The 132-year old .22 LR cartridge has been loaded into all kinds of pistols, rifles, and revolvers through the decades. It predates most firearms today's shooters have ever handled, let alone shot, yet it's still as popular and useful today as it was when it was invented—in fact, because of modern manufacturing techniques and materials, .22 pistols and .22 revolvers are better than ever.

three .22 ammo cartridges
It's a 159-year-old cartridge with puny ballistics that's no good as a self-defense round—yet the .22 continues to be one of the most popular gun chamberings ever. Here's why.Bryce Towsley

The light kick and excellent short-range accuracy of the popular rimfire cartridge has long made it a great choice for .22 pistol shooters, whether as a less intimidating way to learn to shoot, as a high-end competition gun, or as always ready varmint hunter. While its generous rim made it a natural for .22 revolvers, the cartridge has also seen massive popularity chambered in autoloaders, beginning with John Browning’s Colt Woodsman.

Depending on what type of shooting, hunting, training, or just plain plinking appeals to you, a .22 revolver or a .22 pistol may be the right choice. Most .22 revolvers offer capacity of six shots – or more. In fact, some on our list pack 10 .22 rimfire cartridges into the cylinder thanks to the small diameter of the .22 LR cartridge. The same capacity benefits apply to pistols – even compact models can easily fit ten shots in a magazine. And, just like you’ll find with larger centerfire pistols and revolvers, you can choose from a wide variety of styles and action types to suit your preference. Perhaps the best part is that .22 LR ammunition is far more budget-friendly than larger centerfire ammunition, so a day at the range won’t break the bank.

Let’s take a look at some of the best, most useful, and most enduring .22 pistol and .22 revolver designs on the market.

Best .22LR Handguns: Semi-Automatic Pistols

Ruger Mark Series

These pistols have dominated the .22 autoloader pistol market since the original Ruger Standard was introduced just after WWII.

Ruger Mark I .22LR pistol
An example of a Ruger Mark I .22LR pistol.Ruger

The Ruger Mark series not only stands as one of the best rimfire pistols ever made, but it’s also the gun that started Sturm, Ruger & Co. back in 1949.

Bill Ruger, a self-taught engineer and entrepreneur, designed the Ruger Standard pistol using the German Luger P08 and the Japanese Baby Nambu pistol for inspiration. Ruger had acquired a Nambu from a U.S. Marine who had brought it back from the Pacific Theater in WWII.

Utilizing the gun’s silhouette and bolt system, Ruger produced the prototype of what would become the Standard in his garage. That gun would be the progenitor of a line of pistols that are still in demand today. Once Ruger got the financial backing he needed from Alex Sturm, the company was born and the Standard pistol went into production, becoming a favorite of target shooters and hunters who were attracted to its looks, accuracy, and affordable price tag.

Ruger Mark II
On the Ruger Mark II, you can see the beveled tube receiver near the bolt handle for an easier grip, setting it apart visually from previous models.Ruger

The most obvious difference between the Mark series of .22 pistols and other semi-auto handguns is that the barrel is permanently affixed to the receiver. So, instead of a slide that moves and a barrel that tilts, only the blow-back operated bolt moves, much like a semi-auto rifle or carbine.

It was a good design, but refinements came soon after the Standard’s introduction.

In 1950, the Mark I Target version of the pistol was introduced with a longer barrel than the Standard, an adjustable target trigger, an adjustable rear sight, and a blade front sight.

In 1962, Ruger introduced a 5.5-inch heavy bull-barrel version of the Mark I, which then became the standard barrel length for the line.

Ruger Mark III
On the Mark III, you can see the small button safety and the relocated magazine release button as well as the loaded-chamber indicated in the side of the receiver.Ruger

For about 20 years, the Standard, the Mark I, and the Mark I Target were unchanged until the Mark II came along in 1982 in various barrel lengths and weights, replacing previous models. The Mark II had a new slide stop that held the bolt open after the last round was fired, as well as polygonal rifling, whereas other models used traditional land-and-groove rifling.

Soon after, Ruger expanded the Mark II line to include the 22/45 version, which had a polymer frame and a grip angle of 45 degrees to match the 1911, instead of the 35-degree angle of the steel-framed Luger-style grip. The idea was that military personnel and other shooters accustomed to the 1911 could use the 22/45 as a training alternative that was cheaper and easier to shoot than the .45 ACP, while retaining similar ergonomics.

Ruger Mark IV Pistol
The Mark IV added an easier to use bolt catch lever, changed the button safety to a lever safety, and ditched the loaded chamber indicator. The new design features an easy takedown procedure, controlled by a single button located at the rear of the frame beneath the bolt.Ruger

While the Mark II represented relatively few changes from the 1949 Standard, the Mark III, introduced in 2004, made some drastic changes to the series, some of which didn't please longtime fans.

The changes included tighter fitting parts, which most shooters agree made the Mark III exceptionally difficult to disassemble and reassemble. A plastic loaded-chamber indicator was added to the left side of the gun, the addition of which made jams notoriously difficult to clear by cluttering up an already small chamber. The magazine release on the Mark III was relocated from the more European-style location at the heel (bottom of the grip) to a spot more familiar to American shooters, behind the trigger guard.

Ruger 22/45 model
The 22/45 model has a grip angle like a 1911, which many shooters prefer to the more acutely angled Luger style grips.Ruger

Mark III models with adjustable sights came drilled and tapped for a Weaver-style rail to mount optics, and a magazine disconnect was added (meaning the gun cannot be fired without a magazine inserted). The Mark III was also produced in the 22/45 configuration with its own variants, and the 22/45 Lite was introduced in 2012 with a lightweight, fluted aluminum receiver.

Ruger Mark IV 22

Gun Review: Ruger Mark IV Pistol

The latest iteration of the classic .22 semi-auto brings a gun with World War II origins solidly into the present. Here's how it operated, handled, and shot. See the Review Here »Ruger

In 2016, Ruger listened to shooters who were unhappy with the changes made with the Mark III, and began producing the Ruger Mark IV. The chief problem the new model addressed was that of the gun's notoriously difficult takedown procedure. Redesigned internals mean the Mark IV only requires the push of a button to separate the receiver from the frame and remove the bolt for cleaning.

