There is no shortage of quality .22 pistols on the market today, and there is seemingly a model and accompanying variant that can suit any task or purpose.
From intricately crafted Olympic-grade free pistols that can produce hair-splitting accuracy to ruggedized, optic ready fullsize handguns that closely replicate their service caliber counterparts.
The only possible explanation for not finding the .22 pistol you need is that you just did not look hard enough.
Two semi-auto .22’s that we are going to compare and contrast today are among the most popular in the general purpose category.
The first, Ruger’s SR22, is one of the newer rimfire offerings from a company that is virtually synonymous with rimfire handguns thanks to their legendary Mark I through IV pistols.
Walther’s P22 was, at the time of its introduction, a paradigm-shifting handgun that has been copied often since its introduction and now enjoys some modern updates moving closer to its two decade mark.
Both are quality handguns. Both occupy the same sort of niche on the rimfire handgun sphere. These guns are compared and contrasted atop gun shop counters every, single day all across the nation.
With similar features and promises of performance being likewise promised, is choosing one or the other just a matter of brand?
Do they have any practical differences beyond the maker’s mark? In today’s article we will try to get to the bottom of that question.
What Do You Need From Your Handgun?
One may compare, contrast and analyze any two guns, or any number of guns that have any set of features against each other in quest of reaching a conclusion.
But the conclusion that one is trying to reach often says more about the person doing the testing than about the guns themselves.
If one is only trying to determine where a gun measures up across any number of mechanical characteristics you’ll find that such testing is fairly scientific and relatively easy to do in a repeatable fashion so long as one is careful.
Where things get tricky is when one drags subjective performance standards and metrics into the equation. Said another way, your goals and preferences might not look like my goals and preferences.
I might be looking for a different set of characteristics than you are in a specific handgun for a specific purpose, or in anything else for that matter.
When two people who have set out to make objective determinations based on their subjective needs bring their findings together this often results in the locking of horns and considerable consternation in comment sections around the internet.
As the old saying goes, you should work your own wires and for that matter you should definitely never, ever read the comments.
These two pistols occupy a specific niche in the rimfire market, both being compact replicas, for lack of a better word, of larger pistols in their respective stables.
While mechanically very different in operation and internally, both guns share the aesthetics and general control layout of their larger brethren, making them attractive options as companion guns to their larger siblings for fans of a specific brand, and to a lesser degree as trainers for those same guns.
In a broader sense these are also general-purpose pistols; more or less equally at home in a self-defense role or a recreational plinking or target shooting role, and both are configured in such a way to be instantly comfortable for the vast majority of semi-auto pistol shooters today.
Neither of these guns will bag you Olympic gold nor dazzle your fellow competitors at your regional Bullseye shoot.
Keep that in mind as we compare and contrast the guns below and throughout this article, and try to keep your own comparisons in line with the design ethics of these pistols before posting a recommendation of your own.
The Specifics: Ruger SR22
First appearing on the market in the first quarter of 2012, Ruger’s SR22 is a straight blowback, DA/SA .22LR pistol. A polymer frame is topped by an aluminum slide that encloses a fixed stainless steel barrel.
Barrel length is 3 ½ inches while the pistol has an overall length of just under 6 ½ inches, with an overall height just a hair under 5 inches. The pistol is a very svelte 17 ½ oz and it measures just a fraction shy of 1” in width.
Capacity is 10 rounds in the magazine plus 1 in the chamber. A visual inspection port allows one to verify by eye the presence of a round in the chamber without need of manipulating the slide.
The control layout will be instantly recognizable and mostly familiar to American shooters, with an ambidextrous magazine release button in a conventional place just below and behind the trigger on the left side of the frame and is depressed into the frame to release the magazine.
The slide release is located immediately above and behind the trigger and is generously proportioned for easy actuation. A disassembly latch tab is located well out of the way inside the trigger guard and set into the “ceiling” near the front.
A mechanical safety is ambidextrous and located rearmost on the frame in approximately the same position as a 1911, but curiously the safety is awkwardly pushed upward to place the pistol on fire and down to place the pistol on safe, contrary to the typical function of safeties in this location.
