First introduced in 1884, the .22 LR cartridge excels as a beginner’s first handgun. Four factors contribute to its serving newbies well: low cost, non-existent recoil, low noise and inherent accuracy. Although not the case today, for many years rifles and handguns chambered in .22 LR were used as military and police understudy training arms. Using .22 LR arms was a great way for those new to firearms to gradually become accomplished marksmen.
I’ve been teaching others to shoot since I was in the Boy Scouts and believe the .22 LR is the best cartridge to introduce people to shooting. This is especially true for handgun introduction. Which handgun type is the best to use for new shooters? In my opinion, the double-action .22 revolver.
The first handgun I ever shot was a Smith & Wesson Model 1953 .22/32 Kit Gun with a 4-inch barrel. It was a great, fun way to start. There are several reasons I think using a .22 LR revolver is better for new shooters than a .22 semi-automatic. No. 1 is the simplicity of operation. Operating a revolver allows new shooters to focus on marksmanship basics without operational distraction.
Another reason is trigger management. If you learn to manage a double-action (DA) revolver trigger first, you can manage any other trigger. The 10-pound trigger pull on most double-action revolvers requires patience to master. While decent DA revolvers have a smooth pull, the length of the pull forces you to work on gradually increasing pressure on the trigger until the gun goes off. You likely won’t develop the same level of patience starting out with a 5-pound trigger pull and short length of travel on a semi-automatic pistol.
Six Shots of Learning
With only five to six shots available in the average revolver cylinder (some have 10 rounds now), the need to make each one count takes priority. The natural rapid-fire capability of semi-autos doesn’t tend to encourage people to slow down. In every firearms training class I taught through 27 years at the police academy, cadet training began with S&W Model 10 .38 Special revolvers. This onetime universal police duty handgun taught the basics before cadets transitioned to the Glock 19.
There are three reasons for revolver familiarization in the semi-auto era, the first again being good marksmanship. Starting on the Model 10 also encourages future officers to consider a five-shot .38 Special snub-nosed revolver as a backup gun. And finally, the .38 Special is a light recoiling round, especially when fired from a 34-ounce Model 10.
If our budget permitted, I would have started the cadets out with .22 revolvers.
The cadets trained on the same initial courses of fire with both Model 10s and Glock 19s. After they had progressed to the Glocks, I brought the revolvers out again. The number of cadets who shot better with a Model 10 than with a G19 was amazing. Some even confided they liked the Model 10s better. In comparing results from other classes that didn’t teach on the revolver first, the cadets starting on Model 10s ended up better shooters than if they had started with the G19s.
Recommended Revolvers for Newbies
There are a number of .22 revolvers that would work well for training. Here are a few of the current production models I like:
- S&W Model 63
- S&W Model 17
- Ruger 3-inch LCRx
- Ruger SP101 Standard
- Ruger GP100 Standard
- Taurus 3-inch Model 942
- Taurus 992
These revolvers all feature manageable triggers, 3- or 4-inch barrels, prominent sights and single-action thumb-cocking ability, which helps with transitioning to semi-automatics later on.
Teaching new shooters the ropes with a DA .22 revolver is a time-proven training technique. Standard-velocity ammo works best. And don’t forget hearing protection. There are often similar guns to the ones listed above for sale on the used market. If you are a new shooter who purchases a .22 LR revolver as a first-time gun or are buying one to train a family member, I guarantee you won’t be trading it in anytime soon. You’ll find the .22 revolver really is the best handgun for new shooters.