I went to a shooting event last weekend. It was a great time, I met new people, did some things well and realized how much improvement I need in other areas. There was a mixture of long range shooting, close-quarters work and some timed drills, including a string of 27 targets ranging from 20 to 400 yards with a couple hundred yards of running in between stages. That was fun!
On that drill I managed to miss the least amount of targets, but I did miss all three shots at 400 yards. That was annoying, especially since I took forever setting up for those shots and getting my breathing under control. But it was still fun, and I got some great exercise running along with other people as the timer and score keeper. After everyone ran that drill, people were bushed, so we slowed it down a bit and broke out the 22 rimfire guns. While observing (and timing) people shoot I realized something.
Everyone was faster and more accurate with 22's than with centerfire handguns.
Yes, everyone. Every person who shot that drill with a rimfire and another gun was faster and more accurate with the 22. From the guy who is competitive at 3-gun matches to the relative newbie, every single person was both more accurate and faster on the handgun drills shooting a 22 than the centerfire pistol of their choice. Our fastest shooter cleared 10 targets at 20 yards in less than 5 seconds with a Ruger 22 handgun. His best time using a 9mm was 7.x seconds and he missed two of the targets. Other people had similar results.
This is why I don't hesitate to recommend a 22 as a person's first handgun, even if it is their intent to only own one handgun. It's the best tool to develop skills and safe habits. It's 5x cheaper to shoot than the cheapest centerfire cartridge. And a person is unlucky enough to have to use a firearm defensively, it's highly likely they will be able to shoot faster and more accurately than with a more powerful firearm. In defensive use of firearms, the most important part is hitting your target, and people prove to me time and time again they do that better with 22's than with other calibers, even people who are competition level shooters.
And quite honestly, I think 3 well placed shots with a 22 will compare favorably in a defensive scenario to 2 less accurate shots with something more powerful. I'm not suggesting a 22 is better for the purpose, only that it brings something to the table.