I’ve gotten curious lately as to what number of people out there carry the king of sub-calibers in their defensive pistol. Specifically, the timeless .22 Long Rifle. As of right now, my personal armaments consist of a pocket knife and a Walther P22 loaded with CCI-Stingers.
I’ve received the perfunctory ribbing from the local gunstore commandos, as well as some good natured and friendly advice from some people whose opinions I genuinely respect. The question I’ve been asked the most frequently is “Why the .22, why not something bigger”, usually coupled with the statement that the Walther is about the same size as a few different models of .380 out there.
The answer to the question is simple and complicated at the same time. I’m sure that all of us know that the first rule of gunfighting is “have a gun”, which I am fulfilling by packing the P22 around. A quote that correlates to that is “A .22 in the eye beats a .45 in the forearm.” When you think about a gun that is carried literally whenever I have my pants on, the P22 has a lot going for it, which comes down to a combination of size, weight, accuracy, and “shootability”.
Size is a big issue for me, especially in regards to concealed carry. I’m a little guy, I’m only 5’6 tall and weight maybe a buck fifty-five. I cannot physically conceal a fullsize pistol without 23 layers of clothing. There are a lot of “compact” pistols on the market that create problems for me to conceal as well. The P22 is perfect, because it’s so slim, in an IWB holster it simply disappears, even under a relatively tight shirt. The second size issue is that although I’m small, I have huge hands. This makes most tiny mouseguns challenging to shoot accurately. I’m sure that with enough practice it wouldn’t be a problem; however the P22 fits nicely into my hand. It fits well and points quite naturally, which makes the accurate shot placement required by carrying a .22 that much easier.
Weight goes hand in hand with size. The P22 (and most “carry” .22’s) are very light. I’m much more likely to pack a pistol around where the weight doesn’t grow tiresome after 20 minutes. I had to carry a heavy handgun for a good four years, and now I don’t.
As far as accuracy goes, the P22 is great. It has excellent sights and a throughly easy to manage trigger. According to my scale, the double action pull breaks at about 11 pounds, and the single action at 4 pounds. The P22 holds inside of 2 inches at 50 feet if I do my part, and in rapid fire practical shooting easily keeps an entire magazine inside a fist sized area.
The final pro for me about carrying a .22 is shootability. It’s a combination of all the previous factors, combined with one more. That last factor is familiarity. When I was in college, I shot NRA Collegiate Pistol, and I still shoot Bullseye matches to this very day. I know .22s, and I’ve shot a ton of .22s. Massad Ayoob had a great article on the benefits of shooting under competitive stress, including bullseye competitions. I’ve fired a lot of .22s under the timer, and it just feels right for me.
Of course, everything above is completely personal. Just because a .22 works for me doesn’t mean that you should carry one. I certainly don’t think that our military should turn in their M16s for Ruger 10/22s, or that my local Sheriff’s office should trade their Glocks for Sig Mosquitos. I don’t even think that you should trade your CQB Tactical Destroyer for a .22.
What I do think is that you should carry the gun that fits your needs the best. If that’s a .22 or a .500 S&W Magnum, you should carry what works for you.