Is a .22 Conversion For Your Carry Pistol Worth It?

Beretta 92 conversion kit courtesy beretta.com

A number of popular handguns can be equipped with an optional .22 LR conversion kit to let you also shoot the more economical double deuce. However, the cost of the conversion, depending on the gun, is frequently on the steep side. Some — again it depends on the gun — are more involved than others, even requiring a replacement slide.

The question: is it worth it?

courtesy glockstore.com

On a cost basis, that will depend on how much you shoot and how long you’ll own the gun. Let’s say for the sake of argument that a .22 conversion slide for your 9mm pistol costs you $300. You take the 9mm slide off, pop the .22 slide on and you’re off to the races. Let’s also say you buy $50 worth of .22 magazines while you’re at it.

That’s $350 all-in to get you .22-ready.

A box of 50 .22 LR ammo costs $5 or less for a box of 50. The cheapest box of 50 of 9mm is usually about $10 or a little more. Granted, many people can bring the per-round cost down by buying in bulk, but even then, the .22 is still vastly more economical. A brick of 500 .22 is $20 to $25 (depending) but a 500-round box of 9mm is about five to seven times that amount; usually between $120 to $150.

So you’re basically saving about $100 for every 500 rounds. A $350 conversion is therefore paid off in fewer than 2,000 rounds. Depending on how much you shoot…that can go pretty quickly.

But does it make sense as a practical matter? Should you use a .22 conversion to practice with your carry gun?

SIG SAUER 1911 .22 Conversion

On one hand, you should practice with ammunition that mirrors your carry load. If you shoot 230-grain JHP in your .45, you should practice with 230-grain ball. If you carry 147-grain 9mm JHP…you get the idea. That way you train the way you (hope you’ll never have to) fight. You’ll know how the gun recoils and can practice follow-up shots accordingly.

On the other hand, you can drill the mechanics of shooting and accuracy with a .22 LR a whole lot more often (let’s face it, the cost of ammo affects how much we shoot). That includes your draw, aim, trigger pull, reloads, follow-up shots – all will get drilled far more often. As a result, your muscle memory will be honed that much more with your carry gun.

But you’ll still need to do some shooting with your carry gun in its normal caliber to keep you acclimated to your actual carry round.

So in the end, when considering whether a .22 conversion makes sense, it depends. If you shoot often enough, you can save yourself some real dinero with a conversion and you may very well practice more often. Just be sure to practice with the real stuff from time to time, too.

Is a .22 conversion worth it to you on that basis? Or should you just accept the cost of your EDC gun’s ammo and do the training you can using what you’ll carry?

 

Sam Hoober is a contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters and Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also contributes regularly to USA Carry and the Daily Caller.

comments

  1. avatar JeffR says:

    The CZ Kadet conversion kit remains one of the best firearms related purchases that I have ever made. Love it.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      For sure. It’s one of the best .22 LR pistols you can get, let alone conversion kits: http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/03/jeremy-s/gear-review-cz-75-kadet-adapter/

    2. avatar DesertDave says:

      I have one for my 07 Duty and it is great. Hate to say it but prefer to plink with .22 LR that my .9 mm (/sarc)!

    3. avatar Just Sayin says:

      One of the best firearm purchases I have ever made.
      It works on my 75B and P-01, and it works well.
      Accurate as hell. It really helped me learn how to shoot from reset on the P-01.
      A big training aid plus!! Arguably the best 22lr pistol.
      And the newbies love it; feels like (is) a real gun (all metal), sofest recoil, and accurate.
      Kadet for the win.

      1. avatar Hoyden says:

        CZ=company that never gets a negative review on ANY site.

        Buy?Sell?Hold? always recommends BUY on CZ.

  2. avatar Samr says:

    I’m more interested in a 6.5 creedmoor conversion

    1. avatar Scott says:

      Screw that. It’s been over 30 years since Johnny Dangerously came out, and I’m still waiting for a revolver in .88 Magnum.

      1. avatar the ghost of ironicatbest says:

        Before ironicatbest cut his guts out in Japan fearing he may be deported to the blood filled streets of the U.S.A,. He was working on a .65 caliber under the name of .65 Vahnder. It would have featured a 650 gr bullet at 650 fps. His ghost still has the single shot proto type. Still no .88 tho

        1. avatar emfourty gasmask says:

          literally who

  3. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t bother with it for economic purposes only. But I think everyone should have a .22 pistol for teaching new shooters.

