Taurus PT-22 A Better Buy Than Beretta, Walther Pocket Pistols
The Taurus’ good handling and lower price put it on top in this three-way test against the Beretta 21A and the Walther TPH.
The concept of a pocket pistol in .22 Long Rifle (LR) makes us wonder to what purpose it might be put. Certainly it is not anywhere near ideal for self-defense, though it beats having no gun at all. They’re not known for being target punchers, either.
But, these small autoloaders are lots more fun than the bigger guns, especially because the bigger, heavier guns will be more likely to be left home. Perhaps such a gun is the ideal choice for a fisherman who wants a popgun for dispatching big pike or small muskies, or for puncturing empty cans in camp. The hiker, burdened by a pack, tent and bedding, might be able to find a small bit of room for a pocket .22 LR semiautomatic with its lightweight ammo, and hence go armed.
Anyone who has a desire to own one of these small firearms surely can think of some good uses for it, so we’ll leave that to your imagination.
The Test Pistols
We decided to see how well three types of pocket .22 LRs were put together, and find out how well they worked. We chose the Beretta 21A Bobcat, the Taurus PT-22 and the Walther TPH. The Taurus was double-action only (DAO), while the other two had standard double-action triggers.
Other than double action, external hammers, two-piece grips and overall small size and weight, the three actually had little in common. Trigger guards, for example, were sheet steel on the Beretta, formed into the frame on the Taurus, and milled and hinged on the Walther. The Taurus guard had a lump at its forward end that permitted a finger to get a better grip there — if the shooter preferred. The Walther had a handsome, smoothly curved and rather large trigger guard that added greatly to the gun’s sleek good looks, yet was a separate piece.
Both the Beretta and Taurus featured barrels that popped up to permit loading the chamber directly, rather than cycling a round from the magazine. This feature also aided inspection for safety, and made cleaning the gun somewhat less of a chore. An additional bonus was that there was lots of room for spent cases to leave the gun, because the open-top slide didn’t get in the way. Contrast that with the small ejection port of the classic Walther design.
The Taurus PT-22 had an aluminum frame with a matte black finish, and a steel slide that was brushed along the sides with a shiny blue/black finish. The slide also had a matte finish on top to cut glare. The pistol featured a pop-up barrel for easy inspection, loading, unloading and cleaning. The barrel was raised by pressing forward on a lever located at the top front of the left grip panel. The panel was relieved to let you get at the lever more easily. The grips were hardwood, with pressed-in checkering and a satin finish. In spite of two grip screws on each panel, they both shot loose after 75 rounds.
The Taurus had a hammer, but it was hard to see. The gun fired double-action each shot. There was no provision for manually cocking the pistol, and this made it that much slicker for working out of a pocket or purse, because there was less to catch on clothing.
The Taurus PT-22 had a 2-3/4-inch barrel and weighed 12-1/4 ounces. It came with one steel magazine that had a slot to let you see how many rounds were in it. It held eight rounds. The magazine had a plastic follower that incorporated a loading button, and a removable plastic floorplate that served as a finger rest or a rip-out handle in case the magazine gets stuck in the gun. The magazine was released by pressing inward on a button located just in front of the left grip panel, at the rear of the trigger guard. We found it quite easy to manipulate with the shooting hand.
The safety of the Taurus was a small two-position lever at the left rear of the frame. We found it to be too small and too stiff to be operated with the thumb of the shooting hand. In the up position, it blocked the trigger and locked the slide. Down was off. There was also a magazine disconnect, which prohibited the gun from firing if the magazine was out.
The Beretta 21A has a look about it that is characteristic of this company’s guns. Beretta has managed to incorporate a look into their guns, particularly their handguns, that makes them easily identifiable as belonging to the Beretta family — whether or not you like them. The open-top slide and slightly protruding barrel are two obvious design features that help give the gun its distinctive look.
Our test Beretta was double action. The barrel could be popped up by pressing on a lever located on the left side of the frame, just in front of the grip panel. The Model 21A’s frame was aluminum alloy, black-matte finished, and held a matte-black steel slide. The sheet-steel trigger guard was actually a spring that pressed against the bottom of the barrel when it was open, and thus did double service. The grips were two-piece plastic, well checkered, and were fastened by two screws on each panel. The grips fit well and didn’t shoot loose. The Beretta had a hammer that could catch the clothing as the gun was presented, though covering the hammer with the shooting-hand thumb as the gun leaves the holster or — more likely — pocket, will help prevent its hanging up.
Our 21A came with one seven-shot steel magazine, which had a removable floorplate for easy cleaning. The magazine follower was plastic, and incorporated a loading button so the follower could be pulled down as rounds were inserted into the magazine. There was no forward extension on the magazine, which made this gun less than tactically sound because there’s no way to rip the magazine from the gun if it gets stuck during a fire fight. But then, this gun wasn’t really designed for that kind of thing anyway.
The magazine had a long slot so you can see how many rounds were in it. Getting the magazine out of the Beretta was accomplished by pressing inward on a button located near the bottom rear of the left grip panel. This was best operated with the support hand (right-handers use the left hand).
The Beretta’s barrel was 2-7/16 inches long, and the gun weighed 12 ounces. The Model 21A had a two-position safety in the form of a lever at the left rear of the frame. Up was engaged, and in that position it blocked the trigger and slide. We found it to be a bit too small to easily engage one-handed, but it disengaged readily enough. There was also a half-cock notch on the hammer, permitting the carrying of a round in the chamber with the safety disengaged. In this manner, the gun was ready to fire with just a long pull on the trigger.
Walther’s TPH was of all-steel construction, with a shiny brushed blue finish. At 13 ounces, it was the heaviest of the three test guns — though not by much. The trigger guard was hinged, pivoting at the rear, and served as part of the takedown mechanism. The slide was matte-finished on top. The 2-3/4-inch barrel was fixed to the frame. The grip panels were shiny black plastic, with cleanly molded checkering. They were fixed to the frame with but one screw each. The left panel shot loose after 100 rounds.
One six-shot magazine came with the Walther. Made of steel, it had a plastic finger-rest floorplate that was removable for cleaning. The follower was steel, and the magazine body had five inspection holes. Removing the magazine from the gun was accomplished by depressing the back end of the magazine catch, located at the bottom of the grip. This was quite secure, but not very fast.
The Walther’s hammer had a rounded serrated spur that didn’t lend itself to fish-hooking your trousers. The TPH had a two-position safety at the left rear of the slide. Down was engaged, and in that position it locked and blocked the firing pin, disconnected the trigger, and decocked the hammer if needed. We found the lever’s movement to be a bit stiff, especially when disengaging it.
The Walther had an extractor fitted into the right side of the slide. The ejector was fixed to the frame.
Fit & Finish
Our Beretta 21A had no tool marks or sharp edges, and only a small amount of play in most moving parts. We found the gun to be very well made, despite a moderate amount of play in the removable floorplate on the magazine. The tip-up barrel locked up tightly.
The Taurus PT-22 had minor casting marks on its frame, but no sharp edges to cut your hands. Some of the finish started to wear off the frame where it came in contact with the slide. There was a moderate amount of play in the slide, and some of the other moving parts exhibited minor play. We found the magazine to be acceptably built, though not as well-made as those of the other two test guns. The Taurus’ tip-up barrel locked up snugly.
Walther constructed their TPH very well, but they left some sharp edges along the sides of the slide. The feed ramp was nicely polished, and all moving parts had minor play.
Concerning play in the moving parts of semiautomatic handguns, we note that one of our test shooters has a .45 ACP pistol that is, so far, 100-percent reliable with a great variety of ammunition types and bullet shapes, commercial and handloads. That means over 2,000 rounds with zero malfunctions. The gun is so loose that it rattles. The lesson is that a little looseness probably does no harm. However, in a pocket gun, destined to ride in a questionable environment where there is lots of dirt and dust, looseness can be taken too far pretty quickly.
All three guns had fixed sights. Those on the Taurus rated the highest in terms of visibility, though the Walther wasn’t far behind. Taurus put a decent notch into the upward-extended rear of the slide and mated it with a ramped front that had a serrated, glare-cutting face. The front blade was integral with the barrel. In spite of what some would try to tell you, even in “point” shooting you see the sights. Those on the Taurus PT-22 were easily seen and, though not quite as easy to find as those on the Walther, provided a better sight picture.
Walther offered the provision of adjusting the rear sight for windage by drifting it in its dovetailed notch. The rear notch had a white square underneath, supposedly to aid finding it. The low-profile front blade had a white dot in its slightly angled face. It was integral with the top front of the slide. We found these sights easy to find, but we didn’t like the unclear sight picture.
The Beretta had a very small and shallow rear notch milled into the slide. The front blade was also mighty small, and its rounded contour gave a false index in bright light. We found the Beretta’s sights the hardest to acquire and align of all three test guns, but they did provide a barely usable sight picture. There was no adjustment on the Beretta or Taurus sights, short of deft filing.
The Beretta’s trigger broke at 5-1/2 pounds single action and 10 pounds double action. The long double action pull was fairly smooth and of decent weight, but it had a hard release. The single action pull had moderate creep and we thought it was about a pound too heavy.
Taurus’ PT-22 provided the shooter with a 9-pound trigger weight, with a long and very smooth double-action-only pull. We found it to have a clean release as well. The Walther’s single-action pull was just 3-1/4 pounds, after a bit of take-up, and some might find that weight to be too light. However, in self-defense use, the gun will be carried with the hammer down and the safety off — the first shot being fired double action. In a fun-mode, that light trigger will probably make hitting yonder tin can a pleasant task. The double action pull was almost as smooth as that of the Taurus, and weighed 10-1/2 pounds.
