S&W’s Performance Center

.22 Victory Target
5

Smith & Wesson

Performance Center Victory Target with fiber optic sights shot well. A “dot” sight might do even better in your hands!

If there’s anything handier for setting up housekeeping than a good .22 I don’t know what it is. The first gun I ever shot was a Harrington & Richardson .22 Top Break belonging to my uncle. When I was 8 years old, I learned to shoot on his farm and also drive a tractor. While he had to put wooden blocks on the tractor’s pedals, the .22 sixgun was perfect for my small hands just as it came from the factory.

Every new shooter could do themselves a real favor and also speed up the learning curve by starting with a .22. This applies whether a first firearm is a rifle, sixgun or semi-automatic pistol. The positive attributes of a quality .22 are very little recoil, low noise level and relatively inexpensive ammunition — all of which promote practice. Everyone in my family — myself, Diamond Dot, all the kids and all the grandkids — started with .22’s. Now we have our first four great grandkids and you can bet they’ll begin with the same.

Smith & Wesson Handgun

The Performance Center Victory Target Model takes a great rimfire and makes it even better. It comes with a protective zippered bag.

Appealing Option

Several years ago S&W offered the Victory Model, a very reasonably priced .22 semi-automatic pistol with adjustable rear sight matched up with a fiber-optic front sight. Now we have the improved Victory Target which, for me, is greatly improved as it features target sights consisting of a fully adjustable black rear sight matched up with a black post front sight on a ramp. For me this is the best sight combination. It also features a target trigger with an adjustable trigger stop. The trigger pull measures an acceptable 41/2 lbs., but I would prefer a pound less.

The pistol comes with two 10-round magazines that have a button on the side to depress the magazine spring for easy loading. An HKS loader for the S&W also helps here, especially when we get to loading the last two rounds. Unloaded weight is 36 oz. This weight combined with a barrel length of 51/2" and excellent stocks give the Victory Target an exceptionally good balance in my hands.

The pistol is constructed of stainless steel and has textured polymer grip panels which, combined with the checkered back- and front-strap, provide a very secure feeling when shooting. S&W has done something quite unusual with their polymer grips. The Victory comes with a flat grip on the right side matched up with a thumbrest grip on the left side. If one happens to be left-handed this is taken care of by the fact S&W supplies two extra grip panels with one flat on the left side with a thumb rest grip on the right side. This allows two ways for setting up the Victory, or one can choose to use two thumbrest grips or two flat grips. The latter way is what I chose as it feels the best to me.

Smith & Wesson Viper Red Dot

Part of the package optionally included with the Performance Center Victory Target is a Viper Red Dot optic.

The Next Level

Want a bit more from your Victory pistol? Luckily for you, S&W has its Performance Center, basically a custom shop taking standard production models and offering many special extras. They recently turned their attention to the Victory Target Model and made something very special.

In addition to internal smoothing and setting the trigger pull at just over 3 lbs., the Perfomance Center added a flat-face trigger and two set screws that allow the shooter to reduce both pre-travel and over-travel. Other obvious differences readily seen include a fluted barrel with an attractive muzzle brake/compensator installed. This is removable, and a thread-protecting bushing is provided. Fiber-optic fully adjustable sights, a larger push button magazine release and larger custom rubber grips with an aggressive pattern for a very secure grip feeling round out the package.

I fired over 600 rounds through the Performance Center pistol and the only malfunction was the typical failure to fire on the first hit you often get with some rimfire ammo. This happened with four rounds and all fired when the cartridges were rotated 180 degrees. This is most likely a fault of the priming compound not being complete around the rim of the cartridge.

In addition to great target sights, both the Victory Target Model and the Performance Center Target Model are supplied with a Picatinny-style scope base. To install the rail, the front screw on the rear sight assembly is removed, allowing the entire assembly to slide out from under the back clip that helps hold it in place. The rail replaces it, the front screw returned and it’s ready to accept scope rings. What this means is the scope base is held in place by only one screw.

The same set up works fine with the rear sight assembly, but I wondered how it would perform with the scope in place. I tried both a standard Victory Target model and the Performance Center version with optics to test this out. I soon found after about 20 to 30 shots on the standard model the inertia of the scope, in this case a 4X EER Leupold, would cause the front screw to loosen on the scope base. On the Performance Center version I installed a Viper Red Dot, which is offered as an option with the pistol. I found I could get about 100 shots off before the base would loosen.

Smith & Wesson

Obvious differences can be seen here between the Performance Center .22 Victory Target Model (top) and the .22 Victory Target. Note the fluted barrel and muzzle brake on the Performance Center version.

Hands On

More than 20 different brands/versions of .22’s were put to the test in the Performance Center Victory Target Model. As long as the screw remained tight it performed exceptionally well with the red dot in place, with many loads giving me groups in the 1" or less range for nine shots at 25 yards. The most accurate load proved to be the Winchester T 22 Target with a 7/8" group with a muzzle velocity of 1,057 fps. Other loads in the 1" range included Winchester Power Point HPs, which is one of my favorite .22 LR hunting loads; CCI Mini-Mags and Mini-Mag HPs; Federal Lightnings; and American Eagle HPs.

In regards to the loosening screw concern, I didn’t try Loc-Tite so I don’t know if this would solve the problem. My engineer friend says one of the problems is the fact the base is plastic and he felt an aluminum or steel one would serve much better. An aftermarket aluminum scope mount base is available and this may help to solve the problem.

Switching to the excellent fiber optic adjustable sights, I also received excellent performance for nine shots at 20 yards. Many of the loads gave me 1" or tighter groups. The same loads already mentioned work just fine with iron sights as well. The best performing loads in addition to these included CCI Standard Velocity, Remington Thunderbolt and Winchester High Velocity HP, all of which gave me 7/8" groups. The fiber-optic sights consist of a high-visibility green dot in the front sight and a green dot on both sides of the rear sight. For me and probably for most shooters green is easier to see than red.

The Performance Center Victory Target Model comes in a zippered padded case with two 10-round magazines for an MSRP of $672, and it’s available with a Viper Red Dot optic for $868. It’s a keeper for me, and neither the standard Victory Model nor the Performance Center version will be going back. It’s impossible to have too many semi-automatic .22 pistols, and checks are easier and cheaper to mail!

For more info: Smith & Wesson, http://www.smith-wesson.com Ph: (800) 331-0852

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