    1. avatar TruthTellers says:

      Same. I think a dedicated .22 pistol is better than anything a conversion does. Usually about the same price too and I’d rather have two guns in two calibers than one gun. That’s not an option for some people, so conversions are right for some, but I think they’re wrong for most.

      1. avatar DesertDave says:

        It is a good training feature as you have the same lower, trigger and all to practice with. On my CZ 07 I shoot better with the .22 Cadette conversion the the 9 mm. But after burning through a few 100 rounds of .22 I find I’m better with the 9.

      2. avatar Just Sayin says:

        The CZ Kadet is/was(?) sold as a dedicated model.

    2. avatar Neil says:

      The conversion kit makes an easy transition for learners. I have one for my Sig P220 and I start with that. Teach on a Sig SP2022, and if the learner is doing exceptionally well, then 45 ACP through the P220.

      I recommend a conversion kit to everyone. Note: The Sig 1911 kit is off. It needs a taller front sight as part of the kit. The P220 kit aims far more true. The Beretta 92 is exceptional. I’m happy to hear the CZ kits are excellent.

      Too many 22LRs aren’t great pistols. For a beginner, the convolutions to clean are ridiculous. The Mark IV and S&W Victory are two excellent exceptions as are the SR22 or GP100 (I’m not a fan of my P22, so I must do the opposite of recommending it). The conversion kits offer everyone a path to train without recoil aversion that is durable, easy to clean, and teaches the carry guns trigger.

      What amuses me is how shooters are into personal freedoms and want to tell everyone how to practice. What matters is getting people to the range to practice.

    3. avatar Rick_in-NH says:

      I bought my SIGs as .22LR and added the desired centerfire conversion calibers. The cost as .22LR and added centerfire conversion was less than $50 over the cost of the centerfire caliber pistol alone, but SIG has gotten wise to this trick and raised the prices of the conversion kits and stopped selling the .22LR models. A typical range day with the P226 starts with .22LR, then a bunch of 9mm followed by .357SIG.

  4. avatar Shire-man says:

    I have some conversions but not for economic reasons. For noise reasons. On the down side the recoil isn’t the same. On the plus side all that shitty rimfire ammo gives me plenty of opportunity for failure drills.

    1. avatar mountocean says:

      Came here to post this. But its not all the 22lr’s fault, centerfire pins often don’t hit as hard as rimfire.

      I love my conversion and easily burned through the couple thousand rounds to make it worth it. But that’s cause I was carrying a gun with a weird trigger and expensive ammo.

  5. avatar jwm says:

    I would rather have 2 fully functional pistols rather than 1 that has to be converted for use. The more, the merrier.

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      Yes, but in California it’s a minimum of 10 days from decision to pickup for a new pistol, and 30 days between pistols, iirc.

      A.conversion kit,.on the other hand, is immediate gratification.

  6. avatar Hasaf says:

    I have taken a different route. I purchased an airsoft gun of same make and model as my carry pistol. The advantage is that I can things that are hard to do with any dangerous, or lethal load.

    Of course it is not a substitute for regular practice, it is a supplement to it.

    1. avatar Red in CO says:

      Plus there’s tremendous value to force on force training, not to mention that it’s just fun. Participating in airsoft games (particularly high level ones) and practicing combat marksmanship at the range is an excellent combination

  7. avatar Red in CO says:

    Train like you fight, fight like you train. For plinking and general range fun? Yeah, that’s probably not a bad idea. Although for $350, you can get a fairly good dedicated .22lr handgun

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      “Although for $350, you can get a fairly good dedicated .22lr handgun.”

      That is exactly what I would do if a conversion costs $350.

      Why put 2,000 rounds (the break-even point for cost savings of ammunition which offsets the investment in a conversion kit) of wear-and-tear on your every-day carry handgun?

      I know that we should use our every-day-carry handgun to some extent to ensure that it still works reliably. At some point though excessive use will actually reduce its reliability as it approaches “end of life”.

      1. avatar Matt G. says:

        Any quality pistol should last over 30,000 rounds reliably. If you can afford the ammo to wear out your pistol, you can easily afford to replace that pistol. I also doubt a .22 conversion would cause any significant wear on the frame.

  8. avatar ChainsawWieldingManiac says:

    I’ve stopped buying 22lr pistols and just use conversions instead. I know there’s complaints about reliability, but I’ve not really seen it be worse than purpose-built 22lr pistols. Given how much is in my safe right now, I’d also argue that _fewer_ pistols to store is not such a bad thing.

  9. avatar Baldwin says:

    “…fewer_ pistols…is not such a bad thing…” Shame on you!

    1. avatar Spectre_USA says:

      Yeah, just go ahead and drop the most pertinent part ” to store,” than wag your virtual finger. Sheesh.

