The .22 Long Rifle is one of the most popular and affordable calibers for shooters today. Not only are .22 LR rifles cheap, but they’re also extremely versatile in terms of range, effectiveness, and availability of different hunting pellets.
From semi-automatic pistols to bolt-action rifles and everything in between, you’ll find a seemingly infinite number of makes, models, and calibers to choose from when selecting your next firearm. However, one type of gun that many shooters often overlook is the revolver. If you’re looking for the best .22 LR revolvers on the market today, read on for our recommendations.
Quick Summary of the Best .22 LR Revolvers
- Ruger Wrangler
- Heritage Rough Rider
- Ruger New Model Single Six/ Convertible
- Charter Arms Pathfinder
- Smith and Wesson Model 17
- Ruger SP101 .22
- Smith & Wesson 317 Kit Gun
- Ruger LCR/ LCRx
- Smith & Wesson Model 617
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The .22 Long Rifle (LR)
As a testament to firearm design and ingenuity, the .22 Long Rifle cartridge stands out as the oldest cartridge remaining in widespread use. It is the most widely used sub .223 round in America, and the sixth most widely used caliber overall, with more than 100,000 rifles and pistols chambered in 22 LR sold each year.
The .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR) was developed in 1878 by the J. Stevens Arm & Tool Company as an ideal teaching round for individuals of all ages. It has very low recoil and is a highly affordable round to shoot. Its ballistic qualities can be assessed at short distances, so shooters can learn aspects like bullet drop and wind drift without using a strong cartridge or a wide shooting range.
Why Get a .22 LR Revolver?
The .22 LR is a low-cost round that lets shooters do some valuable practice without breaking the bank. There are a wide variety of .22 LR handguns available that range in size, design, price, and purpose. When it comes to handguns, you may find yourself using the .22 LRs in various situations. For instance, target shooting, hunting, training, and concealed carry are the most common uses for a .22 LR handgun.
Despite its small size, the .22 LR still carries average energy of 89 foot-pounds and a velocity of 1,060 feet per second. It’s easy for a shooter to carry hundreds of rounds since the ammo is tiny and light.
Unfortunately, the .22 LR is an incredibly underestimated caliber when it comes to self-defense. Its lack of recoil and ease of firing makes it a handy round outside recreational shooting. Although not a hard-hitting round, follow-up shots are easier to set up with a .22 handgun. With that in mind, the best .22 LR revolvers will perform well as a CCW or as a backup self-defense weapon. Although it may find its home as plinking ammunition, it can become a fatal weapon against intruders in the right hands.
Considering the ammo capacity of a .22 LR revolver, you may find it lacking compared to its pistol counterparts. Although traditional revolvers will have a smaller round capacity than magazine-fed pistols, it’s easy to find .22 LR revolvers and cylinders that can carry up to 10 rounds.
Choosing Between a Pistol and a Revolver
Although many individuals use the word pistol and handgun interchangeably, most handgun specialists distinguish that pistols are a subset of handguns that include an “integral chamber-barrel system.”
Pistols feature one or more immovable integrated chambers, whereas revolvers have many chambers within a spinning cylinder. This indicates that pistols and revolvers are both subgroups of handguns, but revolvers are not pistols at all.
Since there is a given absence of moving components, revolvers are often easier to maintain and repair while being much easier and simpler to use. Revolvers have a heavier frame and a better capacity to hold more powerful rounds, making them better suited for tough environments. However, it is without some drawbacks. Revolvers are notoriously short on round capacity and inherently sluggish to reload during shootouts. Double-action revolvers also tend to be more cumbersome than most modern pistols because of their larger side profile and longer, heavier trigger pull.
On the other hand, pistols are better suited for open-fire situations since they have a larger magazine capacity and inherently quicker reload speed. Additionally, it’s lower in weight and requires a shorter, lighter trigger pull, making it a more enjoyable weapon to use. Also, since pistols are more ergonomic and provide a greater degree of personalization than revolvers, pistols are often more preferred by gun enthusiasts.
However, pistols have more moving parts, meaning they have a greater chance of failing. They’re also more complicated to use than traditional revolvers. Generally, pistols usually cater to smaller cartridges, so in a head-to-head fight, you’re more likely to have less stopping power than someone with a revolver, who you can assume is usually packing a larger round.
Parts of a Revolver
Revolvers are relatively simple firearms. Here’s a quick run-through if you’re a new gun owner and never handled or owned one before.
An action, or trigger group, comprises the components necessary to ignite a cartridge. It includes the trigger, hammer, and safeties as a single unit. Mechanics are developed and utilized according to the weapon’s action. The function of the trigger determines the sort of action, whether single-action or double-action.
The frame is a metal enclosure that acts as the handgun’s handle or grip. All other components are incorporated into or linked to the frame.
