22 Magnum Rifle vs 9mm Handgun for Self Defense

Comparing the 22 Magnum Rifle vs 9mm Handgun for Self Defense. The .22 Magnum is without a doubt better than the .22 LR but not near as suitable for defense as 9mm. In 2011, Speer released the 40 grain GDHP-SB a .22 magnum version of their Gold Dot Personal Protection ammo, and Hornady released the 22 WMR 45 grain version of their Critical Defense ammo. Both are optimized for the short 2 inch barrels found in self-defense handguns. Ballistics gel tests of the Hornady round shows it compares to a .380 in penetration and wound damage.

Video of Hornady Ballistics Gel Comparison of 22 Magnum and .380

The ballistics for the .22 mag were results from a rifle with a 22 inch barrel. Using a pistol for the 22 mag would result in lower velocity and energy. The 9mm ballistics are from a pistol. There really is no fair comparison. The 9mm wins hands down in terms of energy and wound damage. The .22 mag hollow point depends on high velocity to develop energy and for the hollow point to expand. The lower velocity of a short barreled handgun will result in very limited expansion upon impact as compared to a 9mm self-defense round. The .22 magnum will penetrate at lower velocities but will not expand. The resulting wound channel will be significantly less than that produced by a 9mm JHP.

22 Magnum compared to 22 LR and 22 Long cartridge

22 Magnum compared to 22 LR Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Even though rifles have better stopping power they aren’t the best choice for most self defense situations. The need for close quarters maneuvering through doors and hallways that may be required makes the rifle less suitable for use in a self defense and home defense scenario.

Of course, if all you have is a rifle then a rifle is what you use and take some comfort from the fact that rifles have better stopping power, are a strong visual deterrent, and are much easier to hit with than any handgun.

Here is a test of the .22 magnum. All rounds were fired into a stack of newspaper that had been soaked for about 36 hours. Distance was about six feet. Read the article describing the original 22 Magnum test results on the High Road Forum.

  •  *Winchester Supreme JHP 34gr. Penetrated- 5″ expansion – .362 Bullet expanded and held together nicely. Large wound channel with expansion within the first inch.
  • *CCI Maxi-Mag TNT 30gr. Penetration- 5″ Expansion- Fragmented Bullet/Jacket separation. Only the jacket was recovered, large wound channel expansion within the first inch
  • *CCI Gold Dot 50gr. Penetration- 10″ Expansion- .223 No expansion, bullet appeared to yaw in the last few inches.
  • *CCI Maxi-Mag +V HP 30gr. Penetration- 6″ Expansion-.285 Jacket/Core separation jacket not recovered
  •  *Remington Premier Ballistic tip 30gr. Penetration- 8″ Expansion- .223 Plastic tip not recovered

Ballistics Comparison

Caliber Weight Energy Velocity Barrel length
.22 Winchester Magnum JHP 40 Gr 324 1910 Rifle
9mm JHP 115 Gr 341 1155 Pistol
9mm JHP 124 Gr 349 1125 Pistol

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