Best .22 Pistols and Revolvers of 2021
22 LR (.22 Long Rifle) is the cheapest, smallest, and most frequently sold ammunition among common handgun calibers. These qualities make it excellent for regular recreational shooting and for introducing new shooters into the world of handguns.
In this guide, we'll expand on the benefits of .22 handguns and give you our picks for the best .22 pistols and revolvers.
Ruger Mark IV 22/45 - Overall Best 22 LR Pistol
Walther P22 - Best Budget 22 Pistol
Heritage Rough Rider - Best Budget 22 Revolver
Here are our picks for the best .22 pistols and revolvers:
- Ruger SR22
- Ruger Mark IV 22/45 Lite
- Walther P22
- SW22 Victory
- Colt 1911 Rail Gun By Walther
- S&W Model 17
- Heritage Rough Rider
- Ruger SP101 .22
You can compare them in the table below or continue scrolling down, where we cover each handgun in more detail.
Why .22 Handguns are Great
.22 LR ammunition and the handguns that shoot it come with a number of huge benefits:
Affordability - .22 Long Rifle ammunition is incredibly cheap. It can cost as little as 3 cents per round when you buy it in bulk online and generally costs $0.05-$0.07. Compare this to 9mm ($0.19-$0.25) or .380 ACP ($0.25-$0.30) range ammo and you're able to shoot an awful lot more .22 LR for the same cost.
This makes .22 LR ammo great for plinking and general recreational shooting.
(Check out the Best Places to Buy Ammo Online)
Low Recoil - Though .22 LR can be just as deadly as any other caliber with good shot placement, it almost feels like you're shooting an airsoft or paintball gun. This makes it a great first step for shooters, especially those who are young, weak, disabled, or apprehensive about using firearms. I very regularly start friends or family that have never shot a gun before on a .22 rifle or pistol.
Popular - .22 LR's popularity makes it very easy to find at any gun store and also less susceptible to the ammo shortages experienced by more obscure ammunition types. With it's low cost, you could also stock up without breaking the bank.
Quiet - .22 LR shot out of a pistol is a fair bit quieter than some larger bullets. With that said, it is louder than when shot out of a rifle and you should still always use hearing protection.
Lightweight - Both the handguns used to shoot .22 LR and the ammunition itself are incredibly lightweight.
.22 Pistols for Concealed Carry or Self-Defense?
It's commonly asked whether .22 caliber pistols are sufficient for concealed carry and self-defense.
Personally, I'd never use a .22 for these purposes, unless it was my only option. In fact, I generally do not feel comfortable recommending anything less than .380 ACP, and a large percentage of the firearms community would even disagree with that being sufficient. There's a reason basically all police and military use at least 9mm.
In addition to lacking stopping power, .22 LR is a rimfire cartridge, rather than centerfire like most larger calibers. Rimfire is notoriously less reliable than centerfire, giving yet another reason to choose a different caliber for defense purposes.
With that said, I'm a believer that in many circumstances, any gun is better than no gun. For those unable to use anything larger, like some who are disabled or elderly, a .22 may be your only option. There have been numerous instances of people using a .22 weapon to defend themselves, even incapacitating intruders with one shot.
If you do struggle to shoot larger caliber handguns effectively, I'd recommend starting with a .22, then moving up through larger calibers.
If you are only able to use a .22 pistol or are determined to do so regardless of your abilities, you may find the comparison table in the summary at the start of this guide useful. We've compared the dimensions of each of our picks, so you can find the best .22 pistol for concealed carry.
The Best .22 Pistols
Before getting into .22 revolvers, we'll first cover the best .22 pistols. Generally speaking, Ruger, Walther, and Smith & Wesson are the go-to manufactures for these handguns.
The Ruger SR22 is a double action/single action hammer fired pistol, that serves as an excellent handgun for target practice at the range.
Featuring an exposed hammer, on double action, the trigger pull requires somewhere between 8 to 11 pounds of pressure, but the single action 4 to 6 pound trigger pull is relatively crisp. There’s also a well placed trigger stop at the rear.
