Everyone wins with the groundbreaking rimfire pistol, the Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory.
Few things are as alluring as a .22 handgun. Back in the day, my best friend had a Ruger Single Six; I coveted it like nothing else, but my father was not a handgun fan, so I was 18 before I had my own.
Of late, we don’t see much rimfire handgun innovation because of the current infatuation with defensive handguns and modern sporting rifles. We also too often forget that sometimes shooting just needs to be fun.
In 2009, Smith & Wesson introduced the M&P 15-22. It was a polymer rimfire rifle emulating the AR-15.
It started a trend, and Smith & Wesson’s new SW22 Victory pistol might do the same thing. It is affordable, accurate, modular, and it’s appearing at a time when a lot of new shooters really need a good .22 pistol.
S&W started from scratch with the SW22 Victory, which is a full-size – man-size – pistol. That’s not to say women or young shooters cannot handle it; it just means this is not a compact, flimsy, polymer, lightweight handgun.
Out of the box, the Victory weighs 36 ounces. By comparison, a Glock model 19 weighs about 24 ounces. The Victory’s heft comes from its all stainless steel construction and its robust 0.865-inch diameter bull barrel.
Outwardly, the Victory is reminiscent of the coveted and long discontinued Colt Woodsman, which is an exquisite .22 pistol. But that’s where the similarities end.
The Victory can be easily disassembled by removing a single screw located just forward of the trigger guard. Similar to an AR-15, with the screw removed, the upper assembly can be detached and the bolt simply slides out.
At this point, the pistol’s barrel can be taken out by removing another screw, permitting the easy installation of aftermarket barrels. Assembly is the same procedure in reverse order.
Controls and Operation
Control wise, the SW22 has an easy-to-operate thumb safety on the left side of the frame. Forward of that, in the customary position, is the slide lock. The magazine release is also located on the left side, just to the rear of the trigger guard.
Even though this pistol has no exposed hammer, it’s a single action and there’s an adjustable trigger stop, but a disconnect prevents it from firing unless the magazine is inserted. This is generally not conducive to a good trigger action. But, according to my Timney pull gauge, the SW22’s trigger broke at a consistent 3 pounds, with an almost unperceivable amount of creep.
The sights employ the ever more common fiber optics. The ramped front sight has a single green fiber optic insert, and the rear has two, providing the three-dot sight configuration now so popular.
The fully adjustable rear sight is fitted into an unusually long base, but there’s a reason for this. S&W engineers creatively contrived the base to attach at the front with a single screw, and in the rear by a slot an extension in the upper receiver hooks into. This allows you to easily remove the rear sight and install a Picatinny rail.
I opted for a Trijicon RMR using a quick release American Defense mount. Almost all the shooting, including the accuracy testing, was conducted with this sight. The versatility here cannot be overstated; with one screw you can switch back and forth between optics and sights, without loss of zero.
Ergonomically, the pistol is well configured and rides the hand comfortably. The polymer grip panels are textured, and the front and back straps exhibit a molded-in, finely checkered pattern. Everyone who handled the SW22 Victory thought the grip comfortable and stable.
The only complaint was that the bolt was a tad stiff to cycle when cocking the pistol due to the blowback action. The bolt is contoured with deep grasping grooves but the grip surface is relatively small, considering the amount of force needed to retract it. For an adult male, it should be of no consequence. Those with limited hand strength might struggle a bit.
A True Winner
Where this pistol shined was on the range. A few of the 10-shot, 25-yard groups were made up of nine shots clustering inside an inch; a single flyer ruined several of them, and I’ll take the blame for those.
Trust me, this pistol will shoot! In fact, I was able to obtain 10 out of 10 hits, shooting an 8-inch steel plate, at 50 yards, from the offhand position. Three times in a row! This is impressive because the truth is I really cannot shoot that well.
I can see no way to classify the SW22 Victory other than as a winner. It’s supremely accurate, providing plenty of precision for plinking, small-game hunting, and competition.
Its modularity with regard to aftermarket barrels and sight options sets it apart. And, maybe more importantly, it is affordable.
Smith & Wesson lists the suggested retail price at $409, but with a little shopping you should be able to round one up for less than $380.
Currently, there are three versions of the SW22. They include the standard model, a threaded barrel version for $429, and one in Highlander Kryptek camo for $ 459.
Gun writers say this all the time, but I will buy this pistol. It’s way more versatile and accurate than my childhood friend’s Single Six, and I don’t need Dad’s permission anymore.
By the way, after I grew up, Dad finally warmed to handguns. It might have happened sooner if he’d ever seen a pistol like the SW22. I think Smith & Wesson has certainly achieved a victory here!
Type: Single action, blowback semi-automatic
Chambering: .22 LR
Capacity: 10 + 1
Weight: 36 ounces
Length: 9.2 inches
Height: 5.6 inches
Barrel: 5.5 inches, stainless steel
Frame: Stainless steel
Bolt: Stainless steel
Sights: Green fiber optic front, fully adjustable fiber optic rear
Accessories: Optics rail, takedown wrench
Price: $409 for standard version, $429 with threaded muzzle, $459 with Kryptek Highlander camo finish
Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson, Smith-Wesson.com
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the Concealed Carry 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.