Ruger Mark IV 22/45
The Mark IV 22/45 Lite uses aluminum for the frame and receiver, and cuts out as much weight as possible with fluting and milling.Ruger

The bolt stop was also redesigned, an ambidextrous lever-style safety replaced the button safety of the Mark III, and a spring was added to help assist the magazine release. The Mark IV is currently available in a bull-barrel Target version; in a Hunter version with a longer, fluted barrel, fiber optic sights, and wood grips; and the newest, heavy-weight Competition model, with a 6.88-inch slab-sided bull barrel, hardwood laminate thumb rest grips, and fully adjustable target sights.

The Mark IV 22/45 Lite was released soon after, with the same one-button takedown design, making the update of the Mark III complete. —David Maccar

Ruger Mark IV
The new 22/45 Lite, featuring the one-button takedown of the Mark IV series.Ruger

Walther P22

This thoroughly modern pistol was one of the first, and is still one of the best, ergonomic polymer-framed rimfire pistols.

Walther P22
The Walther P22 was one of the first ergonomic polymer-framed pistols chambered in .22 LR.Walther

While the Ruger Mark series represents a pistol design born from the last Great War that has been refined through the decades, the P22 from German gunmaker Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen is a thoroughly modern .22 LR pistol with a polymer frame, low bore axis, and all the features one would expect on a modern handgun.

Walther started making the DA/SA semi-auto pistol in 2002—the dawn of the polymer pistol age—as one of the first rimfire guns to use modern manufacturing procedures and features only found, at the time, on new centerfire pistols. It remains a favorite of shooters in all walks of life to this day.

On the outside, the P22 resembles the company’s extremely popular and ergonomic P99, but at about 75 percent of the overall size and with a slide-mounted thumb safety and an external hammer.

The gun has a cast polymer grip frame with a slide and frame receiver inserts made from metal injection molding cast zinc alloy. The barrel consists of a rifled steel insert containing within a steel barrel sleeve.

The P22 comes with a compact 3.4-inch barrel or with a longer 5-inch target barrel. The longer-barrel version also includes a barrel-mounted weight that acts as a compensator and matches the slide profile.

Walther P22 Target
A Walther P22 Target model with the included compensator.Walther

All P22 pistols, except the California-compliant model, come with an internally threaded barrel allowing the attachment of a suppressor. Walther also makes a thread adapter to fit various suppressor models.

Because of the frame’s polymer construction, it is available in a number of colors, making it a popular, customizable choice for target shooters and plinkers.

Because of its polymer construction, the P22 only weighs 15 ounces and can be fired in double-action with an 11-pound trigger pull, and in single-action with a trigger pull of just over four pounds. The pistol uses a blowback action and incorporates a magazine disconnect and the aforementioned slide-mounted safety, which serves as a hammer block and as a firing-pin lock. The P22 also includes two passive safety mechanisms to protect against accidental discharges if the gun is dropped.

New P22s comes with 3-dot polymer sights, a Picatinny accessory rail, deep slide serrations, a loaded chamber viewport, a removable and interchangeable grip backstrap, and a 10-round magazine. It is offered in all black or with a nickel slide in the regular or Target version, as the P22 Military in matte black and FDE, and in a package with an included laser sight.

One of the downsides of the P22 is that its design doesn't function well with low-pressure, low velocity ammunition. It must be fed high-velocity loads to function properly. —DM

Smith & Wesson Model 41

A pistol designed for competition, the higher-end Model 41 has been a mainstay of the target-shooting world for 60 years, despite being discontinued for two years.

Smith and Wesson Model 41
The Model 41 was first introduced in 1957 after 10 years of development.Smith & Wesson

Ruger wasn’t the only company after WWII looking toward civilian hunters and target shooters to support their firearms sales. In 1947, Smith & Wesson began working on a new semi-automatic competition pistol chambered in .22 LR by introducing two prototypes, the X-41 and X42. The guns were tested and improved for an entire decade before the Model 41 was finally made available to the public in 1957.

After that long in R&D, it’s not surprising that S&W produced what many consider to be the best .22 target pistols ever made. Though it hasn’t been constantly produced since ’57 and didn’t attain the widespread popularity of the Ruger Mark series, the Model 41 is still made today and is used by national level competitors for acute precision in competition.

The Model 41 is an old-school wood and steel pistol designed to operate and feel like a 1911 (without the external hammer). Unlike the earlier Rugers, the Model 41 is easy to disassemble. With the trigger guard pulled down and the slide locked to the rear, the barrel simply pulls out and then the slide can be removed.

The grip angle on the Model 41 is deliberately made to feel like a 1911, with a grip angle that’s almost identical and the slide release and manual safety in about the same locations.

Smith and Wesson model 41
An example of the S&W Model 41 (New Model).photo from thetruthaboutguns.com

With a 5-1/2-inch barrel and a weight of 41 ounces, nobody would ever mistake the 41 as a carry gun, but that extra weight and barrel length, along with its crisp 2.7 to 3-pound factory trigger pull, make it a tack driver out of the box. The trigger also features an over-travel adjustable stop screw for fine-tuning to the shooter’s needs.

Variants include the Model 41-1 introduced in 1960 that was chambered in .22 Short for International Rapid Fire competition, though only about 1,000 were made. In 1963, a heavier barreled version was made and a 7-inch barrel version was introduced in 1978.

The year it was introduced, S&W offered a no-frills version of the Model 41 designed as the Model 46. In 1959 it was selected by the U.S. Air Force for basic marksmanship training. About 4,000 units were made with 7- or 5-inch barrels. The Model 46 proved to be a commercial failure, however, and couldn’t compete with other guns at lower price points. It was discontinued in 1966.

in 1992, Smith & Wesson dropped the Model 41 from production, only to return it in 1994 as the S&W Model 41 (New Model).

