Few guns are more fun to shoot than a .22 handgun. Here are eight great rimfire pistol and revolver options that will provide hours of affordable backyard shooting enjoyment.
What are the best .22 handgun opions available today:
- Ruger Mark IV
- Smith & Wesson Model 617
- Browning 1911-22
- Charter Arms Target Pathfinder
- Ruger 22 Charger
- Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory
- Browning Buck Mark
- Ruger New Bearcat
Like so many shooters, the very first handgun I ever fired was a .22 LR — my father’s Smith & Wesson K-22 Masterpiece. Since that time, I’ve shot a wide variety of pistols chambered for a number of different cartridges, but when I’m looking to have low-cost fun at my backyard shooting range, you can bet my .22s will be there.
Whether I’m shooting a bag of dollar-store balloons, adding vent holes to an empty soda can or pureeing the leftover Halloween pumpkin that’s started leaking internal fluids on my front porch, I find no end of cheap targets to punch with a .22 handgun. And now that .22 LR ammunition is once again widely available — and sanely priced — I can have all that fun on a shoestring budget.
In addition to being such fun to shoot, there’s also a practical side to .22 handguns: They serve to dispatch vermin, harvest small game … and you can compete in small bore competitions. I believe that .22s are the ideal training pistols for new and experienced shooters alike. The minimal recoil, muzzle rise and blast allows rookie shooters to control these guns effectively — and even experienced shooters should, from time to time, run through a few boxes of .22 for a low-cost, low-impact tactical tune-up. The mild .22 offers a great platform for improving trigger control and other important shooting skills.
Here’s a list of eight great .22 handgun options currently on the market. They vary in price, design and function — but they all share one common (and important) trait: They’re loads of fun to shoot.
Ruger makes a number of excellent .22 handguns, and the brand has earned multiple mentions on this list. Leading off is the Mark IV. As the name implies, this is the fourth generation of the family of semi-auto pistols that set the standard for blowback-operated .22s. As you might expect, the Mark IV is extremely reliable and is capable of superb accuracy right out of the box. What you might not expect, however, is how simple this gun is to break down for routine maintenance.
If Ruger’s blowback semi-auto pistols have a blemish, it’s the fact that they’re not easy to field strip — until now. With the push of a button, the Mark IV can be disassembled … and cleaning is a snap. There are a wide variety of configurations of this pistol, including everything from the classic Standard model to target, hunting and tactical versions.
MSRP: $409-$749 www.ruger.com/
Read Also: Ruger Mark IV Target: Evolution And History
Like Ruger, Smith & Wesson offers several excellent .22 rimfire guns. One of the very best is their Model 617, a 10-shot stainless double-action revolver built on their sturdy K-Frame. The 617 is fine for backyard plinking, but this is a gun that was built for serious accuracy. It features a full-length underlug, stainless-steel construction with a satin stainless finish and excellent adjustable sights. The polymer grips fit grown-up hands, and at 44 ounces it’s hardly a featherweight. Nevertheless, the Model 617 is an excellent .22 that’s built for competition — yet it’s fun to shoot.
MSRP: $849 www.smith-wesson.com
John Moses Browning invented the 1911 pistol, and now the company that bears his name offers an 85 percent scaled-down version of the original 1911 chambered in .22 LR. There are several versions of the fun-to-shoot 1911-22, including the Black Label Medallion Full-Size version shown here, which comes with an alloy frame and machined aluminum slide, 4¼-inch barrel, rosewood grips with a gold Buckmark logo, and three-dot sights. The 16 versions of the Browning 1911-22 currently in production offer a wide variety of optional features, including accessory rails, threaded barrels and a number of finishes. Regardless of which version you choose, these pistols combine the look and feel of a 1911 in a reduced package that’s accurate, reliable and a joy to shoot.
