Best 22 Pistols For Self Defense – 2022 Ultimate Review

| Last Updated:
September 25, 2023

In the shooting world, most people associate .22 caliber pistols with plinking, target shooting, pest control, and small game hunting. Self-defense purposes do not usually make the list.

However, there are some situations where a .22 pistol makes sense to carry for self-defense. While they might not have the stopping power of some of their higher caliber counterparts, .22 caliber pistols shouldn’t be completely overlooked for self-defense.

Keep reading to learn more about the best 22 pistols for self-defense on the market today.

Comparison of the Best .22 Pistols For Self Defense

  • Capacity of 10 + 1 rounds
  • Includes a .22 long rifle magazine
  • Best overall .22 pistol for self-defense
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  • Contains 10+1 rounds
  • Adjustable sights included
  • Runner-up for best overall .22 pistol for self-defense
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  • Best .22 pistol for the money
  • Removable magazine included
  • Double magazines with 10 rounds each
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  • 12-round capacity
  • Built for 22LR cartridges
  • Fixed two-dot sight included
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  • Synthetic grip
  • 10-round capacity
  • Single and Double Action
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What to Watch For When Buying a .22 Pistol For Self Defense

Not every .22 pistol makes for a good self-defense option. There are a few things to keep an eye out for before you make your final buying decision. Looking past the general consensus of .22 pistols being underpowered and essentially useless outside of various sporting purposes will be vital during your shopping process. Use the following tips and information to help guide you and inform you as you consider which .22 pistol might be best for your self-defense needs.

This Section Written By: Brian Belko

Expert Author

Brian Belko: Gunmann Author

Brian is an experienced freelance writer and technical writer who has previously written for publications such as Wide Open Spaces, Bigfoot Gun Belts, Alien Gear Holsters, and Kampgrounds of America. He brings both a passion for writing and a love of the outdoors to his published content.

Aside from writing and the outdoors, Brian enjoys gardening, being a co-host on The Nostalgia Blast Podcast, and learning to code.

Ignore the Haters

The idea of using or relying on a .22 pistol for self-defense is scoffed at and even ridiculed by many so-called shooting experts. Don’t let those sorts of opinions cloud your opinion. You know your own situation better than anyone else and if a .22 pistol makes the most sense for your needs then you shouldn’t be ashamed or worried about that decision.

Not everyone wants to be packing a full-size 1911 style handgun or concerned about the recoil of another pistol caliber should the need to discharge arises. Nobody should be looked down upon for their own self-defense decisions. Ignore the haters, pay attention to your own needs, and if a .22 pistol satisfies those needs, be secure in your decision.

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Limitation Awareness

Despite the fact that, in some situations, .22 caliber pistols will work as self-defense weapons, it is still important to keep their limitations in mind. To put it simply, a .22 caliber bullet weighs a lot less and moves a lot slower than other common self-defense pistol rounds. Generally speaking, the heavier a bullet is and the faster it moves dictates how much stopping power it has. In other words, a single .22 bullet might not be enough to stop some assailants. 

That brings the second major limitation into focus. Reliability. More specifically, ammo reliability. Without getting too bogged down in the minor details, .22 caliber ammunition isn’t as reliable as larger caliber centerfire ammo. It isn’t uncommon to find a handful of dud rounds in a box of 500 .22 caliber rounds. That may not sound like a lot, but it is something to keep in mind especially with self-defense in mind.

The Bottom Line

There are definitely two sides to the story of .22 pistols being used as self-defense options. The bottom line is that they should not be entirely overlooked. They can be more affordable to both buy and shoot and tend to be easier for anyone with physical limitations to use. In any case of self-defense, it is better to have the option of a .22 pistol instead of no option at all.

Review of the Best .22 Pistols For Self-Defense

Below is our list of the .22 pistols for self-defense that are currently the best on the market. As you read through the list, be sure to pay attention to the most attractive characteristics and features so you can find a pistol that closely matches the description of what you are looking for in a pistol. Remember, close enough is a whole lot better than nothing at all.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the “best overall” choice for .22 self-defense pistols:

Best Overall

Walther Arms Inc P22 Target

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What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new users were quite happy with this pistol for a few good reasons. For one, they loved the overall reliability of it. They can pull the trigger and can get their shots off rather quickly. Also, the gripping ability for those dealing with sweaty palms or even wet weather was, as one user described it, “ridiculously strong”. He said that he can get an excellent grip on it and not worry about it slipping out of his hands.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This target pistol is easily one of the most solid and ruggedly built pistols on the market. Make no mistake, it’s durable and can handle round after round of shooting. You can fire well over 100 rounds and it will still hold up strong with no malfunctions or jamming issues.