Pushing the safety down into the on-safe position does safely decock the hammer, however.
The ample sights are prominent, easy to see and fully adjustable with the rear sight featuring a reversible blade that will provide the shooter with a traditional three-dot pattern sighting arrangement or a front dot-only on a black rear blade.
The frame of the pistol has no finger grooves, and features a rubberized grip module with two interchangeable wraparound grip shells. A conventional picatinny-style rail is molded into the dust cover of the pistol and will accept compact lights and lasers.
The Specifics: Walther P22Q
Walther’s P22Q is a modestly updated and modernized version of their rightly famous P22, first introduced way, way back in 2002 weren’t helped to usher in the era of the so-called tactical rimfire; smaller, full-featured handguns that replicated the overall layout and control characteristics of semi-auto service pistols.
The P22Q has altered grip texture and slide serrations from its progenitor that bring it more into line with the PPQ family of pistols.
Like its competitor, the P22Q is a straight blowback DA/SA .22LR semi-auto pistol with a polymer frame and fixed barrel contained by an aluminum slide.
Barrel length is just a smidge under 3 ½ inches, and the gun has an overall length of 6 ½ inches with an overall height from keel to top of 4 ½ inches.
Weight is a feathery 16 oz., and it is nominally wider than the Ruger at 1 1/10 inches wide. Capacity is again 10+1.
The control layout differs significantly from the Ruger, with the now common dual European-style paddle release inset within the trigger guard located immediately behind and below the trigger itself.
Depressing either lever with the thumb or the trigger finger will release the magazine briskly. The slide release is located in the expected position just above and behind the trigger at the top of the frame.
The slide release lever is more diminutive than the Ruger’s but still easy to actuate with no magazine or a loaded magazine in place. The disassembly latch is a wraparound u-shaped piece placed within the confines of the trigger guard.
The safety is our first major departure, and is an ambidextrous slide mounted lever that rotates clockwise from the down position until it is parallel with the bore for fire, or clicked down for on-safe, identical in actuation if not function to the Beretta 92 family of pistols and others.
The safety has no decocker function, but the gun can be placed on-safe and the trigger still be used to release the hammer so that it may manually be lowered under control with assurance that a mishap will not result in a negligent discharge.
The rear sight is adjustable for windage with elevation being adjusted by replacing the front sight with one of several included various heights. Sight pattern is as expected three-dot.
The frame is aggressively textured for all-conditions traction, has a single finger groove and the backstrap is changeable by drifting out a roll pin. A rail for mounting of lights and lasers is also beneath the barrel on the dust cover.
The Same, But Different
A common observation made about these two pistols is they are basically the same gun with different brands, with the Walther being the original and the Ruger being the copy.
This is not true, although they occupy the same market niche and externally are very similar in regards to overall size, thickness, features, weight and control layout. But, internally, there are significant differences especially in the operation of the trigger and the safety.
From a purely practical standpoint they differ very little in operation or disassembly and you might fairly say that the Ruger cribbed quite a few notes from the Walther, but it is not a complete copy.
A few differences that might make a shooter’s decision one way or the other is the configuration of the safety and the grip options. The Ruger has a wraparound, rubberized grip shell unit that is interchangeable for different sizes.
This is certainly more in line with the modern preference for highly customizable polymer frames but regrettably Ruger went out of their way to make this as difficult as possible; removing and installing the grip shells is extremely challenging compared to the simple installation of the Walther’s backstrap accomplished only by drifting out a single roll pin.
The texture of the Ruger’s grip leaves a little bit to be desired for those who like to workout hard with their guns, with only a few sparse rows of a treaded texture on the very corners of the front strap and continuing around partially onto the side panels.
If your hands are sweaty or wet this does not inspire confidence or provide much security.
The Walther on the other hand features their now-standard eccentric pattern molded into the frame itself. It is grippy in most conditions can afford a more secure purchase for all shooters.
