with a bit more authority than the .22 and don't want to learn a difference set of controls, I'd recommend trying out the PK380.



  17. Best 22 Handguns

    I'd go with a Ruger Mark III or a Browning Buck Mark. I've never liked the feel of the Walther, feels cheap to me, and for a 22 I prefer a target pistol for plinking.

  18. Let’s clear up a few things. The .22 caliber IS NOT responsible for more deaths than any other caliber. No question this is a popular caliber and owned by many throughout the world. However as a retired law enforcement officer and gun nut I have heard this B.S. for years and that is all it is. The militaries of the world have killed millions and it was not with a .22. The US has utilized the .223 caliber for many years in its rifles(.223 and .22 are not the same) but the 7.62X39 I think would easily account for the most deaths by firearm.
    Next is the statement “What’s the good of using a 9mm or .357 if you miss 2 out of 5 shots?” It would be better to get 3 out of 5 .357 caliber slugs into an attacker than 5 out of 5 .22 caliber. A dedicated attacker can take 5 .22 caliber hits and unless they were incredibly well placed still attack you. This is much less likely with 3 hits from a .357. Yes, there are always those stories of the person shot 9 times by a 9mm and they still continued to attack. We can always find exceptions to the rule but in MOST cases use the biggest caliber you are comfortable with.

    I do agree that the .22 is great fun and a good way to introduce someone to shooting. I also agree that carrying a .22 is better than carrying nothing at all, so if you have someone that just isn’t comfortable with anything larger, than definitely go with the .22.

    1. “in MOST cases use the biggest caliber you are comfortable with.”

      Isn’t that what she said? I think people who are not experienced with self defense firearms SHOULD start with a 22LR. It’s fun to shoot, cheap to purchase, cheap to practice with, can build confidence and can stop an assault! Your 357 or 45 ACP is not guaranteed to stop one either. I recently saw an episode of “coast guard Alaska” where a guy was accidently shot with a 30-06 Rifle (much more powerful than any pistol round that can be carried) and the guy WALKED to the helicopter! So had he been a bad guy with a gun, he could have still been shooting!

      I carry a Kel-Tec PF9 will premium +P JHP’s and I find it a handful to shoot. My wife is interested in self defense and I will start her out with 22LR! I see nothing wrong with women who want to carry 22LR. If they can work up to 380, 38 special or “better” than great! If not, the 22LR will certainly get you out of a hot spot – nobody wants to be shot by one and a rapist with a knife will probably back off if he sees a pistol and will not stand there asking what caliber it is!

    2. You should look at the article on stopping power an buckeyefirearms.org. Percent incapacitated by one shot with 22 is 60% same as 357…. most people will stop on getting shot regardless of if it is leathal or not so in those cases calibre is of no import. If you want to physicaly disable/kill them use a shotgun.

  19. When it comes to concealed-carry weapons, a .22 is better than nothing. And there’s no arguing that it’s a lethal round. It’s also important to be comfortable with the caliber you carry, and .22LR is extremely easy to control.

    But if you need to shoot someone in self-defense, your attacker will be close enough that accuracy will be moot. At distances under 10 feet, anyone that’s spent a reasonable amount of time at the range will be able to hit a man-sized target.

    The problem with .22LR as a defensive round isn’t lethality – people die every day from .22 wounds. But in a situation where you are in such immediate danger that lethal force is required, your survival does not depend on killing your assailant. It depends on stopping your assailant.

    What’s the difference? 5 shots from a .22 could easily punch through your attacker, bouncing off bone and causing significant damage to many vital organs. But the bullet just doesn’t have much energy behind it. He will, of course, die within minutes or hours as his organs shut down. But that might be too late for you.

    On the other hand, a .357 round will dump much, much more energy into the same attacker. That one round may kill him outright, it may not, but the stopping power is undeniably superior. And you may hate the recoil, you may be an awful shot, but when your assailant is close enough to hurt you, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to take the time to line him up in your sights. You’ll point the barrel in his direction and stop the threat.

    I would not trust a .22 to do the same, so I think it’s disingenuous to say that comfort and controllabilty are more important than energy transfer for CCW firearms.

    1. 357 may not stop the attacker either!

      This “bigger caliber is automatically better” and “one shot stop data analysis” are myths in my opinion.

      Its all about shot placement. Now granted, a larger diameter round, especially one that expands, will be MORE LIKELY to cause immediate incapacitation if the entry point is close to the spine, heart, brain or central nervous system critical point. A 22 round that hits is FAR BETTER than a 45 acp that misses.

      My opinion is that one should shoot what they are most comfortable with and if faced with a self defense scenario, aim for the center of mass below the throat and shoot until the gun is empty or the bad guy goes down. If you do that, I am sure that all but the drug crazed, are going down EVEN with 22LR.

      Do yourself a favor though. If using 22LR for self defense, do your homework and get the highest velocity hollow-points you can find. Twelve inches of minimum penetration (enough to hit a vital at any angle) is recommended for self defense and the 22LR won’t deliver that performance so you have to hope for the ideal shot and premium ammo is a must.

  20. Well, we could go back and forth forever on stopping power, but I think The Survival Mom has it right. The article she links to is the best, most sensible review of the stopping power issue that I’ve ever seen.

    When it comes down to the ability to stop an attacker in his tracks, all handguns suck pretty much equally. (If one-shot stops are paramount, you’d better have a shotgun or a rifle.) They’re all going to take an average of about 3 shots before convincing or forcing an attacker to stop (we’re not talking waves of enemy troops here, just emergency self-defense against 1 or 2 assailants). So the most important thing is to have a gun that you can bring into action quickly, fire follow-up shots quickly, and of course hit your target. In those respects it’s hard to beat a .22.

