Competitive Shooting

Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 Magnum

Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol

I must say, I enjoyed firing and testing this handgun more so than any in perhaps the previous two years. Reliability, accuracy, and novelty all played a part. The technical aspects of the pistol are fascinating. It is a .22, but a .22 Magnum. That means muzzle blast, power, and real accuracy. Unfortunately, it also means the ammunition costs as much as 9mm Luger.

We can hope for a break, but just the same, .22 Magnum ammo is widely available. I have come to appreciate light kicking handguns. I have led an active and interesting life. Broken bones, dislocations, parts broken, healed but weakened, many stitches, healed wounds — a litany I could complain about. Instead, I am grateful.

Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol, right profile
Good features, a fair price, and excellent performance make for a great handgun.

M&P .22 Magnum Features

Hiking, lifting weights, and personal defense-related workouts maintain, if not increase, my strength these days. Old injuries invite the occasional tremor. I felt none of these complaints firing this modern .22 Magnum handgun.

Thank God that I have no arthritis in my hands. That being said, the new Smith and Wesson Magnum was a joy to fire on several accounts. I will reiterate… low recoil, good accuracy, and complete reliability. A lack of reliability is a stressor. I refuse to tolerate it in a firearm that is likely to find a nice, warm home in the gun safe.

I still love a strenuous workout and gave the Smith and Wesson M&P .22 Magnum a workout. Well, I don’t work out to the point of injury or breaking a gun like I used to, but I run until I need liniment. In this case, I went way overboard on the ammunition budget. I have fired the .22 WMR for many years, and used it on small game and the occasional pest.

Those who have seen the .22 Magnum hit between wind and water have a good idea of the capability of the round. I prefer something larger for personal defense, but I would not hide behind the door and tremble like the peasants, if I only had a .22 WMR. (Peasants is another name for subjects. Be a citizen.)

The cartridge has good penetration. If you can shoot, it may ring their bell. By preference, I will limit my use to close range coyote at the largest, but more preferably, groundhog and squirrel as the likely targets. It is interesting to note that few dedicated target shooters use the .22 Magnum. However, the cartridge is quite accurate.

Three-shot group at the ear of the silhouette target for accuracy
Accuracy was fair with some loads, good with most, and excellent with others. That’s three shots, holding on the right ear, at 25 yards, offhand. It is almost easy with this handgun.

Expense is the culprit (again). As far as reliable function in a semi-automatic handgun, this issue has long been solved. S&W went above and beyond and created perhaps the most reliable .22 Magnum self-loading pistol yet. A .22 pistol uses a simple straight-blowback action, with the slide running to the rear as the barrel remains stationary.

The .22 Magnum is powerful enough that it may use a type of delayed blowback action. Smith & Wesson invented the Tempo system for its .22 Magnum and 5.7x28mm handguns. The barrel is a two-piece unit — a barrel inside a sleeve. Gas is bled out of the barrel as the firearm fires and the gas expands.

While definitions may vary, in the eyes of the beholder, the gas-operated retarded blowback rotating barrel seems accurate. The gas porting maintains that nothing moves until the bullet exits the barrel. The barrel is finned, and this allows a camming motion as the handgun is fired.

S&W Tempo barrel system
This is the Tempo barrel (disassembled).

The barrel doesn’t rotate as much as an original Beretta Storm or Mondragon pistol, but it moves considerably. It works and seems clean burning. I ran through my entire cache of .22 Magnum ammunition and purchased more during the test without cleaning the piece, so it performs as advertised.

The pistol is polymer framed but uses an internal hammer. The frame features a mount for combat lights or lasers, and you may mount a red dot sight on the slide if need be. The trigger action is tight and crisp for a rimfire pistol. The M&P .22 Magnum weighs 22 ounces. The barrel is 4.35 inches long, making for a well-balanced package.

The pistol stretches out a full 8.4 inches and is 5.9 inches tall. The width pushes to 1.14 inches. You can work wonders with polymer. The grip frame accommodates a 30-round magazine but doesn’t stretch my average size hand. The slide is stainless covered in a nitride finish — ideal for hard use.

Grip frame of a polymer bodied pistol
The grip frame is comfortable. The balance of adhesion and abrasion are good.

