The .22 is useful for many chores, but perhaps most important is handgun training to improve marksmanship.
Why is a .22 rimfire a good choice for handgun training?
- .22 rimfire ammo is affordable and offers virtually no recoil.
- New and experienced shooters alike benefit from .22 handgun practice.
- There are many new releases of .22 LR-chambered handguns
- S&W's Victory and Ruger’s Mark IV in Target or Competition are good examples.
The more you use the handgun, the more you are familiar with it and the better shot you will be.
A proven resource in creating a marksman is the use of inexpensive .22-caliber ammunition and firearms. The rimfire offers little or no recoil, minimal report and good accuracy.
It is recognized as a foundational training aid for pure marksmanship, that is, trigger control and learning sight alignment and sight picture.
In today’s tight economy, we see both .22-caliber conversions and dedicated firearms of the diminutive caliber pressed into service in training. With the high and increasing costs of training, .22 conversion units and purpose-built rimfire guns are a good buy.
Any way you slice it, the difference in price between rimfire and centerfire ammunition allows you to fire many more rounds of rimfire than is possible in a single service cartridge of centerfire. The .22 can be used in ranges that would not be safe with high-powered firearms.
My first .22 revolver was an Arminius swing-out cylinder double-action from Germany. It was a great revolver, with high-visibility fixed sights and a relatively smooth trigger action. It featured a nine-shot cylinder and six-inch barrel, as well as hand-fitting grips.
I shot over 2,000 cartridges in it the first summer I owned it. A lot of hard work earned the revolver and those cartridges, even though they were less than a dollar a box and I think eight or nine dollars per five-hundred round brick. I fired it until the vent rib fell off! (The Arminius was an affordable brand not to be confused with the junk-grade RG.)
I graduated to a Smith and Wesson Kit Gun, which I did not use very well, trained at college in the Criminal Justice program with a first-quality Smith and Wesson Combat Masterpiece, and later a Ruger Single Six. I shot these .22s every chance I had.
They were simple to use well, accurate, affordable to shoot and friendly for extensive handgun training. By friendly, I mean no sharp edges and a decent trigger pull combined with low recoil and good, practical accuracy.
I simply enjoyed shooting but, as time went by, I became a better shot. Quite a few shooters purchasing more powerful handguns such as the .357 Magnum for their first revolver had unprofitable experiences.
They learned how flinch destroys accuracy and the economic reality of attempting to become a good shot with expensive factory ammunition. Some folks develop bad shooting habits and become doubtful of their own ability.
When you choose your personal .22, the field is broad and there are a number of choices that give good results. The Walther P22 and the similar Ruger SR22 are lightweight handguns, but provide respectable results in training. They are not as accurate as the Ruger Standard Model but are usually reliable and useful for training.
Your first .22 should not be too small. A 2-inch barrel revolver is too light for most shooters to deal with as a first gun — its short sight radius will play against you.
A reasonably light handgun, such as a 4-inch barrel revolver is a better choice, or even the Walther P22 I mentioned earlier. If you are going to use the handgun and carry it consistently in the field and on the range, then light weight and comfort are important. If the handgun is too heavy it will be at home instead of on the hip in your handgun training.
Accuracy should not be compromised. And the baseline for what you wish to accomplish must be considered.
An all-around field gun should be accurate enough to take a squirrel in a tall tree, behead a dangerous snake at a few paces, and provide meaningful practice.
Accuracy and weight must be balanced. While the ultra-lights are not accurate enough for some uses, the Ruger MK III with 4-inch barrel is light enough and offers a combination of good hand fit and excellent accuracy. The Ruger is the standard by which all others are judged, and most typically come up short.
Smith & Wesson Victory .22
The new Smith and Wesson Victory .22 is a solid choice that performs exceptionally well. The Victory just may become the new baseline in .22 pistols. Let’s take a hard look at it and then you can judge the others based on the performance of this handgun.
The Victory has garnered a lot of interest since its introduction. It is intended to compete with similar .22s such as the Browning Buckmark and Ruger Standard Model.
As such, it has good features, is reliable, and has acceptable accuracy. The price point is also important. Smith and Wesson’s previous .22 self-loaders were not in the same class as this pistol and, as such, high hopes have been pinned on the Victory, not without justification.
The Victory is a modern .22 with tons of useful features and excellent performance. Known as the “SW22,” it’s a winner and a fun gun as well. Smith and Wesson calls the SW22 Victory a “modern, classic target pistol.” Indeed, it fits the bill in that sense — a handgun intended for informal target practice, marksmanship training and small game hunting. It isn’t a Smith and Wesson Model 41, but then what is?
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from The Accurate Handgun, available now at GunDigestStore.com.