Why Not Any Caliber

Quite often I’m asked my opinion on the best gun and caliber for self-defense. My standard answer is: “Whatever gun you have on you.” The person usually then asks if that if that means it is OK to carry a .22 LR.  To which I reply no, and I’m about to tell you why.

The .22 LR is a very deadly round. Many emergency room doctors will tell you that a .22 caliber gunshot is one of the worst to come in, because, quite often, a .22 LR will ricochet inside the body causing many small, hard-to-find wound channels. The surgeries for these wounds can take hours and as often as not, the victims bleed out and die.

Now, if.22 LR is such a deadly round, then why am I so against it? It’s because there is a good chance that a .22 LR will not stop an attack. Who cares if the guy dies after he has beaten you to death? The only ones who should carry a .22 are those who can handle nothing else, and even then I would still recommend carrying a larger caliber.

A .22 caliber handgun will stop the assailant that would flee from any gun. But, it will not, under most circumstances, stop a determined attacker. And yes, I do know that .22s have stopped attackers intent on killing, but it doesn’t change the fact that I wouldn’t bet my life on one. Now, would I get some morbid satisfaction from knowing that I took my attacker with me? Probably, but I would get much more knowing he didn’t take me with him. 

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20 Responses to Why Not Any Caliber

R Dannan wrote:
December 16, 2013

I have shot a lot of stuff with. .22 in my life, out of a rifle I believe it will 1 shot stop no problem, that being said shot placement is like real estate, location, location, location. I will take a 12 gauge to the foot before a .22 to the head any day. 'I will take lucky over good any day'

Serjah wrote:
February 16, 2013

If one bullet doesn't stop a person, then two will. If two won't, then three will. You got the idea....

EJ EAST wrote:
November 29, 2012

Ok, I have read ALOT on this subject over years. I'm not an overly experienced shooter, nor an expert, but I have opinions based on research. It seems to me that heavier calibers are generally being pushed in the US probably for several reasons I won't begin to try to contemplate here. Many 'experts' online, as well as promoters for whatever individual reasons, press the issue of larger calibers for self defense and otherwise. With true research its well known that terms such as 'knockdown power', and 'stopping power' are sales terms and base-less myths. Soldiers testify that men go on moving/fighting after unknowingly being hit by 50 caliber bullets!!?? There is no way for a person to be knocked down by force of a hit from any bullet, so why do 'experienced' people go on and on -and on about inefficiency of small calibers against humans??? Why has NOBODY witnessed this inefficiency in a true life account of defense???? Yet so many can account for the deadliness of 22 bullets?? It is well noted that many survive poorly placed small caliber wounds, but can't the same be said for ANY caliber? Yet, its well known (thoughout history), that the smallest calibers were invented for use against humans, and are highly effective in offense and defense when used correctly, having litlle recoil and higher accuracy. Most will use official govt. research articles, sighting the percieved need for soldiers/LEO to need larger calibers based on statistics, but are we all cops and GIs shooting hundreds of rounds a year anticipating long gun battles with several foes in scenarios where a hangun shouldn't even really be used? I imagine that the most efficient soldier/ warrior would be more comfy with a good volume of small arms which could be effectively moved and used right, rather than the biggest bullets he could carry.

Bill wrote:
August 08, 2012

Back in the mid 60's or so I read an article in a very popular gun magazine that the MI Carbine round was useless for deer hunting and it was not rtecommended. In that same magazine months later I read an article about the Ruger SA handgun chambered for the MI Carbine round and that article praised it as a wonderful hunting handgun for north American game. Go figure that! Bless opinions! Although not asked for, my own opinion is I'd rather hit with a .22 than miss with a .45.

CHASE wrote:
April 10, 2012

a 22 is perfect it can go through someone completly ik for a fact my 22 rg revolver saved my life on the streets i do recommened it plus its all about a good shot too like myself

Gary wrote:
December 13, 2011

FBI Notes on Misplaced Over-penetration Fears: "The fear of over-penetration is a misconception, which was created back when law enforcement was trying to overcome misinformed public resistance to the use of hollowpoint ammunition. In the process, we began to believe it ourselves. First, our lawyers are unaware of any sucessful legal action resulting from the injury of a bystander due to a round over-penetrating the subject. We are aware of numerous incidents of Agents/officers being killed because their round did not penetrate enough (Grogan and Dove, for example). Further, if you examine shooting statistics you will see that officers hit the subject somewhere around 20-30% of the time. Thus 70-80% of shots fired never hit their intended target, and nobody ever worries about them – only the ones that might “over-penetrate” the bad guy. Third, as our testing shows, even the most frangible bullets designed specifically for shallow penetration will plug up when striking wood or wallboard and then penetrate like full metal jacket ammunition. We are aware of successful legal actions where an innocent party has been struck by a shot passing through a wall, but as we have proven, ALL of them will do that."

Gary wrote:
December 12, 2011

Jonathan nailed it perfectly. There are two kinds of self-defense situations. In the first instance, practicing out at the range and shooting paper, you take careful aim and slowly press the trigger, like in ambushing the bad guy sneaking up your stairs at home. As you examine your "perfect shot placement" on the target you knowingly explain to your shooting buddy that even a .22 would have saved the day. Next up, you quickly raise your weapon, point it as best you can, and jerk the trigger because the whole idea is to shoot first before the other guy shoots you, like on the street. This time your shot placement is totally lacking and that .22 is starting to look rather wimpy. So the question is: Locked in a room with an armed felon and you only get one hurried shot, what caliber would you take with you? Oh, and did I mention that he was wearing heavy winter clothing so penetration would be a good thing? Your carry weapon has to be able to take on the worst situation possible, not the easiest and it seems that the current trend is towards smaller and smaller "feel-good" guns. Short of a .44 Magnum firing 240-grain bullets, any ideas on the perfect "good for everything" carry caliber?

