In this installment, we are looking at some of the best 22-caliber pistols for all-around target shooting and training for marksmanship and personal-defense practice, with an emphasis on viability for personal-defense training. Some handguns are just fine for general plinking, but the modern shooter demands the ability to train with combat lights or even a red-dot sight. All 22s do not allow this type of versatility. Let's look at four 22-caliber handguns and see how they stack up as modern trainers.
The 22 self-loading handgun is a great firearm that every handgunner should own at least one of. The 22 is a great trainer, and it is also a good small-game handgun, and it is even useful in some forms of competition. The absence of recoil and muzzle report compared to centerfire handguns is often touted, but recoil and muzzle blast are there, simply in easily manageable portions. The shooter is free to concentrate on trigger press, sight picture, sight alignment, and grip. Practice in offhand fire, combat practice, firing for extreme accuracy from a solid rest, clearing malfunctions and hunting game are just some of the practice that may be accomplished with the 22 pistol. For small-game hunting, excellent accuracy is demanded. For combat practice—and this is an important point—the handgun should be similar to the centerfire defense gun in accuracy. In that manner, the shooter isn't given a false sense of security by a 22 that is much more accurate than the 9mm or 45 they use for personal defense. When practicing with the 22, the serious shooter should use the same grip and trigger press that he or she uses when mastering the 9mm or 45. Using a lighter grip or shooting fast just because the 22 is so controllable doesn't cross over into personal defense skills; it is simply shooting for fun.
We collected two 22-caliber handguns and two 22-caliber conversion units for comparison. One of the handguns is a new model and the other, a relatively new and often overlooked pistol. The firearms tested included the Smith & Wesson Victory 22, Beretta Neos 22, Tactical Solutions' Glock conversion unit, and a Colt 22 Ace conversion unit.
Among the most useful, versatile, and powerful all-round sporting rifles is the 308 Winchester bolt action. These rifles are accurate, reliable, and can take on small to big game in many hunting conditions. When married with a good optic and in competent hands, they are well suited to take a 200-pound target at 200 yards and beyond, as a rule of thumb. The chambering is a joy to use and fire, compared to hard-kicking magnums, and offers plenty of recreational value. The bolt-action 308 is also a useful tactical rifle in many situations, and the round is widely used by law enforcement across the country.
We recently took a hard look at four bolt-action rifles chambered in 308 Winchester, with a special emphasis on looking for affordable options. So we chose two used rifles and one lower-cost new rifle and compared them to a rifle in a higher price range to ensure we weren't missing something that more dollars could provide. These rifles included the now-discontinued Mossberg ATR, the Remington 783, the Remington 700 SPS, and the Savage Axis. In this quartet, we shot three loads for accuracy testing and another load in offhand fire to gauge the accuracy of the rifles. As it turns out, the economy combination rifle that comes from the factory with a bore-sighted scope is a good deal. Though the Remington 783 was the most accurate rifle, we also liked the Remington 700 SPS a lot. Overall, however, the Savage Axis combination seems a best buy. Let's look hard at these rifles and delve into why we made these choices and to see if you agree with our assessments.
Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Robert Sadowski, David Tannahill, Tracey Taylor, John Taylor, Rafael Urista, and Ralph Winingham have done in Gun Tests, with an eye toward selecting guns, accessories, and ammunition the magazine's testers have endorsed. From these evaluations I pick the best from a full year's worth of tests and distill recommendations for readers, who often use them as shopping guides. These choices are a mixture of our original tests and other information I've compiled during the year. After we roll high-rated test products into long-term testing, I keep tabs on how those guns do, and if the firearms and accessories continue performing well, then I have confidence including them in this wrap-up.
The Ruger 10/22 rifle is the most customizable semi-automatic rimfire rifle on the market. In fact, some manufacturers have taken 10/22 rifles and radically converted them to make highly accurate target rifles or built in internally-suppressed barrels for low-noise shooting. Some have molded shells to make the 10/22 look like an M1 Carbine or a Thompson submachine gun, while others have made them into pistols, as this test recognizes. By reconfiguring the buttstock into a pistol grip and reducing the barrel length, the same receiver is used to create an entirely different class of pistol. We wanted to take a look at these pistols, two derived from a Ruger 10/22 and one from the Mossberg 702 Plinkster, to see what they offered other than just an abbreviated variant of a long gun.
We secured a slightly used model of Magnum Research's Picuda that was mounted with a fixed 4x-power Leupold scope (#58750; $440). Ruger debuted its own 10/22 pistol in 2008, calling it the Charger, and ended production in 2012 — only to reintroduce a revised variant in 2015. The original Ruger Charger was very similar in appearance to the Magnum Research Picuda, while this new Ruger 22 Charger we tested is more refined, with plenty of features to like. Mossberg's 715P pistol came out in 2014. While the Magnum Research and Ruger are similar since they share a similar operating system, their design appeals to shooters and hunters who desire precision shooting, while the Mossberg is made to satisfy plinkers.
All three pistols use a simple blowback mechanism that is the same mechanism as used in the rifle. The pistols look ungainly since they use the same receivers as the rifles. The barrels, however, are cut down in all three models. The Magnum Research and Ruger reconfigured the rifle stock to a pistol grip sans buttstock. Though the Ruger and Magnum Research grip/stock were similar, the Ruger offered more options, so a shooter can set up the pistol to suit his shooting needs.
To make the 715P, Mossberg basically takes a 702 barreled action and sandwiches it between two polymer halves to give the pistol the appearance of an AR-15 pistol. The similarity to an AR pistol is only cosmetic, as the 715P functions just like the 702. Consider it a sheep in wolves' clothing. The Charger 22 and Picuda come optics ready, requiring a user to invest in a optic and rings. A Weaver rail is built into the Magnum Research pistol, while the Ruger comes with a Picatinny rail screwed into to the receiver. We mounted a BSA Edge 2-7x32mm pistol scope (#PS27X32; $140) on the Ruger. The Mossberg has open sights and is good to go out of the box, but to keep the playing field relatively level we added a CenterPoint Tactical 30mm Enclosed Reflex red-dot optic (Model #72601; $30). Mossberg offers a red-dot sight as an option on other 715P models. The CenterPoint optic co-witnessed with the top quarter of the iron sights on the 715P, which we liked. The rail on the Mossberg looks like a Picatinny/Weaver style, but it is not, as we discovered when mounting the CenterPoint Tactical red dot. Here's more about what we discovered about these rimfire rifles converted to pistols.
Walther's new PPQ in 45 ACP is the first true production Walther in that chambering in the company's history, Walther says. The gun is equipped with the Carl Walther quick defense trigger, traditional front and rear slide serrations, and ambidextrous controls like other PPQs. The PPQ 45 Auto will hit the market and be available in retail stores on October 1, 2015.
Cyndi Flannigan, Walther Arms' vice president of sales and marketing, says of the new pistol, "This new caliber and product offering is a benchmark for Walther and the PPQ. We have built it to the same exact German standards that have made this model so well received, and it is a superior choice for home defense and personal protection." We'll soon see about that.