The Used Market–The Smith and Wesson 22A

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Smith and Wesson 22A-1.

Smith and Wesson 22A-1.

Buy one on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=smith%2022A-1

Welcome to another edition of The Used Market. This is our spin off from The Shooting History series that focuses on some great guns that are not quite classics, but deserve more attention. These may not be highly collected but they are still great guns and can be bargains.  Check out our other articles in the Shooting History and The Used Market by following these links.

A good look down the iron sights.

A good look down the iron sights.

The Smith and Wesson 22A

The Smith and Wesson 22A  has not been out of production for all that long.  Actually it was right about a year ago the Smith officially mothballed this gun, although they didn’t appear to be building them for some time before the announcement. It is possible there might still be a few of these floating around local gun shops that are new, but the vast majority of them will be used.  Smith has since replaced this model with the New Victory and the two pistols do have some similarities. They are both .22 semi-blowback pistols made by Smith and Wesson after all.

One of the nicest features of the 22A is how it takes down for easy cleaning and maintenance. All you have to do it push in the lever/button on the front of the trigger guard and the barrel will lift off and then the slide can be removed.  This also makes for fast and easy barrel swaps. It really is incredibly simple and easy to field strip one of these pistols. It will seem even easier if you have ever taken down some other 22 pistols.  Reassembling a 22A also does not involve having to put the ear protection on the kids so they do not hear you say things that are rather colorful. I am looking at you Ruger.

Specs

The Weaver Style Rail on the 22A.

The Weaver Style Rail on the 22A.

Smith and Wesson has made several different models of the 22A. The common barrel lengths for these pistols are 4″, 5.5″ and 7″. Most of these pistols are made with an alloy aluminum frame with a blued steel barrel and slide, but there was also a stainless steel version made that was marked 22S.  Here are some numbers that apply to most of these pistols.  The length and weight is based off of a pistol with a 5.5″ barrel.

  • Weight: 2.1 pounds empty with magazine
  • Length: 9.5″
  • 10 Round Magazine
  • Integrated Weaver Style Rail on Barrel
  • Partridge Style Front Sight
  • Rear Sight Adjustable for Windage and Elevation
  • Blowback Operated
  • .22 Long Rifle
The mag release button.

The mag release button.

There is one odd feature on these guns and that is the location of the magazine release. The button is on the front of the grip where your fingers wrap around.  Rumor has it that a shooter can accidentally drop the magazine while firing this gun, but we didn’t have that happen. Shooters with small hands may be especially prone to this since their fingers may align with the release.  Some hypothesize that this design is why the 22A did not see much use in competitive shooting, although it was more than capable in function and accuracy.

The other thing that really set this pistol apart from its competitors was the Weaver style rail on the barrel. This of course makes for fast and easy mounting of optics or other sights.

The Review Gun

Feed ramp and barrel end before being cleaned up.

Feed ramp and barrel end before being cleaned up.

The gun that we used for this review has been around the block a few times. Take a look at the pictures to see what I mean. It is safe to say that this was no safe queen.  This one sports a 5.5″ barrel and standard sights.

When I received this Smith 22A it was on the dirty side of clean with a badly leaded barrel. The first trip to the range, I wanted to see how this pistol functioned in its current state. Functionally, there were no issues.  Every round fired cycled as they should.  Accuracy was a bit off for what I felt this pistol was capable of. It wasn’t bad, but these guns have a reputation for being tack drivers and since testing any gun for accuracy with a visibly leaded up barrel isn’t exactly fair it received a good scrubbing, brushing and oiling before a return trip to the range.

Clean gun, 25 yards.

Clean gun, 25 yards.

Shooting

On the second trip to the range the Smith and Wesson 22A once again preformed flawlessly.  I also noticed that the ejected brass was thrown a bit further than it was before. Remember folks, clean and correctly lubricated firearms work better.

Now that the barrel was not slick with lead, the groups tightened up considerably going from about 1.75″ from 25 yards down to under an inch. This is more in line with what one of these pistols should be able to do.  Most of the rounds fired were CCI Green Tag and Mini Mags.  I did run some random Federals, Remington and others just to see if the 22A was a picky eater. It was not.

