The Best Rimfire Handguns – Plinking and Beyond By: Travis Pike


Raise your digital hand if you learned to shoot on a .22LR? Now, keep your hand up if you still enjoy shooting the micro-sized .22LR in handguns and rifles. I’m betting a lot of hands are up. The .22LR rules. It’s small, cheap, and it has very little recoil. It’s a very popular training and plinking round and dominates the modern market. There are tons of great rimfire firearms out there, so today, let’s focus on rimfire handguns. 

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Table of contents

  • Best Overall Rimfire Handgun – Ruger Mark IV 
  • Best Defensive Pocket Pistol – Ruger LCP 2 
  • Best Trainer – SIG P322 
  • Most Affordable – Heritage Rough Rider 
  • Best Defensive Rimfire Revolver – S&W Model 43 
  • Ready Aim, Rimfire 

Specifically, .22LR handguns. There are tons of great options out there, and I want to present five excellent options, but keep in mind I also want to present a diverse selection that represents everything .22LR handguns are good at. This list could be nothing but Ruger Mark series guns, but that’s a bit boring. 

The Ruger Mark series exemplifies the .22LR pistol. It’s one of the originals and arguably the gun that built Ruger. The Mark series is now in its fourth generation, and it seemingly only gets better. The Mark series is made up of a ton of different configurations. Hunting, Tactical, Competition, Standard, Target, and many more. They vary in barrel length and even grip design. The 22/45 variants use a 1911-like grip rather than the swept-back Ruger design. 

What these guns bring to the table is a very reliable semi-auto design. The only thing the Mark series does better than reliability is accuracy.

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Ruger Mark iv
The Ruger Mk series are classic rimfire handguns

These are hole-punching guns that make producing tight groups very easy. They often dominate Bowling pin matches and Steel Challenge for a reason. 

Outside of being, accurate recoil feels more like a BB gun than an actual gun. The sights don’t move between shots, and moving between multiple shots or putting multiple shots on one target isn’t exceptionally difficult. The Ruger Mark series are excellent all-around guns for a variety of purposes. It’s easy to see why they make so many different models of the gun. If you only had one .22LR handgun, I would go with the Mark IV.

People often laugh at the idea of carrying a .22LR for concealed carry, but it can be a perfectly viable option if you plan it out correctly. Good, hard point ammo made for short barrels is the key to success, that and a small but reliable handgun. The LCP 2 .22LR Literack is a great pocket pistol for low-profile concealed carry. This ultra-small handgun is super lightweight and very easy to drop in your pocket and forget about. 

The LCP 2 in .22LR can also be a training option if you carry the same gun in .380 ACP. The gun holds ten rounds of .22LR in a very small magazine that sits nice and flush in the gun.

Ruger LCP 2
A 22LR for self-defense can be a viable option.

The Literack design makes it perfect for those with weaker hands, as does the very minimal recoil. Even the trigger is fairly impressive for a DAO pocket pistol. 

Admittedly, the all-black sights aren’t easy to see all the time. A touch from a paint pen makes the sights much easier to see and use. The little LCP 2 is surprisingly reliable. You don’t want to toss in subsonic ammo, but full-powered, preferably faster-moving ammo works perfectly. Even hotter bulk loads run reliably. The LCP 2 is a perfect dose of pint-sized power for pocket carry. 

The SIG P322 is a rather new option on the rimfire handgun market. It’s not based on the P320 or the P365, but something in between. In general, it’s a great stand-in for basically any modern pistol. The p322 uses 20-round magazines that bring the capacity up to meet 9mm handguns. Not all, but 20 replicates most slightly extended magazines. As you’d expect, the gun is hammer-fired, but the hammer is concealed and out of the way. 

Like any modern pistol, you can slap on a red dot, and the gun uses the Shield RMSc footprint, so you can use all manner of optics. There is a rail up front, so you can even train in low-light situations.

Sig p322 - Rimfire handgun
The P322 delivers awesome performance at a great price with tons of modern features

We even get a threaded barrel. Although it’s not obvious at first, there is an included adapter to make the threads match the standard 1/2×28 thread pitch. Heck, there is even a flat trigger shoe in the box.  

The P322 functions quite reliably, even with a red dot in place. The trigger is long but light, and the gun is very easy to control. The magazines are a bit finicky with how they are loaded, and I suggest using the included magazine loader. It’s not a perfect gun, but it’s a great trainer, and it’s affordable. The modern features and low price point take it over the top. 

Speaking of affordability. If all you have is 99 dollars and a little patience, you can get a Heritage Rougher Rider during any major gun sale. Normal prices hover around 130 dollars or so for a bare-bones basic model. The Heritage Rough Rider is a single-action .22LR or .22 Magnum revolver. You can swap the cylinder to use standard or magnum rounds. 

The Heritage Rough Rider allows you to play cowboy and fire off your six shooter accurately with very little recoil. These rimfire handguns come in numerous size configurations, but even the smallest option is easy to shoot.

Heritage Rough Rider
For often less than 150 bucks you are getting a great gun.

The Heritage revolvers are quite accurate, except for the ‘boot’ model, because it doesn’t even have sights. With sights, you get a weapon with a solid single-action trigger that’s easy to shoot accurately. 

The Heritage Rough Rider’s single-action design ensures it’s reliable. If a round fails to ignite, just cock the hammer and fire the next one. There is no need to move into remedial action. Just go bang until the gun runs dry. The Heritage Rough Rider is a fun gun and is mostly a plinker, but it could be used for small-game hunting and pest control. The low price point makes it tough to leave off the list. 

Let’s go back to the idea of using the .22LR for self-defense. There are lots of folks who’d prefer a revolver over an automatic for concealed carry, especially in .22LR. The rimfire nature of the .22LR makes it a little less reliable than a center-fire weapon. This makes a revolver attractive in case the round fails to fire. The S&W Model 43 provides you with a modern J-frame revolver, just in .22LR. 

The S&W Model 43 is an Air Lite revolver that packs eight rounds of .22LR in its tiny cylinder. That’s a good nose of bad guy repellent.

S&W Model 43
If you need a low recoil backup or even a main concealed carry firearm, the 43 delivers

The S&W 43 weighs a mere 12 ounces, making it only about an ounce heavier than the LCP 2 in .22LR. Super light revolvers typically suck to shoot due to recoil, but that’s not a problem here. The gun is exceptionally easy to shoot, even with a single hand. 

The S&W 43 has a concealed hammer and rounded edges, making it well-suited for deep concealment. What’s the downside? Well, the gun is expensive, costing more than double the LCP 2. Next, the trigger is a bit heavy, which is often done to provide a stronger hammer strike to ignite the rimfire rounds reliably. 

Rimfire handguns are a ton of fun. If your only goal is to have fun at the range, then any of these guns will fit the bill. If you need something more specific, hopefully, we’ve broken it down to provide you with plenty of options for the variety of roles a .22LR can fill. What are your favorite rimfire handguns, and what purpose do they serve you? 

Let us know below! 

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