Today, the Model 41 includes a switch-barrel design that allows shooters to alternate between a 5.5-inch barrel and a 7-inch barrel on the same frame. The current pistol also includes the user-adjustable trigger stop, a 2.75 to 3.25-lb. trigger, checkered wood target grips, micrometer click adjustable target rear sight with an undercut patridge-style front sight and a precision button-rifled barrel. S&W also makes a Performance Center version with a removable front sight, a better trigger, and an integrated top rail for mounting optics, and special wood grips. —DM

Browning Buck Mark

A pistol that contains the sum knowledge of decades of firearm design, the Buck Mark represents a new crop of rimfire semi-autos from the late 20th century with some of the best features from gun that came before it.

browning buck mark lite gray
The Buck Mark Lite Gray URX with a 7-1/4-inch barrel.Browning

In the world of fixed-barrel .22 target pistols, another pistol keeps ready company with the Mark Series and the Model 41, though it is relatively new compared to those other two. The Browning Buck Mark line hit the market in 1985 as direct competition for Ruger and others.

It was born from the company’s steel-framed 10-shot blowback .22 LR Challenger and Medalist series pistols, which were based on the same overall concept as the High Standard Supermatic, the Model 41, and the Colt Woodsman.

In a way, the Buck Mark is actually a descendant of a design from John Moses Browning himself. Chronologically, the Colt Woodsman is the grandaddy of them all (more on that later). Originally designed by Browning, it was redesigned in the 1960s by his grandson, Bruce Browning, as the Browning Nomad, which later became the Challenger.

Browning Buck Mark Camper UFX
The Browning Buck Mark Camper UFX in matte stainless.Browning

By the 1980s, S&W was ramping down production of the Model 41, and both the Colt Woodsman and the entire High Standard company were gone. So, the choice was made to redesign the Challenger in 1984 as the Buck Mark, which is still made today, to compete with the Mark II.

The Buck Mark’s 5.5-inch barrel is fixed directly to the frame and doesn’t move during the firing process. The pistol has a short slide and block that incorporates the striker-fired, blowback action. Since the action is more open than a pistol with a one-sided ejection port, it tends to build up less fouling, and therefore eats cheaper bulk ammo more easily.

browning buck mark field target suppressor
The Browning Buck Mark Field Target Suppressor Ready model.Browning

The Buck Mark incorporated several features we see present in the later Ruger Mark IV, such as a mag release button behind the trigger.

While the guts and basic design have remained the same, there have been nearly 30 variants of the Buck Mark over the years. The standard 5.5-inch barreled version is pretty much the same as it was in the 1980s, save for updated grips. The Silhouette model, introduced in 1987, has a 10-inch barrel and large adjustable target sights. With its wood forend, the pistol looks more like a carbine. An even longer-barreled version, known as the Buck Mark Rifle (introduced in 2001), has an 18-inch barrel and a full wood Monte Carlo stock. —DM

There are also shorter 4-inch barrel models, such as the popular Camper and Contour models.

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory

The Victory takes the proven and popular fixed-barrel concept and adds the modularity and customizability favored by modern handgunners.

smith and wesson sw22 victory
The Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory with the standard barrel.Smith & Wesson

While the S&W Model 41 is still in production and quite popular, it has always been mostly relegated to the world of serious target shooters, a bit out of the price range of the casual plinker or target shooter, who gravitated much more readily to pistols like the Ruger Mark and Browning Buck Mark.

Smith & Wesson realized this, and in 2016 it introduced the SW22 Victory, after having discontinued most of its more affordable .22LR semi-auto models, such as the 22A, the previous year. With its standard barrel affixed, the Victory looks like a Buck Mark had a baby with a Ruger, with the addition of the grip profile of the S&W 22A.

smith and wesson 22
The SW22 with an aftermarket carbon fiber barrel from Volquartsen and topped with a red-dot sight.Smith & Wesson

The Victory is easy to disassemble, which is always important on often-dirty .22 LR pistols, and customizable.

While the barrel on the Victory is fixed, like other semi-auto pistols already mentioned in this list, it is also removable, and that means its swappable.

Just in front of the trigger guard is an Allen screw. Once it’s removed, the barrel and receiver pop off of the frame. Another screw at the bottom of the receiver holds the barrel in place. Simply remove it and the barrel separates from the receiver.

smith and wesson volquartsen
This fluted barrel is another aftermarket option from Volquartsen available for the Victory.Smith & Wesson

Volquartsen Custom makes aftermarket barrels for the Victory in different configurations, such as an ultralight carbon fiber long-barrel, or a fluted one for easier carry in the field. And all barrels are available in threaded or non-threaded versions for ready suppressor use.

In keeping with the feature-rich design, the Victory also comes with a Picatinny rail that can replace the rear sight, which is held in place with a single Allen screw. The rail segment comes with the gun, and has a notch cut into the back so it can double as a fixed sight if necessary.

On top of all these features, the Victory is a heck of a shooter and quite affordable. For a full review and accuracy test, go here. —DM

The Colt Woodsman

Almost every fixed barrel semi-auto rimfire pistol owes a bit of its design to John Browning's .22, the granddaddy of them all.

colt woodsman bullseye match target
A Colt Woodsman Bullseye Match Target with an "elephant ear" target grip circa 1940.photo from coltautos.com.

Through much of the 20th century, the man who impacted firearms perhaps more than any other individual in history, John Moses Browning, also dominated the .22 LR semi-auto market with the venerable Woodsman. The pistol was made by Colt’s Manufacturing Company from 1915 to 1977 in three distinct series (series one, 1915-1941; series two, 1947-1955; series three, 1955-1977). Browning wasn’t solely responsible for the Woodsman, as he was for many other Colt models.

It was actually one of the last pistols he worked on with Colt and it was ultimately finished by a team of designers as the first truly reliable .22 LR autoloader.

Since the Woodsman was being developed specifically for the civilian market and not to meet government contract specs, Browning gave the pistol a short slide, no grip safety and no exposed hammer, all features required to be on the Model 1903, 1911, and Hi-Power designs.

