Train Without The Strain

By Brad Fitzpatrick

Man pointing pistol in front of row of trees

Simply possessing a firearm isn’t enough to protect you from a violent attack. You must also know how to use that firearm, and if you’re one of the millions of Americans who rely on a centerfire handgun for defense, one of the best investments you can make is a rimfire training pistol.


Why a rimfire? For starters, the ammunition costs considerably less than centerfire ammo. You’ll be able to shoot your rimfire at least 100 times for the same amount it would cost to shoot 20 rounds through a centerfire handgun. Five times the trigger pulls equals five times the opportunities to improve your skills and five times as many repetitions to help develop muscle memory. The mechanics of pistol shooting are no different than those required to hit a golf ball or throw a pitch. They require proper practice repeated until the technique becomes second nature. More shots will help you get there faster and owning a rimfire handgun makes shooting more affordable.

Recoil & Racket

It also makes shooting more enjoyable. Recoil from micro-compact handguns can be intimidating and unpleasant, especially for a new shooter. Muzzle blast can have just as bad of an effect on your shooting as recoil, even when you are wearing ear protection. The human body doesn’t like pain and anticipating recoil and muzzle blast occupies a lot of brain power that might otherwise be channeled to improving your shooting.

unloaded pistol with loaded cartridges laying underneath

A day spent training with a .22 pistol will improve your centerfire performance, and in some instances the improvement might be faster than it would be with your carry gun. Rimfire handguns are a great training aid when trying to deliver faster follow-up shots with a centerfire handgun because the recoil pulse of a rimfire is so minimal that shooters (and even newcomers) can maintain finger position and trigger control. That’s much harder to accomplish when the shooter must manage recoil simultaneously while shooting.

Movement Matters

Cheaper ammo also affords the shooter more freedom to practice and drill, and a centerfire isn’t always required for such practice. For example, learning to move while shooting is crucial because movement makes you harder to hit and affords you the chance to reach cover. Movement drills require the shooter to maintain sight picture and safely and securely move while firing at a target. The mechanics of shooting are secondary to the mechanics of movement on this drill, and moving and shooting takes a long time to master. When I practice moving drills (which I do often: they’re valuable, challenging and fun), I run these drills with a rimfire much more often than a centerfire.

target, pistol and cci ammunition

I also like to keep a centerfire handgun around for introducing new gun owners to shooting sports. I’ve encountered several people whose first gun purchase was a centerfire handgun (usually in anticipation of a concealed carry permit course) and they can’t get comfortable with the gun. The learning curve isn’t near as steep with a rimfire, and new shooters catch on more quickly with a .22 than they do with a 9mm.

Carry Options

What about a rimfire as a self-defense firearm? While it’s certainly not ideal, rimfire handguns might be the only option for some shooters who simply can’t learn to manage a centerfire handgun. I’ve met individuals during shooting courses who suffered from arthritis and carpal tunnel and simply couldn’t manipulate the heavier slide on a centerfire semiauto and didn’t want to carry a centerfire revolver. That doesn’t leave many options for protection, but if you simply aren’t comfortable with a centerfire, then having a .22 close at hand is certainly better than having no gun at all.

Practical Fun

The biggest reason I train with rimfires, though, is they’re simply fun to shoot. The ammo is cheap (relatively speaking), and since noise levels are lower, I don’t feel compelled to apologize to the neighbors when I shoot 50 rounds of rimfire in the backyard. Rimfires beg to be shot, and the more times I pull the trigger, the better prepared I’ll be to defend myself.