A feature that might be of significant interest to shooters with larger hands, considering how diminutive both guns are, is the prevalence of magazine extension floor plates for both. The Walther magazines will accept only a flat floor plate or a floor plate with a subtle lip for the pinky finger.
The Ruger magazines accept a flat floorplate or a pinky extension that is significantly more generous and combined with its lack of finger grooves on the frame means that those with large hands are more likely to settle into this gun comfortably.
Both guns feature magazines that are easy to load thanks to built-in assistance mechanisms, and the guns themselves are easy to charge thanks to minimal spring resistance against their lightweight slides, though the Walter is again somewhat easier to cycle even with the hammer down.
My biggest bone of contention with the Ruger is the operation of the safety. Though it is positive to manipulate and has very distinctive detents when operated, the actuation of it is the reverse of what a safety should be in this position: the safety moves up for “safe” and down for “fire”.
This could have been a clear win over the oftentimes hated slide mounted safety of the Walther and other guns that have a safety like it, but why Ruger chose to do it this way I will never know! It does have a decocker function which helps to salvage the situation somewhat.
The Walther safety is an okay-or-no-way feature, with some shooters, especially those who are weaned on the Beretta 92 family of pistols, likely to take to it easily enough even if they do not prefer it.
The common gripe about safeties of this nature is that the thumb must awkwardly flick or push it up and forward to the fire position, and then semi-easily swipe it down to the safe position.
The trick in operating safeties of this nature is swiping the extended, raised thumb down and past the safety to pop it forward and up to the fire position, much more easily accomplished thanks to the small size of this gun.
Preference for the magazine releases will likely come down to users alone, and nothing else. Both are entirely functional, and have only minor gripes associated with them.
The Ruger has an ambidextrous button that will be instantly familiar to American shooters, but it is a little bit stiff in operation. The Walther’s ambi lever is not entirely intuitive to those not used to magazine releases of this type, but is very positive once you have the hang of it.
Running the Guns
Where the rubber meets the road for a pistol is always in how it shoots, and little else. So long as the gun is reliable, delivers sufficient accuracy and enables the shooter to produce that accuracy with relative ease, a gun gets a pass from me.
Between two guns that are just as durable and reliable the one that is easier to shoot well is the one I will always choose.
Bottom line up front, the Walther wins here, but with a caveat.
The trigger on the Walther is entirely superior to the Ruger, even in double action mode. The Walther’s double action pull, while heavy, is smooth and a glitch-free with only some noticeable stacking near the very end of the trigger’s travel.
The single action pull is relatively crisp and clean after a fairly significant amount of take up, a nice surprise considering most guns in this category and action have atrocious DA pulls.
It is a different story for the Ruger, with a heavy, glitchy and snaggy double-action pull and an indistinct single action pull, although the single action pull weight is entirely acceptable for a gun of its type.
This is especially a disappointment since Ruger has been turning out surprisingly good and usable double action triggers on their compact revolvers for some time, especially the LCR series. Alas, comparing these two is apples to oranges.
Now, here is where things take a turn for the interesting: The examples of the Ruger SR22 that I have shot consistently turn in better groupings across a variety of different brands of ammo than the comparative Walther P22Q examples.
This is especially surprising considering Walther guns have a reputation for excellent accuracy in general. The average improvement in group sizes obtainable with the Ruger, fired from a heavily supported benchrest position, were anywhere from 25 to 33% better than equivalent groups fired in the Walther.
That being said, the Walther is significantly easier to shoot well with the trigger in any mode, so whether or not you want to work harder to obtain the better accuracy of the Ruger or have an easier time shooting the Walther as best as it can is a calculus I will leave up to you.
Using CCI Mini-Mag, one of my favorite all around .22 LR loads, I was obtaining 10-shot, 25 yard groups averaging 2.8” with the Walthers and 2.2” with the Rugers.
Reliability and Other Observations
Many .22 caliber pistols show a certain amount of ammunition sensitivity. In general, you want to use some fairly stout loads to ensure good function, as it is possible to go with lighter and lighter loads, especially match loads, and see regular malfunctions.
