We can roughly divide the .22 handguns into several categories ranked by the operation system, design form, barrels, and their intended targets. The two best-known subtypes are semiautomatic pistols and revolvers, but since the wheelguns are the topic of some other article, this time we will deal with pistols chambered in .22 Long Rifle caliber.

 

But before we start with guns, let us a few words about the most widely used rimfire caliber in existence, the .22 Long Rifle.

 

With the title of the first American all-metallic cartridge, this classic rimfire caliber dates back to 1884, when the development of the Flobert 6mm cap and ball design, inspired Smith & Wesson to create the .22 Short for their Model 1 revolver. Shortly afterward in 1887, a J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. developed the future king of the rimfire cartridges, the .22LR, or .22 Long Rifle.

 

Today, this almost a century and a half old cartridge is one of the world’s most popular rounds that come in any possible firearm design including rifles, revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, smoothbore shotguns and even machine guns.

 

As for the intended use, the .22LR round is a great choice for small game hunting and plinking within the range of 75 yards. However, skilled marksmen can take shots out to 300 yards using match-grade .22LR ammo and PRS (Precision Rifle Series) rifles. That said, the .22LR has more than enough power for hunting small pests. In addition, the .22 rimfire pistols are perfect for casual plinker and outdoorsmen.

 

Beyond hunting and competition shooting, a .22LR can be used for a variety of purposes including training, recreation, and even self-defense. Speaking of defense purposes, though the rimfire semiautomatics are notoriously less reliable than centerfires, they would, of course, be useful as home defence weapons, following the motto – “something is better than nothing”.

 

Due to the lack of noise and incredibly light recoil, the .22LR is great for introducing youngsters and new people to the world of firearms but it is still a staple for veteran firearm aficionados.

 

Over time varies .22 LR loads have been developed and generally we can divide them into four categories based on initial velocity. These categories include Subsonic, Standard, High-velocity, and Hypervelocity .22LR ammunition. The velocity of these cartridges spans from 1,100 feet per second (340 m/s) all the way up to over 1,400 feet per second (430 m/s).

 

On the other side, we can classify the .22LR handguns into a few specialist categories that were created as a result of the market demands, for the military training, or just spawn off as experimental designs.

 

The first category includes full-size centerfire handguns factory modified to fire rimfire cartridges. Inspired by centerfires handguns, these sub-caliber firearms resemble or duplicate the full-bore handguns in all respects save caliber. The Colt Service Model Ace was the first of a kind that carried the same weight and dimensions as a full-size .45 pistol. Typically, these guns replicate the exact size and feel of real service pistols or revolvers for practical training purposes and of course much cheaper shooting.

 

The second group encompasses dedicated .22 Rimfire pistols purpose-built either for recreational shooting, or target shooting and hunting. These handguns are constructed from the ground up as completely dedicated rimfire firearms. Besides the classic pistol style, these rimfire semi-autos are available in a variety of configurations sharing features common to tactical rifles, or offering the ultra-cool submachine gun look.

 

Finally, the market is offering large frame handguns shipped with a simple convertible rimfire set designed to be changed by the user itself. Practically, the owner can convert a full-bore weapon to sub-caliber by exchanging parts or using inserts such as tube inserts. The advantage of a conversion unit is that the heft, balance, trigger action, sights and grips of the primary weapon are preserved.

 

Of course, like for the other calibers, occasionally you will find some wacky designs on the market as a creature of eccentric design philosophy. Besides recreative shooting, for the casual plinker and outdoorsmen, they would, of course, be useful home defence weapons.

 

Prime examples of such exotic designs are the KelTec’s CP33 with 33 .22LR rounds in a quad stacked magazine and the Olympic Arms Whitney Wolverine, a sleek design reminiscent of science fiction ray guns.

 

The prefix “best” is a subjective category based on personal experience, affinity, and preference. So, to be politically correct, in the next part we will present several “most popular” semi-automatic models from each category.

 

 

1. Glock G44 .22LR Pistol

Speaking of the first rimfire category which includes full-size pistols chambered in .22 LR, the Glock G44 is the most recently released gun. Although you can find many successful .22LR rimfire conversion kits for the Austrian plastic pistols, the very first Glock .22LR semi-automatic was revealed in 2019 by this famous gun manufacturer.

 

G44 is built on a compact frame of the uber-popular Glock 19. Like the Glock 19, the Glock 44 has the same dimensions, feel layout, surface controls, and appearance. As one of the newer Glock models, the G44 looks no different than any other Gen5 Glocks.

