Smith & Wesson Model 22A
Now that my BAG Day purchase has arrived, and I've had a chance to play with it a bit, I figure it's about time to get a post up on it.
I ordered the model with the 7" barrel. A full length sight rail is standard, along with target sights. There are not very many cross slots machined in the sight rail, so mounting a red dot sight may require having one additional slot machined in the rail. I machined the slot with a milling machine, then re-blackened the aluminum with Brownell's Aluma-black, which did the job and kept it from looking like a "Bubba Job."
The barrel is removable with the push of a button, almost exactly the same as on the later push button take-down High Standards. It works well.
The slide and barrel are steel, and the frame appears to be an aluminum casting. The model 22S is very similar to the 22A, but the frame is stainless steel, rather than aluminum. The rubber grip feels a little boxy in your hand, but not bad at all. The adjustable rear target sight is better than average.
Field stripping the 22A is easy, so regular cleaning doesn't require a lot of fooling around to get it back together. To strip it, you remove the magazine, lock the slide back and verify the chamber is empty, push the barrel retention button, lift the front of the barrel a few inches, and lift it off the frame. The slide and spring can then be lifted off, and you are ready for cleaning. Reassembly is also straight-forward. Reinstall the slide and spring. There is a small hook on the bottom rear of the sight rail that engages the top of the frame near the rear of the slide. Hook that into place, then lower the barrel down, push in the barrel retention button, and lower the barrel the rest of the way onto the frame. If it's fully seated, the barrel retention button should be back out to it's normal position. Release the slide and let it drop against the barrel a couple of times to be sure everything is seated, and you're finished!
The magazine release location is somewhat unusual. It's in the front of the grip, the same as on the Models 622, 422, and 22S. Once I got used to the location, I really started to like it, as it's easy to find with the tip of your middle finger, and you can push the button without releasing much of your grip. When you push in a magazine, it pushes against a spring loaded pin that allows the disconnector to engage the sear. When the magazine is out of the gun, this makes it unable to fire. A side benefit of this is that when you push the mag release, the spring loaded pin launches the magazine out of the frame very nicely.
One of the first things I did was take it apart, look inside, and see what I could do to improve it. Mass produced products in the lower price ranges often don't have the fit and finish one would expect from a more expensive product, but that doesn't keep you from doing a little polishing and fitting yourself. Sometimes the results can be amazing from just a little attention to detail, making a pistol have a completely different nature and feel.
A rough (pun intended) rule of thumb is that there isn't much inside a pistol that works better rough rather than smooth, particularly with parts that slide against each other. There are places where sharp edges are important, such as the hammer and sear, so don't go rounding stuff off unless you know what you are doing. In fact, if you aren't pretty sure of what you are doing, talk to a gunsmith before doing anything. You should also keep in mind that any polishing you do may, and probably will, void any warrantee, and the factory will probably refuse to work on it if it needs repair.
While I had the 22A apart I smoothed up a lot of sliding contact areas. I also did a bit of trigger work to get the trigger pull down a bit. The hammer, hammer strut, and hammer strut spring can be a pain to re-install unless you have some sort of a strut spring compressor tool. I would recommend not removing those parts unless absolutely necessary.
After I got it all reassembled, I headed to the range to see how it shoots. The 22A has a reputation for being picky as to ammo, so I brought a good assortment of brands to try. I discovered that 22A's do not like hollow points, or more specifically, any squared off bullet nose, as it will catch in the little square holes in the front of the magazine where the magazine retention button engages the magazine, and the bullet will not come up past that point. It usually seemed to happen most often when you start with a full magazine, and after the first round was fired, the stack would fail to feed from there. If you load only eight or nine rounds, it seemed to feed OK, but would still jam once in a while. I tried it with five different magazines and they all had the same problem.
More rounded nose bullets, such as CCI Blazers, Mini-Mags, and CCI Standard Velocity all worked well, with the Mini-Mags and CCI Standard Velocity ammo working the best of what I tested.
As you can see in the picture, the more squared off bullets like the two on the left gave most of the feeding problems. The one on the right gave no problem at all. Ideally you want a long taper on the nose of the bullet with a small diameter radius on the tip.
The Smith & Wesson Model 22A is a very reasonably priced .22 pistol, and it gives you a lot for your money. A little investment of time and gunsmithing expertise can make it noticeably better, without having to by any aftermarket parts. The red dot scope makes a nice addition, particularly for those of us without eyes like eagles, and the feel and balance with the red dot in place is good.
With the exception of the hollow point magazine feeding problem, I was very satisfied with the 22A, and would recommend it as a good plinker/club level match pistol for anyone. It is one of the least expensive .22 auto pistols on the market, and gives you a lot of value for the money.
If you are looking for a reasonably priced .22 pistol, you should definitely give the 22A a hard look. It might be just what you're looking for......