October 05, 2022
The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire has been with us for more than half a century. Relatively popular in rifles, it’s also been a favorite option for rimfire revolvers. Semiautos? Not so much. Today, other than KelTec’s PMR 30 and Rock Island Armory’s XT 22 Magnum series, there are...well, that’s pretty much it. Until now, with Walther’s introduction of the WMP or Walther Magnum Pistol.
Why are there so few? Mostly because it’s hard to get this cartridge to function reliably in a semiautomatic pistol. Jens Krogh, vice president of marketing and product development at Walther, said he believes the company has cracked that code. Magazine design was one of the hurdles, but it wasn’t the biggest. “The hardest part was figuring out the entire barrel and how it locks up,” he said. “Once that was done and we fluted the chamber, the reliability came much quicker.”
The chamber flutes reduce surface area and dissipate heat faster, preventing cases from sticking and increasing reliability. A rubber insert on the barrel block acts as a shock buffer to reduce wear on other parts. Krogh said this insert lasts about 70,000 rounds. The WMP, a direct-blowback gun, features an internal hammer as opposed to the striker-fired systems so common today.
“The internal hammer is extremely reliable and actually functions better with a wider variety of ammo,” Krogh said. The pistol has a 4.5-inch barrel, overall length is 8.2 inches, and height is 5.6 inches. While it’s not a small pistol, weight is just one pound, 11 ounces. That’s thanks to the 7075 aluminum slide, an alloy known for standing up well to the kind of stresses a pistol’s slide endures. The slide sports three lightening cuts up front, and nicely aggressive serrations grace the slide fore and aft. The WMP is of course cut for red dots, and it comes with plates and screws that will accommodate a number of popular sights.
For those who prefer irons, Walther goes the extra mile, starting with the red fiber-optic front sight. The dovetailed rear has a serrated face and is drift adjustable. Because .22 Magnum loads can vary so widely and cause point-of-impact woes, Walther provides a second rear sight with the WMP. The one that’s installed measures 0.27 inch high; the one in the box is 0.225 inch. This allows you to match the rear sight to a favorite load. I do wish these rear sights weren’t plastic, but you can’t have everything.
The polymer frame has a five-slot accessory rail up front, which means the WMP will accommodate a wide variety of lights and lasers. Immediately behind it on both sides is a textured section that provides a reference spot for your support-hand thumb and trigger finger while indexing. The left-side section is too far forward for my thumb to reach, but the right-side one is perfect for my trigger finger. The front of the trigger guard is squared-off and serrated. The grip portion has the excellent texturing used on the older PPQ. The texturing wraps from the backstrap and all the way around the finger-grooved frontstrap.
The grip also features Walther’s “red dot ergonomics” design. It’s a slight flare at the base of the grip that helps you apply more pinky pressure. Doing so help keeps the muzzle down, making it easier and faster to acquire a red dot. Compared to my own PPQ M2, the grip on the WMP is wider front to back. Why? The .22 Magnum cartridge is 1.35 inches long as opposed to the 9mm’s 1.169 inches. Even so, with my medium-size hands I had no problem getting a proper 360-degree hand wrap on the pistol. The WMP does not come with interchangeable backstraps.
If you’re familiar with older Walther centerfire pistols like the P99 and its successor, the original PPQ, you know these guns had a paddle-style magazine release. The paddle was located on both sides of the bottom of the trigger guard, and a simple press with your trigger finger drops the mag. Americans, of course, favor the button-style release behind the trigger guard, and with the PPQ M2 and succeeding models, Walther adopted the button release. The new WMP, however, boasts a combination of the two. Officially known as the 4U, this quad release gives you the option of employing the ambidextrous paddle or an ambidextrous button release.
“We wanted to give both paddle and button-release fans what they wanted. Inevitably, whichever we make, people will want the other, so we gave them both!” Krogh said. I always liked the paddle release, and on the WMP I found myself using it almost exclusively. The button release is flush with a raised molded ridge underneath, and I can’t work it without significantly shifting the gun in my grip. That ridge protects against accidental mag drops, but for me it makes the button too tough to hit consistently. People with larger hands or longer thumbs may not have any problems with the button release.
One thing I’ve always loved about Walther pistols like my PPQ and Q5 Match Steel Frame is the extended slide-lock lever. It’s one of the few levers I can activate repeatedly well during a slide-lock reload. The WMP’s ambidextrous lever is not extended, and it’s fenced in on either side with two small, molded ridges. It’s not a change Walther made on a whim.
“We felt like this would be used as a hunting or wintertime gun, so we wanted to make sure shooters wearing large gloves did not unintentionally lock the slide back while shooting,” Krogh said. It’s not like it’s impossible to operate or anything, and I can hit it to send the slide forward without a lot of effort. I just like the extended lever better.
The double-action trigger is decent. Take-up is about 0.2 inch, followed by a fair bit of creep, but the trigger on my sample broke at a very nice two pounds, 14 ounces and was quite consistent. You can’t expect a short reset out of a double-action trigger, and you have to let the trigger back out almost all the way to reset. The trigger incorporates the only safety on the gun. Disassembly is simple. Drop the magazine, pull back and lock the slide, and ensure the chamber is empty. Instead of pull-down takedown tabs on the sides like other Walthers, the WMP employs a swing-down lever—which I prefer.
Rotate the lever down, and while keeping control of the slide, release it and guide it off the frame. There’s no need to pull the trigger. Remove the recoil spring and guide, then withdraw the barrel. That’s it. The WMP feeds from a 15-round polymer magazine. (Guns with 10-round mags are available for those who live in states with capacity restrictions.) The magazines have polymer followers and metal feed lips. On the sides you’ll find tabs you can pull down to ease loading, a common feature of rimfire magazines. Witness marks on the side indicate 5, 10 and 15 rounds, and the center of the tabs line up with the round-count marks—a nice touch.
