Thursday, October 4, 2012

The .22 LR Pistol and You

Once upon time I spent a week with a retired CIA spook (in Oklahoma of all places) who was kind enough...well actually he was paid, to give me some training in electronic counter measures, lock picking and a few other useful skills that would aid me in some of my future en devours.

One evening after a steak dinner someplace he went to pay the tab and was looking for a pen or something in one of his pants pockets and in the process laid out a worn pocket holster with a small automatic resting inside. It turned out to be an equally worn blued Walther TPH (German made) and, having never seen one before I wanted to know more about this Walther PPK someone had left in the dryer.

He told me of a few misadventures surrounding the piece but, it was his parting remark that stuck with me "If you are lucky enough to travel around the world armed and doing it mainly alone do yourself a favor always carry a .22 pistol, regardless of anything else you pack."

It was a piece of advice that I remembered sometime later when I was tasked with recovering someone who was missing on purpose because bad men were hunting him. For a real nice ten days I had a Beretta Bobcat that never saw use only because the gentleman who was in-charge of granting me access to where I was decided he liked it as well and the price of admission guessed it. One itty bitty .22 pocket gun.

Some nights later sitting in the dark with the no-longer-missing-person-in-question getting ready to make a mad dash for the territory ahead so to speak and, people with not-so-questionable intent well within my comfort space...which was down the stairs. I didn't think about wanting a rifle, or even one of my beloved 1911s I remember longing for that .22. Not because I thought it superior weapon to anything else (because it certainly is not) but, rather due to the fact I should have had it with me.

I see you. Your neck all tense your fingers locked in tight. You've barely made this far without leaving me your expert opinion in the comments section.

Breathe man.... breathe.

If you are going to compare the calibration of the .22 long rifle to anything else (minus the .25) you have to ask why are you even having the internet figh....I mean discussion. Obviously it falls short so if you can bear that in mind you should be fine reading the rest of the post. If not there's not much I can do for you.

While some of us who inhabit parts of this planet are allowed to own, shoot, and carry a wide array of calibers, actions, and magazine capacity, others are not so fortunate.

For example contrary to popular knowledge gun ownership and even handgun ownership for self defense in Mexico is not actually illegal. It is just damn near impossible.


Because in Mexico there exists only one legal gun store and it sits on a military base in Mexico City. The law says a household can only have one defensive arm and it can be either a pistol or a revolver but, it has to be within the .22 to .380 scale...and you can only possess 200 rounds of ammo a year.

If I were a honest Mexican citizen and left with that choice I'd choose the .22.

"Whoa!" you say

If you live in such a place where it simply is that difficult to obtain a firearm what do you think the availability of shooting ranges are? Hence some things need to be done covertly where a drive into the country side and back into the trees you can fetch you some quality private time without a lot of unwanted attention.

And for people who live in countries such as those with restrictions it's also easier to FIND .22 ammo on the pseudo black market without having to delve truly deep into conversations with individuals your mother wouldn't approve of let alone the policia.

Say you had to be on the move through a varying landscape from Urban to semi-rural for a few days with various unfriendlies about. And you had to do this primarily on foot, or catching the occasional mass transit system, or train, or negotiating a ride for the next twenty miles. Maybe its to get in and find someone and extract them...maybe its just getting out. There on your hip concealed in all of its glory is your beloved full size center-fire pistol and two fully loaded magazines.

The point two two handgun, as the Brits like to say, offers a level of flexibility to your self-defense/feces-impellar kit.

There are times and places in this world were suppressive fire is just good application. For some folks who work alone, far away and, outside of official channels there is a place for the .22 in your life.

A fixed, threaded, or extended barrel can be temporarily suppressed, ripped off and tossed away in a moment solving an up close situation.

Likewise it can serve as a not so gentle reminder that incoming fire has the right of way to those who are actively shooting at you and trying to close the gap.

Perhaps the need in solving the problem is less than conventional.

In a mobile pursuit or an about to be mobile pursuit tires can be flattened from a distance. Traffic jams can be created BEHIND you thus assisting in the escape. Being pursued on a long and rural darkened road head lights can be shot out (don't intentionally misinterpret that as one bullet for one head lamp as if it were an steady and calm Olympic event). 

And say what you will. I've never met a soul willing to pursue at a high rate of speed in near pitch black conditions. And while I've seen plenty of spare tires on vehicles I don't recall too many spare headlights.

What message would it say to your would be aggressors walking down the street if a shot rang out, then another and still another as street lights systematically were shot out. A man (or woman) willing to not only embrace a fight but, to deliberately do it in the dark will give pause to most anyone.

All that can be done without having to sacrifice your limited ammo availability to your primary center-fire handgun.

Because two hundred rounds can be squirreled away most anywhere let alone fifty or a hundred.

But then you knew this...

You know if need be, you can stash a couple hundred round of .22 high velocity long rifle rounds into a 20 oz Starbucks paper cup without having the bottom fall out.

There is something else you have to remember about bullets. All of them. The lowly .22 included.

Bullets cause destruction when fired into living things and in self-defense situations where it is your life or the bad guy's, creating trauma that stops his onslaught is the general idea.

Oh I know....I know. Your brother's cousin's nephew once put a .22 through his frontal lobe while squirrel hunting and, sneezed it out a few days later.

Bullets do weird things but those weird stories are about solitary rounds.

But five or six of those itty bitty rounds into the forehead or sternum cause repetitive systematic destruction.

Take your index finger and tap yourself once between the eyes. Just once.

Now do it five or six times.

If those where fast moving .22 rounds what do you think it would do to you.

Mentally? Not to mention physically?

Now apply this to a bad man.

Bone has been fragmented and broken, the body's primary control area has received substantial damage and things begin to shut down and not in some priority status way. The visual ability to target a victim has been either removed or compromised, not to mention the most basic ability to conceive, maintain, and rely upon any real thought process is gone....gone.

The attack breaks. Because the attacker is breaking down.


There. Again... I see you. Arms crossed. You are gonna play the trump card.

".22's misfire...end of story".

Guess what. There are no free lunches anywhere when the fight for your life is on.

Clear the fucking round and get back in the fight. There is nothing different about a misfired .22 and a stove piped 9mm. Both require you to disengage, do some manual labor and, re-engage. Personal responsibility isn't going anywhere.

One gentleman I knew, who worked all over the world in varying capacities carried two guns for the majority of his work. A Browning Hi-Power and a Ruger MK II.He managed to repeatedly come home from really shitty places and situations and, to do so he had to put in a lot of personal effort.

So do you.

Ultimately there the opinion of many out there who don't ever favor the .22LR for defense work. I can say for me it has been a choice at times and it is never my first choice but one does have to remember this amidst the "stopping power" business. Bullet holes of any caliber in the throat end a fight as do puncture wounds to the lungs especially multiple ones. Regardless if they come from a .22, a .460 Rowland or a kitchen knife.


Seabat said...

Great posting, Matthew! You are the true voice of reason. I obtained a Beretta Jaguar .22 a couple of years ago. It was made in 1959 and is the best .22 I've ever owned. Israeli Mossad used them for jobs back in the 1960's. They were very happy with theirs. I recently acquired a Smith and Wesson Model 34 with 2" barrel. It makes a great front pocket holstered weapon. And, no one wants to get shot...with anything!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, reposted on Liberty and Lead. -55six

Anonymous said...

Back in the early 80's I was working at a gas station on the grave yard shift and I carried the only gun I had a Colt Challenger. After about a year of working there I got held up. From a range of about three feet I put the entire mag into him. I remember hearing a cop say at the scene "I'm not eating italian for a while. that's a mess". Here I am.

Anonymous said...

I retired in 1996 after twenty years in clandestine services seeing some of the tensest moments of the cold war before retiring here on the East Coast and entering the private intelligence field like yourself.

Your article is very well written and spot on but, can assure you it will fall on deaf ears. I carried a variety of weapons (primarily handguns) all over the world and carried the Walther TPH in .22 as it was a popular choice among fellow officers along with the .32 PP and Mauser HSc.The majority of American shooters having never experienced things like foreign handgun regulations or covert work fail to understand that sometimes there simply aren't any choices to be had.

I also have to agree that .22LR, even in the old Soviet Bloc countries when the wall was up, is by far the easiest ammunition to locate without having black market contacts.What I personally found to be on odd thing was the .22 was far more substantial in use on humans than on animals like dogs. Of course most folks who have never shot anything other than paper fail to understand that neutralizing a threat means just that. If your would be attacker is gasping for air on the floor from three or four shots to the chest the threat has been neutralized. It is a moot point if he is alive or dead.

You've written, like most of your previous articles, a piece that is based on the reality of life. Sadly your target audience inside the U.S. won't get it but those in foreign territories surely will.

Double Tapper said...

I picked up a Ruger LCR in .22 to carry as a "trail" gun. Holds 8 rounds. The nice thing about it is, given the .22 LR notorious number of misfires, all you have to do is pull the trigger again.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:21 Some of us "yahoos" here in the US know how to listen. Thank you for your service and fuck you for your attitude.

Anonymous said...

Yes,a .22 is as good a killing tool as ever has been. I'm VERY fond of both the Woodsman and the HS Military.

Walter Zoomie said...

Thanks a lot, pal. Now I want to buy another gun.

Anonymous said...

thank you for your well written article. i have settled on a north american arms 22 mag 5 shot revolver for my mouse gun. i am not yet comfortable toting a semi that close to my "thang." be safe.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this wonderful insight. I carry a Taurus PT-22 regularly. It likes a certain kind of ammo, but even at that, it's still cheaper to shoot than FMJ 9mm. It's a pain to get the slide unjammed when it does happen, but you just can't beat a deep cover weapon.

Anonymous said...

Well researched and accurate article. Thanks for bringing real world facts and realities back to the table.

Ask an emergency room doc or a big city surgeon which round does more damage.. those little .22 HP's completely come apart with pieces going every which way when the hit bone or large cartilage or tendons.

It isn't the round that matters, it's the shooters mindset and ability that wins or loses.

Yank lll

Anonymous said...

Taurus model 94, not a mouse gun, but it will eat any kind of .22, CB, short, long, hyper velocity, rat shot. I've narrowed down a lot of my weapons, but I kept my little 22.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Out in the sticks, many grizzly ol' coots, following a couple snorts, will tell you that more deer, elk, and most other game have been harvested with a .22lr than all the rest combined. Given the facts around "bang for your buck", ease of carrying large quantities, low recoil, easy noise control, number of guns that can shoot it, value as trading stock, etc., this is a no-brainer. I have no personal experience with this type of "social outreach", but have no reason to question .22lr's capabilities in this realm either. You, sir, have nailed it.

RegT said...

Excellent advice - as usual. I wonder if Mr. Clandestine Services (he was Wild Bill Donovan's grandson, and a Navy SEAL before that, of course ;-) could suck-up any harder?

I love and prefer the .45 ACP, but will shoot anything that works, and a .22 works for all of the reasons you stated. I practice routinely with various calibers and have Advantage Arms conversion kits for my G30 and my wife's G23. I might have to consider another purchase now that you mention it, though. My old Ruger MkI and the Glocks are just a little too big.

Anonymous said...

The late, great Jeff Cooper, who was a staunch advocate of major calibers, once wrote an article on the importance of shot placement. In it, he said something along the lines of,"A .22 between the eyes is just as effective as a .45 to the wishbone."

Dave Orchard said...

Due to age and injuries, I carry a pair of K-T .32's loaded w/Pow'RBall in Recluse pocket holsters,(Can't stand anything heavier than a light pocket knife on my R.hip after being thrown twice on it HARD off horses, and hit once by a car when crossing a Spokane street.) but while they are pretty good at 5 to 7 yds. or less, I want to be able to hit further than that.
I put a lage X/S white bead front sight w/trit. center on my long-barreled old model Woodsman and took the rear sight off of it and have a yellow strip painted vertically on the rear center of the slide..
This works better than anything I have ever used.
It works even if you have cataracts...
And with Velociter, it has been 100% reliable.(I "carry" in a shoulder holster made from a 3/4 century-old Heizer flap-holster for Woodsman)
Going to mill a vert groove where the paint is now and fill w/ yellow paint of gold, and carefully file or mill fine horiz. grooves to kill reflected "glare".
I like the Beretta M-71's, but NOTHING touches the early Woodsman's, IMCO.(In My CUrmudgeonly Opinion ;-)


Anonymous said...

The .22 long rifle is an interesting suggestion. During my LEO days, I often felt the need to carry something a bit smaller than the 1911s my department used as duty weapons.

I tried a variety of guns. The largest was an Ortgies in .380; not a bad gun once you get it to work right but a little large. The PPK in 6.35 was ok. Eventually, I realized the average street thug was a coward looking for easy pickings. While not necessarily fatal, a gunshot requires a trip to a hospital where people ask embarrassing questions like, "who are & just how did you end up with 2 or 3 slugs in your hide?" Plus the police often show up & ask the same questions in a rather more insistent fashion.

With the small calibers, bullet placement is essential. A kneecap shot will anchor an assailant quite well & you can stroll away at leisure. Don't forget the femoral artery as a target.

Now, if I were going into a raid expecting heavy disagreement, of course I'd take the "Fat Lady" but otherwise, you don't want to alarm people. The Beretta Bobcat might be a good choice.

Another issue is practice. .25, .32 & .380 ammunition is not cheap & rather limits practice on a private budget. .22 ammunition is comparatively inexpensive. One can afford to fire the several hundred rounds to reach proficiency. Just remember that your target will seldom be more than 20 feet away.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed at how many people disagree with the .22 as a self defense round. If the object is to neutralize the threat, then multiple .22 rounds work. One shot stops? Maybe not, but keep pulling the trigger until they stop and it works just fine.

Lots of evidence it works just as well as any pistol caliber, too.

A small .22 is a pleasure to shoot, unlike a small .45 or .40 or even a 9mm, all of which get obnoxious very fast when you are practicing.

ScribblersDad said...

A Kel-Tec PF-9 with a Twisted Industries .22 conversion weighs less than 12 ounces, and is surprisingly accurate. Every time someone tells me that .22 is a "mouse gun" and an ineffective caliber, I invite them to stand against the wall while I shoot them, just once, with a .22. No takers thus far.

.45ACP+P said...

First rule in a gunfight: Bring a gun. .22LR will give you the options you have enumerated and is massively better than a sharp stick. If I expect trouble, my .45 is my preference. If a .22 is all I have, I can make it work for me.

Kansas by way of Dave said...

I read this on one of the forums

"Good read. The only two pistols I own are .22s and one of them go everywhere I go. One day do I plan to move up? Sure, but I still see plenty of situations where ill opt for my smaller lighter .22."

That is exactly who this post was written for in my opinion. To give people who for various reasons only have a .22 handgun a little bit of clarity and hope. I has amazed me how much this post has been reposted all over the webz and then negatively commented on by people who didn't bother to read the post or even look at your background. The otherside of course is I've seen a lot of praise for the article and to which I agree. Love your writing style and your no bullshit approach.

Daniel in Brookline said...

Great post!

Whenever people tell me that the 22LR is useless as a defense round, I remind them that it's what almost killed President Reagan in 1981.

Ed and Jackie said...

I'm seriously considering moving down to my 22. I started with a sig p238 and after a year decided to carry a bigger firearm (mid size 9mm). I got a walther p22 for practice because I really liked how it fit my hand. Problem is, I've shot that 22 so much now I'm more accurate with it than any other gun I own. I have somewhere north of 10,000 rounds through that gun. I can put 10 rounds on a sheet of paper (center mass sized) at 7 yards by feel, from the hip. Done it more than once. Aimed, i can keep a magazine full on a sheet of paper at 25 yards, out to 50 with something to rest on. Quickly. Now, compared to some, that's not much for shooting, but I'll just say it's way better than I do with anything else. I know, from thousands of rounds, what I can and can' do with that little 22. I'd feel fine with it for self defense. Especially carrying 4 spare mags so easily. 50 rounds? Yeah, I can deal with a lot of problem with 50 rounds.

by the way, LOVE the image of taking out the street lights. With my 22, I'd take those shots, no problem. 9mm? Not so much.

seeker_two said...

Matthew: Great article! About time the .22lr got the respect it deserved.

One question: Since finding ammo in exotic locales might produce .22lr of questionable quality, would a revolver make more sense from a reliability standpoint?....or does the small auto handle that variety of ammo well enough?

Anonymous said...

A very well written article. It is time the lowly .22 got its due. During my time as a LEO I was involved in a few shootings including one should-have-been-simple arrest that turned into a 14 on 2 war. My service weapon broke during the fight and I found myself pinned down with nothing but my Beretta .22. Fortunately I had owned a owned a Beretta .22 since I was 12 and had run many bricks of ammo through them. I was very comfortable with it and still am. The count for the lowly .22 that day was 3 on the ground and one with a toe tag. It saved my ass big time...

Guns said...

It is a reliable Gun,I have use this and have no issue with this.

Matthew said...

@ Seeker_two

Having ti contend with a variety of unknowns in the ammo quality department around the world the revolver would get the nod. Especially since so many of them old and new have significant cylinder capacity. I grew up shooting an old Hi Standard double nine that held...nine rounds. That can actually be a significant increase over some of the pocket autos.

Anonymous said...

Great information and a nice read. I love my Springfield XD9, but me NAA mini is in my pocket at least twice as much. So much easier to conceal.

Carriedwithoutlovethetwenty-two said...

worked as a Blackwater contractor (before the fall out) and while most of the notoriety came from the Afghanistan and Iraq operations many of us worked all over the world.The classic image of BW operator was strutting around with an M4 and 5.11 tactical pants is accurate. We also worked ALOT of operations in India, Western and Eastern Europe along with a few more.

I carried a Walther P22 on no less than five jobs over seas with two of those jobs it being my primary piece.Too say the least non who did was thrilled with the option which was either 22LR or .32 Acp due to in country restrictions on caliber and ammo. Two other gentleman (one British) carried S&W .22 revolvers. My English counterpart said it was the only gun he could successfully maintain and transport out of the UK and it cost him the better part of $5 or $6 thousand pounds to do so.I will admit that I'm not a lover of the .22 for personal protection work but, the author is right sometimes it's your only option and I think that it was his point. I read on one of the forums decrying his post as BS. The truth is for most individuals who ride a desk, don't travel beyond meetings and vacation don't realize there is a whole other operational world out there. It's a great article in the end, well written and understood about accepting limitations of life.

Anonymous said...

WOW.... really, really nice article!!! I've truly pondered the idea of carrying a .22lr pistol. Since a lot of centerfire ammo is scarce & getting more & more expensive, most of my training has been with my various .22 pistols. I must confess that I have on a few occasions actually carried my Ruger SR22 & haven't felt that I was comprising anything as far as carrying a "mouse gun".

Anonymous said...

If Harry Archer were still alive, he would say Bravo Zulu. He could have written it.

Unknown said...

Awesome work! That is quite appreciated. I hope you’ll get more success.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. I knew Harry Archer. He was my mentor and instructor. I am alive because of his teaching. Suffice to say, that in the bad, old, cold war days the .32 ACP was entirely adequate to play "Whack a Mole" with hypothermic Chicom combat swimmers wielding knives who were trying to capture your disguised as fishing vessel doing ELINT off Kemoy and Matsu.

When the world turns to manure, turbofans and razorblades you dance with the girl you've got!

Vdekje Fashimzmit de Ryzhiy Khui old friend...

Unknown said...

I use a Beretta Bobcat as my "snake gun" and appreciate this article. I also thank the reader that stated that he experienced a few misfires but solved the problem with a little more break-in practice. I "really" love this little gun, but I have always carried a larger ccw because of all of the negative articles I have read about a .22lr as a ccw. Thanks again for the useful information.

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Anonymous said...

I have a very rare Beretta Jaguar 70S in .22LR with adjustable rear sights. It is extremely reliable, accurate with little if any recoil. I have run +5,000 rds the the Jaguar with no jams. I was trained by a retired Mossad agent. If I had to bug out, it would be with an M1A, M1 Carbine, Remington 870, Ruger 10-22 and of course my trusty Beretta Jaguar. The .38 SPL and 9MM are for my my kids. My dad was in the 442nd in WWII. One year in combat and seven as the occupation forces in Germany. He was issued an M1 Garand, which was too heavy for him. The rule was when somebody went down, you picked up their weapon. He picked-up a Thompson M1A1 too heavy, he really liked the M1 Carbine. The AR is a mouse rifle. The M1 Carbine is very under-rated. I have two Winchesters and two Inlands (GM).

Unknown said...

Beretta Bobcat here too. The .22LR on your person is better than the 10mm in your car...or left at home.

Al c.o.garver yt? said...

Facts are facts the 22 and 32 acp for the man or women in the trench are proven just move smartly with them..anonymous ret.SA

JoeThePimpernel said...

According to DOJ crime statistics, guns are used somewhere between 235,700 and 2,500,000 times per year to stop crimes, 98% of the time without a shot being fired.

In other words, a .22 is as good as a Howitzer 98% of the time.


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