The bullet goes through a metal tube known as a barrel. This is why the handgun barrel is shorter than a rifle or shotgun barrel. It was meant to be fired with one or two hands rather than against the shooter’s shoulder. The barrel plays an important part in the bullet’s accuracy, range, and velocity as it exits the chamber.
Repeating handguns, like revolvers, hold more than one round of ammunition. The cylinder is what holds the ammunition in a revolver.
Buyer’s Guide to the Best .22 LR Revolvers
Before purchasing any of the best .22 LR revolvers, you need to know the factors to consider in choosing one to ensure that the gun you choose will suit your needs. Here are some things to look for:
Action Type: Single Action vs Double Action
Revolvers will either come in single or double action, with their own pros and cons. To use a single-action revolver, you must pull the hammer to properly cock the gun after each shot. This mechanism produces a lighter and smoother trigger pull, leading to more accurate shots.
However, the trigger only does one job — releasing the hammer. This means after every shot, you need to pull back the hammer. Hence, pulling the trigger with an uncocked gun won’t do anything. That may not seem like a big deal, but you might need more practice and get used to it if you’re coming off a semi-automatic pistol.
Also, be careful about dropping a loaded single-action revolver. It may discharge when dropped or struck with the hammer. This is also why most old-style single-action revolvers are chambered one less than the full capacity of the cylinder. You can pull the hammer back to the starting position on the unloaded cylinder.
There are two types of double-action revolvers: those with the automatic firing mechanism and those you can manually cock like single-action firearms. When a firearm is designed to be manually cocked, the user’s trigger action is double-action-only.
You can fire the shot more quickly using the double-action revolver’s trigger-cocking instead of manual cocking. The heavier trigger pulls on double-action revolvers are also safer than single-action revolvers. Since it takes a long, deliberate draw to discharge, mechanical safety is not required for double-action revolvers.
A solid sighting is critical to having a successful shooting session. While most .357 magazines have fixed sights, some have adjustable sights. A fixed sighting is preferable if you want to use your pistol for a specific purpose.
You can opt for fixed sights for better stability and dependability in defensive circumstances where you don’t want the recoil to knock it off. The adjustable sighting may be preferable if you’re rotating between lighter and heavier rounds with variable velocities. Otherwise, you risk lowering your accuracy.
We touched on safety earlier with single and double-action revolvers. However, when you think about the safety of a revolver, it’s not like the traditional safety you’d find on a semi-automatic pistol. You can find revolvers with safeties like the Ruger Rough Riders hammer block style safety. However, for the most part, the safety of your revolver relies heavily on the mechanism of action.
Without a single-action revolver, the bullet won’t discharge when you pull the trigger unless the hammer is pulled back. On a double-action revolver, the safety is built into the trigger pull. This means that a double-action revolver will have a heavy, lengthy trigger pull that will require some effort to fire the gun. It’ll make more sense once you try it out for yourself, but once you shoot, you can tell how solid and safe double-action revolvers can be.
A revolver’s weight advantage over a semi-automatic pistol is evident. Revolvers lack the typical spring and gas systems to aid decrease recoil. They depend on the cylinder chamber and frame’s weight and design to do the heavy lifting. However, the extra-bulk is generally accompanied with highly designed, ergonomic grips that enable you to get a tighter grasp to avoid muzzle grip, no matter the size of your hands.
The downward extending grips also assist with establishing a higher hand position on your revolver, providing you a complete, extended covering of the revolver with your firing hand. This provides you with more control, and higher dependability, and enables your better precision. To get the maximum satisfaction out of your shooting, you should never use a grip that doesn’t feel natural in your hand.
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The 9 Best .22 LR Revolvers
Styled after the classic Colt Single Action Army, Ruger’s Wrangler line of revolver single-action .22 LR pistols are basically the budget versions of their incredibly famous Ruger Single Six line.
Not only are the Ruger Wranglers well made in every way, but they are also surprisingly durable. Even after over 1,500 rounds of 40gr Aguila .22 LR shot through it, the Wrangler shows little sign of wear.
However, it isn’t the smoothest or easiest .22 LR pistol. Ruger decided to make the designs extra safe for the shooter by adding a hammer transfer bar to the Wrangler. The Wrangler’s hammer is designed not to touch the firing pin directly.
The hammer transfer bar is a bar that rises while the hammer is being cocked back. Once in position, it bridges the gap between where the hammer falls and the firing pin itself. Without the bar in place, the hammer cannot strike the firing pin to set off a cartridge. This makes the gun safe to leave with the hammer down on a live cartridge.
