22LR vs. 25ACP

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November 6, 2012 by jervin2012

22LR handgun (top)

If you are in the market for the smallest of handguns, you are likely looking at purchasing either a 22LR or 25ACP caliber pistol.  There are masterpieces of engineering such as the Kel-Tec P32 and P3AT which fire the 32ACP and 380ACP cartridges, respectively, in a firearm that is often smaller and lighter than competing designs made with aluminum and steel frames.  However, many new shooters opt for ‘small guns’ which means small calibers such as the 22LR and 25ACP.  This desire for small calibers is due to a psychological disinclination towards killing that can be found in the broad majority of the human population, akin to setting your phaser to stun as seen in the Star Trek films.

Whatever the reason, if a person opts for a 22LR or 25ACP handgun, we recommend the 22LR on a basis of wounding ability alone.  Current factory expanding ammunition will not expand from a 22LR handgun when hitting ballistic gelatin or water – the majority of 22LR ammunition appears to be designed to function at rifle velocities, not the lower velocities of 22LR handgun barrels.  Conversely, expanding 25ACP ammunition will generally expand when fired from handguns.  The drawback is that the kinetic energy of the 25ACP and the weight of the bullets do not allow the 25ACP bullets to penetrate deeply enough to reach the majority of the vital structures in the body. 22LR is better in this regard because the higher length-to-diameter ratio of the bullets allow the projectiles to tumble inside the target, while penetrating to more than adequate penetration depths.

Taking a look at the weapon-related aspects of the cartridges, we recommend the 25ACP because it is a centerfire cartridge.  Centerfire weapons are considerably more reliable than rimfire weapons in practice due to more consistant ignition.  Reliability is what you want in a defensive handgun, but reliability comes in two flavors: terminal ballistics reliability and weapon reliability.

Terminal Performance of non-expanding bullets:

But what about the ‘hollowpoints’ ?

Terminal Performance:

The 25ACP JHP, when loaded to pistol-busting pressures is slightly better than 22LR ammunition that does expand.  But neither penetrate deeply enough to be effective.

In choosing between 22LR and 25ACP handguns for self-defense, we recommend the 22LR using FMJ or round nose bullets.  Please be certain that your chosen 22LR ammunition is reliable in your firearm before carrying it.


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