When Small Is Powerful

22WMR cartridges

The entire discipline of self-defense pivots around the axis of centerfire handguns. And it should. Whether it’s for concealed carry or home defense, most shooters call on 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, 45 Auto or one of a host of other popular centerfire platforms. But where does rimfire fit in—if it fits in at all? We explore options to reveal the answers.

The Right Situations

At a glance, any rimfire load looks anemic at best for self-defense, and the reputation is for the most part deserved. With light, small-diameter bullets pushed by relatively weak charges, rimfire cartridges are simply dwarfed by most centerfire counterparts.

22 WMR cartridges in front of a handgun

But what if the only gun you own is a rimfire? What if a disability or diminished grip strength makes it impractical to use a centerfire pistol? What is recoil sensitivity makes it difficult to hit your target? What if you’re a backcountry hiker who’s trying to conserve every ounce of gear, yet still wants a firearm for protection? What if your primary carry pistol is a centerfire but you want an ultra-compact backup?

Suddenly, practical options dwindle. In a fight for your life, any firearm or cartridge is infinitely more effective than none at all. And so, although any rimfire load is much less powerful than typical centerfire handgun cartridges, it will still give you a leg up when the chips are down.

Weight is also an issue. Any gun feels heavier the longer you carry it, which drives many to carry extremely light handguns. However, these ultra-light, compact guns can be harder to shoot, with disproportionately more recoil.

Making The Most Of The Platform

However, there are notable exceptions. The Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 22 WMR actually offers performance that exceeds that of smaller centerfire rounds, with 12 to 13 inches of penetration in ballistics gel—a feat that’s not achieved by comparable 25 Auto and 32 Auto loads.

22 WMR cartridges laying on a table

Its 40-grain, chemically bonded projectile hits 1050 fps at the muzzle and expands to .34 inch—even though clothing. Plus, it is enhanced to be used out of a short barrel with a faster burning powder to improve performance.

Ultimately, firearm choice is an extremely personal one, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Centerfire pistol cartridges are and should always be the primary choice for serious self-defense, but unique situations and products like Gold Dot 22 WMR present other options worth considering.