The little 22 LR round has been around since the late 1800s. Today it’s the most popular rimfire round in existence, and shooters use it for plinking, hunting small game, training, and as a general-purpose working cartridge. Two realms it rarely sees use in are self-defense and duty use. I say rarely, because, believe it or not, the 22 LR pistols have been used for duty purposes with military forces. I’ve gathered three 22 LR pistols used by a multitude of military forces in multiple roles.
High Standard HDM
In the early days of World War Two, an organization known as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) came to be. This predecessor to the CIA was an intelligence operation with a focus on clandestine operations. That’s a polite way of saying sometimes you needed to kill a Nazi quietly, and that’s where the High Standard HDM came to be.
The High Standard HDM was a series of semi-automatic 22 or pistols with a built-in integral suppressor. The little 22 LR can be easily suppressed and is naturally quieter than centerfire rounds. A subsonic 22 LR round through a suppressed pistol is as close as you can get to a movie-like quietness from a suppressed gun.
The Little High Standard HDM allowed for silent assassinations, sentry removal, and guard-dog killing in a quiet manner. These 22 LR pistols were used by OSS agents, and later CIA agents, as well as Marine Raiders and Special Forces troops.
Ruger Mk Series
Ruger makes some of the best 22 LR pistols, and in many ways, the Mk series is the modern follow-up to the High Standard HDM. The Mk2 and Mk3 have both served with the United States military in limited capacities. The differences between the Mk2 and Mk3 series of pistols are minor, as both guns are very similar internally. They are blowback operated, semi-auto 22 LR pistols that feature fixed barrels, box magazines, and a full-sized profile.
The most common users of the Ruger Mk 22 LR pistols were the United States Navy SEALs. These men utilized the Mk series for the same reasons the HDM was used. It can eliminate sentries, kill guard dogs, and even be used to take out street lamps and lights quietly when paired with a suppressor. It’s not a fighting pistol but a tool to help you remain stealthy.
These pistols apparently leaked out of the SEALs and made their way to the Force Recon community. Travis Haley has spoken about using a Ruger Mk3, and a picture emerged with him wielding what appears to be a Ruger equipped with an Aimpoint Comp M2 red dot and NT4 suppressor.
The Beretta 70/71
The Israelis have famously made use of the small and convenient Beretta 70 and 71 series pistols for a variety of tasks. The 70 and 71 are very similar. The 70 has a steel frame and the 71 has an aluminum alloy frame. Both are 22 LR Pistols that are very small and compact. They use Beretta’s signature open slide design and single-action hammer-fired design.
Israel has always been one of the more creative parties in developing and adapting firearms for specific purposes. As such, the Beretta Model 70/71 saw use with Israeli Sky Marshals. The marshals used 22 LR pistols due to their low penetration that reduced risk in a crowded plane.
Both the Mossad and the Sayeret Matkal adopted the Beretta 70/71 series. They worked with suppressors for sentry elimination, assassinations of political figures, and the like. The book Vengeance by George Jonas tells the story of Mossad operators eliminating PLO and Black September militants. The book mentions the use of these 22 LR pistols in assassination missions.
Military Use of 22 LR Pistols
22 LR Pistols serve a very limited purpose. Often they are paired with suppressors because they can be very quiet with the right ammo and suppressor. This makes them a natural choice for limited tasks. Yet, they are rarely fighting pistols and work best when used with a degree of stealth or deceptions. While rare and niche, they are a fascinating addition to military arsenals.
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