Semi-automatic .22 pistols tend to be geared toward either target shooting or casual shooting; think of it as “bullseyes vs. cans”. Target pistols tend to have longer barrels, which allows greater separation between the front and rear sights (the sight axis) for more precise aiming; they also tend to be somewhat weightier, to help steady your aim. By contrast, pistols for casual shooting tend to be light to shoot a long time without fatigue, and they often are shorter in barrel length for convenience in handling.
I’ve always liked the concept of the casual .22 pistol, and several years ago I chose a Walther P22 for that role; however, I’ve never been real enthusiastic about how Umarex (Walther’s owner, and the actual pistol maker) implemented it. I’ve read good things about the Ruger SR22 pistol, so recently when I was shooting at the range and John told me he had one in stock, I immediately stepped out of the range and bought it.
I’ve been shooting it side by side with one of my P22s for the past few days, and have run several hundred rounds of various ammo through both. The P22 I’ve used is one of the older models; the P22Q is what you will actually see on store shelves. However, they are virtually the same pistol, and what I’ve mentioned here for the P22 also applies to the P22Q model.
- Umarex (parent company of Walther) is the actual maker of the “Walther” P22, and though the pistol is made in Germany, it’s not made at Walther’s main Ulm facility. Those expecting the fit and finish of a Walther PPK or PPS are going to be disappointed; it’s adequate, but not exceptional. Smith & Wesson imports the pistol, and supplies warranty coverage.
- One of the biggest gripes about the P22 is the slide material. It is a zinc alloy called ZAMAK, and is often disparagingly referred to as “pot metal”. It is unable to be plated, and has been known to crack over time.
- It has a polymer frame.
- Magazines are stainless metal and hold 10 rounds, with a button to pull down the follower, and a small finger rest built in.
- There is an accessory rail under the barrel.
Ruger makes the SR22 pistol in the United States, to typical Ruger standards. To my eyes, fit and finish are better on the Ruger than the P22.
- The slide is anodized aluminum, which will hold up much better than the ZAMAK.
- It also has a polymer frame.
- The magazines are blued metal and hold 10 rounds, with a button to pull down the follower. Each magazine comes with two floorplates: with and without a finger rest.
- There is a Picatinny rail under the slide for accessories, with 3 cross slots for placement.
Winner: Definitely Ruger
These are both small framed pistols, with proportionally sized grips; if you have large hands, neither pistol is going to feel good.
- The Walther’s grip is hard plastic and ergonomically shaped. There are two backstraps to choose from: small and not so small. To swap between the two, you need to punch out a pin and swing out the backstrap.
- The pinky extension of the magazines noticeably help your grip.
- The Ruger’s grip is a hard rubber sleeve that slips firmly and securely over the magazine well: pull off and push on. There are two sleeves to choose from: small and not so small. No bumps, but there are grooves to help keep a good grip.
- Both magazine floorplates give you more grip, with the finger rest giving you slightly more. My hands fit the pistol well with either floorplate in place; those with larger hands said the floorplate with the pinky rest noticeably improved their grip.
Winner: It’s a rough tie, though people at the range tended to prefer the Ruger by a bit when they handled both pistols.
- The Walther has an ambidextrous safety lever at the back of the slide: up for fire, down for safe. Two little white letters indicate the safe and fire positions.
- There is no decocker; to lower the hammer, you need to pull the trigger.
- The magazine release is am ambidextrous paddle below the trigger guard, a style only found on Walther and HK pistols. You either love it or hate it, and regardless, it takes some adjustment unless you are used to shooting Walther or HK pistols.
- It has a slide release, and does lock the slide back when the magazine is empty.
- It has a magazine safety; without the magazine, the trigger is completely disengaged.
- The Ruger has an ambidextrous safety below the slide, toward the back; it is easy to reach with your shooting thumb. Up for fire, down for safe. There is a big obvious red patch to see when the safety is off.
- The safety is also a decocker, and when used lowers the hammer with no chance of discharge.
- The magazine release is an ambidextrous button at the base of either side of the trigger guard; it does not get in the way of your grip, and works well in both directions.
- It has a slide release, and does lock back the slide when the magazine is empty.
