Let’s face it, small, lightweight concealed carry revolvers bite at both ends. The worst of the lot are the snubbie, ultra-lightweight .357 Magnums. Charged with hot, defensive level ammunition, these little hand cannons are exceedingly uncomfortable to shoot and very difficult to shoot well. It’s hard to concentrate on sights and trigger control when you know a grenade is about to go off in your hand. Maybe it’s just me, and I should be tossed out of the manly-men clubhouse, but I’m sorry folks; I will never enjoy shooting these little monsters and don’t know anyone who does. Most men are either in denial on this issue or are sadists; else why, when it’s time the buy the “little lady” a purse gun do husbands, boyfriends and store clerks recommend snubbie Magnums? Although more comfortable to shoot, most first-time shooters aren’t going to enjoy shooting lightweight snub-nosed revolvers in .38 Special with hot ammo either.
The firearms industry has responded to the huge demand for concealed carry firearms and ammunition with new models and ammunition suitable for personal protection. A recent trend among ammunition manufacturers has been the introduction of reduced recoil ammunition with well-designed bullets that, while being more comfortable to shoot, is still effective in the role of defensive ammunition. Gun makers have designed new models aimed at the concealed carry market, not the least of which are the Light Compact Revolver (LCR) series from Ruger. First introduced in 2009 as a .38 Special, the LCR has morphed into a .357 Magnum, the LCRx, a .38 Special with an exposed hammer and two rimfire models in .22 Long Rifle (LR) and .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR).
Small revolvers are excellent for concealed carry because they are small, lightweight, uncomplicated and easy to manipulate. But wait, what about all that blast and recoil? Is there a snub-nosed revolver that’s comfortable to shoot while still packing enough punch to be credible as a defensive firearm? I think there is, and the one I would recommend is the Ruger LCR in .22 Magnum. A .22 you say? Isn’t that a little light on the scale of defensive calibers? Well, yes and no. Everyone knows that a lot of people have been shot with .22s and despite the misgivings of firearms experts they often seem to get the job done. The .22 WMR, or .22 Magnum as it’s commonly called, is much better as a defensive round than the .22 LR. While most .22 WMR ammunition will do (I don’t want to get shot with it!) Hornady has engineered a Critical Defense load for the .22 WMR that is specifically deigned to produce penetration and expansion on a par with their excellent Critical Defense ammunition in .380 ACP. The 45-grain FTX (Flex Tip) bullet leaves the barrel of the LCR with a muzzle velocity right at 1,000 feet per second.
The LCR in .22 Magnum shares the features found in the rest of the LCR lineup. The double action trigger is easy to manage due to Ruger’s friction reducing cam action. The frame and grip are a blend of aluminum and plastic and the heavily fluted stainless steel cylinder holds six rounds of ammunition. The bare weight of the LCR is just under 17 ounces, a decent weight for a concealed carry revolver but heavier than some ultra-lightweight models. The pistol is designed to be carried in a pocket, purse or holster with all edges rounded and no hammer to get caught or snagged on clothing as the pistol is drawn from concealment. The front sight is pinned into place so you have the option of easily changing it to one of the many available such as XS Sight’s Big Dot or a Novak fiber optic. The front sight of my sample pistol has a white vertical insert to make it easier to see; I think this is something new, as the earlier LCRs I am familiar with didn’t have this feature. The cushy rubber Hogue grips on the LCR make it quite comfortable to shoot but I replaced them with a set of Crimson Trace Lasergrips I ordered from www.shopruger.com, where you can find holsters, sights, and even, a pink Hogue grip for the ladies. My friend Rob Leahy at Simply Rugged Holsters made me a couple of holsters for the LCR. One is his excellent Defcon 3, a pancake style holster that can be worn on the belt or inside the waistband (IWB), and the other is a new pocket holster that can also be used IWB.
Shooting the LCR .22 Magnum is a pleasure. I fired half a dozen loads and all were easy to control. When you shoot the little magnum you are reminded it has a lot more power than a standard .22 but it is much more comfortable to shoot than the .38 Special or .357 Magnum version. Hornady has done the ballistic testing on the Critical Defense .22 WMR load so if you’re interested in seeing their data you can go www.hornady.com. Because I had sprayed water all over myself when I tested Hornady’s V-Max varmint load in the Ruger American Rifle in .22 WMR I decided to shoot a couple of water jugs with the .22 Magnum revolver. Yes, I got wet again, but I discovered the Hornady Critical Defense load from the snub-nosed revolver produced a violent reaction in the gallon water jug similar to what I had seen when I fired the V-Max load into a jug with the rifle. Fired from the short barreled revolver, the results with the V-Max load were not nearly as spectacular. Shooting a couple of water jugs as a ballistics test is not very scientific and has no bearing on how a bullet will perform in a defensive situation but my small test showed me Hornady has done a good job of optimizing both of these loads for their intended purposes.
This little revolver ought to appeal to those looking for a defensive revolver that doesn’t bite at both ends. It’s easy to operate and easy to shoot. Wouldn’t it be cool if Ruger made one with an exposed hammer like the LCRx and a 3-inch barrel, adjustable rear sight and fiber optic front sight? In both .22 LR and .22 WMR, these would make for some nice little kit guns. What do you think?
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About the Author:
Ed Head is a regular on Shooting Gallery, Gun Stories and Down Range TV. He has worked for almost 30 years in law enforcement, first in the United States Air Force and then with the United States Border Patrol, retiring as a Field Operations Supervisor. During his Border Patrol career, Ed worked in a variety of patrol, investigative and training capacities. Ed has an extensive background as a firearms instructor, having trained thousands, ranging from beginners to police, military and special operations personnel. Having taught at Gunsite for 20 years, Ed first trained there under the world famous shooting school’s founder, Jeff Cooper, then later ran the school as the operations manager for more than five years. Ed lives in Chino Valley, Arizona, where he continues to teach and write.