The Special Application .22LR for Home Defense, Part 1: Weigh the Evidence and Make a Decision

I’m a fairly pragmatic person. I’m an engineer by schooling and like to base my decisions on statistics, facts, research, personal experience, and sometimes a sprinkling of intuition. I’m no different when it comes to the self defense game. I’m going to write an ongoing series of posts about my decision to outfit a Ruger 10/22 for my wife for home defense. I’ll try to make my case about choosing this rifle by noting some case studies on actual defensive gun uses, terminal ballistics, ease of training with the rifle, advantages of the .22LR for a muzzle-blast sensitive shooter, financial reasons to choose .22LR, methodology for training my wife and family in it’s use, and I will document the ongoing process of developing a training program around this rifle.

The Mission: Find and outfit a firearm for my wife which is reliable, chambered in an empirically effective caliber, will allow her to pass basic shooting standards, with which she can build competence and confidence to protect our family.

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Why not a ‘real’ caliber like 5.56mm, 12 gauge, or a 9mm pistol?

Don’t get me wrong. My wife can shoot her Glock19 very well. She has taken a two day, 1000+ round Fighting Pistol class with Tactical Response, and plenty of follow up practice sessions, including a few with Claude Werner (The Tactical Professor). She shoots it well, but I think she would be the first to admit that shooting the 9mm isn’t a totally pleasant experience for her. I realize some of you are married to women who shoot .357mag in an airlite Smith for 150 rounds in a day and laugh about it. Well my wife can’t. In fact, in my experience, not many people can stand up to extended range sessions in any full-house caliber. She is good for maybe 25-50 rounds of practice before her flinch and trigger jerking starts to get the better of her. Many people, and women in particular, seem to be very sensitive to the over-pressure concussion of gun shots. My wife is noticeably rattled after a short time in an indoor range. So what? So, she doesn’t want to practice, doesn’t want to go to the range, and doesn’t want to maintain what is absolutely a perishable skill. These are all bad things, especially with the chance that she’ll have to make a shot on the home invader while I’m actively fighting them. The need to make a ‘downrange friendly’ shot is a very real possibility. It is a more likely shot for average Joe Gunowner than the ‘hostage shot’ we see in all of the paper targets and cop movies.



Example: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1368677/Beauty-queen-Meghan-Brown-kills-burglar-pink-gun-fights-fianc.html

The fight between the two men broke the dining room table and chairs but, as they tussled, Miss Brown produced her pink gun from her bedside table.

‘I had my gun drawn, focused in on him – as he moved, my gun moved. I waited for my shot and when I saw an opening, I fired,’ she told the newspaper.

I’ll admit that it’s a little selfish of me, but I want to give my wife every chance to make her shot if this situation arises. To do this, she needs to enjoy practice and be able to make these kinds of low probability shots cold and on demand. I decided that a Ruger 10/22 rifle could be a good choice based on the advice of my friends and mentors. Let’s talk further about why.

Can the .22LR be effective against human targets?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDvdjdzB_ro?rel=0]

About four years ago I started getting turned on to the idea of .22lr as a pocket gun caliber when The Tactical Professor was writing his Old Man Gun series of posts on a popular self-defense forum, followed by my watching some ballistics gelatin tests of varied .22lr ammo at the Mid-Atlantic Tactical Conference in 2010. Then I read Greg Ellifritz’s An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power research article. Here’s an excerpt from this data collection:

.22 (short, long and long rifle)# of people shot – 154 # of hits – 213, % of hits that were fatal – 34%, Average number of rounds until incapacitation – 1.38, % of people who were not incapacitated – 31%, One-shot-stop % – 31%, Accuracy (head and torso hits) – 76% %, actually incapacitated by one shot (torso or head hit) – 60%

He goes on to say:

Some people will look at this data and say “He’s telling us all to carry .22s”. That’s not true. Although this study showed that the percentages of people stopped with one shot are similar between almost all handgun cartridges, there’s more to the story. Take a look at two numbers: the percentage of people who did not stop (no matter how many rounds were fired into them) and the one-shot-stop percentage. The lower caliber rounds (.22, .25, .32) had a failure rate that was roughly double that of the higher caliber rounds. The one-shot-stop percentage (where I considered all hits, anywhere on the body) trended generally higher as the round gets more powerful.

So, we have to try to consider all aspects of Greg’s data. We can see that we have an approximate need for 1.4 rounds of .22LR before the attacker stops pressing the attack and a 34% chance of a fatality resulting from quality shot placement. The Ruger 10/22 factory 25 round magazines hold more than 1.4 rounds, so we’re looking good so far. Rifles, in general, are easier to shoot, hold more ammunition, and allow a greater degree of accuracy due to four points of contact with the body, instead of two with the pistol.

With some training, we can improve our chances to make quality hits and affect the desired outcome (for the invader to leave us alone). We have to also be fair and acknowledge the fact that there is a higher probability of non-stops when using small calibers in defensive situations. Their lack of intermediate barrier penetration, their small permanent wound cavity, reliability issues, and all of the other issues with small and light projectiles need to be considered. I personally believe the statistic about failed stops is a shot placement issue and therefor can be trained to be improved (high center chest, ocular cavity hits being key). I don’t have any proof of this, so take that for what it’s worth. Our training needs to address putting a volley of rounds into these areas in a constrained time-frame, which we will talk about soon.

