The Best 22 Magnum Pistols, Common Man’s Guide

The best 22 magnum handguns for general use are the Heritage Rough Rider 9 shot revolver, and the Kel Tec PMR30 semi-auto.   The Heritage sells for under $250 and the Kel Tec sells for about $350.  Both are accurate and reliable.  Their longer barrel gives them more power than most others.

   These two guns are polar opposites of each other, and they both have their quirks. Let’s go through the differences, and when one might be better than the other.

The Best 22 Mag Pistols, judging requirements: price, reliability, barrel length, capacity, and looks

The Best 22 mag Revolver

  • The 9-Shot Heritage Rough Rider

   The Rough Rider is an iconic pistol in itself.  It’s a classic single action “army” style revolver. The rough rider comes in two configurations, 6 shot and 9 shot. The 9 shot any larger than the 6, and it’s almost an ounce lighter. The 9-shot model is my recommendation, frankly because it has 50% more capacity

   It’s made by heritage manufacturing. Here the specs from the manufacturer’s website

Caliber:   .22 LR / .22 WMR             Capacity:          9 Rounds

Finish:     Black bluing                  Action Type:    Single Action Only

Lands & Grooves:  6                         Front Sight:      Fixed

Rear Sight:  Notch at Rear              Safety:               Thumb / Hammer

Grips: Cocobolo Wood                    Weight:              32 oz

Barrel Length: 6.5″                           Overall Length: 11.78″

Trigger Pull: approx. 3 1/2 pounds (guess)

   Description, and what’s good

   The Rough rider is available as a combo, which means it has 2 cylinders, one the 22lr, and one for the 22 mag.  If you bought a 22lr only model, you can buy the 22 magnum cylinder from the manufacturer.  It only takes a couple seconds to swap cylinders, and no tools are needed.

   That’s what I did. I bought the 22lr model, then later bought the magnum cylinder for around twenty bucks. I really wanted the 22 magnum cylinder because in the 6.5 inch barrel, the magnum has about the same power as a 22lr out of a full length rifle.

   The rough rider has been continuously documented to chronograph velocities of 1,200 fps and above with a 40 grain 22 mag bullet, so yeah, that’s right there in line with what my 22lr rifle does with standard high-velocity ammo.  The 22lr will do about 800 fps in that same barrel length.

   The nine-round capacity is amazing.  That’s the first reason why I recommend this rough rider over all other 22 magnum revolvers. Of the full-sized revolvers, this is the only one that has holds more than six shots. 9 is only 3 more tan six, but it’s also 50 percent more.  Percentage wise, that’s pretty darn good.

   For either target shooting, small game hunting, or defensive use, that’s a whole heap better.  Yes, I just let on that a single action rimfire revolver can be used defensively. Of you’re going to rely on a 22mag revolver, you best have the most powerful and highest capacity: That comes with the Rough Rider.

   Everyone’s first impression of the Rough Rider is a very pretty gun.  The bluing is a shiny, sleek black.  the 6.5 inch barreled 9-shot magnum only has 1 grip option from the factory right now. That’s classic styled wood grip stained cocobolo red.  It looks good enough t ask it on a date.

   You can buy other grips from their website.  They have lots of different colors, a snakeskin pattern, an American flag grip, and a real pretty mother-of-pearl grip, if you want to look your old-time cowboy action hero of the west. Almost everyone stays with the original grips though.

   The rifling on the Rough Rider is actually quality riffing.  I’ve measured the lands and grooves in several different ones and they are incredibly uniform and the groves are on the tight side, which is something I really like. It’s got an even number of groves so it’s easy to measure if you have a decent set of calipers.

     The gun weighs 32 ounces unloaded, or 33 1/3 ounces loaded.  It’s a bit of a lightweight pistol.  the trigger is incredible, as one may expect from a single action revolver.  The trigger is as smooth as any Colt revolver.  Actually, the trigger and hammer mechanisms are basically a 7/8 scaled copy of Colt’s design.

   It does have an actual safety.  There’s a switch on the left side of the frame, near the cylinder.  Red is fire, no red is on “safe”. The safety is easy to use and visibly clear whether it’s on or off.

Adjusting the sights on the rough rider

you can see the front blade sight, and the saftey to the left of the hammer.

   The sights are old school blade and notch sights.  They work about like modern notch and post, but have a very different visual. They are technically adjustable, but not as easily adjustable as most modern systems.  Still, it’s made to be adjustable if necessary. Though it’s hardly ever needed. 

      Heritage manufacturing makes 2 different sights. One is a modern adjustable sight, and the other is a classic front blade sight with a slight rear notch to line it up with.  Once you’ve found an ammunition that shoots consistently in the same spot out of your pistol, you can adjust the sights if needed.

    Right now, the fiber optic sight isn’t available on the 6.5-inch barrel 22 mag option.  It has been, and you may find one used.  I hope they stary offering it again soon because I want one myself.  The fiber optic sights adjust by turning a screw.

  The adjustable, fiber optic sights are a cinch to move.  The cowboy style blade sight, not so much.  To adjust the front blade sight, you have to either bed it to one side, or file it down. Filing is fairly permanent, so be sure that you actually need it done and be careful not to file off too much.

   Before you file anything, determine how much you need to take off. To do that, you need a good set of calipers, and a 30-foot (10 yard) shooting range.  I picked 30 feet because it’s an easy number to work with. My rough rider with a 6.5-inch barrel has a sight radius of 7 5/8 (7.626) inches. 