The trigger on the review gun is nice. It is smooth, crisp and breaks at just a bit over 4 lbs. That is after it was cleaned.  Before being cleaned and lubricated, the trigger was still good, but there was a bit of grit and it was about a half pound heavier. Recoil is exactly what you would expect from a 22 pistol.

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a tight shooting 22 pistol, the Smith and Wesson 22A should meet your needs. That is assuming you are wanting a plinking or even small game gun. The magazine release placement is a drawback for using this pistol as a competition piece even though it would make a good one. Back to the small game use.  With a nice red dot mounted to the rail, this pistol would make a nice squirrel gun–a good one to carry when you are deer hunting but have a shot at something small.  Taking a squirrel with a .22 leaves more useful parts than taking it with your deer rifle. Don’t ask me how I know this.

There is a safety recall on some of 22As. If you have one, or may be buying one, check out this link for more info.

Read More about the New Victory: https://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/we-shoot-the-new-smith-wesson-victory-22-lr-pistol/

Buy a New Victory: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=smith%20victory

My finger didn't hit the mag release, but I can see how it might.

My finger didn’t hit the mag release, but I can see how it might.

Best we could do before cleaning.

Best we could do before cleaning.

Mag well is not beveled, another draw back for this being a competition gun.

Mag well is not beveled, another draw back for this being a competition gun.

The business end.

The business end.

Safety off. Slide release in front of safety.

Safety off. Slide release in front of safety.

The take down lever is right above and in front of the trigger guard.

The take down lever is right above and in front of the trigger guard.

Stainless and welded mags.

Stainless and welded mags.

The extractor.

The extractor.

Curiously curled steel safety.

Curiously curled steel safety.

Dirty rimfire rounds.

Dirty rimfire rounds.

Inside the frame.

Inside the frame.

The slide.

The slide.

The other side.

The other side.

Very easy to service and clean.

Very easy to service and clean.

The hammer.

The hammer.

This hook holds things together.

This hook holds things together.

Velocity is what you'd expect from a full-sized .22 pistol.

Velocity is what you’d expect from a full-sized .22 pistol. These are Ely Match.

Surgical.

Surgical.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Mike Lewis August 2, 2017, 10:27 am

    Having worked at a gun store and selling these I wouldn’t have one at any price ! The mags are a piece of junk. Nearly everyone we sold had mages that literally fell apart. The few we had left sat on the shelf for months. Can’t remember anyone ever saying anything good about one. I’ve learned over the years to take publishers reviews with a grain of salt. Owning or working for a publication does not automatically make one an expert not to mention who would advertise with you if you pointed out the faults of their product. —— mikey

  • Mr. Sparkles May 18, 2016, 10:03 am

    I bought one for my wife when the 9mm I bought her as a first handgun was to much. She had repeated issues with the gun not going bang after loading a new mag. Ended up returning it and got her another one and it had the same issue. As I am an engineer I take everything apart and I found that the mag detection link(whatever you call it) was not consistently catching. I modified the shape of this component and it has been flawless for the last four years. She loves it and the time that she spent with it gave her the confidence to shoot any handgun you hand her. GREAT first gun, great plinking gun and made in Maine so what could be better. 🙂

  • Kivaari May 16, 2016, 9:53 pm

    JUNK. The 22A is just one more pot metal pistol. The metal is what congress wanted stopped, as being the metal found in “Saturday Night Specials”. I owned a gun store. I bought one for the shop. Not having seen them before, I took it apart.
    Inside was a nylon buffer, that was already broken. That nylon buffer was broken at the factory during proof firing. I never bought another one for the shop. Pot metal is junk material when used in guns. Zinc alloys are junk. If a piece breaks, the only alternative is to buy another part. Like in the attached photo the rear of the barrel is beaten. That would be normal for junk.
    It doesn’t matter who makes the gun. If it is Walther .22 or a SIG .22 having a zinc slide, it will self destruct if you actually use them. Unlike guns from the 30-50s, the High Standards, Colt’s or Rugers that could stand up to thousands of rounds of use, pot metal guns fail if used. The companies selling this junk expect most owners to not shoot their pistols. If you like to shoot, ignore these.

  • Noel P. May 16, 2016, 5:06 pm

    Had one for years but never got to like it. It was accurate but not in the model 41 category and I felt it looked cheap. I had no problem getting rid of it and made a decent profit on the pistol. I doubt I would ever buy another one. On the positive side it was well made even if I felt it had too much plastic on it. The magazine release as mentioned earlier was awkward and I felt it had the same problems that all .22 mags have when related to pistols. My little Llama .22 (baby 1911) shoots just as well, is all metal and much handier. The S&W was outsized for its purpose and difficult to carry.

