.22 Mag Vs. .38 Special

Yes? No? Maybe?

Smith & Wesson has a couple of very light J-frames in .22 Magnum. The model 351PD with 17/8″ barrel weighs just over 12 ounces loaded. Compared to similar .38 Special/.357 Magnum models they offer increased cartridge capacity (seven rounds vs. five), along with much lighter recoil and a milder report. The theory, and it’s not an unreasonable one, is it’s better to hit with a .22 Magnum than to flinch and miss with a .38 or .357.

As a small-game/varmint cartridge in a rifle the .22 Magnum is one of my favorites. There’s no questioning the round’s effectiveness in a rifle. What about in a handgun? Both Hornady and Speer have .22 Magnum loads intended specifically for short barrels. The Hornady Critical Defense round has a 45-gr. bullet rated at 1,000 fps. The Speer Gold Dot short-barrel/personal-protection load has a 40-gr. bullet rated at 1,050 fps. These velocities are from sub-2″ barrels. Both loads delivered the advertised velocity in our tests. I did find a 31/2″ barrel provides a pretty good velocity increase, from around 150 to 200 additional fps. Check out the chart. I wouldn’t mind seeing S&W offer the option of a 3 – 31/2″ barrel on the 351PD.

I didn’t have a 2″ .22 LR on hand but did run some high-speed .22 LR (36-gr. HP) through a couple of 4″ revolvers (S&W 34 and Ruger SP-101). Velocities were around 200 – 250 fps slower than those of the .22 Magnum in similar barrel length.
By Dave Anderson

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