8 Best 22LR Pistols [2024]: Fun, Affordable, and Not Just for Plinkers

by Travis Pike

October 11, 2023

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22LR has lived well beyond the life of any other black round powder rimfire round. The little fella has become an American icon with new 22LR rifles, revolvers, and pistols being produced yearly. The staying power is tied back to the round’s low price, its near nonexistent recoil, and the fact it’s the best plinking cartridge known to man.

With such a swath of 22LR guns on the market, it’s tough to write a best-of-all-time list. Instead, we are going to break it down into 22LR rifles, 22LR revolvers, and 22LR pistol categories.

How We Chose Our Picks

When picking out the best 22LR pistols for this list, I chose the pistols that have worked well for me in a variety of real scenarios and ranked them based on the following factors. 

  • Construction – The first thing I see when I evaluate a pistol is whether or not the construction is solid. The design is also important, so I look at the ergonomics, weight distribution, stock material, and quality. 
  • Accuracy – With accuracy, you have to look at both how well a pistol’s bullet hits the target and how consistently it works. I tested it out by taking the pistol to the range and shooting at targets placed at different distances. 
  • Value – With value, I wanted to make sure the gun gave you a fair value for the price you paid for it. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on a rifle that won’t last you long, so I evaluated them based on their performance and durability compared to the price. 
  • Shootability – The gun should deliver a smooth and consistent shooting experience, so for this metric, I looked at factors like recoil, comfort, and ease of handling. 

Now that you know how I’ve evaluated the pistols on this list, let’s jump straight to the list itself. 

Best 22LR Pistols

Best 22LR Pistols

Editor’s Choice

Ruger MkIV 22/45

Ruger MkIV 22/45
  • Superbly accurate
  • Easy to upgrade and accessorize
  • Easy to shoot for all ages and skill levels
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Sig P938 22LR
  • Lightweight
  • Superbly crisp trigger
  • Functions as a standalone gun or conversion kit
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KelTec CP33
  • Massive 33 round magazine
  • Space-age design
  • Easy to add optics, lights, and kitchen sinks
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Walther PPQ 22
  • A perfect replica of the 9mm PPQ
  • Outstanding ergonomics
  • Unbeatable Walther styling
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Beretta 21A
  • Tip-up barrel design
  • Superbly small and compact
  • Wonderfully well made
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Taurus TX 22
  • Replicates most striker fired polymers
  • 16 round magazines
  • Affordable and budget-friendly
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Ruger Charger
  • Lightweight backpacking gun
  • 10-25 round magazines
  • Extremely accurate
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WALTHER P22 Q
  • Super ergonomics
  • Very compact
  • DA/SA design
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SPEC COMPARISON OF THE BEST 22LR PISTOLS

CapacityWeightLengthHeight
Ruger MK IV Tactical1033.3 oz8.5"5.5"
Sig P938 22LR1015.2 oz5.9"3.9"
KelTec CP333324 oz10.6"5.86"
Walther PPQ 221218 oz7.1"5.3"
Beretta 21A711.8 oz4.92"3.7"
Taurus TX 221617.3 oz7.06"5.44"
Ruger Charger10-2550 oz19.25"5.4"
Walther P22 Q1016 oz6.5"4.5"

List of the Best 22LR Pistols:

  1. Ruger Mark IV Tactical
  2. Sig P938 22LR
  3. KelTec CP33
  4. Walther PPQ 22
  5. Beretta 21A
  6. Taurus TX 22
  7. Ruger Charger
  8. Walther P22 Q

Reviews of the Best 22LR Pistols

#1 Ruger MK IV 22/45 : Editor’s Choice

Ruger MK IV 22/45

Highly customizable and overall excellent choice for anyone looking to get into 22LR shooting.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 4 Reviews

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Ruger MK IV Tactical Specs

  • Capacity 10
  • Weight 33.3 oz
  • Length 8.5″
  • Height 5.5″

The Ruger MK series (pronounced mark) is eponymous with 22LR pistols. The various MK series designs have been bouncing around since 1949 and have gone through various incarnations.

If you’re curious to see where Ruger got his inspiration from, Google Ruger Hand Drill and see where it all started.