    • Michael A. Stilinovich January 21, 2017, 10:30 am

      To Noel P.,
      How do you know if a gun is manufactured with inferior products ?
      Thanks for the time,
      Mike

  • Winston May 16, 2016, 1:10 pm

    It is a great .22 for honing double tap skills. Fired at least 15,000 rounds through it but likely more than that.

  • rex dickerson May 16, 2016, 10:42 am

    I own the 22S with the adjustable rear sight. It is very accurate and a delight to shoot. I purchased it new from Galyan’s when they were going out of business (12-13 years ago?). After shooting thousands of rounds, I can’t recall when I’ve had a failure to feed. My buddies always want to borrow the 22. If you can find a 22S at a decent price, buy it! You will not be disappointed.

  • Skillet May 16, 2016, 10:24 am

    I have had a 22A for long time and still love it. It’s a total tack driver. I have shot several snakes square in the head with it, as well as some other pesky critters, confident I knew exactly where that lead was going. Target shooting and plinking with it is a lot of fun. I picked up a generic camo nylon holster at a gun show from one of those old mil surplus dealers and it fits great. I’ve never had an issue with the mag release- it has to be depressed a good ways in to disengage, so you would have to really have a death grip on it to drop a mag while shooting. You can’t pimp it out much but if you just want a simple, accurate, dependable 22 for not a lot of scratch it’s a great choice.

  • Harley4ever May 16, 2016, 8:42 am

    I have one for sale. See website. Not sure how many rounds through it but it is still tight and clean. Original box. Will ship to FFL outside of CT.

  • bill May 16, 2016, 7:30 am

    Took me a whole week to get rid of mine. Goofy and uncomfortable grip. Any of my Rugers were better. Rube Goldbergesque mechanism. Homely like a moped date and cheep.

  • Greg May 16, 2016, 7:29 am

    I bought one of those years ago. I love shooting it, but when I went to compete with it, that’s when I found where the shortcomings were, and it’s this, plain and simple–There were/are NO aftermarket accessories for this pistol. If you want different grips, you had one choice–the large oversize S&W grips. If you wanted a better trigger, you had to gunsmith it yourself, If you wanted a slide racker so your kids could shoot it, you had to send the slide to New Jersey to the one guy on eBay who made them. Smith and Wesson decided exactly what you wanted in a pistol and that was it. Compare that to the Ruger or Browning 22s, which you can fully customize with a HUGE aftermarket product line. Suddenly, the ease of maintenance becomes a secondary choice to getting a gun to be exactly what/how I want it. I also predict the Victory will have limited sales for the same reason. Yes, you can take the 22a into the woods and shoot very accurately with it, but good luck finding decent holster for it!

  • Keith May 16, 2016, 5:43 am

    performed, not preformed – all else super! Keep it up.

  • Randy May 11, 2016, 8:24 pm

    I love mine for practice and just plinking. It does not like lower powered rounds though and will jam if using them. I started using Augila ammo a few months ago for the price but it really works well in the S&W 22.

    • Lyle Boehler May 16, 2016, 9:42 am

      I’ve used nothing but sub-sonic ammo in mine. With three different brands, I’ve never had a jam or mis-feed. Nailed many squirrels in my back yard with a Bushnell red-dot scope. I’ll be keeping this pistol for awhile, thank you.

  • Luap May 11, 2016, 2:53 pm

    How loud is it then if hearing protecting isn’t require? Can it use subsonic Ammo? Are there threaded barreled models available? I love a good 22lr… If only there were semiauto ones that could also use 22short and/or had 30rd magazine available, similar to my loved kel-tec Pmr 30.

    • Jim May 11, 2016, 5:31 pm

      I think what he meant by that was that it was easier to dis/reassemble so you wouldn’t curse. The Ruger Mark series of pistols is a pain to reassemble.

      • Ray May 18, 2016, 2:06 pm

        A big ditto to Jim’s comments. I have a Ruger MK II w/bull barrel and reassembly made me increase my vocabulary of obscene words – what a pain in the ass to put back together!

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