March 03, 2009
[caption id="attachment_1561" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Johnston ran the best available rimfire ammunition through the P22."][/caption]
For a variety of understandable reasons, knowledgeable shooters have long desired companion arms that look, feel, and act like a centerfire semi auto but are chambered for the .22 rimfire cartridge instead. Walther's P22 looks like a winner for these shooters right off the bat.
The P22 features a black, one-piece composite receiver while the slide and barrel are carbon steel. Walther also relies on two steel side-plates, which are pinned into the composite receiver to serve as bearing surfaces for the slide. The barrel is also rigidly attached to the right side-plate. More on that a bit later.
The P22 features a composite, dual-function trigger. Walther says that the P22 trigger exhibits a pull that requires about 12 pounds in the DA mode and just over five pounds while working things in the single action mode. We'd call these numbers entirely in the ballpark and grade the sample trigger completely acceptable. The double action pull is reasonably smooth with little "stacking" while the SA trigger action is fairly crisp and clean with just a hint of overtravel. It isn't a target trigger to be sure but this isn't a target gun, either. Unlike the parent P99, the P22 sports an exposed hammer. The hammer features a rounded spur but remains easy to grab and pull if one wishes to go immediately to single action operation.
Operationally, with the exception of the exposed hammer instead of the striker system found on the P99, the two pistols are much the same. The P22 does not feature a decocking lever so one must rotate the two-position safety to the "safe" position before manually dropping the hammer with a thumb. The ambidextrous safety blocks the firing pin as well as the hammer so the P22 may be safely carried with an additional round up the pipe, so to speak. Walther wisely designed the rimfire with a slide stop that holds the slide back following the last shot. The slide release is in the typical "1911" position, below the slide and above the grip.
Like the big Walther, the P22 also features a pair of grip backstraps that can be changed simply by pressing out one pin in the grip. The grip suited us nicely, out of the box, however.
On the range, we just grabbed a seat on our shooting bench and rested the P22 on sandbags with the targets set up 25 yards downrange and the Oehler 35P skyscreens set up about 15 feet from the muzzle. We shot from our heated shop into Mother Nature when the temperature was 26 degrees and the humidity in the mid 40s. Winds were light and variable.
While the P22 is designed somewhat as a plinker, offering a low cost alternative to the centerfire P99, we elected to run some of the best rimfire ammunition through it to see what it would do. In addition, if a rimfire pistol is going to malfunction, it'll do so with sedate, standard velocity fodder most often.
When the dust settled, the P22 got a clean bill of health, all the way around. three loads stayed under an inch for at least one group and several averaged little more than an inch, overall. The five tested loads averaged 1.55 inches center to center with them all generating velocities between 922 fps on the low end and 981 fps on the high end. It doesn't appear that one could go wrong with any of the tested loads and all are fully capable of rolling a soda can along nicely if you're into such things.
Carrying a suggested retail price of a buck over $300, the P22 looks like a winner any way you cut it. Handling much like the centerfire P99, the P22 is an inexpensive, reasonably quiet, light-kicking alternative to be sure. Further, this little rig would make a great way to get the next generation started. You gotta love the .22 rimfire cartridge and Walther's new P22 makes the cartridge just that much better. You don't have to pick up the brass, either!