The Wrangler is a perfect meld of quality and cost, featuring Cerakote finishes, hammer transfer bar safeties, steel cold hammer-forged barrels, and cylinders with Aluminum frames. You’ll typically find these for around $200, give or take. At that price, there is simply everything to love about them. For new shooters or shooters that just want to have fun at the range, I strongly recommend the Ruger Wrangler.
- Great entry-level revolver
- Perfect for learning to shoot a revolver
- One of the most affordable revolvers on the market
- Comes in many designs and customizable parts
- Options for both a .22 LR and .22 Magnum cylinder
- Cost cutting in some of the materials used
- Cheap blued spray on look
- Finish and fitting isn’t exactly clean
From 4.5″ barrel Bar Tender models to 16″ barrel Joker meme guns, the Heritage Rough Rider series of revolvers has everything. Pearl grips, American Flag grips, .22 WMR models, and much more. Heritage aims to have something unique for everyone.
But what sets them out is how cheap these little pea shooters are. Commonly on sale for around $100, a Heritage Rough Rider is within almost everyone’s budget and might be the most entertainment per dollar purchase you ever make. Even with being so cheap, they are reliable and pretty durable little revolvers that look and feel great.
They aren’t as clean or refined as the Ruger Wrangler, nor will they stand up to as many rounds normally, but both are to be expected. I know plenty of owners who have at least 2,000 rounds through their Rough Riders. That’s pretty impressive for what is essentially the least expensive option. If you just want something to have fun with, the Rough Rider is an awesome option.
Read also: Complete Heritage Barkeep Hands-On Review.
The New Model Single Six from Ruger is another example of a handgun design that has stood up to the test of time. Constructed out of stainless steel, the New Model Single Six Convertible revolver is dependable and exciting to use.
Due to the slower pace and reduced capacity of shooting a revolver, the shooter must concentrate on getting the most outng pin and makes this revolver alot safer to handle than older, of each round. There’s no disputing the allure of a vintage-style revolver as well.
The Single Six shines when it comes to pest control. With an option to swap out between a .22 LR or a .22 Magnum cylinder, the Single Six becomes one reliable and versatile side arm. The transfer bar underneath the hammer is a nice safety feature to avoid accidental firing. It also allows you to load the full six rounds into your cylinder unlike traditional revolvers.
- Great accuracy and range for a revolver
- Extremely durable build
- Comes with both .22 LR and .22 Magnum cylinders
- Easy to strip, clean, and maintain
- Muzzle is very heavy
Charter Arms has a reputation for producing high-quality revolvers at a reasonable price point when it comes to guns. The Pathfinder’s double-action design makes it easy to use and maintain, and the gun’s low muzzle blast and virtually nonexistent recoil make it an excellent choice for beginner shooters.
The Charter Arms Pathfinder comes with basic adjustable iron sights that are proven accurate and reliable. The grip is surprisingly comfortable even for my large hands, and the underlug gives it a nice centered balance. The single-action trigger is crisp and smooth, and the double-action trigger, although expectedly heavier, wasn’t that much different from higher-end .22 LR revolvers on our list.
As a relatively inexpensive revolver, it’s a great and reliable sidearm for those on a budget or just new to the sport and learning the basics of handling a revolver.
Also read: [Review] Charter Arms Pathfinder .22 LR
- Multiple configurations for each type of shooter
- Quality beginner’s revolver
- Accurate out of the box
- Excellent adjustable sights
- Comfortable grip even for large hands
- Matte finish scratches easy and makes it look cheap
Weighing in at 40 ounces with a 6-inch barrel, Smith & Wesson’s Model 17 is built on the company’s renowned K-frame platform. Regarding features, functionality, quality of construction, or design aesthetics, the Model 17 sticks to Smith & Wesson’s premium revolver standard.
The hammer and trigger of the Model 17 are made of case-hardened steel. The large and well-checkered hammer makes it easy to pull back with a single thumb. It also features Smith & Wessons internal safety lock, which allows you to disable the entire gun with a key. This is a nice extra feature if you have kids in the house and just want that extra peace of mind.
Performance-wise, the Model 17 will make even mediocre shooters look close to competition ready. With a bit of practice, you can expect to hit your mark at a little over 25 yards consistently. However, deciding whether the added performance justifies the expensive price tag is up to you.
- Top-of-the-line quality and build
- Very accurate firearm
- Perfect for target shooting
- Added levels of safety for peace of mind
- Requires constant maintenance due to tight tolerances
Ruger’s new SP101 is the company’s second effort at a small-framed rimfire revolver after it withdrew the previous SP101 owing to its heavy weight and poor sights. Ruger has done an excellent job with the SP101’s current incarnation, even though the initial rifle edition was unsuccessful. It’s a nice take on modernizing traditional revolvers.