- It has a magazine safety; without the magazine, the trigger is completely disengaged.
Winner: Definitely Ruger. The safety is easier to manipulate, and has a decocker. The magazine release is also a plus for people unaccustomed to a Walther or HK pistol.
I’ve simplified the descriptions, to only go into as much detail as I must to compare the two.
- Field stripping the P22 involves pulling down on a “U” shaped piece of plastic under the slide (inside the trigger guard), then pulling the slide back over the hammer and allowing it forward.
- The recoil spring of the P22 is NOT captured to the guide rod, and is notorious for being a pain to put back on. There are a couple tricks you can use to get it back on without it jumping out to goodness knows where, but it’s not fun.
- The barrel can be removed by unscrewing a nut, pulling off a barrel sleeve, and then taking out the barrel.
- Rack the slide, flip a lever in front of the trigger (it’s inside the trigger guard), and pull off the slide the same way as the P22.
- The spring is not captured to the guide rod, but assembling or reassembling the pistol has virtually no risk of losing the spring.
- There is a provision to remove / change out the barrel by loosening a single hex nut.
Winner: Definitely Ruger. The flip lever is easier to manipulate than the P22 equivalent, and the recoil spring setup is much better.
I shot both pistols side by side with various ammo, including Aguila target ammo (lead), Fiocchi target ammo (lead), CCI Velocitors, CCI Mini-Mags, Winchester bulk, CCI AR Tactical .22, CCI Green Tag, and Remington bulk. A minimum of two magazines for each ammo type.
- The P22 did fine on all the CCI ammo, and the Remington bulk.
- The P22 choked on the lead nosed bullets from Aguila and Fiocchi.
- The P22 had one FTF on the Winchester, but did OK on the rest.
- The Ruger ran all ammo but one without any issues.
- One of the other shooters did run into a dud cartridge in the Remington bulk, but chucked it before I could check if it was a light primer strike. Tentatively, I’m going to blame the ammo for that, not the gun.
- The Aguila wasn’t hot enough to fully rack the slide; the cartridge fired, the brass ejected, but the slide didn’t go back far enough to pick up the next round. Manually racking the slide worked fine, and there were no failure to feed (FTF) issues from doing so.
Winner: Definitely Ruger – especially since the Ruger was brand new and the P22 was broken in.
Accuracy / Consistency
I shot both pistols to a distance of 7 yards, with a mixture of shooting both freehand and on a pistol rest; at Shooter’s Depot, that’s the middle line on the range. I also had my wife and a couple bullseye competitors shoot the pistols and compare the two.
- The P22 consistently shot somewhat scattered groups compared to the Ruger, both freehand and on the rest.
- The P22 has a windage adjustable rear sight; elevation is altered by replacing the front sight post.
- The rear sight is not replaceable, so there are no aftermarket rear sights for it.
- The Ruger consistently shot tighter for any given ammo than the P22. In particular, it seemed to like the Remington bulk the best for groups.
- The Ruger’s rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation.
- The blade is reversible to give you the choice of either two white dots or a solid black blade.
- One person who shot it noted that one of the rear dots was slightly closer to the notch than the other.
- The rear sight is dovetailed, and will lend itself better to aftermarket sights. Right now no one makes any, but the gun is relatively new.
Winner: Definitely Ruger; groups were tighter, and sights (elevation in particular) were easier to adjust.
Both of these pistols are oriented toward causal shooting. You can shoot accurately with them, but their lighter weight (half that of a Ruger Mark III), and shorter sight axis means the shooter has to work harder at it than if they had an actual target pistol.
Overall, the Ruger is by far the better of the two – more reliable, tighter shooting, easier to disassemble, and better placed controls. My only complaints are two: ditch the magazine safety (which to be fair the P22 also has), and come out with a third, even larger grip sleeve. I’m hoping this pistol prompts Umarex to fix some of the shortcomings in the P22 design.
Bottom line: the Ruger SR22 is the gun the P22 should have been.
A big Thank You to Michael A. for reviewing and comparing the two firearms for us. Michael is a frequent contributor to The Firing Lane forums, and he is the owner of both firearms being reviewed. We hope you find his observations useful.