22 WMR Ammo

The Power of the .22 Magnum for Pocket Pistols

In our continuing discussions on whether pocket pistols are good enough to carry for personal protection. We sometimes hear of the small few gun enthusiasts that carry these .22 pocket pistols.

For personal defense the goal is to always “break contact” from the “Bad Guy” if you’re ever caught in such dire situation. Breaking contact is to get away from the BG either you had the six sense to avoid the confrontation or caught in the fight. Once you have fired on the BG, the goal is to stop the BG from his attack so you can run away.


Terminal Ballistics

From a terminal ballistics stand point the .22 is not that impressive from a short barrel pistol.
But the .22 is more capable than people think. To make this point we looked at these tests that were conducted by the fine folks from Lucky Gunner. Lucky Gunner ran a 1.9 inch snub nose pocket pistols with several types of .22 Magnun loads against a ballistic gel.
This was for measuring the penetration and seeing the expansion. What we’re striving for is a good 12 to 15 inch penetration with less expansion. These depths are considered good from the FBI standards. So ideally, when combined with good shot placement to the vital areas of the torso, this should deter/stop the BG from attacking you.

Stopping Power
Yeah, yeah its just numbers, don’t expect a lot of knock down power here. So theres a study done by Greg Ellijah on “Stopping Power”, its based on 1800 real world shooting incidents. He discovered that 60 percent of the time a person shot with a .22 was incapacitated after a single hit to the head or torso. Looking at the chart and comparing to the bigger caliber that’s pretty good.
But a third of the time a person hit was not incapacitated no matter how many times they were hit. That’s roughly twice as many failures as the bigger caliber pistols. Could it be that 60% of the hits that were successful was due to hits to the vital organs? Who knows, Ellijah study doesn’t have the details at this level.

Double Action
Another thing to note is that most .22 pocket guns are double action. The trigger pull is heavy, they tend to be more so than the centerfire pistols. The rimfire pistols primer needs more force to ensure a reliable ignition. Having said all that we shouldn’t disregard the .22 altogether.

Maybe its for the Advanced Shooter
The .22 caliber pistol actually can benefit the more proficient shooters. Some of the benefits is that the ammo is cheap, You can a run through a box of 50 for a few bucks. If you were to practice with it more often than the standard size handguns, you can outperform against it terms of speed and accuracy at close range. (within 7 yards)
Far too often most gun enthusiasts practice more with their standard size handguns. The thinking is that this is their preferred pistol to shoot with not for personal defense. If they own a pocket size gun then this gun usually does not get as much range time.
Now with a .22 pistol if they shoot it more often, this can be funner and become more proficient with it. Will this change your mind to rely on the .22 pistol for personal defense? Some gun folks may and probably many won’t, depending on who you ask.

.22 Magnum – More Umph
For the loyal .22 fans the answer for some more umph to your load is the .22 Magnum. Yes, its what we all been waiting for. Shooting it from a two inch barrel is quite loud, the recoil is a little more than a .22LR but still easily manageable. Failure to fire at times does still exist with the .22 Magnum. (light primer strike)
Many gun nuts know to slighly remedy this by installing a heavier spring, but the trigger pull is now at between 12 to 15 pounds. Yeh, more so than the standard .38 Special. So if this doesn’t deter you from not investing in a .22 pocket pistol, lets move on to some decent loads that are specifically for personal defense. You’ll also see some velocity, penetration and expansion info results from the ballistic gel.

.22 Magnum Loads
Speer Gold Dot 40 grain – 1105 ft/second – penetration=13 inches – some expansion
CCI Maxi-Mag Hollow Points 40 grain – 1089 ft/second – penetration=15 inches – no expansion
Hornady FTX 45 grain – 1105 ft/second – penetration=11″, 12 inches – some expansion


With these decent penetration capabilities these .22 loads can carry its weight when you hardly notice the recoil. Before we forget take a look at these .22 pocket pistols.

S&W J-Frame

Ruger LCR

S&W 351 C – These last two revolvers are considered the lightest in the market – weight 11.2 – 11.5 ounces

S&W 351 PD – weight 11.2 – 11.5 ounces

What do you all think? Do you carry a .22 Magnum Pocket Pistol? Let us know of your experience.



Load tests conducted by Lucky Gunner
February 12th, 2019 by