For testing I mounted a Trijicon RMR. My WMP sample came with two sets of mounting screws and two unmarked plates. That did not jibe with the manual, which describes three plates designated by numbers. I asked Krogh about this. He explained that, yes, the plates are not numbered, so users will have to do what I did: just play with the plates to figure out which one works with your sight. But it’s not rocket science.
As to the third plate—which is for the Shield footprint—that was not included with the test sample, Krogh said Walther will be adding it later this year. If you buy an earlier production model with only two plates, you can simply contact Walther and the company will send you the one for the Shield. Initially, I tried an Ameriglo Haven, which has the same footprint as the Trijicon RMR, but the screws weren’t long enough. In other words, just because you have a sight with a listed footprint, it may or may not work with the provided screws.
This isn’t a knock on Walther. Prior to receiving the WMP, I was discussing this very issue with a writer who was having a similar experience mounting a sight on a different pistol. His take, which I agree with, is that red dots are still fairly new territory for everyone, and a lack of standardization complicates things. One last note on sight mounting: The manual is very specific about not using any kind of thread locker on the screws. Enough said.
The WMP proved to be a great shooter, and my 25-yard accuracy results—achieved with the red dot—are listed in the accompanying chart. The only ammunition that gave me a lick of trouble was the Winchester round, which is loaded with 30-grain polymer-tipped bullets. These failed to feed about a half-dozen times out of 20 shots, so I didn’t include them in the chart.
I mentioned this to Krogh, and he clued me in to an “Ammo Recommendations” link on Walther’s website. On the WMP page, scroll down to the bottom and click on “Articles” to find the recommendations. And there it was in black and white: “Most 30-grain polymer tip ammo does not have enough recoil to function in the Walther WMP.”
As it turned out, the other types of ammo I had on hand were in the “works best” category, according to the recommendations. And work best they did.One of the reasons rimfire semiautos can be finicky is the dirty nature of rimfire ammo. For the accuracy portion of the test, I cleaned between each type, running a pull-through three times through the bore before moving to the next type, and other than the Winchester everything ran 100 percent.
But once bench testing was concluded, I fired another 200 rounds through the gun—a mix of the Hornady, CCI and Fiocchi loads—without cleaning it. Some of it was deliberate fire to get a sense of how accurate I could be with it at 25 yards offhand, and some of it was aimed rapid fire to get a sense of how controllable the gun is. At the end it was pure mag dumps, loading and shooting as fast as I possibly could to see if the gun would choke. It never did.
I found the pistol to be really easy to hit with—with both the red dot and the irons. The latter are nicely executed. The fiber-optic front is easy to pick up, and the rear notch provides the right amount of space on either side of the front for fast, proper alignment. The .22 Magnum, while a rimfire, is a big step up from the .22 Long Rifle in terms of recoil. But the WMP has the dimensions and balance to handle it with aplomb, and Hornady’s Critical Defense load was particularly easy-shooting in this gun. The grip’s ergonomics makes it both comfortable to shoot and provides the secure hold you need for rapid, well-placed follow-up shots.
In short, it was one of the most fun pistols I’ve tested in a long time. With its light weight—and especially with a red dot aboard for precision—the WMP would make an excellent trail or camp gun. It has plenty of punch to take small game for the pot, and it’s such a blast to shoot it makes a fantastic plinker as well. I also think it would make it a good trainer, either for a veteran handgunner or for someone who is just getting started. In the case of new shooters, because the WMP has more recoil and more muzzle blast than a .22 Long Rifle, it would serve as a good bridge in preparing someone to handle a centerfire defensive gun.
Speaking of which, while it’s not everyone’s first choice for self-defense, the .22 Magnum is certainly more powerful than the .22 Long Rifle—a cartridge often used for this very purpose. Today’s defense-specific loads from Hornady, Winchester and most recently Federal feature bullets designed to penetrate well. These make the .22 Magnum a lot more capable for this use. Energy levels with the defense-minded loads run on the 100 ft.-lbs. level. It’s no 9mm or even a .380 ACP, but with 15 rounds at your disposal and a gun that can spit them out quickly and accurately…well, I certainly wouldn’t want to get shot with one.
In a day and age where it’s “out with the old and in with the new,” it’s refreshing to see a great old cartridge like the .22 Magnum getting some attention. The aforementioned semiautos from KelTec and Rock Island Armory—plus the relatively new Ruger LCRx and the Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 Magnum revolvers—show a renewed interest by gun makers in the round. I asked Krogh why Walther decided the time was right to design a pistol around the cartridge. He said: “It’s always the right time for a .22 Mag.! This was a long development process, and we felt the market now was hungry for something new and innovative.”
I think the company has done a fantastic job with the WMP, delivering on the promise of a reliable, accurate and great-handling .22 Magnum pistol. Given all the tasks this gun would be good for—plus all the shooting fun it provides—it’s hard to imagine a better all-around pistol.
Walther WMP .22 Magnum Pistol Specs
- Type: Hammer-fired, double-action, semiautomatic rimfire
- Caliber: .22 WMR
- Capacity: 15+1 rds
- Barrel: 4.5 in. w/fluted chamber
- OAL/Height/Width: 8.2/5.6/1.5 in.
- Weight: 1 lbs., 11 oz.
- Construction: 7075 aluminum slide, polymer frame
- Finish: Black
- Sights: Red-dot ready w/adapters; two different-height rear sights supplied; red fiber-optic front
- Trigger: Double action; 2 lb., 14 oz. pull (measured)
- Safety: Trigger lever
- MSRP: $549
- Manufacturer: Walther Arms