An ongoing debate 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 protection? Ultimately, that’s a personal decision based on need, ability, affordability and a host of other reasons. But I can share a few thoughts and perhaps some items to consider. 

9mm Guns for Concealed Carry

The 9mm pistol is a staple in the world of self-defense and law enforcement. Known for its balance between stopping power and manageable recoil, the 9mm is a popular choice for both new and experienced shooters. Its ammunition is widely available and affordable, making it an excellent option for regular training and practice. Read about some of the best 9mm guns here.

.22 Caliber Pistols

Using a .22 for self-defense is one of those topics that causes a lot of discussion and divergence amongst concealed carriers. 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 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.

Comparing 9mm to .22

Each caliber offers unique benefits and drawbacks, which can significantly impact their effectiveness in self-defense situations. Here, we’ll delve into a detailed comparison of 9mm and .22 caliber pistols, examining key factors such as performance, recoil and cost.

Performance and Ballistics

9mm: Known for its higher stopping power, the 9mm round is capable of significant penetration and expansion, which is crucial in self-defense shooting situations. The 9mm has a higher velocity and energy compared to the .22, making it more effective at stopping threats.

.22 LR: While a .22 round can certainly stop a threat, it is less powerful than a 9mm. The small size of the round means it may not penetrate deeply or expand as effectively. The .22 LR round is less powerful and has a lower velocity, which can affect its effectiveness in self-defense scenarios.

Recoil and Control

9mm: The 9mm has more recoil compared to the .22, which can affect accuracy, especially for new shooters or those with smaller frames. It will require more training to manage recoil effectively in high-stress situations. Pistols chambered in 9mm vary in size, but they are generally larger and heavier than .22 caliber pistols, which can affect comfort and concealability.

.22 Caliber: The .22LR has very low recoil, making it easier to control and more comfortable for extended practice sessions. It is ideal for new shooters, individuals with weaker hands or those who are recoil-sensitive. .22 caliber pistols are typically lighter and more compact, making them easier to carry concealed.

Cost and Availability

9mm ammunition is widely available and relatively affordable, although it is more expensive than .22 LR rounds.

.22 LR ammunition is extremely affordable and readily available, making it an excellent choice for those who want to practice regularly without breaking the bank.

.22 vs. 9mm for Concealed Carry

Pros and Cons of 9mm for Concealed Carry

The 9mm offers significant advantages for concealed carry due to its higher stopping power and better penetration capabilities. It is widely used by law enforcement and military personnel, which speaks to its effectiveness as a defensive caliber. The abundant availability of 9mm ammunition further enhances its appeal.

However, the 9mm does come with higher recoil, which may be challenging for some shooters. Additionally, 9mm pistols are typically larger and heavier, which can affect their comfort and concealability for everyday carry. Learn how to choose a holster for your concealed carry practice.

Pros and Cons of Concealed Carrying with .22LR

Carrying a .22 caliber pistol for self-defense comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. One of the main benefits is the low recoil, which makes the .22 easier to shoot accurately. The lightweight and compact nature of .22 caliber pistols also makes them more comfortable and easier to conceal. Additionally, .22 LR ammunition is very affordable, making it ideal for frequent practice.

On the downside, the .22 caliber has lower stopping power and penetration compared to larger calibers, which can be a significant drawback in self-defense scenarios. There may also be potential reliability issues with some .22 firearms, making them less dependable in critical situations.

9mm vs. .22 Caliber in Self-Defense

Dashcam videos of real-life gun fights will likely lead you to believe caliber doesn’t matter. One such example is that of the 1992 murder of South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Mark Coates. Trooper Coates was patrolling I-95 when, during a traffic stop, a man with a five-shot .22 LR revolver killed him. Trooper Coates shot his attacker five times with a .357 Magnum. The attacker lived. Trooper Coates was hit by two rounds and died. The truth of the matter is that shot placement is more important than caliber when it comes to self-defense.

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Which Caliber Is Best for Concealed Carry?

Choosing between a 9mm and a .22 caliber for concealed carry ultimately depends on your personal needs, abilities and preferences. The 9mm offers more stopping power and is a proven self-defense round, but it comes with higher recoil and typically larger firearm size. The .22 caliber, while less powerful, provides low recoil, ease of use and affordability, making it a viable option for certain individuals. If that is all you have or all you can afford or all you are able to handle, any gun is better than no gun.

Some rounds are most certainly better than others. But no matter which caliber you choose, ensure you train regularly, maintain your firearm and practice safe handling and situational awareness. In the end, the best self-defense weapon is the one you can use confidently and accurately.


This article is a compilation of previous blog posts authored by Beth Alcazar and Kevin Michalowski.