      Anywho, I have a pair of Sig P938’s, and spent the same as the author mumbled, but have to wait until the Autumn to get it. I like it, as I have a pair of Grandsons I am trying to get acclimated to shooting, and the 9mm in a micro size is a little “sporty” for even the older one.

      I think these little EDC’s would be much better in .22LR, just to get them to get some rounds downrange, and be more comfortable. One for each when I shuffle off my mortal coil, so I want them to have memories of firing `em with their ol’ Grand-dad, not being punished by them.

      So for that reason alone, worth it for me.

    2. avatar ChainsawWieldingManiac says:

      Unless you have unlimited safe space, you have to curate your collection to some extent. I’d rather save my safe space for other centerfire pistols than waste it on rimfire pistols. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

  10. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

    It seems to me there is an issue here – When you train .22lr only, you don’t get same experience with shot recoil and follow-up shots.

    So, how about training with both? A few hundred rounds of .22lr first for imprinting muscle memory for drawing and aiming, and finishing up the session with 50 rounds of full-power to impress that on your muscle memory?

    Or did I pick a bad day to stop mainlining Heroin?…

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      Any experienced shooter knows what the full recoil feels like. You can shoot a box out of your carry gun to remind yourself what if feels like then shoot as many rounds as you want out of the 22 version.

  11. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

    Do they make .22lr conversion ‘cartridges’ for .38 -.357 ammo for use in revolvers?

    Like maybe have the barrels offset in them so the centerfire firing pin strikes on the rim?

    That could be kinda handy…

    1. avatar TruthTellers says:

      Not that I know of, but there are the adapters for .410 revolvers. In .357 the barrel length of the adapter would be so minimal I don’t think you’d get any velocity and they’d tumble, but they’d do that anyway because the adapter more than likely wouldn’t be rifled either.

  12. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    A conversion kit Id say nope.
    Just buy the same model in a 22lr. Cant have to many handguns.

  13. avatar tdiinva says:

    If you carry a RUGER SR, M&P, M-9 or a 1911there are dedicated 22 pistols that will work much better than a conversion kit.

  14. avatar GS650G says:

    I bought a .22 walther PPQ for 329.00 which feels like my 9mm and .45 PPQ pistols so I could practice for less.

  15. avatar charles says:

    A better question to ask is…..Does one even exist. Kinda hard to contemplate buying something that’s not available.

  16. avatar 3 of 11 says:

    I ONLY have conversions for 22lr pistols. No dedicated 22lr pistols. This allows me to learn ONE manual of arms (GLOCK, advantage arms) for plinking, training, SD, and competition. I have found the AA kit is pretty damn reliable and even when it has trouble = free malfunction clearing practice. You also forgot to add $100 because you should use be same sights on your 22 as your main.

  17. avatar 10x25mm says:

    I had a lot of difficulty transitioning to the unorthodox Glock trigger, so I build a dedicated .22lr Glock 29 using an Advantage Arms conversion on a factory grip frame. The low recoil of the .22lr cartridge allowed me to separate trigger and grip issues.

  18. avatar Jack Moore says:

    Warning TMI:
    My wife likes shooting, she just doesn’t know it yet. She liked shooting my friends .22 PPQ but she didn’t like shooting any of my pistols. I can’t blame her, I’m not going to say a Keltec pf-9, a Highpoint c-9 or a Taurus 92 are especially nice pistols or good pistols for new shooters. (The Taurus is a nice enough pistol but it is a brick, let’s just admit that.) So anyway, I drank the koolaid, became “one of us” and my Glock and I are currently very happy together. For M&P, 1911, Sig, PPQ etc there are dedicated 22 versions that carry their pros and cons but not for Glock. I hadn’t really been thinking about it, but maybe a conversion slide would be a good way to convince my wife to drink the koolaid and decide she likes Glocks too.

    I’m also looking seriously at the idea of laser trainers, (or airsoft) the problem with 22 pistols is you still have to take them to a range.

  19. avatar Jross says:

    Given their cost and from what I’ve heard about how spotty the reliability is on conversion kits I’d just buy a dedicated 22.

  20. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    I carry a Beretta 21a. 8 rounds of 22 long rifle. 13 oz wt when loaded. Sometimes its better to have a lighter weapon than a converted heavier one.
    If I want a heavy gun I’ve got 9mm and 45 acp to choose from.

    1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

      BTW
      converting an AR15 to 22 caliber for training is not a bad Idea.