The MK IV is the latest variant and sees some quality of life improvements that were very much needed. This includes the ability to field strip the gun by simply pressing a button. You just have to close the bolt, remove the mag, put the pistol on safety, and press a button. The receiver then rotates and lifts off without having to use any tool. This is especially awesome because one, the earlier MK series guns were a hassle to strip and clean and two, .22 LR ammo tends to rack up dirt inside the pistol and affect performance. Now that disassembling and reassembling is easy, cleaning is a piece of cake. 

Ruger has also released a treasure trove of different models to accommodate shooters of all types. I chose the Tactical variant of the 22/45 because it offers the most features for shooters that really matched what the MK IV is all about. 

The MK IV is a dedicated hunting and plinking pistol. The Tactical variant is slathered in rails for optics, lights, and lasers. The barrel is threaded for a suppressor or other muzzle devices.

The pistol’s polymer frame is similar to a full-size 1911 pewing 22LRs, so recoil and muzzle rise is nil. The trigger felt a bit grainy right out of the box, but it smoothed out over a few rounds. At around 5 lbs, the pull weight is pretty decent, but it does have some soft travel before it picks up the weight. 

I tested the MK IV at 20 and 25 yards with over 1000 rounds and I’m pretty pleased with its accuracy and consistency. I managed to hit an average of 1.1 inch groupings plus my smallest group was 0.75 inches wide, which is pretty awesome for a 22LR. 

The only complaint I’d have about this pistol is that I had to clean it frequently (every 250 rounds or so), but that’s an issue with all 22LR pistols, not just the MK IV.

My final verdict is that the MK IV 22/45 Tactical is all kinds of cool and also very easy to shoot. It’s light and thin and well suited for various-sized shooters. It’s also extremely accurate and will turn Coke into Swiss cheese in short order.

RUGER MK IV 22/45 PROS AND CONS

  • Easy to accessorize
  • Extremely accurate
  • Highly reliable
  • A bit bulky

Ruger MK IV Gun Deals

#2 Sig P938 22LR

Sig P938 22LR

An excellent training option or a convert-for-carry for those who need a softer recoil.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy B+
  • Value A-

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

TBD

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SIG P938 22LR Specs

  • Capacity 10
  • Weight 15.2 oz
  • Length 5.9″
  • Height 3.9″

The SIG P938 set a high bar for Micro 9mms, and the little gun turned out to be a massive success for SIG. It only makes sense that a 22LR variant would follow.

SIG used to sell a conversion kit separately, allowing you to convert your P938 9mm on the fly. The kit is discontinued now but if you’re lucky, you might be able to get your hands on a used one. What I’m talking about today is the SIG P938-22 that has a ‘long’ and a ‘short’ model in SIG’s Micro 1911 frame which turned out to be the perfect housing for our favorite rimfire round. 

The design ended up making one of the smaller and lighter 22LRs out there. This little fella is an absolute blast to shoot. The longer model with the extended barrel (4.1 inches) gives you a longer sight radius for enhanced accuracy. The smaller model with a 3-inch long barrel is much easier to carry and compatible with standard P938 holsters. You also get ten rounds instead of 6, which, if my math is correct, equals more ammo overall. 

The P938 in 22LR is an excellent training option for those who carry a P938 in 9mm. The recoil is almost nonexistent so it makes for a pleasant shooting experience, and the pistol has decent accuracy for a 22LR. I shot over 500 rounds at 25 yards and managed to keep my groupings under 2 inches consistently and even got a few sub-inch groups. If 9mm has too much buck for you, then the P938 22LR would be an easy-to-carry and shoot alternative.

The pistol comes with the SIGLite night sight – it works well in daylight and has a glow-in-the-dark feature for nighttime. The chances of me busting out the SIG P938-22 for night shooting are not high, but the sight works fine if you ever need to shoot this pistol in low-light. 

The biggest issue I had with the P938-22 was how frustrating it was to shoot before it finally broke-in. The first time I shot it right out of the box, the gun jammed and I had to manually remove the empties from the chamber. Then I had failures to eject and failures to feed more than I could count, but after a clean up and over 500 rounds of shots, I had a smooth-shooting 22LR in my hands. 

The single action trigger doesn’t offer a restrike capability, so only carries high-quality ammunition. That single action trigger does deliver a rather satisfying experience with its short and light trigger pull. The ambidextrous safety and adjustable sights make it an easier shooter for various purposes.

If you are interested in learning more about the Sig P938, but in 9mm, read our Sig P938 review.