Each series of Woodsman had three models available: Target, Sport, and Match Target.

colt woodsman match target
A rare, factory-engraged pre-WWII Colt Woodsman Match Target pistol. The gun is one of a matched pair that were shipped to two brothers early in 1939.photo from colt22.com.

Looking at the shape, slide design and functionality, you can see the influence of the German Luger. It's also easy to see the inspiration for what would be the Buck Mark, Ruger Mark series, and the S&W Victory, all in one gun. Like those three, the Woodsman had a fixed barrel and a small, abbreviated slide and operated via a blowback action. It seems keeping things simple was the key.

Though it’s concealed, the Woodsman does have a hammer, which is hidden in the slide where it hits a striker-style firing pin. The single stack magazine holds 10 rounds.

In the first series, the Target model served as the base model of the line and featured a 6-5/8-inch barrel with adjustable front and rear sights. The Sport model was designed as a hunting sidearm and as a companion for hikers and campers. Introduced in 1933, it had a shorter 4.5-inch barrel and fixed front sights at first, but by the end of the run, they had been replaced with adjustable ones. The Match Target model came out in 1938 with a heavier barrel, a one-piece wrap-around grip called the “elephant ear.” A bull's-eye was rollmarked into the slide on this model, leading to the nickname “Bull's-Eye Match Target.”

“The Woodsman” wasn’t actually stamped on the side of the frame until 1927. Guns made before that year are referred to as “Pre Woodsman.” These were actually designated simply as “Colt Automatic Target Pistol.”

colt pre-woodsman
An early Colt "Pre-Woodsman."photo from coltautos.com

Colt ceased civilian production of the Woodsman in 1941 when the U.S. entered World War II, but 4,000 Woodsman Match Target pistols were delivered to the U.S. Government during the war. They had plastic, one-piece grips and were marked “Property of U.S. Government,” and appeared on the surplus market after the war’s end.

Colt resumed production of the Woodsman with the Second Series in 1947 with the same three models, all built on a longer, heavier frame. All second series models included a magazine safety, an automatic slide stop, and a magazine released located at the rear of the trigger guard instead of the more European location at the heel of the grip. Special versions were made for various branches of the military and many were sold to the public through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship Program. A new budget model, the Challenger, was also introduced as part of the second series, with fixed sights, a less polished finish, and the heel magazine release.

In 1955, Colt changed the design of the venerable Woodsman for the third series run of the pistol. The three models remained the same, but the markings, grips, and sights were all modified. The biggest change was moving the magazine release from the rear of the trigger guard to the heel of the grip, as it was on the original Woodsman.

colt woodsman match target
A Colt Woodsman Match Target model with a weighted barrel.photo from guns.com

The budget model was changed from Challenger to the Huntsman, though it kept the “C” in it’s serial number. The Target model was also stamped with the name “Targetsman” in the third series.

Colt also introduced new models in this series, such as the more affordable Challenger and Huntsman models, which came with fixed sights. As the 1970s melted into the 1980s, Colt changed a lot about its focus and manufacturing methods, and many models, like the Woodsman (which by then was facing competition from other gun makers), simply fell by the wayside and were discontinued as the company pared down its catalog.

All told, Colt made about 690,000 Woodsman pistols in various configurations. Some are worth a lot, and some can be found for about $500 or less. For just about everything you'd ever want to know about the gun, check out Bob Rayburn's page here. —DM

colt woodsman
Colt Woodsman with maxim exhaust silencer. These were both sold mail order up until 1934.photo from guns.com.

Beretta 92/96/M9 22 Conversion Kit

berettta 22 conversion kit
The Beretta 22 Conversion Kit includes a barrel, slide, recoil spring, and magazine. You can install them on your pistol in seconds.Beretta

Even though the Beretta M9 is being phased out of military use, it’s hard to argue against the success of its 30-year run in that capacity. Based on the iconic Beretta 92 double-action / single-action design, this pistol remains popular throughout the world for its ease of use, reliability, and soft shooting characteristics.

If you've got a Beretta 92, 96, or M9, you can get a Beretta-made conversion kit that will allow you to enjoy all the shooting you want for just pennies a shot. While aftermarket conversion kits are plentiful for a wide variety of pistols, this one made the list for its quality and reliability. It looks and acts like its centerfire configuration.

beretta 22 with a conversion kit installed
With the kit installed, you’re shooting your pistol, at least the frame, grips, and trigger components.Beretta

Shooting a .22 LR pistol that’s similar to your centerfire gun is good. Shooting your actual gun, converted for inexpensive rimfire use is better. That trigger you’re so accustomed to remains the same as do the grips. Got Lasergrips or custom models installed? No worries, you’re keeping those in place.

To install the conversion kit, just unload and field strip your existing 90-series pistol. Replace the barrel, slide and recoil spring with those provided in the conversion kit and you now have a functional .22 rimfire version of your pistol. Fill the included magazine with 15 rounds of 22 (a 10-round version is available for those who live under oppressive state rule) and you’re ready to do.

Of course, if you don't have a Beretta pistol, you can also buy a ready-to-go .22 LR model off the shelf in either 92 or M9 configuration. —Tom McHale

Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact

smith and wesson mp22 compact
The Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact is a perfectly proportioned 22 LR pistol at ¾ scale of the standard centerfire M&P model.Smith & Wesson

Years ago, when Smith & Wesson partnered with the folks at Walther on projects like the PPK/S and P99, the company produced a .22LR M&P model. It was fine, but nothing to get all hot and bothered about. The trigger was acceptable, but not great.

The proportions were much like the standard centerfire M&P. Performance was fine. I had one for a couple of years and it was reliable enough, given the finicky nature of .22LR pistols with various types of ammo.

That all changed when the company re-designed and re-launched the M&P 22 Compact. This three-quarter scale pistol was done right. Everything about it was better. The trigger, the takedown, the feel, the accuracy – you name it and the new model excelled in comparison.

The M&P 22 Compact packs a 3.6-inch barrel which makes the overall length 6.7 inches. Even with its ¾-size scaling, there’s enough grip height to get a proper grip with all fingers. As a single-action .22, there are ambidextrous frame safety levers and the pistol also includes a magazine safety. It won’t fire without a magazine inserted.