Nearly all .22 LR firearm manufacturers recommend that you avoid dry firing, as it can damage the firearm. However, Ruger specifically states in the gun’s manual that dry firing the SR22 will not cause any damage. It’s a nice feature which allows for additional dry practice at home.
The SR22 offers an ambidextrous thumb safety and magazine release. This is a nice feature if you plan to use this pistol to teach gun "newbs" how to shoot.
I also like that the SR22’s safety is easy to see, with a bright red painted marker near the switch to clearly indicate whether or not the safety is engaged. When the hammer is in the rear position, the safety also acts as a decocker.
The pronounced three-dot sights on the SR22 are great. The rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. There’s also an accessory rail on the front for those wanting to add a laser and/or pistol light.
As with every firearm on our list, the SR22 has an excellent overall aesthetic. The gun’s polymer frame is really smooth and is constructed with glass-filled nylon. The barrel is made from stainless steel, and the slide is made with anodized aluminum. The slide comes in a dark matte finish or silver, which gives the SR22 a sleek look.
Finally, the SR22 features easy-to-handle front and rear slide serrations. The textured rubber grip feels extremely comfortable, though the grip texture could be a lot better. I’d recommend considering TALON grip wraps or things will get very slippery a few magazines into your range day as your hands begin to sweat.
The curves in the rear make a natural beavertail, and on the whole, the SR22 has a great ergonomic feel.
There’s a take-down lever near the trigger guard, and disassembly and reassembly are smooth and effortless.
The only real complaint I have about the SR22 is that, due to the rubber grips, the magazines sometimes require an extra-firm push to lock into place. It’s hardly a dealbreaker, as this is a great gun, but it’s something to watch out for.
$524.99 at Brownells
Prices accurate at time of publishing
Ruger Mark IV 22/45 Lite
The Ruger Mark semi-automatic pistol originated as a passion project born from Bill Ruger’s fascination with the classic Japanese Nambu pistol. Ruger himself often referred to the finished Mark I as the ‘Baby Nambu’. The gun was an instant success: between the years 1949 to 1999 over 2 million Mark series pistols were sold, making it the bestselling .22 LR semi-automatic pistol in the world.
The latest iteration in the Ruger Mark Series is the Mark IV 22/45 LIte. The top half of the firearm is made from an aluminum alloy, and the bottom half is made with reinforced polymer.
One of the biggest improvements of the Mark IV when compared to its predecessors is the ease of disassembly and reassembly. On the back of the firearm below the bolt is a button, which when pressed allows you to remove the receiver and bolt with a gentle pull.
The easy-to-use magazine ejector is spring loaded so that the magazine is pushed out of the firearm when activated.
Also new in the Mark IV is its ambidextrous paddle safety, featuring a similar design to the 1911. Dating back to the original Mark I, this firearm has always had a button safety, but in my opinion, the paddle safety is a clear improvement. Ruger also provides a washer with the firearm that can be used to disable one of the safety paddles if necessary.
The Mark IV uses a bolt-style design to feed ammunition from the magazine into the chamber. Unlike previous versions, the Mark IV allows you to pull on the back of the bolt, feeding a new round from the magazine into the chamber.
The polymer frame has a classic 1911 design, and the rubber grips are textured for added comfort and control. There is also checkered texturing on the back and front strap.
The sights are all black and fully adjustable. Without any dots, aiming down the sight may take some getting used to. However, customization is easy for those who want to upgrade to more sophisticated sights. There’s also a picatinny rail along the top for mounting additional accessories.
One thing I really like about Mark-series pistols is that the tubular design keeps the barrel in a fixed position. This helps ensure that the firearm is always kept in perfect alignment, ensuring consistent accuracy.
The trigger pull feels nice and crisp, requiring an average of 4-5 pounds. There are a wide variety of aftermarket triggers available for additional customization, but the original trigger works great.
At $483.99, the Mark IV is the most expensive firearm on our list, but it’s also my favorite to shoot. It feels and looks great, and on the whole provides a great deal of fun at the range. You might find that you want to make some adjustments to find the perfect look and feel, but as mentioned before, customization is typically cheap and easy.