SIG P938 22LR PROS AND CONS

  • Adjustable sights
  • Excellent trigger
  • Low recoil
  • Single action only trigger

SIG P938 22LR Gun Deals

#3 KelTec CP33

KelTec CP33

KelTec CP33

If you’re a fan of KelTecs, don’t overlook this eccentric 22LR pistol.

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  • Shootability A+
  • Reliability B
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value A

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

B-

Based on 5 Reviews

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Keltec CP33 Specs

  • Capacity 33
  • Weight 24 oz
  • Length 10.6″
  • Height 5.86″

With all the wacky designs KelTec comes up with, it’s easy to consider them the Florida man of the gun industry. I say that as a Floridian and KelTec owner. KelTec’s CP33 is a prime example of KelTec’s eccentric design philosophy.

Quad stacked mags aren’t something I’d thought I’d ever see, especially in a handgun, but here we are.

CP33 is more than a name. It is representative of the gun’s capacity. With 33 22LR rounds in a quad stacked magazine, you’re unlikely to need a reload. Speaking of loading the mag though, I have to say it’s kind of a chore. Each round has to be carefully pushed in a way that makes sure the rims overlap, and the design of the mag and the feed lips doesn’t make the job easy. KelTec came up with a CP33 speedloader device for easy loading, but again, it’s another purchase when I just wanted to have some fun shooting. 

Weirdness goes beyond that with the CP33. It appears to have leaped out of the future and looks more akin to a space blaster than a massive plinker. I half-expected the safety to be somewhere innovative and impractical because of the spacey design, but the safety is where it’s supposed to be and takes minimal effort to engage. 

I’m happy with the grip as well even though it’s a bit clunkier than I’d expect on a pistol of small proportions. Those with small hands might find it difficult to get a good hold on the pistol, but I liked the dependability of the 45-degree grip. It also has the signature KelTec texture and doesn’t feel uncomfortable when firing at a stretch. 

How many pistols have M-LOK slots for adding rails and accessories? This one does! The charging handle is AR-like, and a full-length optic rail gives you enough space for a 3-9X scope if you need it. 

Best of all, the pistol is remarkably reliable and fun to shoot. I didn’t expect much from a 22LR with a quad stacked magazine, but I was remarkably impressed when I went through 33 rounds as fast as possible without a hiccup. Should you have a dud or jam, the charging handle makes it very easy to clear. 

The CP33 is a plinker or hunting pistol that is much too big for concealed carry. As with any 22LR, the recoil is negligible and definitely makes shooting the CP33 more fun. KelTec advertised the pistol as competition-ready, and it would certainly make for a great bowling pin gun. It’s wacky but fun and reliable.

KELTEC CP33 PROS AND CONS

  • 33-round capacity
  • Optics-ready
  • Recoil is nil
  • Rather impractical

#4 Walther PPQ 22LR

Walther PPQ 22LR

A spot-on 22LR replica of the full-size Walther PPQ.

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  • Shootabilty A-
  • Reliability B
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy B+
  • Value B+

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

TBD

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Walther PPQ 22LR Specs

  • Capacity 12
  • Weight 18 oz
  • Length 7.1″
  • Height 5.3″

When it came time to pick the best training pistol in the 22LR realm, I had plenty of options.

The S&W M&P Compact 22LR isn’t bad but doesn’t replicate the gun’s size. The Glock 44 is seemingly a hot mess.

The Walther PPQ 22LR is a true sleeper hit.

Best of all, it replicates the exact size and feel of a real PPQ for practical training purposes. Read our Walther PPQ review to learn more about its full size version.

The biggest difference is in the trigger. A PPQ has a legendarily awesome trigger for a striker-fired gun. The 22LR variant isn’t as clean or crisp, and it’s technically a hammer-fired gun. It’s still an impressive trigger, but it’s tough to beat the best. Size-wise it’s a perfect replica and will squeeze into standard PPQ holsters with ease.

Thanks to the polymer frame, the PPQ 22 is quite lightweight at 18 oz. Plus, the recoil is super low, so handling this pistol is a piece of cake. The cherry on top is the pistol has two drop safeties and a firing pin block; newbie shooters can rest assured that they won’t accidentally open fire.

Featuring a full-sized design, the Walther PPQ 22 fits the hand like a glove and fully capitalizes on the PPQ’s ergonomic greatness. What I love the most about the grip is that my pinkie doesn’t slip off the end – it’s just got the fit just right and comfortable. Ambidextrous and reversible controls give an ergonomic edge for shooters regardless of their dominant hand. 

