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Ask Foghorn: Is .22lr The Best for Self Defense?
The Truth About Guns ^ | 4 June, 2012 | Nick Leghorn

Posted on 06/04/2012 3:38:53 PM PDT by marktwain

Wade writes:

Foghorn, my Dad is planning on getting his CCW license, and is already thinking about the handgun to use. But he says that he is going to get a .22lr or something similar, saying that ‘accuracy is more important than force’. He has hunted his entire life, and is an extremely good shot with both rifle and pistol, but I think he is too cocky when he says “all you need to do is shoot someone in the head and the party’s over”. How can I convince him that he may not be able to hit what he’s aiming at in a high-stress situation, and that he needs to look into a more versatile caliber?

I’ve got some bad news — your Dad isn’t completely wrong. And, because I have nothing better to do today, we’re going to open up that whole can of worms . . .

Your dad is completely correct in that a properly placed .22lr round will take a man down for good. Despite the relative thickness of the human skull a typical .22lr round does have enough power to successfully penetrate and cause sufficient damage to kill a human from close range. And on the more fleshy bits of a human it is perfectly capable of inflicting some damage.

The issue we run into with the .22lr round, and one that you seem to have correctly identified, is that when you don’t hit a particularly useful organ it doesn’t do much immediate damage. The best example I can think of in this case is the wild hogs of Texas and the gulf coast, which have a nasty tendency to survive and escape if they’re not hit with a large enough caliber or in the right spot. Humans posess a similar ability to survive extreme punishment and damage without actually dying.

We could sit here all day long until we’re blue in the fingers discussing the relative merits of the different calibers, but the best solution is always the same: cold, hard data.

About a year ago Greg Ellifritz over at Buckeye Firearms concluded a pretty darn impressive analysis of gunfight data recorded over a 10 year period, the total count of incidents included in his analysis topping 1,800. It doesn’t give us a statistically significant look at murders in the United States, but the data is sufficiently large and normal to give us the ability to use his results to compare the effectiveness of different calibers.

Admittedly 9mm does take up a disproportionate percentage of the observations and .32 data is a little skimpy, but its good enough for our purposes. So, using his data, let’s take a look at how well the lowly .22 round does compared to other handgun calibers (and shotguns, just for comparison sake).

First things first, let’s see what percentage of observed gunfights ended in a fatality for the person on the receiving end.

The graph is pretty clear on this: .22 caliber firearms are just as deadly in a gunfight as any other handgun caliber. In fact, it beat the average (far right). Surprisingly, every caliber that begins with a 4 (.40 S&W, .45, .44 Mag…) performed worse than the .22 caliber firearms in terms of putting the opponent in the dirt for good.

The next thing I thought was interesting was the metric about how many rounds it took to incapacitate the opponent.

In case you were wondering, the smaller the bar in this example the better the round performed. And, in terms of performance in putting the opponent down, only a shotgun beats the .22 round. I get the feeling that in reality you can chop a round off the 9mm’s numbers, as the double tap has been trained into almost every shooter these days and probably means the numbers are artificially high.

Greg also includes something about a “one shot stop” percentage, but I don’t agree with his methodology on it and is not presented here. Go read up on it at the original site if you’re interested.

There’s a small fly in the ointment: the percentage of incidents where the opponent was not incapacitated.

Another chart where large bars are bad, and here the mouseguns aren’t doing so hot compared to the big boys. However, I get the feeling that this chart is somewhat deceptive with its results. Newer shooters have a tendency to get the smaller guns with smaller calibers, and also have a tendency to not be as well trained as those carrying the larger rounds. So, instead of this chart being an argument against the lowly .22 round I see it as an argument against poor training. As we saw with the last chart, IF you can hit the guy there’s a great chance he’s going down. But the issue is hitting him, and incorporating some of the accuracy results from the original study seems to back up my suspicions.

So, in short, what’s the answer? Is a .22 a good self defense round? According to the numbers, it looks to be among the best in terms of stopping the threat. Add in the fact that it’s lightweight, low recoil and uses firearms that are ridiculously easy to conceal and you can see where a .22 caliber firearm for concealed carry might be a winner.

