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.
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.