Below is my review of the Smith & Wesson 22A, a pistol chambered for .22 long rifle.
The Smith & Wesson 22A is a polymer and aluminum alloy framed, blowback operated .22 caliber pistol. Its brother, the 22S, has a steel frame. Barrel lengths between 4″ and 7″ are available, including a 5.5″ bull barrel. A variety of grip options are also offered, including the rather nice “soft touch” grips. My 22A, which comes with a 5.5″ bull barrel and soft touch grips, has an empty weight of 39 ounces. With a cost of under $250 for the pistol, and coming chambered for the least expensive ammo in the world, the 22A is quite affordable to purchase and fire. Newer models of the 22A include a magazine safety, which prevents the pistol from firing unless a magazine is inserted. I’m not a fan of magazine safety devices, since I expect my guns to fire when a round is in the chamber and the trigger is pulled, regardless of whether a magazine is in place. That ability to fire with the magazine ejected could mean the difference between life and death in a self defense situation. However, since I would never want to rely upon a .22 pistol for self defense in the first place, I am not too concerned about this particular pistol having a magazine safety. As expected, the 22A’s recoil is virtually non-existent.
Build Quality & Reliability
The 22A seems well built, especially given its low price. To be sure, I can tell that it is not a $1,000 pistol, but I don’t really have any major complaints. As far as reliability, I have two comments about the 22A. Firstly, .22 LR ammo just isn’t as reliable as good centerfire ammo. On the first day I took my 22A to the range, I had 2 failures to fire, which appear to be the fault of the ammo I was using. I’ve tried a bunch of different .22 ammo brands over the last few years, and found that regardless of the brand and the gun, about 1 out of 200 won’t fire. So, the failures to fire really aren’t the fault of the gun, and since .22 ammo is so cheap anyway, I really don’t get bent out of shape about it. Secondly, relating to the 22A, I found that the recoil spring is rather fragile. In the process of cleaning it, I managed to bend the end of the spring so that it wouldn’t fit back in the gun. I was able to fix it with a pair of pliers, but I would caution 22A owners to be very gentle with this spring. It is certainly smaller and more fragile than the recoil springs in larger caliber pistols, which I suppose should be expected. On the plus side, the spring costs about $5 and can be replaced very easily.
The Smith & Wesson 22A is quite comfortable to hold, and I’m a fan of the “soft touch” grips. I find the pistol to be well balanced too. One thing I don’t really like is that the magazine release is on the front of the grip, which seems like it could lead to unintentional ejection of the magazine. However neither I nor my fiancé managed have to eject the magazine by accident thus far. Chambering a round, which just requires pulling back the rear part of the slide, is quite easy, since the small spring for this blowback operated pistol provided very little resistance. I would estimate that chambering a round on my Springfield XD requires 4x the effort. Loading the magazine is also extremely easy, since that spring is also rather small, and an external follower on the side of the magazine can be lowered by hand, further reducing the effort needed to push a round into the magazine. The ease of chambering a round and loading the magazine don’t really matter to me, but it occurs to me that those with arthritis might find this pistol easier to use. Disassembly is also rather easy. The barrel comes off with the push of a button, and reassembly is straight forward. Having such a small recoil spring also makes reassembly require little physical effort.
The 22A comes with an integral rail along the top, so that the user can mount the sighting options of their choosing. However there are not many slots on the rail, which prevents some scope from fitting properly. I haven’t yet tried to mount a scope on my 22A, but I have heard that some 22A owners needed to have an extra slot milled in to the pistol before their preferred scope would fit.
All in all, the Smith & Wesson 22A is a nice pistol at a great price. I wouldn’t count on this pistol (or any .22 LR firearm) for self defense, but it is great for target practice and introducing new shooters to pistol shooting. There are few other guns that cost so little and fire such inexpensive ammo, while the lack of recoil and ease of use/disassembly/reassembly also make this pistol a good choice for those who can’t comfortably handle other pistols.