The Walther P22 is double action/single action semi-automatic pistol featuring a classic blowback design. It’s patterned after its big brother the, Walther P99, and while the P22 is only about 75% as big as the P99, the overall look and feel are quite similar. Aside from the overall size, the P22 differs from the P99 in that it has an external hammer and safety (and is of course chambered in the smaller .22 LR caliber).
The P22's frame is made from polymer, and the slide is made from zinc alloy. One of my favorite features of the P22, along with most Walther pistols, is the general comfort stemming from their firearms' ergonomic design. With that said, grip texture leaves something to be desired on many Walther pistols, and the P22 is no exception. I’d recommend getting TALON grip wraps.
The P22 features both front and rear slide serrations, texturing at the front of the squared-off trigger guard, and a small cavity at the base of the trigger guard for added space for gloved hands.
All of the controls on the P22 are ambidextrous, including the safety and European-style magazine release at the back of the trigger guard.
Earlier iterations of the P22 had some problems with the steel slides, but product recalls have fixed most of these concerns. The gun only comes with one magazine, which is a bit disappointing. On the whole, the updated 10-round magazine is easy to load and lock into the firearm.
The front of the firearm has a picatinny accessory rail, and Walther makes its own laser that fits on to the P22, for those who are interested.
The sights are made from polymer and feature a 3-dot design.
At $299.99 the Walther P22 is extremely affordable. It’s currently one of the most popular .22 pistols in the world, and for good reason. It’s a great gun: very comfortable and a ton of fun to shoot.
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory
The Smith & Wesson 22 Victory is without question the .22 pistol for those preferring a classic stainless steel design. As far as overall aesthetic is concerned, the smooth, rounded edges give this gun a really nice flowing look, which is complimented perfectly by a comfortable polymer grip.
Disassembly and reassembling, on the whole, I found to be pretty painless. The Victory comes with a hex wrench that fits into the takedown bolt. From there, separating the barrel from the frame just requires a light pull. The barrel is customizable and can be detached from the bolt using the same hex wrench. (Make sure to tighten the bolts firmly during reassembly.)
The steel fiber-optic adjustable triple-dot sights are mounted on polymer risers. The glowing fiber-optic sights are one of the big selling points for this gun in my opinion.
The grip fits very nicely into the hand, and has checkered texturing on the back and front. There’s also a nice groove for the thumb of your shooting hand, which helps prevent you from inadvertently pressing the magazine release.
The SW22 comes with two 10-round magazines.
While the action is very smooth, the trigger pull has a nice take up and a crisp snap, requiring roughly 3.5 pounds of pressure.
Given that this firearm likely won’t be used for concealed carrying, the dimensions aren’t especially important. However, the SW22 Victory is one of the largest pistols on our list, weighing in at 36 ounces. With that said its extremely thin, only measuring 1.1 inches wide.
The SW22 Victory comes with a picatinny rail for added customization, but it’s worth noting it requires a torque-wrench to install that isn’t included. While you would be giving up on the fiber-optic rear sights if you install an accessory to the picatinny rail, it does have its own set of plain black rear sights on the back.
At humble asking price of $319.99, this gun is a great deal.
Colt 1911 A1 Rail Gun by Walther
Licensed by Colt and manufactured by Walther, the 1911 Rail Gun series gives you the classic 1911 look and feel, with added features to give a custom or tactical-style build. The trigger pull is a bit heavier than some other guns on this list, requiring about 6 pounds of pressure.
What I like about the 1911 Rail Gun is that even the .22 LR caliber version still has the weight and feel of the larger 1911 that typically isn’t captured in other replica pistols. The checker-textured grips are what you would expect from a 1911, but are obviously replaceable. One of the selling points for 1911’s in general is that they are highly customizable.
The 1911 Rail Gun features low-profile three-dot sights.