 

The most striking difference between G19 and G44 is weight. The Glock 19 weighs around 32 oz when fully loaded, whereas the G44 weighs just 16.4 ounces with a loaded magazine. Of course, the Glock engineers could make hammer-fired rimfire pistols and keep the same weight using junk metal, or zinc alloy materials like their competitors. However, in order to create a striker-fired rimfire pistol with proper cycling, they produced an innovative 5-section polymer/steel hybrid slide.

 

Unlike the majority of .22 pistols with a barrel secured to the receiver, the Glock 44 features a non-fixed barrel, which is installed in the slide. Using polygonal rifling, the 4in barrel isn’t threaded, so you can’t mount a suppressor by default.

 

The G44 utilizes Glock’s Safe Action system, with the same Glock trigger feel which isn’t very different from that on other Glocks.

 

The magazine easily drops free using a magazine release in the same familiar location. The pistol is shipped with two load-assist mags utilizing an easy-load tab and round count indicator.

 

To summarize, the Glock 44 is a great clone of the G19 designed for inexpensive training and one that will ease the learning curve for the most first-time gun user.

Specs:

  • Price $368.99
  • Manufactured by: Glock
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 4.02 in.
  • Weight: 1 lbs.
  • Caliber gauge: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 10+1 Rounds

2. KelTec CP33

Although the manufacturer advertised their large handgun as the target rimfire semiauto pistol, a KelTec CP33 is also very applicable as a plinker or hunting pistol.

To be honest, with an overall length of 10.6 inches, a 5.5-inch barrel and a full-length Picatinny rail, the CP33 is a really competition-ready gun.

 

Along with a fiber-optic sighting system, this eccentric designed .22LR pistol boasts a surprisingly good single-action trigger that provides a nice, clean break and crisp trigger pull of just 3.2 pounds with minimal creep.

 

The combination of the KelTec’s space-age styling and aftermarket sliding brace bears some resemblance to an HK MP7.

 

Behind its very unique design, the CP33 is a straight-blowback operated pistol with an internal hammer firing mechanism.

 

An aluminum receiver is incorporated in the polymer frame making the pistol relatively lightweight at 26 ounces unloaded. The overall weight of this fairly large-capacity gun is 30 ounces. The heart of the KelTec CP33 system is a double-double stack 33-round clear polymer magazine, called the Quad Stack. There is also a magazine extension that allows CP33 to hold 50 rounds of .22 LR caliber.

 

The pistol’s ergonomics and controls have much in common with centerfires weapons. That said, a paddle-style ambidextrous safety on the CP33 is almost a 1911 thumb safety and the unique charging handle at the rear of the receiver is of an AR-15-style.

 

The barrel muzzle is threaded 1/2×28 for suppressor use, making it an interesting all-around pistol, which has also a potential for personal defense.

Specs:

  • Price $416.99
  • Manufactured by: KelTec
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 5.5 in.
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs.
  • Caliber gauge: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 33+1 Rounds

3. Ruger Mark IV

There is no list of dedicated .22 rimfire pistols without Ruger Standard-style pistol. When Bill Ruger’s Standard appeared in 1949, it was one of the most simplistic pistols ever that became the mainstay of one of America’s largest gunmakers.

 

The Ruger brand gained a reputation for its Mark collection of .22 LR handguns and continued to make successive versions of the rimfires ever since. Using the German Luger P08 pistol as a sort of inspiration, Ruger Standard had a very sharp grip angle, trigger guard and tapered barrel akin to the Luger.

 

With a striking resemblance to the German Luger, the firstborn .22 Ruger offered how a service pistol feels, but without the muzzle blast and recoil of full-powered 9mm rounds. Unlike recoil-operated Luger, the Standard Model was based on a reliable blowback design with a cylindrical bolt moving in a tubular receiver.

 

After more than 70 years and numerous models, we can establish 4 main variants called the Mark II, Mark III and the latest Ruger Mark IV.  The newest incarnation from 2017, the Mark IV, comes in no less than nine versions, but all of them have the same familiar layout as their famous predecessors.

 

However, you can find several noticeable improvements such as a simple one-button takedown feature for easy disassembly and the new position of the push-button magazine release, which is now located on the left side of the pistol.

 

Like all models, Mark IV has a 10+1 magazine capacity and interestingly it can’t fire while the magazine is removed. It is a desirable trait for a non-defensive gun.

 

The Ruger Mark IV Standard sports fixed sights, but it can easily accept any optic or aftermarket night sight since its receiver is drilled and tapped for an accessory rail. The new generation also boasts an ergonomic bolt stop that is built to ensure the sight-to-barrel alignment is always perfect.