The stainless steel SP101 .22 revolver has a compact frame and features a 4.2″ barrel weighing just 30 ounces. An adjustable black blade at the back of the sights contrasts sharply with a green fiber-optic blade at the front, making aiming a lot easier.
The SP101 is a double-action single with a trigger break of 11 lbs and less than 2 lbs, respectively. The entire grip is surrounded by model rubber grips with complimenting wooden side inserts giving it an entirely new, more ergonomic hand grip. Coupled with better sights and a more balanced frame, the new SP101 is an accurate plinker but will also work as a small-game hunting revolver.
- Accurate beyond 25 yards
- Ergonomics grips
- New and improved sights
- 8-round cylinder
- Stainless steel build
- Aesthetically, it’s an odd mix of traditional and modern which can put people off
- Not exactly budget friendly
Smith & Wesson 317 Kit Gun
The Smith & Wesson 317 is a modern reinterpretation of the classic 22/32, which was first introduced in 1953. The 317 is virtually identical to its 1953 predecessor, but it is a very different weapon better suited to outdoor activities and self-defense.
Weighing in at less than 12 ounces, the Smith & Wesson Kit Gun found its niche as an outdoorsman’s sidearm. Its major components are manufactured from high-quality aluminum alloys, while its shroud sports a nifty 3″ stainless steel barrel.
The front sights sport a HI-VIZ green fiber optic with a fully adjustable Smith & Wesson Micrometer V notch to complement the rear. This double-action revolver holds up to 8 rounds and is deadly accurate at less than 25 yards.
- Rust-resistant construction
- Extremely lightweight
- Compact build, perfect as a trail gun
- Adjustable rear sights
- You can find more accurate revolvers with similar specs
- Pretty expensive
The Ruger LCR series revolvers are among the best-concealed carry .22 LR revolvers. Ruger employed a polymer in this model instead of a more costly metal like scandium to minimize weight. The LCRx includes an exposed hammer, allowing shooters to fire single-action shots on demand. The LCR .22 LR variant has a 1.87-inch barrel and a lightweight polymer-infused frame.
The LCR is an eight-round .22 LR Revolver that weighs only 17 ounces. It has one of the most excellent stock double-action triggers on the market, and it’s a joy to shoot. If you’ll opt in for the LCRx version, you get the single-action system as well. The Hogue rubber grips on this handgun reduce recoil and enhance your hold on the weapon.
Although the firearm is fun to shoot, the sights are somewhat unstable and are better left as decorations. Granted, this firearm is a concealed carry weapon, you can’t expect it to hit much of anything past 10 yards consistently.
- Almost no recoil
- Lightweight and compact
- Comfortable Hougue grips
- Extremely smooth trigger pull
- Limited aftermarket parts are available
- Accurate at up to 10 yards
Smith & Wesson Model 617
The Model 617 isn’t a featherweight revolver compared to other best .22 LR revolvers on our list. The 4″ barrel version weighs 39 ounces, while the 6″ barrel version adds 5 ounces, bringing the total weight to a little under 3 pounds. As soon as you pick up the pistol, you’ll notice that it has a hefty rubber grip that provides a solid grasp for all four fingers.
Known for its smooth double actions, the 617 does not disappoint with Smith & Wesson’s K frame triggers. As it swings back, the hammer makes a clean release.
The 617’s target sights are typical of Smith & Wesson revolvers: well-placed, clearly visible, and easily adjusted. Coupled with a 10-round cylinder and an all-stainless steel build, the Model 617 easily becomes a reliable and accurate revolver at over 25 yards.
- Non-existant recoil
- Durable stainless steel build
- Smooth and dependable
- Accurate at over 25 yards
- Lifetime Smith & Wesson Warranty
- Heavy revolver
The Ruger LCR/ LCRx is our top pick for the best .22 LR revolvers on our list. It is a compact firearm that also conceals the attacking recoil of the .22 round. It features a nice double-action trigger that makes shooting follow-up shots easier. It’s also one of the most modern revolvers you can get today that meets the demands of modern shooters.
The grips are superb, allowing you more control over the weapon. Also, it’s a Ruger brand. Hence, you know that it’s reliable and built to last.
From plinking on the range to training to teaching new shooters the ins and outs of gun-slinging, a good .22 LR pistol is a wonderful and handy thing to have around. If you are looking for a .22 Magnum revolver to shoot or add to your collection, any of the best .22 LR revolvers listed above is a good pick.
However, if you’re still unsure of which one to buy, you can always check our buyer’s guide to help you figure out which one will suit your needs. Any shooter can enjoy the .22 Magnum round. Remember that all it takes is practice to get used to controlling the recoil. Keep it up, and you’ll be like a pro shooter in no time.
What are your thoughts about our list of the best .22 LR revolvers? Do you have a favorite gun? Let us know in the comments below.