At first glance, 9mm seems like the clear choice for your bug-out bag 9mm has more kinetic energy, and it is specifically designed for combat, but 9mm ammo is much heavier than .22lr. The issue when choosing between the two calibers is the pack weight.
I am not a professional, and I’m siding with 22lr more to be the devil’s advocate and to induce you to really consider which ammo will fit your particular survival scenario. I hope this information helps you plan what kind of ammo you will load in your bug-out bag.
In A bug-out bag used for hiking out, the 22lr is a better cartridge than 9mm based on the ammunition weight. 500 cartridges of .22lr weigh 3.95lb. 500 rounds of 9mm Ruger weigh 13.15 pounds, 9.2 pounds heavier than 22lr, significant when trying to hit go-bag weight within 20% of your body-weight.
Interesting Fact: A stock AR 15 with a 16″ barrel, iron sights and no bling weighs 6.5lb, with one 30 round magazine it weighs 7.5lb. A Ruger 10/22 takedown, weighs 4.6lb
Why Does The Weight Of 22lr VS 9mm Matter?
The suggested pack weight for a bug-out bag is 20% of one’s body weight or less.
Pack Weight For A 200lb Man:
The suggested pack weight for a 200lb man is 40lb. Choosing 9mm cartridges over 22lr sacrifices room in your pack that should be allotted to other emergency gear like food or protective clothing.
Most hikers who finish the Appalachian trail go ultra-light, carrying loads as light as 22 lbs. Hiking long-haul is brutal on the body, especially with an over-weight go-bag.
4 Effects of An Overweight Go-Bag
I have first-hand experience hiking over 110 miles through rough terrain. I got to the point where the only thing that mattered was if I could eat and drink. Everything extra, everything non-essential, was dumped.
- More calories are burned:
Hopefully, you have enough food in your go-bag to sustain bugging-out
2. More hydration is necessary:
It takes precious time to find and treat drinking water so it’s in your best interest to minimize doing it.
3.Injury is more likely:
Ankle, foot, back, and neck injuries increase
4.Morale goes down:
Carrying too much weight is painful. Once the blisters form, you twist an ankle, or your neck and shoulders are on fire. You want to stay in one place.
If you are interested in learning more about bugging-out in a catastrophe check out Ready Squirrel’s comprehensive article, “16 Elements of a Bug-out bag.”
Ammo weight isn’t as much of an issue if you plan to bug-out in a vehicle. Go ahead and load the largest caliber cartridges you’ve got; throw in extra pistols and rifles for good measure.
There is a problem, though? There is a high probability that you will end up on foot. Your vehicle may run out of gas. You could drive up on an impassable blockade or be forced out of your vehicle by emergency personnel.
Plan: Load your vehicle up with high-powered ammo but have a light-weight go-bag with 22lr for exiting the vehicle and moving out on foot.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency discusses exiting your vehicle and moving out on foot. It’s in their guidelines for handling catastrophes and natural disasters. Following are some charts you can use to compare the weights of the more common cartridge types.
Chart #1: Pistol and Carbine Cartridge Ammunition Weight
|# of Cartridges||.22lr|
Chart#2: Rifle Cartridge Ammunition Weight
|# of Cartridges|| .22lr|
.22lr Is the Cheapest Ammo You Can Buy
.22lr ammo is hands down the least expensive ammunition you can purchase. If you’re prepping, you know how things add up. It’s good that .22lr is cheap, so you can shoot a lot and get proficient with your weapon.
22lr is Good For Training and Proficiency
Use you .22 until it’s burned into your muscle memory. The damage sustained when firing a weapon in self-defense almost always lies with the skill of the shooter.
22lr Is The Best Ammo For Budget Shooting
Because 22lr is the cheapest ammo it’s the best choice for budget shooting.
The military trains infantry ad nauseum with their weapons. They want a soldier’s reactions to become muscle memory. The only way to handle a weapon as second nature is to shoot a lot of ammo.
Don’t be this 22lr Shooter
He or she has a Glock44 22lr semi-auto with 10 rounds in the magazine. This person has taken the gun out of the box once or twice. They don’t know where the safety is, how to use the slide, or how to align the sites.
They may not even know how to load cartridges into the magazine. The gun was an idea but never became a useful tool. This person’s mantra was “get it and forget it.”
Be This 22lr Shooter
This guy or gal has a .22lr Ruger Wrangler single-action revolver that holds 6 rounds.
He has a .22lr because that’s what he plans on taking in his bug-out bag. He knows how to remove the cylinder, clean the gun, reload and draw the hammer to fire.
He likes to go to the range on the weekend and see how fast he can get the hammer back, how fast he can fire, and still get a good grouping. He knows his revolver shoots high and to the right.
