Everybody should own a .22 pistol. They are incredibly valuable as a training tool, can be used to shoot competitively and can bag small game for dinner. Add to the mix that they are just plain fun to shoot, and you’ve got a winner of a platform. But the question becomes what is the best .22 pistol?
While there is no single best pistol for every person and situation, there are several exceptionally good guns on the market. This is a look at currently produced .22 LR pistols, and not a look at every rimfire handgun ever made. If I expanded the scope of the article to that level, I would have to include pistols like the old Hi Standard and Colt Woodsman. Likewise, there are some exceptional revolver and .22 Magnum options on the market.
I no particular order, here are some of the best 22 pistols currently being sold.
The Walther P22 has become one of the most popular .22 rimfire pistols in recent years. It has a modern look and good ergonomic design. As with many rimfire pistols, reliability and accuracy is heavily dependent on the ammunition used in the gun. Generally, the P22 does well with most brands, but some guns definitely have their own preferences.
The polymer grip has an interchangeable backstrap, which allows the shooter to better fit the gun to his or her hand. You can even get them in colors like lime green and flat dark earth. MSRP is $399 for the basic model.
Smith & Wesson Model 22A
For target shooting on a budget, it is hard to beat the Smith & Wesson 22A. I’ve found the pistols are reliable with a broad range of ammunition. The sight radius is very long, which helps with accuracy. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation.
The grips on these guns are made of a soft rubber-like material that cushions the hand nicely. When shooting in warm, humid weather, the grips help prevent the gun from slipping in a sweaty hand.
Field stripping this pistol is very easy when compared to some of the other rimfire handguns on the market like the Ruger Mark III and the Browning Buck Mark. That could be a significant enough difference to make the Model 22A the best pistol for many people.
There are several Model 22A variations for barrel length and finish. The base model in black with a 5.5” barrel has a retail price of only $329.
Ruger Mark III
The Ruger Mark III is the current version of the company’s line of rimfire pistols. Some people claim this line of pistols is stylized after the Luger P08 handgun. In actuality, the gun owes a great deal of its inspiration to the less-famous Nambu pistol made for the armed forces of Imperial Japan.
Many people will argue that the Mark III is the best 22 pistol being made today. I agree that it is one of the best. The guns I have shot have all been very accurate and have had light, crisp triggers that made them very enjoyable to shoot.
The take down process for cleaning the gun is intimidating to some people. Once you do it a few times, it becomes easier. However, it is not as easy as with the Model 22A or the Walther.
There are a wide range of Mark III pistols available, including the 22/45 models that incorporate the feel and controls of a 1911 pistol. Suggested retail prices start at $389.
Browning Buck Mark
Buck Mark owners really love their guns, and I can understand why. The guns are well built and fit the hand very well. With the right loads, they are very accurate as well. I personally like the Truglo fiber optic front sight and precision rear sight that is offered on many of the Buck Mark models.
Taking the Buck Mark down for cleaning is not hard, but it does involve tools and small parts. It is definitely something you want to do on a bench or table, not in the field.
Pricing starts at $379 and goes up depending on model and options.
ATI/GSG 522 and MP40
One of the greatest draws to the rimfire guns is that they are just plain fun to shoot. So, why not get a .22 pistol that is just a fun gun like the GSG 522 imported by American Tactical Imports? The 522 is a pistol based on the famous Heckler & Koch MP5. Most people do not get a chance to shoot the real deal, and a look-alike is a cheap way to have a good time on the range.
The 522 has been very successful for GSG, and suggested US retail prices on the guns start at $395.95.
But if the modern-looking 522 doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, consider the new MP40 clone the company will be selling in 2014. Based on the World War II-era German submachine gun, the GSG MP40 will be offered in rifle and pistol configurations. No MSRP has been announced, but it will likely be much less expensive than the thousands of dollars an original MP40 would cost you.
So, what did I miss? Did I overlook your favorite .22 LR pistol? Sound off in the comments below and let me know.