When I was but a wee lad, my family would gather each fall for the annual sight-in of their various hunting rifles. I would pick up their empty brass cartridge cases and dream of the day I would have my own big time thunderstick. Uncle Mick had a Ruger Single Six .22 handgun that he seemed to always bring along just for me to plink around with. He never cut me loose with it alone, but with close personal supervision, I was allowed to shoot a few rounds at a tin can to get some practice in. I was hooked.
In the years since then, I have owned several handguns in many different calibers. The most fun and possibly useful of those have all been in .22 LR caliber. Allow me to make my case.
First of all, a funny fact about handguns is that they will teach you your mistakes as a rifleman, for every little mistake is amplified by the absence of several pounds of long barrel and a stock. I know several expert riflemen that couldn’t hit the proverbial barn’s broadside where it comes to handguns. It truly is a discipline unto itself. Just as most shooters start with a .22 rifle to learn the fundamentals of rifle shooting, it’s only logical to do so when starting out with a handgun. Low recoil and cheap ammunition make for more practice; more practice makes a better marksman. Ammunition can be purchased nearly anywhere and in a legion of different styles tailored to the various needs and uses thereof.
Secondly, from a purely utilitarian point of view, one cannot beat a .22 handgun. With quality ammunition, accuracy is superb and adequately powerful for use on small game. The handiness of a small-bore pistol lends to its ease of carry, and a handgun on your hip in rattlesnake, badger and coyote country serves much more good than a rifle back at the truck. When grouse season opens up, you could bring along a .22 handgun for when you find yourself in need of camp meat. And a .22 isn’t exactly bupkes in defense of one’s self against two-legged varmints either.
I am not suggesting that it is perfect for bears and the like, far from it. The .22 Long Rifle cartridge has its limitations. As your skill with a handgun grows, it’s only logical to upgrade as needed or desired. To hunt big or dangerous game with any handgun can be very ill-advised, in my humble opinion. Yet, if I was forced to do so, a .22 handgun would likely be the last one I would choose. My .22 handguns see employ only within the confines of their proper bailiwick.
I am partial to the models with 6-inch barrels. Even though they are a bit more awkward for convenient carry than the 4-inch barrel models, they tend to balance better for both offhand and field positions. Although the quality of certain discontinued models such as the Colt Woodsman or High Standard Sport King is tough to beat, the Ruger Mark III and Browning Buckmark are fine products. Though a good revolver will suffice, I have come to prefer the feel, accuracy and, admittedly, the magazine capacity and fast follow-up shots of the autoloaders over the various “wheel guns,” although I have owned and used both extensively with great results.
If you’re considering a handgun purchase for whatever reason, I strongly advise you look into a quality .22-caliber handgun. Besides being extremely useful, they’re a barrel of fun.
Have a favorite .22 pistol you like to brag on? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell it how it is!
Dale Valade is a local country gent with a deep love for handloading, hunting and shooting.