Same Old Question, Different Time — The Rimfires

New Reader Wally T. asks me the perennial question:

“What do you consider a minimum number of guns for home- and self defense for me and my wife, and which guns would you recommend?”

I remember vaguely doing one or two posts on this very topic many years ago, but as the title of this one suggests, times are different so maybe, just maybe, ’tis time to revisit the question. (Wally included a couple of personal details about his family which are not relevant to the topic except that his wife hates heavy-recoiling firearms — won’t even touch them, in fact — so whatever I suggest should take that into account.) So here goes. This post will deal with the must-have rimfire (.22 Long Rifle) guns; the other options will follow in later posts.

1a.) .22 Rifle:
As Longtime Readers know, I have always considered a .22 rifle to be not a gun, but a household item like a frying pan or microwave oven — i.e. every home should have one — and .22 ammo is a household commodity like flour, sugar or salt. If you are starting from scratch in your home defense equipment, do not think the little .22 rifle is inadequate. Certainly, if your house is outside a town and therefore prone to critter invasions, a .22 rifle is a must — and if it can be fired rapidly (e.g. a semi-automatic or pump-action), that’s even better. Ditto home defense: even the most hardened goblin is going to change his plans if you or your wife has just popped two or three .22 bullets into his midsection. Here’s the thing: he may not die immediately after being thus shot (as opposed to getting a 12-gauge blast to the chest), but make no mistake about it, without immediate medical attention or else astounding luck, he will die from three rounds of .22 in his body. The .22 rifle is not the optimal home defense weapon, but if there’s nothing else, it’s far better than a baseball bat or tennis racket.
My recommendation for a .22 rifle is either a magazine-fed semi-auto like the Ruger 10/22, tube-fed rifle like the Marlin Model 60, or else a pump-action rifle like the Henry:


The first two collectively have sold more than any other two guns on the planet, and the third should be equally as popular, but isn’t (it’s kinda spendy, but that’s quality for you).

And seeing as you’ve just bought 5,000 rounds of .22 Long Rifle ammo (you have, haven’t you?), you might as well get the next must-have item.

1b.) .22 Semi-Auto Pistol or Double-Action Revolver:
The nice thing about a little .22 handgun is that it’s handy [sic], especially if your wife is proficient in its use, because it’s light,  has no recoil to speak of, and like the .22 rifle, can serve as a back-up self-defense option. Again, a goblin coming into your bedroom will change his plans when hit in the face with a couple rounds of .22 Long Rifle fired by your wife while you’re getting your bedside gun (see a later post) out of the drawer.
A compelling reason to have both a .22 rifle and a .22 handgun is that they are fun — and also good practice tools if you can’t afford to spend gobs of money on self-defense ammo. I leave it to personal choice as to whether you get a pistol or revolver, although I lean towards the semi-auto.
My recommendations for a pistol and revolver are either the Ruger Mk IV (see here as to why it’s my top pick), Browning Buckmark URX Standard (better trigger), and for a double-action revolver, the S&W Model 63 (because of its 8-round cylinder capacity):

And just so we’re all clear on this: these recommendations are not comprehensive, nor are they definitive. There are hundreds of choices out there that can fill these two slots quite adequately, and as with all things, personal choice, price and preference (how it “feels” in the hand or in the shoulder) should be the principal part of of your final decision. Here, for example, is my Ruger Mk IV, in the 22/45 configuration:

I would humbly suggest, however, that none of the above recommendations will disappoint.

Next: home defense shotguns.

Please note:
There is a recall notice for all Ruger Mk IV pistols with serial numbers lower than 50xxxx




  1. Great recommendations on the .22lr’s, but if someone wanted to step up to a rifle with a little more punch, I say look at an AR15. I know you hate the AR15 and the 5.56 poodleshooter, but for a recoil sensitive person, you get a platform that is adaptable to many people of various sizes, is relatively light weight, and has negligible recoil.

