22 Magnum handguns use rimfire cartridges and are popular for self-defense, target shooting, hunting, and as kit guns for backpackers.
In 1959, Winchester introduced the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, also known as the .22 Magnum or .22 Mag. However, it wasn’t until a year later that the round made its debut in the company’s Model 61 pump-action rifle. Since then, several companies have chambered both revolvers and semi-automatic pistols in .22 Magnum for various applications.
This round is excellent for hunting small game. The .22-caliber lead round-nose or jacketed hollow-point bullet won’t cause excessive tissue damage, preserving more meat for the table.
At typical compact handgun velocities, few .22 Magnum loads expand reliably. However, in a home defense or concealed carry handgun, .22 Magnum may be a good choice for those who are sensitive to recoil and need a lightweight weapon.
Smith & Wesson, Ruger, KelTec and Excel manufacture excellent .22 Magnum handguns.
Smith & Wesson: Model 351 C and PD
The Smith & Wesson Model 351 C is a double-action-only (DAO) snub-nosed .22 Magnum revolver. An Airweight variant of the J-frame Centennial Model, the Model 351 C is suitable for concealed carry due to its lightweight construction — a mere 11.5 oz. unloaded — and compact design. With a stainless-steel 1⅞” barrel, the Model 351 C has an overall length of 6.25”.
As a DAO revolver, the Model 351 C has an internal hammer to minimize the risk of snagging on your clothing or holster when you draw. The sights are basic but functional, consisting of a white-dot front sight and a U-notch rear sight in the frame’s top strap. This is adequate for close-range defensive shooting.
The AirLight PD is a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) variant with an exposed hammer spur. This allows you to fire the weapon more precisely in single action by manually cocking the hammer and reducing the weight and length of the trigger pull.
The weight of the PD is 11.2 oz., and the overall length is 6.2” with the same length barrel as the 351 C.
Initially, Smith & Wesson introduced the Model 51 in 1960 as a hunter/fisherman’s kit gun, and the current 351 PD is a good choice for anglers and hunters. Replacing the C’s front white dot with an orange fiber-optic HIVIZ insert, the PD increases front-sight visibility for increased accuracy.
Some shooters complain about the muzzle blast. The noise and flash can be distracting at first, though the weapon’s weight and other features make it easily controllable.
Another feature Smith & Wesson owners may find slightly different than what they are used to is the trigger pull. The Model 351 C and PD have a strong mainspring, standard in most Smith & Wesson guns.
The Ruger LCR (Lightweight Compact Revolver) is available in several chamberings, such as .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .327 Magnum, 9mm Luger, and .22 Magnum. In .22 Magnum, the LCR has a monolithic 7000-series aluminum-alloy frame and weighs 16.6 oz.
Although the recoil impulse of the .22 Magnum is minimal, the extra quarter-pound and the Hogue Tamer Monogrip help to minimize it further. The result is a very comfortable shooting experience for even the most recoil-sensitive.
With a standard snub-nosed barrel length and a comparable overall length to the Model 351, the LCR is a popular choice for concealed carry. The cylinder holds six rounds — one less than the S&W.
Like the S&W Model 351 C, the sights are simple — adequate for self-defense but not necessarily the best fit for target shooting.
Introduced in 2011, the PMR30 is a .22 Magnum semi-auto pistol fed from a 30-round detachable flush-fit box magazine. Thirty rounds allow the PMR30 to provide ample firepower compared with revolvers and other semi-auto firearms in this caliber.
KelTec’s .22 Magnum pistol uses a hybrid operating system. Depending on the pressure of the ammunition, the weapon may either cycle as a locked-breech or blowback-operated firearm.
Dimensionally, the PMR30 is similar in size to the Glock 17 and has a barrel length of 4.3”, an overall length of 7.9”, a height of 5.8”, and a width of 1.3”. The most noticeable difference between the PMR30 and similarly sized centerfire pistols is the weight — the PMR30, unloaded, weighs 14 oz.
The light-weight PMR30 is convenient to carry and pack, prerequisites for a kit gun. The PMR30 has a set of HIVIZ fiber-optic sights, which collect and amplify ambient light during the day.
If you’d prefer to mount a red-dot sight, the slide is appropriately tapped for that purpose.
If you’re interested in a pistol for backpacking, the PMR30 is one of the best .22 Magnum pistol options on the market.
Excel Accelerator (MP-22)
On the other end of the semi-auto pistol spectrum is the Excel Accelerator Pistol, specifically the MP-22. This heavy blowback-operated, single-action-only (SAO), hammer-fired .22 Magnum semi-auto pistol is fed from a 9-round single-stack magazine.
The Accelerator has an 8.5” stainless steel bull barrel, an overall length of 12.875”, and a height of 5.7”. The Accelerator is unsuitable for concealed carry; however, the long barrel allows you to take greater advantage of the .22 Magnum cartridge’s ballistic performance.
The adjustable target sights and long sight radius increase aiming precision. If you want to attach a telescopic sight or another optic, the aluminum rib contains an integral weaver mount for that purpose.
Weighing 54 oz., this handgun is the heaviest weapon on the list, exceeding the classic all-steel AutoMag II weight.
As a result, the weight virtually eliminates any recoil.
Practice Makes Perfect
At We The People Holsters, we appreciate the versatility of the .22 Magnum cartridge for sporting, self-defense, and survival. A .22 Magnum pistol or revolver is an excellent choice for introducing new shooters to handguns. It provides more power than the .22 Long Rifle but without the recoil of 9mm, .40, or .45.
Remember, you may damage a rimfire weapon if you attempt to dry fire it. Since practice is critical, part of the service We The People Holsters offers is free printable range targets for sighting in and training.