.22LR Semi-Auto Pistol: One Gun Every Gun Owner Should Own

Every time I teach a basic pistol or concealed carry class, at least one student asks, “What is the perfect gun to shoot and carry?” My standard answer is that there isn’t one gun that works perfectly for everyone. We all have different needs: smaller or larger hands, weaker or stronger arms for recoil management, concealed vs. home defense, etc.

Further, there are other considerations, including what capacity you want, what caliber, and so on. You might even want to pick a different color besides the Model T black. So, the perfect gun doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one gun that every gun owner should own. There is one, but it’s not a brand, model, or color.

It’s a caliber: .22LR. More precisely, a .22LR semi-automatic handgun.

“Wait, David, are you suggesting I carry a .22LR for home defense or as a concealed carry gun?”

Nope, not at all. Those words will never come out of my mouth. In fact, the very reasons that would preclude a recommendation like that are the very same reasons you should own one. Confused? Hang on, I’m getting there.

A .22LR semi-auto handgun such as this Glock 44 can offer huge benefits for cost-effective training.

One of the biggest reasons gun owners aren’t always good marksmen or can’t run a gun efficiently is a lack of training. They know the basics of how a gun works, but they can’t “run the gun,” meaning they aren’t proficient with the firearm to the point where it’s second nature. You only get to this level of skill with repetitive training.

A lot of gun owners recognize this and want to train to get better, but two things stand in the way:

  1. Cost
  2. Bad recoil management

“Okay, I get the first one, but bad recoil management? Explain.”

Let’s start with the cost first, then get to the second one.

Low Cost

One of the biggest expenses for any gun enthusiast is ammunition. With prices often ranging from $0.50 to over $1 per round for popular calibers like 9mm and .45 ACP, the cost of practice and training can add up very quickly. This is where the humble .22LR pistol really shines. High-quality .22LR ammunition can be purchased for as little as $0.10 per round. The .22LR allows shooters to practice and train much more economically at a fraction of the cost of centerfire pistol ammunition.

Also, most .22LR handguns cost less than their larger caliber brothers, sometimes hundreds less. So, your initial investment is low, and it costs less to feed it. That’s a budgetary win-win for cheap pew-pew.

While small, the .22LR cartridge has more than enough power for plinking, small game hunting, and short-range target practice out to 50 yards. And even this diminutive cartridge can be surprisingly accurate in the hands of a skilled marksman.

Low Recoil

Many new gun owners are afraid of the recoil of a 9mm or larger caliber pistol. This fear can influence how they hold the gun and pull the trigger incorrectly, leading to inaccurate shooting and mounting frustration because they aren’t poking holes where they want to. How do you fix this? Step down to a smaller caliber for training, then work back up.

The .22LR’s low recoil makes it a fantastic choice for beginners getting their first taste of handgun shooting. It allows them to focus on fundamentals like grip, stance, sight alignment, and trigger control without having to manage stout recoil. As confidence and marksmanship skills build, the transition to larger calibers becomes much smoother.

The FN502 offers all the same setup and controls as the FN509 but shoots .22LR.

But don’t think the .22LR is just for novices. Even experienced shooters can benefit tremendously from regular practice with a .22LR pistol. All of the essential marksmanship skills required for larger caliber handguns apply just as much to .22s. The ability to send dozens or even hundreds of rounds downrange per session at minimal cost makes the .22LR pistol a fantastic training tool for everyone from plinkers to competitive shooters.

For example, if you’re working on your trigger motion, you can do that just as easily with a .22LR as with a 9mm and imprint the muscle memory without worry about recoil. Work on this long enough, and everything you’ve learned will translate verbatim, improving your accuracy with the larger caliber gun.

Which One?

Which .22LR pistols should gun owners consider? The market is filled with excellent rimfire options from all the top manufacturers. Glock’s G44 (with a frame based on its 9mm G19 older brother) has proven an incredibly popular and affordable choice that gives shooters the familiar Glock feel with less thump.

Smith & Wesson’s M&P22 is one of several excellent choices for practicing all your bigger caliber skills on a gun that works the same but costs less and is easier to manage during training.

Ruger’s Mark IV lineup provides iconic .22LR performance in various configurations, from the ultra-compact 22/45 Lite to the full-size Mark IV Hunter with its 6.88″ bull barrel.

Smith & Wesson brings its legendary quality and reliability to the .22LR space with options like the full-size SW22 Victory and the compact M&P22 Compact, which gives shooters a .22LR version of their popular M&P series. Beretta chimes in with rimfire versions of its classic 92 series, like the 92FS .22LR and U22 Neos.

Parting Shots

No matter which specific model you choose, a quality .22LR pistol belongs in every gun owner’s collection. The extremely low cost of ammunition makes the .22LR a fantastic option for building shooting skills while going easy on your wallet. And the enjoyment factor of plinking cans and ringing steel at short distances should not be underestimated. If you don’t yet own a .22LR pistol, do yourself a favor and pick one up soon. Your marksmanship and your budget will thank you.

David Workman is an avid gun guy, a contributing writer to several major gun publications, and the author of Absolute Authority. A logophile since way back, Workman is a quickdraw punslinger and NRA RSO and Certified Pistol Instructor. He helps train new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as practicable. "Real-world shootouts don't happen at a box range."

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