Best 22LR Pistols [2021]: Fun, Affordable, and Not Just for Plinkers

by Travis Pike

June 23, 2021

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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 rifle, revolver, and pistol categories.

Today, we are going to look at the best 22LR pistols on the market.

22LR PISTOLS FOR ALL

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 are often easily outfitted with optics and often have rather long barrels. These adornments make them exceptionally accurate and easy to shoot.

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 for. 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.

BEST 22LR PISTOLS

22LR PISTOL

22LR PistolDetailsCheck Price
Editor's Choice

Ruger Mk IV Tactical 22
Ruger 10/22
  • Superbly Accurate
  • Easy to upgrade and accessorize
  • Easy to shoot for all ages and skill levels
Check Price
Sig P938 22
Sig P938 22LR
  • Lightweight
  • Superbly crisp trigger
  • Functions as a standalone gun or conversion kit
Check Price
KelTec CP33
KelTec CP33
  • Massive 33 Round magazine
  • Space-age design
  • Easy to add optics, lights, and kitchen sinks
Check Price
Walther PPQ 22LR
Walther PPQ 22
  • A perfect replica of the 9mm PPQ
  • Outstanding ergonomics
  • Unbeatable Walther Styling
Check Price
Beretta 21A
Beretta 21A
  • Tip-up barrel design
  • Superbly small and compact
  • Wonderfully well made
Check Price
Taurus TX 22
Taurus TX 22
  • Replicates most striker fired polymers
  • 16 round magazines
  • Affordable and budget-friendly
Check Price
Ruger 22 Charger
Ruger Charger
  • Replicates most striker fired polymers
  • 16 round magazines
  • Affordable and budget-friendly
Check Price
Walther P22 Q
Walther P22 Q
  • Super ergonomics
  • Very Compact
  • DA/SA design
Check Price

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"

#1 Ruger MK IV Tactical : Editor’s Choice

Ruger MK IV Tactical

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

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 22 LR 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 easy ability to field strip the gun by simply pressing a button.

Earlier MK series guns were a hassle to strip and clean, but that’s solved now. Ruger has also released a treasure trove of different models to accommodate shooters of all types.

I chose the Tactical variant 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 MK IV tactical is all kinds of cool and also very easy to shoot. It’s a full-sized pistol pewing 22LRs, so recoil and muzzle rise is nil. 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 TACTICAL PROS AND CONS

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

Ruger MK IV Gun Deals

#2 Sig P938

Sig P938

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

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’s Micro 1911 turned out to be the perfect housing for our favorite rimfire round, and the design ended up making one of the smaller and lighter 22LRs out there.

This little fella is an absolute blast to shoot. But SIG also offers an extended barrel model that’s 4.1 inches long. The longer barrel gives you a longer sight radius for enhanced accuracy.

The smaller model 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 conversion kit is even sold separately, allowing you to convert your P938 on the fly. If 9mm has too much buck for you, then the P938 22LR would be an easy-to-carry and shoot alternative.

The single-action trigger doesn’t offer a restrike capability, so only carry 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.

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

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

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.

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.

How many pistols have M-LOK slots for adding rails and accessories? This one does! The chagrin 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 stack 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. 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

Keltec CP33 Gun Deals

#4 Walther PPQ 22LR

Walther PPQ 22LR

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

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.

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.

Featuring a full-sized design, the Walther PPQ 22 fits the hand like a glove and fully capitalizes on the PPQ’s ergonomic greatness. Ambidextrous and reversible controls give an ergonomic edge for shooters regardless of their dominant hand. This little 22 excels in the reliability and accuracy departments, and it’s just as good as a plinker as it is a training pistol.

Walther’s PPQ 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.

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, and removing a bad 22 LR 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. It’s also just a very fun gun that is easy to shoot while being remarkably small.

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 22 LR. A double-action/single-action 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 22 LR often incurs some reliability issues, and restrike is invaluable for self-defense.

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 TX 22

Taurus TX 22

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

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 TX 22 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 both 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. It makes for a near-universal training pistol and is a perfect plinker for those who want modern stylings.

It’s also super freaking cheap and easy to find at most gun stores and websites. Taurus revealed an optic’s ready model for 2021, but it hasn’t quite hit shelves. The standard TX22 offers shooters a modern option that proves Taurus can hold their own.

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.

Ruger Charger Specs

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

his 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.

The light recoiling nature of 22LR makes the gun very easy to handle and shoot accurately, even without a stock. 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 AR 15 of rimfire rifles, and parts customization is out 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.

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.

RUGER CHARGER PROS AND CONS

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

#8 Walther P22 Q

Walther P22 Q

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

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.

Shooters searching for a modern 22LR will be hard stressed 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 actions 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. 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 makes the P22 Q a very modern option for plinkers or even concealed carry. It’s certainly small enough to easily conceal and light enough to carry.

WALTHER P22 Q PROS AND CONS

  • Ambidextrous controls
  • Affordable
  • Ergonomic
  • Proprietary rail

AMERICA’S RIMFIRE ROUND

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.

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. Long rifle is the most common, and that’s why I’ve been specific to use the 22LR when referring to 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.

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.

Optic – 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.

RIMFIRE ROUNDUP

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!

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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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