Can You Use .22LR In A Pistol?

can you use .22LR in a pistol

The 22LR cartridge, like very few other calibers, conjures up fond memories for millions of firearm enthusiasts. Like many kids, this was one of the first cartridges that I was introduced to and greatly shaped my love of firearms.  The cartridge is designed to fit into multiple guns, but I am often specifically asked about the use of .22LR in pistols. 

22LR is a popular choice of caliber for pistol owners. 22LR Ammunition is highly versatile and designed to work in pistols, revolvers, combination guns, and rifles. Your choice of ammunition depends on the intended purpose.  

You may, however, need to consider a variety of pros and cons before loading .22LR into your pistol. The overall performance and safety of your handgun will be directly affected by the cartridges that you load. 

Does .22LR in fit into all pistols?

One of the greatest advantages of .22LR is that it is a highly versatile cartridge. Most firearm manufacturers offer pistols chambered for the .22LR cartridge in various configurations and models for many different applications.  For those pistols that do not have chambers that can hold .22LR, many manufacturers have conversion kits available that can be used to modify their pistols to hold this caliber. 

Which pistols are chambered for 22LR?

Pistols chambered for the .22LR cartridge are generally built lighter and smaller than their full-size cousins. They also have lower noise levels and almost no recoil. They are highly accurate, making pistols chambered for the .22LR cartridge a popular choice with enthusiasts worldwide.

10 Examples of pistols that are chambered for .22LR:

Make and ModelAverage Retail Price
Ruger Mark IV$579
Browning 1911-22$659
Ruger 22 Charger$309
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory$638
Browning Buck Mark$505
Smith & Wesson Model 41$1494
Beretta U22 Neos$325
Ruger LCP II .22$349
Walther PPK/s 22$449
Glock 44$430

Which type of .22LR is best for my pistol?

While .22LR ammo generally works in most pistols, gun owners are encouraged to experiment with the various brands available to determine which one best suits them. The cartridges are relatively cheap, so there is no reason not to have an afternoon of fun backyard plinking and test out a few different brands of .22LR. One of the most versatile brands recommended for most pistol owners is CCI. In the end, pistol owners should choose their favorites based on what works best for themselves and the intended use of the round.

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What is .22LR ammo?

Origin – .22LR cartridges evolved from early 22.BB Cap, which was first dreamed up for use in indoor shooting galleries. The first .22LR cartridges were an offshoot of the popularity of the BB Cap and came into production in 1884 at Union Metallic Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  

The .22LR cartridge was designed by and owes its existence to the Union Metallic Cartridge Company. The .22LR cartridge is similar in design to the 22 BB Cap, which originated in 1845. It was later improved on when the .22 Short came to life in 1857. It took almost 30 years to better the performance of the 22 Short with the introduction of the .22LR in 1884 when the basic .22 Short case length was extended to .613 inches (15.6mm) which is as we know it today. 

Design – .22LR is a rimfire-type cartridge. Rimfire cartridges differ from other types of ammunition in that the primer is located in the distinctive outer protruding rim and not in the center like most other types of cartridges. The firing pin makes contact with the outer edge rim, which, in turn, sets off the firing sequence. 

The bullet (head), originally lead and in most instances still is today, is of the heeled design. This means that the bullet head is the same diameter as the cartridge case but is stepped down slightly at the base for the bullet head to fit into the case. 

Size – The overall complete cartridge length is 1 inch (25.4mm).  The number ’22’ in the name ‘Long Rifle’ is derived from the bullet’s diameter length, which is .22 of an inch, or 5.588mm. 

Bullet heads weigh between 20 and 60 grains (1.3 to 3.9 g), and velocities range from 575 to 1,750 ft/s (175 to 533 m/s). There are four varieties of .22LR velocity cartridge available for use in your pistol. These are:

  1. Subsonic cartridges
  2. Standard velocity cartridges
  3. High velocity cartridges
  4. Hyper or Ultra velocity cartridges

Performance –  .22LR performs well up to a distance of about 150 yards. As soon as the bullet leaves the muzzle of the pistol, gravity immediately starts to affect its trajectory. After approximately 150m, the bullet head begins to drop rapidly, and accuracy will be affected. However, while it may no longer be traveling along the shooter’s anticipated trajectory after 150 yards, caution must be taken exercised as the bullet can continue flying for more than a mile.