The controls are easy to use well and positive in operation. The slide lock and safety levers are ambidextrous. In addition to the slide lock safety, a safety lever is set in the trigger face. The magazine release is positive in operation. Takedown requires a punch, but isn’t difficult.

Pay close attention that the gas port doesn’t become clogged. I suppose it may after 1,000 cartridges or so. I am not at 1K cartridges yet, although I ‘Hoovered’ my wallet pretty good! I am at 540 rounds fired without any issue. It’s time to clean the piece.

The pistol features a very nice, recessed muzzle crown and a sleek forged slide without forward cocking serrations. The balance of adhesion and abrasion in the grip is ideal. The rear sight is adjustable, while the front sight is a fiber-optic insert. The rear sight face is serrated. The pistol is supplied with two 30-round magazines.

While the manual states you must be careful to load with the case rim in front of the preceding case rim, I loaded the magazines in the same manner as always. I load four to five cartridges, tap the rear of the magazine to seat the cartridges using a boot heel or table, and continue loading until the magazine is at full capacity.

This procedure ensures reliability in all types of magazines. The orange-follower polymer magazines seem well made of good material. Loading to 29 cartridges isn’t difficult, but the last cartridge requires quite a push.

Field stripped Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol
Disassembly is simple enough.

Accuracy and Handling

I collected a good supply of ammunition from Armscor, CCI, Federal, Fiocchi, Hornady, PMC, Remington, and Winchester. Some were full boxes; others were partial boxes I had squirreled away for testing. Bullet weight ran from 30 to 50 grains.

The Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 Magnum features a 1 in 10-inch barrel twist that seems to handle most loads well. Accuracy favored a heavy bullet. My recommendations — based on shooting results — may not be applicable to a rifle or a long barrel revolver but are valid for similar self-loading handguns.

The trigger action originally broke at 4 pounds, after cleaning grease from the pistol and firing a few hundred cartridges the trigger settled into a nice 3.8 pounds. I suffered exactly two failures to fully chamber in the first magazine. Perhaps, I did not seat the magazine properly.

Six shots in two small groups in the brain area of a paper target
What more could you ask for from a .22 Mag pistol?

In any case, a break-in is sometimes noted in new self-loading firearms. The pistol is a joy to fire. It is fun to stitch up a target with a half-box of ammunition. All ammunition fed, chambered, fired, and ejected without problem. As always, wear shooting glasses at all times. When firing both Armscor and PMC loads there was quite a bit of unburned powder. Perhaps these loads were designed for rifles and use slow burning powder.

At any rate, flecks of powder littered my face and shooting glasses with these two loads but not with the others. The Hornady Critical Defense load at 45 grains is especially intended to be deployed in pistols and exhibited a clean burn. All loads proved reliable.

As for accuracy, the pistol preferred heavier bullets. The two best performers were Hornady Critical Defense and CCI Maxi-Mag (as far as absolute accuracy at 25 yards). A 5-shot group from a solid benchrest firing position put five 45-grain Hornady FTX bullets into 1.7 inches. Five 40-grain CCI bullets went into 1.9 inches. These are excellent results.

Multiple bullet holes in the 10 and 9 rings of a bullseye target
The author fired Federal Punch loads seated from a rest at 25 yards (the small hole in the red bull). The others were fired offhand, leaving the author impressed.

Most of the 40-grain loads went into 2.3–2.4 inches. Even the ‘burner grade’ Armscor and PMC loads would stay in a spacing of less than three inches. For plinking or play, all were plenty accurate. The 30-grain loads picked up more than 100 fps velocity over a revolver with a 5.5-inch barrel. Yes, the closed chamber with no gap really made a difference in velocity. I clocked the CCI 30-grain load over two chronographs to ensure the validity of my finding.

1,600 fps is nothing to dismiss. This should make an excellent pest and varmint popper at close range. Accuracy was not that great. However, no group measured smaller than 3.0 inches and some were as large as 3.5 inches at 25 yards. Not unexpected. Just the same, the 30-grain loads from Hornady and CCI were each reliable and seem useful for many chores. Curiously, but welcome as well, sight regulation was good with all bullet weights and the dead on hold.