When I tested the PPQ 22 at the range for accuracy, I shot groups under 1 inch at 15 yards and under 2 inches at 25 yards. My sight alignment was a bit off that day, but still, this kind of consistent accuracy from a 22LR is impressive stuff. 

One more thing I liked about the PPQ 22 is its reliability. Generally, 22LRs get messy quickly and need frequent cleaning to make sure the residue won’t throw off the accuracy, but with the PPQ 22, I didn’t have to clean as often. So for me, that’s more fun with fewer chores!

Walther’s PPQ 22 excels in the reliability and accuracy departments, and it’s just as good as a plinker as it is a training pistol. This little 22 keeps the slick stylings and ergonomics of a duty pistol without the race gun or impractical designs of most full-sized 22LRs.

WALTHER PPQ 22LR PROS AND CONS

  • Extremely ergonomic
  • Easy shooting
  • Perfect PPQ replica
  • Can’t replicate that PPQ trigger

#5 Beretta 21A

Beretta 21A

A 22LR with a tip-up barrel excellent for easy loading and those with less hand strength.

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  • Shootability B
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics B-
  • Accuracy B
  • Value B

Our Grade

B

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 1 Reviews

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Beretta 21A Specs

  • Capacity 7
  • Weight 11.8 oz
  • Length 4.92″
  • Height 3.7″

Tip-up barrel guns are so cool. Awkward, somewhat weird, but rather handy for those with weak hand strength. The Beretta 21A features the famed tip-up barrel that allows a shooter to directly load a round into the chamber of the gun. No need to rack a slide, which is a relief because having to rack the tiny slide on the pistol would have been a nightmare. Removing a bad 22LR is also rather easy. Pop it up and pull it out.

The Beretta 21A, aka the Bobcat, is designed to be an ultra-compact and discreet pocket pistol for concealed carry should you so choose. I don’t recommend using it for concealed carry unless you have a good handle on the gun though, because 22LR are not known for their precision, especially in an emergency. However, a double action/single action trigger design allows you to commit to a restrike in the event of a round’s failure to ignite on the first blow. The rimfire design of 22LR often incurs some reliability issues, and restrike is invaluable for self-defense. 

Unlike most modern pistols, the Beretta 21A is an all-metal frame pistol. It weighs 11.8 ounces, which is more than enough weight to tame the little 22LR. Someone could say it’s too heavy for a pocket pistol, but I think the weight is a necessary bulk to balance out the not-so-solid grip on this small gun. I could barely fit two fingers on the grip, so if that’s a concern, you might want to take a pass on this one. 

That being said, the Beretta 21A is just a very fun gun that is easy to shoot while being remarkably small. Being chambered in 22LR helps because one, it makes the recoil almost nonexistent and two, the 22LR ammo is inexpensive and fairly easily found. All these factors add up to a pleasant shooting experience at the range.

As far as 22LR pistols go, the 21A is a classic Italian stallion that incurs those Mod like 60s vibes. Hearing that ting, ting, ting on steel as you plink with the 21A is oh-so-satisfying and the limited recoil and small size make it comfortable for all. Modern shooters may want more capability and accessorization, but those classically-tuned will enjoy the 21A.

BERETTA 21A PROS AND CONS

  • Tip-up barrel for easy loading
  • DA/SA design
  • Undeniably cool
  • Small sights

#6 Taurus TX22

Taurus TX22

A 22LR pistol in a full-size polymer frame that shoots straight and is an amazing bang for your buck.

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  • Shootability A-
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 21 Reviews

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Taurus TX 22 Specs

  • Capacity 10
  • Weight 33.3 oz
  • Length 8.5″
  • Height 5.5″

22LR as an ammo source is all about its low price. It makes shooting affordable for both plinking and training purposes. The TX22 allows you to have an affordable gun to match your affordable ammo source.

Taurus did not design the TX22 to resemble any particular pistol but to mimic modern, striker-fired duty-style guns. A full-sized polymer frame complete with a Picatinny rail and traditional magazine release and slide stop gives you the same basic controls we see across Glock, Walther, S&W, and FN striker-fired guns.

The magazine capacity is an impressive 16 rounds, and this mimics most 9mm guns on the market.

