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Do You Need a 22LR as Your First Gun?

Last week, I laid out my suggested “starting arsenal” for a new serious marksman. For the most part, my ideas were well-received. I saw several comments, particularly on YouTube nodding along in agreement with me- even before they fully listened to what I had to say. But there was one recurring theme, or question, that kept popping up. The issue was my inclusion of a 22LR rifle in the second tier rather than the first, where it would be a core requirement.

I could hand wave that a bit and say that the intent of the article was with the Martial Marksman in mind, and that means the core is on a fighting handgun and rifle. That would be a little dismissive, though. Instead, I want to focus in on that question a little bit more. Where does a 22LR fit into the armory for any gun owner?

The Case for the Rimfire

The argument in favor of the rimfire goes something like this: 22LR is cheap and plentiful, it’s also very low recoil and non-threatening to new shooters. That makes it an “ideal” cartridge for teaching basic marksmanship skills. Grab a rimfire rifle, or handgun, and go to town learning and practicing the basics all day for not a lot of money.

I often talk about my very first range trip ever, and how it was the recoil from a 30-06 Springfield 1903 that immediately “hooked” me. Not often talked about is the fact that the same range trip also involved a Ruger 10/22 where I spent most of my time.

There’s a lot of merit to this argument. Obtaining a 22LR early on does provide plenty of opportunity to practice fundamentals without spending gobs of money on ammo. As I’ve pointed out before, 22LR also remains a valid training tool for long range shooting as you begin to stretch it out there.

So, that’s it, right? Everyone should get a 22LR and be done with it! Well…not so fast.

The Case Against 22LR as a First Gun

I had to pick a specific heading here, because in the long run I don’t actually think there’s much of a case against owning a rimfire. It does everything I talked about very well. It’s also a useful tool around the homestead for dispatching small animals and pests.

My own bias is that while a rimfire can be a useful marksmanship training tool, it’s far from required. The fact that I went from 2006 (the start of my shooting journey) to 2021 without one is a testament to the fact. You can, and will, develop a lot of skill with rifles and pistols regardless of the caliber. The only important variable is how well and consistently you practice your technique.

This was certainly easier when centerfire ammunition prices were cheaper, and it was no big deal to go send 100-200 rounds per week downrange in focused practice. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still easily done without a rimfire.

So About That Armory

That brings us back to the question posed in the armory article. Frankly, whether you get a 22LR as a first gun or a fifth gun is entirely personal preference. My argument against it boils down to the fact that most people starting from scratch are probably better served by immediately jumping to one or two guns that they can use for both defensive purposes as well as training. The average person looking to buy their first gun is probably far more interested in self defense than they are plinking or mastering the fundamentals. That changes if you grew up in a place or family with a well-established shooting culture, but I suspect that’s not most people these days.

To wrap this one up, let me put a definitive answer down. If someone is starting from zero, with no guns owned, they have to ask themselves what they’re interested in prioritizing first. On the one hand, if they’re interested in general marksmanship skills and are unconcerned about having to use their weapon defensively, then by all means they should get the rimfire. On the other hand, if their immediate concern is the safety of their family and community, and will accept “good enough” marksmanship skills in order to get there- then I say skip the rimfire. A reliable handgun or rifle are more than capable of doing both.

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Matt

Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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3 Comments
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Noah
Noah
Guest

I learned the fundamentals on a .22 and I loved that time in my life. I had range time 2x a week. It was wonderful. I could learn and refine and improve. Jerry Miculek still uses .22 in training but the key that makes .22 useful is actual rounds downrange. It’s all down to reps. I think for most of us the limiting factor in range time isn’t ammo cost. The cost to access the range is a bigger factor. The time to get to the range is a bigger factor. So if what’s holding you back from getting good… Read more »

Mark
Mark
Guest

I like how you qualify your answer which is critical on any opinion. I think the most important thing you mention is defining the need but also capabilities. So many sales people and so-called experts get this wrong. If your goal is to be a duck hunter, a 22 is not going to get you there. If you want to plink and are recoil sensitive, 22 is great. I agree with you on not placing 22 high on the list. I never owned a 22 until much later. I was mostly a hunter growing up so shotguns and rifles were… Read more »

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