Firearms

Range Report: The Walther P22

For many years, almost every .22 caliber rimfire self-loading pistol was a single-action design. Most did not use a hammer. Instead a firing pin in a bolt was utilized. An exception was the seldom seen, but very desirable, Walther PPK in .22 LR. While a good pistol, the Walther was expensive and sometimes finicky concerning ammunition and reliability. The subject of this report is a modern polymer frame double-action first shot pistol that is also desirable but affordable. The double-action first shot pistol has many good attributes for general use, particularly for outdoors use and personal defense as a house gun.

This is the Manual of Arms:

  • The slide is locked to the rear
  • A loaded magazine is inserted
  • The slide is dropped to load the pistol
  • The hammer is lowered to make the pistol safe

The first shot is fired by a long press of the trigger. The trigger press both cocks and drops the hammer, hence the term double action. Once the slide recoils, the hammer is cocked for subsequent shots. These shots are fired single action as the trigger drops the hammer when the trigger is pressed. In order to safely lower the hammer without a possibility of accidental discharge, there are a number of types of decocker levers in use. In the Walther PPK, as an example, the lever is turned and a block falls into place covering the firing pin. At the same time, the hammer is tripped and falls. The hammer cannot contact the firing pin. The PPK uses a true decocker.

The P22 is a simpler design. The safety is actuated and the hammer is manually lowered. The hammer does not fall when the manual safety is activated. It is recommended that the safety is applied and the hammer is then controlled by the thumb as the trigger is pressed to lower the hammer. This system works well for most, but one must be aware of the fact that the P22 safety isn’t a true decocker.

Those who prefer a double-action first shot trigger action now have the opportunity to obtain a double-action pistol in .22 caliber for practice, training and recreation. The double-action first shot feature may be ignored in recreational shooting if preferred. Simply cock the hammer for a deliberate shot if you wish. The value of the P22 is that the handgun gives shooters a chance to practice the double-action manual of arms on the cheap. Whether you also use a centerfire double-action first shot pistol or not, the Walther P22 is an excellent choice for recreational shooting. It is considerably lighter than either the Ruger Standard Model or the Browning Buckmark—a good place to be.

The Walther P22 is a compact pistol that weighs just over one-pound and features a 3.4-inch barrel. The pistol’s grip shape drew the eyes of the “Pretty Girl” when she spied it in the pawnshop, and as is often the case, we took it home. The design is excellent, with an ergonomic grip shape and well-shaped controls. The pistol is just the right size for a .22, neither overbuilt nor too compact to get a grip. My first impression was that the P22 will not be a squirrel or target gun, but a fun gun to fire and use.

I like the external hammer, a plus in my mind for a field gun. The pistol’s components are of light alloy in non-critical areas, but the barrel, recoil spring guide and critical small parts are steel. The .22 Long Rifle simply doesn’t stress parts and you are able to go light in many areas.

The magazine, however, is a model of rugged construction. I like that a lot. The magazine is the heart of the pistol. Too often designers have gone cheap on the magazine, either with a magazine that is too small and likely to be bent if dropped or with an inefficient size. The Walther magazine compares favorably with that of the SIG 1911 22, as one example. The Walther P22 was originally advertised as a downsized version of the Walther P99 pistol. Today, the P22’s popularity has overshadowed that of the P99 and the P22 is easily among the most recognizable pistols in America.

A good feature once limited to full-size service pistols is the backstrap that allows changing of the grip insert to fit differing hand sizes. The front sight is a conventional ramp and the rear sight allows adjustment for windage. The magazine release isn’t the Browning type most of us are used to. The magazine release is fully ambidextrous and operates by pressing downward from either side. This release is located at the bottom of the trigger guard. The magazine drops free of its own weight whether loaded or unloaded—a good feature.

The pistol features a squared trigger guard, something that has gone out of style in service pistols. In a pistol the size of the P22, many hand sizes will move toward applying the support finger over this squared trigger guard when using the two hand grip. The pistol features a light rail located on the forward portion of the frame. The rail may or may not be necessary, but it probably doesn’t add a nickel to the cost of the molded frame. This light rail allows mounting of a combat light for practice or defense use.

