By Scott Mayer
Many shooters will recognize Chiappa as the company offering the distinctive Rhino revolver. That innovative design fires from the bottom cylinder resulting in recoil dynamics that tame loads otherwise punishing to shoot in conventional snub-nose revolvers. But that’s not all Chiappa has. They also offer a line of dedicated rimfire guns that replicate the look, feel and function of popular defensive firearms including the 1911 pistol and M4 carbine. New this year is Chiappa’s rimfire version of the Beretta M9 pistol called the M9-22.
In 1990, the Beretta Model 92 became the official U.S. military sidearm designated as the M9. For shooters who haven’t served in the military, the civilian Beretta 92 series dates back to 1976 and it was essentially an improvement over Beretta’s earlier Model 951 “Brigadier” that dates back to 1952. Taurus has its popular versions of the Model 92, so it’s safe to say the design is well known and in the hands of many American shooters. To the best of my knowledge Chiappa is the only manufacturer offering a dedicated rimfire M9-style gun.
Ask anyone who is really good at what they do, and they will tell you that practice is the key to refining their skill to a level that sets them apart from their peers. That holds true for shooting, too, as accuracy and good tactics are both perishable skills. But while a boxer needs nothing more than his shadow and a violinist some rosin, shooting practice requires an expensive consumable–ammunition. Dry firing and dummy guns can get you only so far before you have to take the leap to live ammo, and a dedicated rimfire bridges the gap between an empty gun and expensive centerfire loads.
I personally think that the closer your rimfire practice gun is to your actual carry gun, the better, because the movements you develop in practice will spill over to your carry gun. I really like my Ruger MKIII pistol and use it to practice marksmanship all the time. But when it comes to practicing drawing and firing, firing from the retention position, and anything else that involves personal defense-type shooting, I’m using a dedicated .22-caliber 1911 that functions exactly as my personal defense .45.
At first glance, you’d be hard pressed to see a difference between the Chiappa and a Beretta. They even fit the same holsters. Two versions are available–Standard and Tactical. The Standard is just that–standard. It comes with wood or black plastic stocks and drift-adjustable sights. The Tactical comes with only black plastic stocks, has Novak-style fiber-optic sights, and for those who like a little “cool factor,” a fake suppressor.
We had a chance to shoot the Chiappa M9-22 at Media Day. When it comes to how closely the Chicappa replicates the real thing, the best judge of our group was George Wehby who carried a Beretta M9 as a Marine, and a Beretta 92 FS as a Prince Georges County, MD, police officer.
Wehby was adamant that this semi-auto has the same heft and balance as its 9mm counterpart (it weighs within two ounces) that he carried for years saying, “ The way it feels; yes, they got it.” Controls are identical to the Berretta right down to the safety lever that functions as a decocker. Wehby was also impressed with the single-action trigger pull, and thought the double-action was a valiant effort, but remarked that the 92 is Beretta’s “baby” and that Chiappa is not going to beat them there. The safety lever also was not as crisp as Wehby remembers the Beretta, saying it felt “thick” and seemed to hang up some. When those issues were brought up to Chiappa, they acknowledged the double-action pull and replied were still tweaking it.
There are a lot of good rimfire pistols on the market, but the closer one is to your actual defensive gun, the more readily your practice transitions to the real deal. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for having a rimfire conversion to install on your actual defensive gun, but I’m equally a fan of a dedicated gun if for no other reason than it’s an excuse to buy another gun. If you’re one of the many people who use an M9 or Model 92 variant, Chiappa’s dedicated M9-22 is one option to consider for economical practice.