Ruger LCR 22 Review - Sub Caliber Supremacy [2023]

Disclaimer: The LCR 22 was purchased by the author for the purposes of testing.

Ruger LCR 22 Featured Image

Back in February, we published the first article in my ongoing series on pocket pistols. There, I tested a few handguns, and decided to do further reviews on the guns that I found to be the most favorable (so far). This is the first of the complete individual reviews of the guns that I tested. We're starting with the one that might possibly be my favorite, the Ruger LCR 22. Let's dive into the details on this sub caliber revolver.

What Is the Ruger LCR 22?

The LCR (Light Compact Revolver) is Ruger's double action only compact revolver offering. Originally hitting the market in 2009 with the LCR .38SPL, the topic of today is the 22LR version. The 22LR LCR dropped in 2011, and as far as I can tell, has been extremely successful for Ruger. MSRP is $739 on the LCR 22, with street price being closer to about $550.

While it is a snubnose revolver, it isn't based on a preexisting design. The LCR uses a hybrid polymer and aluminum frame, with a steel cylinder and barrel. With this, the weight of the pistol is fairly light. Advertised weight is 14.9 ounces unloaded, however, with the grips I have on my LCR, it is 14.8 ounces loaded. Talking about being loaded, capacity on the LCR 22 is 8 rounds of 22LR.

Ruger LCR 22 Speedloaders 2

The sights of the LCR 22 are very rudimentary, with a small square notch rear, and a ramp front sight. The front sight is pinned in place, so you can replace it if desired.

Ruger touts that the LCR's trigger lacks the traditional stacking feeling when being pulled. If you don't know what stacking is, don't feel bad. Stacking is the perceived feeling when pulling a trigger, where it feels like the trigger gets heavier until it eventually goes bang. Lots of Smith & Wesson revolvers have stacking, but the LCR does not. This can lead to some training issues down the line, be we'll cover that later.

The cylinder of the LCR 22 is steel, and as such, you can dryfire this gun. This is great from a training perspective. The cylinder release is a push button style too, with texturing to make using it easier.

How's the field strip and cleaning process for the LCR 22?

Field Stripping & Detail Stripping

The LCR 22 is a simple gun to field strip, as you only need to do one thing in the process.

  1. Press the cylinder release, swinging the cylinder open.
  2. Dump rounds out of the cylinder (if loaded).
  3. Perform necessary maintenance or cleaning.
  4. Reload firearm, and close cylinder.

The LCR is a very simple design, and as such, you really only need to swing the cylinder out to do your field strip. When cleaning a revolver, we've essentially got a barrel to clean for each charge hole in the cylinder. On the LCR 22, that means we've got 9 "barrels" to clean. While I don't like cleaning guns, the process isn't too time consuming here, all things considered. For any revolver, you really want to make sure that you get lead fouling out of the barrel, and get the crud out from under the ejector star.

Ruger LCR 22 No Pants
An LCR with no pants on.

While not a part of the field strip, I would be remiss if I didn't show the frame peg of the LCR. Unlike similar pocket revolvers that use bolted on grip panels, the LCR uses a full wraparound style grip. The frame peg slides into the grip itself, with a screw affixing the grip to the frame. With the grip off, you can swap internal parts as needed. During my testing period, I did not monkey with any of the internals of the LCR 22.

If you are familiar with the required maintenance that goes into using a DA revolver, the LCR will be easy for you. Compared to older designs, I've found this gun to be easier to maintain than other similar snubbies. How are the ergos, and did I have any reliability issues?

The LCR 22 - Ergonomics & Reliability

When discussing revolver ergonomics, a lot of the talk is going to be about comfort. Control layout wise, we've only got four parts of the revolver that we are interacting with. That's the grip, the trigger, the cylinder release, and the ejector rod. In regards to the three components we cannot swap, they are quite ergonomic.

The trigger itself is shaped in a manner that is comfortable to use. I've shot revolvers with triggers that felt a little sharp, but the LCR does not have that. While a little different than the older style releases, the cylinder release button is intuitive, and easy to use. The ejector rod works well, however, I will say that the shape can jab the hand when giving it a slap.

I did not like the included rubber Hogue grip that was originally on the LCR 22.  To cut some weight and make drawing from a pocket easier, I switched to a hard plastic grip. I've been using the Rogers Enhanced Grip for the majority of the review period, and I've greatly enjoyed it. The LCR has a solid aftermarket, so the world is your oyster here.