Chart #3: 22lr Cost Per Cartridge
|Company||22lr Price Per cartridge|
|Fast Ship Ammo||23.7¢|
|Old Arms Of Idaho||.25¢|
|Top Gun Ammo||.26¢|
|Fin Feather Fur Outfitters||27.7¢|
|Gold and Guns||.29¢|
Average Cost Of One 22lr Cartridge is .25¢.
|# of Cartridges||Cost At .25¢ Per Round|
Chart #4: 9mm Ammo Cost Per Cartridge
|Company||9mm Price Per Round|
|True Shot Gun Club||.70¢|
|Palmetto State Armory||.72¢|
|Ammo Center Mass||89.9¢|
|Top Shelf Ammo||.90¢|
Average Cost of one 9mm Cartridge is .77¢.
|# of Cartridges||Cost At .77¢ Per Round|
Ease Of Shooting:
Nobody is going to argue about which is easier to shoot. Hands down, the .22lr wins. With almost zero recoil, it’s more like shooting a BB gun than a firearm.
The 9mm has 3x the power of a 22lr cartridge, but it’s also snappier with more recoil. Recoil makes it more challenging to get back on target after you shoot a round.
How Loud is a .22lr vs a 9mm When Fired?
- .22lr is 140 dB Hardly audible at 1/4 mile
- 9mm is 160 dB- Hardly audible at 1 mile
The 9mm is specifically designed for combat sidearms. and gives more round penetration and kinetic energy than the .22lr.
Kinetic energy and penetration are normally what stops an attacker.
In close quarters a 9mm is a deadlier round. Of course, this depends on the shot placement; either caliber will put a person in a world of hurt with a properly placed shot.
The 9mm has a higher velocity than the typical .22lr round. 9mm 115gr, FMJ rounds move at a speed of 1,246.7 feet per second (FPS). The highest rate for a standard 22lr, 40 gr is 1,070 fps.
These velocities vary based on load, bullet, casing and primer.
When it comes to hunting shot placement or where the round hits will determine a kill-shot but realistically the average prepper is going to be better off with a 22.lr when hunting in a survival situation.
If you are lucky day-to-day, sustenance will be supplied by small game like squirrels, rabbits, and food you can forage as you move.
Large game such as Deer and elk are much more challenging to hunt than squirrels and rabbits. To hunt big game animals, you need cartridges that are larger than both the .22lr and the 9mm.
I don’t suggest shooting a black bear, or a hog with a 9mm you might be what’s for supper.
.22 vs 9mm Accuracy and Distance: Best Case Scenario
|22lr||25 Yards||150 Yards|
|9mm||50 Yards||100 Yards|
Watch Iraq Veteran8888 using the U.S. Armies’ 1/2″ pine board penetration test to show the potency of the .22lr and the 9mm from various distances.
What I learned watching these is that both rounds are lethal beyond most shooters’ ability to shoot them accurately.
.22lr Pine Board Penetration Test
9mm Pine Board Penetration Test
You have a much better chance of a 9mm round firing when you pull the trigger than a .22lr.
this is because.22lr is rimfire ammunition which tends to be less reliable, centerfire ammo like the 9mm.
Here are some other issues with 22lr reliability. Most of them can be fixed by keeping your gun cleaned and oiled and using premium ammunition and accessories.
7 Reasons .22lr Isn’t As Reliable As 9mm
The Weapon You choose
Some 22lr pistols and rifles are very unreliable. You won’t see this as much with 9mm carbines, pistols, and revolvers.
2. Quality of Ammunition
Cheaply made .22lr ammunition can be very unreliable. Higher-priced 22lr cartridges like such as CCI tend to be reliable.
3. Quality of Aftermarket Parts:
I own a 10/22 with a bunch of aftermarket high and low capacity magazines. Some of them are poorly made and cause failure to feed.
4. Tendency to stovepipe
This more common in 22lr than 9mm. A stovepipe occurs when the cartridge case hangs up when being ejected and stops the next round from entering the chamber. This can be caused by poorly made magazines, underpowered ammo, or a dirty gun.
5. Failure to feed
22lr is prone to this malfunction. This malfunction occurs when the spent round is ejected from the camber but hot round isn’t placed in the firing chamber. This malfunction can be caused by the mechanics of the gun, accessories, underpowered cartridges, or a dirty gun.
A failure to fire the cartridge when the trigger is pulled.
Rimfire cartridges have a primer that is less predictable than a centerfire cartridge like the 9mm.
You can usually get the 22lr round that misfires to fire on the second go. This is one reason I like revolvers for .22lr ammo. Just keep pulling the trigger
7. Keep It Clean
9mm is going to be more forgiving if you aren’t 100% on maintenance. 22lr guns have to be kept super clean there is no way around it.
More than any other weapon I’ve used, the function of .22lr is affected by a lack of general maintenance.
This is especially an issue with semi-auto pistols and rifles cycled by blow-back. Residue build-up from burned powder can build-up and cause malfunctions like stovepiping and failure to eject or failure to feed a round into the chamber.