The magazine release button is reversible, so this model is lefty friendly. The standard model includes two 10-round magazines.

smith and wesson compact suppressor
A .22 rimfire-sized suppressor rounds out this pistol perfectly. The reduced scale combined with a small .22 silencer make for a still compact and easy-to-handle overall package. It’s shown here with a SilencerCo Sparrow suppressor attached.Smith & Wesson

Where the M&P 22 Compact really shines is in its suppressed mode. The standard model (unless you live under state government tyranny) actually contains a threaded barrel. You don’t see it right away because the threaded portion is inside of the slide.

If you remove the thread cap and install an adapter, the 3/8”x24 internal threading is not only converted to the suppressor-standard ½”x24, it’s extended past the slide.

This design is brilliant. The threaded portion of the barrel is not exposed or in the way when shooting normally, but ready when you want to go silent. The ¾ proportion of the M&P 22 Compact is perfectly balanced when you add a small rimfire suppressor as the package is still of reasonable size and weight and not muzzle heavy.

Most any rimfire round fired from the short pistol barrel will exit the muzzle at subsonic speeds, so the suppressor makes your shooting ultra-quiet as there is no supersonic bullet crack. —TM

Browning 1911-22

browning 1911-22 in desert tan
The “full size” Browning 1911-22, like this Desert Tan model, is actually an 85% scale representation of a .45 ACP 1911 pistol.Browning

If you're a 1911 fan, be sure to check into the wide variety of Browning 1911-22 pistols. If you're looking for a rimfire version of the John Moses Browning invention, you might as well go straight to the source, right?

The pistols are all scaled to 85% of their original centerfire 1911 cousins because that’s the right proportion for a rimfire equivalent. The shorter cartridge length would create a lot of unused space in the grip itself, so shrinking only that component would throw all the proportions out of whack.

As with the Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact, you’ll find the size and feel “just right” with this one. While we’re talking about dimensions, we should note that the pistols are available in two categories: Full Size (still 85% scaled) and Compact. The Full Size models include a 4 ¼-inch barrel while the Compacts have a 3 5/8-inch bore. Overall dimensions are 7 3/8 and 6 ¾ inches long for the Full Size and Compact models respectively.

browning 1911 full size
If you want a realistic representation of a classic 1911 chambered in .22 rimfire, check out the basic 1911-22 A1 Full Size Model.Browning

All current models offer 10-round single-stack magazines. Depending on the model, you’ll find either a single frame mounted safety lever on the left or ambidextrous levers as on the premium Black Label series pistols.

browning 1911-22 black label speed
Keep an eye out for the Limited Edition models. The company creates special production run pistols for the annual SHOT Show and for certain distributors like this Black Label Suppressor Ready Muzzle Brake pistol.Browning

Part of the fun of the Browning 1911-22 series is the variety of models within the family. In the current production class, you’ll find a mixture of models with polymer and aluminum frames, rail and traditional dust cover designs, and a variety of grip types including Rosewood and G10.

If you want to go suppressed, no problem, just check out the Black Label 1911-22 Suppressor Ready with Rail models in both Full Size and Compact configurations. Also, keep an eye out for the Limited Production offerings. The company produces smaller runs of souped-up models with upgraded sights and custom coating applications. —TM

Ruger Charger

ruger charger
The Ruger Charger is technically a pistol as it has no buttstock. That makes the mid-length barrel legal.Ruger

And now for something completely different…

The Ruger Charger series is a pistol that's in a class of its own. It's not one you'd stick in a holster or use for competitions like Steel Challenge. It is a firearm that excels in the long-range rimfire plinking world. In some ways it's like an AR pistol, and one might argue that the Charger design had some influence on the growth of the one-handed AR market. While you can hold a Ruger Charger with one hand, it shines when you equip it with a bipod and use a rest.

ruger charger
By adding a bipod to the Ruger Charger, you can convert it to a long-range (for 22LR anyway) plinking machine. Whether hunting, silhouette target shooting, or just plain fun, you can reach out well past 100 yards with precision.Ruger

The Ruger Charger borrows its action from the famous 10/22 and shares the same rotary magazine type. You can use the standard flush 10-round model or the extended 25-round shown here. With a bipod installed, the longer 25-round magazine still clears the ground or shooting bench with ease. Controls are just like those on the Ruger 10/22 rifle with a magazine release lever underneath and forward of the trigger guard.

ruger charger
Relatively new to the Charger family is the takedown version. It’s great for a backpack gun as it disassembles in seconds.Ruger

The standard Ruger Charger comes with a rail up top so you can mount either a magnified scope or red dot optic. The barrel is factory threaded so adding a brake, flash hider, or silencer is easy. One notable difference between the Charger and the 10/22 rifle is the AR-style pistol grip. It's AR mil-spec so you can install any standard AR-type grip you like. —TM

Volquartsen Scorpion

volquartsen scorpion
If you want to make a rimfire race gun, check out the Volquartsen Scorpion series.Volquartsen

Sometimes you have to go big or go home. When you want to go first class with a modern precision .22 LR pistol, it's time to check out the Scorpion family from Volquartsen. They're not inexpensive, but then again, neither are Aston Martin sports cars.

If you appreciate the finer things and extreme performance and attention to design and production detail, this is your pistol. You’re looking at an MSRP between about $1,250 and $1,850 depending on the model and options you choose. While it resembles the Ruger Mark III pistols, the Scorpion is a whole new animal. Or arachnid to be precise.

scorpion target
The Scorpion Target Frame model has a six-inch barrel, compensator, fiber optic front sight, target rear sight, and a laminated wood target grip. The finish is Black Nitride Stainless.Volquartsen

The Volquartsen Scorpions are all about accuracy. If you compete or just like to explode aspirin tablets, you’ll appreciate the target and match grade everything in these pistols. Most models feature a six-inch target-grade stainless steel barrel, but you can order some variants with 4.5-inch barrels.