Randy wrote:
December 11, 2011

I've really never understood the point of this argument. If all you have is a .22 caliber then use it and good luck. If you have something bigger use it and good luck with it also because it really all comes down to shot placement. If you're shooting a .45 and can't hit the target it ain't going to stop the bad guy either.

Gary wrote:
December 09, 2011

As most of you know, the U.S. Military is going to replace their 9mm sidearms and they are looking at off-the-shelf weapons in a larger caliber. The following from the Army Times: Proponents of the 9mm say that there are a lot of dead people due to this weapon/round, and they are correct, Frisina said. However, more people are killed in America every year by the .22LR caliber than any other, but that doesn't make it an effective combat caliber. But the majority of opinions seem to fall into the “hate” category. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Rehan, a former 11 Bravo, said his unit logged several instances in which the 9mm did not stop an enemy combatant after multiple hits, even to vital areas. “I find the M9 lacking and possibly costing soldiers’ lives when there are better options available,” he said. Staff Sgt. Joe Caruso with the 42nd Military Police Brigade said “in combat, the M9 is a major loser. I used the M9 in combat and it took three rounds to put someone down,” he said. “A few years back, when there was the Colt 45, I had to use it. One shot to the chest. Done deal. The target never got up again.” Brig. Gen. Robert Enzenauer, the Colorado Army National Guard’s assistant adjutant general for space, said the 9mm “doesn't have the stopping power that I prefer, so for personal protection I choose a .40-cal or .45.” Lethality is among the M9’s several “limitations,” said Daryl Easlick, project officer for close effects. The requirement for a new pistol calls for “an increase in permanent wound channel,” which suggests something more powerful than a 9mm may be on the horizon.

mad lab wrote:
December 09, 2011

the only defensive weapon that you should depend on is the one that you can use like second nature,one that requires no thought,no adjustment,just pure insticy.i am a fan of knockdown power,but if you miss,your done.. game over!today's ammo has a wide range of choices from high velocity as well as hollow points.if you hit a target d.c. then the ballistic advantages take over.so i would have to say that a .22 cci mini mag hollow point would definately do the trick in 'capable'hands

Steve wrote:
December 08, 2011

It's sad that an article like this is necessary, but based on gunshop talk and forum debates I've seen, it is. And Mr. Rackley nailed it. The .22 rimfires are awesome little rounds for plinking and squirrels, but altogether unacceptable for defensive carry. Yes, .22lr is the #1 US murder caliber. That's because there's a hundred .22's for every other gun out there, and criminals use cheap or stolen guns. Unprepared homeowners use whatever gun they have, often a .22. So sure, given 100 shootings, a .22 will absolutely produce some effective wounds (just ask Mark Coates). You get one chance, perhaps only one round, to make the difference between stopping an attacker and dying with him. And you get to pick the type of gun, chambering, and type of ammunition before you ever face that scenario. Bullet weight and caliber matter, a lot. Choose wisely.

Jason wrote:
December 05, 2011

Mr Rackley I have a question for you and all of your readers, just out of curiosity of others oponions/preferences. Do you dress around a particular gun you are most comfortable carrying or do you have different guns you would carry based on the season just as an example ie: a larger gun in the winter that is easily concealed by layers or small gun based on summer temperatures that involve lighter clothing. And if you could only own one gun for concelaed carry what gun and caliber would it be

Mack Missiletoe wrote:
December 02, 2011

.22 Rimfire vs Rifle Centerfire vs Pistol Centerfire in HD™ PART 2.101 ...you will need to keep wall penetration in mind while trying to figure out where all the bad guys are, who they are, while being shot at, while being under stress, with increased heart rate, while needing to pee, and of course under the influence of Adrenaline. In this case a 9mm is the better choice! Don’t get me wrong, 9mm WILL penetrate walls. But it’s not traveling at 2700+ fps, which comes to 1800+ mph! In fact, 9mm travels at less than half that speed. With which walls and innocent bystanders appreciate. Whatever cartridge you use, make sure it works flawlessly in your gun. And don’t drink and drive.

George wrote:
December 01, 2011

@Tyrone A *lot* of data supports this. Not going to post links here but google "handgun stopping power." You will find may tables of percentages of one-shot stops and FBI minimum effective wound penetration distances. The writer is dead-on here. *Stopping* is important, not killing. No reason not to carry at least a .380, especially since there are so many .380 pistols these days and good hollowpoint ammo choices.

Dale wrote:
December 01, 2011

To "Hallagan" they do make a ".50" the GI .50 on 1911 and Glock frames.

Jonathan wrote:
November 30, 2011

Tyrone, it isn't that a .22lr head shot won't stop an attacker, but most folks simply aren't good enough to hit exactly where they think they will, when under stress. Even those of us who have many years of live fire practice under our belts (I was a military weapons instructor, NRA coach, etc) can't guarantee our exact hit on target when under pressure.

Hallagan wrote:
November 30, 2011

Mass/velocity...... 'why do you carry a .45?' - because they don't make a .46!

Pete wrote:
November 30, 2011

Also, everyone should remember that the .22 is an old-fashioned rimfire, which is NEVER as reliable as a centerfire primer round.

Alabama Shooter wrote:
November 30, 2011

Bare minimum should be a .380 hollow point.

Tyrone Dungannon wrote:
November 30, 2011

Is there any data to support this idea that 22LR is less effective at stopping an attacker? I have read of folks being shot in the head with a 22LR round and living, but not without having one hell of a headache.