Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report. In this ongoing series we discover, review, and discuss anything and everything surrounding the rimfire firearm world. This week we’ll be taking a look at the top 3 best 22LR pocket CCW pistols.
The Rimfire Report: The 3 Best 22LR Pocket Concealed Carry Options
Normally 22LR isn’t a caliber you see a lot in the concealed carry world and for two main reasons. The first main reason is perceived reliability and to some extent it is true – cheap bulk produced 22LR ammunition can be quite unreliable – especially in semi-auto handguns.
The second main reason is the effect it has on its target. While there is no doubting this metric when comparing it to other calibers there is, however, hard evidence that shows that 22LR isn’t incapable of incapacitating a target. Greg Ellifritz did an exhaustive deep dive into the “stopping power” metrics for various calibers of ammunition and found that 22LR is almost as reliable at dropping a target as some of the other most commonly carried ammunition and in some cases, more reliable.
One major caveat I’ll put out there before we get started in the list is that I’d much rather be equipped with a larger caliber gun in almost any circumstance. Unless it is absolutely necessary you’ll find me carrying a compact or subcompact 9mm but when all else fails I will carry a 22LR subcompact – sometimes this may be your only option and when it comes to a life-saving device, any gun is better than no gun. Let’s get on to the list.
#1 Ruger LCP II
Ruger recently released this pistol back in December of 2020. The LCP II in 22LR is nearly identical to its 380 ACP counterpart and thus, squarely places the 22LR version in the pocket pistol category. I have a full review of the LCP II 22LR here. Since then I decided to actually buy the pistol and the more I shoot it the more I love it.
The LCP II has been one of the most reliable 22LR pistols I’ve owned and when directly compared to my MK IV pistol I use for target shooting and competition they are just as reliable as one another when using the same ammunition.
To date, I have in excess of 1,500 rounds through the pistol with most of those being CCI mini mags. Bulk pack ammunition such as Remmington Thunderbolt and Winchester bulk doesn’t seem to feed or run well in it. For practice, I found that CCI standard velocity is 100% reliable and I have yet to have any sort of major malfunctions with that ammunition.
As with any semi-auto 22LR pistol, the main drawback here is that you’ll need to be intimately familiar with how to clear any malfunctions. Even though you can nearly eliminate any malfunctions by carrying high-quality ammunition, it’s best to always be prepared to clear a jam or failure to fire (FTF).
The LCP II does have a somewhat major drawback in the sights department but this can be mitigated by using some phosphorescent sight paint.
#2 Smith & Wesson Model 43C
Really these top two spots should occupy one space as I consider them to both to be the best in their respective categories (revolver vs semi-auto). However, I have a personal preference for the LCP II so it got the number one spot – deal with it.
The Smith and Wesson Model 43C is an 8 Shot 22LR J-Frame Revolver that has some great attributes that make it the top contender for pocket-sized 22LR pistols. First, the 43C is extremely lightweight. It’s all stainless steel construction puts it at just 11.8 oz – only half an ounce heavier than the half-polymer Ruger LCP II.
The major advantage the Model 43C has is its status as a revolver. This helps both in the peace of mind when carrying as well as convenience while at the range. Since it is a Double Action only revolver any failures to fire can be automatically skipped by simply pulling the trigger again – no need to manually clear the malfunction. The downside is that the trigger pull for the 43C weighs in right around 12 lbs.
If you can overcome the 12lb trigger pull you’ll be in business as the experience transfers to any other DAO or DA/SA revolvers regardless of caliber. If I was going to carry a 22LR revolver for self-defense – this one would be it.
The 43C comes with the best sights out of the three pistols but also has the shortest barrel of all three of them being just a smidge under 2″. The 43C comes standard with a fixed U-notch rear sight and an XS Sights white dot front sight.
#3 Beretta 21A Bobcat
Finally, we have the Beretta 21A Bobcat. This 7+1 semi-auto 22LR pistol has been around for quite some time. First introduced in 1984 the little pistol hasn’t seen much in the way of improvements over the years. However, at SHOT Show 2020 Beretta announced that it would be making a threaded barrel version of the Bobcat.
Out of these top three, the Bobcat is the most ergonomic – at least for me. This is mostly due to the large rear palm swell like you’d find on the 92FS. This gives you a great purchase on the tiny little gun. Perhaps the worst part about the Bobcat is its slide.
The unique design of the barrel and slide allows you to flip up the rear of the barrel to load the first round without racking the slide. The slide itself doesn’t have the raised slide ears of the LCP II and doesn’t have much in the way of slide serrations aside from the small 1/4″ by 2″ sections near the bottom-rear of the slide.
The Bobcat more than makes up for this drawback by being one of the more reliable semi-auto pistols with just about any ammunition. A personal friend of mine owns one and it’s always fun to shoot and will even feed and cycle the cheapest ammo I have – Monarch brand 36-grain hollow points. The sights on the Bobcat are similar to the 43C but without the white dot front sight which is replaced by a fixed blade front sight.
Conclusions – Is a 22LR better than No gun at all?
I don’t personally believe there is ever an inappropriate time to be carrying a gun. Even when donning clothing that doesn’t lend itself well to concealability, I’ll still manage to find a way to carry a gun just in case. Smaller, less than lethal options may be easier to conceal and won’t draw as much attention if discovered but do you really want to put your life on the line with pepper spray or a small knife?
These are just three of my top options when it comes to pocket-sized 22LR concealed carry pistols. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and comments. What would you recommend carrying in the 22LR caliber? Looking forward to your comments – thanks once again for stopping by to The Rimfire Report!
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