You’ll also be able to choose from models equipped with standard compensators or threaded barrels. Grips? Choose from Volthane target grips, Hogue, or laminated wood target grips.

volquartsen competition bolt
The Competition Bolt is a large part of what makes the Scorpions special.Volquartsen

One feature common to the Scorpion models is the Volquartsen Competition Bolt. You can also use it in Ruger MKII, MKIII, or MK IV pistols. This bolt is custom machined to virtually eliminate jams, stovepipes, and other extraction problems. It’s case hardened and then treated with a custom finish that decreases friction, improves wear, and requires less lubrication to function reliably. You’ll also appreciate the extended charging handle that’s milled as a solid unit with the bolt itself.

Variety is the name of the game with the Scorpions. At publication time, there are 23 available models from which to choose, and that doesn't count special orders from the Volquartsen Custom Shop where you can have one built with your choice of features and options. —TM

Best .22LR Handguns: Revolvers

S&W Model 17

This simple, robust, and full-sized .22 LR revolver has been serving target shooters, plinkers, and hunters through most of the 20th century and well into the 21st.

smith and wesson model 17
The Smith & Wesson Model 17 was initially introduced in 1931 as the K-22 Outdoorsman.Smith & Wesson

Though the .22LR does lend itself well to semi-automatic designs, the fact that the cartridge has a rim means it’s been a mainstay load for revolvers pretty much since it was invented.

While the Smith & Wesson M17 was introduced in 1947, after the end of World War II, it has its origins with the company’s large framed Hand Ejector series produced in the 1930s. The “hand-ejector” moniker was intended to differentiate the swing-out cylinder revolvers from previous top-break models, which ejected spent casings when the breech was opened fully. The new cylinder required the user to use their weak hand to activate the star ejector.

Before the war, the revolver debuted as the K-22 Outdoorsman in 1931, along with a companion pistol, the K-32, chambered in .32 S&W Long.

Production of both guns ceased during the war and the Hand Ejector series evolved into the M1917 chambered in .45 ACP (using moon clips) for the U.S. military.

After the war, The Model 17 was reintroduced, along with the K-32 (Model 16) in 1947 as the K-22 and K-32 Masterpiece. The Model 16 was produced until 1983, when it was discontinued due to the declining popularity of the .32 S&W Long cartridge.

One of the more robust revolvers made by S&W, the Model 17 had an adjustable rear sight and an un-pinned, fixed ramp front sight.

smith and wesson K-22 Masterpiece
A K-22 Masterpiece version of the Model 17.photo from smith-wessonforum.com

Additionally, a customer could order a Model 17 with what the company called “The Three T’s,” meaning a target trigger, target hammer, and target grips. Standard barrel lengths fell at 4-, 6-, and 8-3/8-inches with an abbreviated under lug. S&W also made a Model 18 (sometimes called the 22 Combat Masterpiece), which was the same revolver, but with a 4-inch tapered barrel.

In 1990, S&W began making the Model 17 with a full-length circular under lug of solid, blued steel cast as part of the barrel running from the front of the cylinder yoke to the muzzle’s end, enclosing the ejector rod and adding considerable weight to the gun. The models hipped with special rounded-butt wood grips with inletted finger grooves.

In 1998, due to a corporate shift away from blued wheel-guns, S&W discontinued the Model 17 and all its variants. However, the company began producing the Model 617 in .22 LR, which was a stainless-steel version of the blued Model 17 with a full under lug barrel. The 617 is still produced today with a six- or 10-shot cylinder and rubber grips.

In 2009, Smith & Wesson reintroduced the revolver as the Model 17 "Masterpiece," along with 15 other previously discontinued models under the company's "Classics" category, due to a resurgence in the popularity of vintage S&W revolvers, along with 15 other previously discontinued models. —DM

Ruger Single-Six

One of the first revolvers from Ruger, the Single-Six combined Old West style with modern production methods to create one of the best rimfire revolvers ever made.

ruger single-six revolver
The Ruger Single-Six revolver was introduced to bolster Ruger’s hold on the rimfire pistol market it began establishing with the original Ruger Standard pistol. It was part of the original three Old West style revolvers from Ruger, along with another .22 LR gun, the Bearcat (1958), which was based on Remington percussion revolvers, and the centerfire Blackhawk (1955).Ruger

In 1953, Ruger bolstered its already growing reputation as a great new rimfire pistol company by producing one of the best .22 LR revolvers ever made: The Single-Six.

The single-action revolver looks and operated much like a scaled-down Colt Single Action Army revolver and other so-called cowboy guns from the late 1800s. As the name suggests, the revolver’s cylinder holds six rounds of .22 LR, which are loaded, one at a time, through a loading gate at the rear of the cylinder.

Since 1973, the pistol has been sold as the New Model Single-Six, meaning that it includes Ruger’s transfer bar mechanism as an added safety feature.

Typically, single-action revolvers of this design must be holstered or carried with the hammer resting on an empty chamber, as leaving it resting on a live round could cause an accidental discharge. The transfer bar only allows the gun to fire when the trigger is pulled, and not only with manipulation of the hammer, which allows the gun to be safely carried with all six rounds loaded. Ruger will install the transfer bar on any old model Single-Six free of charge.

The Single-Six is currently chambered in .22 WMR and .17 HMR. Ruger makes several convertible models that ship with both a .22 LR and a .22 WMR cylinder, allowing the use of both cartridges. The .22 LR cylinder can also accommodate .22 Short rounds.

Ruger GP100

The modern 10-round rimfire revolver matches the capacity of most semi-autos and allows shooters to choose their grip shape like few other wheelguns.

ruger gp100
The Ruger GP100 in .22LR with a 10-round cylinder.Ruger

While Browning was busy in the 1980s inventing and producing the Buck Mark semi-auto, Ruger was busy building a new revolver platform, the GP100.

The revolver conquered an inherent problem with most revolver frames: the fact that traditional revolver designs have steel of the frame exposed at the front and rear of the grips, therefore determining the shape of the grip. Switching from a rounded carry grip to a more squared off-target grip was usually impossible.

