In email from Gun Tests reader Jim T. asked for a 22 LR subcompact concealed-carry pistol match up, specifically mentioning the old-school Walther TPH and Ruger LCP II. We winced at the thought because the 22 LR is not an adequate defense round, in our estimation. There are better caliber choices, but 22 LR subcompact pistols are popular and have been since the 1920s. We added two additional subcompacts — a Taurus PT-22 and Beretta 21A Bobcat — to round out the list. Though these mouse guns lack power, they do offer deep concealment and surprise. These are close-quarter guns to be used an arm’s length away, perhaps incapacitating or intimidating your attacker so you can run away to safety or to get a bigger gun.
How We Tested
All of these pistols have short barrels less than 3 inches in length and have tiny, rudimentary sights. Because they are small, they tend to get lost in your hand. There is not a lot to hang onto. Slides are small with minimal serrations, especially in the case of the Taurus and Beretta, and that makes them difficult to operate. The Ruger LCP II was specially designed for ease of slide retraction. Safety levers are also minuscule, as are the magazines, which can be a pain to load.
We accuracy tested at 10 yards, using our range bag as a rest, and found the pea-shooters had good accuracy. We used Thompson Targets Sight-Seer Red targets for accuracy testing. For speed shooting, we performed the Failure Drill — two shots to center of mass, one shot to the head — at 7 yards and found all of these guns performed well and could easily be used to defend yourself. We tested speed using a Thompson Target B27STOP Upper Torso Silhouette Target, which has immobilization zones outlined on the sheet.
Now here’s the “but”: Getting a semi-automatic 22 LR pistol to run consistently is a challenge. There is an embarrassment of 22 LR bullet weights and styles, and some work better than others, depending on the pistol. We would definitely run a lot of 22 LR ammo through these mousey guns to find consistency before we pocketed any of them for defense. With the new guns — Beretta 21A Bobcat, Taurus PT-22, ad Ruger LCP II — we experienced FTF (failures to feed) jams and some FTE (failures to eject) jams, especially in early accuracy testing. The bullet shape makes a big difference on whether the ammo will feed or not. The Winchester Silvertip ammo gave us the most mishaps, and that could be because it uses a larger 37-grain bullet compared to the 30-grain and 29-grain bullets used in the Aguila and Federal ammo, respectively. As we ran ammo through them, they performed more consistently, so keep in mind there is a break-in period for the mouse guns.
We also concealed-carried these pistols in our pocket, using an Elite Survival System Pocket holster PH-1L ($18; EliteSurvival.com), which has a no-slip outside texture that “sticks” to the inside of your pants pocket and allows you to easily draw the pistol. The Ruger LCP II came with a similar style holster, which we thought was added value. All of these mouse guns were easy to carry concealed and simply felt like a wallet in our front pocket.
Test ammo for the mouse guns consisted of two defense loads that on paper make a mouse gun roar: Winchester Silvertips with a 37-grain plated segmenting hollow point bullet and Federal Punch, a 29-grain flat-point solid bullet. We also tested Aguila’s amped-up Supermaximum rounds with a 30-grain copper-plated solid bullet. With 22 LR ammo, you want a bullet to penetrate as much as possible for terminal performance. Heavy clothing and body mass will slow down a 22 LR, which means less penetration. Here are the details.
Gun Tests Grade: B-
The 21A Inox Bobcat is an elegant subcompact with helpful features, such as serrated front and rear grip straps, a wide trigger for better leverage, and a serrated round hammer that’s easy to cock. However, the sights are super tiny, and the 10-pound double-action trigger stroke is long and stacks a bit at the end. The open-top slide design means there’s only a small strip of rear slide serrations. Retracting the slide took 15 pounds of effort with the hammer up. Cocking the hammer prior to racking the slide took a little less effort.
|Action||Semi-automatic, blowback, hammer fired|
|Trigger||Double action/Single Action|
|Overall Length||4.9 in.|
|Overall Height||3.7 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.1 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||11.8 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||12.7 oz.|
|Barrel Length||2.4 in.|
|Capacity (single stack)||7+1|
|Slide Retraction Effort||15.0 lbs.|
|Frame||Matte silver, alloy|
|Frame Front Strap Height||1.3 in.|
|Frame Back Strap Height||2.4 in.|
|Grip Thickness (max)||1.1 in.|
|Grip Circumference (max)||5.0 in.|
|Trigger Pull Weight Double Action||10.0 lbs.|
|Trigger Pull Weight Single Action||6.8 lbs.|
|Trigger Span Double Action||2.9 in.|
|Trigger Span Single Action||2.5 in.|
|Manual Safety||Thumb, half-cock, inertia firing pin|
A unique feature on the 21A Bobcat is the tip-up barrel that allows the user to load a round directly into the chamber. This is a great option when shooting rat shot out of the pistol to dispatch a snake or small critter because shotshell cartridges typically don’t cycle in a semi-automatic. The trigger guard is actually a spring that presses against the bottom of the barrel to flip it open. When closed, it snaps into place.
