The Semi-Auto .22LR For Self Defense

As is usually the case I was browsing the Fezbook and happened across an interesting link to an article from the Jerking The Trigger blog. There were a lot of the typical “gun guy” comments about the inadequacy and unreliability of the .22 long rifle rounds. Lots of comments about 12 Gauge shotguns, even single shot .410s. I thought I would share and expand on my comment.

For almost two decades my home defense weapon was a semi-auto .22 carbine. There were a lot of reasons for this. One was money. We were poor, not po’ because we did have enough to afford the extra “o” and “r.” Not depression era poor but pretty close. We were a family of six that subsisted on 5 lbs of hamburger meat (the cheap chub stuff), rice, beans and whatever canned good were on sale. There were many times when we did our “shopping” out of my grandmother’s pantry. So, a .22 LR was about all I could afford to purchase. The whole setup including a 30 round magazine and spare 10 rounders cost less than $100…way less. I could even afford to shoot it fairly regularly as even “high dollar” CCI MiniMags were less than $3/100.

Marlin Model 989 m2
Marlin Model 989 m2

Barely scraping by there was no money for training classes but I spent a lot of time in the woods with that little rifle and I got pretty good with it. I could put an entire magazine into a half dollar sized hole within a few seconds. It was light, easy to shoot and deadly accurate within home defense distances. I could even shoot it one handed if need be. Nor would I be completely deaf afterwards (these were the old days and we rarely wore ear-pro even at the range).

Even at the time I knew there were drawbacks to the .22 LR as a defensive round (I was poor, not stupid). I knew there were potential reliability issues with the rim fire cartridges. So I purchased good ammo for self defense that had proved reliable in the little carbine. Overall, with the “good ammo” it was at least as reliable as some of the center fire guns I have owned since and I did practice malfunction drills since I knew that was a potential issue.

There were upsides as well to .22 LR as well. Our house was laid out with bedrooms in three corners of the house and most of them in the front beside the front door. If the intruder came through the front door my kids would be in the direction of possible fire. To minimize that risk I knew I had to be dead accurate. I could afford to practice more with .22 and with the carbine, as I mentioned before, within 20 feet I could be extremely accurate. Plus, of the rounds commonly available and affordable at the time .22 LR was least likely to over-penetrate interior walls.

Thank God I never had to pull the trigger. However that doesn’t mean the little carbine collected dust. It did come out a few times when something went “bump” in the night and served me well. There were at least three folks who would never come creeping around my house at night after staring down the barrel of my little carbine.

Was it the absolute best choice?


Was it a good choice for me at the time?


Is it now a good choice for my aging mom who lives alone? She is very recoil sensitive. If anyone ever convinced her to shoot any shotgun bigger than (maybe) a .410 she’d probably have a heart attack. Her hands are weak these days making her pretty shaky with a handgun and her eyesight is starting to fail as well. But she can run her pink and black M&P 15/22 with a red dot optic pretty dang well. Is it a good choice for her?



To be completely honest, although I have been seriously training and practicing with my center fire handguns and rifles for a little over half a decade can still run that little .22 better than any other firearm I have. However, I am competent enough with my other firearms that I will trade a bit of speed and accuracy for a more powerful caliber and better ammunition.

The bottom line, for me anyway, is that self-defense choices are personal. There is no one size fits all and we all need to make these decisions based on what works best for our own individual needs and capabilities.

God Bless


3 thoughts on “The Semi-Auto .22LR For Self Defense

  1. Funny that you wrote this; I’ve been thinking about writing on the same subject, with many of the same conclusions.

    The 10/22 with 30 round mag’s is probably the best gun for my mother.

    Liked by 1 person

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