The GP100 solved this problem by having a small rectangular “peg” type of grip attached to the frame just large enough to contain the hammer spring and strut. The grips could then be any shape the shooter desired, as long as they were large enough to wrap around the peg. This wasn’t a new innovation, however, having been used by Dan Wesson and High Standard previously.

Regardless, the feature allows GP100 shooters to switch from target grips to carry grips with ease, so the same revolver can punch holes in paper at a target match and ride in a holster.

The GP100 is also made in .357 Magnum, .38 Special, .44 Special, and .327 Fed Mag with barrel lengths of 3, 4.2, and 6 inches with partial or full under lugs.

In 2015, Ruger brought the GP100 back to the company’s roots and introduced a new version of the popular GP100 with a 10-round, .22 LR cylinder, matching the capacity of most rimfire semi-autos, making it a hugely popular choice with target shooters and small-game hunters, especially because of the various grip options.

It just shows that even almost two decades into the 21st century, there is still room for innovation and evolution in the .22 LR revolver platform. —DM

Colt SAA Frontier Scout

It's rimfire version of the Single Action Army—known as the gun that won the West.

Colt SAA Frontier Scout
The SAA Frontier Scout was made, in part, as a response to the popularity of the Ruger Single-Six.Colt

In 1958, on the heels of the Ruger Single-Six release, Colt reworked its legendary Colt Single Action Army single-action revolver as a .22 LR handgun dubbed the Frontier Scout. The venerable SAA had its work cut out for it. The Single-Six had already proven hugely popular among all kinds of shooters, both for its craftsmanship and old west looks, as well as for its affordability. But during the late 1950s the country was in the midst of a western craze, and the Colt soon garnered a healthy share of the market, especially since it managed to have a lower price-point than the Ruger.

According to this story from americanrifleman.org, ads for the Frontier Scout began showing up months before the gun was released in order to generate excitement and early demand. “Here’s Big News!” the ads read. “A .22 caliber version of the world-famous Single Action Army—(with) the same classic lines…fundamentally the same foolproof action, and though lighter, the same balance and feel.”

The story says the ads also touted the SAA’s “full formed” loading gate, which was a little jab at the early flat gate on the Ruger Single-Six.

When potential guy buyers were confronted with the choice between a Single-Six for $57.50, or a Frontier Scout, a genuine Colt, for $49.50, it wasn’t much of a choice. In 1986, nearly three decades of production later, the Frontier Scout was discontinued as Colt shifted its focus toward military projects.

The Colt SAA, also known as the M1873, Peacemaker, the Colt .45, and sometimes as “The Gun That Won the West,” was designed for the U.S. government service revolver trials of 1872 and was adopted as the standard military service revolver until 1892.

The single-acton revolver, original chambered for .45 Long Colt, has been offered in over 30 different calibers and various barrel lengths, though its overall appearance has remained the same since 1873.

Production of the SAA has been discontinued twice since its introduction, but both times it was brought back due to popular demand. —DM

Ruger LCR and LCRx

ruger lcr handgun
The Ruger LCR revolutionized the snubbie revolver market by combining polymer and steel to create a lightweight gun that’s safe and reliable.Ruger

The Ruger LCR was a groundbreaker when it was released in .38 Special and .357 Magnum calibers. By combining a polymer frame with steel barrel, cylinder, and other parts as needed, the LCR was ultra-light yet durable enough to handle full-power .357 Magnum loads. Not long after the successful launch of the centerfire versions, the company introduced other calibers including the .22 LR model.

In larger caliber configurations, the polymer frame of the LCR actually helps to reduce felt recoil as the frame flexes and therefore feels less “sharp” in the hand. That design features isn’t really necessary with the low-recoil .22, but the lighter weight sure is a plus. If you have a centerfire Ruger LCR or other snubnose revolver, then the Ruger LCR .22 LR might just be the perfect practice and training handgun.

With low-cost ammo and minimal recoil, users can focus on developing perfect technique for what’s arguably the toughest type of handgun to shoot consistently well.

ruger lcr handgun
With its shrouded hammer, the LCR operates only in double-action mode, so it’s a great training for defensive revolver users.Ruger

While not really needed for the .22 LR version, the LCR comes with the Hogue Tamer recoil-reducing rubber grip. Its 1.87-inch barrel is contained within an overall package size of 6.5 inches long and 4.5 inches tall.

Weight is next to nothing at a measly 14.9 ounces. Given the smaller size of the .22 LR cartridge, the folks at Ruger managed to stuff eight rounds into the cylinder while keeping the revolver the same size as its lower capacity centerfire counterparts. The front sight is pinned in place, so if you want to upgrade to a different style, that’s an easy upgrade.

More recently, the Ruger team launched the LCRx series. There are a couple of differences from the LCRs with the most notable being the exposed hammer design. While the LCRx works in double-action mode, you do have the option of manually cocking the hammer to fire single-action shots with a lighter trigger press.

ruger lcr x handgun
The newer Ruger LCRx is not a replacement for the LCR but rather a new choice with an exposed hammer and longer three-inch barrel.Ruger

The other big difference is the three-inch barrel and longer sight radius. That makes the LCRx a more appropriate tool for precision shooting though it's not as compact and concealable. The overall length is 7.5 inches and height is 5.8 inches. Like the LCR chambered in .22 LR, the LCRx packs eight rounds of rimfire joy into its cylinder. —TM

Smith & Wesson 43 C

smith and wesson 43
How can you not want a .22 LR version of the classic Smith & Wesson Centennial snub nose revolver?Smith & Wesson

There are lots of things that define Americana. Baseball, cheesy game shows, and of course, the classic snub nose revolver. While other makes and models exist, it’s hard to argue against having a Smith & Wesson Centennial in your collection. These little gems have been in pockets, shoulder, and ankle holsters for decades and have earned a reputation for saving one’s bacon when it counts the most.

The Smith & Wesson 43 C is an Airweight version of the Centennial revolver. Built on the small and compact J frame, the 43 C is built around an aluminum alloy frame.

