The first metallic cartridge ever mass produced in the U.S. was the .22 Short. It was invented in 1856 by Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson. Yes, that Smith & Wesson.

As a self-defense caliber, the original .22 Short, designed for the seven-shot S&W Model No. 1, was, as celebrated author Samuel Clemens wrote in his book Roughing It, “…a ball like a homeopathic pill, and it took the whole seven to make a dose for an adult.” An anemic caliber at first, the .22 Short was just the beginning. Over the decades, the .22 rimfire evolved into longer-cased and more powerful versions, culminating with the .22 LR hollow point, an effective round suitable for revolvers, semi-auto pistols and rifles alike.

The largest .22 caliber rimfire cartridge is the .22 WMR. It was introduced in 1959 and was made popular in rifles as an effective varmint round. The majority of the rimfire semi-autos and revolvers listed below are chambered only for the .22 LR, but there are nearly a dozen also chambered for the .22 WMR.

One should never sell short the advantages of the .22 rimfire in either form, as .22 caliber handguns (and rifles) have been used to thwart more home break-ins and turn more intruders around in their tracks than almost any other. The value of the .22 LR is long recognized by everyone from law enforcement to the CIA (as far back as WWII), and today the .22 rimfire remains one of the most efficient and affordable training calibers in the world, with many of the most popular modern sidearms and rifles available in this great old American caliber. The .22 LR (and .22 WMR) offers more affordable options in the choices of a handgun (or rifle) and is ideal for learning basic shooting skills, target shooting and small-game hunting. In fact, the .22 LR is a staple of Olympic shooting events like the 25-meter and 50-meter pistol events as well as the 50-meter, three-position rifle competitions and the biathlon.

RELATED STORY: 30 Semi-Auto Rifles For Home Defense & Urban Survival

The .22 has been around longer than any other cartridge in America, and the great variety of makes and models available today speaks volumes about the popularity and effectiveness of Mr. Clemens’ “homeopathic pills.”


American Tactical GSG-922

Beretta 21 A Bobcat

Colt (Walther Arms) 1911 A1 Gold Cup

Charter Arms Pathfinder

Chiappa M9-22 Pistol

HK (Walther Arms) 416 Pistol

Kimber Rimfire

North American Arms Pug

Ruger 22/45 Lite

Sig Sauer P226 Classic 22

Smith & Wesson Model 41

Taurus 22PLY

Walther PPK/S .22

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