Silenced Walther P22 (.22)

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p22

Walther P22 pistol recently had my first chance to shoot a Walther P22, and with it my first chance to use a silencer.

With the silencer in place, I heard something I had never heard before: the bullet plinking off the metal backstop of the indoor range. Normally the report of the gun drowns out that sound. With the silencer, the plinking sound drowns out any report. (LATER: here’s a MPEG movie with sound of a silenced P22. Why didn’t I think of that?)

I also discovered something cool to do with a silencer. Open the slide and blow air down the barrel. A tongue of smoke will chimney out the barrel and linger by the muzzle.

Some people will ask, aren’t silencers illegal? Silencers are legal, but to buy one you’ll need to pay a $200 transfer fee to the BATF, fill out lots of paperwork, and have a squeaky clean record.

A silencer would be handy if you live in an area where shooting is legal, but the noise bothers your neighbors.

The Walther P22
The P22 is not intended to be a target piece. The designer’s choices – double-action trigger, three-dot

sights, compact size – all point to a defensive weapon.

Walther P22
Capacity 10+1
Weight Empty 16.9 oz
Barrel 3.4″
Length 6.3″
Height 4.5″
Width 1.1″
Origin W. Germany

Come to think of it, one of the women in my CCW class had a brand-new P22. Personally, I’d question using a P22 for defensive use. Automatics in this size are available in calibers – like .32 and .380 – that are much more effective than the .22, but still have manageable recoil for even small shooters (the woman in my class with the P22 was about 4’10”). And anyway, a revolver is a better bet for someone who will rarely practice with a gun or spend time maintaining it.

The P22’s handle is very short. By wrapping my little finger underneath it, I got a decent but not great grip. Magazines with grip extensions are available, but aren’t much more comfortable.

Out of 100 rounds, I had one misfire, half a dozen jams, and three or four failures of the slide to lock open after the last round fired. In one case, the slide catch released unexpectedly. In another, the cartridge caught on the magazine and wound up sticking straight up out of the action. Clearing it involved locking open the slide and prying the cartridge rim out of the magazine. Those problems may have been unique to this sample, but they didn’t inspire any confidence in the gun.

The P22’s safety and magazine release are ambidextrous. The magazine release is part of the trigger guard. It’s similar to the H&K; USP pistol. I can’t comfortably operate the magazine release on either gun, using either my thumb or index finger.

All in all, I just can’t see many purposes for the P22. It isn’t a target gun. Because of the caliber and poor reliability, there are better choices for a defensive gun. Any good brand of .38 revolver will be simpler and more reliable. For a small defensive automatic, a SIG P232 is a better choice. For a target .22, I’d prefer the Browning Buckmark.

UPDATE February 19, 2006

I’ve shot three newer P22s since this one, and none of them have had these problems. It looks like Walther has solved the teething problems these early pistols had. One of them had a problem with randomly dropping the magazine while firing, but Smith &Wesson (the importer) took care of the problem at no charge. If you liked the P22 but were reluctant to buy one because of reliability problems, it looks like it’s safe to buy one now.

 

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