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.


  1. The money he blew on the Alarm Security system could’ve bought a decent 12 ga shotgun….or at least a 20 ga.

  2. While the alarm system purchase could have enabled purchasing of a better gun, it would have left them without the security *layer* that an alarm system provides.

    That said, if money is tight, consider looking in pawn shops and any gun shops that sell used firearms. Hopefully the reader could pick up a used pump shotgun on the cheap.

  3. I tend to be a big fan of security systems for a lot of reasons, they provide you with early warning, look good on insurance forms, and a bunch of other fun stuff.

  4. A single 12 or 20 is just fine. I have a bolt action 16 ga for sale thats under $100. If you use a 22 lr aim for the eye and have a good backstop. 22lr will punch thru sheetrock no problem.

  5. It’s possible to find older single 12s and 16s for under $50. Check garage sales, classifieds, swap sheets, gunbroker …

    For about 2 bills, it’s also possible to pick up a (don’t laugh) HiPoint carbine, either 9mm or .40.

    A 16″ barrel with 124gr JHPs makes short work of pretty much anything on two legs.

  6. Local gun shop had a Mossberg 88 for $99 for several months. There are almost always decent used shotguns to be had between $100 and $200.

    Save a little and buy a 12 gauge rather than bet your life on a .22LR, IMHO.

  7. Now, while I appreciate the shotgun suggestions, the problem with that is that the letter-writer’s wife has capped their gun collection (for the time being) at 1, and that 1 is the 10/22. So, he can either get good defending himself with that .22, or try to convince his wife they need more guns.

    If his wife is like my wife, he’s got a better chance to become the Todd Jarrett of .22s than he does to sell her on another gun.

  8. Ah, knowing that constraint changes things. 🙂

    If all he has and can use is the 10/22, then yes… train train train with it to get good with it. It’s better than nothing. Hopefully his wife will be open to letting him work with that gun. That is, able to try different ammo out to see how it performs, perhaps getting work done on the gun (e.g. that magazine release), maybe better sights (e.g. Tech Sights). If not, just keep training with it. At least .22 LR is cheap!

    But hey… if 1 is the max, he could always sell the 10/22 and buy another, or trade the 10/22 for something else. 😉

  9. I call BS on the argument that a better tool is off the table.

    Sure, train with that 10/22. That’s a no brainer and has a multitude of benefits. But they just bought a new house. Tools are going to be required. A used shotty for under the bed is one of those tools just like a good corded drill and a lawn mower are now required. And the shotty will cost less than the mower.

  10. You’re not married, are you? A better tool is most likely off the table for now, but not necessarily in the future. This is conjecture on my part, but I’d imagine that the short term happiness of his wife will go a long way towards enabling him to buy a mo’bettah blaster at a later date.

  11. If one gun is the limit, and the primary concern for the use of the one gun is home defense, I’d consider selling the 10/22 and turning the money back around into a good pump action 12 gauge.
    It keeps the wife happy, and ends any concern about the viability of the single gun in a home defense scenario.

  12. Why I Will Probably Never Get Married, Reason #1:

    “Sorry babe. Not even Uncle Sugar can tell me ‘One gun in the house’.”

  13. OK, if it’s a one-gun house and the 10/22 stays, then I’d look for an extra-capacity magazine and load it up with CCI MiniMags. 25 rounds of ow oughta do it about right.

  14. don’t they still make those AL machined 1022 mags that cost $70 a pop? Show the wife those and explain that for thet price of 2 a real hd gun can be had.

    +1 on the aftermarket mag, $7-10, 2 minutes of work to drop it in.

    Perhaps a good question to ask would be what state is the guy in? Maybe there’s someone nearby that has a cheap shotgun for sale. There are many reasons that could be explained to the wife why a shotgun would be better as a defense weapon, and the 1022 as a training aide for her (she sounds a bit unfamiliar with guns) to learn the basics that will apply to the shotgun as well.

    Yes, I may be reading that into the letter, like her familiarity with guns, but just in case….

    In any case, some of the aftermarket dress up items might make it more dangerous looking than it is and avoid ANY shots needing to be fired, but with the prices of things now unless you can find them on someplace like rimfire central used another gun would be cheaper.

  15. Yes, I’m married; six happy years with an originally non-gun woman. But I get where you’re coming from Caleb. Well sort of anyway.

    The wrong tool for a job just isn’t worth it. Especially for a job as serious as home protection.

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