    Having said that, for myself I have a 9mm high-capacity compact. Some would consider it too big for concealed carry, but being a rather large dude it works for me. I’ve put in practice with it, the recoil is very manageable for me, and it’s a high-quality, reliable piece.

    But I’m thinking of getting a .22 pistol (probably a Ruger Mark iii or Browning Buckmark) for cheaper practice shooting and because the wife struggles a bit with operating the 9mm slide. And because they’re downright fun. And then when she knows what she wants, my wife might get a small .22 semiauto for concealment.

    If you can be proficient (and have fun) with something more powerful than a .22, then it makes good sense to use that for self-defense. But don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t protect yourself and your family just fine with a snappy little .22.

    Like someone said earlier, being good with the gun you have is more important than what gun you have.

  21. I had a question I was hoping someone here can help answer. I recently tried out a couple 380 caliber small handguns with the flashbang holster in mind. I then went to an outdoor retailer and purchased a similar Taurus TCP.
    When I tested it out (after purchase) I was disappointed that my finger was being pinched with each shot at the bottom of the trigger. I’ve never had that happen before with any other gun I’ve fired. Is there something I can do? As it is now, I don’t even want to practice shooting because I know it will hurt.

  22. A .22 round will stop an attacker I don’t care how big and strong he is. The bullet will penetrate, and from my expeirence it’s very easy to find and buy hollow points if you really want.
    I’m in the Marine Corps, we use the 5.56 NATO round. it is a .223 round exactly like the .22 caliber bullet, .22/.223 same thing just ones shortend for simplicity. the 5.56 round will travel farther and penetrate wood, metal, and things like that a little better but it is the same exact diameter of a bullet.
    My personal suggestion is, just keep shooting until he goes down no matter what caliber you choose. 10 rounds is plenty.
    Also take a look at your house, if you stand at one corner, how far is the most extreme distance you would need to take. most homes are at most 10 yards without haveing a wall in the way. practice at those max ranges and closer, work on good trigger control, proper stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, and be safe, etc, etc.
    -Sgt O
    USMC Combat Marksmanship Coach for the past 3 years

  23. As a sharpshooter qualified military vet, a child of a retired police detective and NRA instructor, I can assure you that a .22 can be plenty lethal. Although it does not have great range, if a perp is shot within 15 yards, the internal damage is extreme, depending on the ammo used. This is the preferred caliber for mob hitmen for a reason!

  24. I like Ruger Mark III. I think this is a great gun for women. I would like to point out that most of the women should try a gun before buying it. They should also realize that their hands are smaller than men, which means that a gun that is good for men might not be necessarily good for women. We wrote about it here for anyone interested taking a look: http://nationalcarryacademy.com/woman-issues/ Would love to get a feedback from you The Survival Mom. You always provide great insights. Anyways, thank you for another great piece. Looking forward for more.
    – Robert M

    1. The Survival Mom

      Thanks for your very kind words, Robert. I completely agree with you regarding the necessity of first trying out several handguns before making a purchase. At my first gun show, the sellers (all men) emphasized that I would need a small handgun, yet later when I tried 1 or 2 at the range, they were NOT what I wanted. One actually bruised my hand with its heavy recoil. Now I generally use a Baby Glock and love it.

  25. Samantha Phelps

    Hello, I wanted to know your thoughts on the Ruger sr22. I was lucky enough to have been able to shoot one in the last few weeks and am really thinking about buying one. I love the sixe and the way it fit in my hand (I have baby hands some would say). I really liked the way it shot. Have you ever fired one? If so what are your thoughts?

  26. I’m doing some online research to decide the best choice for my first handgun. I have to say, I’m a little put off by your remark that it’s “embarrassing” to think a woman would carry a pink handgun, yet in the very next paragraph you remark that a particular model fits easily into a cosmetic bag. I’m by no means a “girly-girl” yet I’m no tomboy either. I feel like your comment is mocking should I choose a pink gun, yet I wonder whether would you make that comment if a man chose a camo gun? Would that be so stereotypical as to be embarrassing to men, in general? Personally, I do not carry a cosmetic bag, although I do wear cosmetics. I am looking for a good choice in a handgun that I can wear in a holster and feel confident shooting regardless of its color, be it pink, camo, black or tie-dye. Why judge? I appreciate your review but I do feel that you’re discouraging or off-putting to those females who embrace the more feminine side of our gender.

    1. The Survival Mom

      Why is my opinion so important to you? Go ahead and get that pink handgun if that’s what you really want.

      1. Oh, your opinion matters not a bit in my color choice. My comment wasn’t meant to be inflammatory or argumentative at all. I was merely stating that in a review of handguns, color choice is irrelevant (assuming you’re not in that “in-the dark, don’t want any metallic shining” mode) but I did feel that you’re basically shaming a female for choosing pink. Why not empower your readers rather than shame? Should the commenter who states she’s using her FlashBang holster with a Victoria’s Secret bra be embarrassed by her undergarments and choose a utilitarian bra-in-a-box? I think not. Again, I wasn’t trying to irritate or rile you. I just hoped my comment might cause you to take pause and think about how your comments could deter someone who does put stock in others’ opinions. Personally I’m confident enough that it’s irrelevant to me. I don’t have anything more to say on the matter and wont be posting any further comments. You are clearly knowledgeable about guns and shooting. I appreciate the time and effort you put into your article, from which I did glean useful information.

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