The Rail Gun has a rear grip safety, which requires you to have your hand fully wrapped around the firearm before it can be fired. There’s also a traditional safety paddle located between the aluminum alloy slide and the combat hammer.
As mentioned above, features like the picatinny near the trigger guard and the skeleton trigger give the impression of a tactical-style firearm.
Disassembly and reassembly is a bit more of a chore than some of the other firearms listed here. For those familiar with 1911s, this isn’t anything unusual, but compared to the other firearms on this list, it's a longer process than you might like.
The 1911 Rail Gun has a blowback design, wherein the barrel is permanently joined to the frame.
At $389.99, the Colt 1911 Rail Gun is one of the more expensive firearms on our list, but for 1911 fans wanting a quality replica to larger caliber 1911’s, this .22 LR model offers exactly that.
The Best .22 Revolvers
For those of you that prefer revolvers to semi-automatic pistols, we'll now cover the best .22 revolvers. Revolvers are far simpler to use than semi-autos, making them a great choice for beginner firearm enthusiasts.
$942.99 at Brownells
Prices accurate at time of publishing
S&W Model 17
We begin the best revolvers section with the Smith & Wesson Model 17. Everything about this classic .22 target gun screams quality: from its tight lock-up design to its crisp trigger pull.
.22 rimfire revolvers like the Model 17 are a lot of fun, and allow shooters to experience the thrill of shooting a classic-feeling handgun without having to break the bank buying ammunition. .22 revolvers have the added advantage of not causing sore palms and wrists, as can come pretty quickly if you spend any time firing their higher caliber counterparts.
The Model 17 has evolved quite a bit since it was first introduced in 1931 as the K-22 Outdoorsman. Notable changes include a transition from 5 to 3 sideplate screws, the addition of a transfer bar, and an internal safety lock. I must admit I hate the internal safety lock. It requires a very small key to activate, which I find a pain in the ass to even bother with. It’s a small complaint, however, and older models don’t have it if you're set on avoiding this feature.
The gun features Smith & Wesson’s classic K-frame design, and weighs 40 ounces with a 6” barrel. It’s a single/double action revolver, and has nearly all the same bells and whistles as the larger revolvers it's based on. It’s got a six-chambered cylinder. The barrel has no underlug, fluting, or ejector rod housing, which helps cut down on weight. Be sure, however, not to be careless when handling, as delicate parts of the gun are exposed to potential damage if mishandled.
Both the front and rear sights are adjustable. The sights might be too minimalistic for some, but they can be interchanged or painted for those who would like to customize.
As is the case with most revolvers, the double action trigger pull is on heavier side, requiring a little over 15 pounds of pressure on average. Again, this is going to be the case with nearly every revolver, as the heavy trigger pull ensures that the cartridge ignites reliably. This might be a dealbreaker for those with weaker fingers, so smaller individuals or women be warned.
The checkered-wood stock grips might feel a little too thin for some shooters, especially if you tend to prefer more modern Ruger-style grips. However, there are a variety of K-frame aftermarket grips out there that typically cost somewhere in the $30 range.
On the whole, the Model 17 is a beautiful high-performing firearm. It will have a noticeably different feel for those unfamiliar with shooting a revolver, and it certainly requires additional care when it comes to cleaning; but it’s a ton of fun to shoot and very affordable.
$196.99 at Brownells
Prices accurate at time of publishing
Heritage Rough Rider
The Heritage Rough Rider has an iconic Wild West revolver look, similar to the classic Colt Single Action Army revolver. And at only $150, it's a great choice for someone looking to purchase a six-shooter on a budget.
Like the Model 17, the Rough Rider has taken on countless iterations over the years, coming with all kinds of different grip styles, sights, and even chamberings. The basic model typically comes with a 6.5” barrel and fixed sights.
Especially considering the price, the Heritage Rough Rider feels very sturdy. The frame is made of aluminum; the grips are wood; and the barrel is made of steel. Long-time owners will generally attest to this revolver’s durability and reliability.
