February 2014

Suppressor-Ready Plinking 22s: Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Walther

Respectively, the threaded-barrel contestants were the 22/45 Lite, the Model M&P22, and the P22Q Tactical Pistol. Two of them handled a wide selection of ammo choices; one didnít.

Rimfire plinking pistols should be fun to shoot and easy to operate and maintain, and if they offer a little more for the buck, even better. We recently came across three 22 LR semi-autos we thought would be fun to shoot and which offered threaded barrels for suppressor use ó a definite upgrade over the basic 22 LR tube. Our test candidates were the Ruger 22/45 Lite No. 03900 P45MK3ALRPFL, $499; the Smith & Wesson Model M&P22 No. 122000, $419; and the Walther Arms P22Q QAP22522 Tactical Pistol with Hi-Viz Sight and Threaded Barrel, $440. The sizzle on these steaks is supposedly their suppressor adaptability, so letís start there.

The S&W and the Walther pistols are both made by Walther, and both pistols feature the same suppressing solution at the muzzle. The Smith has a 4.1-inch blued-steel barrel with a threaded rifled sleeve whose muzzle thread specs are M8x.75. A barrel nut covers the threads when a suppressor isnít affixed, and is removed by a provided spanner wrench that fits into two cuts on the nut. The Walther came with an adapter, a half-inch long steel piece, that screws onto the threads exposed when the barrel nut is removed. It steps up the thread specs to the more common 1/2x28 U.S. designation, which accepted our test suppressor, a Silencerco Sparrow SP-1505 22 LR, which we shot at the site of and under the control of Tactical Firearms (TacticalFirearms.us). The S&W lacked the adapter, which would add another $45 to its price tag. In contrast, the Liteís threads were protected by a knurled ring that could be unscrewed by hand.

Underneath, the barrel was already threaded at 1/2x28. Externally, the ring was integrated into the Liteís lines. The shooter could choose to leave the adapter on the M&P22 or P22Q for faster switches between unsuppressed and suppressed firing, but the bulbous adapter isnít the most cosmetic piece weíve seen.

There were other problems with the S&W and Walther muzzle treatments, we believe. The top of the Ruger polymer front sight sits 0.4 inch above the aluminum shroud and 0.875 inch above the boreline, more than enough to clear the 1.062-inch-diameter Sparrow (half its diameter being 0.531 inch). The tops of the Walther and S&W front sights were 0.565 inch above the borelines, making very little of the sight available above the suppressor. Were their sights visible and somewhat usable? Barely, but yes. A solution for the two Walther-made pistols would be to add a laser to their accessory rails, an option not readily available on the Ruger. But the Rugerís shroud top is drilled and tapped for a scope base, and the Q and M&P are not, so adding your choice of red dot to the Ruger would be easy if you preferred an optical sighting solution.

Because of the sighting disparities, we didnít shoot record groups with the suppressors on. But we did look at average velocities and found that most of our chronographed test rounds showed a small uptick in speed with suppressors on board (see table on page 9). It was an enjoyable experience to shoot without having to wear hearing protection. If any of the ammo had been supersonic, we would have worn protection to deal with the sonic crack. Most shooters who are new to suppressor use note that the devices are quiet, but not in-the-movies quiet ó it is hard to meet the fictional expectations of Hollywood. Some other quick notes about the Sparrow. Because the 22 LR round is not copper jacketed, molten lead and carbon debris will explode into the silencer when the projectile exits the muzzle. It is possible for a 22 suppressor to fill with lead and become heavy and ineffective. To avoid this, 22 silencers must be disassembled for cleaning and regular maintenance.

Silencercoís Multi Part Containment (MPC) technology allows the 22 Sparrow to be easily disassembled for cleaning and maintenance after heavy use. This is achieved by applying two tube halves before sliding the outer tube on the rest of the assembly. The outer tube can be easily removed, and the tube halves are free to pull away from the baffles without having to rotate or slide. Just pull off the tubes, clean the components, and reassemble.

The 22 Sparrow handles 22 LR cartridges as well as 17 HMR, 22 WMR, and the 5.7◊28mm FN, and itís rated for full-auto 22 LR machine guns. It weighed 6.5 ounces and measured 5.08 inches in length. Our testers said the silencer helped stabilize the front ends of the test pistols, improving follow through. Also, we didnít shoot fast enough for the can to build up much heat, so handling it wasnít a problem. According to the manufacturerís specifications, it will produce a 41dB sound reduction when fired in the Walther P22 using CCI Standard Velocity cartridges. MSRP is $499.

We also looked carefully at function with and without the cans, but we couldnít definitively say the malfunctions that occurred were related to the suppressors. Much more likely, it was ammo that a gun didnít like, and the cleaner and better lubed the guns were, the better they operated. Inside our 200-round break in, the Ruger had feeding problems which dissipated after it was cleaned. The S&W had no malfunctions at any time in the test. The P22Q had more problems than the others, which we detail below. We had read that the Waltherís manual said to use only high-velocity ammo, but we could not locate that warning in the manual.

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