In regards to reliability, the LCR 22 has been nearly flawless. I've never had a round not detonate, and the cylinder has always spun. Even with crap bulk ammo, performance has been solid. However, did have one issue pop up...

LCR Cylinder Release Screw

The cylinder release screw began to walk at about 3500 rounds fired.  This is a pain, as the screw uses an extremely small Allen key to tighten. I actually had to buy new Allen keys to tighten it, as my smallest one was still too big. This was the only reliability issue that I ran into during my many rounds of testing.

The LCR 22 At the Range - Shooting Characteristics

I absolutely love shooting the LCR 22. This gun has come out on nearly every shooting trip since I got it in November of 2022. As such, I'm at just over 6000 rounds fired through the gun.

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The LCR's sights are very basic, but extremely usable. The rear notch is generous, and the front ramp is easy to pick up quickly. The white line down the center of the ramp visible enough, and the serrations help to reduce glare. I paint all of my front sights orange, but only if I feel like they need to be more visible. The LCR has not gotten painted, so I'm happy with the sight. For my holdovers, I tend to hold an inch or two high to hit where I want to, for about 20 yards and in.

While not an amazing trigger, the pull on the LCR is certainly good. Compared to a lot of other small revolvers, the LCR's pull is smooth, and does not have stacking. I'm happy to say that Ruger really got the trigger done well here. Trigger pull is stout, but it is very smooth, pulling at about 10LBs. Now, there is a learning curve to the LCR's trigger, but only if you are more familiar with Smith & Wesson (or copycat) revolvers. On the LCR, there is a "false reset" for the trigger, something that isn't present on Smiths. The video below shows this in detail.

Essentially, if you do not let the trigger all of the way back out, the trigger will shortstroke. It'll spin the cylinder, but not reset the hammer. I do the "rowboat" technique now, and totally hop off the trigger after firing, to assure I'm not hindering function.

Recoil is nearly nonexistent, which makes shooting drills a breeze. Speaking of...

The LCR 22 At the Range - Shooting Performance

Whether Tests, Super Snubby Tests, or other drills, I'm happy to shoot the LCR 22. The combination of good sights, a good trigger, and low recoil come together to make shooting fairly easy. I've got a playlist of drills that I shot with the LCR 22, linked here.

LCR 22 Super Snubby Test
A recent Super Snubby Test with the LCR 22.

The only gripe I have with the performance of the LCR 22 is something endemic to 22LR revolvers. Reloading this gun is well, fiddley. Getting 8 rounds of 22LR into the cylinder quickly can be a tedious process. I've used two different speedloaders, one that worked quite well, and one that was worse. However, even the better one was still fiddley to use.

Ruger LCR 22 Speedloaders
The silver 5-Star, and the black Revision CV.

I used the 5-Star knob style loader, and the Revision CV loader. Between the two, the Revision CV worked much better, as it is essentially a tiny Safariland push-style loader. This was faster to use, and more reliably got the 22LRs into the cylinder. The 5-Star is has an HKS style knob that you turn to dump the rounds. However, (for me), it was harder to use, as the knob turns counterclockwise, not clockwise like every other knob speedloader I've used. I've got more Revision CVs coming, as I much greatly prefer them.

So the gun is easy to shoot, but not the easiest to reload fast. For a pocket gun that I don't plan on reloading, I can take that. How well does the LCR 22 carry?

Carrying the LCR 22

While it is a lightweight gun, the LCR isn't extremely small. A comparable Smith J-Frame will have a smaller footprint, and is easier to conceal. However, the LCR still conceals quite easily.

For my time with the gun, I've used a myriad of holsters. The ones I had the best luck with were the Galco Pocket Protector, and the BORAII Eagle. While not reviews of the holsters, these two worked well for concealing the guns, and for keeping the trigger covered. Both also performed well while shooting drills that involved drawing the gun from the pocket. There are a ton of options out there, which is always a plus.

Ruger LCR 22 Galco Pocket Protector
The LCR in the Pocket Protector that I normally use with it.

I carry the LCR with a Revision CV speedloader in a pocket, as it is compact, and having an extra 8 rounds is nice. Do I really need a reload for my back up gun? Probably not, but it takes up nearly no real estate on the body.

