Learning to Shoot: Should Beginners Start With .22 Plinkers? By: Jason Mosher


Learning to shoot is fun, but it can also be intimidating for some. Having the knowledge and skills to handle a weapon does not mean you have to enjoy it either. I enjoy shooting, whether it be plinking, training at work, or having some friendly competition. There are others, however, that want to have the ability and skills to carry a firearm for self-defense, but they do not enjoy shooting. Learning the fundamentals of shooting and building from a good base is important. This is why I encourage people to develop a training routine.

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Learning to shoot is not entirely different than going to the gym. Okay, you won’t be doing push-ups or building that bicep at the gym, unless you have a really heavy gun. But when you first start lifting weights, you start with the basics. Learn good form, create a routine, and set a schedule. You grow and you get better.

Shooting, especially for self-defense, is no different. Blowing through a thousand-round case of ammo does not make you a better shooter if you skip some of the other steps. I recommend shooters start with a .22 if they are new to the firearms world. This is my approach, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only approach.

Ruger .22 revolver
Shooting .22 ammo has many benefits for new and experienced shooters.

Building a Good Foundation

Aside from the basic functions of a gun and sight alignment, the first thing a shooter on the range needs to learn is stance and grip. Shooting a .22 caliber allows the shooter to focus on their stance without the loud “bang” and recoil that comes with it.

Having the right stance will dictate the way the rest of your body responds to each shot. Bringing the gun up to your eye level, and having your feet in a comfortable but maneuverable position are both important. If you lean too far back, the recoil of a larger weapon will push you off balance. But leaning too far forward or crouching down like the SWAT guys in the movies does not build a good foundation. 

The same thing applies to the proper grip on a firearm. Revolvers require a different grip than semi-auto handguns, but the same idea applies. Using a .22 version of the firearm you wish to carry will help the shooter focus on the grip without the kick of a larger weapon. I think of it as warming up in the gym before moving to the heavier weights. Learn the grip, practice the grip with a lower recoil, and then move on to a larger caliber.

Training on the range with .22 caliber gun
Training on the range can be beneficial even when shooting with .22 ammo. Focusing on stance, grip, and weapon retention can be done with .22 caliber weapons.

Aiming for Accuracy

Aside from learning proper stance and grip, learning to aim correctly is just as important. This can also be done easier with a smaller caliber than a larger one. When someone is anticipating the recoil from a firearm, they focus on what’s going to happen when they pull the trigger. Part of my regular firearms training includes dry firing. It helps me focus on my trigger pull and sight alignment and cuts everything else out. This should not be done with any rimfire ammo like .22 because it can damage the firing pin.

Another good practice to learn is shooting with both eyes open. When a shooter identifies their dominant eye and hand combo, they can learn to focus on the sights with their dominant eye while keeping the other eye open. This is a vital skill to learn for self-defense training. Shooting a smaller caliber while you learn this process will make it easier. As you train like this, the repetition creates muscle memory. The body will continue your shooting habits as you move on to larger calibers.

Learning to shoot with a .22
.22 guns are a perfect size for new shooters to learn the basics of shooting before moving on to larger calibers.

Cost-Effective Training

Another good reason to incorporate some training with .22 weapons (handguns or rifles) is the cost of ammo. There was a time when .22 ammo was harder to find than a gold nugget. But it has come out of hiding and is available again at most stores that sell ammo. It can be purchased by the case and while it’s not as cheap as it used to be, it is much cheaper than other calibers on the shelf. If you have the same handgun in both .22 and, say 9mm, mag-change drills can be just as effective with the .22 as with the 9mm. The biggest difference is that you save money. This doesn’t mean you should train with your 9mm, .40, or .45 as well. But it does mean you can substitute some drills and training with a cheaper, smaller caliber.

.22 and 5.56 bullets side by side.
.22 ammo is much cheaper to shoot than other calibers like 9mm or 5.56 (.22 and 5.56 pictured above).

Stance, handgrip, and sights are not the only benefits of training with a .22 caliber weapon. Running drills and practicing mag changes, using slings, holsters, and other gear is also cost-effective with a smaller caliber. The muscle memory it builds is priceless when shooting with larger calibers. Besides the training benefits from .22 ammo, it’s also just fun to shoot. Growing up, my grandfather called it plinking. He would set up some old cans and take shots at them. It wasn’t really about the kind of gun, but the time spent together. It’s a little like fishing with a friend, but louder.


A .22 gun won’t replace other weapons and I wouldn’t recommend carrying one for self-defense, but they can be great for rodents and some small game hunting. Just about every style of gun out there is available in .22, making them great for training. Bolt-action, AR-15, lever-action, and nearly every popular handgun on the planet can be found in this caliber. It’s cheap to shoot and makes for some fun time with friends.

Also, .22 ammo is quieter and you get reduced penetration. This allows it to be shot in some places where high-powered calibers may not be as safe to shoot. I use some .22 ammo for training, but a smaller caliber is also perfect for new shooters. Want to take your kid shooting? A .22 rifle or handgun is the perfect thing for them to learn on. Each gun has a different purpose, and .22 caliber guns have several. If you haven’t done any plinking in a while, grab a box of ammo and enjoy some sun while punching holes in a few cans with a friend.