The Self-Defense .22 Magnum Ammunition

Cutting-edge defensive ammo loads gives this rimfire a new personal-protection role!

A variety of bullet weights and styles are available for the .22 Mag; (left to right) Speer’s 40-gr. Gold Dot HP, CCI’s 30-g. JHP, Winchester’s 40-gr. JHP, Winchester’s 45-gr. Dynapoint, CCI’s 30-gr. V-Max, Remington’s 33-gr. Accutip-V, Hornady’s 30-gr. V-Max, and Winchester’s 40-gr. FMJ.

In January of this year, Speer announced the release of a new addition to their Gold Dot Short Barrel Personal Protection ammunition line. But being a .22 Magnum, it’s not a cartridge most would have expected to see with a self-defense-label on the box. Yet Speer is one of several companies preparing .22 Mag loads earmarked for the self-defense market, and this sudden advent of defensive grade .22 Mag begs an important question: Do pistols chambered for .22 Mag make sense for self-defense?

With its 7-shot cylinder and unloaded weight of just 10.8 ounces, the Smith & Wesson 351PD is a reliable, lightweight, low-recoil, self-defense option when fed with proper .22 Mag ammo.

Cartridge History
Often referred to as the only successful rimfire cartridge of the 20th century, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rifle (WMR) was introduced to the shooting market by Winchester in 1959. It was designed as an improvement to the older .22 Winchester Rimfire (WRF). Though originally intended for use in rifles by small game hunters, it soon found its way into handguns.

The .22 Mag is regularly compared to its smaller and more popular cousin, the .22 Long Rifle (LR). Though both are rimfire cartridges, the .22 Mag has a longer case, thicker case walls, and a larger bullet diameter that produces much higher levels of pressure than the .22 LR. The original 40-grain bullets traveled at over 2,000 feet per second (fps) from rifle barrels. As a result, it has more energy at 100 yards than a .22 LR does at the muzzle.

At 13.6 ounces unloaded, the Kel-Tec PMR-30 is a lightweight autopistol boasting 30+1 firepower of .22 Mag. Sean Utley Photo

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  • bigtoad45 .

    I am older and suffer from cervical stenosis. I have had surgery on both hands. I cannot shoot 12 gauge or even 20 gauge shotguns any more. I have trouble keeping a pistol steady enough. I opted for a couple of Henry .22 magnum lever action rifles. Holds 11 rounds and cycles smoothly. The lever works well with my hands. Pressed against my shoulder it is rock steady. If you don’t get total penetration, the .22 magnum has a nasty habit of bouncing off bone and rattling around inside a bit. I read an article of a young man who was shot with a .22 magnum revolver at close range. The bullet bounced around inside of him and eventually broke his spine. Left him in a wheelchair for life. I live in an apartment building and cannot afford to blow holes through 16 apartment walls and endanger my neighbors. I am very happy with my choice. Most folks will tell you that bigger is better and in a lot of circumstances that would be true. I had to find something that fit my situation and believe I have done just that. I can empty 11 aimed shots within short order. I practice within my apartment (empty firearm) and have found that retreating to a semi covered position and waiting suits me the best. That way I would be able to get the first shot off if required.

  • Randy Hamiton

    Anyone I hit in the head with a .22 Magnum V-Max bullet @1450 fps at 15 feet out of my NAA Multi-Master 4″ barrel will be just as dead as if it was a .45ACP – he won’t even know the difference. At 10-15 feet, the human brain is not that tough a target with an accurate gun like this. Does half dollar sized groups at 30 feet. But with this tiny gun, I can be dressed nicely and it will be totally invisible in my ankle holster even for someone looking closely. Plus I’ll be a heck of a lot more comfortable sitting down for dinner or drinks than if I had a 9mm compact under my arse or down my pants. This gun trumps any three 45s that you left home or in your glove box.

  • Mc Dowell

    I go by the adage: “If you can’t carry a gun, then carry a gun.” Basically that means if the gun is too big or powerful for your small body and hands, then carrying any type of gun is permissible than no gun. I do have a .32 Beretta Tomcat that I carry sometime. Although the .32 is small, it’s heavy and I feel the pull of it. It’s terrible to be a small guy. But in a mall shooting I’d make a smaller target, so it’s a trade off. Also “a pocket pistol in your pocket, is better that the .50 caliber handgun at home.”

    The rounds I use for my tiny .22 long rife revolver and .22 magnum revolver are Hornady critical defense rounds, 45 grain.

  • Mc Dowell

    I carry a NAA .22 magnum Black Widow. I’m only 5’2″, 130 pounds, so it’s the only one I can carry comfortably and one I believe in. I carry a gun just for one reason—self defense. My objective is just to retard the attacker’s advancement towards me. The .22 magnum would do that very well. With the new critical defense ammo, penetrating the gut as deep as a .380 round and expanding the flower head of the hollow point to the max, is good enough to slow the biggest guy down. After that, I have four more rounds for more permanent damage. The first .22 magnum round out of the barrel does not need to kill him, just slow or stop him from advancing.

  • JOE


  • General Jim M

    22 mags and 22lr have killed many people,just ask professional assassins.

  • Richard Valley

    You left out the most significant .22 Win Magnum round on the market, the one I use exclusively. Federal makes a 50-grain JHP bullet (Load #757) and it is a very impressive round, both at the range and in the field. I fire it out of a Taurus 941 revolver with a 4″ barrel, and it’s a ton of fun – goes Bang but with no recoil.

    Specs include a 50-gr hollow-point bullet in front of 3.24 grains of powder, with a muzzle velocity of 1,530 fps and muzzle energy of 260 ft-lbs.

    The Houston gun shows sell 50-round boxes for under $12. Check it out at