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Smith and Wesson has had a lot of experience with .22 LR autoloaders. Matter of fact, one of my recent reviews was about their M&P Compact .22. They make a lot of different models. Friend Duane has in his gun case a like-new Model 41 Target pistol with two barrels – one has a red dot mounted. Talk about the ultimate .22 LR pistol.
Introduced in 1957 to the general public, this gun has been a mainstay of the bullseye circuit for decades. The company definitely has a way with rimfire pistols. They made a few other .22s over the intervening years.
In 2015, the company introduced the .22 Victory, model SW22. The gun was basically a shot across the bow of Ruger’s Mark series of guns. Until the Mark IV came out, one could take their Ruger rimfire pistol apart. No problem. But – getting it back together usually involved cursing, invectives, items thrown against the wall, jumping up & down… I exaggerate, but I remember my experience in this area. I have owned two Ruger rimfire “Marks” (the first, a Mark I, bought for me upon my leaving their high school in 1978 by an appreciative band – wouldn’t happen today!). I owned first this Mk. I and then a Mk. II 22/45. I took the first gun mentioned apart and had to have help getting it back together. I tried not to cuss but I knew all the words… it was an exercise in frustration. So, S&W brought out a rimfire that had one Allen-headed screw holding the upper slide assembly to the frame. Take that screw out and pop ‘em apart. Heck, go further aft on the barrel assembly and remove that second screw in order to replace the barrel…easy! Once you have the “top” off, slide the bolt out and clean away. That’s it. I have just given disassembly instructions. Reverse the process to put things back. Just make sure to keep that first screw tight.
Ruger replied with the Mk. IV, introduced one year after the Victory came out, in 2016. This gun upped the takedown ante by placing a button on the back of the receiver. Press this button and remove the bolt/barrel assembly. That’s it.
And, the Ruger is a heck of a gun. So, the “Rimfire Takedown Wars” have taken yet another turn. Meanwhile, the Browning Buckmark still requires you to remove two screws to separate the upper assembly from the frame, 50% more than the Victory requires. I guess Browning’s not interested in playing the game. And – why should they be? I think they sell just about all the Buckmarks they can make. (Of course, these are not normal times – just about every gun manufacturer on the face of the earth is selling all they can make). At any rate, the shooter has some distinctive choices as to what flavor of .22 pistol he or she wants to buy.
Browning Buckmark URX, one of 119 models shown on their website. I might have miscounted…my eyes went crossed after about number 91. I have never seen so many gun models on any single manufacturer’s website as I did here. Of course, some of those are listed as Discontinued, but they’re still there. What has this got to do with our Victory? This shows how deep the rimfire pistol market is. I did not count Ruger’s entries but rest assured, they’re in it for keeps as well. Bill Ruger’s very first gun was a .22 autoloading pistol, in 1949. So, we see that rimfire pistols are here to stay.
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The Victory Vs. The “Marks”
First – the name Victory. Why Victory? I can’t be sure, but I’d bet S&W resurrected the “Victory” moniker for this pistol. That name had been applied to revolvers sent “across the pond” to Great Britain during WWII. The guns were the Model 10, in .38/200 for the Empire and .38 Special for our soldiers, Marines and sailors who used them. Many of their serial numbers began with “V”. Over 500,000 were made. I think it appropriate to re-use that appellation here – S&W is seeking a “victory” of sorts in the rimfire wars. This is one nice gun, to be sure.
Now – the “Marks” – as stated above, I’ve owned two of them. I find that the Victory differs from them in a few areas. Remember, these are strictly my opinion but it comes from decades of owning Rugers and my new experiences with the Victory.
Fit: I think the Victory fits my hand better than the Rugers did. The grip is a bit wider but allows the gun to settle down a bit lower for a higher grip than I could get on my Mk. I/II.
Accuracy: This is not a fair comparison, as I mounted a pistol red dot on the S&W but could not do so on the others. (At any rate, when the Mk. I was given to me, only Buck Rogers had such gizmos!). If we consider practical accuracy no matter how it’s achieved, the S&W wins. I could shoot the Mk. II pretty well, but without the gun fitting my hand totally, accuracy never was what it should’ve been. And, let’s face it – when I got the Mk. II, there were not that many brands of .22 pistols out there that I could afford. So I was limited to what was on dealer’s gun shelves in my price range.
