Should I Use a .22 Magnum for Self-Defense?

My concealed carry instructor was a former marine who insisted if the caliber doesn’t start with a four, it’s not enough gun. I was one of those people who wore the T-shirt with, “Why a .45?” on the front and, “Because They Don’t Make a .46,” on the back. I owe a lot of people an apology.

After almost 20 years of instructing basic pistol and the Texas License to Carry Course, I find myself now at 75 years old having to rethink a lot of things. I know 75 is not old, but some days I can’t even open a package of saltines. I use an UpLULA to load my 9mm magazines. It’s rare that I carry one of my favorite .45 1911s anymore.

UpLULA Magazine loader
The UpLULA loader is a must have for loading full-capacity magazines.

I can still rack the slide on a P229, G3, or M&P Shield, but sometimes it’s a Taurus 856 UL I stick in my pocket when we leave the house. My particular physical limitations are related to arthritis accompanied by bursitis and enhanced by peripheral neuropathy. Lots of us have these maladies, but they don’t affect our ‘want’, and we don’t want to give up carrying a gun.

So, we adjust. I’ve authored articles about shooting with hurting hands. I still won’t recommend a .22 for self-defense, but the thought of carrying a .22 Magnum — at times — is starting to creep into the outer edges of something I might consider. However, only if it has a large capacity magazine (I don’t live in a socialist state).

.22 Magnum

The U.S. military M4 rifle makes the same size hole as a .22 Magnum. Both rounds measure .224 inches at the base… admittedly, there is a significant difference in performance. An AR shooting a 5.56 drives a 55-grain bullet at 3,200 fps while a .22 WMR handgun drives a 40-grain bullet at something around 1,200 fps. The terminal concept of both rounds is to destroy flesh or internal organs by a tumbling action.

Sometimes the names by which the caliber is called can be confusing. The caliber is sometimes called .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire but also called .22 WMR, .22 Magnum, .22 WMRF, .22 MRF, or .22 Mag. These are all different names for the same cartridge. These cartridges are loud and from most handguns they spit fire out the muzzle when fired.

In no way am I advising you to carry a .22 Magnum as a defensive handgun. However, if you decide on your own to carry one or find yourself with no other option, consider instead of aiming at center body mass to think about aiming for the face — specifically the bridge of the nose. Penetration there will be your best option of stopping someone cold as the bullet enters the cerebral cortex thus disrupting brain function necessary to sustain life. Also, you should probably load your gun with hollow point rounds, which are available from several manufacturers.

Remington MAgnum Rifle and CCI Maxi-Mag .22 mag ammunition
Several manufacturers, including Remington and CCI, make hollow point rounds in .22 Magnum. Hollow points are recommended when using .22 Magnum for defense.

I’ve got several single-action .22 revolvers with swappable .22 magnum cylinders, but that’s not the kind of .22 magnum you’d carry for self-defense. There are, however, a couple of .22 Magnums that have the capacity to make me feel comfortable.

When my son and I operated a gun store, he was the onsite manager. Much of that time, I held down another job to help pay the bills. I came to the store one day to find my son working behind the counter wearing a Kel-Tec PMR30 in his holster. Later, when we were in the office catching up, I asked him about it. He said, “When you wear it all day, you don’t even notice this lightweight gun. And I figure, it’s loud and has 31 rounds of magnum hollow points in it. No one is going to stick around and fight me in a gunfight when I’m shooting at him with that fire-breathing, loud gun that just keeps on shooting.”

I’ve thought about that day often when I’m out shooting one of my .22 magnums, including the PMR30. My son is a young man with none of the arthritis, bursitis, and other painful diseases that plague us old folks. Occasionally however, has a hitch in his gitalong from a football injury. Nobody likes to get shot, and the psychological aspect of lots of bullets coming at you fast is probably just as effective in stopping aggressive behavior as the damage those bullets are doing.

KelTec PMR30 semi-auto .22 Mag, left profile
The PMR30 groups well at defensive distances up to around 10 yards.

Kel-Tec PMR30

Therefore, the Kel-Tec PMR30 is at the top of my list for guns I’d have with me if I absolutely couldn’t operate a 9mm. Kel-Tec started advertising PMR30 in 2010, but for the longest time they were very hard to get. We had them on allocation at our gun store, and the first six we got in were absorbed by our employees. To get one from our wholesalers, we had to buy something else in the $1,200–$1,500 range. Eventually, my son and I each got one, and they’re among our treasured guns. These guns are much easier to get now and are usually in inventory at most places that sells guns. It has always been an under $500 gun.

The PMR30 is very light. Total weight unloaded is only 14 ounces, and a loaded 30-round magazine doesn’t add that much weight. It’s 7.9 inches long, 5.8 inches high, and 1.3 inches wide. The barrel is 4.3 inches in length. The grip is big because of the 30-round, double-stack magazine. The mag release is at the base of the grip. There’s an ambi safety and a small slide lock on the left side. The book says the trigger pull is 5 pounds. However, mine is closer to 3 pounds with a short take-up and short reset.

The manual cautions that the PMR30 functions best with high power ammo, often with bullet weights of 40 grains and up. Kel-Tec recommends CCI Maxi Mag 40-grain, Winchester Super-X 40-grain, and Remington Premier Magnum 33-grain. I’ve shot it with all of those, and so long as the feed ramp was clean, it handled them fine.

Rock Island XTM .22 Magnum semi-auto .22 mag handgun, left profile
The Rock Island XTM .22 Magnum carries 16 rounds of .22 Magnum ammo.

I’ve also used other types of ammo with good results. I would feel adequately armed with this gun loaded with 31 rounds of 40-grain hollow points or Hornady Critical Defense 45-grain FTX cartridges. As far as holsters go, it fits into a 1911 holster fairly well.

Rock Island XTM

Another gun that falls within what I consider my ‘adequately-armed rimfire’ category is the Rock Island XTM .22 Magnum. This standard-sized 1911 carries 16 rounds of .22 Magnum ammo. Mine likes CCI’s Maxi-Mag 40-grain hollow points just fine. The XTM .22 Magnum weighs in at 2.5 pounds, fits in a standard 1911 holster, and shoots like a 1911 — because that’s what it is. Since I’m a 1911 guy, this under-$600 gun falls right in there as a low recoil, high-volume ammo, defensive handgun.


Final Thoughts

Nothing in this article should be construed as this pistol instructor recommending that you carry a rimfire handgun for self-defense. But I wrote this article to give you some things to think about if you start having physical issues similar to mine. What’s that old saying? “When life deals you a lemon, shoot it full of holes with a .22 Magnum!” or something like that.

While few would choose the .22 LR or even .22 Mag as a first choice for self-defense, it is an option for some. What’s your take? Do you know someone who relies on a .22 Mag for self-defense? Why? Share your answers in the comment section.

Source link: by David Freeman at