Concealed Carry - with a .22LR?

There are so many options - there are so many things to consider when choosing a carry firearm. Many would suggest that "bigger is better" but there are also arguments to be made for smaller calibers…

Let's get some stuff out of the way here -- I'm not an expert, I'm not an instructor. I'm an "average Joe" enthusiast / recreational shooter. I'm not trying to change minds -- I'm just suggesting an open one.

A bit of back-story as to how I came to purchase a Smith & Wesson M&P22 pistol --

I took my daughter shooting for the first time not long ago. A Remington VTR597 "Tactical" 22LR rifle -- Basically, a 22 rifle with a AR/M4-type collapsible stock and quad-rail with a 4x scope. Day 1, one of those metal "flipper" plinking targets. She was missing just about everything. I adjusted the scope (my bad - It was out a bit) and she was consistently hitting the marks. A misfire or two, a bad feed (I was burning some pretty old ammo, as I don't shoot 22LR often), but all in all a nice time and a nice "bonding" thing with the kid - Something I have too few of to be sure.

I didn't want to push it, so she may have put 40 or 50 rounds downrange and we split. We weren't in the car for 5 minutes when she was asking about when we could do it again. Day 2 (a couple days later) I put up some target cards at 25 yards and she absolutely tore 'em up. The worst shot was on the line between the 8 and 9 ring. She again had a misfire where she did exactly what I told her to do days before (just wait - keep it pointed downrange) and then 're-racked' and kept plinking. Then a misfeed -- "It's okay, I got it" she said - And she did. Loaded up her own mags, probably went through 250 rounds. It was one of those moments that should've happened on Father's Day.

Anyway - I'm thinking "Boy, I'd like to see what she can do with a pistol one of these days…" But not my Beretta 92FS, certainly not my Taurus .357 Magnum, etc. So, I eventually wound up looking for a 22LR pistol. Thought the M&P22 just "felt nice" - It was comfy even in my hands, light, "full-size" but not "big" like the 92 or a 1911.

As of this moment, she still hasn't - geez, I don't even know if she's seen it, much less fired it… Anyway - I took the M&P22 to the range one afternoon and put somewhere around 400 rounds through it. One misfire (failure to fire) on the old ammo (which is now gone), 325 rounds of Winchester 36HP, a bunch of CCI "Mini-Mag" stuff (the 36-grain HP "Varmint" rounds seemed exceptionally happy spinning out of the barrel).

Something I noticed right away - I have some tendonitis in my arms, both shoulders are "in need of minor repair" - but nothing hurt. Usually after 100 rounds through the Beretta, I'm just about done. I lost track of time putting rounds downrange with the M&P22. I just plain loved it. The other thing is that "natural aim" that some people develop -- Looking "through" the weapon - "Instinctive aim" and those sorts of buzzwords. I've never had it before. With the M&P, I wasn't looking "through the sights" -- I was concentrating on the target - and hitting it - accurately - repeatedly. I wasn't trying for bullseyes - I was trying to consistently hit the paper "somewhere near the center" quickly. It was fun and it was cheap (at 7 cents a round for the "really good" stuff and around 3-4 cents for the bulk stuff) and it felt really, really good to do.

But this isn't a commercial for the M&P22…

Fast forward a bit -- I recently attended training for the Utah and Florida CCW permits. I knew I had to shoot to qualify and my shoulders were killing me when I woke up that morning. So, I decided to just take the M&P instead of my Beretta. During the course, the instructor asked at one point "Does anyone intend to use a .22 as a carry firearm?" A lone voice (myself) said "Possibly…?" and a few others seemed to quietly chime in. He mentioned that he probably wouldn't want to bet his life on a .22 - and I can understand and respect that. Most of the people I know who carry .22 are elderly, some are "smaller" types, ladies, mobility-impaired and what not. The stunningly reduced recoil of a .22LR pistol is great if you're not comfortable handling larger calibers. And I've personally found that when you want to put lots of rounds downrange without your tendonitis or semi-shredded rotator cuffs acting up, they're just wonderful. And just plain fun. There's nothing wrong with that either…

Not that I'm uncomfortable handling larger calibers… I rather enjoy the hand-cannon .357 revolver. And my "desert island" pistol is my Beretta. But as I mentioned before, I'm not a great shot with a handgun... Sure, I practice when I can. But I typically need to line up the sights with "purpose" - I need to concentrate on it. I'll have a pretty decent group if I take a couple seconds between shots under controlled circumstances. But with the .22, I'm completely different. As you'd expect, actually -- More accurate -- Faster -- More confident.

Let me sidenote for a minute here… Every once in a while, at this wonderful outdoor range in northern Wisconsin, I have the chance to "let loose" a bit -- Every-so-slightly more "real-world" if you will -- No ear plugs or cans, drawing from a holster, shooting while walking forward, backward, sideways, etc.

If you've never shot a 9mm or .357 (or any typical center-fire handgun load) without your cans on, it can be absolutely stunning to the senses. That "thud" you hear with your plugs in is a mind-numbing "POP" in open air. The first time I put a magazine through without plugs, I was so taken aback by the noise that I could hardly concentrate on the target. Take into consideration the lowly .22LR which sounds like a firecracker by comparison. In a high-stress situation, when adrenaline is pumping like it's never pumped before, the last thing you need is to freak out because of a loud noise. End sidenote.

Now I'd hope that it goes without saying that if you're carrying for safety in an area with large wildlife - bear, wolf, etc., a .22LR probably isn't going to be what you're looking for. But in "real world" circumstances -- In the vast majority of situations where a firearm is presented, there are no shots fired. And in my view, if the horrible situation should ever arise where the trigger needs to be pulled, reacquisition of the target is the second most important thing there is.

I've done the "5-rounds-in-10-seconds" thing more times than I can remember. With my .357 revolver, the goal was to be "in the rings" at 7 yards (that's a 9.5" circle -- Inside the '5' ring). With the 9mm Beretta, "in the black" (5.5" -- Inside the '7' ring). During qualification for the Florida permit (there is no time limit and no score for accuracy) with the M&P22, the first shot was a bullseye. The second just to the left in the '9' ring. Overcorrected and hit the right side of the '9' ring on the third. Bullseye on the fourth, at which point I was thinking "Wow!" and totally messed up the fifth shot, hitting the '8' ring. A 2.25" group - And I took those shots in three seconds - while "instinct" aiming (a.k.a. "point" or "threat-focused" shooting) the last four shots.

I'm sure many shooters are saying "BFD - I could do that with my .38 Special any day" -- And that's great - Really! And I will continue to try to develop those sorts of skills myself. But for now, I have to say that I'm a bit torn between "stopping power" and just sheer comfort and confidence.

Up until recently, I never would have considered suggesting a .22 as a personal defense weapon. After a few trips to the range, along with that "qualification" group, I'm having a hard time arguing against it.

The final decision? It's personal. And personally, I hope I never, ever have to show anyone (keeping in mind that choice could be different from day to day as well). You have to make your own choice. And although I'm still not convinced that a .22 would ever be the "everyday" pick for me, I would most definitely submit that it's far and away better than nothing at all -- And whatever weapon fits you and your "comfort zone" will always be the right choice.