Reader JohnO asks the question:
I just finished reading “Vengeance” about the Israelis’ revenge operation for the Munich Olympic massacres. One aspect that piqued my interest was the agents’ use of a .22 for close combat fire. I found myself reading the eliminations via the .22 and thinking, “Kim duT would never approve”. But it seemed effective for the operation. So what’s your opinion on this? I mean, I already ditched my Glock 19 9mm in favor of a Springfield 1911 and a Walther PPQ both in .45 based. Is the .22 a viable self defense calibre?
Now, is a .22 a better self-defense weapon than a Whiffle bat or a rolling pin? Of course, but as a self-defense caliber, it falls far behind pretty much all the larger ones. Would I like to be shot with a .22? Of course not; but I’d far rather be struck in, say, the leg or arm by a .22 than by a .357 Mag or a .45 bullet from your 1911.
All that said: the .22 LR cartridge is a nigh-perfect assassin’s caliber. At any distance under twenty feet and especially at very close ranges, a head shot with a .22 bullet — properly placed, as opposed to a glancing blow — will generally result in instant death: the little boolet will penetrate the skull easily, and then pretty much bounce around inside the cranium, turning brain tissue into something resembling rice pudding, functionally speaking. (In passing, I should note that when my Dad lived on the farm, they used a .22 rifle to slaughter cattle — a close-range single shot into the animal’s skull had the above result, every single time: drop, a couple of kicks, and then game over.)
The .22 has a couple of other advantages for the assassin: in a silenced semi-auto pistol, the noise is negligible compared to a shot from a 1911, for example (a “silencer” doesn’t do much to attenuate the blast from a larger caliber); and using a .22 revolver means that you don’t have to bother about leaving expended cartridge cases bouncing around the room as clues for the investigators. Likewise, it’s easier to conceal a .22-sized handgun about your person than a large-frame revolver or semi-auto pistol. Using even a 9mm pistol shooting subsonic rounds requires a longer moderator to achieve the same degree of noise reduction as a much-shorter .22 moderator, so even a silenced .22 pistol is less bulky and more concealable.
And it’s in that capacity that the Mossad agents used .22 pistols, with excellent results, rather than as self-defense weapons. Certainly, the end result seemed satisfactory to all except the deceased terrorists.