This is exactly what you need in a pistol that is worthy of concealed carry and self-defense. With almost 11 rounds at your disposal, you’ll be prepared to defend yourself against attackers and prowlers. Sometimes, it only takes a few to knock them down. If you want a pistol that is well-deserving of the “best overall” title, then you will certainly get a good one with this .22.

Who Will Use This Most

This would be a perfect pistol for those who intend to either concealed carry or keep it at home. Yes, it’s at the right size for concealed carry. But it can stand out as that pistol that you can discreetly keep in a locked drawer. It’s solidly built and will, in turn, give you the best reliability possible. If you want a pistol that will work right when you need it the most, this might be right up your alley.

Bottom Line

The Walther Arms P22 Target pistol deserves its spot on the top of our list and proves that it can stand out as the go-to choice for concealed carry and home defense users. If you want something that will be useful to you in the years that follow, you won’t find any other pistol quite like it. As long as you take good care of this pistol, it will certainly take care of you in the direst of survival situations.5


Durable and solid construction

Reliable shooting each and every time

Rear sight allows for precise accurate shooting

Excellent for concealed carry and home defense

Grip is super solid and allows for superior gripping in bad weather




Ruger SR22

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What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new users found this pistol to be really decent in terms of accuracy. Meanwhile, they were even more impressed with the overall quality and reliability. One user said that he uses this for target practice most of the time, but also utilizes it as a concealed carry pistol in case he ends up in a potentially dangerous situation. So far, he says he’s got no complaints about the overall functionality or quality.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pistol is ridiculously lightweight when it’s not loaded. It’s also ridiculously lightweight when it is loaded. So, when you put this on a holster, you won’t feel it weigh down on you. The last thing you need is dealing with a heavy pistol, which may affect your handling and overall use.

Since it’s lightweight, it’s easy and natural to conceal carry it in a nice, reliable holster. Load this up with your favorite .22 ammo and you’ll be good to go in terms of jam-free shooting and tight shooting groups. If accuracy is what you look for in a self-defense pistol, you’ll get that out of this. Even if it’s at a short distance, it’s still effective.

Who Will Use This Most

This would make a great starter pistol for those starting out with concealed carry or using a pistol for self-defense. It’s light in carrying weight and it definitely has a decent trigger pull that is neither too light or too heavy. Just apply the pressure and you’ll get a shot or two off quickly. If you want a .22 that will be reliable and provide a good deal of stopping power, this might be a pistol that’s worth looking at a bit closer.

Bottom Line

The Ruger SR22 is a pistol that will certainly be one of the best-concealed carry pistols for newbies. You’re definitely going to love it once you get a good number of test shots out at the range, and your confidence will be better knowing that you are prepared for any danger that may lurk around the corner.


Great for concealed carry

Reliable; doesn’t jam or malfunction

Superior quality; really durable build

Light in weight, even when fully loaded

Functions with different types of ammo


May be a challenge to load at times

May be difficult to disassemble for maintenance or cleaning

Accuracy could be better; it can be effective at about 25 yards out, but nothing more

Best for the Money

Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact

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What Recent Buyers Report

This pistol was a hit with most users who were looking for something that was affordable and newbie-friendly. Sure enough, they were not disappointed to come across this budget-friendly pistol. They were impressed with the size and were able to use it for the purpose of concealed carry. One user said that once it fits in his holster, it didn’t bulge underneath his shirt, making concealed carrying his pistol a lot more comfortable.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you are looking for a compact-sized pistol, this is one of those .22 pistols that will be exceptional for concealed carry purposes. It’s lightweight (loaded or unloaded) and will make sure that you get the best concealability possible when it’s placed in a holster. You will be quite prepared to take on any attackers or prowlers that are stupid enough to mess with someone that conceal carries a pistol. If you want a pistol that won’t weigh you down or bulge to the point where people are beginning to wonder if you are carrying something, this is the one you’ll want in your arsenal.

