The .22 WMR offers a solid choice for a self-defense handgun.
In the modern world of rimfire options, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, also known as .22 WMR or simply .22 Magnum, often gets lost in the shuffle between the ever popular .22 long rifle and .17 HMR. It may be because those other two rounds are more popular for pest control, varmints and small game hunting.
Whatever the case may be, .22 Magnum has a slightly heavier bullet weight, although not by much. It also offers more muzzle velocity, allowing you to shoot at longer ranges. In recent years, the .22 WMR has taken off as a self-defense rimfire ammunition because it is comparable to the .38 Special, in terms of velocity and recoil, but at a greatly reduced price.
While many companies previously only produced wmr ammo with bolt action or semi-automatic hunting rifles in mind, we are starting to see more companies like Speer and Hornady that are producing .22 WMR rimfire ammunition specifically for defense. This ammo often offers velocities over 1,100 feet per second that deliver more than enough muzzle energy to stop a threat.
Today we'll look at some of the top .22 WMR handgun offerings on the market and why they're the guns to consider if you are looking for an affordable rimfire sidearm.
Most 22 Magnum handgun offerings are revolvers and the LCR is arguably one of the top choices on the market. Ruger makes a couple different variants of this rimfire wheelgun. Both hold six rounds of 22 WMR ammo,and have a matte black finish. These pistols feature hogue tamer grips and notched rear sights and ramp front sights. They are extremely light too, coming in at a little over 16 ounces for both versions. The biggest difference is in the barrel length. There is a 3-inch barrel version and a snub nose 1.87-inch version. It really depends on what you are looking for. The 3-inch version is going to offer better muzzle velocity and penetration while the snub nose is going to be easier to concealed carry in light clothing with the proper holster. Another factor to consider is that the 3-inch has an external hammer allowing for single action use while the snub is strictly a double-action revolver.
Charter Arms Pathfinder
At just 12 ounces, the Charter Arms is a great option for anyone looking for light and easy to handle. Combine that weight with the .22 mag's light recoil and you have a great package for concealed carry. This is a good option to consider for female shooters or those with smaller hands. It could also be a good option for older shooters with arthritis problems. This revolver has a six-round capacity and a 2-inch barrel length that will probably give more FPS in speed and more penetration than other snub noses. This is a double/single-action revolver and it has a great look thanks to the stainless steel finish and black rubber grips. At $400, this is a nicely priced option for anyone looking for a self-defense gun on a budget.
While most people immediately think of magnum revolvers when they think of .22 Magnum, Kel-Tec turned a lot of heads when they introduced the PMR-30 semi-auto handgun. Most notable here is the 30-round double stack magazine. No worries about not having enough ammo here! This gun is fully ambidextrous with thumb-activated safeties on both sides. Kel-Tech cut the weight down considerably by making the frame from 7075 aluminum and the slide from 4140 steel. The entire firearm only weighs about 14 ounces making it easily concealable. The 4.3-inch barrel is also going to give greater penetration and muzzle velocities than most revolver offerings. This gun often gets rave reviews for its crisp trigger pull too. At only $335, this also makes this gun a great budget option for anyone looking for a cheaper option for a semi-auto self-defense firearm.
Smith & Wesson Model 351
These J-frame revolvers are ideal for anyone looking for comfort in their concealed carry. The aluminum frame and cylinder puts the weight at just under 12 ounces unloaded. Smith & Wesson makes two variants of this handgun, the 351 C and the 351 PD. The main differences are the grips and the action. The S&W Model 351 C is a double-action only "hammerless" option with less points to snag on the draw while the 351 PD has an exposed hammer. The PD version also has some nice-looking classic wood grips while the C version has more utilitarian black synthetic ones. There is only about a $70 difference in price between the two. Another plus of these revolvers over some of the others on the market is the fact that the cylinder holds seven rounds instead of six. One last difference is that the C model has a simple U-notch rear and XS white dot front sight while the PD model has a fixed rear and an orange fiber optic front for better targeting in low light conditions.
Rock Island Armory M1911 A1 XT
Another rare semi-automatic option for .22 Magnum, but this one is built in a classic 1911 style. At $529, this is perfect for anyone who ever wanted a 1911 but couldn't justify the normally huge price tag of a .45 ACP or other centerfire caliber. This handgun does not have as large a magazine capacity as the Kel-Tec, but it is still impressive in that it can hold 14 rounds of .22 magnum ammo. This handgun has a 5-inch barrel and the trigger can be adjusted from four to six pounds. This firearm features a fiber optic front sight for better target acquisition in low light conditions and black rubber grips for excellent ergonomics. This is one of the heavier .22 Magnums on the market at 40 ounces, but this firearm gets rave reviews from users for its accuracy and reliability.
North American Arms The Wasp
Ever since rimfire cartridges starting getting more consideration for self-defense, there has been something of a resurgence of derringers. And why not? It does not get much easier to conceal than a firearm that only weighs 6.5 ounces like the NAA Wasp. Despite its tiny size, this mini-revolver has a five-round capacity and black rubber grips like you might expect from a full-size firearm. Put in some jacketed hollow point wmr ammunition and you will be prepared to deal with any threat at close quarters. The barrel is only 1.625 inches making it easy to conceal in a purse or ankle holster. It also comes at an excellent price point of $240. This is a great option for anyone who is looking for an extreme conceal firearm or someone looking for a backup gun.
Taurus 992 Tracker
Unlike most of the guns on this list, this win mag is probably best suited as a farm or brush gun for snakes or pesky prairie dogs. This is the heaviest gun on the list at 55 ounces, but it is also going to offer the best muzzle velocity and penetration thanks to its 6.5-inch barrel. Outfitted with black rubber grips, this revolver should hold up nicely to the elements and every day use in a farm or ranch setting. The cylinder also holds nine rounds, so that means more time shooting and less time reloading. This one may need to be broken in a bit more than some other options here, but it is a solid choice for plinking or light hunting applications. It would also be a great choice to train new shooters in the basics of firearms safety at the range.
North American Arms Ranger II
Another derringer-style option perfect for pocket or purse carry, this one has more of a classic old-west look to it thanks to the wood grips. North American Arms makes two versions of this revolver in .22 Mag. Both have a five-round capacity and a weight under seven ounces. You can't get much lighter than that for a gun that holds that many shots! Both also have beaded front sights and a stainless steel finish for more durability. The main difference is that one version has a 2.5-inch barrel and the other has a shorter 1.63-inch barrel. Once again, the longer barrel will make for longer range and faster speeds, but the snub-nosed version will be much easier to carry concealed. The difference between these two versions in price is only about $40, so it mostly comes down to what each individual shooter wants out of the gun.