So, in the immortal words of HAL, “I’m sorry Wade, I can’t do that.” According to the best numbers I could find, I can’t come up with a valid reason to convince your Dad to move to a higher caliber. Not only is it an effective round, but its size and weight means that your Dad is more likely to actually carry the gun instead of leaving it at home because it was too inconvenient to bring along. And, as we all know, its often the mere presence of a firearm that can save one’s life.

Does that mean I’ll be swapping out my Wilson Combat 45ACP 1911 for a Derringer? Hell no. But it doesn’t stop me from looking at some of those mouseguns for the hot Texas summer…

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: 22; 22lr; banglist; ccw; defense
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To: muir_redwoods

I’m sure a comparison could be made, but it’s probably pretty tortured.

The new high performance 9mm bullets have a good record compared to the old ball ammo.

And frontal area of the bullet makes a difference too, that’s my my preferred revolver round is a .44 Special SWC.

21 posted on 06/04/2012 4:10:45 PM PDT by Tijeras_Slim
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Bad guys don’t stand around at close range waiting to be shot. They flail, hide behind things and often shoot back with large caliber rounds.


The most popular caliber carried by criminals is .380 auto. In really poor neighborhoods they prefer even smaller.

22 posted on 06/04/2012 4:12:00 PM PDT by mamelukesabre
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To: marktwain
I keep my .22 caliber, 15 round tubular magazine fed rifle with LR hollow points close to my bed. I can send half of those rounds out so fast, most bad guys would look like they have been hit with buckshot.
23 posted on 06/04/2012 4:13:19 PM PDT by Arrowhead1952 (It's time to take out the trash in DC.)
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To: marktwain
I have a permit and carry a .25 Baretta Bobcat and I would not want to take a hit from it.

If you are going to carry something, it should be comfortable. A 15 (or greater) ounce pistol that could also be used for nailing railroad spikes might sound good, but in practice, as an everyday carry firearm it's just not practical. That's just me though.

For any of you guys out there that do choose to carry something daily that can put down thugs, crocodiles and the occaisional dragon, I'm interested in how you deal with carrying daily. Always good to know if I decide to upsize.
24 posted on 06/04/2012 4:13:56 PM PDT by domeika
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To: marktwain

Good to have a gun. And be quick on the draw.

25 posted on 06/04/2012 4:14:47 PM PDT by goseminoles
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To: mamelukesabre

“The most popular caliber carried by criminals is .380 auto.”

I really doubt that. That caliber was nearly impossible to buy the last two years. I had to get on waiting lists just to get a box of 20.

26 posted on 06/04/2012 4:16:06 PM PDT by Kirkwood (It's not a lie. It's a composite.)
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To: ProfoundBabe
Correct the dumbest recognize that sound, however the smarter of those will hear it and know where you are.

Then don't give them any time to react to the sound. BOOM, game over!

27 posted on 06/04/2012 4:16:40 PM PDT by Sarajevo (Don't take life too seriously; No one gets out alive.)
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To: Tijeras_Slim
a tendency to “chase the dot” because it moves a fair bit, and I’ve seen many people at the range, try to snap off a shot as it swings across the target.

Good to know. I've been thinking about getting some for my Taurus 85. I thought I was a good shot until I started using that snubbie. I found that instead to focusing and concentrating hard on sighting in the target, I do better if I just casually squeeze the trigger when I see the target is lined up in the sight. It's hard to explain, but it's different shooting it than shooting a Colt Python or a rifle or something. You have to stay really relaxed if you want to shoot a tight group.

28 posted on 06/04/2012 4:17:36 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (Tagline: (optional, printed after your name on post):)
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To: marktwain

I have a serious problem with this article.

The typical death caused by a .22LR is via sepsis 3 days later. it makes a tiny hole that doesn’t bleed much. The person shot typically does not feel any pain. They go home and decide to ignore it rather than face questions when they get to the hospital. 3 days later their health goes downhill fast and they rush to the ER and die.

These deaths do not count, imo. THerefore I think the analysis in this article is of no value.

29 posted on 06/04/2012 4:19:47 PM PDT by mamelukesabre
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To: Tijeras_Slim

I wouldn’t mind having a .22 magnum revolver.

30 posted on 06/04/2012 4:21:49 PM PDT by Kirkwood (It's not a lie. It's a composite.)
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To: marktwain

I will second the .22 for some good reasons. To start with, a 10 round magazine and a high number of RPM out of the barrel with good accuracy. Negligible barrel jump.