Another issue might be the dedication level of the attackers. Against an opportunistic bad guy, it’s very probable that shooting won’t even be necessary (it often isn’t), just showing the intent and ability to use deadly force will make him remember he has somewhere better to be. Against a home invader, however, it’s possible that you’ll be facing a dedicated attacker who is after you. This is the sort of bad guy that you will have to shoot until you incapacitate them. You will have to make enough holes in the pump works or computer to shut down the attack. The .22LR can help you to this end by allowing rapid followup shots through minimal recoil, high capacity, and minimal muzzle flash. It can be a poor choice based on it’s lack of muzzle energy and occasional poor ignition.

While Greg’s stats are a compilation of actual events (a whole lot of them, in fact) it’s still useful to read a few examples to illustrate some points. Let’s run through a few.

First: http://www.wsbradio.com/news/news/local/gwinnett-home-invasion-suspect-named/nCf3b/

“She was telling him not to hurt her, that she had money in the house.  He then forced her into the bedroom where it’s believed he was going to sexually assault her with the threat of the knife.  The victim was able to retrieve her .22 cal. pistol and responded to his deadly threat with deadly force and shot the suspect multiple times,” said Ritter.

Ritter says the man fled out the back door and then he collapsed in the backyard.  The suspect died at Gwinnett Medical Center.

The notable issue here was the percentage of hits she achieved. As I recall it was 8/9 or 9/10 shots that found their mark. A very good hit ratio. She had done her practice. He was dead as she shot him, but he didn’t realize it until he made it out into the yard. The .22LR has several great benefits that allow one to become proficient, which we will talk about in a later installment.

Second: http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/crime-courts/2014-08-02/boy-15-shoots-uncle-fathers-defense-police-say

According to the release, Newman came to the home, threatened to kill Rich­ard Green and began punching him. After Newman placed him in a chokehold, Green’s 15-year-old son got a .22-caliber rifle and threatened to shoot if he didn’t release the hold, the statement said.

When Newman didn’t let go, Green’s son fired once, striking Newman in the back, the statement said.

I chose this situation to show that a young man (or even child with proper training) can wield a .22 and make a low probability shot with a friendly downrange. Stories like this made me consider long-guns over pistols.

Third: http://www.wfmj.com/story/21823428/72-year-old-woman-shoots-at-intruder

hen she heard the glass break. The 72-year-old told police that’s when she rushed to her bedroom to retrieve her revolver, and began yelling, “leave me alone” and “get out of here!”

The homeowner says she feared for her life and pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. The woman says she then pulled the trigger of the gun a second time and a shot was fired.

That’s when she called 911, and held the intruder at gunpoint.

She can be heard on the 911 tape telling the 26-year-old male suspect, “You better sit down! You better sit.” Then she asks 911 operators if they can hurry and get a police officer to help her.

This one shows that an old woman can wield a .22 revolver and hold down the fort. It also shows the well known fact that rimfire ammo is prone to misfires. Which just stresses the importance of using high quality ammunition to ensure ignition when it matters. Here’s a cool interview Greg Ellifritz had with an older fellow about his use of the .22 revolvers for defense.

The .22LR and ease of practice and training

Even though finding .22LR in stock in today’s market is like finding hen’s teeth, it still is an affordable caliber when you can find it. It can be had in very reliable loads. While these loadings are more expensive than the 550 round bricks, they are not prohibitively expensive. A reliable .22LR rifle will not break the bank. A new Ruger 10/22, for example, can be had for about $200. Add to this the required white light and mount, and possibly a red dot optic, and you’re into a budget home defense rifle for $300-$400. This allows inexpensive practice on an inexpensive rifle that is enjoyable to shoot, not abusive in recoil or noise, reliable with the right ammunition, light weight, and has proven effective in actual situations.

So hopefully you’re following my train of thought on why the .22LR can be used for home defense. I hope I’ve given enough logical evidence to make my point. The next articles in this series will discuss how I’ve outfitted my wife’s rifle, the training program I’m developing with her, and her ongoing training.

Stay Safe and Protect the Brood,

Defensive Daddy

References and Notes:

I want to thank Dr. Sherman of http://revolverscience.wordpress.com/ and Claude Werner of http://tacticalprofessor.wordpress.com/ for the inspiration to begin this project. Getting this project off the ground has been paying off tremendously in easing my mind when it comes to setting up a firearm for my wife and my mother to use in the event of an emergency if they’re home alone, or in the event that something happens to me during a home invasion and they are the last line of defense between the bad guys and my son.