Taurus has some flubs in their history, admittedly, but the TX22 ain’t one of those flubs. It’s remarkably reliable and a ton of fun to shoot. Accuracy is surprisingly good with an awesome set of sights. The pistol is accurate enough to take out a few squirrels (so plenty accurate for a 22LR), which I did during my first time in the bush with the TX22. It can certainly take down a varmint or two if you want to go with a rimfire for varminting. Plus it makes for a near-universal training pistol and a perfect plinker for those who want modern stylings.

I love how the pistol feels in my hand because it’s a solid fit with a proper two-handed grip. The mag release is right under my thumb so it’s easy to drop the magazine but it needs a little more effort than a light touch so you won’t do so by accident. The trigger pull isn’t too bad at 5 lbs, and there’s little to no resistance when racking the slide. Basically, what I’m saying is that Taurus did a fantastic job with the TX22. 

It’s also super freaking cheap and easy to find at most gun stores and websites. Taurus revealed an optics-ready model in 2021. The standard TX22 offers shooters a modern option that proves Taurus can hold their own.

If you’d like to learn more about our thoughts on this plinker, check out our full Taurus TX-22 Review

TAURUS TX 22 PROS AND CONS

  • Affordable
  • 16-round magazines
  • Ergonomic
  • Holster availability is low

#7 Ruger Charger

Ruger Charger

This franken-gun is essentially a trimmed down Ruger 10/22. And we love it just the way it is.

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  • Shootability B-
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics B-
  • Accuracy A
  • Value B

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

TBD

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Ruger Charger Specs

  • Capacity 10 – 25
  • Weight 50 oz
  • Length 19.25″
  • Height 5.4″

This is a bit of an oddball, admittedly, and is basically a Ruger 10/22 trimmed to pistol size. Ruger and rimfires are a natural combination, but the Charger is still admittedly a weird gun. It’s found some favoritism, though. Mainly because it packs that reliable and beloved Ruger 10/22 action is a compact package.

When it first came out, the Ruger Charger was intended to be a lightweight backpacking gun but shooters got creative and started using it as a benchrest target gun as well. Ruger added the Picatinny rail later on, so the gun could be fitted with a brace or optics or just about any accessory you’d need for hunting and plinking. The light recoiling nature of 22LR makes the gun very easy to handle and shoot accurately, even without a stock (you can add one if you want!). Add a bipod, and you have a gun utterly capable of destroying local small game populations at impressive distances. The optic’s rail is begging for a 2-7X long eye relief optic for those precise shots on tree rats.

Ruger’s 10/22 is the AR15 of rimfire rifles, and parts customization is out of the wazoo. You can stick in new triggers, magazine releases, bolts, safeties, and beyond. This market is also open to the Charger series pistols and also for near-endless customization.

I strapped on a triangle brace on the Charger because I was going to train my sons with the pistol and I thought they’d find it easier to handle the gun. Plus, a brace gives you that point of stability – if you’re not used to shooting without a stock, I highly recommend adding a brace. 

The gun feeds most types of 22LR ammo, but it seemed to prefer Remington’s Golden Bullet and CCI’s Mini Mag because I got 1 to 2-inch groupings from both when other ammo I fed made 4-inch groups at 25 yards. However, Remington’s Subsonic rounds really shined after I slapped on a 22LR suppressor; they were super quiet and made tiny shards out of clay pigeons, consistently. 

Beyond hunting and plinking, there isn’t much the Charger can be used for; however, if you want an extremely accurate and easy-handling rimfire 22LR pistol, this is the one to beat.

If you’d like to learn more about this rimfire pistol, check out our full Ruger 22 Charger Review.

RUGER CHARGER PROS AND CONS

  • Extremely accurate
  • Easy to customize
  • Perfect hunting pistol
  • Very large for a 22LR

#8 Walther P22 Q

Walther P22 Q

Wonderfully ergonomic pistol with a well-executed DA/SA trigger.

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy B-
  • Value B

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

TBD

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Walther P22 Q Specs

  • Capacity 10
  • Weight 16 oz
  • Length 6.5″
  • Height 4.5″

The Walther P22 had a bit of a rough start when it premiered, but Walther quickly ironed out the problems and made the P22 a modern classic.