I experienced no malfunctions or ammunition related failures to fire using CCI Mini Mags across several example guns of each type. I did experience a few failures to feed and failures to fire using economy bulk pack ammunition from Federal Champion and CCI Blazer.
Overall, both guns ran well, and would certainly meet my definition for reliable even in a defensive context so long as you stoke them with quality ammunition that you had previously tested for certain function.
On the subject of defensive use, which is not as surprising as you might think when discussing a .22 caliber semi, both guns could certainly fit the bill, although I have reservations about each of them.
I would lean towards the Walther, both for its superior trigger and for its more mature design, but the manual safety is something that will have to be trained on extensively before I was certain and swift enough and its operation to carry it.
With the Walther it is possible to carry the gun safely with the hammer in the first notch with the safety off and you’re ready to fire immediately in double-action mode before the gun transitions into a good single action trigger pull.
Alternately, the gun may be carried with the hammer back in single action mode and the safety engaged, meaning the safety only has to be disengaged and you are out of the gate with a light, easy trigger pull.
The Ruger does not provide as many options in this regard, and the whole thing is made less appealing thanks to nasty double action trigger.
The Ruger may be carried with the hammer down and the safety off, but thanks to the configuration of the safety it is highly likely and indeed easy to inadvertently re-engage the safety when acquiring the firing grip on the draw.
Cocked and locked carry is impossible thanks to the built-in decocker.
So if the Ruger is going to be carried for self-defense, one can get a leg up on getting the gun into gear by carrying it with the safety off in double action mode, but the specter of inadvertent safety re-engagement will always be looming, and is an eventuality that must be trained for.
Even when carried conventionally with the safety engaged, the design and placement of the safety itself does not lend itself to easy or rapid disengagement without substantial practice.
This is a hurdle that can be overcome but it will only be overcome through disciplined practice and application.
My biggest practical gripe with the Ruger is that the grip is downright slippery as soon as your hands get wet from perspiration, water, blood or any other fluid.
The paltry amount of texturing on what is otherwise a smooth and unblemished wrap-around rubber grip turns the gun essentially into a bar of soap in the hand.
The aggressive, eccentric texturing of the Walther is a welcome addition even on a gun this small with so little recoil.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention disassembly. I’m not a person that bases my purchases off how easy or difficult any gun is to disassemble, but it is noteworthy in this review only because other people talk about it so much, and I know I will get comments about it if I did not mention it.
Plainly stated, both guns are pretty simple to disassemble, needing only their respective disassembly latches pulled or flipped down and then the slides are retracted all the way to the rear before the back end of the slide is lifted up off of the rails and then returned forward off of the barrel and frame.
The pain arises with the Walther when it is time to reassemble it, since the lengthy uncaptured recoil spring makes threading the recoil spring guide rod through its length and out through the aperture at the front of the slide quite a trick.
The entire assembly once you have it in place will squirm and wiggle out of alignment making reassembly quite a bear unless one uses a similarly-sized rod to capture the arrangement, or goes through enough revolutions with it that you know the trick.
The trick is to simply push the recoil spring guide rod all the way through its front aperture with the spring in place, and then hold it there with your supporting hand while guiding a slide back over the barrel and on to the frame before releasing it.
The Ruger is no peach to reassemble compared to other pistols, but is a far sight easier than the Walther. If you lack the coordination to handle a delicate procedure that the Walther demands, you might consider getting a walkthrough before committing.
Both the Ruger SR22 and the Walther P22Q are fine rimfire pistols that are suitable for a variety of tasks, from informal target shooting and plinking to the honing of fundamentals and even self-defense.
The Walther has a significant advantage in its nicer trigger and grip texture, where the sights on the Ruger are slightly better but it has a nasty DA trigger and is slippery.
Both guns have cumbersome safeties. Nonetheless, when fed good ammo the reliability is there and both are more than accurate enough for practical tasks. Either is probably deserving of your money depending on your preferences, but my vote goes to the Walther.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.