      1. When you do that post, take a look at the 300 Blackout. I have been tinkering with them for a few years and am very pleased. The ability to swap from 110 grn high velocity loads to 200+ grn subsonics with nothing more than a magazine change makes it very versatile.

  2. The .22 rifle and pistol are great guns to start out with and in my old age .22’s are great guns to finish with. In my 70’s my competition shooting is Steel Challenge with .22 LR pistol and rifle and I can afford to practice a lot. I still shoot some 9mm and .45 ACP every month or two but I try to shoot .22 four time a month. I shoot skeet three or four time a month with 20 ga. because I don’t like recoil as much as I used to.

    Teaching a person good technique with .22’s allows them to work on accuracy and speed without developing a flinch and once they have the basics it is easy to move on up to a 9mm semi-auto or .38 Special revolver. In old age on a fixed income .22 LR allows me to do a lot of shooting and I can save some of my other stuff like .556 I might have on hand.

    1. Kim, do you see any appreciable difference in the Ruger 22/45 MK III versus the IV?

      I’ve got a three, set up as a race gun for Steel Challenge:

      And I just got a Ruger 10/22 with a stainless barrel and a stack of 25rd mags, to go with my Marlin and Remington .22s. The Marlin is a boltie, and the Remmy is semi. And, of course, the requisite 10,000 rounds….

  3. “What do you consider a minimum number of guns for home- and self-defense”

    One or two more. 🙂

  4. My recommendations might be a bit different, but I can’t disagree with the principle.

    One headache we have these days is a shortage of mid-grade .22s. It’s pinker-grade, or Olympic grade. Nothing like a High Standard in between.

    1. There are some decent .22 semi-autos between $350 and $450 that work well with a red dot for some shooters. I bought a real clean, nice bore, 40 year old High Standard this past year and had a gunsmith rework the springs and I use it in competition shooting steel. I like the size and shape of that great old gun with iron sights and in my 70’s I will never keep up with the younger folks in their 40’s and 50’s. One thing I might add is that lots of .22 are ammo sensitive and one brand will perform much better than another.

  5. I’m glad you are revisiting this topic for a new era. My 76 year old mother, who originally got the 5th CCW issued in our state 25 years ago, can no longer handle her .38 snubbie. So, I bought her a .22LR snubbie. She is wicked accurate with it and 9 rounds of .22LR in the gut will make any goblin think twice.

  6. 22’s are good starters. And the Taurus version of the bob cat should make any vermin thing again. easy to lose in a pocket unless you are wearing skin tight jeans for some un holy reason.

    I must like them as I think I have an even dozen of them in rifles and pistols. maybe more. Should count them someday.

  7. My thinking has always been if you’re only going to have one .22 rifle, at least have a .22 Magnum. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive than LR, but it’s also significantly better at everything you’d want a small rimfire rifle to accomplish.

    Plus, the Savage A22 is a cheap and cheerful rifle in said chambering.

    1. The problem with the .22 WMR is not the cost of the gun, but the ammo. It’s cheaper in some cases to practice with .45 ACP, and much cheaper with 9mm. It pains me, because I think the .22 Mag is one of the greatest cartridges ever developed, but you might as well shoot the .22 Hornet, price-wise.

      1. I’m paying 20 cents a round for WMR, which isn’t THAT terrible. Yes, if you’re popping off several thousand rounds a weekend, that will sting a bit versus LR, but in the context of a single .22 rifle in a household, I’d say it’s fairly reasonable cost-wise.

  8. 22 mag is good. Have popped many a rabbit at 100 yards on a moonlit night with one. cheap to shoot not so much. course with all the hoopla of the last few years you could always find 22 wmr.

  9. A Ruger 10/22 has served me fantastically well for many years despite being the recipient of a number of 50 round Ramline magazine dumps back when .22 was $0.79 for 50. It currently has a fiberglass sporter stock with a cheek riser, a heavy barrel, and a modest 3×9 scope.