Ergonomics are Walther’s bread and butter, and the P22 is the perfect example of that. It squeezes into your hand wonderfully and gives shooters, both large and small, a very comfortable grip. The P22 comes with interchangeable backstraps, and anyone can adjust the grip to the fit they want. The grip texture isn’t too aggressive, so you’re not going to end up cutting your hand if you’re shooting the P22 all day. 

Shooters searching for a modern 22LR will be hard pressed not to take the P22 into account.

It uses the same stylings as the PPQ and P99 with a polymer frame and trigger guard magazine release. A DA/SA action makes it easy to handle with a long initial trigger pull and a shorter follow-up trigger pull. Double action designs give shooters a restrike capability if the gun fails to fire. 

Walther’s P22 comes in a wide variety of colors and configurations to accommodate picky end users. This includes a suppressor-ready model and a model equipped with a laser. Walther also offers a threaded adaptor to attach a suppressor if you need it, but it’s sold separately and you have to disassemble the gun to attach it. You might as well get the suppressor-ready model if you are looking for more accuracy and quiet operation.

I’m a bit concerned about the safety because it isn’t easy to reach, especially for someone with stubby fingers. I could engage the safety with little effort, but my son couldn’t reach it when he started out.

The P22 is plenty reliable as a fun gun, but I have to say it does have a couple of malfunctions every 100 or so rounds. I know some people like to conceal carry this thing because it’s lightweight and small, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the rimfire round is not the most reliable for concealed carry or everyday carry. 

As a plinker or a trainer, the Walther P22 is tough to beat. It’s also an excellent beginner’s pistol for those looking to learn and train on the cheap.

Adjustable sights, interchangeable backstraps, and an almost completely ambidextrous design make the P22 Q a very modern option for plinkers.

WALTHER P22 Q PROS AND CONS

  • Ambidextrous controls
  • Affordable
  • Ergonomic
  • Proprietary rail
  • Safety is difficult to reach

America’s Rimfire Round – Buyers Guide

The 22LR has been kicking the hell out of tin cans since 1884 and is still going strong. America’s favorite rimfire round remains a favorite for a reason. It’s affordable, fun, and incredibly common. That being said, when it comes to choosing a 22LR pistol, there are lots of things to consider regarding both the guns and the ammunition.

Uses of 22LR Pistols

22LR pistols range rather widely in size, design, price, and intention. Handguns can be used for a wide variety of different roles in general, and 22LRs specifically can fit in every category. The main categories for a 22LR pistol are target shooting, hunting, training, and concealed carry.

Target Shooting

Target shooting, and by extension plinking, is the best role for a 22LR pistol. The cartridge is uber cheap and pleasant to shoot, so it’s a natural fit for casual and competitive target shooting. 22LR pistols designed for these roles are often full-sized handguns that can often be larger than a centerfire pistol.

22LR pistols designed for these roles are often full-sized handguns that can often be larger than a centerfire pistol. Usually, they have a lightweight design that helps reduce fatigue, so you can easily shoot 22LRs for extended periods without tiring–pretty awesome when target shooting. 

Hunting

Pest controls and small game hunting are both excellent roles for a 22LR pistol. Pest control is a necessary evil that small calibers excel in. Hunting with a 22LR pistol is a fun challenge that allows shooters to humanely and effectively take rabbits, squirrels, and similar small game. Hunting pistols have a large overlap with target and plinking pistols. The need for accuracy is a must.

Some specific models may be equipped with bipods and even magnified optics for longer-range engagements on smaller targets. Optic’s compatibility is almost a must-have, and even a bipod may be a viable accessory.

Training

22LR is a very affordable round that allows shooters to get in some real training for pennies on the dollar. Firearms companies have released this and now produce a wide variety of pistols that replicate popular firearms already on the market. This allows for similar ergonomics, holster design, and even magazine capacities. Training pistols replicate the look and feel of larger caliber centerfire guns and allow for cheap training.

Concealed Carry

Describing 22LR as optimum for concealed carry is a stretch. Without a doubt, the 22LR is a deadly round, but the small caliber projectile often lacks penetration and expansion properties. Rimfire rounds like the 22LR have a higher rate of failure than centerfire rounds.

That being said, the 22LR provides nearly no recoil and often makes a gun very lightweight. For those with arthritis or hand strength issues, the 22LR might be the only choice. It’s not perfect, but it’s an option.

It’s best to consider the pros and cons when you’re picking a 22LR for any purpose, so let’s dive in.

