Smith and Wesson introduced the most successful revolver of all time in 1899. The Military and Police or .38 Hand Ejector was manufactured in the millions and once armed three-quarters of the police in America. Becoming the Model Ten in 1957, the K frame revolver is the ideal size for daily carry and a well-balanced handgun.
Smith and Wesson offered .22 caliber revolvers on the diminutive I frame. While nice little guns, these ‘kit guns’ lacked the stability and accuracy of larger target-grade revolvers. Later, popular demand resulted in the introduction of a target grade .22 caliber revolver on the K frame. Production began in 1930. The revolver was called the K-22 Outdoorsman. Most of us just call it the K-22.
Smith and Wesson made certain warranties with the revolver including that the single action trigger would break at 3 to 4 pounds and group five shots into less than two inches at 50 yards. Less than 20,000 were produced by the beginning of World War II. Smith and Wesson turned to wartime production, so the K-22 was quickly unavailable. After World War II, all Smith and Wesson revolvers were upgraded.
While I understand the value of finding a pre-war Smith and Wesson to collectors, for shooters, the post war guns are preferred. The new revolver featured the short action. This action was, in most ways, based on action work by distinguished gunsmiths prior to 1940. The new Smith and Wesson adjustable sights were superior to those offered before 1940. The new K-22 also featured a trigger stop, and new barrel rib designed. The six-inch barrel K-22 weighed a solid 38.5 ounces.
Another variation, the K-22 Masterpiece, was offered with a four-inch barrel. This revolver saw some institutional sales. Very similar to the newly introduced .38 Special Combat Masterpiece, the shorter K-22 was never as popular. Many years ago, part of the curriculum as I obtained a Criminal Justice degree, was firing a rather simple course of fire with the four-inch barrel Smith and Wesson.
The four-inch barrel revolver was discontinued in the 1980s. The Smith and Wesson side plate was changed on all models in 1955, and a few years later, all Smith and Wesson revolvers were given model numbers. The K-22 became the Model 17 and the four-inch barrel version became the Model 18. A .22 Magnum version was offered as the Model 48.
There are variations of the type of interest primarily to collectors. I am a shooter. I have owned the four-inch barrel versions. I owned a brilliantly accurate 8 3/8-inch barrel version that I used to win a few handgun silhouette matches. Not sure why I sacrificed it, but there must have been a pressing need. The K frame received several general improvements in the late 1970s that made the centerfire revolvers more able to stand up to a steady diet of +P and magnum loads. The pinned barrel was eliminated a few years later. Later came the stainless 617 and a 10-shot cylinder. These are all nice revolvers and one may suit the individual more than another. As for myself, I prefer the original six-inch barrel format.
The K-22 illustrated features a six-inch barrel with full-length grip, Micrometer sights, target hammer, and wide target trigger and trigger stop. The grips are Rogers hard plastic grips. The action is buttery smooth to use a well-worn phrase. The single action trigger has settled into 3.2 pounds. It’s a sharp trigger that leaves nothing to be desired. While most target shooters will cock the hammer for maximum accuracy potential, I most often fire the piece double action.
At most shooting ranges, with the targets limited to 25 yards, this revolver is plenty accurate in the double action mode. This is also great practice for centerfire companions to the K-22. I fire the piece often and find it a complete joy to fire and use. I have taken small game with it, but not enough!
The sights are easily sighted in. The weight is a good balance and it most often rides in a Galco Wheelgunner holster. I have fired .22 shorts out of curiosity but cannot recall firing a short, long, or standard velocity load in recent memory. 40-grain High Velocity loads are plentiful and affordable.
As for ammunition selection, most ammunition I have tested is more than accurate enough. I have narrowed the choice in hunting ammunition down to the Winchester Super X 40-grain at 980 fps or CCI Mini Mag 36-grain at 1,000 fps. Both offer excellent accuracy and effect on small game. The Hyper velocity bullets are often not as accurate, but then again, they are more than accurate enough for most uses. On a good day when all goes well, a five-shot group from a solid benchrest at 25 yards will result in a 1.5-inch group. That is a good standard for an iron sighted handgun.
The K-22 is a classic revolver with both collector and shooter value. It is a must have handgun for serious handgunners.
Do you have a favorite rimfire pistol? Share yours in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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