The Rimfire Report: Is 22 Magnum A Viable Concealed Carry Cartridge?

Luke C.
by Luke C.
Photo Credit: Walther

Hello and welcome to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world and its various guns, gear, sports, and ammunition. Last week we talked a bit about CCI Stingers for use as a concealed carry .22LR cartridge. Once again we saw that although the round can get pretty fast and expand pretty aggressively out of a rifle, it really doesn’t hold up when shot from a backup-sized pistol. That being said, if it’s all you’ve got or all you can manage to carry, it is most certainly better than nothing when it comes to a defensive shooting situation. 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire is the big brother of .22LR and many of you have expressed interest in its viability as a concealed carry cartridge. With the recent release of the Walther WMP – a full-size semi-auto optics-ready .22 WMR pistol – the question has come up in my mind once again to determine whether or not .22 Magnum might actually make for a decent lighter-recoil self-defense cartridge for concealed carry. So today we’ll be taking a closer look at the performance metrics of .22 Magnum to see how well it holds up compared to other lighter recoil options for concealed carry.

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The Rimfire Report: Is 22 Magnum A Viable Concealed Carry Cartridge?

The Rimfire Report: Is 22 Magnum A Viable Concealed Carry Cartridge?

Firearms Options

When it comes to .22 Magnum, we’re extremely limited in the number of concealable firearms for self-defense. The new Walther WMP might be at the upper edge of concealability and my smaller 5’9″ frame would struggle to keep one carried discreetly outside of the colder months of the year. If concealability wasn’t an issue, options like the Kel-Tec PMR30 might make for a good first option, however, there are indeed smaller options out there that fit the bill more closely.

The KelTec PMR30 and CMR30 make for a great pair of high-capacity rimfire guns on a budget.

One such option for concealed carry for most individuals would be the Ruger LCR. The LCR is available in many different calibers but if you’re focused on reducing recoil, the .22 Magnum option gives you a good compromise on size, capacity, and recoil. The biggest downside in my mind for the LCR in .22 Magnum is that it uses a double action only trigger which may be far more difficult to use and much less accurate for shooters who are already having issues with centerfire recoil.

The Rimfire Report: Is 22 Magnum A Viable Concealed Carry Cartridge?

Smaller options in the market come in the form of ultra-niche derringer style pistols and pocket revolvers like the North American Arms Wasp Magnum. The Wasp Magnum features a lower capacity 5-shot cylinder but has the added benefit of being able to be carried in a pocket by almost anyone. The downside here is that you’re trading a DA/SA 6-shot revolver, for an even more difficult to use and manipulate single action only pocket revolver with a scant 5-rounds of capacity.

I think .22 Magnum often gets overlooked because of these less desirable firearms types along with some other notable downsides to the cartridge we’ll list later but with enough practice, training, and the correct setup, I think .22 Magnum still offers recoil-sensitive people access to a more powerful method of self-defense than .22LR or even less-lethal options.

The Rimfire Report: Is 22 Magnum A Viable Concealed Carry Cartridge?

Cartridge Performance

No, .22 Magnum won’t be as powerful as 9mm but surprisingly it does rival a few of the lighter concealed carry cartridges like .32 ACP and .380 ACP. The .22 Magnum won’t outright outperform these two cartridges but it comes pretty close when comparing raw numbers. For example, Federal’s new Punch 22 WMR cartridge features a 45-grain projectile traveling at 1080 feet per second giving it muzzle energy of 117-foot pounds. Meanwhile, the .380 ACP of the same brand of ammo fired form the same barrel length (380 ACP Punch 85 grain @ 1000 fps) only increases this energy by about 70-foot pounds (189 ft/lbs).

38 Special Gel Test Results | Photo:
22 Magnum Penetration Results - Photo:

380 ACP still clearly wins in the energy department but when you factor in things like recoil sensitivity, relative cost, and how accurate you can be with a particular firearm, .22 Magnum may be a better option if you can shoot it more proficiently than a more powerful cartridge. The guys over at Lucky Gunner have shown that you can expect about the same amount of overall penetration from .22 Magnum as you would from some .38 Special loads. It is worth noting, however, that most modern .22 WMR loads are heavily optimized for use out of rifles and as a result, don’t expend all that well when shot from shorter barrels.


I think it’s still very clear that .22 WMR isn’t an ideal concealed carry cartridge. Although the round can be compared to some more mainstream concealed carry rounds like 32 ACP and 380 ACP, the market support for the cartridge still isn’t there and we’ve still yet to see any decent compact semi-auto options on the market with revolvers looking like the only decent concealable option for those who want to carry the 22 Magnum for personal defense.

The Rimfire Report: Is 22 Magnum A Viable Concealed Carry Cartridge?

Find 22 WMR Ammo

That being said I think that .22 Magnum is starting to catch the eye of some manufacturers with companies like Federal coming out with Punch ammo in .22 WMR, and Walther’s new WMP pistol seems to be one of the first genuinely reliable .22 WMR pistols to hit the market which might bode well for possible concealed carry friendly models of pistols down the line. I’ve got a WMP on the way for review so when the time comes, you can expect we’ll do a full reliability test and burn down of the pistol to see how it stacks up to currently available options in the .22 WMR market. Until then, I’d like to hear your thoughts on .22 Magnum being used as a stand-in for other self-defense cartridges. Would you consider carrying it if it was all you had or could carry? Let us know down in the comments and as always, thank you for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report! We’ll see you all next week!

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Luke C.
Luke C.

Reloader SCSA Competitor Certified Pilot Currently able to pass himself off as the second cousin twice removed of Joe Flanigan. Instagram:

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2 of 89 comments
  • Mark Brooks Mark Brooks on Jun 17, 2022

    Decided to do my own little test after reading this article. Had some 380 ACP's, so all I had to do is head to nearby gun store and grab a 40 grain of WMR .22. Noticeably recoil was much harsher with 380. If you prefer more control I'd recommend trying out .22.

  • F.T. F.T. on Jun 23, 2022

    Its better than nothing but not much. It would depend a great deal on shot placement. A head shot would stop someone but maybe not to the mid section before the person was able to deal you a deadly strike.