.22 vs .223 – Home Defense – Drywall Penetration

Capture

While I am sure that most would opt to select .223/5.56 NATO over .22LR for home defense, but I have heard the argument that .22 would be “better” for home defense since its reduced energy would mean that it would penetrate through fewer walls. On the flip side, others argue that the 5.56 would be better as the round would tumble dissipating its energy and thus penetrate less.

Fortunately, both have now been put to the test in relatively similar conditions. A few tests come to mind on 5.56 through drywall (my favorite being the slow-motion from RichardBeck). I like the slow motion as it shows that the round does indeed start to loose stability. Still, the round is able to penetrate through nearly 8 walls, coming to rest on the inside of the last piece of drywall.  (Interestingly, the 9mm Critical Defense load actually penetrates one drywall section less).

And now, the 22LR was tested by none other than the Rimfire man himself… 22Plinkster. Using the hottest loads (CCI Velocitor and CCI Stingers), Plinkster uses a similar set up and shoots with both a handgun and rifle.

The results?

From a purely drywall penetration perspective, the .22 LR will be the better choice. Even with the hot loads, the rounds penetrate fewer sections of drywall that the center-fire rounds. With the handgun, the 22LR penetrates the equivalent of 4.5 internal walls and with the rifle nearly all the way through the 6th wall sticking in the dry wall.

My take-away – don’t miss. Both rounds will go through the typical amount of walls through a home.



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • Markbo

    So he can say “Stinger”. He let it slip at 1:10. Tbat mean its a con ious choice to sound ignorant most of the time.

    • M.M.D.C.

      Unintentional irony or “conSCious choice?”

    • Jwedel1231

      Ever heard of a joke? His pronunciation of “stinger” is a running gag through his channel between him and the comment section of all his videos.

  • Harrison Jones

    Don’t miss is the best advice of the day. If it’s going to stop the threat it’s going to penetrate more than the 2 layers of sheetrock that make up a wall.

  • Dave

    “Well, excuse me, brother,
    mother or any other sucker, doesn’t make any difference, they are still
    f*****g guns, and they still fire f*****g bullets!

  • DIR911911 .

    why would this be a mystery that similar size bullets that the one with a lot more powder behind it would penetrate more? gee which will penetrate more drywall , my 380 or my 308? this is a waste of time and ammo.

    • Twilight sparkle

      380 is actually much larger in diameter than .308 in diameter, you could compare 7.62 tokarev or 7.62 nagant to .308 if you’d like though.

      • DIR911911 .

        but you get the point , i hope

  • BrianZ

    I’ll bet the number of walls pent rated would be much less if they were spaced around 8′ or so apart as one would find in the real world. IMO.

  • Sebastacat

    I’d like to see that test repeated with some fiberglass insulation between the drywall layers.

    • Les Legato

      I’d like to see the test repeated with a bad guy behind the wall.

  • Julius No

    I can’t believe people are still obsessing over this. ANY cartridge that can be assumed to penetrate someones chest cavity or skull, will go through more walls than your house has. This includes birdshot. If they don’t go through 4″ of plaster, they aren’t worth shooting anyone with.

    • M.M.D.C.

      I think The Box O’ Truth is from 2004, so yeah, it’s definitely ‘been done befo.’

      http://www.theboxotruth.com/the-box-o-truth-1-the-original-box-o-truth/

    • amongoose

      A rifle wouldn’t be my first choice in home defense at 3 AM.
      1911, frangibles.

      • CommonSense23

        Why would you choose a 1911 over a rifle.

        • amongoose

          The close quarters in the house, it leaves free hand for grabbing kids, opening doors, and such.
          Outdoors, rifle.

      • Nocternus

        The only purpose of a handgun is to fight your way to a rifle.

      • Twilight sparkle

        I know a detective that once followed a 45 acp through 3 different houses before it was stopped by a window and a shower curtain, I don’t think a 1911 leaded with anything is a great idea… 45 just punched through too much stuff.

        Also frangible ammo isn’t something I’d rely on to break up in soft drywall, it does sound like something that could cause a jam though…

        • amongoose

          It’s not going to be breaking up in drywall, it will be breaking up in the perp.
          Have you ever tried any Frangible rounds?
          They work well and stay in the body, what do you use for home and personal defens

          My 1911 as jammed once, bad mag.

