The Little .22s
If you’re planning to own just one .22 handgun it probably shouldn’t be a pocket pistol. Medium-size sport pistols have the most all-around utility. Think weights of 32–40 ounces and barrel lengths of 4″ to 6″. Semiauto examples include the Browning BuckMark, Ruger Mk III, the discontinued Browning Challenger and Nomad, Colt Woodsman Sport and various High Standards. In revolvers, examples are the Ruger SP-101 and Single Six, the Colt Diamondback and K-frame S&Ws.
And yet knowing this, I still like my little .22s, but they have their disadvantages. Their small grip size can be a problem for some shooters, especially those with large hands. Their light weight makes them harder to hold steadily, a factor sometimes exacerbated by mediocre trigger pulls and (sometimes) fixed sights. They aren’t the easiest guns to shoot. But they are so darn handy and useful. Light weight and compact size makes a small .22 harder to shoot, but also make it more likely you’ll actually have it available. I shoot my S&W 41 and High Standard Victor Target .22s better than any other handguns, but their bulk and weight means they mostly get shot on the range.
A Coupla’ Good Ones
Small .22s can be either revolvers or semi-autos. The first handgun I ever owned is a Beretta, weighing just 15 ounces with its alloy frame. It probably wasn’t a great choice as a first handgun — the S&W K22 I bought a couple of years later taught me a lot more about shooting a handgun. But the Beretta is my favorite handgun and has been for over 40 years. It’s long since discontinued, but fortunately there are currently made, reasonably priced alternatives. Two I like are the Ruger SR22 and the Walther P22. Both weigh right around a pound. Both have polymer frames, adjustable sights, DA/SA operation, manual safeties and 10-shot magazines.
Both have proven to be well made and accurate. Not target-pistol accurate of course, but both shoot into 2″ for five shots at 25 yards, similar to what I get from my Beretta. This is about as good as I can shoot with a light gun/short sight radius. I once killed a weasel at a measured 23 yards with the Beretta. I’ll admit some luck was involved since only its head and neck were showing.
Forced to choose between the two I’d likely take the SR22, mainly because I appreciate Ruger supplying two magazines. It saves me the fuss and expense of acquiring a spare. The Walther is marginally smaller and lighter, and the two are certainly equal in terms of overall quality and performance. If you don’t mind spending a little more money — okay, a lot more — the current Beretta 87 ranks as one of the finest .22s ever made. I don’t have one but do have the similar Model 85 in .380. Great pistols, but dang, they aren’t cheap. My Beretta cost $80 in 1969. Current MSRP on the 87 is more than ten times as much!
By Dave Anderson
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