The .22 Pistol

A Must-Have for the Serious Handgunner

The Colt Officer’s Model Match and a supply of .22 LR offer both
great training opportunities and a world of fun!

You might have heard the old phrase, “Beware the man with one gun, for he knows how to use it.” If you ask me, it’s a load of crapola. Instead, I prefer a different, contrary phrase: “The tools make the man.” Would you trust a handyman who shows up at the job site with a single hammer? Can you picture a chef who only owns one piece of cookware?

It is the expert who understands any particular tool comes with its own set of benefits and limitations. And in the realm of shooting, it is the mindset of the novice who expects a gun to be a perfect fit for any role, usage context and user.

Indeed, virtually every skilled shooter I’ve come to befriend has so many guns they need to play real-life Tetris to get all of them in the safe. The guys who can shoot rings around me are always experimenting with different platforms, and each has a knack of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of any particular platform with a keen eye.

To them and I, a collection without a .22 pistol is like a set of golf clubs without a nine-iron, a kitchen drawer without a bottle opener or a pants pocket without a good knife. Once you get used to using one, it becomes hard to ever again deprive yourself of an item so useful.

And yet, once every month or so, I overhear a shooter opine a .22 caliber pistol is “just a toy,” or “not even a real gun.” This makes me apoplectic for several reasons. It’s dismissive of a .22’s ability to develop excellent habits that translate to innumerable other platforms, dismissive of how darned fun it is to spend all afternoon burning through a brick of ammo and perhaps most unforgivable of all, dismissive of its ability to create lifelong shooters.

With rimfire ammo, there’s a flavor for every taste.

Serious Business

First and foremost, I know of no better tool to becoming a good shot than the .22 pistol. Taking recoil almost completely off the table allows a shooter to hone every aspect of handgun shooting beyond recoil control, such as hammering down consistency in one’s sight alignment and trigger press. A .22 will let you know if you’re not following through on the trigger or if you’re somehow pushing the gun laterally in the last moments before your shot breaks. This is all easier to figure out without your reptile brain worrying about a pending explosion.

But the .22 isn’t just a tool to hone marksmanship. It’s also a great aid for any kind of defensive practice combining movement, manipulating firearms at speed or just trying to get better at any skill we kind of suck at. For example, a .22 revolver is a great teacher when it comes to how fast you can consistently work a double-action trigger and get a good hit. This practice is cheaper and more accommodating with rimfire ammo.

Additionally, dedicated “tactical” .22s such as the excellent Taurus TX-22 and S&W’s M&P-22, are worth their weight in gold. So too are the various .22 conversion slides produced for a dizzying array of handguns including GLOCK, the 1911, Beretta and SIG. If you’re practicing drawing and firing from concealment or getting your weak hand used to shooting a pistol, rimfire practice allows you to isolate the important variables, lock down good mechanics and then introduce recoil control once you’re working from a place of competence and confidence.

Quality conversion kits abound for centerfire handguns,
such as the one SIG makes for its awesome P220.

Serious Fun

The .22 caliber pistol is not only likely to be the most mechanically accurate handgun in a shooter’s collection, but in most cases the gun they shoot best.

For me, this is the S&W Model 41, a handgun seemingly connected to me by some kind of neural link. I think about what I want to do and the pistol allows it to happen. It is not unheard of for these gorgeous handguns to shoot into 1″ at 50 yards, even with many varieties of bulk ammo.

You most assuredly do not need this level of accuracy, just in the same way people don’t need a Rolex or a BMW. However, an accurate rimfire pistol is an indispensable piece of kit for anyone serious about discovering where the ceiling is to their pistol accuracy. Take nearly all recoil anticipation off the table and it comes down to just you, the gun and the challenge. Can you shoot the head off a match? Can you split a playing card in half? Can you swat the fly on your target? Nothing’s more fun than gilt-edged accuracy that comes super easy.

Moreover, rimfire ammo is cheap, a quality permitting a healthy amount of (safe) goofing around. I have more of a propensity to “play” when I’m not trying to make every round count. As of my writing, we’re still firmly in the throes of the pandemic and ammo hoarders once again roam the earth, which means rimfire ammo has once again ascended to the price of about $70 a brick on the open market. And yet, this is still a sight cheaper than just about any centerfire caliber under the sun. Try to have the same amount of fun with a 9mm in times like these and you’ll have to mortgage your house to afford it!

A Seriously Good Foundation

I think my biggest pitch for owning a .22 is simple: Sometimes, it’s not all about us. Sure, you and I might be fine shooting barn-burning .357 magnum loads with heavy-for-caliber bullets through a 20-oz. snub nose, but I guarantee such a tool makes for a poor introduction to shooting in general.

Many of us contribute to shooting-related funds and charities, but here’s a way to think globally and act locally: If you don’t already have one, buy a .22 just in case a neighbor, family member or new friend has never been shooting and wants to try the whole thing out. A quality rimfire handgun will remove almost all of the intimidating factors of marksmanship and allow new shooters to join in the proverbial reindeer games.

More to the point: Knocking a first can off a post or sending a round through a bullseye is a joy that transcends politics. It is a no-foolin’ illustration someone has competently and safely directed raw power to do exactly what they wanted it to. Once a person experiences this, there’s no going back. Even the most die-hard liberals, if they have a good time, will turn around with a smile on their face. At such a moment, they get it and more often than not I have found it to result in a seismic shift in how they vote.

Always have several brands on hand to learn what your gun likes best.
The humble Ruger Mark II will outshoot nearly all of its owners.

Putting It All Together

Let’s recap: The rimfire pistol has the potential to turn the beginner into an intermediate, the intermediate into an expert and makes room at the table for newcomers to begin their own journey into this wonderful little world of ours. In my humble opinion, no breed of gun is a better teaching tool or so dang fun.

If there’s a .22 shaped hole in your pistol collection, I’d say it’s high time you filled it. But if the merits of the argument I’ve outlined today still aren’t convincing, I’d say find the best shooters you know and ask them if they’ve got a good .22 handgun you can put some trigger time on. I bet you they do, and I bet you they’ll be excited to bring it out!

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