The .22 Caliber Rifle For Home Defense? (Podcast – Season 2, Ballistic Radio Episode 57 – April 13th, 2014)

An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power

Real World .22s for Self Defense

Trends in Self Defense Part 2: The Mighty .22LR

Part 2: https://growingupguns.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/the-special-application-22lr-for-home-defense-part-2-the-setup/

 

23 thoughts on “The Special Application .22LR for Home Defense, Part 1: Weigh the Evidence and Make a Decision”

  1. For whatever reason, I have heard many females speak about self defense in terms of “do what ever you want to me, but if you mess with my kids, watch out!” which makes me kind of sad, in a way. I really believe it is important for everybody thinking about self defense to value their own life at the same level as their loved ones. I would still sacrifice myself for my kids in a heartbeat, but what I’m talking about is having the mindset to fight just as hard for yourself as you would for them. Stay safe, protect the brood, protect yourself.

  2. Excellent article! I’ve been re-evaluating my position on smaller calibers for self defense since I had a female friend with health issues ask about having a gun for home protection. She physically can’t shoot an AR or shotty.

    The more I thought about it, a 5-shot string of .22 to the face was a preferable option to a miss with no follow-up from a 9mm. I just wish that .22mag was more widely fielded and ammo available.

    Thanks again!

    1. Yes Sir! I’m glad you found it valuable. When we dismiss things like certain calibers and weapons because of what “most people” say, and ignore hard data, we do ourselves a disservice.

  3. First great article. Although my wife is not recoil sensitive(she shoots 45/70 for primitive deer season) and she’s quite good with her .45. However her faverate of all is her 10/22. One of the things we do to train her is small spinners at 50yds. After many, many bricks she can spin the top one and all 3 bottom before the top stops. In a civil unrest she will be responsible to deny any molatave cocktails. However for inside the home she purchased a 9mm carbine and she is scary accurate with it. Too many moons ago when I was a Leo .22 was the most comman caliber to cause death. I trust her with any of her weapons but your reasoning for others is spot on. Thanks and look forward to part two.

  4. Great article. Supports what I’ve said many times over many years, especially to friends who’ve fretted they don’t have anything other than a .22 LR rife.

    Any chance you could post a link to the referenced, “The Tactical Professor’s writing” and specifically to the “Old Man Gun series of posts on a popular self-defense forum”? I’ve searched for hours and can’t find it anywhere. Would greatly apprecaite it if you could post the link directly, and if not, then at least point to what site, time frame, etc to help those of us who missed it, find and read his article.

    Many thanks! And again, job well done on this 2-part article.

  5. It’s nice to read some hard to swallow facts for some folks. I’ve always thought a 22lr was enough, but I’ve often felt guilty after reading “some pros” put down the efficacy of the little rimfire. Felt as though I was setting my wife up for failure. She has taken a liking to my trapping revolver witch is a single action Heritage that has dispatched several coyotes with one shot kills. I do have three 10/22’s in house now after a most recent acquisition of a 50th Anniversary Edition 10 / 22. She has plinked with them, but after reading this article and links; I’ve decided to up the an tee and start some serious training with the 10 / 22. I see either a Ruger SR22 or M&P 22lr pistol on the immediate horizon as well.

    My hats off to you for an excellent read.

    Thanks,

    Jason

    1. That means a lot to me Jason, I appreciate it. I still just don’t see anything wrong with the .22. Ours is still going strong and running reliably. I’m not sure if you found part 2 yet, so here’s a link. I haven’t changed much about the setup since that post. I feel very confident with the .22.
      https://growingupguns.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/the-special-application-22lr-for-home-defense-part-2-the-setup/

      My suggestion for a .22 pistol is a M&P Compact .22. It’s like 3/4 the size of a real M&P and would be a great option for either training or carry. I think you’ll be pleased. I can’t speak for the ruger.

      1. Thanks for the link to part two I haven’t read it yet. Yeah I’ve recently switched from Glock to S&W M&P pistols. Nothing wrong with Glock, simply my personal preference and wanting to support an American manufacturer. I bought two of their AR 15’s as well. I’m still a Ruger Blackhawk guy though when it comes to revolvers. Oh well, off to read part two.

  6. I wouldn’t trust a .22 pistol in life and death situation. Not because of lack of stopping power, but because it’s not a very reliable ammo.
    I would very much consider a .22 REVOLVER. If and ammo doesn’t work, it won’t block the gun. Just pull the trigger again.
    Plus, there are many revolvers you can load with .22 long or magnum.

    1. That’s a good point! I try to get around it by using match grade ammo. But your point is well taken. I have had zero problems with the target match loading I’ve been using. So far so good. I need a 22 Snub. 🙂

  7. Been reading varied fora on subject. Discussed this at an N Ranger reunion, and except for a .45 fanboy (and I like the .45), most thought the Ruget 10-22 was an excellent home defense weapon
    Accurate, low recoil, will not go through neighbor’s living room, two or three rounds in thorax should dissuade most intruders, and quite safe, have weapon empty with magazine rubber banded to stock. Laser pointer might be a good idea

    As I noted in the other threads, it takes a three pound cannon ball to make a definitive stop. John Keegan noted in one of his books that a British battlefield surgeon of Napoleonic Wars had treated soldiers who had been hit by two pounders (2.5″ diameter and 14,000 grains) at perhaps 700 to 1000 for but none had survived a hit from a three pounder (2.9″ diameter and 21,000 grains).

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