A side by side comparison of 22 long rifle versus 9mm. We'll show you what separates these calibers from each other and which is better for your needs.
The two most-fired cartridges in the Unites States are (it’s fair to assume), the 22LR vs 9mm Luger. These two cartridges form a virtual backbone for the shooting industry; both provide manageable recoil; both are available at wallet-friendly prices; both are loadable into firearms that are found in practically all firearm stores across the country.
But that’s about where the similarities end. These two rounds have very different purposes, although they can overlap. Target shooting, in particular, is a popular activity with both of these cartridges.
If you are looking for a versatile, reliable round, the .22 Long Rifle and the 9mm Luger both make great options. Choosing the right one for your needs, however, will depend on your goals for these popular cartridges.
.22 LR vs 9mm Luger: Upfront Differences
|.22 Long Rifle||9mm Luger|
|Bullet Diameter||.223 inches||.355 inches|
|Rim Diameter||.278 inches||.392 inches|
|Case Length||.613 inches||.754 inches|
|Total Length||1 inch||1.169 inches|
|Bullet Weight||Roughly 20 to 50 grain||100 to 150 grains|
9mm Clearly the Larger Round
One of the first things you’ll notice (if it weren’t glaringly obvious) is the size differences between these rounds. The .22 LR, being a rimfire round, is much smaller in every measurement. The 9mm has a wider bullet, a wider case, and a longer profile. Because of its size, it also packs heavier bullets, which impacts performance. The .22 Long Rifle generally loads bullets from 20 to as high as 50 grains, while the 9mm Luger, certainly not a big handgun round, can fire rounds as heavy as 150 grains.
There is also a difference in pricing. The 9mm Luger is not a high-priced round, but when it comes to low-cost shooting, you simply can’t beat the .22 Long Rifle. Pricing will depend on how you purchase and where you buy, as well as what products you select, but if you are comparing similar products from the same manufacturer, you can assume the .22 LR will be the lower-cost option.
Different Firearm Options
Another difference for these two rounds is the available weapons. The .22 Long Rifle is perhaps the most diverse of all rounds in the world; you can fire it from revolvers, pistols, bolt-action rifles, semiautomatic rifles, and lever-action rifles. The 9mm Luger is basically only available in semiautomatic pistols. This could guide your decision regardless of performance statistics.
.22 LR vs 9mm Luger: Performance Comparison
|.22 LR Products||Muzzle Velocity||100-yard Velocity|
|Remington 40-grain LRN||1,150||943|
|Fed. American Eagle 38-grain FMJ||1,260||1,010|
|Winchester 29-grain Super-X||770||681|
|9mm Luger Products|
|Remington 115-grain UMC FMJ||1,145||979|
|Fed. American Eagle 115-grain FMJ||1,180||961|
|Winchester 115-grain FMJ||1,190||N/A|
The results for velocity bring some interesting statistics. From the products we selected for this comparison, the 9mm Luger outperforms the .22 LR in the speed category, but the fastest of all the rounds goes to a .22 product; if it weren’t for the .22 Super-X, which only logs 770 fps at the muzzle, the .22 could have taken this round.
Overall, it appears that there is a lot of overlap for speed, and the .22 does a fine job of maintaining its speed over a distance. With a variety of options, shooters can find plenty of round in either cartridge that deliver reliable and consistent speed.
Note: A Sign of Different Purposes
When looking at the available statistics for these cartridges, there is a difference in data that hints that the purposes for these two rounds. Winchester provides data for both, including muzzle velocity and energy. But for the .22 LR they provide statist out to 100 yards, while the 9mm has performance stats at 5 yards and 25 yards; they don’t bother to tell buyers how it performs at 100 yards. This should clue you into how the rounds are typically used.
|.22 LR Products||Muzzle Energy||100-yard Energy|
|Remington 40-grain LRN||117||79|
|Fed. American Eagle 38-grain FMJ||134||86|
|Winchester 29-grain Super-X||38||30|
|9mm Luger Products|
|Remington 115-grain UMC FMJ||335||244|
|Fed. American Eagle 115-grain FMJ||356||236|
|Winchester 115-grain FMJ||362||~235|
When it comes to energy, we begin to see a clear winner. Even if we disregarded the slow and low-powered .22 Super-X round, this is a runaway victory for the 9mm Luger. All three 9mm products we looked at had muzzle energies over 350 ft-lbs, while the highest muzzle energy for the .22 LR was 134 ft-lbs. Downrange, the results were similar, as the 9mm Luger continued to outperform the .22 Long Rifle.
This should come as no surprise. The 9mm Luger is a larger cartridge with heavier bullets that travel at a speed similar to (or faster than) the .22 LR. These differences in energies are a main reason the 9mm Luger is a popular choice for personal defense.
22LR versus 9mm for Self-Defense
So, just what type of performance difference should you expect? To find out, we fired a handful of rounds from each caliber into ballistic gel.
Ballistic gelatin is designed to simulate what would happen if you fired a round into soft tissue in self-defense situation. In our case, we wanted to see the gap in performance from 22 long rifle to 9×19. So, following the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s testing protocol, we fired each caliber through a 4-layer cloth barrier into gelatin.
Our 22 long rifle rounds penetrated through the cloth barrier but only gave us 7-10″ of penetration. The 9mm penetrated much farther, going about 17-18″ through the cloth barrier and gel. (The FBI looks for 12-18″ of penetration from the rounds its agents use.)
If your goal is to neutralize an attacker, penetration is just part of the equation. You also want to create as large a wound channel as possible. This helps promote blood loss in your target.
The results of this part of the testing were very clear to see. In the photo below, you can see the 22 long rifle cartridges on the left and the 9mm rounds on the right. Some shooters might find themselves leaning on 22 long rifle in a pinch. To learn more about other things to consider, check out this article on using 22LR for home or self-defense.
If you’re planning on using 9mm, this guide to the best 9mm ammo for self-defense features test results of dozens of different ammo options.
Bottom Line: Different Rounds, Different Purposes
Choosing the .22 LR or the 9mm Luger can be tough for some gun owners. For others, it’s an easy choice.
First of all, if you want a cartridge for basic target shooting, either will do just fine. However, if you want a lower cost-per-shot, or if you want to fire the round through a rifle, the .22 LR is probably the better option. The .22 LR may also a better all-around hunting and outdoor cartridge, one that can be used for small game like squirrels, rabbits, and prairie dogs. As a survival tool, it’s also one of the best as well. Many property owners also keep a .22 LR firearm, often a revolver, on hand for pest control, as it’s perfect for dispatching raccoons, opossums, and other nuisances.
The 9mm Luger, however, is the clear choice for personal defense, as it has the stopping power and strength you need during critical situations. The .22 LR may be underrated as a self-defense tool (many disregard it outright, but no one would be comfortable after taking a .22 bullet), but the 9mm Luger is, for good reason, one of the most trusted self-defense companions in the world. If you want an enjoyable pistol for the range, as well as a reliable conceal-carry weapon, the 9mm Luger is a fine choice.
Reliable Ammo for All of Your Shooting Needs
Whichever you choose, you’ll find the top-quality ammunition you need at ammotogo.com. Visit our site and let us help you find the right cartridges for your specific needs. You can find in-stock 9mm ammo for sale here. All of our in-stock 22 long rifle ammo is on this page.