          • MichaelZWilliamson

            I used to think that way, too, until I learned that “Stays in the body” is usually not true, and if it is, means the rounds don’t reach critical organs.

            You stop perps by destroying critical organs, by making holes in them.

          • amongoose

            Have my granddaughters in the house, don’t need rounds going through walls.
            Besides, I can afford to empty the mag, the next one’s are HP.

          • MichaelZWilliamson

            So, instead, you’ll waste money and effort shooting bullets that won’t stop a perp, but admit that you’ll then resort to rounds that will actually work, with the accompanying risk.

            If it won’t punch drywall, it won’t stop a perp. That is a fact that has been proven literally millions of times.

      • BR549

        ANYTHING over a 22LR indoors and you’re looking at becoming hearing impaired for the rest of that encounter. That’s the one thing Hollywood doesn’t bother to tell you. While your ears are still ringing, they’re outside your home doing anything they want because you can’t hear them anymore.

        • amongoose

          If I shoot one or more inside, the ones outside will be leaving the area with a purpose. That being to stay alive.
          Too many years next to guns, grenades, and other nasty noises, hearing shot now, no worries though, dogs job is to hear, mine’s to shoot..

    • John1943

      Having read the article, I was thinking that maybe I should switch to a pea shooter for home defense. Thanks for reminding us that there are other considerations 😆

  • AD

    My conclusion: build more robust walls.

    • Mike

      I hear we have a presidential candidate running on that platform.

      • Jwedel1231

        Make my house great again.

      • mosinman

        And let me tell you, nobody can build walls like i do (and i build great walls let me tell you) my walls will be so big, so YUUUGE not even the Abrams 120mm main gun could punch through

        • mbrd

          and i get the people on the other side of the wall to pay for it!

        • BigR

          That’s a “hell” of a wall! Remember when houses were made of real wood, and bricks!

    • Darren Hruska

      Trump jokes aside, I’ve actually thought that one can probably make a pretty decent business building semi-affordable homes (as in not just for multi-millionaires) that fit the self-defense minded. As in, walls having some sort of ballistic protection and room layouts that give the home owner and family a better tactical advantage than usual while limiting the chances of friendly casualties.

      • TechnoTriticale

        re: … semi-affordable homes (as in not just for multi-millionaires) that fit the self-defense minded.

        Monolithic Dome: extraordinary energy efficiency, highly resistant to most disasters, lasts centuries, and known to stop .308. Not cheap, but the extra investment can be recovered over time by nil HVAC expense, and not needing to insure the basic structure.

        • De Facto

          Or ICF construction, many of the advantages of concrete construction and works with conventional housing plans.

      • Roy G Bunting

        Or even just retrofitting areas likely to have gunshots through them with material to stop and absorb bullets.

        This could be as simple as an armored shelving unit to function as a backstop to as complex as rebuilding interior walls with aramid fiber panels or other stopping agents. Remote control panels for lighting, additional high-power spotlights on stairs and other chokepoints to glareblind an attacker, reinforced interior doors are all features that can be added to existing homes to increase their defensiblity.

        I’m not going to sell the house I have just to move into a custom defense built house. But there are contractor install-able solutions that I’d like to incorporate on my existing home to make it more defensible.

        • Phil Ward

          I find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter 🙂

        • Jeep Cherokee

          What if you just poured rocks ( like the decorative white stone) between the drywall in the walls? Rock is cheap and it should stop a bullet effectively based on the success of marble-based armor.

      • ChierDuChien

        Fill the cavity with sand or dirt.

        • Mark

          That causes horrible issues with damp. Anything porous will suck up moisture like a sponge :/

      • Les Legato

        Don ‘t forget gun ports.

      • Dragonheart

        Just build a safe room a lot cheaper that trying to fortify an entire house.

      • BigR

        Darren Hruska, I like that idea!

  • Geoffry K

    If they hit a stud or two that will stop them. The odds are small as the stud is only 1.5″ wide as placed in the wall. (2″X4″ isn’t as you all should know. Actual 1.5″X3.5″) And usually 16″ centers.

