The Gear ~ Pistols

When I was in the second grade, the weapons of choice were small rocks. Faithful to the reality of our distant ancestors, a well-placed rock traveling at the right speed would topple cans or stop a rabbit. There were times when rock fights became tribal warfare that led to emergency room visits and I once required three stitches to close a wound in my scalp.

D. A. BlankinshipRocks can be dangerous. Rocks travel faster in a slingshot and small bits of metal can travel much faster when propelled down a long, straight tube. Guns are the ultimate high speed "rock throwers."

A modern gun is a marvel in design and function. In survival situations, guns compensate for the lack of speed, agility, and reflexes in people. Guns help us catch food with the speed and accuracy of insects, snakes, or birds. We desperately need that advantage to compete with the other critters who want to eat.

D. A. Blankinship

A Very Useful Caliber

Hover on highlighted text for more

If survival means mobility, then weight is a planning priority. The .22 caliber round is small and consequently, it is light. One hundred rounds of .22 long rifle (.22LR) cartridges weigh 13.6 ounces in the box. Ten boxes (1,000 rounds) weigh 8.5 lbs.

This caliber is seldom considered adequate for hunting or for home defense because the small bullet size and relatively slower speed does not provide the impact necessary to incapacitate a medium to large animal if it is hit in a large muscle group or in the gut.

There are exceptions to this assessment when the shooter can place a bullet in the exact spot to do the most damage, for example, shooting an alligator beneath the neck as it strikes at a daggling bait.

.22 Caliber Semi-automatic Pistols

Walther P22

Walther P22The Walther P22 is a small, light-weight pistol. It weighs less than a pound (i.e., 15 ounces) and in the short-barrel design, it is just 6 inches long and 4.5 inches high.

The P22's magazine holds 10 rounds of .22LR ammunition and it has has an accessory rail that will hold a laser attachment. The laser requires batteries that may or may not be available under extreme circumstances. Additionally, a laser is not very useful in sunlight and at dusk or nighttime when it is the easiest to see, it also reveals where you are; not always a wise thing to do if you want to be stealthy.

The P22 has a well-known set of bothersome problems that can be preemptively corrected with a little gunsmith work. A little filing here, some glue there, and be sure to keep it clean, and it is a very serviceable choice for a light-weight pistol with respectable accuracy out to 25 yards.

Overall, a pretty good pistol because of its light weigh and size; not a marksman's weapon but handy when needed.

The short-version of the Walther has a barrel of only 3.4 inches and that presents two problems. First, bullets do not accelerate to their full potential because the expanding gases only have 2.5 inches to exert pressure (i.e., the barrel is 3.4 inches long and the .22 cartridge is about an inch long, chambered in the barrel). The second concern is the site radius. When aiming the pistol with iron sites, the short distance between the front and back of the pistol make aiming more difficult. To understand this problem, imagine looking down a pencil to aim at something and compare that to looking down a yardstick. More length means better accuracy.

Ruger Mark III Hunter KMKIII678H

ruger mark iiiRuger has been making .22 caliber pistols and rifles for a long time. The Mark III Hunter is a very accurate .22LR pistol. Fitted with a high relief, 4x scope, the pistol takes on a mystique befitting international espionage or covert operations. (This pistol is rumored to be the weapon of choice for some special forces units.)

This pistol lives up to its name, "Hunter." It's a handy alternative to a rifle, and it weighs (slightly) less. Carry a staff for bracing it when shooting with a scope.

Compared to the P22, the Mark III Hunter is heavy. This stainless steel pistol weighs 41 ounces and a loaded (10-round) magazine adds 2.75 ounces. The total package approaches 3 pounds to be held at arms length which converts to around 6 foot-pounds of downward pressure on the shooter's shoulder.

The Mark III is just over 11 inches long. The barrel is 6.88 inches long and that helps with both development of bullet speed and aiming. It is possible to shoot half-inch groups at 25 yards.

.22 Caliber Revolver Convertible

Ruger Single-Six (.22LR & .22 magnum)

ruger single sixThis pistol has been an American icon since 1953. It is a revolver in the tradition of the old west.

It is a good looking pistol and properly holstered (leather, of course), many of us can imagine how cowboys must have felt about their pistols.

The pistol is 12 inches long and it has a 6.5 inch barrel. Here again, barrel length helps with both developing velocity in the bullet and a site radius that helps with aiming.

This is a great pistol. I'd trust it in critical situations for its reliability and accuracy. I have witnesses who will testify I've shot the tops off matches at 15 yards with my single-six.

This pistol leads a double life. It has two cylinders that interchange within the pistol. One cylinder chambers six rounds of the popular .22LR. Slipping out a center pin and swapping out cylinders converts this pistol from a .22LR to a .22 magnum (also six rounds) and as the name suggests, magnum rounds are bigger than regular .22LR rounds. One hundred rounds of .22WMR weigh in at just under 18 ounces. The bullet portion of the cartridge is still 40 grains; however, additional powder pushes that bullet out to 1,875 feet per second (a 56% increase in speed over the standard .22LR).

One clear advantage to a revolver is the ease with which they clean. Pull the cylinder and swab exposed surfaces, run the bore snake or brush through the cylinder chambers and barrel and the task seems almost too quick.

As pistols go, the Single-Six is one of the most versatile choices on the market. Use it as a .22LR or as a .22WMR and the only additions needed are the cylinder and the necessary ammunition.

Big-Bang Theory

Dirty Harry and others have long been champions of the "big-bang theory." Some pistols shoot very large cartridges that project large bullets that strike quickly and are assumed to devastate any target.

During WWI and WWII, the Colt 45 and the Colt 1911 were the hard-hitting standards for both trench warfare and personal defense. The .45 cartridge is large and heavy. One hundred rounds of .45 ACP weigh 5 lbs and 1,000 rounds weight 50 lbs; if you carried 50 lbs of .22LR, you would have 5,882 rounds of ammunition. Clearly, relying on big-bang approaches does not permit too much mobility.

Ruger P345 (.45 ACP)

Ruger pistolThis pistol is loud. Pull the trigger and you feel the concussion strike your chest and your hearing protection is pressed to the limit.

I have fired only one round through this pistol without hearing protection and that was--as you already know--a mistake. That brings to mind the first concern with a big-bang weapon: these types of pistols might seriously impair your hearing and they are never subtle. All you need to do to announce your presence in an area is to pull the trigger and everyone in a five mile radius will know someone is there.

The Ruger P345 is a fine pistol. It is easy to aim and shoot. Many tennis balls have danced vigorously across the ground under the encouragement of this pistol. It is easy to clean and maintain, it disassembles without tools, and reassembles with little resistance.

The P345 weighs in at 29 ounces and installing a full magazine of eight rounds will add just over 10 more ounces to the pistol.

This is not a hunting pistol; it is best understood as a self-defense pistol and perhaps it is best reserved for the most dire of circumstances. This pistol and the large caliber weapons in general, would defend against an attacking grizzly bear or some other menacing oversized adversary. It is an excellent addition to the "home defense" arsenal with all the cache and intimidation of the venerable 12-gauge shotgun.

Anderson-Nelson Academy


The Gear ~ Pistols

Barred Owl Publishing


Walther P22
Ruger Mark III Hunter
Ruger Single Six
Ruger P345