A .22 for Home Defense
I received an email the other day from a reader who asks the following:
Ahab, my wife and I just bought our first home, and are now looking to home-security and stuff like that. We have an alarm system and a dog, but because of the economy money is too tight to get a new gun just for home defense. Right now, the only gun I own is a Ruger .22 rifle. Can I use this for self defense?
The short answer is “yes”, you “can” use your 10/22 for self-defense; but a more complicated question would have been “should I?” However, because buying a 9mm or a .38 or whatever isn’t an option, I’ll solely look at utilizing the 10/22 as a defensive weapon. First off, the pros of using a Ruger 10/22 for home defense:
- Handy and accurate – in it’s factory configuration, the Ruger 10/22 is one of the most user friendly .22 rifles out there, with the exception being the magazine release that was designed by a proctologist.
- Easy to accessorize – for not a lot of money, you can hang a rail and a light on your gun, or even buy a stock with a built in laser.
- Cheap to feed – the biggest benefit to a .22 is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money to shoot, which means that you can do the most essential task of any home defense weapon: Practice. Practice a lot. Practice until you know the gun like it’s your own arm.
As we all know though, there are some cons to using a .22 for home defense, and while this list in certainly not all-inclusive, it sums up the worst of the lot.
- Lack of stopping power – to face facts, the .22 LR cartridge is not generally known as a fight stopper. Yes, it has been used in defensive shootings in the past, and yes it wracked up an impressive body count, but it would not be my first choice in a gunfight.
- Low magazine capacity – the factory mags from Ruger are limited to 10 rounds, and aftermarket magazines with higher capacities can be unreliable, which is the death-knell of a defensive firearm.
- That damned magazine release – seriously, it’s the only thing I hate about the 10/22. The way the mag release is set up from the factory makes “fast mag changes” an impossibility without modifying the gun.
Now, in my reader’s situation, the .22 is all he has for home defense, so unfortunately the pros and cons are what they are, and he has to deal with them. So the question becomes “how do you mitigate the cons of the .22?” The answer, which should come as no surprise, is training. The greatest con of the .22 LR cartridge is that it does not produce significant terminal ballistics. Remember Caleb’s Rules of Stopping Power? A bullet must penetrate deep enough to hit vital organs, and while doing it must crush enough tissue to damage the body’s systems so that the aggressive actions are ceased. The .22 has trouble with both of those categories, although to a lesser degree when used from a rifle. My personal ammo recommendation is to use non-hollowpoint ammo in your .22 LR rifle; CCI’s 40 grain solid Mini-Mags are excellent bullets, they feed well and are moving fast, which means they’re your best bet to get that penetration necessary. Hollow point ammo in a .22 has a tendency to mushroom early and create too shallow of a wound track to incapacitate an attacker. The advantage to the .22 then is that rapid follow up shots are easy with the 10/22 carbine, which is good because multiple shots will likely be called for.
Ultimately, the answer to your question is “yes, you can use your Ruger 10/22 for home defense.” However, if you choose to so do, it is imperative that like with any defensive firearm, you train with it. Train obsessively with your .22 – train until it’s like a piece of your own body. God forbid that the balloon should go up, but if it does you will want to know your firearm inside out and upside down. If you’re going to use a .22 for home defense, the Ruger 10/22 would be my recommendation as well, just make sure you’re well trained on your defensive weapon.