 

Today’s Mark IV .22 pistol’s frame is made from aluminum and it is available with a cold hammer-forged barrel with ultra-precise rifling. Depending on the models you can choose barrels either 4.75 inches long or 6 inches long.

 

With a minimal overall length of 9 inches, the Ruger Standard isn’t the best option for concealed carry. On the other side, it covers everything from tactical use to small game hunting and competition, but it is best suited for plinking and target shooting.

 

Compared to other rimfire pistols, Mark IV is exceptionally popular for suppressing. Besides a vast number of external suppressors for the Ruger’s new MK IV rimfire pistol, the most popular are integral suppressors like a Sicario from TBA Suppressors.

 

The Sicario is a .22LR suppressor designed specifically for a modified Ruger MK IV to function as an integrally-suppressed pistol dropping sound to 115dB with high-velocity ammunition.

Specs:

  • Price $539.99
  • Manufactured by: Ruger
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 5.5 in.
  • Weight: 35.6 oz.
  • Caliber gauge: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 10+1 Rounds

4. Beretta M9

The Beretta M9 was the official sidearm of the United States military for more than three decades in a number of war conflicts and police actions where it has proven durable and dependable.

 

The M9 22LR is an exact replica of the M9 in.22 caliber, is the same operation as the Beretta M9 and has the same controls and takedown. The Beretta M9 is available in both 10 and 15 rounds. The M9 22LR provides the same reliability as the M9 for more than 30 years.

 

The Beretta M9 .22LR version offers a similar experience to the 9mm models. The identical design, feel, operation, magazine capacity, and disassembly are what build muscle memory and good habits.

 

The Beretta M9 22LR is a great training tool that can also be used as a tribute to the iconic handgun.

 

Among other uses, the pistols chambered in .22 LR are relegated to military handgun marksmanship training, allowing perfect carbon copy of drills and training sequences for the centerfire pistols.

Specs:

  • Price $419.99
  • Manufactured by: Beretta
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 4.9 in.
  • Weight: 26.1 oz.
  • Caliber gauge: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 15+1 Rounds

5. SW22 Victory

Smith & Wesson Performance Center SW22 Victory Target Model Fiber Optics Sights 22 Long Rifle 6in Stainless Pistol – 10+1 Rounds – The Performance Center SW22 Victory Target pistols are chambered in .22LR and are designed specifically for target shooting competitions. These pistols feature 6-inch target barrels, muzzle brakes, and Tandemkross hiveGrips.

 

The Performance Center SW22 Victory Target pistols ship with two 10-round magazines, and are available with either a 6-inch Fluted or 6-inch Carbon Fiber barrel. Each Performance Center SW22 Victory Target pistol ships with a picatinny-style rail for the quick mounting of an optic.

Specs:

  • Price $729.99
  • Manufactured by: Smith & Wesson
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 6 in.
  • Overall Length: 11.3 in.
  • Weight: 38.2 oz.
  • Caliber gauge: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 10+1 Rounds

6. Walther Arms Colt 1911 22 Long Rifle

This iconic firearm is a classic. The Walther Arms Colt 1911 22 Long Rifle will provide you with a memorable shooting experience.

Walther adds a modern touch to an iconic favorite of The Colt Government 1911A1.

 

This handgun is based on the iconic 1911 pistol that U.S. troops have used for decades. It was designed to be the best possible performance due to Walther’s unique design.

 

This replica functions exactly the same as the original to keep the platform’s iconic status. You’ll feel nostalgic shot after shot, from the checkered grips to single-action trigger – even spurred hammer or grip safety –

 

Walther manufactures the .22 L. R. version only under license from Colt. This replica Colt tactical rifle rimfire is the only one of its kind in the world. It is a timeless platform that Walther has combined with his superior craftsmanship makes it one of today’s most popular firearms.

Specs:

  • Price $419.99
  • Manufactured by: Colt
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 5 in.
  • Overall Length: 8.6 in.
  • Weight: 36 oz.
  • Caliber gauge: .22 LR

Final thought

We just scratch the surface on this subject with a few most famous models that replicate the exact size and feel of high-powered semi-automatic combat and tactical pistols.

 

By shooting .22 LR out of a Glock 44 or Beretta, you will be shooting a pistol that has the same manual of arms as your normal sidearm. The handgun in .22 LR can therefore be an excellent training tool for when you don’t want to shoot the more expensive centerfires ammunition.

 

You can, of course, always buy a brand new handgun chambered in tiny .22LR, but that is going to cost you. A rimfire conversion kit is an affordable way to quickly and easily convert your existing pistol to take the .22 round.