Copyright 2014 Buffington Associates

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The Gun Owner

The Simple, Essential .22

By Dave Buffington

You may want a 30-06 for hunting bear.

Plus a .270 for whacking varmints.

And a .45 for self defense.

But what every gun owner needs is a .22.

That’s right, the lowly, wonderful, functional .22.

True, if what you’re trying to do is somehow prove your manhood, then go get yourself a .505 WristBuster or something equally ridiculous. (On second thought, if you need to prove your manhood or womanhood, just stay away from guns. You have bigger problems.)

But if you want to become a better marksman, if you want to test your skills, if you want to have fun with guns, friends and family … and if you want to do all of that with half the hassle and a fraction of the cost of big bore guns, get yourself a .22 rimfire. (“Rimfire” rounds are ignited by a primer compound spun around the rim of the cartridge. Larger “centerfire” rounds are ignited using a separate primer set in the center of the cartridge.)

First, let’s deal some preconceptions.

- .22s are toys. False. Depending on whose statistics you want to believe, more people have been killed by .22 rimfires than any other cartridge. They’re routinely (if not always legally) used to kill deer-size animals, and if you believe the stories out of Israel, .22 have frequently been used to quietly knock off Palestinian troublemakers.

- .22s are unreliable. Depends. If you use cheap, junk ammo and don’t maintain your gun you’ll have problems with a .22, just as you will with any centerfire. (Just ask any service person who’s struggled with the mil-spec “AR” rifles, mags and ammo in Afghanistan.)

- .22s are fussy about ammo. True, but the reason people know that is because you can afford to shoot your .22 with enough different kinds of ammo to know what it does and does not like.

I’ve known plenty of guys with centerfires who go out and buy one box of ammo, shoot it and blame whatever happens on the gun. No, it’s usually the ammo. Centerfire cartridges are just too expensive for most people to do the experimentation necessary to find out.

What is the cost difference? Huge. Even today, post-Sandy Hill, a box of 50 rounds of .22 ammo costs about $5.  Alternately, a box of 50 rounds of .45 ACP costs about $25.

So if you go to the range with your buds and shoot 500 rounds of .22, you’ll pay $50.

Shoot 500 rounds of .45, and you’ll pay $250.


And unless you have some experience with that .45, your wrists will be aching. Your ears will be ringing, and you probably will have developed a pronounced flinch that will prevent you from hitting anything smaller than a beach ball.

Meanwhile, the guys with the .22s at the other end of the range will still be having fun, picking off penny-size targets, taking advantage of the accuracy built into most of today’s .22s.

And you can get today’s .22s in any configuration you want – lever-action, pump-action, single shot, semi-auto, youth size, adult size, revolver, trainer, Olympic competitor or weekend plinker – and at a lower price than a typical centerfire.

There are even .22s that mimic centerfire guns. So-called “tactical .22s” are AR-style rimfires, and the best of them, like the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22, are control-for-control equivalents of the military AR rifles, making them great for training.

But with lower cost, lower noise, lower recoil … and greater fun.