Did I say defense use and .22 pistol in the same report? In my experience in training, dozens of homeowners use a similar handgun for personal defense. Less than 30 miles from my hole, a senior citizen put a burglar down for the count with the Walther P22. Three rounds were needed, but the piece did the business. I do not recommend a .22 for home defense, but if it is what you have on hand… it beats harsh words.

I like the way the Walther looks and handles. While affordable this isn’t a cheaply made pistol. There is a component called pride of ownership that some handguns simply do not have. The Walther logo means quality. When first test firing the pistol, I lubricated the pistol along its long bearing surfaces and loaded the magazine with Wolf 40-grain high velocity loads. In my experience .22 pistols are more reliable with 40-grain loads than the 32-grain Hyper Velocity or other loads.

The Winchester M22, designed for semi-automatic AR-type rifles, is a particularly attractive cartridge for all-around use. The Winchester Dyna Point is a proven hunting cartridge. It works well on animals of the appropriate size for .22 caliber use. I obtain whichever round is on sale, roundnose or hollow point. Often the hollow point is just as inexpensive as the lead bullet. I extended the test to include the CCI Velocitor loading. All ammunition functioned.

When addressing targets in slow fire with the P22, the well-designed sights are an advantage. The sight picture is clear and crisp. The short sight radius isn’t a limiting factor as much as it would seem when the sights are appreciated for their advantageous design. The trigger action is smooth for this type of pistol, with the long double-action press at an estimated 12 pounds—the RCBS trigger pull gauge doesn’t register this high. The single action trigger compression was right on the money at four pounds, about ideal for good control.

As for accuracy, when I did my part the P22 proved to be an accurate little pistol. And that is the trick with any gun—doing your part. Holding the pistol properly and pressing the trigger while maintaining sight alignment and sight picture in a light pistol is challenging when you are after good groups. I think we learn more about marksmanship by firing at small targets at known and unknown ranges. Just the same accuracy is always interesting. With the Winchester M22 loading, a best effort produced a 1.5-inch group of five shots at 15 yards. Various types of ammunition exhibited differing results but with quality ammunition and a practiced shooter, the pistol is accurate enough for meaningful practice and even taking out pests and reptiles at a few paces. I think the pistol may be counted on for two inches at 15 yards with most quality ammunition.

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The pistol chambered fired and ejected with the ammunition on hand, all U.S. made, high velocity ammunition. This is a very neat little .22 that I like a lot. The whole family enjoys it, and I cannot think of a better recreational pistol for the price.

Do you have a favorite .22 pistol? Tell us about it in the comment section.

[bob]

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (19)

  1. A firearm you cannot depend upon each and every time; is like a cheating woman, you can make excuses to keep them around and give em another chance, but no matter the forgive part you will always wonder if she will not let you down again.
    Only trouble with a woman Is she cost more to dump than she was ever worth and you cannot trade it for what your buddy has; Unlike a pistol that you can refuse to sell at giveaway price or less money than keeping as a toy to dig out and play with or trade it off, so put it in the back of gun closet, and buy a newer better model.
    Course that f
    goes double if it is a man cheating on his wife, cuz he ain’t no more trustworthy than a polenta.. You know the sob will PISS on you if it has done it to everything else in its world.
    comes time when dependable means trust then you either havr it or you do not, thete are times when trust is worth more than dollars and cents.

  2. I’ve had a p22 for a few years now and do like it. I bought it on first try just because it fit my hand so nicely. Knowing what I know now, and how my shooting goals have changed, I would have gotten something else…maybe. I have the 5″ barrel model and had zero firing issues out of the box with pretty well any ammo (all 22lr will have problems, nature of the round, the gun didn’t have any more problems than any 22 pistol I’ve ever used).

    Two notes:
    1)the p22 is very home gunsmith friendly. Look up the “p22 bible” for a very through write up of easy modifications. Many of which Walther incorporated in later models, from what I’ve seen. Also, a whole new slide is about $50, should you happen to…oh, forget it was on the bench and melt it with a blowtorch, for example.

    2) Bizzarly, my p22 performs excellently with the aguilla 60 grain rounds (SSS http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/product/AMM-057). They are soft lead and will coat the barrel, so clean more often than i did (I’m not sure how many hundreds it was, but it was too many, the barrel had a solid layer of lead).