Grips: The grips on both brands of guns are (were) similar to each other. The Ruger Mk. II tended to slip around in my hand more, however – I mentioned above that the S&W grip was a bit wider. This allows me to grab it, wrap my fingers around it and achieve a better overall hold than I could with the Rugers.
Weight: The Victory wins the weight war, if winning is decided by how heavy a gun is and how it “sits” in the hand. The S&W weighs 36 ounces, more than the lightweight MK IV but less than the Ruger Target Model version. I find that I can hold the 36-ounce weight a bit easier than the heavier 45 ounces of the Ruger Target model, and the Victory settles down in the hand easier than the 25 ounce weight of the Lite version Ruger. If the purpose of the Victory was simply plinking, 25 ounces would work but it is a target model and I appreciate its weight.
Magazines: Both company’s magazines are similar, with a pull-down loading button. The Ruger’s button was a bit larger and more comfortable to use. I’m still not sure why, if a gun the size of a Taurus TX-22 can use a 16-round magazine, why either S&W or Ruger provides only 10-round magazines with their rimfires. I get it, restrictive states, but Taurus provides both 10-round and 16-round, magazines depending on the state it’s shipped to. I just don’t get it.
Barrels: I owned the pencil-thin “Luger-ish” Mk. I and the bull-barreled Mk. II. I prefer the S&W 5.5-inch target barrel for three reasons: it seems to be more accurate (sights notwithstanding), it’s easily replaced, and it has a deep muzzle crown.
Sights: I prefer the S&W brighter fiber optic sights, but the Ruger’s black blades probably would lend themselves to more precision. They were true target sights. As for optics, the S&W makes it easy to add one – the rail to do so is in the box when you buy the gun. That’s one of the reasons I wanted the Smith.
We see that both pistols are excellent for their intended purposes – I just prefer the Victory. Let’s take a look at the specifications now…
|Action:||Single action, hammer-fired|
|Trigger pull weight:||3 lbs, 12 oz. measured|
|Sights:||Fully-adjustable rear, front post with fiber optic inserts|
|Capacity:||Two 10-round magazines|
|Safeties:||Thumb; magazine disconnect|
|Construction:||Stainless steel, barrel/frame|
Make sure to have the Allen key handy that it came with, or one of your own. Here’s the takedown screw:
Bright fiber optic pipes and adjustability ensure good visibility and precision.
The one thing I don’t like – the magazine disconnect safety, silver bar above. It must be pushed up to allow the gun to fire. Never have been a fan of magazine disconnect safeties.
This one is polymer, which I’m OK with but if you want a steel one, they’re out there.
The manual says to not remove the spring for everyday cleaning.
Just unscrew this second Allen-headed screw and the barrel slides off. Replace with a carbon fiber or other barrel for a custom experience.
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Shooting The Victory
I tried different types of .22 LR ammo with my Victory. They included:
- Federal Champion 40-grain RN
- Winchester Super Speed 40-grain RN
- Winchester DynaPoint 40-grain RN
- Winchester 36-grain HP
- CCI MiniMag 40-grain Target RN
All of the above shot well. I shot, at my back yard range, at 20 yards (first set of targets). All are 10 shots, except for the CCI which is 9. Here are the targets:
And, just for fun – a couple of 25-yard targets after I got the red dot sighted in.
…and, my best effort:
Except for the flyer, I got what amounts to a one-hole group. This was my best target and speaks volumes for the accuracy of both the gun and load.
Wow. What can I say? Granted, I didn’t put all shots for each type of ammo into one hole, but for me, this ain’t bad. One of my goals for this Victory is to turn it into a squirrel gun. Looks like I’ve got a decent head start. Another point – velocities. I chronographed two of the loads, the Winchesters. I was pleasantly surprised at the velocities. The Super Speed went 1187 f.p.s., with the DynaPoint registering at 1201 f.p.s. I didn’t chrono the others – I’ve had experience with them in the past and have not been impressed with their velocities. It doesn’t matter – they are good plinking loads. It seems that this Victory barrel produces higher velocities than other .22 pistols or revolvers I’ve shot. That’s a good thing. I can’t wait to get into the woods with this rig and see what it will do. Sometimes, in order to get ready for small game, I’ll put tiny targets – an old ball, a clay pigeon – up at 50 yards and have at it. If I’m close, then I’m happy. This is one accurate gun.
