We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›
Published Aug 2, 2023 11:00 AM
For the general outdoorsman, there may be no better gun than a .22 pistol. It is easy to pack and perfect for plinking, training, competition shooting, small game hunting, and even survival. It’s almost unfathomable how a true outdoorsman can exist without a .22 pistol. Need to whack a skunk prowling around camp? Get your .22 pistol. Need to pop a grouse for camp meat? Get your .22 pistol. And if you need to teach your youngsters how to shoot? You most certainly need your .22 pistol. It is truly the total outdoorsman handgun. And here are six of the best .22 pistols currently on the market.
How We Picked the Best .22 Pistols
It’s hard to declare a single .22 pistol as the best because they come in various configurations and are designed for different purposes. The primary appeal of .22 pistols is general purpose application, and those criteria—tempered with price—are what I used to select the best. Choosing the most accurate .22 pistol or the one that offers the best value is a bit easier. They’re the pistols that either shot the best or that performed well for the least amount of money. Of course, other things were considered too:
- Quality of Construction: What is the quality of the fit and finish, and how well does the pistol stand up to repeated use?
- Precision: Often thought of as accuracy, the shooting precision of a firearm is the measure of the dispersion of shots fired at the same point of aim. In other words, how well did the pistol shoot?
- Reliability: Out of a pistol, .22 LR ammunition muzzle velocities can range from as slow as 700 fps to as much as twice that. Because of this, .22 pistol reliability is often dependent on ammunition and sometimes impacted by how clean the pistol is kept. This was considered when evaluating reliability.
- Application: There are many accepted uses for a .22 pistol, and you cannot compare one designed for plinking with one designed for competition shooting. That’s why this list is so diverse.
- Cost: For most of us, money matters too. The cost of the pistol as it related to everything else was considered too. In other words, given its performance, was the pistol worth the money?
Best 22 Pistols: Reviews & Recommendations
- Length: 7 inches
- Weight: 17.1 ounces
- Barrel: 4 inches with an optional threaded adapter
- Capacity: 20+1
- High capacity magazine
- Optics ready
- Suppressor ready
- Magazines are a bit tedious to load
We tested the Sig Sauer P322 extensively during our 2022 handgun test, where we ranked it second best and as the most fun to shoot. But I liked the pistol so much I kept it, and since then, I’ve used it a lot and think it should have been ranked number one. It comes with fiber optic front and rear sights, but the rear sight is removable, and a mini-reflex sight can be installed. It also comes with a curved and straight trigger that you can easily interchange. There’s an accessory rail for the attachment of a light or a laser, and the manual safety and slide lock are both ambidextrous.
Plus, it ships with two 20-round magazines, which also makes this the highest capacity .22 pistol currently manufactured. While this pistol looks like a striker-fired handgun, it’s actually a single action—the hammer is hidden inside the slide.
Best Value: Kel Tec P17
- Length: 6.7 inches
- Weight: 11.5 ounces
- Barrel: 3.8 inches
- Capacity: 16+1
- Very affordable
- Extremely lightweight
- Comes with three magazines
- Requires high-velocity ammunition (1200 to 1300 fps)
A .22 pistol for less than 200 bucks is a steal, but only if the pistol works and if you can use it to hit what you’re aiming at. The Kel Tec P17 is not the most reliable .22 pistol I’ve tested. However, if you use high velocity 22 LR ammo, and if you keep it clean—field strip it, wipe it down, and oil about every 200 rounds—it will make you happy because you can use it to reliably ventilate pop cans or whack small game out to around 15 yards. The pistol is equipped with an ambidextrous magazine release and manual safety. Surprisingly, it comes with three 16-round magazines and a threaded barrel extension. You’ll probably not win a shooting match with this pistol, but you can still have a hell of a lot of fun without spending a hell of a lot of money.
Most Accurate: S&W Model 41
- Length: 10.5 inches
- Weight: 42 ounces
- Barrel: 5.5 inches
- Capacity: 10+1
- Extremely accurate
- Fully adjustable rear sight
- Comfortable, checkered walnut grips
- Can be converted to a 7-inch barrel version
Introduced in 1957, Smith & Wesson’s Model 41 is a very simple pistol, but it is also exquisitely assembled and well respected for the precision it can deliver. The trigger on the Model 41, which features a user-adjustable trigger stop, is exceptional. The micrometer click adjustable rear sight is fantastic too. The pistol is also easy to field strip, and the switch-barrel configuration allows you to use either a 5.5- or 7-inch barrel on the same frame. Often regarded as one of the premier .22 target pistols ever made, Model 41 production halted briefly in the 90s, but Smith & Wesson is still making them today. A tuned Smith & Wesson Performance Center version is also available for an additional $263.00.
- Length: 9.0 inches
- Weight: 28.2 ounces
- Barrel: 4.75 inches
- Capacity: 10+1
- Reasonably compact
- Drilled and tapped for optics mounting base
This was the gun that began the now nearly 75-year legacy of Sturm, Ruger & Co. (now Ruger). Inspired by the Japanese Nambu pistol and similar in profile to the German Luger, the Ruger Standard was an immediate success. Thousands were sold, and it was the ancestor of the current Mark IV Standard pistol. Over the years, countless versions of this pistol have been offered, and today there are even 40 variations to choose from. Well configured as a general-purpose .22 pistol, the Mark IV version offers the much easier one-button field stripping, an ambidextrous manual thumb safety, a drop-free detachable magazine, a magazine disconnect safety, and it ships with two magazines. A six-inch barreled version is available for the same price.
- Length: 9.90 inches
- Weight: 27 ounces
- Barrel: 5.875 inches (Threaded w/ muzzle brake)
- Capacity: 10+1
- Adjustable rear sight
- Threaded barrel and muzzle brake
- Optics ready
Since 1985 there has been a plethora of Buckmark pistol variations offered, and there are still more than 40 to choose from. Often considered the modern replacement for the John Browning designed Colt Woodsman, the Browning Buckmark has long been a staple with outdoorsmen as a camp gun for plinking, small game hunting, and for target shooting. During the 2022 Field & Stream handgun test, we extensively evaluated the Plus Vision American Suppressor Ready version. It comes standard with a manual thumb safety and magazine disconnect, and in terms of quality of construction, it deserves high marks.
- Length: 7.25 inches
- Weight: 13 ounces
- Barrel: 4.75 inches
- Capacity: 10+1
- Trigger: Single action
- Classic 1911 look
- Compact and lightweight
- Loaded with custom 1911-like features
This might be the coolest of all .22 pistols because it’s a shrunken version of one of America’s most iconic and popular handguns—the Colt 1911. Introduced in 2011, the Browning 1911-22 was meant to be a 100-year celebration of the classic 1911. It is 85 percent smaller and only 36 percent lighter than a 1911 chambered for the 45 Auto.
Currently, there are 20 variations offered, but this version exemplifies the design and the current trend of modern 1911 centerfire pistols. It has suppressor height sights, an ambidextrous thumb safety, an extended slide lock, a threaded barrel, and an accessory rail. Its compactness and light weight make this pistol feel almost toy-like, but it will impress you with its reliability and precision on target. It’s a great modern example of a general purpose .22 pistol.
Things To Consider Before Buying a .22 Pistol
The key to finding the best .22 pistol for you is to start your search with your intended use/s of the pistol in mind. Though not always indicative of quality or performance, price matters too. A fantastically accurate and precision shooting .22 pistol, like the S&W Model 41, might be dime-splitting accurate, but after you lay down the money for it, will you have enough left over for ammunition? Think about what you will use the .22 for and spend accordingly.
Most outdoorsmen would probably prefer a .22 pistol they could use for a variety of tasks, and general purpose application is the main appeal of a .22s. This is where a pistol like the Sig Sauer P322 shines. It’s accurate enough for small game hunting, compact and light enough for trail carry, and ideal for teaching young shooters. Plus, it’s available at a price that will not come with heartburn.
Q: Who makes a .22 pistol with a threaded barrel?
Lots of manufacturers do, including Browning, Ruger, Sig Sauer, and others.
Q: Is a longer barrel better for a pistol?
It depends. A longer barrel can increase velocity by as much as or even more than 30 fps per inch. And if you’re shooting with open sights, the longer sight radius that comes with a longer barrel can make getting hits easier. When it comes to carrying a pistol in a holster, the longer the barrel, the more difficult it will be. For general purpose use, a barrel length of between four and six inches is most common.
Q: What is the most powerful .22 pistol bullet?
Velocities and reliability will vary from pistol to pistol, but the Aguila Supermaximum 30-grain load has the fastest advertised muzzle velocity, and the 32-grain CCI Stinger load is not far behind it.
Best 22 Pistols: Final Thoughts
I can’t imagine calling yourself an outdoorsman or even a gun guy if you do not own a .22 pistol. This is partly because .22 pistols are some of the most fun guns to shoot, but mostly because when the totality of the circumstances is considered, a .22 pistol might be the most useful firearm ever made. They’re also the most affordable guns to shoot, and the probability is high that after you purchase your first one, you’ll buy another. Fortunately, there are a lot of them to choose from, with prices starting at about $200 and extending to almost 10 times that much. All of the guns recommended above are great options, but the Sig Sauer P322 is king of the .22 pistol family.
Why Trust Us
For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.