Who Will Use This Most

If you want a pistol that will be easy for concealed carry and make preparing for any survival situation much easier than ever, this will be a .22 that will definitely give you the benefits of being well protected. Just slip this into your holster and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you are ready to draw it if and when you are threatened.

Bottom Line

The Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact is the real deal. Even at a price that is affordable for most, it will certainly be the best option for many new concealed carry users starting out. It’s reliable, solid, and will last you years down the road. Don’t be shocked if this bad boy is as effective as, if not better than any other pistol you have used.


Affordable for most budgets

Grip is excellent in bad weather conditions

Great for concealed carry and self-defense

Super reliable shooting; no malfunctions to report

Accurate and precise shooting at various distances



Walther Arms Colt Government 1911 A1

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What Recent Buyers Report

Most new buyers were really happy with the Colt Government 1911. A lot of them were law enforcement officers that were looking for something solid and reliable for their tactical and even personal concealed carry applications. This pistol definitely fit the bill in those regards. One user said that after firing well over 50 rounds, he said that the pistol remained reliable and malfunction free. Plus, accuracy was excellent as it managed to hit targets dead on from about 30 yards out.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This superb firarm has long been the standard firearm of choice for many US government agents and military members. That was until they switched over to a version of SIG Sauer pistols. But without question, the Colt Government 1911 is considered to be one of the most reliable pistols on the market. If the government can trust them for that alone, so should you, particularly if reliability is important to you. Also, accuracy is super sharp and will be deadly in self-defense situations. All it takes is one well placed shot to get the job done. If accuracy and precision are what you want, you get it with this.

Who Will Use This Most

If you want the best in reliability for a .22 pistol, then you’re going to want this bad boy all to yourself. Try it out at the range and fire at least 100 rounds. It’s a guarantee that no malfunctions will happen at all (if they do, then that’s a rare occurrence). Reliability matters in a self-defense pistol. And this one will certainly save your life in self-defense applications. If you need a good EDC pistol, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything this reliable anywhere else.

Bottom Line

The Walther Arms Colt Government 1911 A1 is no doubt one of the best .22 caliber pistols out there in terms of reliability. There are a handful of other .22 pistols out there that could give this a run for its money, but if you want a pistol that will certainly give you a jam-free performance, this might be right up your alley.


Excellent velocity

Durability is solid

Superior reliability

Excellent for self-defense

Perfect for law enforcement and military personnel



Smith & Wesson 617 Handgun

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What Recent Buyers Report

Many new users say that this pistol was reliable and easy to shoot in single-action mode (since it provided them the quickest opportunity to knock down assailants and prowlers). They said that the synthetic grip allowed for excellent handling even in bad weather or while their palms were sweating. While testing it out at the range, one user said that he was still able to hold the pistol firmly despite his hands getting wet from the rain (and he forgot his shooting gloves at the range as well).

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pistol has both single and double action abilities. This means that you can pull the trigger without cocking the hammer back if you so choose. If you want to cock the hammer back and shoot, you can do that as well.

Regardless, you can use this to your advantage if and when you need it most. Smith and Wesson pistols are known for providing superior reliability and will continue doing so even after firing 100 rounds or more. Plus, it’s built like a brick house and is perhaps one of the best quality pistols you can find anywhere.

If you want something that is built to last and will not forsake you in your times of need (i.e. self-defense), you’ll have 10 shots at your disposal to ensure that your attacker may be knocked down and forced to think twice before messing with you ever again.

Who Will Use This Most

If you hold reliability to a high standard, then you will probably consider this pistol as a finalist on your shortlist of choices. Even if you prefer single action to double action, it’s the pistol that will allow you plenty of time and give you an advantage over your assailant. For a .22 caliber, it’s got some powerful shooting that can deal substantial damage.

Bottom Line

The Smith & Wesson 617 Handgun is arguably one of the most reliable .22 pistols that you can find just about anywhere on the market. It won’t jam on you nor will it fail you at the worst possible times. Not only that, S&W pistols are best known for their reliability period. With a name like Smith and Wesson, you know it will be one of the best pistols, period.


