I recently stumbled upon a rather intriguing debate on Facebook. It all started when one person bemoaned the recommendation of a .22 LR firearm as an optimal self-defense firearm, others chimed in voicing their disparagement, and one lone person challenged the status quo… Let the fireworks begin. Countless justifications and numerous resumes later and his challenge still was not answered. Nobody stepped up to dispute his facts. They vehemently disliked his conclusion, but where were the facts on their side of the debate (other than the diameter of the bullet)? All this got me wondering… what happened to the principle of questioning everything? Are we not, as mature adults, expected to firmly know the reasons behind our choices? Why do so many in the gun community automatically (and vociferously) denigrate the .22 LR for self-defense? Have they so little confidence in their knowledge of why they choose their calibre that they get defensive at the first suggestion there might be other ways? Or are they genuinely concerned for the life of the other person and believe they are embarking in a false sense of security? Why do these civil debates turn into personal attacks? Do large calibre proponents not have a solid foundation to stand on? Is there nothing more to their arguments than calibre diameter, “stopping power,” and name calling? Why do they get so defensive? Can we not have a rational discussion? There are logical and justifiable reasons for people to carry .22’s, 9mm’s, .40’s, etc… Can we not acknowledge that what works well for us may not work well for others?
The calm questioning of the status quo stood in stark contrast to the rote reiteration of that .22 LR gun store conversation we’ve all heard. It piqued my curiosity. Was there something to his claim? Is the .22 LR a viable self-defense gun? I’ve been just as guilty as all of those on that post of unerringly maintaining the status quo and firmly discouraging .22’s as defense guns. “They don’t have the stopping power.” “The bullets are too small to do enough damage.” “They really aren’t effective as self-defense guns. etc…” I must confess, I am parroting what others have said. I never looked it up for myself. I’ve never questioned the lines. I’ve stood there, issuing statements that I personally had no knowledge of.
My only experience with shooting any living thing with .22’s, came one late summer night when I attempted to kill an eastern diamondback. It was moving through tall grass, illuminated only by an overhead utility light, and I had never shot at a moving target… It did not go well. I refuse to admit how many rounds I shot that night, but suffice it to say that while the snake did end up with many holes in it, a shovel proved to be much more effective in the long run. From this experience, I concluded .22’s are worthless at killing things and only good for plinking (a better conclusion would have been: buy snake shot). Getting further involved in the gun community only served to reinforce that belief.
However as the gentleman pointed out, .22’s are capable of causing extensive damage. Multiple lives have been saved by .22’s and lives have been taken by .22’s. It is used far more for self-defense than I realized. One potential reason for its popularity is the convenience of carrying one. .22’s designed for conceal carry are often very small and lightweight. That’s definitely one major point in its favor. And keep in mind, in a gun fight, any gun is better than no gun. Also, one recent study of lethal force encounters seems to imply that calibre isn’t as important as simply having a gun, any gun. It seems people, even criminals, don’t want to get shot. It’s painful. This psychological stop is a potential outcome in every lethal force encounter. Yet, not everybody stops just because they’ve been shot. Some keep coming. Can the .22 stop that one? As many stories as there are of .22’s successfully being used in self-defense there are other stories (and rumors) of .22’s failing to penetrate. Many voice concerns that thick jackets and other objects may dramatically slow or even stop a .22 LR bullet. Can a .22 be trusted to physically stop a threat? Can a .22 be trusted to incapacitate the person before they can incapacitate you? There are lots of questions that still need to be asked and answered. Let’s not stifle questions by throwing out rote clichés, but encourage debate by listening and maintaining civility. Surely, if we are willing to bet our lives on it, our calibre selections should be capable of withstanding a few honest questions.