One of the ongoing debates in the firearms community is whether or not someone should use a .22 caliber pistol as a defensive weapon. Historically, firearms chambered in .22 caliber have been used for fun or for training new gun users or children. But can you carry a .22 LR for self-protection? Ultimately, I can’t answer that question for anyone. It’s a personal decision based on need, ability, affordability and potentially a host of other reasons. But I can share a few thoughts and perhaps some items to consider.

A Start But Not the End

Using a .22 for self-defense is one of those topics that causes a lot of discussion and divergence within the firearms community. Some would claim that a .22 LR is “better than nothing;” others would argue, “absolutely no way.” I suppose I fall somewhere in between on that spectrum. While I believe that a .22 round could certainly stop a threat (whether from a physical aspect or a psychological aspect… or both!), it’s just not as large or as powerful as its centerfire counterparts. Let’s face it: The .22 is just more-mild mannered than it is hard-hitting!

All in all, this cartridge, which is more than 150 years old, was not designed for personal protection. So in a dynamic critical incident, there is already increased potential for a miss under extreme stress. And using a .22 pistol might also increase the possibility the projectile won’t penetrate through the threat’s clothing, or it may increase the chances of a well-placed round not even being felt by the attacker (who is also experiencing an adrenaline rush). For those reasons and more, a .22 might be an option, but it’s not a solution … unless it’s to be used for weak, frail, injured or otherwise incapacitated hands. Think of the .22 as a start point but not an endpoint. Use it for training and for confidence-building. However, strive to use a larger caliber for your defensive pistol.

Pros and Cons of the .22 Pistol for EDC

As far as positives for carrying a pistol chambered in .22, this firearm will likely hold more rounds than a larger caliber gun that’s fairly equal to or similar in size. A .22 can also be easier (and more fun) to train with. It’s relatively lightweight, plus there will be less felt recoil and less noise. And all of that can translate to being easier to use for defensive purposes, as well. Many gun owners also love the fact that .22 LR rounds are less expensive, so it’s not as draining on the wallet to train and practice. (It’s also not as draining physically to run a .22!) However, because of the lower power (and because of potential extraction issues), a .22 can sometimes be finicky and inconsistent, which makes for possible malfunctions. That’s OK for plinking targets, but it’s unacceptable for defending lives.

Practical Advice

Ultimately, bad guys won’t care what round you have chambered. In fact, they likely won’t know what round you have chambered. But what they will know and care about is that you have a firearm for self-defense and that you are trained, proficient and willing to use it to defend life. That mindset is critical. And no matter what caliber you choose, do your best to avoid conflict, use good judgment and apply situational awareness to keep out of potentially dangerous situations.

Training is also mandatory. Any firearm is limited by the extent of the skill of the person wielding it. So be sure to work through malfunction clearance drills. And be prepared to quickly and safely access your gun, get it up on target and engage the threat — possibly multiple times. Additionally, with a .22 pistol, be sure to keep it well-maintained, use quality ammunition and always test your ammo in your everyday carry gun before trusting your life to it.