Specifications: M&P .22 Magnum

  • Type: Internal hammer-fired semiauto
  • Cartridge: .22 WMR
  • Capacity: 30 rounds
  • Barrel: 4.35 inches
  • Overall length: 8.4 inches
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Height: 5.9 inches
  • Weight: 22 ounces
  • Finish: Black Armornite
  • Sights: Adjustable rear notch, fiber-optic dovetail front, optics cut
  • Trigger compression: 3.0 pounds

In the end, I like the Smith and Wesson M&P .22 Magnum. I mean what’s not to like? It is affordable for a quality handgun, accurate with loads it likes best, and useful with less accurate loads. The 30-round magazine makes plinking a joy.

The .22 Magnum exhibits good penetration. The S&W M&P .22 Magnum easily demonstrated lifesaving accuracy in the author’s hands.

As for personal defense… well, the .22 Magnum automatic is reliable enough and more than accurate enough. Penetration is good enough with 45-grain loads. Some scribblers are reliably delusional concerning wound ballistics and attribute qualities to cartridges that have not been observed in the field. Hunters know something about wound ballistics, and so do experienced peace officers.

I don’t want to be the player without a chair when the organ stops, and I don’t want to be carried off in a stretcher. I carry at least a 9mm or a heavy loaded .38 Special. Just the same, if you have that component in your eyes, stance, and mindset that reads like a STOP! DANGER! Sign, perhaps the pistol will serve.

I would rather have the .22 WMR than a .22 Long Rifle. Based on adequate penetration and superior accuracy, I would extend this preference to include the .22 Magnum over the .32 or .380. As my good friend Newt remarked, if he couldn’t have at least a .38, he would just as soon have a good .22. I agree. Let’s pray it never comes to that.

pistol equipped with an Inforce combat light
You can find a lot of use in personal defense and hunting for a powerful combat light.

In my neck of the woods, most outdoor threats are from rabid bobcat (two lately within 100 miles of home and dead in the center of my hiking and camping trails), raccoon, or the ever present feral dog.

Velocity Testing


Velocity (FPS)

Winchester 40-grain FMJ1,260
Federal 50-grain Game Point1,190
CCI Mini Mag 40-grain Hollow Point1,430
Hornady 45-grain Critical Defense1,254
CCI 30-grain Maxi Mag TNT1,630
Speer Gold Dot 40-grain1,360
Federal Punch 45-grain1,312

The .22 Magnum is easily mastered. For the ‘one-gun person’ or occasional shooter who wants a good chance at defense, the Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 Magnum is great gun. For the man or woman who has everything they need and enjoy diversity, this Smith will put a smile on their face. It has been a long time since I fired this much ammunition in so short a time. Thankfully, I did not finish the review rubbing my wrists. I like this piece. It’s a docile shooter with real promise.

Although not the ideal caliber for self-defense, the Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 Magnum certainly has merit. Is it worthy of a place in your safe? How would you deploy it (target, plinking, small game hunting, self-defense)? Share your answers in the Comment section.

  • Recessed barrel crown on a Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR handgun
  • Single rapid shot fired from seven yards into the brain section of the target
  • pistol equipped with an Inforce combat light
  • Three-shot group at the ear of the silhouette target for accuracy
  • S&W Tempo barrel system
  • lockup on the Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol's action
  • green fiber optic front sight
  • light rail and dust cover om the Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR handgun
  • trigger safety featured on the Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR handgun
  • Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol, left profile, atop an anatomy target showing bullet holes in the heart and sternum area
  • Grip frame of a polymer bodied pistol
  • Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol, thumb safety and rear sight
  • Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol, right profile
  • CCI Maxi-Mag .22 WMR 40-grain ammunition carton
  • Field stripped Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol
  • Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol
  • fireball from a .22 Magnum handgun
  • Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol, right quartering
  • Yellow fiber optic front sight on a pistol
  • Smith and Wesson Military & Police .22 WMR pistol with an Inforce Weapons light attached to the dust cover
  • Six shots in two small groups in the brain area of a paper target
  • Multiple bullet holes in the 10 and 9 rings of a bullseye target

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
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 (11)

  1. I’ve fired the S&W and the Walther WMP, and in my opinion, the Walther Handles better, nicer sights and trigger, and just as accurate, the mag capacity advantage of the S&W really isn’t a factor, I think 15+1 is plenty, and the price difference makes the Walther a slam-dunk to me.