Is .22LR considered pistol ammo?

.22LR Ammunition is designed to work in pistols, revolvers, combination guns, and rifles. Your choice of ammunition depends on the intended purpose. Certain weapons work better with specific ammunition types than others in terms of functionality and accuracy. For example, because pistols are blow-back designed, some models may need a .22LR round that operates at a higher pressure to reliably cycle the weapons.  

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What can you use .22LR ammunition for?

The .22LR cartridge is extremely popular and has many uses. Although the bullets are tiny, I have personally witnessed ranchers dispatching cattle at close range with a single shot.  This is a testament to their potency and versatility.

  • Self-defense – Pistols chambered for the .22LR cartridge are lightweight, versatile, and easy to keep concealed. This is an advantage for gun owners who need a gun for personal protection but still need to remain active and go about their day-to-day activities.
  • Competition shooting – Most shooting organizations cater for .22LR disciplines.
  • Hunting of small game – Suited for small game. It can be reliably used for the hunting of animals up to about the size of a coyote. 
  • Vermin control – For dispatching small critters, for example, rats and snakes.
  • Recreational shooting – This is a popular backyard fun gun. It is relatively quiet, accurate, and relatively inexpensive.
  • Training – most youngsters or novice shooters are introduced to the sport using 22lr cartridges.  It is the perfect cartridge to perfect grip, stance, and aim without fear of recoil and loud bangs!
  • Trappers use it to dispatch prey at close range – The relatively low velocity and small diameter bullet cause minimal damage to pelts but still reliably dispatches the animal. 

Can a .22LR caliber pistol kill you?

Thousands of people have succumbed to wounds sustained from .22LR pistols. While pistols may be small and .22LR ammunition may be relatively inexpensive, they are no less lethal than any other firearm. Pistols may be a backyard recreational enthusiast’s weapon of choice, but a single shot in the wrong place is undoubtedly enough to kill a person.  

Should kids use .22LR?

.22LR is the most popular cartridge of choice for families who enjoy shooting. However, kids and novice shooters should never be left unsupervised to ‘target shoot’ in the backyard. Even though the noise level and recoil of a pistol firing .22LR is minimal, it is here where kids learn responsible gun handling practice. From an early age, they should be trained to use ear and eye protection and handle all guns, irrespective of size, with utmost care and respect. 

Can a .22LR shot from a pistol ricochet? 

The answer is a resounding yes! Although the projectiles may be tiny, they are moving at around 500ft/s even after flying 400 yards. In fact, .22LR bullets are more likely than larger bullets to ricochet because they are made entirely of lead and therefore do not have any type of softer covering that may absorb some of the impact to slow them down if they strike a solid surface. The .22LR is therefore referred to as an ‘unjacketed’ cartridge, and it will likely deflect if it hits an object that does not absorb the impact. 

A shot from a .22LR has even been known to ricochet off the surface of the water.  A recorded incident occurred where a shot traveled an immense distance across a lake and caused injury to an unsuspecting victim, more than a mile from where it was fired.

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Why was .22LR ammunition recently so scarce?

In 2020 there was a huge increase in the number of firearms purchased in the USA. Data from the FBI sources showed a 40% increase in firearm background checks done from 2019-2020. Some of the reasons for this massive demand were the lockdown caused by the pandemic and political uncertainty. Many people raced to purchase firearms as they were concerned about possible tighter gun regulations with the change in administration. 

With the increasing number of gun owners, the demand for ammunition increased rapidly, and manufacturers could not keep up. This increased demand also caused a spike in the price of .22LR ammunition. However, recently the price has fortunately returned to normal, as producers have managed to up their production rate. 

What is a .22LR pistol silencer or suppressor?

The sound of a gunshot can be effectively reduced by fitting the .22LR pistol with a silencer, also called a suppressor. This is a tubular device containing baffles which is fitted onto the end of the muzzle or barrel. Some folks call it a ‘can’ due to its appearance. 

When fired, the .22LR bullet travels through the “tunnel” of baffles contained within the silencer which effectively muffles the gasses expelled along with the bullet. This device reduces the sound of the bang when the bullet leaves the muzzle of the firearm.

