Top 5 Best .22 LR for Self-Defense: The Itty Bitty Defender

Written by Sam Jacobs Subject: Gun Rights

Let's just address the elephant in the room right out of the gate:

The .22 LR is NOT the best choice for self-defense.

There, we said it.

No one will deny that the .22 Long Rifle cartridge is a great training tool for new shooters thanks to its nonexistent recoil. It's amazing for plinking and pest control, but the simple truth is that larger calibers like the 9mm, 38 Special, and 45 ACP make better self-defense cartridges than the 22 LR.

Don't get me wrong, I love the 22 LR, but it simply doesn't cause a large enough wound channel to reliably put down bad guys (and FBI ballistic gelatin tests confirm this).

As such, every time I walk out the door I'm grabbing my Glock 26 and not my Walther P22.


If all you own is a short-barrel 22 LR Ruger LCR or Taurus TX22, and it's between carrying that or a pointy stick...Then all I'll say is that a 22 LR in the pocket is better than a 45 ACP on the nightstand any day.

Can the 22 LR protect your life in a self-defense situation? You bet your rimfire rear-end it can! However, if you want to increase your chances of surviving a self-defense situation using a rimfire handgun, then you need the right ammo to get the job done.

Below you'll find our top 5 picks for the best 22 LR self-defense loads on the market today (plus a few honorable mentions!)

For those of you who want to place an order now, grab a few boxes of the Browning Performance 36 Grain CPHP. But if you want to explore the best .22 LR rimfire ammunition for self-defense, keep reading.

Just scroll down a little more for the top 5 best .22 LR ammo you can buy to defend your life.

Best 22LR for Self-Defense - Overall

Browning Performance 36 Grain CPHP


• Bullet Casing: Brass
• Bullet Type: CPHP (Copper Plated Hollow Point)
• Bullet Weight: 36 Grain
• Muzzle Velocity: 1,280 fps
• Muzzle Energy: 131 foot-pounds


• Affordable
• Easy to find
• CPHP offers some fragmentation


• Questionable reliability is some handguns

Why We Chose It

As far as rimfire cartridges go, you aren't going to find many .22 LR rounds that are versatile enough for plinking, varmint hunting, and self-defense. To make the best .22 LR ammo for self-defense, we had to consider reliability, price, performance, and availability. For us, that's the Browning Performance 36 Grain CPHP.

A simple copper-plated hollow point round with a solid lead core, this ammo is versatile enough to stop threats from home intruders to rabbits and squirrels. Due to the copper-plated encasement, the projectile penetrates well and won't deform before creating a deep wound channel.

It's a non-corrosive round with a high velocity that maximizes kinetic energy transfer (stopping power) and can be used in self-defense scenarios. However, make sure that you test this ammo in your preferred rimfire handgun before you decide to CCW it, as I had some reliability issues with Browning rimfire ammunition in my Walther P22.

However, if you find that your handgun likes this ammo, then you won't be disappointed by its performance.

Honorable Mention

Winchester Silvertip 37 Grain Segmented Hollow Point - Another hard-hitting, fast .22 LR cartridge is the Winchester Silvertip. This cartridge also maximizes stopping power for a small-caliber bullet with high velocity and a hollow point projectile.

However, it can be a bit difficult to find, so when you can get your hands on a box of the Winchester Silvertip, snatch it up.

CCI Stinger 32 Grain CPHP


• Bullet Casing: Nickel-Plated Brass
• Bullet Type: CPHP (Copper Plated Hollow Point)
• Bullet Weight: 32 Grain
• Muzzle Velocity: 1,640 fps
• Muzzle Energy: 191 ft-lbs


• Extremely affordable
• Reliable
• Hollow point provides some expansion
• High availability


• Lower velocity in typical CCW handguns

Why We Chose It

If you want incredibly reliable .22LR ammo that goes "Bang" every time you squeeze the trigger, then make sure to grab some CCI Stingers.

One major bonus of the CCI Stinger is that it utilizes a nickel-plated brass case that is incredibly smoot feeding. This is important for self-defense ammunition, because clearing a jam can mean the difference between life and death.

CCI Stingers also have some of the highest muzzle velocities available for rimfire ammo, outstripping CCI Mini-Mag and CCI Velocitor ammo by quite a wide margin.

Similar to the Browning ammo mentioned earlier, the 32 Grain CCI Stinger fires a copper-plated hollow point to initiate bullet fragmentation inside the target. But there are some notable differences. For example, the CCI stinger has a much higher muzzle velocity than the Browning (although this may vary depending on barrel length).

Ultimately, it's a varmint round, but it can also be effective in other scenarios. The copper-plated hollow point tip keeps the bullet from expanding too quickly and gives us penetration of 11" and 13" (in a gel test).

One thing to keep in mind is that most (not all) manufacturers report their muzzle velocities from test barrels that are typically longer than 16". I don't know about you, but I'm not planning on EDC'ing a Ruger 10-22!

Short barrel 22 LR pistols like the Ruger LCP will generally have a lower muzzle velocity than what's listed on the box, and this is true for most all manufacturers. This is not to say that the rounds are ineffective, but it's something you should be aware of before carrying a 22 LR handgun for self-defense.

However, CCI Stingers are very affordable and easy to buy in bulk to stockpile for multiple purposes. Take a few boxes to the range and ensure your .22 LR pistol (or rifle) likes the ammo, then keep the rest at home for the worst-case home defense scenario.

Continue reading our full picks for the best .22 LR ammo for self-defense here.