The Beretta sat evenly in the hand, but pointed high when the gun was thrust toward the target. This, however, made the diminutive front sight somewhat easier to find. The extended tang did a good job of protecting the shooting hand from slide and hammer bite. We were able to get two fingers around the grip, and we thought it was wide enough to give us a firm and comfortable grasp. Felt recoil was just a bit more than that of the Taurus PT-22. In fact, we couldn’t tell the difference unless we shot the guns side by side. The Beretta’s hammer spur was long enough to be cocked easily with the shooting thumb, but, as noted earlier, it was long and sharp enough that it could snag on clothing.
The Taurus was a bit muzzle heavy, but it sat well in the hand. The front sight aligned high, though not as much as the Beretta 21A. The rear tang successfully prevented slide bite. The gun seemed a tad on the wide side for such a small gun, but it filled the hand quite well and gave the best grasp of all three test handguns. This, naturally, gave the Taurus the least felt recoil. In case you’re wondering, the spurless hammer cannot be manually cocked. There was no full-cock notch, so the gun had to be fired double action for each and every shot.
We found the Walther’s magazine to be the hardest to insert ammunition into, because it had no button or load-assist device to let the user pull down against its heavy follower spring. This little gun was the most muzzle heavy of the three, but again sat very well in the hand. The sights aligned precisely on target when the gun was thrust forward. The tang shape didn’t prevent the slide from raking across the web of the shooting hand, which we call slide bite. The very thin grip afforded the least secure grasp. However, it made the gun a bit easier to conceal. The Walther’s thin grip made the recoil the most easily felt of the test guns, but .22’s don’t have much recoil anyway. We found it a bear to cock the low-profile spur hammer when we wanted to shoot the gun single action, but this same feature made the gun snag resistant.
The Walther shot where it looked — at least it did at seven yards. The other two guns were close, but no cigar. The Taurus shot one inch high and three inches to the left of point of aim at that distance, and the Beretta put shots left of the aim point by some two inches.
Neither the Beretta nor the Taurus had extractors. They relied on the force of the burning gases to blow the spent case rearward out of the chamber, onto the ejector and out of the gun. The Walther had an extractor, which ostensibly grabbed the spent case and dragged it out of the chamber onto the ejector, and thence out of the gun.
Having said all that, we must tell you that all three guns failed to extract our Federal brand test ammunition. The Beretta failed to extract 14 times. The Taurus failed 21 times, and the Walther — despite its extractor — failed to extract the spent Federal cases 14 times and also failed six times with Remington ammunition. Yes, we strongly suspect the Federal ammunition, but we can’t tell you why it didn’t work — although we have many theories. It was apparently not excess pressure, for the velocities were normal. Soft brass? We just don’t know.
We discovered that there was not a nickel’s worth of difference among the three for best accuracy. All shot groups of around 2 inches, give or take a quarter inch or less, at seven yards. The very smallest group fired with any gun was 1.40 inches for five shots, and the Beretta did that with Remington 40-grain High Velocity ammunition. The largest group with any gun was 2.50 inches, and all three guns did this with the Federal ammunition. Hmmmmm.
The best average accuracy was obtained with the Remington ammunition in the Beretta, and was just over 1.50 inches for 25 shots. We noted that each gun seemed to shoot one or another type of ammo best, and we recommend you experiment to find the best ammo for your own handgun.
The manufacturers specified some limitations on ammunition types. Beretta said that standard velocity rounds will typically function more efficiently in the 21A than higher velocity rounds, and with less wear to the weapon. The Taurus PT-22 was designed to shoot standard and high velocity ammunition only, not the hyper-velocity stuff like CCI Stingers. Using this hot ammunition will negate the warranty and could cause damage to the shooter or to the gun. Walther thinks highly enough of their TPH that they didn’t place any specific limitations on ammunition type, but common sense tells us that standard velocity ammunition will cause the least amount of wear.
This was not the easiest choice. We liked the Taurus, but some shooters didn’t care for the DAO trigger because they want to use the gun more for plinking than for self-defense. However, for those who want to use this handgun as either a prime self-defense weapon or as a backup to another more potent weapon, the first choice must be the Taurus.
For all-out accuracy, the Beretta performed a bit better than the other guns; but with different types of ammunition or with different samples of the same guns, that might change. No gun was the outstanding accuracy winner, but for shooting to where the gun looks, the Walther was best.
The problems with the Walther’s extraction with Remington ammo indicated some sort of potential problem with the gun. We didn’t find out what it was, with our limited testing.
We’d have to pick the Taurus. At $162, it offered the most bang for the buck. We really liked its sights. Yes, it was DAO, but its trigger permitted some pretty good shooting. We think it was a winner.