Pros and Cons of 22LR Pistols

Here are some reasons why I like 22LR pistols: 

  • Budget-friendly – There are high-end 22LR rifles and pricey ammo, but generally, the pistol and the rounds are super affordable. That’s one reason why it makes a good training and plinking gun as you can get a lot of rounds in without a huge investment. 
  • Low recoil – These pistols have very low recoil thanks to the 22LR round so it makes for a soft and pleasant shooting experience. 
  • Lightweight – The pistol frame is often made of polymer or another high-quality plastic, so the 22LR is generally lightweight and easy to handle.
  • Ammo availability – The 22LR rounds can be found easily on the market, and because most 22LR pistols feed all kinds of ammo, you’re not going to run out of rounds any time soon.
  • Reliability – You get consistent aim and accuracy from a 22LR that you can count on this pistol to land effective shots on small game and take up competitive shooting. 

Here are some cons you need to watch out for.

  • Needs lots of maintenance – 22LR is a messy round and it leaves your pistol unclean after a few hours of shooting. This means you need to spend more time cleaning and lubricating the gun.
  • Low power – The shot doesn’t have a lot of penetrating power, so while you can slow down a target with this pistol, you won’t have enough power to take down one.

Now, let’s have an in-depth look at some things you should particularly consider if you’re a first time buyer. 

22LR Pistols Can Be Finicky

For a long time, semi-auto shotguns and semi-automatic 22LR pistols were two guns that often inspired skepticism. They didn’t work well, and very few were proven reliable enough. Benelli and Ruger ruled both categories for long periods of time.

With that in mind, it’s still wise to approach new designs with some caution. Research and I mean research a lot. Our gun reviews are a great place to start, but so are forums, and even Reddit can often be an excellent source of information.

With that said, even the best 22LR pistols are more finicky than most centerfire handguns. 22LR ammo is often lead projectiles backed by dirty powder. It’s not the cleanest stuff, so guess what you need to do?

Keep Your 22LR Pistol Clean

Yep. You gotta scrub, lubricate, and clean your pistols much more than a classic centerfire gun. You’ll want to dive in much more often, and if your gun suddenly starts acting unreliably, it means it needs a good deep cleaning. A deep cleaning will also involve punching the bore to ensure accuracy too. Not only will powder build-up in the barrel but so will lead deposits. Use gloves and a dedicated bore cleaner to get that junk out of there.

Ammo Quality Matters

22LR ammo from CCI is not the same as 22LR ammo from Remington. I mean, for all intents and purposes, it is. Neither will blow your gun up, but CCI is loaded to stricter quality standards and will often cost a little more. A 22LR semi-auto pistol needs a hot, high-quality load that will cycle the action.

CCI stingers, Federal Automatch, and CCI AR loads are perfect for semi-auto pistols. Some guns are pickier than others, and admittedly I have 22LR pistols that will run the cheapest ammo out there. It’s best to experiment a bit and see what works for your firearm.

Concealed Carry 22LRs

Concealed carrying a 22LR is not my recommendation, but I recognize that my choices aren’t reflective of gun owners as a whole. If you can carry and shoot a 9mm, a 380 ACP, or even a 32 ACP, I’d suggest that before a 22LR. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way let’s talk about concealed carry considerations with a 22LR.

First, quality ammo is an absolute must-have. Rimfire ignition systems are not as reliable as centerfire, so you want to mitigate that as much as possible. With that said, CCI Stingers or Speers defensive-loaded 22LR rounds are your best bet in these guns. They are well-made rounds that have the oomph to cycle 22LR pistols and projectiles made to expand and penetrate.

Next, I’d want a gun with an external hammer. Preferably DA/SA, but SAO can work. This way, if the round doesn’t ignite, you can try and fire once more. With an SAO, this involved manually retracting the hammer.

Also, if you are purchasing a 22LR pistol because of your hand strength, you’ll still want one you can easily rack in case you need to extract a dud round to keep your gun in action.

The Many Different 22 Rounds

The 22 caliber as a projectile and a rimfire round is not limited to Long Rifle rounds. The Long rifle is the most common, and that’s why I’ve been specific to use the 22LR when referring to the caliber. There are numerous other 22-caliber rimfire rounds out there. This includes 22 Short and 22 Long as well as 22 Magnum.