The Rough Rider’s cylinder is fixed and doesn’t swing out like most modern revolvers. Pulling the hammer back to a half-cocked position allows the cylinder to freely rotate. Opening a hinged loading gate on the right side allows you to insert rounds one a time. While loading revolvers does take longer than loading magazines in a semi-automatic pistol, it’s all part of the the experience of using a classic firearm.
With that said, it should be noted that unloading spent shells from the Rough Rider is equally time intensive. With the hammer back in a half-cocked position and the loading gate open, you will need to pull a small spring-loaded plunger under the barrel to eject each shell one by one. It should go without saying that classic revolvers are probably not the best choice if speed shooting is what you’re after.
Being a single action firearm, you will be required to manually re-cock the hammer before each shot, which also means you will need to realign the sights between each shot. That said, the Rough Rider’s trigger pull only requires about 6 pounds of pressure, and has very little takeback, which helps for easy accuracy.
The sights on my Rough Rider are built into the frame and feature an all-black slim metal blade at the front and a simple notch at the rear. The sights are non-adjustable and can sometimes be difficult to find in poor lighting. I nevertheless find the Rough Rider’s accuracy reliable given appropriate conditions.
While the Heritage Rough Rider might have its drawbacks, particularly when it comes to the sights, it’s a great gun for such a cheap price and a great entry level firearm for those looking to get into revolvers.
$642.99 at Brownells
Prices accurate at time of publishing
Ruger SP101 .22
Rounding out the revolvers we have the Ruger SP101 .22. The current version of the SP101 is Ruger’s second attempt at a small-framed rimfire revolver after the original SP101 was discontinued due to its uncomfortable weight and poor sights. While the first version of the SP101 was a failure, Ruger has done an excellent job with gun’s latest iteration.
The SP101 .22 is a small-framed revolver made from stainless steel. It weighs in at 30 ounces and has a 4.2” barrel. The cylinder holds 8 rounds and swings open by pushing a button located near the cylinder.
The modernized sights feature a ramped post with a green fiber-optic insert in the front, and a fully adjustable simple black blade in the rear. The sights do take away from the vintage look captured by the Model 17 and the Rough Rider, but are otherwise excellent and a significant improvement from the SP101’s original design. There’s added textured lines at the top of the barrel to help reduce glare.
The SP101 can be fired either double or single action. The double action pull breaks at around 11 pounds and single action requires an effortless two pounds of pressure.
The thick rubber grips surrounding the entire grip frame give the SP101 a modern look and feel, and are complimented nicely by checker-textured wood inserts on the sides. I’d assume most shooters will prefer the ergonomic design of the SP101 over the Model 17 and Rough Rider.
Another modern advantage of the SP101 is the ejection rod at the front of the cylinder, which allows you to easily eject all 8 shells at once, saving a lot of time and effort.
These factors considered, the Ruger SP101 .22 is a great choice for those looking for a revolver, without wanting to subject themselves to the obvious drawbacks of the more vintage firearms listed above. The SP101’s comfortable grips, complete with the easy-to-find fiber-optic front sight make for a familiar and fun shooting experience at the range. Lastly, the SP101 isn’t limited to just plinking, as most owners will tell you it also makes for a great camp, trail, or small-game hunting firearm. It’s accuracy beyond 25 yards is very reliably.
This wraps up our review of our choices for best .22 LR handguns. As mentioned in the introduction, these low-caliber firearms aren’t ideal for concealed carry or self-defense, but make for great practice guns out in the range.
As you have seen with the firearms listed above, while .22 LR’s don’t pack a lot of stopping power, you can nevertheless find great looking, highly customizable, fun-to-shoot guns, at an affordable price.
Product Name: Walther P22
Product Description: The Walther P22 is the most affordable .22 LR pistol that we'd recommend, while still being capable of handling any task you throw at it. While we don't recommend using a .22 LR pistol for self-defense, the P22 is the most compact option on our list. Though it's small enough to be concealed if needed, it's also large enough to be a comfortable fit in the majority of shooters' hands.
Be sure to check out our guide to the Best .22 Rifles (Bolt Action and Semi-Auto) for more rimfire fun.