February 25, 2024
The Diamondback Sidekick is a tough little pistol. IMG Jim Grant

Semi-automatic pistols have come to dominate the handgun market in the United States of America. In 2021, 6,751,919 pistols were manufactured in the USA. Those numbers include single shots, double-barreled, and bolt action pistols, but the vast majority of them are semi-automatics. There were 1,159,918 revolvers manufactured in the United States. The majority of the revolvers were .22 caliber.

The ATF reports 737,374 pistols of .22 or smaller caliber were manufactured in the USA in 2021. The same report says 781,246 revolvers of .22 or smaller caliber were manufactured in the United States in 2021. 2021 is the last year in which individual manufacturing numbers have been reported to the public by the ATF. .22 caliber revolvers are holding their own in competition with semi-autos.

Here are the companies that are making .22 revolvers in the USA and the number they reported making in 2021.

  1. Heritage Manufacturing Inc., 100 Taurus Way, Bainbridge, Georgia. This wholly owned division of Taurus, USA,  makes the revolvers in the large, new Taurus manufacturing facility in Bainbridge. In 2021 they reported making 491,882 .22 caliber revolvers.
  2. Sturm Ruger & Company, Inc., 529 Sunapee St., Newport, New Hampshire. Ruger, seeing how successful the Heritage line has been, has brought out some competition with their Ranger revolver. Ruger has a complete line of quality .22 revolvers from the LCR in .22 to the GP100 to the new version of the Single-Six, the Single-Ten.  In 2021, Ruger reported making 209,258 .22 caliber revolvers.
  3. North American Arms Inc., 2150 S 950 E, Provo Utah. The mini-revolver is offered in many variations by this long-term revolver manufacturer. They reported producing 57,142 .22 caliber revolvers in 2021.
  4. Standard Manufacturing Co. LLC, 100 Burrett St., New Britain, CT. The company has increased its presence in the revolver market with a five-shot .22 mini-revolver. It has had the S333 Thunderstruck double-barreled revolver. Standard Manufacturing reported making 11,208 .22 caliber revolvers in 2021.
  5. Smith & Wesson Sales Company, 1800 N RTE Z, Columbia, MO. It was surprising to see Smith & Wesson produced only a bit more than ten thousand .22 revolvers. Smith & Wesson produced the first .22 revolver in 1857. It was an instant success. They have been producing .22 revolvers, including many iconic models for 166 years, with a few different owners of the company along the way.  Smith & Wesson revolvers have become priced at the high end of the revolver market. Smith & Wesson reported producing  10,310 .22 caliber revolvers in 2021.

All other manufacturers of revolvers in 2021 reported less than 1,000 revolvers made. They are not included in this article.

ATF reports of the manufacture of firearms to the public lag two years behind the calendar dates. This is to preserve proprietary information for the benefit of the manufacturers. 2021 is the latest data available.

Before the Administration of President Biden, the ATF normally reported the number of firearm imports each year. For some unexplained reason, those reports have not been produced for 2021 or 2022. It is a little early to expect the 2023 report. Revolver imports by Taurus and Rossi (owned by the same company) are a significant part of the .22 revolver market in the United States.  As of 2020, Brazil is reported as exporting 849,700 handguns to the United States. The vast majority of those handguns would be from Taurus and Rossi. How many of them are .22 revolvers is not reported.

Rimfire revolvers have significant utility because rimfire cartridges are not quite as reliable as centerfire cartridges. When you have a misfire with a revolver, a different cartridge will be brought to fire by the normal function of a revolver. With a semi-auto, a person needs to clear the misfire before the handgun can be fired.  Most of the utility of a .22 handgun can be performed by either semi-autos or revolvers. Many .22 rimfire revolvers can easily be converted from .22 LR to .22 Magnum. Such revolvers can handle everything from .22 CB caps to .22 Magnum cartridges, adding versatility.

Simple revolvers can be made as cheaply, or even cheaper, than semi-auto handguns. A huge chunk of the .22 revolver market in the United States is at the least expensive end of the market. .22 revolvers are an inexpensive way to gain the utility of a .22 rimfire handgun.

.22 revolvers are here to stay and will continue to be made in the United States for the foreseeable future.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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