    • ozzallos .

      We had 230gr 45acp ball punch through a stud pretty easily. Clean entry into the drywall medium, nasty exit through the stud. Never recovered the round.

  • Darhar M.

    I would like to see rounds tested through walls constructed w/ 1/2 plaster, 2″ of fiberglass or blown insulation then another 1/2″ of plaster.

    Then if you really want to get fancy use brick homes with brick inner walls w/plaster on the inner walls or as some did cover the brick with paneling or fir strips.

    • SLi-Fox

      My house was built in 1921 with plaster and lath. I always wondered about .22 and .410 against my walls.

      • OJS

        Don’t try that while the wife is at home…

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Has the whole world gone crazy?
    Shotgun, Dude. Shotgun.

    • Jwedel1231

      Considering that the wall penetration is the same and the absurd amount of kinetic energy 00 buck carries, I agree 100%.

      • Wolfgang

        But buckshot travels so slow it doesn’t really do anything more than act like several low weight handgun bullets. Supersonic rifles in excess of 2,000 fps will cause tissue to actually expand so much it causes a permanent wound cavity that is larger than the projectile unlike handguns and buckshot which only create a permanent wound cavity where the projectile hits. Also, more people can use an AR effectively than a 12ga pump or semi. Even the low recoil buckshot loads shotguns are still harder to do an accurate follow up shot as fast as an AR.

        • Jwedel1231

          True, but here’s the thing: pistol bullet expansion and rifle bullet hydrostatic shock are all designed to overcome the small diameter of their rounds. With 12 gauge 00 buck you have no such downside to compensate for, hence the lack of expansion and permanent wound cavity. I can get follow up shots quicker with an AR or pistol, but if you count each shell equivalent to 6 – 8 shots from a pistol, then I can put a lot more lead downrange with a shotgun.

      • #1 Buckshot are likely to penetrate humans through and through, and you have 25 pellets to deliver the through and through damage to that part of his body that may stop him. #00 buck has fewer pellets, what 9 IIRC?

        • Jwedel1231

          Yeah, I believe it is 9. #1 might be a better choice, especially if it reduces overpenetration. I’m currently in an apartment, so overpenetration is a real concern.

  • Bill

    Who has a house with all the walls 6 inches apart? A more realistic test would be to space out those “walls” 10 feet and see what happens. I bet the bullet would loose a lot more energy tumbling.

    • Twilight sparkle

      You also probably have fiber glass between the drywall of your walls

      • mbrd

        no insulation in interior walls.

    • Dan

      Put some furniture in between them too and at least 1 ballistics gel “human” you know just for kicks.

    • Budogunner

      Also, the was no insulation. Not a scientific test, by any means.

  • Mike Crognale

    Pointless demo. If someone breaks into my house they will get two rounds of 45 Hornady self defense, center mass. If that doesn’t stop them them one round ocular cavity.

    • markrb

      Not to be an ass, but have you ever been in an actual gunfight? A friend of mine was woken up about 2am one morning and engaged an intruder in his kitchen. Both fired their full handgun mags at each other and both missed completely….at probably 15′. The bad guy took the opportunity to haul butt out the door before my friend could reload. And yes, he practiced regularly.

  • marine6680

    I have seen tests of some 223 rounds that show them as breaking apart by the time they leave the first wall.

    These were 50-55gr varmit rounds.

    Recent research and discussion online has given me the impression that those rounds do not provide the best stopping on a threat, even though reports of their use on significant sized wild pig are that they drop them well.

    A ballistic researcher (well they claim that any way) says that the 50-55gr varmit loads are inconsistent stoppers in the police shootings he was brought in to go over. he claimed that at least 60gr varmit would be a better choice. Though other bullets designs are better still.

    But it makes me wonder how well a 60gr varmit round penetrates drywall, considering how little the 50-55gr ones go through.

    • Bub

      FWIW a dude from one of what I consider a quality ammo mfg co recommended 60gr v-max tipped ammo for home defense round. To paraphrase what he said, it will get the job done with less chance of overpenetrating wall, etc. I didn’t mention which co for legal liability reasons. Watching the above videos only brings home the importance of gun safety even more.