Magnum rounds are too long to load into semi-automatic pistols made for 22LR, so the only worry there is buying useless ammo. 22 Short and 22 Long with load, chamber, and fire in a 22LR pistol, but do not have enough power to cycle the slide. While you can do this, I never advise loading a cartridge not meant for your weapon into your weapon. Use the ammunition designed for the gun.

Factors to Consider When Buying a 22LR Pistol

Here’s a rundown of factors you should consider when buying a 22LR pistol. 

  • Purpose – The pistol you get for some plinking might not work for precision shooting you need in a competition. Similarly, new shooters might need to prioritize a pistol with a good hand feel while it might not matter as much to a seasoned shooter. So consider your purpose for buying a 22LR when you start looking for one.
  • Cost – 22LR pistols are generally priced between $300 – $550, so you can find an affordable option easily. However, if you can spend a bit more, there are high-end pistols you can consider. 
  • Safety – If you’re using this as a training pistol for new shooters or kids, it’s best to look at a pistol with safeties that can be easily engaged.
  • Modularity – Some 22LR pistols come with a base platform and a lot of space to upgrade, so if you like having the chance to customize your gun, consider looking at the aftermarket for the availability of attachments and the pistol for modularity.
  • Aftermarket support – If the pistol has a strong aftermarket, you have endless options for customizations and a lot of support as well. 
  • Barrel Length – While longer barrels improve your bullet’s velocity, shorter barrels are more suited for conceal carry. Choose according to your purpose. 
  • Capacity – How much capacity you need depends on what you are planning to use it for. Most semi-auto .22LR pistols have 10 rounds in them which should be plenty for plinking while you can get by with 5-6 rounds for defense and concealed carry. 
  • Trigger – Triggers are going to be either single stage or two stage. Single stage triggers fire at the first press while two stage triggers have a smooth first stage before hitting a wall. Then, the second stage is the weight needed to break the fall to fire the gun. If you are new, go for a two stage trigger as it is more safe but otherwise, one isn’t really better than the other. Try out both and go with whatever you prefer. 

In addition to these factors, I’ve listed some accessories and upgrades you might want to look at.

Great Accessories for Your 22LR Pistol

Cleaning Kit – You got to keep these bad boys clean, so one must-have accessory is a cleaning kit. If you’re unsure what you need to keep your firearm clean and well-oiled, check out our handy guide to gun cleaning kits. You’ll find all the info you need to purchase one complete and ready to go OR to build one yourself.

Optics – A lot of these guns are designed to accept optics and make it easy with long Picatinny rails across the top of the gun. If you want a red dot suggestion, the Vortex Venom is a great little choice. It’s well made, relatively affordable, and provides a crisp easy to see dot for precision shooting.

Snap Caps – A-Zoom Snap Caps are important for .22s. Most are not designed to be dry-fired, and the firing pin can break when dry-fired. Some Snap Caps allow you plenty of dry fire practice without breaking your firing pin. They are a cheap addition that allows you to train safely.

Conclusion

A 22LR pistol is a must-have in everyone’s gun safe. They are fun, easy to shoot, and often cheap to shoot guns that are perfect for plinking, hunting, and even competition. I’m not sure how you were introduced to firearms, but my start was with a 22LR pistol, and they are an excellent tool for news shooters to learn the basics of shooting with. If you don’t have a 22LR pistol, rifle, or revolver, it’s time to rectify that!

FAQs

Is a 22LR pistol worth buying?

Yes, a 22LR pistol is definitely worth buying if you’re out looking for a plinking target pistol. It also makes for a good fit for beginners because it’s a ton of fun and easy to shoot.

What is a 22LR pistol good for? 

A 22LR pistol can be used for target shooting, hunting, and training. It even makes a pretty decent concealed carry firearm, though not your best choice. 

What is the most powerful 22 pistol round?

CCI’s COPPER-22 is my pick for the most powerful 22LR ammo. This is because it can reach a maximum muzzle velocity of 1,850 FPS (Feet Per Second) and has a bullet weight of 21 grains, resulting in a muzzle energy of 160 ft lbs.

What is the range of a 22LR?

The 22LR is effective up to 150 yards, but the range can vary depending on the velocity of ammo, sights and optics, and the marksmanship of the shooter.

Is a 22 pistol better than a 9mm?

No, the 9mm is designed for combat and is much larger and more powerful than the 22LR. That being said, you might find the 22LR a better (and a more affordable) option in some instances like range shooting, training, or plinking. 

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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