September 24, 2010
Throughout the last century of military history, .45 caliber guns seem to rate the most respect when it comes to sidearms.
The Model 1911 semiautomatic pistol has endured for almost 100 years now, and looking closely at recent catalogs indicates that old age has everything to do with popularity.
But what about wartime revolvers? At the onset of World War I, we did not have enough guns to supply the men in the trenches. The Model 1911 was, of course, the issue sidearm of choice, but with the war intensifying both government and military officials searched for a stopgap method to either increase production of the semiautomatic or find an additional line of military weaponry.
Smith & Wesson got on top of the situation and, working with Springfield Armory, developed the.45 Ejector Model of 1917 and later the Model 22 made to chamber the .45 ACP. To make matters simple, a half-moon clip was designed to hold the rimless .45 ACP cartridges within the confines of the cylinder.
The Model of 1917 was discontinued in the late 1940s, and Smith & Wesson's .45 caliber revolvers have gone through many changes since then.
Smith & Wesson's current classic series Model 22 looks like any other large N-frame revolver but without all the bells and whistles we are accustomed to. In fact the plain basic nature of the gun makes it perfect as a home defensive weapon, where a finely tuned gun is not needed, or as a trail gun, where your chances of using it target style are pretty slim.
This plain-Jane model has its merits. There are no adjustable sights. A square cut rear notch is machined into a gutter cut right up to the end of the frame. The front sight is basic and comprises a rounded blade, pinned in place much like World War I models.
SMITH & WESSON -- MODEL 22
|Manufacturer ||Smith & Wesson, www.smith-wesson.com, 800-331-0852 |
|Type ||double-action revolver |
|Caliber ||.45 ACP, .45 Auto Rim |
|Capacity ||6 |
|Barrel Length ||5 1/2 |
|Overall Length ||10 3/4 |
|Weight ||38 oz. |
|Sights ||fixed |
|Grips ||Magna checkered walnut |
|Finish ||polished blue |
|Price ||$1,000 blue, $1,090 nickel, $1,185 case hardened |
While many may consider the system very basic, Smith & Wesson did its homework back then to ensure a swift, positive sight picture. The width of the front blade has enough mass to fit the notch of the rear sight and leave just enough light around it for positive acquisition.
The cylinder release is on the left side of the frame behind the recoil shield. Pushing it forward unlatches the cylinder and allows it to open. The cylinder holds six rounds of ammunition and turns to the left upon cocking the hammer.
Unfortunately, Smith & Wesson's revolvers are not immune to government mandates. An internal lock mechanism is activated by a special key that comes with each gun.
The single-action trigger pull on my test sample is about five pounds and clean, with no slack before the sear released. On the other hand, double action was nothing to write home about, peaking at 11 pounds with pretty typical stacking.
The trigger face is smooth--which helps with deliberate double action shooting--and the hammer is checkered. For those who like to tinker with the trigger pull, the strain screw is exposed on the inside of the grip frame and can be adjusted within limits.
In keeping with the classic theme, the gun comes with Magna grips. Each panel has been handsomely checkered with a diamond around the grip screw. A border enhances the point pattern, and the familiar company logo is inletted at the top of each panel. On the bottom of the grip frame a lanyard has been installed.
The Model 22 classic is equipped with a 51â'„2-inch barrel, with the familiar 1950 style taper at the juncture of the frame. Like other guns of its ilk, there is no ejector rod shroud, and the gun is highly polished and blued. In addition, t
his model is also available in nickel or color case hardened. A traditional four-screw sideplate completes the package.
I took both .45 ACP and .45 Auto Rim ammunition to the range with me. I consider full moon clips a bother to load and unload, and they make an unsightly bulge in your pocket. The .45 Auto Rim case is easier to use, highly reloadable and will eject from the gun without clips--something I applaud.
With ACP rounds, the extractor will ride over the rebated rim of the cartridge, leaving you to either punch the spent rounds out with a pencil or try to shake them out--neither of which is particularly convenient.
Firing the gun was a pleasure, and the weight of the pistol combined with the mild recoiling qualities of the .45 ACP/.45 AR made for a fun morning putting the Model 22 through its paces.
Dealing with fixed sights was not too much of a problem. All you have to do is find a load that will hit the target with the right sight picture and you're in business.
Accuracy was acceptable, especially for a classic combat/defensive type revolver. Off a benchrest at 15 yards the loads I tried grouped in the three- to four-inch range.
For those who can't afford a highly sought-after collectible Smith & Wesson, this recent entry into the classic line is a good choice and lots of fun to shoot.