Part of carrying a firearm is to practice with it. Live fire is certainly an important part of getting good, but dryfire is integral too. The LCR 22 being safe to dryfire is a massive boon. Most 22LR revolvers will become damaged if dryfired without snapcaps or dummy rounds, but the LCR's steel cylinder allows for it. As such, you can get a ton of time in with doing dryfire reps on the LCR, which will help you get familiar with the gun, and help to break in that trigger. If I've got 6000 live rounds on this LCR 22, there's at least twice that many dry reps on the gun.

Overall, the LCR 22 has been a pleasant gun to carry. Now, there are some elements to deciding to carry a 22LR pistol.

Carrying A 22LR Pistol

Now, there will be trepidation from a lot of folks about carrying a 22LR pistol. With everything in firearms, no one gets to eat a free lunch. What we gain in capacity, low weight, ease of shooting, and cheap cost of practice has to be offset somewhere. That area is in terminal ballistics.

Ruger LCR 22 Ammo Selection
Ammo selection is exceedingly important, especially for a 22LR gun.

22LR has worse terminal ballistics than basically every other common handgun caliber. That's the tradeoff for the benefits gained with the smaller caliber. So, how can we mitigate the less than stellar ballistics? Well, ammo selection plays a massive part. I've exclusively carried the LCR 22 with Federal Punch, which has been 100% reliable, and extremely consistent in the LCR. This load was made for use in handguns, with the goal being more penetration to hit vital areas. Shot placement is key, regardless of caliber, but now there are more 22LR loads that can penetrate well.

The LCR 22 is not a "get into trouble" gun, it's a "get out of trouble". During the NPE Counter Robbery that we took in April, Darryl Bolke asked the class about who carried a 22LR gun. I raised my hand, and he asked me what my mindset was when carrying the 22LR. My answer was that I'm not going out to get involved in other people's problems. Darryl agreed with that mentality. When we have a sub-caliber gun, we need to modify our mindset to accommodate the "get out of trouble" goal. Now, I'm generally carrying the LCR 22 as my second gun, however, the idea remains the same.

Pros Of the LCR 22

Pros: 

  • Quality trigger
  • Good sights
  • Higher capacity (in comparison to centerfire options)
  • Low recoil
  • Cheap to shoot/practice/train with
  • Extremely reliable, and quality made
  • Excellent aftermarket

The LCR 22 is one of the most enjoyable pocket guns that I've ever shot. It is fairly well made, has been reliable, and performs well when shooting scored and timed drills. With it being in 22LR, it is easy to shoot, and cheap to get a ton of practice with. The aftermarket is excellent, so finding replacement grips and sights, quality holsters, or speedloaders will be very easy.

Cons Of the LCR 22

Cons: 

  • Sub caliber has worse terminal ballistics compared to other calibers
  • Reloading the LCR quickly is a tedious process

The biggest downside to the LCR 22 are the terminal ballistics of the caliber. You really need to make sure that you get the rounds to go to the vital areas to effectively utilize the smaller caliber. Ammo selection plays a big part there too, but there are readily available loads that will penetrate well. The reloading process is fiddly on the LCR 22, which is something that I would certainly flag as a con.

The Verdict

Ruger LCR 22 Side Profile

I have very strong feelings for the LCR 22. The gun checks all of my boxes for an ideal pocket pistol, while also being enjoyable to shoot. I can easily recommend this pistol as a concealed carry pocket/back up gun, as long as you understand the limits of the terminal ballistics of 22LR. I'd also add the stipulation that you need to carry the gun with high quality ammo, with the Federal Punch 29gr load being the one that I use and recommend.

If you want a sub caliber revolver for pocket use, the LCR 22 is an excellent option. I'm looking forward to testing the Smith 43C in the near future, so be on the lookout for that too. However, before we move on past the first batch of guns, the Ruger LCP Lite Rack 22 and Smith 442 will be getting detailed reviews.

Related Reading

>>The (Tiny) Pocket Pistol Roundup of 2023<<

I'd like to thank James at Brigham City Armory for being my local FFL for the purchase of the LCR 22. He's been a great dealer to work with, and has been quick to track down guns that I've wanted to get to test for the website. He's not sponsoring us or this review, but if you live in Northern Utah, or want to buy from him online, his webstore is linked above. 

About Paul Whaley 166 Articles
Paul Whaley is a guy with an interest in practical and defensive pistol shooting techniques with an eye for quality gear. He has received training from Holistic Solutions Group, John Johnston of Citizens Defense Research, Darryl Bolke, Cecil Birch, and Chuck Haggard. When not trying to become a better shooter, he can be found enjoying a zombie videogame or listening to Warren Zevon.

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