MSRP: $579.99-$739.99 www.browning.com
Charter Arms produces solid guns at reasonable prices, and the Target Pathfinder is no exception. This double-action .22 wheelgun comes with a 6-shot cylinder, matte stainless finish and a large, comfortable polymer grip with finger grooves. With a 4.2-inch barrel, these guns weigh just 24 ounces — so they’re a suitable option for teaching a young shooter the ropes … and yet they’re both accurate and durable. Plus, they offer the reliability of a revolver, which means you’ll spend less time cleaning your gun and more time actually shooting it. Plan on buying a boatload of .22 ammo (and you can afford to do so since this gun is so inexpensive) and punching tin cans and paper targets in the backyard with this revolver for years to come.
MSRP: $409 www.charterfirearms.com
Hardly a conventional .22 handgun, the Charger is a product of Ruger’s 10/22 blowback action. If you know anything about the 10/22, you’re aware of the gun’s reputation for unfailing reliability, so you can expect this gun to run with a wide variety of ammunition. The threaded, cold hammer-forged 10-inch barrel is capable of superb accuracy, and the included top rail provides a platform for mounting all sorts of optics.
Other key features borrowed from the larger 10/22 semi-autos include Ruger’s BX-15 15-round magazine and a crisp, smooth trigger. Each Charger includes a bipod to help stabilize the pistol for maximum accuracy, and if you plan on hunting small game with a .22 handgun, this is an excellent choice. It’s also a great gun for backyard plinking, and it’s extremely affordable. There’s even a breakdown model that disassembles easily for convenient storage and returns to zero when pieced back together.
MSRP: $309 www.ruger.com/
The SW22 Victory is a recent addition to Smith & Wesson’s firearm line — and it’s a welcome addition. This blowback-operated semi-auto offers a long list of excellent features, including adjustable fiber-optic sights, a Picatinny rail for mounting optics, textured polymer grips and an adjustable trigger stop. Two 10-round magazines come standard, and takedown is extremely easy, requiring the removal of a single screw.
The match-grade barrel can be easily removed and swapped out as desired. There are models available with Kryptek camo and threaded barrels, and Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center offers a number of high-end models with extra touches, like carbon-fiber barrels and pre-mounted red-dot optics. Regardless of which version you choose, the SW22 is a superb .22 handgun that’s accurate, budget-friendly and fun to shoot on any occasion.
MSRP: $409-$868 www.smith-wesson.com
Find Out More: Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory
Another blowback .22 semi-auto, the Buck Mark is available in, ironically, 22 different styles — perfect for everything from backyard shooting to small game hunting and competition. These guns offer excellent reliability and very high build quality, as well as a number of great optional features, such as optional fluted and threaded barrels, full-length top rails and a choice of walnut or polymer grips. Alloy receivers keep weight to a minimum, yet these pistols are large enough for adults to comfortably grip and shoot. They come equipped with good triggers, and they cycle reliably with a wide range of ammo — you can expect to spend your time on the range shooting instead of clearing jams. Buck Mark pistols look and feel like expensive firearms, and yet they’re affordably priced.
MSRP: $389.99-$619.99 www.browning.com
Learn More: Browning Buck Mark .22 Rimfire
Rounding out our list of top-flight .22 handgun options is Ruger’s sleek New Bearcat revolver, a perfectly-proportioned rimfire revolver that pays homage to Bill Ruger’s love of single-action wheelguns. With an overall length of 9 inches and a weight of 24 ounces, this is a gun that’s great for young and old shooters alike. Available in both blued and stainless versions, the Bearcat is adorned with hardwood grips and bear and cougar rollmarks on the cylinder. The capacity is six rounds, and the fixed sights are basic but functional for shooting at close to moderate ranges. The single-action design with Ruger’s patented transfer bar system is very safe, and this is a great gun to introduce new shooters to the sport since the hammer must be cocked between shots. This is a classic Ruger design that has been a favorite of shooters young and old for generations — isn’t it time you made space in your safe for at least one more .22?
MSRP: $639-$689 www.ruger.com/