  3. Great write-up. I would like to see more .22 articles as more people shoot .22’s than any center fire. A couple of years ago I needed a small .22. I looked all around. The P22 fit my hand well, but there were too many complaints about failures with it, not good. I passed on it. If a gun doesn’t fit your hand well, it will not perform well. I purchased a Bersa BT22. It is an exact copy of my .380. Practice with one translates directly to the other. The Bersa is a DA/SA pistol with a true decocker, excellent sights, and accurate. 18oz. I have put a variety of ammo thru it (800 rnds) with zero malfunctions. High velocity only. It is always mistaken for a ppk. The main feature I like is the insanely simple takedown. About $300.00. Bersa doesn’t advertise, so it is one of the best kept secrets in the firearms community.

  4. Very interesting, Jeremy. I have considered polishing the feed ramp on the P22. But I decided to just experiment with various ammo instead of possibly making a drastic mistake by using my amateur gunsmithing skills.
    As I posted before, this gun prefers to eat higher velocity rounds like CCI Stinger.
    With those, I have not had any FTF or FTE.
    As you say, not recommended to try altering the ramp. Rather- try various types of ammo, and choose the one that is most accurate and least problematic!

    1. My new P22 was very fussy with the ammo. You tube sites and blogs have many warnings to use only quality ammo with it. A seasoned shooter at the range put a medium coating of REM gun grease in the walther’s barrel, slide and bullet ramp. From that point on the P22 was flawless with my cheap remmington .22’s. I haven’t used gun oil on any of my weapons since. I carry a tube of it in by gun case.

  5. Well i read all your posts and with the p22. I have one small issue with the feeder ramp.. The angle is too extreme. That being said you have options..

    1. The ammo you run is key, soft lead ammmo sometimes has a ftf(failure to feed) issues; due the the angle of the feeder ramp. Remington golden ?bear? ?saber?(cant remember) was the best due to the solid brass bullet.

    2. Ammo with higher velocity will have a higher recoil thus giving the spent casing a better chance to be cleared from the breech

    3. NOT RECOMMENDED !!! You can CAREFULLY polish the feeder ramp. Decreasing the angle giving the bullet less material to get hung up on.

    If you chose to polish use either a high grit sandpaper very lightly. or u can use a dremil tool with a polishing stone. (what i did) Since doing that small easy modification my p22 has no problems running the soft lead and or lead hollow points.

    I run at least 500 rounds a week of what ever ammo i can get my hands on NOW; and have no problems. up to 15 yards (30 feet) shooting standing unsupported i can shoot about a 2.5 in group with the laser on.. Without the laser lets just say im not that good of a shot. But i can hit the target all 10 times. Wont be my first choice for a squrill or small game gun. But a gun i can run a brick out of in the back yard HELL YEA!!
    All in all any semi automatic pistol is no way near reliable as a wheel gun. I carry the concealed carry hammerless S&W .357 2.5 in barrel. No jams, No casing left behind, and besides the cylinder and hammer no Moving parts. not much can go wrong except running out of ammo.

  6. well, that thing that you are talking about, rig, i call performance. i will have to give what you say a real contemplation. i dont really know a thing about ruger sr22. except it is an economical gun to purchase. i havent read up on any articles about overall performance…help me out here. do you own a sr22? do you shoot it a lot… any imfo from anybody will be appreciated thanks for the comment!

  7. I have a litmus test for guns, cars, and everything else: reliability.
    An unreliable product fails its primary objective so whatever features it has are irrelevant.
    For me, any weapon that’s finicky about what brand of ammo it can use should not be purchased.
    Skip the Walther, do yourself a favor and buy a Ruger SR22. It’ll shoot anything you feed it accurately and reliably.

  8. I had the same misfeed problems with my P-22 that others have mentioned. I rarely got a full mag through it without a misfeed. I sold it and replaced it with a Sig Mosquito, which has all the features that I liked in the P-22, including a threaded barrel and the bonus of a real de-cocker. I found the Sig to be more accurate and with almost no feeding problems. It is almost as reliable as the two Ruger Mark II’s I’ve owned. That’s saying a lot.

  9. to berto, the p 22 in the piece that has been written about is the very newest model that walther has just released. the walther 22 that you own is supposed to be a valuable piece and made in germany for many years. sounds to me like the gun that you own needs to be taken into a gunsmith to be inspected and repaired. now, i have read a couple of articles about when they first came out with this new p22 that said that the company needed to address some issues on the performance of the pistol, particularly on the fail to feed, eject issues. this gun we are talking about now is the newest version of the p22 that according to what i have been reading, all of those issues have been fixed. what i really want to know is if anybody has this newest issue of this p22 like the author of this article does…does anybody know how it works??? i am thinking about buying one. i think it is supposed to be accurate and feed properly. if i hear or read any other articles, and i find out that the newest p22 doesnt operate to a high performance level, ..i will simply buy a new ruger.

  10. I bought a P22 as a companion piece to my wife’s PK-380. An honest assessment of my particular copy would be that the P-22 is an overengineered, highly “finicky” .22. “Finicky” is putting it mildly. I average 1 failure for every 10-20 rounds fired. This is with all manner of ammuntion including high velocity CCI. The pistol requires cleaning after every 50 rounds fired or so. On the up side, I find it’s a fantastic teaching tool for clearing malfunctions.

  11. Nice review of the Walther. I would like to see a gun in a 22lr that is light, has the option of mounting a scope AND keeping its iron sights–and did I mention LIGHT?

    Someday someone is going to get the idea that a 22lr does not have to weigh as much as a 44 magnum.Why gun manufacturers don’t get the message I just don’t understand.

    This Walther is very nice, but some of us would like to have a gun with a longer barrel and more versatility–such as being able to put a scope on it for small game hunting–rabbits and squirrels.

    The ideal handgun would be a seven inch barrel with an easy scope mount system and the accuracy of a heavy barreled Ruger Mark III and under 20 oz in weight.

    We’ve have already sent a rocket to reach the far edge of our solar system–you would think that this request would not be all that impossible–LOL!!!

  12. Berto and RanJ –

    I’ve often heard people mention the problems they have had with various ammo. I have never had an issue with this. I have had a few feed issues but only a handful with the 1000 or so rounds I’ve put through it in the years I’ve owned it. I usually buy the cheap stuff like American Eagle or Federal. But that is just my experience. I’ll plan on taking a cue from RanJ and get better ammo.

  13. On my comment, I said Ruger. Obviously I was referring to my Walther P22.
    I have a Ruger MKIII, which I use at pistol team.
    In response to Berto’s comment- The P22 IS finicky, which is why I use a higher velocity ammo. My MKIII runs CCI standard @ 1070 fps, the P22 needs 1200+ fps to cycle properly.

  14. I’ve had a Walther P22 for many years and it’s a great shooter, when it works.
    It’s very finicky with ammo and will only shoot certain brands semi-reliably. It mis-feeds frequently and will not work reliably at all with hollow point ammo.

    In my opinion, it would be a huge mistake to rely on this gun for home defense or anything else important. It’s strictly a fun range gun and nothing more.

  15. I have owned a Ruger P22 for several years, and yes, it is my home defense pistol.
    The ammo I use for it is CCI Stinger. It is a lightweight and simple gun to operate, everyone in my household has been briefed on it. The accuracy is good up to 30 feet with a body shot, iron sights. I did install a LED/strobe on the bottom rail, but switched to a lighter laser dot- which is good in testing to around 10-20 feet.
    Great little gun, no problems. I sold my P99…

  16. i was interested in this article, i know the name walther well, i have had a number of the expensive pistols in 380 and 9mm. i was looking for a cheap 22lr for just plain practice. the 380 and 9mm are getting to be expensive to shoot so, i keep a few boxes of those around for protection and occasional tune up at the range. however, the most dependable and accurate 22lr i ever owned, went into a collection. it was a ruger mark 2 that was all stainless and had the 10 inch bbl. i put an expensive red dot on it and at 20 yards, you could hit a quarter all day long. but it was a rare gun, one of my best friends has a gun collection, i sold it to him after he shot it. he said the same thing i did. most accurate and dependable 22 he had shot. so, we put it away. we both went out and got a ruger 22 target h.b. in stainless with a 6 inch bbl….yes, we put a red dot on them, if there was a difference in accuracy, well, you would have to be a better shot than we were at that time. the groups we were getting were the same an the pistol operated quite dependably. so, after all that, i think im going to go get the walther and see for myself how it stacks up against my ruger hunter.

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