  21. avatar T bill says:

    I have 22LR conversion kits for those pistols that can use them along with the the AR. Great training aid to master and maintain shooting skills. Same frame, same trigger, damn near same point of aim, no where near the costs. I use it with new shooters as well to get them on point before moving up. Learning curve is much better that way. They have a purpose and will continue to use them

  22. avatar Bob999 says:

    Yes! I took first in a pistol portion of competition a few year back by practicing at a rate between 3000 and 5000 rounds per week for many months in advance of the competition. Getting the “muscle memory” down was essential. I am my only sponsor, so performing some of my drills using .22 saved a boat load of money. If you can afford the 9mm or whatever your ammo of choice is, sure, go for it. Me, at the quantities I shot, I had to be creative. Also, I found that conversions work great when teaching a reluctant shooter who is afraid of the loud bang and recoil.

  23. avatar John says:

    I would add 2 items to this.
    If you can find a dedicated .22 that closely mimics your carry you might be better off and the cost would be about the same. I have 2, one that mimics my 1911 and another that mimics my S&W shield.
    The only thing you lose practicing with a .22 is recoil, this my effect follow up shots. As you said you should still periodically practice with your carry to remain acclimated. However in a real life scenario with your adrenaline pumping you will never notice the difference in recoil.

  24. avatar TomC says:

    “Let’s also say you buy $50 worth of .22 magazines while you’re at it.” So you’re going train with just two magazines (the one that came with the conversion kit and the one you buy)? OK, I’m sure that there must be SOME .22 conversion magazine available for $25, but I don’t recall seeing one.

    With the price of most 22 conversion kits, you can often by a full size copy of your pistol in .22 for about the same price.

  25. avatar Big Al says:

    Bought a Kimber 22lr conversion for my 1911 in 45acp many years ago. LOVE IT!!! Now I have a good 1911 in 2 calibers. 22lr is amazingly accurate & one hell of a lot of fun to shoot! I have put some 5,000+ rounds of 22lr through it. Same holsters work for either caliber.

  26. avatar Grumpy says:

    I like shooting a variety of pistols and burn 15,000 rounds/year, so there is not much of a downside to maintaining a couple of dedicated .22LR guns. I have also been playing with MRD sights, which would be too expensive to replicate for conversions.

  27. avatar James69 says:

    on a different side. I have the S&W 15-22. FANTASTIC training tool and a high quality .22 . 100% Just like the AR15 except for the BANG and the boingggg pogo-stick action. I believe ANY trigger time is well worth it.

    1. avatar Nigel the expat says:

      Agreed.

      Started both my boys on the 15-22. When my oldest was old enough and strong enough to manipulate a full-weight AR he transitioned without issue (aside from an explanation on the forward assist, which is not on my 15-22, and learning new muscle memory for pulling the charging handle, which is a longer pull on a regular AR). He shoots competitive 3-gun at our local range at 15 (Junior) now.

  28. avatar Rusty says:

    From a frugal point of view it makes sense, but in my limited experience: Whenever I shoot my M&P 22c next to a normal 9mm or 45, my aim and basics go out the window. For me, 22lr is too soft, so I don’t lock my wrists properly, I don’t brace for the recoil properly. I’ve got lots of 22, i’ve got a spectre 2 suppressor for more fun, but I find myself rarely if ever shooting it, because to me personally shooting a 22 pistol make me a worse 9mm+ shooter.

  29. avatar Zebra dun says:

    Yes it is worth it, I have a conversion kit made by Colt for my Government model series 70 mk IV My shooting skills increased after putting several thousand .22lr through it. Now it is no tack driver not even a squirrel gun but it is the best tool available to get practice short of reloading .45 acp.

  30. avatar Capn Jack says:

    Comments adnauseam. Train like you fight…If you can’t handle the recoil, etc. etc.

    My wife is not a commando (although sometimes I wonder) and she picked out her compact 9mm because it fit her hand. I had some misgivings as she had been training with a CO2 pellet pistol, but that was what she wanted. I agreed to the compact with the reservation that I put on a .22 adapter and she first fire 100 rounds. She tried it as a .22 and after the first 10 shots, she said, “This is just like shooting the pellet pistol.” After that, I couldn’t keep the magazines loaded fast enough for her. When asked about CC and the 9mm recoil, I told her, if you have to use it, adrenaline will kick in and you’ll never notice the recoil.

  31. avatar Mike S Avon, IN says:

    I’ve purchased the CZ Kadet .22LR conversions for both my CZ 75B and CZ-P07 and consider both conversion slides/.22LR barrels to be winners in accuracy, shooting fun and overall costs.

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