One Small Glitch
I had mostly good experiences with the Victory, except for one area… I had numerous failures to eject. I couldn’t get through one magazine without one or two empties getting stuck. The empty case would either get caught in the upper chamber beside the new round or would stovepipe. I was concerned, so I turned to my gunsmith “expert” of sorts: YouTube. I found that this was common for new Victories and had an easy fix. I just bent the ejector toward the centerline a half-millimeter or so. I first went too far, and the bolt couldn’t open, so I pushed it back a bit. I then loaded 10 rounds in one of the magazines and proceeded to shoot all 10 as fast as I could pull the trigger. I haven’t had a hang-up since. Problem solved.
The Victory also has a magazine disconnect safety. I am not a fan of those. It is easily remedied, but I’m not about to tell you how to defeat a factory safety feature – you’re on your own for that one.
To Red Dot Or Not To Red Dot?
As you can tell from the photos above, this gun comes with some excellent iron (open) sights. Fiber optic all around, the rear is adjustable and the front is a darker green for contrast. I have to admit, though, that I bought the Pinty red dot (and green dot – it does both, with 5 levels of intensity and different reticles) specifically for this gun, before I had it as I knew I was going to get it, so I went ahead with the optic.
Why would I take a perfectly-good, adjustable fiber optic rear sight off a brand new gun and replace it with an inexpensive red dot? Because getting old is making it harder to focus on three sight planes at once. The open sights require you to line up the front sight with the target with whatever hold you’re using and then center it all in the rear sight, concentrating on the front sight. I know, this is how you shoot most handguns and quite a few rifles and I’ve done this for over 40 years. But… my eyes now have glasses sitting in front of them most all the time and it’s hard for me to line up the gun and targets with progressive trifocals. Hence – the red dot. As those of you who use red dots know, all you have to do is spot the target and stick the dot on the place you want the bullet to go, once it’s sighted in for that gun. One sight plane – easy peasy. But – I found out that it aided my accuracy but didn’t guarantee it as the dot can wiggle around on the target. Good, old-fashioned marksmanship habits are still required. I am in the process of obtaining other sights (including lasers) to test and will hopefully write about them in due course but suffice it to say that this cheapie red dot really enhances my practical accuracy.
The gun itself is a dream to shoot. Weighing in at 36 ounces, this is no lightweight. Weighing almost as much as a full-size 1911 (but with a bit of a steeper grip angle), it sits well in the hand. The bull barrel helps pull the balance a bit to the front and it holds on target fairly easily. The trigger was not bad. Of course, there are aftermarket triggers that you can get for the gun but I am happy with the one on it.
Speaking of aftermarket parts, there is a whole cottage industry growing up around this pistol. I guess that before S&W brought the gun out on the market, they took it to Volquartsen, who started producing aftermarket barrels, etc. for it. Another company big into Victory parts is Tandemkross. Triggers, charging handles, grips – there’s no excuse for not “fixing up” your new range toy!
I surely think you could do worse than the Victory, if you are looking for a decent .22 pistol that won’t break the bank. For a full list price of $416, you get a gun that performs well, is very accurate, easy to take down and that has a myriad of after-market bits & pieces that enhance it further. Factor in a real-world price of around $380 and you have a winner. Even given the fact that I had to bend the ejector a bit, I still think it’s a good buy. When I look at that CCI MiniMag group above, I’m encouraged both by the gun’s accuracy and my shooting with it. As we know, confidence in your gun and your ability to shoot it well is half the battle. If you’ve read many of my reviews, you might look at some of my targets and wonder what shotgun I was using. At least the Victory and its red dot helped me out here.
So, if you want a decent .22 pistol and are not locked into the Ruger or Browning camps, give the Victory a look – I think you’ll be glad you did. If you have one of these, feel free to chime in below with a comment. As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe!