Is a .22 Useful for Self-Defense? Let’s Find Out!

The .22 is a gun that is comfortable to wield and it is capable of producing a lot of power. However, can it do a good job when you need to defend yourself at a moment’s notice?

The .22 is a passable gun for self-defense as you can wound or kill pretty much anything with a carefully aimed .22 bullet. However, it also has a low caliber and no stopping power. This means that if you need to fight someone off, a .22 bullet would do very little to stop them from getting to you.

Obviously, guns are a serious topic and you probably want more details before you stake your life on a particular model. Read on for more details about .22 guns and their pros and cons.

Deadly or Detrimental?

We should probably answer the biggest question first; can a .22 rifle (or pistol) kill somebody? Like most guns, it is, in fact, capable of killing. If the shooter knows what they are doing and exactly where to aim, a .22 cartridge could easily take a person out.

According to one .22 user, you can kill just about anything from a ground squirrel to an elephant with a .22 rifle if you know where to shoot. A carefully placed bullet to the brain or down the throat could easily take even the largest of living things down.

In addition, .22 bullets can deflect and ricochet very easily once it has entered the body. This means you could hit someone or something with it and it’s possible they would not stop immediately but would die soon after because the bullet went somewhere it should not have gone. .22 cartridges can ricochet once inside the body, so that means it can be fairly difficult to recover once you’ve been shot.

This makes them equally if not more damaging than high-caliber weapons which usually create cleaner wounds. So keep in mind that a .22 caliber weapon can do plenty of damage. However, it may not be great for self-defense unless your only goal is intimidation.

Stopping Power

As mentioned above, a .22 does have the power and capacity to wound or kill, but there is one thing that must be taken into account. The stopping power on most .22 caliber guns is little to none, which often makes the .22 caliber gun an unpopular choice for life and death situations.

What does that have to do with self-defense? If your goal is to hurt or kill an assailant, you could probably achieve that with a .22 with no problem. However, if you need to fight someone or something off, a .22 would be of very little help. It could hurt the intruder, but it will do very little to stop them from coming at you right then (especially if they are full of adrenaline and you don’t hit a vital area).

Rifles vs. Pistols

The question that remains now is, which is better, a rifle or handgun? The main difference is their size. Obviously, a rifle is longer and heavier than a pistol/handgun. A rifle is also easier to shoot with accuracy simply because of its weight and longer sight radius. The size of ammunition also varies due to gun length.

Other than that, the differences are few and far between. Rifles and pistols are typically equal in deadliness, though rifles do prove easier to aim with. As far as which one you should use, there really is no right answer. Go with whatever you feel most comfortable and competent with.

Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to using any kind of .22 caliber gun. Here are a few important ones to note.

  • Pros

Lightweight. Both the gun and the ammo are lightweight and fairly easy to carry. This makes it the ideal choice especially if you have to carry it a distance (specifically if you are out in the wilderness or on a similar excursion). It also makes it an ideal weapon to include in survival gear. It could mean the difference between life and death but still, be easy to transport. .22 caliber guns are also relatively quiet when compared to most other guns even without a suppressor. This makes them less intimidating and more comfortable to shoot (especially for beginners).

As mentioned before, a .22 gun can leave an unmistakable mark. For their cost and weight, .22’s generally have an extremely high penetration level. Even despite the limited stopping power of a .22, it can still speak for itself as far as penetration is concerned.

And while we are on the subject of cost, a .22 is the way to go if you are on a budget. Rounds can cost anywhere from 8 dollars to 80 dollars. This makes purchasing rounds much more affordable, plus it means you can practice your shooting more often and without breaking the bank. And they are not only cheap but also extremely easy to come by. They are far more widely available than many other types of rounds.

Additionally, the recoil (or kickback) of a .22 is much lower than that of other calibers. This makes it easy for you to quickly return to your target. The .22 is fairly accurate and durable. Because there are lower forces on the gun, the barrel will not heat nearly as much as other gun barrels will. This also means that a .22 is more than capable of putting multiple bullets through the same hole at short or even medium range.

As mentioned above, .22 caliber guns are easy and comfortable to shoot, making them an ideal choice, for beginners especially. Literally, anybody can use a .22 be they a youngster or a senior citizen. Thanks to its low recoil (a.k.a. kickback) it is not painful to shoot. It is easy on the ears and the shoulders so it’s a win-win!

Not only is ammo widely available, but .22’s are generally legal and easy to get. Especially for those of you who live in a somewhat restrictive area where a lot of other guns are not allowed (like ARs), a .22 is easy to come by and there are generally very few conflicting factors.


One of the biggest challenges the .22 caliber faces is the low shock value (stopping power). As mentioned above, you could kill a bear with a .22 if you could aim the gun just right, but if the bear were to be running at you, a .22 round would do you very little good. The only stopping power comes from hitting a vital area such as the heart or the brain, and this is only probable if you are an expert marksman.

However, if you are not an expert marksman, hunting or self-defending with a .22 may or may not be the best idea. This is where the lightweight ammo can be a problem. Because it is not very heavy, it probably will not have the one-shot-stop effect you may be desiring/expecting. The above having been said, the .22 cannot generally be used as a hunting weapon unless your game is no larger than a ground squirrel.

There is also a downside to .22 rounds being cheaper. The cheaper ammo can often be corrosive on a gun which will leave you having to clean your weapon far more often than normal. Purchasing and using a more expensive .22 caliber gun will most likely necessitate the purchase and usage of higher-grade ammo.

Alternatives: Rifles/Shotguns

As we have seen, the pros of using a .22 caliber gun fortunately far outweigh the cons. However, as far as self-defense is concerned, there might be some notable alternatives you ought to consider. Let’s take a look.

The Mossberg 500/590. A 12 gauge pump action shotgun will help you develop an excellent at-home defense system. Not only is it sturdy and reliable, but it packs a powerful punch. It can be loaded with slugs or buckshot and will deliver a devastating blow, especially at close range. Even the mere sound of you pumping the rack could be enough to scare your assailant away (depending, of course, on whether or not they are armed). The Mossberg has an easy-to-reach slide release and safety, making it comfortable to use. It boasts dozens of customizations and can be found for reasonable prices.

The AR-15. This semi-automatic rifle is an ideal choice for the ever-increasing commonness of multiple-person break-ins. A semi-automatic weapon will give you better odds against being outgunned or outmanned. The AR-15, while a little higher on the cost spectrum, has reasonably priced yet quality parts available for purchase. It offers plenty of accessories and is much easier to find parts for than several other guns.

The Winchester SXP Defender. The Defender has inertia-assisted action and is advertised as Winchester’s fastest, smoothest shotgun currently on the market. It is an excellent choice for buckshot, birdshot, or slugs due to its 18-inch, fixed-cylinder-choke barrel. It can hold six 12 gauge shotgun shells and is fairly lightweight for ease of use. It is reasonably priced and very handy. It is a perfect option for self-defense in your home.

The Benelli M4. Though many semi-automatic shotguns can be finicky and difficult to work with, the Benelli M4 is an exception. It has a self-regulating gas system that has been designed for reliable functionality as well as compatibility with a variety of different shells. Because it is so reliable, the M4 is often used by military and law officials all over the world, including the U.S. Marine Corps. The Benelli M4 is a bit pricier than the other guns listed here. It can usually be found for about 2,000 dollars or more. A hefty price to pay to be sure, but you will not find a better gun for self-defense.

The Remington 870 Express Tactical. The 870 Express is actually one of the most popular shotguns on the market and for good reason. It is especially popular among hunters, police officers, and literally, anybody else who wants to defend their home from predators whether man or beast. The Express has a fixed-cylinder choke and can hold up to seven 12 gauge shells. It is known for its reliability and durability as well as its versatility. For such a great gun, it is reasonably priced and fairly easy to get ahold of. The Remington 870 Express Tactical is a great option to be sure.

Alternatives: Handguns/Pistols

It might be nice to have a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun to ward off multiple intruders or threatening wildlife. However, if you are going for stealth and ease of concealment, a handgun is definitely for you! Here are a few nice ones to consider.

The Ruger SP10. A .357 caliber gun is what you want if stopping power is the goal. A hammerless revolver like the SP10 is a fantastic choice, especially if you are worried about portability. You do not have to worry about clearing the jam or using the hammer so it is easy to whip out on short notice if necessary. It can be bought for as little as 550 dollars, a bargain for such a great piece.

The Glock 19. Used commonly by police officers, Glock pistols can be depended upon for reliability and efficiency. The Glock 19 shoots 9 mm rounds which some argue are too small for home defense because they have less stopping power. However, it makes up for its lack of shock value with accuracy. It is a simple piece that is easy to use, plus it is a great choice for concealed carrying.

The Glock 41 Gen4. Glock just has a reputation for making great weapons! The Gen4 is considerably larger than the Glock 19 which does not make it a great choice for concealed carry, but it does make it a great option for at-home defense. It is just as reliable and easy to use as the 19, with just a little more firepower behind it. It has plenty of stopping power for pretty much any situation you can imagine.

The Sig Sauer P226 MK-25. The MK-25 has a 4.4-inch barrel, SIGLITE night sights, and let’s not forget the M1913 accessory rail. If you are looking for a gun you can trust in any situation, this is the gun for you. The MK-25 is a particularly popular piece for home defense thanks to its 15 hollow points plus one and 9mm caliber. It was also made an army-issue gun back in the 1980s’ which makes it an ideal choice.

The Colt Close Quarter Battle Pistol (CQBP). Like the Benelli M4 and Beretta M9A1, the Colt CQBP is also a military issue handgun. If this .45 ACP is good enough for the military, chances are it can handle whatever might come your way. It is a bit pricier as far as handguns go, costing somewhere up in the 1,000 dollar range.


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Matthew Osborn

Matt is an entrepreneur who has created and successfully exited multiple companies and brands. Now, he dedicates his time to Legionary, where he produces content on guns, family, and freedom.

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