Can a .22LR pistol be silenced?

For a weapon to be silenced, or suppressed, the bullet needs to travel at a speed below the sound barrier (1125 ft/s).   Subsonic .22LR ammunition is designed specifically to travel at a speed below the sound barrier. This ammunition makes it well suited for use with a suppressor.  When a shot is fired from a pistol fitted with a suppresser, the sound of the shot is hardly audible. The sound of the bullet head impacting the target is often louder than the sound of the gunshot itself.

How much does .22LR ammunition cost? 

By modern standards, .22LR ammunition performs well above its weight division. In terms of units sold, .22LR is the most popular ammunition in the world. Cartridges are relatively cheap, and on average, each bullet only costs about 10c. Cartridges are usually packaged in boxes of 50 or 100. But given their uses, they are also sold in bulk; for example, the Remington’ Bucket of Bullets’ is a plastic bucket with a lid and contains 1400 cartridges. This is a perfect option for backyard plinking when lots of bullets will be needed. 

The price of .22LR is quite dependent on the velocity type of the ammunition that you choose.  There are four velocity types of .22LR Cartridges that you can select from

.22LR Subsonic Velocity Cartridges.22LR Standard Velocity Cartridges.22LR High-Velocity Cartridges.22LR Hyper/Ultra-velocity cartridges
– Designed to travel below the sound barrier 
– Perfect for use with a suppresser. 
– Used when noise needs to be controlled.
– Travels above the sound barrier.
– Not usually used with a suppresser.
– Perfect for target shooting and competition shooting where high accuracy is important.
– Travels above the sound barrier.
– Never used with a suppresser.
– The most popular 22LR ammo. General use ammunition.
– Travels above the sound barrier
– Never used with a suppresser
– When higher velocity or distance is required from your pistol. 
– Used when a higher pressure round is needed to cycle your pistol more reliably.
Brands include:
Winchester Super Suppressed, American Eagle Suppressor 22LR, Remington Subsonic, CCI Subsonic HP, Norma subsonic T-22
Brands include:
CCI Standard, Wolf Match Target, Winchester Super-X T22
Brands include:
Eley High-velocity hollow points, Aquila Super Extra HP
Brands include:
Aguila Supermax, CCI Stinger

Will a .22LR pistol stop an intruder?

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.22LR pistols can most definitely stop a human intruder, making them one of the most popular choices for gun owners interested in personal protection. In States where carry guns are allowed, you would be much more likely to carry your favorite, lightweight, and easily concealable pistol chambered for the .22LR than, for example, your 10 inch Ruger Redhawk .44 Rem Mag. Your lightweight .22LR pistol is a self-defense weapon you can keep with you if the need arises, as opposed to your full-size carry gun that is locked away at home.

Comparison in data collected showed that the number of shots needed to incapacitate an intruder, the .22LR comes out on top. 

CalibreOne-Shot Stop %Number of Shots To Incapacitate
.22LR31%1.38
.25 ACP30%2.20
.32 ACP40%1.52
.380 ACP44%1.76
.38 Special39%1.87
9mm Luger34%2.45
.357 (Mag & Sig)44%1.70
.40 S&W45%2.36
.45 ACP39%2.68
https://www.ammoland.com/2015/01/handgun-caliber-doesnt-matter/#:~:text=Data%20courtesy%20of%20Greg%20Ellifritz 

Interestingly, although the table shows the .22LR to have the second-lowest score in stopping an intruder with a single shot, it outperformed most of the other calibers in the lowest number of shots needed to incapacitate someone.  One possible reason for this is the lightness and overall user-friendliness of handguns, enabling the victim to quickly aim and fire more accurately than with a larger firearm. With almost no recoil, more shots can be taken instantly, so a .22LR pistol is an excellent choice for personal protection.  

Conclusion

.22LR cartridges are the pistol owners’ bullet of choice for everything from backyard fun with the kids to small game hunting and competitive shooting. The cartridges perform well and are affordably priced. Recollections of fun times with loved ones and friends are synonymous with these tiny cartridges that were the starting point for most firearm enthusiasts worldwide.

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