  2. No price? You referenced price several times but never alluded to a price range. Thirty three years of wearing a badge and toting a gun to work every day. IMO at personal defense ranges (supported by empirical data), it’s more about shot placement and the opportunity to fire from a position of cover than it is caliber of the weapon. However my policy is to carry only ball ammo in small caliber weapons. Hollow points tend not to expand anyway and can lose penetration through heavy clothing in the winters up here in the GWN. But nice review. Very informative.

  3. @WR I believe the “dud” factor on rimfire is more of a priming issue than a bullet seating/crimping issue. In the manufacturing process, as I understand it, a ball of primer compound is dropped into the empty case, and the case is spun at high speed in hopes of spreading the primer compound evenly around the rim. Sometimes it just doesn’t go as planned, leaving a gap in the ring of priming compound, and sometimes the ball of primer compound just doesn’t make it into the empty brass. I honestly do not remember if I have ever had a .22 Magnum “dud”, but also .22LRs are manufactured, and thus used, exponentially more than the Magnums, giving the LRs more opportunity to find the eventual rimfire “dud” than in the Magnums. Still both fun to shoot, and the older one gets, seems that fun factor is both magnified, and necessary, to return to .22s. LOL

  4. Rockit
    You are 100 per cent correct

    However jacketed .22 Magnum bullet are crimped in place

    .22 LR heel based lead a different animal.
    .22 Magnum far more reliable.

    Thanks for reading.

  5. 38 Colt 152 grains at 750 fps is 190 ft pounds
    Most 45 ammunition is actually a little slower
    Hornady 45 grain .22 Magnum 45 grains at 1254 fp is 137 ft pounds.

    There you go. Closer than we thought

  6. Bo
    You need only check my table in the article for chronograph data from the SW pistol tested. One load over 45 grains. Either the Federal Punch or Hornady FTX is to go for personal defense, although 40 grain Maxi Mag not bad.

    The .22 Magnum has penetration thats about it.

    Agree with you the .22 Magnum for serious life saving use. Just the same one fun gun.

    And better than tooth and nail.


  7. There is a problem I see with the .22 WMR as a personal defense weapon. I did a search of available ammo online and everything I found was 45 gr or lighter. When I tried to look up the numbers for the WMR with a handgun, the only thing I found was for a 1.875” barrel. There is only 100 ft/lbs with that short barrel was using Hornady 45 gr Critical Defense. It is possible to achieve more than twice that, but only with a 19-20” barrel.

    For anyone considering this round for self-defense, those energy numbers are half what the .38 LC was. The .38 LC was an abysmal failure as it was determined to have no appreciable stopping power when directed at a human target, resulting in many American soldiers who carried that weapon dying at the hands of those who were shot multiple times. Granted, many of those enemy warriors who were shot did succumb to their wounds but not before they killed the person who shot them and others. But if one is using a weapon for self-defense, it should be a real deterrent, NOT something that will provoke and anger the person one just shot. And the .38 LC made a significantly bigger hole from which one can leak more blood, and at a faster rate but it was still a failure.

    That being said, it appears that this handgun would be excellent for carrying on the trail for critters like rabid raccoons and skunks, not to mention feral cats and dogs. (Where I hunt, the rule is Kill Them All, especially feral cats, dogs, and hogs.) I am dubious about its reliability against feral pigs as I have heard from several concerning situations where even some hunting caliber rounds failed to drop an angry pig. That is one reason I carry a 1911 (in .45 ACP) with me, even when I am bow hunting.

  8. If this number should catch on in quantity, I would hope the ammo manufacturers would produce some pistol powder 22 Magnum style ammo to to reign in the muzzle blast just a bit. On the other hand in a concealed carry scenario the muzzle blast might be enough to set a perp running away. LOL

  9. I have the Kel-Tec PMR .22 magnum and it’s a blast to shoot! With 30 rounds capacity I do believe it would work well for personal defense but there are many more better options available for that purpose. At the range 30 rounds of wmr will absolutely put a big smile on your face!

  10. If I were ever going to carry a .22 LR, or a .22 Magnum for personal defense, I believe I would select a revolver, mainly because of the eventual rimfire ammo “dud” (no fault of the gun), one simply has to pull the trigger again to come up on the next round, instead of the rack-tap hope it chambered another round, without jamming, method. Also, the cost of ammunition, tends to dictate the 9 mm is a better choice when it comes to self defense over the .22. Now on the “fun” side, well they are ALL fun, just some more so than others. 🙂

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