    • erictank

      55-gr Hornady TAP did very well in both ballistics-gel and interior-wall testing, IIRC.

      Surplus FMJ? Not a good choice. Purpose-designed defensive ammunition? A surprisingly-good choice.

      Now if it’d only come back in stock…

      • Jwedel1231

        I agree to getting good, quality ammo for your HD gun. You probably won’t ever use all of it, but if I had to use it I wouldn’t care how much per round it cost.

  • Blake

    If you’re that worried about wall penetration, pick up some Sinterfire ammo: https://www.sinterfire.com/About/Technology-and-Innovation.aspx
    Their .223 is cheap enough that you can also use it for steel plate plinking, even at close range. It doesn’t ricochet & it doesn’t damage the target.

  • Will

    I’ll stay with my trusty 20 ga. and WW #2 Blindside rounds.

  • A Fascist Corgi

    No caliber is safe for home defense besides birdshot, and birdshot isn’t powerful enough to stop a determined attacker. All major rounds will penetrate through tons of stuff. That’s why you have to focus on angling your shots.

    I also don’t think that enough people are thinking about how much damage that they want to do to their hearing. I’d prefer to avoid rupturing my ear drums and constantly hearing an annoying ringing sound for the rest of my life. That’s why I’ve moved away from rifles and shotguns and bought a 9mm carbine to use as my primary home defense weapon. Yeah, you sacrifice terminal performance, but 30 rounds of 147-grain 9mm Federal HST should be enough to deal with 99.9% of home invaders.

    A 9mm carbine with a 16-inch barrel will create about 152 decibels. That’s not hearing safe; but it won’t completely destroy your hearing like a 167+ decibel firearm will (e.g., rifles and shotguns).

    But this is assuming that you don’t have a suppressor. If you do have a suppressor, then use whatever you want.

    • John Swinkels

      Mate i can assure you,if you buy the best of the tactical earmuffs.when things go bump in the middle of the night put your muffs on and you will have super hearing.Especially for us guys who are as deaf as a dogs dinga.

  • Les Legato

    God bless the Marines.

    Please get someone to review and edit your writing before your next article (see your first sentence).

    AND GOD BLESS THE MARINES.

    • Phil Hsueh

      At least he used the right its, unlike other writers for the site. But he did use loose instead of lose in the second paragraph.

    • Goblin

      I just finished reading:
      ‘With The Old Breed on Peleliu and Okinawa’ by Eugene Sledge.
      It leaves you speechless.
      God Bless the Marines.

  • mazkact

    20 gauge pump high brass #4

  • Winter

    I think for the video using something other than Hornady Superformance might have been a better idea. I’ve seen the same test performed using more common sense ammunition (I think it was Hornady TAP) where they tested all kinds of handgun calibers from .22LR up, shotguns and the AR. In that test using better ammo choice for the AR, the results were amazing. Every caliber including the .22LR penetrated further than the AR did. Many of which exited completely out of the “exterior wall” they had set up in addition to the drywall.

    It was clear that, with the right ammunition, the AR shooting .223 was the ideal choice for home defense. It has excellent bad guy stopping power and was the least likely to injure/kill family in the house and your neighbor too. Very interesting stuff and hard to believe until you see it, which is why tests like these are so important to be shown on video. The video in this article was more about penetration for the sake of penetration but there are others out there designed to help you pick the best options for home defense. Obviously if you live alone and don’t have neighbors in close proximity you can use a .50 bmg if you want but for those of us with family members in other rooms and/or neighbors close enough to catch a rogue bullet it’s a very real concern. I’m a former LEO and have been taking shooting courses since I was 12. I’m pretty good with a handgun or rifle under normal circumstances. However, I’m not so arrogant as to believe that I’m going to shoot like that when a bad guy breaks into my house in the middle of the night and he’s shooting at me. It just doesn’t happen, you won’t suddenly rise to the occasion and print perfect groups in Mr. Bad Guys A Zone. You will very likely put bullets into the wall behind him and if your family or your neighbor is behind that wall and the four-five walls behind those so wrap your head around that when considering what gun and just as importantly, what ammunition you want to use for home defense.