   Knowing that, filling 0.0211 inches off the blade will make it shoot 1-inch higher at ten yards.  That’s rounded up to the nearest 1,000th of an inch or so; good enough.  Only file a very little bit, then measure how much you filed off with a caliper.  Don’t go too far.

The downsides

    The Rough Rider has a pretty bluing, but it’s a light coat that wears off easily.  Also, my biggest pet peeve, is that the handle on the ejector rod is plastic. I worry about it breaking off.  I will say that I’ve never heard of that happening.  I’m just really good at breaking stuff.

  Next up is the one reoccurring problem that the rough rider may have.  I had it happen with mine, and I heard about it happening with someone else, so I’ll mention it.  the tube under the barrel that holds the ejector rod has a single screw near the front holding it in place.  Mine came loose.

   After 1000 rounds, I noticed while ejecting brass that the ejector assembly had some wiggle to it. Not good.  I cleaned off all the oil, put on a dab of blue Loctite, and tightened it down with my Leatherman. Bam, no troubles after another 2000 rounds.  I recommend applying blue Loctite when you first get it.

   Since it’s single action, yo9u have to pull back the hammer before it will fire, every time, for each shot. this makes it a bit slower to shoot than just pulling the trigger.  But, because it’s got the full-sized barrel, and nine shots, I recommend it over any other 22mag revolver. 

Final Note:

While you can fire a 22lr in the 22 mag cylinder, I recommend against it.

The bullets are the same diameter, but the magnum brass is just a hair wider.

It will fire, but you will have low pressure in the barrel.

 That means, the bullet will be less powerful and suffer accuracy.

 It will really dirty up the cylinder because the brass isn’t sealing it.

Bottom line, only fire 22lr in a 22mag revolver in an emergency.

The Best 22 Mag Semi-Auto Pistol

  • The Kel Tec PMR30

Caliber .22WMR                              Weight               14oz       

Capacity: 30                                       Overall Length: 7.9”

Barrel length:   4.3”                          Height:               5.8”                                      

 Width: 1.3”                                       Triger Pull:         5lbs

Grips:  Checkered Black Plastic      Sights:                 Fiber Optic

   I don’t own the PMR30, but they did have one for rent at my local gun range.  now, most gun manufacturers design their firearms around a fairly standard design model. Kel Tec does not subscribe to that school of thought.  They make gun with function and performance in mind.   

   The PMR30 reminds me of the racecars my buddy races. He drives Late Model racecars that he makes in his garage.   It doesn’t look like any other style of car, but it can take the tight curves on the small local track way faster than the NASCAR style Sport Class cars.

   Kel Tec made a different looking pistol, with a different feel, that is both totally weird and totally amazing. Honestly, it’s almost a bit sci-fi, or alien. Everything about it is a little different.  I want one.

   The first thing I want to mention is capacity. It holds 30 bullets. That alone is why I want it.  but wait there’s more! From what I’ve seen, it functions very well.  Tt takes a standard type, double stack magazine. The magazine release is located on the bottom of the grip. It pops right out when pressed.

   As soon as you pick it up, you will notice that it’s incredibly lightweight. The PMR30 weighs 14 ounces unloaded. 30 rounds ads about 3 ounces, so 17 ounces loaded. The light weight of the gun is due to te use of polymer, everywhere.  The grip, and the slide is a sturdy, lightweight polymer.

   Even though the gun is super light, recoil is still almost nothing.  Doing some speed shooting, I can stay on target as fast as I can pull the trigger. The trigger itself is a good one too.  it’s got a smooth trigger with a clean break and little travel. It’s basically a firm target trigger.

   The grip on the pistol feels weird at first, if you are used to any other pistol.  It has a raised fishnet pattern across the grip, and it’s a long grip.  Well, at least it seams kinda long.  It’s not hard to hold, just looks a bit long.  really, it’s not a bad grip.

   Kel Tec added an accessory rail under the barrel. You could put a flashlight or a laser on it if you want. I think that’s nice.  It’s good to have options. I could definitely see adding a laser for night tome varmint shooting or defensive use.  With 30 bullets, it’s got some merit for a defensive weapon.

   The safety is a big switch on both sides of the pistol.  It’s easy to operate with your thumb. The fiber optic sights are nice.  They come sighted in right about center hold, versus a target hold.  The PMR30 should throw bullets about 1200 feet per second, depending on what ammo you use.

   The downsides

Rimlock is illustrated here. The rim of the seconb bullet will prevent the irst from sliding forward into the chamber.

Besides being a bit weird and different, there is really only one thing to point out.  Because the 22mag is rimfire, you can load the magazines improperly.  If the cartridges are not seated all the way back in the magazine, you can experience rimlock.    Rimlock is when the rim of a cartridge gets caught behind the rim of the cartridge below it so that it won’t leave the magazine.  if you pay attention during loading, you will avoid that potential. It’s not too common, but it happens. Kel Tec recommends taping the back of the magazine during loading to prevent it from happening.

Jordan Buck

Jordan Buck is an outdoor writer, a man of faith, and a family man. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. Jordan has taught marksmanship, woodsmanship, and self-defense classes. He has earned black belts in four martial arts and is a certified Krav Maga instructor. He also runs his own Gun Blog and YouTube Channel. Jordan enjoys giving his time and resources to help others and has spent 15 years volunteering in a boy's mentoring program He is and will always be an American Patriot. MOLON LABE

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