The barrel is made from steel, but the cylinder is constructed from aluminum alloy thanks to the relatively low pressure of the .22 LR rimfire cartridge. Like the classic centerfire cousin, the 43 C has a shrouded internal hammer, so it fires only in double-action mode for every shot. In this model, you get eight of them per cylinder.

The Smith & Wesson 43 C weighs in at just 11.5 ounces thanks to those space-age alloys. Overall length is just 6.3 inches, so it's pocket friendly. Remember, always use a pocket holster if you choose to tote it around that way. This model has a nice sight upgrade. It uses the XS Sights White Dot sight up front paired with a U notch in the frame that serves as the rear sight. —TM

Ruger New Bearcat

ruger bearcat
The Ruger New Bearcat might look like a Ruger Single Six, but it makes the list for its elegance of proportion.Ruger

The Ruger Single Six is a great single-action .22 revolver. It’s also full size. Sure, the barrel is skinnier and the overall feel is more slender than that of a .38 or .45 with similar barrel length, but it’s still a full sized handgun, grip and all.

The New Bearcat, on the other hand, is proportioned from the ground up for .22 LR rimfire use. You might hear people describe the New Bearcat as a youth or starter handgun, and you’d be right – in part. It’s also a great adult revolver.

Not too small to feel awkward, this one is just right for its caliber. Just as some of the pistols on this list are 85% scale versions of their centerfire siblings, the New Bearcat is a slightly scaled-down version of a standard cowboy gun.

ruger new bearcat stainless
The stainless New Bearcat is identical to the standard model except for the matte finish.Ruger

The New Bearcat is classic wood and steel. The standard model has a blued finish and hardwood grips. The Stainless Steel model features a matte stainless finish with the same hardwood grip panels.

Both models have a distinctive rolled engraving of a bear and cougar that wraps around the cylinder. Like classic single-actions, the front sights are fixed blades and paired with a rear frame notch.

The New Bearcat looks like a cowboy gun but has modern safety features including a transfer bar that allows safe loading of all six chambers and a loading gate interlock to prevent accidental discharge.

Be sure to check out the special distributor editions of the New Bearcat 22 revolver. The Lipsey's model is available with features like a bird's head grip or longer six-inch barrel. —TM

North American Arms Mini Revolvers

north american arms mini revolvers
The family of miniature .22 revolvers from North American Arms makes the list for creativity and portability.North American Arms

Would you consider a .22 revolver that can fit onto a belt buckle unique? We do. Whether you’d carry that around town or not, it’s an innovative idea that could come in really handy for outdoor activities.

North American Arms has made its mark by designing and producing small and compact firearms designed for ultimate carry convenience. Their semi-automatic pistols fire new custom calibers to maximize performance from small packages, but it’s the company’s revolvers that made their reputation.

naa hg handgun
The NAA 22 LR Mini Revolver HG model uses the grip as a self-contained holster.North American Arms

The North American Arms standard 22 LR Mini Revolver is a single-action pocket wonder. Resembling a derringer in size and shape, it operates with an exposed hammer and an open trigger.

The cylinder holds five rounds of .22 LR and the whole package will fit in a shirt pocket. Like other classic revolvers, it uses a blade front sight, this one being a half-moon shape for snag-free carry. Even thought this 22 revolver is just .88 inches wide, the well-rounded Rosewood bird’s head grips make it comfortable to handle. The light recoil of the .22 LR doesn’t hurt either.

naa hg handgun
The Holster Grip model in the closed carry position.North American Arms

Loading and unloading is a bit different. Rather than using a loading gate or swing-out cylinder, both of which would add size and weight, the NAA .22 LR Mini has a removable cylinder. Pop the whole thing out, fill it, and re-insert. If you like, you can even carry a pre-loaded spare cylinder or two.

The cylinder design also carries and important safety feature. Between each chamber there’s a safety notch for the hammer. The idea is that after loading, you lower the hammer in this notch between cylinders so the hammer never rests on an empty chamber in carry mode. That allows you to safety keep all five chambers loaded.

There are variants in the mini family that offer different alternatives. For example, check out the 22 revolver Holster Grip model. That one uses a pivoting grip that folds back onto the revolver frame itself. Think of it as a self-contained holster. It’s yet another nifty idea to minimize the carry footprint.

naa revolver belt buckle
Yes, that is a real revolver mounted in a belt buckle for convenient carry.North American Arms

Oh, and that belt buckle idea? The company sells a buckle that doubles as a "holster" for the NAA 22 Mini Revolver. If you like, you can talk to one of the firm's exotic design business partners to get your revolver and buckle adorned with the design of your choice. Maybe turquoise and silver for a western theme? —TM

Ruger Single 10

ruger single 10
The Ruger Single 10 offers the capacity of a semi-auto combined with the flexibility of a revolver.Ruger

One benefit of revolvers is general is their inherent flexibility with different types of ammo. With a .22 revolver, you can shoot traditional 38 or 40-grain bullets. You can shoot jacketed or lead projectiles. You can shoot snake shot. You can shoot hyper-velocity ammo like the Aguila SuperMaximum. You can shoot those ultra-heavy 60-grain Sniper Subsonic cartridges.

You can even shoot primer-only (no powder) 20-grain bullets like the Aguila Colibris for ultra-quiet backyard plinking. The beauty of the revolver for all of these is that you don’t have to worry about reliable cycling of a semi-automatic. Many exotic loads just won’t work in a magazine-fed pistol.

The Ruger Single 10 gives you all the benefits of revolver shooting but with the capacity of a semi-automatic. The small size of the .22 LR cartridge allowed engineers to stuff 10 chambers into the cylinder of this model without making it disproportionately wide.

The Single 10 features a brushed stainless steel finish for looks and corrosion resistance. You’ll also find that finish to resist ugly knocks and dings better than polished blue. Like the other Single-family models, it uses a transfer bar system so you can keep all ten chambers loaded safely.

The front sight is a fiber optic tube and the rear is adjustable so you can tweak point of aim to point of impact for whatever ammo type you prefer to use. This model features a 5.5-inch barrel which makes for an overall length of 11 inches. —TM