    Sorry for the long post but I’ve met sooooo many people who don’t even consider this topic. I hear people say all the time that they load up with whatever ammo has the best penetration because they want to be sure those bullets get maximum penetration into the bad guy. It’s a trade off in my opinion. Most any modern “quality” defensive ammo choice these days will give you excellent penetration and open up wide without resorting to the 9mm +P+ Super Penetrator XP 5600 with exploding nose cone. If I can get good performance and not put stray rounds into the neighbors house, that’s what I strive for. Granted, again, if you live alone with no neighbors, the 9mm +P+ Super Penetrator XP 5600’s are a perfectly viable choice.

  • BENNETT O’!

    5.56 11.5″ bl.?? Seriously?? … Can we do it again – with a “normally-sold” length bl. – the 16″. Or better yet: an 18 or 20″… lets go ‘HI-SIDE’ on the power… see the extreme situation – work back from there.

    BE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE RE-TEST!

  • jerry young

    I would never consider using a .22 for home defense, not saying if it was the only gun at hand I wouldn’t use it if needed but .22’s are notorious for misfires right from the factory fresh as you can get them, it all has to do with how they’re made, the primer is spun into the base and can leave voids which can cause a misfire, sometimes when we have misfires at our classes we will at a later time try them in a different gun and mostly they work so I choose not to bet my life on them

  • DL

    So maybe the editor has been pressuring you for something fresh? This is what you come up with? Some “smokie tokie” inspiration?

    Late sixties/early seventies we searched for the same solutions.

    You have to use actual buildings.

    The same goes for body armor and vehicles.

    Dickie, Nate, whichever you are, You are so cute. We love you Baby.

    We used to shoot up the junk yards and abandoned buildings.

    Watch the ricochets?

    How about something that gives an idea where those rounds go when the idiots fire their weapons in the air? Apex altitude, distance, shooting over a hill/mountain.

    You knew that in the “Conflict” our searchlight boys were the decision makers many times?

    No, they weren’t looking for Rodan.

    HA HA.

    I know, I’m too old and wacked to comment.

    Hey, shoot masonry.

    DL

  • datimes

    The American 180 .22 machine gun was marketed to law enforcement in the 1980’s as a solution to over penetration. Stopping power was to come from the very high rate of fire placing multiple rounds on target.

    • Doom

      I always thought one of those with a light and suppressor would make a perfect home defense gun.

  • disqus_PDmXLtTxJj

    Interestingly enough I have fired both CCI Stinger, and Velocitor, through quarter inch plexiglass and it will fully penetrate the first layer of plexiglass and embed or break apart upon hitting the second layer. They will also punch clean holes through 1/8in thick aluminum pans like a hot knife through butter. I’ve always thought that since you can make nice tight groups with .22LR HV it’s possible to hit a home invader in tha face or upper torso. Weather you get shot in the face with a 5.56 or a .22LR HV your going to have a bad day. Personally I feel like I could pump more of the .22 safely into the target than the 5.56 and not have to wory about over penetration.

  • lbeacham

    Bodies stop bullets better than walls. Practice, practice.

  • on humans, the important parts are in the back. FBI requirements was to ask for about 12 inches penetration (perp might have arms or hands in front of him, and you may need to shoot through them to get to the body).

  • S. Plankenberg

    I’ll bet the .22 LR would have equalled the .223 in penetration if the tester had used 40 grain round nosed bullets and fired them from the rifle.

  • anonymouse

    Or you could just build your house our of bricks like the third little piggy. Then the big bad wolf won’t be able to blow your house down.

  • machgman

    Nathan S – “My take away – don’t miss.”

    Spoken like a true Jarhead who never admits to missing any target in real life and never ever missed a target (moving or not) in low light.

    Next, we will hear Nathan spout off that anyone who gets shot by a stray bullet through drywall walls deserved it because they were “just” there.

  • AirborneSoldier

    22 will penetrate all sheetrock in your house. Interior drywall is either 1/4inch or 3/8 inch, not the doubled up or thicker stuff shown. I have personally fired 22 through 7 courses of sheetrock, spaced normally.

  • Daniel M. Ramos

    Hodor!