    Although its not an ideal ‘only’ .22 rifle, I still have my very first gun, a Sears Ted Williams (Ithaca Model 49) single shot rifle. Looks like a lever gun, but the lever drops the breechblock rather like a Martini action, and the hammer has to be cocked by hand. It was the ideal gun to learn on, surprisingly accurate given the primitive sights… and my Dad gave it to me one Christmas.

    My Dad had an H&R Sportsman 9-shot top break revolver that was our first handgun to shoot. I have a Ruger semi-auto of my own but still miss that revolver. Unfortunately it was stolen.

    1. My wife and I have 10/22s and love them. I haven’t had as much luck finding extended mags that work well in them.

  10. If one is really broke, one can usually find any number of old, tube fed .22lr semiauto rifles for $150 and under. Usually in the bargain rack.

    Cheap and good .22lr pistols are a lot harder to find. One will need to hit a few gun shops, and keep an eye out for horrible looking old guns that are mechanically still good. Beware, a lot of .22 versions of “real” guns are made from pot metal.

  11. Wow. I must be doing something right . . . I’m hitting .667 here. I recently acquired a Buckmark with the 5 1/2 inch heavy target barrel. That gun on its very worst day is far more accurate than I ever will be on my very best day. I also had a Mark-III but sold it. It didn’t fit my hand so well, and the Ruger Lawyer Two-step was a pain. I also own a Marlin 60. That’s a FUN little rifle, especially at 75 or 100 yards now that I have a somewhat decent piece of glass on it.

    For anyone reading this who has any form of tube-magazine rifle, I strongly suggest one of these:

    I don’t recall where I bought mine, but, I go to the range with 120 rounds at the ready !! I might just buy a second one. And before anyone asks, no, I don’t have any interest in the company. None. I also am no great fan of Midway. They have some silly policies about shipping because they’re afraid of the likes of Lisa Madigan here in IL. Pikers.

    And Kim, given that you have an upcoming post on ARs, I’ll be paying close attention as I have a stripped AR lower that will be the basis for a future build. I’ll probably build out the lower myself but buy a complete upper assembly.


    – Brad

  12. For a good, first .22 handgun, don’t forget the cowboy guns made by Heritage Arms. I have nothing but good things to say about mine.

  13. Curious about opinions here.

    I’m going to pick up a .22 rifle for plinking and varminting. I’ve always been a lever-gun fan. I just think they’re cool.

    Any strong opinions (either way) on the Henry .22 lever action?

    1. The Henry has a nice, smooth action. Pretty accurate too. I don’t measure distances, just put small fragments of shot up clays out, and I can hit them from a good distance most of the time. And, it’s the quintessential American rifle whether made by Winchester, Marlin, or Henry….

  14. Hey Guys! Glad to see Kim back in action.

    I bought a .22 LCR. Other than the heavy DA trigger (all .22 rimfires have heavy DA triggers, at least this one is smooth as glass), I enjoy shooting it. A .22 revolver has a place in your battery because you can shoot so many different kinds of ammo. And though the .22 ammo supply is getting better, it is still overpriced and the quality control on some of it (Remington in particular) leaves a lot to be desired, I had TWO squibs in one pack. I have never had one before in almost 40 years of shooting.

  15. *scribbles notes furiously*

    I’ve got a mini 14 (incredible gift from awesome Dad) and I’ve got my eye on a Kimber Stainless II in .45 acp as a late “first handgun” birthday present. But I’m going to need to round things out and, now that I’m no longer living in The Land of No (having emigrated from NY to TN) I’ve got some buyin’ ta do.

  16. I agree that 22s are fun and practical, having been shooting them almost literally all my life; however, HD requires a bigger punch combined with easy handling for the lady folk. That’s why we stock 9mms in the ultra reliable but mundane Springfield XD format. Never jams, handles all ammo.

    Also, when the Zombie Apocalypse occurs I figure I’ll be able to take 9mm ammo off the unlucky dead. Same reason I favor AKs.

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