There is no slide stop nor extractor on the tiny Beretta. It uses a simple blowback action that ejects the empty case from the expanding gases expelled from a fired cartridge. The Model 21 design has been around since 1984 and is currently made in Beretta’s Tennessee plant. Safeties include a manual thumb safety that blocks the trigger and locks the slide. It also has a half-cock safety and inertia-style firing pin. We carried the Bobcat at half cock with the manual safety up in the Safe position. It was difficult to flick on, but easier to flick off with a right-handed shooter’s thumb, and we used the thumb of our support hand to manipulate it. The magazine release is at the rear of the grip, which means you need to change the position of the gun in your shooting hand to dump the magazine or use a finger from your support hand to dump it. The mag falls free when the button is pressed, but the free fall will most likely be impeded by your hand gripping the pistol. The magazine has a small loading button to pull down the follower and compress the magazine spring.
The Beretta in hand is flat. We could get two fingers on the front grip strap with our small finger curled under the butt. There was a small beavertail that helped us avoid slide bite or hammer bite.
Going hot, we initially experienced multiple FTF and FTE issues. We did notice the issues occurred more frequently with the Winchester ammo. As we fired the pistol more, the issues resolved themselves and the Beretta ran fine. The velocities were fast, especially with Federal Punch ammo, which had a muzzle velocity of 1045 fps. Accuracy with Federal Punch averaged 2.69 inches, which we thought was acceptable because the sights are integral to the barrel and slide and are difficult to see. Our best accuracy group measured 1.79 inches with Aguila Supermaximums. Recoil was minimal. We fired in single-action trigger mode for accuracy testing, and the SA trigger pull measured 6.8 pounds. So not only are sights tiny, the trigger was stiff and heavy, which made the pistol harder to shoot well. We liked the tip-up barrel feature for plinking.
To load a full magazine into the pistol, we needed to make sure the magazine was fully seated and used our support hand to squeeze the magazine home. The magazine fit flush to the butt, and in the event the magazine got stuck, you would need a fingernail or carry knife to extract it. A larger floorplate would solve that problem, but you have a bigger problems if you need to reload any of these guns in a deadly situation.
The Beretta fared better in speed shooting. The first shot was a long drawn out double-action trigger pull followed by two quick single-action shots. Shooting the Beretta fast was easy because the pistol in hand is a natural pointer and pointed high, which meant we could see the front sight more easily. The slide does not lock open on the last shot, so we started to shoot the Bobcat like a revolver, counting shots fired.
The serrated hammer snagged in a pocket draw until we learned to keep our thumb over the hammer as we pulled the pistol out.
Our Team Said: The Beretta 21A is a classic mouse gun that is well built with some useful features. The sights were too tiny to be of much use, and the trigger was heavy and not particularly smooth. Accuracy was not fabulous. Because we had multiple jams, we would run different ammos through it until it runs consistently and reliably.
22 LR Range DataTo collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups from a bench using a rest. Distance: 10 yards with open sights. We recorded velocities using a ProChrono digital chronograph set 15 feet from the muzzle.
|Winchester Silvertip 37-grain Segmented HP||Ruger LCP II||Taurus PT-22||Beretta 21A Bobcat||Walther TPH|
|Average Velocity||938 fps||873 fps||907 fps||948 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||72 ft.-lbs.||63 ft.-lbs.||68 ft.-lbs.||74 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||1.20 in.||1.08 in.||2.28 in.||2.15 in.|
|Average Group||1.61 in.||1.19 in.||2.56 in.||2.48 in.|
|Federal Punch 29-grain Flat SP PO22L1||Ruger LCP II||Taurus PT-22||Beretta 21A Bobcat||Walther TPH|
|Average Velocity||1111 fps||1027 fps||1045 fps||1141 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||79 ft.-lbs.||68 ft.-lbs.||70 ft.-lbs.||75 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||0.80 in.||1.05 in.||2.17 in.||1.35 in.|
|Average Group||1.50 in.||1.19 in.||2.69 in.||1.60 in.|
|Aguila Supermaximum 30-grain Flat SP||Ruger LCP II||Taurus PT-22||Beretta 21A Bobcat||Walther TPH|
|Average Velocity||915 fps||870 fps||919 fps||1065 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||56 ft.-lbs.||50 ft.-lbs.||56 ft.-lbs.||76 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||1.47 in.||2.88 in.||1.79 in.||1.32 in.|
|Average Group||1.73 in.||3.16 in.||2.08 in.||1.42 in.|