With higher calibers, the tendency is, for novices, one shot and look; for more skilled users, “two and done”. With a .22, you are under far less illusions about how effective your rounds *might* me, so you draw a capital letter “U” on their torso before you even consider pausing.

The second is a big secret of the .22 round. It has the damndest ability to just nick internal organs, which means that even if they get away and get to a hospital, they will seem to be doing okay, then out of the blue get a sky high fever and peritonitis, a severe and deadly abdominal infection that will likely take them out.

No other common round will typically do that. If they make it to the hospital, unless they lost an organ, they will often survive. But .22’s give you a “second chance” to take out the baddy.

This is not to say that a .22 is the end all, be all, because it certainly isn’t. But backed up with a short serrated or tanto knife, if they close the gap too quickly, and you are looking at pretty much a honey badger defense from 0 to 50 feet.

31 posted on 06/04/2012 4:23:42 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: Kirkwood

Doubt all you want. I read it in a study done by people who conducted a survey in federal and state prisons.

380 was the most popular

they don’t practice. ever.

they don’t care about stopping power

Most criminals are killed/wounded by other criminals, not by cops or CCW citizens.

These were the main points I remember.

32 posted on 06/04/2012 4:23:42 PM PDT by mamelukesabre
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To: Tijeras_Slim
FYI: Bill Jordan in "No Second Place Winner" opined that a J-frame 2 inch Airweight .22 Magnum would be a great backup gun in 1965.

And 20 years earlier, Julian Hatcher thought that the Colt "Banker's Special" in .22LR would qualify as a self-defense piece. In the Iowa of my childhood, a lot of people did keep a .22 or .32 revolver around "just in case," and some of them were not strangers to more strident handguns.

Mr. niteowl77

33 posted on 06/04/2012 4:25:20 PM PDT by niteowl77 (The last Republican will vote funds for the rope that the Democrats hang us with.)
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To: marktwain

When the Israelis were implicated in an assassination scandal that targeted PLO leaders hiding in Europe and ended up with an innocent man getting killed the weapons they used were .22’s and they aimed for multiple shots to the abdomen. I don’t know if it was because they were hoping the leader died an agonizing death or it was considered the best target to aim for. In either case they obviously weren’t worried that the .22 wasn’t going to be powerful enough for the job.

34 posted on 06/04/2012 4:26:20 PM PDT by Oshkalaboomboom
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To: Jeff Chandler

If you want to get smooth with a DA revolver, use an old trick of exhibition shooter Ed McGivern from the 1930’s (he shot 5 shots from a .38 Smith in 9/20th’s of a second into a playing card sized group). Put a dot of paint on a full length mirror, and put the muzzle on it. Dry fire repeatedly, trying to keep the muzzle on the dot. You can see what your trigger pull is doing to the aim. Get smoother and quicker over time. That trains the muscles.

35 posted on 06/04/2012 4:26:23 PM PDT by Tijeras_Slim
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To: Okieshooter
If I really want to get serious I carry my custom BFR converted to 50-110 / 50 Alaskan. :-) Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
36 posted on 06/04/2012 4:27:22 PM PDT by Okieshooter
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To: domeika
I carry this everywhere. 16 ounces. It doesn't show and is completely comfortable.

Taurus Ultralite .38SP +P


Blackhawk Pocket Holster

37 posted on 06/04/2012 4:28:33 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (Tagline: (optional, printed after your name on post):)
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To: marktwain

Another reason that a .22 is so destructive is the fact that it tumbles as it goes through a soft mass, thereby doing great harm. A large bore simply goes straight through the mass.

38 posted on 06/04/2012 4:29:30 PM PDT by DH (Once the tainted finger of government touches anything the rot begins)
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To: Tijeras_Slim
"Seven shot .22 Magnum"

My wife carries the same.

39 posted on 06/04/2012 4:30:49 PM PDT by Baynative (REMEMBER: Without America there is no free world!)
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To: mamelukesabre

Where is that study? I think you are misinterpreting the results.

40 posted on 06/04/2012 4:31:23 PM PDT by Kirkwood (It's not a lie. It's a composite.)
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