Few things in the sporting world are as much fun as plinking around with a .22 LR of any configuration. If that .22 is a semi-automatic pistol, the fun gets even better. The .22 pistol isn’t all fun, though. They are some of the most practical firearms to own.
Learning to shoot any kind of a handgun well requires a great deal of practice. Hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds need to be fired through a handgun in order to gain proficiency. One of the most effective and economical ways to get extensive handgun practice is with the .22 LR.
When I was initially accepted to the New Mexico State Police, I had a couple of months before reporting to the academy. I had been shooting all of my life, but little of it was actual target shooting, on paper. Shooting cans and rabbits is great fun and good practice, but doesn’t really prepare one to shoot a 50-yard PPC course. The standard-issue sidearm for the NMSP at that time was the Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 Mag. revolver. I was allowed to use my personal Model 586 revolver—the blued version of the stainless 686. Instead of practicing everyday with the .357 Mag., though, I opted to shoot my dad’s old Smith & Wesson K22.
Each and every day before my academy report date, I practiced with the K22. My dad came up with a few drills for me, and I ran through them religiously. This was all double-action fire, which wound up helping me tremendously. I fired at least 100 rounds of .22 LR every day at various distances. I would usually follow up these sessions with a little practice with my .357 Mag. revolver. All this practice paid off in the end, and I wound up doing well in the police academy’s shooting program.
Shooting a .22 LR handgun, whether a revolver or semi-automatic, aids the shooter in solidifying the basics of handgunning. It’s easy to concentrate on the proper grip, sight alignment and trigger squeeze when recoil isn’t a factor. All of these basics must be mastered in order to be proficient with a handgun. Extensive practice with a .22-caliber pistol goes a long way towards achieving mastery.
My first experience with the .22-caliber handgun came at an early age. My first handgun was a Colt New Frontier in .22 LR. I shot this gun everyday and killed a load of rabbits and quail with it. I carried it while horseback and, one day, took two bobcats with it. It was truly a wonderful way to start a handgunning career. Though I loved this little revolver, I always coveted my dad’s Colt Woodsman semi-automatic .22.
I now own a Colt Woodsman almost identical to the one my dad had, and it is by far one of my favorite handguns, regardless of caliber. Mine is a pre-war Woodsman and is made like a fine Swiss watch. It feels great in the hand and is very accurate. I’ve carried that little Woodsman quite a bit over the years and probably shouldn’t, since their values have gone up considerably over the last number of years.
Another favorite .22 pistol of mine is the Walther Arms PP. A few years ago, I was paid a visit by my old brush beating compadre, Lance Olson, an NRA Board Member and Iowa wildfowl expert. Lance had brought along a friend from Iowa, Larry Fizer, and both were torturing me with Walther PP pistols in .22 LR. Upon their departure from my secluded little New Mexico ranchito, I was able to procure one of the little Walthers. I’m amazed at the accuracy of this pistol. Offhand and at considerable distances, my PP is almost scary in its accuracy.
There are any number of fine .22 pistols on the market today, most which are quite affordable and high quality. One of my favorites is the Ruger MKIV. The MKI pistol was Ruger’s flagship from the beginning. That pistol has evolved over the years, and now the MKIV is raging in popularity. It’s much easier to take apart and clean than the previous models, but is just as accurate and fun to shoot.
Anyone planning to get highly proficient with a handgun should consider investing in a good .22 pistol.