Accurate and precise

Easy to load, takes a few minutes

Simple to shoot in single-action mode

Reliable and malfunction-free shooting

Excellent for concealed carry and home defense


May be a little loud for some users

Cylinder may be difficult to pull out at first

Trigger pull may be difficult in double-action mode

How Accurate is a .22 Pistol?

This will depend on the type of pistol that you use. The accuracy may differ based on certain models, but you can be certain that you’ll be able to hit a target with effective accuracy when the distance is about 50 yards or thereabouts. Some may go a shorter distance and some may go farther. Also, shooting groups may also vary depending on the type of ammo that you use. 

How to Choose a .22 Pistol

It’s not wise to choose a .22 pistol at complete random without knowing what to look for. You deserve the best value and quality so you are not spending money on anything disappointing. If you need a .22 pistol for self-defense, here are some of the things to keep your eyes peeled for:


First off, we’ll talk about price. The price tag is probably going to play a minimal role in deciding which pistol is right for you. If you are on a budget, you’ll need to invest in the best quality and performance that you can afford. If it’s too low of a price, then it would be wise to exercise caution. Low, cheap prices will almost always lead to poor quality and performance. 

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Concealed Carry or Keep it at Home

.22 pistols come in several different sizes. Some of them will be appropriate for concealed carry and some will only be appropriate for keeping at home. If you feel comfortable carrying a full-sized .22 pistol, you should be able to find a holster for such a purpose. Consider the measurements of the pistols that you are looking at for whatever purpose so you can determine if they are worth carrying in a holster or keeping in your dresser drawer.


Reliability is a definite plus when it comes to finding a self-defense pistol, especially when you need something that will work to your advantage the most. The last thing you need is a pistol that will malfunction or jam on you when life is on the line. Be sure to keep in the loop of what people are saying about the reliability of your pistol of choice. 

Benefits of Investing in a Quality 22 Pistol for Self Defense

Knowing what you can get out of a quality .22 pistol is important. It will also give you more reasons to purchase one for yourself. Consider the following benefits below so you know what to expect if and when you choose to invest in one:

Excellent Concealability

Most .22 pistols are measured at the right size for concealability. All you have to do is find a pistol that will make sure that it stays concealable and won’t cause any undue attention or make those around you uncomfortable. Yes, it is required to wear a holster for concealed carry, but you need one that will fit your pistol perfectly without any wiggling or slippage.

Ruger SR22. Photo credit:

Superior Stopping Power

No, it doesn’t do serious damage like some calibers. But it’s enough to stop an assailant in their tracks. Even at the velocity a .22 round typically travels, it can still be enough to leave a nasty wound depending on where you shoot. These .22 rounds are not weak by any stretch of the imagination. But one well-placed shot can be a real difference-maker compared to other calibers.

Affordable Ammo

If you need a caliber that has a wide variety of ammo that is affordable, then you may want to consider a .22 pistol. Yes, they are affordable compared to other calibers and will be beneficial to those on a budget as well. Some of the higher end ammo will be more affordable compared to even some mid-grade ammo for other calibers like the .45.


If you need a really good pistol for the purpose of self-defense, a .22 might be one of the best places to start. Find one that you will keep around at home or while you are out and about. Your life is important (and so are the lives of the ones you love most). You need a pistol that will stand up to any assailant that dares to threaten you in a way, and a .22 can stop an assailant cold in their tracks. Just find the right pistol and you will be more prepared for any danger that might be just around the corner. 

People Also Ask

Below are frequently asked questions that you can use to help better understand how .22 pistols work and whether or not they are the real deal when it comes to self-defense. Use the answers below as a guide so you are well-informed and can easily make a decision.

Is a 22 Pistol Deadly?

Short answer: yes. In fact, they can be just as deadly as any other caliber. It will also depend on the placement of the shot as well. A .22 will do enough damage to vital organs to the point where your attacker could be incapacitated or killed.

Are 22 Pistols Good For Self-Defense?

Yes, they are. They are not only perfect for self-defense due to the stopping power alone, but are also concealable for the most part. It will also depend on the kind of rounds you use for such a purpose.

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