Some years ago I wrote an extended article on the use of the .22 Long Rifle round for personal defense. It has its drawbacks, sure, but if you’re prepared to put in the time and effort to master it (and I mean really master it, to the point of hitting a rolling ping-pong ball seven out of ten times at ranges of ten to fifteen feet in rapid fire) it’ll certainly get the job done.
Last weekend, via an e-mail list of which I’m a member, I came across this article at Tactical Life.
The Beretta Model 70 and the functionally identical Model 71, both in .22 LR, have served with great distinction as the signature terminator pistol of the Mossad, the premiere intelligence agency of the State of Israel. The Beretta 70 was also carried by Israeli Sky Marshals.
Suppressed Beretta Model 71 (image courtesy of BreachBangClear)
One of the most famous incidents involving the use of a .22 caliber Beretta 70 “Jaguar” pistol occurred in February of 1969 … Israeli Sky Marshal Mordechai Rachamim engaged several heavily armed Arab terrorists as they attacked an EL Al airliner on a snow covered runway in Zurich. Despite the odds against him, the young Israeli sky marshal expertly used his issued Beretta Model 70 pistol to kill one of the Palestinian terrorists, moments before the Zurich Police arrived and took the remaining terrorists into custody. The three surviving male Palestinian terrorists received 12-year jail sentences for attacking a commercial airliner with machine guns and explosives that resulted in the killing and wounding of several passengers and crew. Sky Marshal Mordechai Rachamim became an instant hero at home in Israel.
Rachamim told the author that during this engagement at least two of the rounds fired from his Model 70 hit the mark and were responsible for one of the male terrorists being KIA—pretty good shooting, considering that Rachamim single-handedly charged the enemy position while he emptied his .22 caliber pistol at the heavily armed terrorists. Even though Israeli Sky Marshal Rachamim was only armed with a .22, far too much was at stake for him to miss his target. Failure was not on option.
In May of 1972, Rachamim participated in another daring and equally dangerous tactical operation involving aviation security when he and other members of Israel’s elite Sayert Matkal commando unit rescued passengers and crewmembers onboard a hijacked Sabena Airline flight at Lod Airport (now, Ben-Gurion) in Tel Aviv … As the signal to move was given, Rachamim once again used his issued Model 70 to kill one of the Palestinian terrorists. A second male Palestinian terrorist was also gunned down.
. . .
Back in the late 1960s and 1970s even the Israelis were still learning how to improve security. Israel selected the Beretta 70/71 because this .22 caliber pistol is a compact, accurate and flawlessly reliable performer that could easily be used to quickly and accurately deliver multiple rounds into vital parts of a human body. The Beretta Model 70/71 in .22 Long Rifle has virtually no recoil and can be easily controlled in rapid fire. There was also little chance that a .22 caliber bullet would cause significant collateral damage inside the crowded cabin of an airliner. No group of armed professionals ever used a .22 caliber pistol as effectively as Israeli Mossad operators and Israeli sky marshals.
The Beretta Model 70/71 is long out of production, and finding good-condition examples on the used gun market is an iffy proposition. However, there are several other excellent choices out there, compact enough for concealed carry, including the Ruger SR22 and Smith & Wesson’s M&P22 Compact (both of which are in my collection), as well as other options such as the SIG P250 in .22LR, which I haven’t yet tried for myself. (Note that I do NOT recommend that company’s earlier SIG Mosquito. I’ve seen too many of them prove unreliable in shooters’ hands, including repeated failures to feed and/or eject. It was discontinued in 2013.)
The lowly .22LR is by no means the best “first choice” for self-defense; but if that’s all the recoil you can handle, or it’s the only weapon available to you, it can and will get the job done if you do your part. My correspondent this weekend witnessed a former Israeli operator shooting at a 2″ strip of masking tape at a range of 10 yards. He was getting 1″ groups out of a full 10-round magazine at that range. If you can shoot that accurately, you can shoot a man’s eye out of its socket at 10 yards – and that’s as close to a guaranteed stop as you’re likely to get!
If this makes you think, go read my earlier article (if you haven’t already done so), then rent a couple of options from your local shooting range (or borrow friends’ guns) and try them for yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised.