A Nurse with a Gun

Friday, January 13, 2006

Why the K-22?

I recently blogged on my desire for a Smith & Wesson K-22, and I was asked a very pertinent question in my comments.
Could you please enlighten me as to what makes the K-22 so special? All I see - in my ignorance, no doubt - is a terribly overpriced .22 revolver."

Well, at one time, I would have asked the same question. I was shooting 9mm wonder guns back then, and had an aversion for any rotisserie guns. They were old man specials, and I eschewed them with relish.

Then, one day at a gun show, I purchased a Smith & Wesson Model 49. The barrier was broken. Before I knew what had me, I trawling pawn shops for more polished, blued, pinned & recessed Smith & Wesson iron. Being able to pick up a hand fitted revolver for under $200 made these guns as irresistible to me as pork chops to a bull terrier.

A gun is worthless if you cannot reliably hit what you are shooting at. Marksmanship is founded on trigger control and sight alignment. Being able to hold one's sights on target while pulling back a revolver's double action trigger to the point of sear release is a marksmanship skill that is the epitome of trigger control. Shooting a .357 magnum or .38 special revolver well in double action is the zenith of handgun marksmanship. Many simply toss in the towel and claim it is a skill that cannot be mastered by mortals. Analyzing the problem however, reveals the trouble is not the inherent accuracy of the gun, but the shooter's inability to harness that accuracy. The act of pulling the double action trigger often pulls the sights out of alignment.

So, how does one correct this? By training the hands. Muscle memory is built by many many trigger pulls. Of course, dry firing can provide that benefit, right? It does, but with one exception......dry firing only yields subjective feedback to the shooter. Shooting a .22 pistol at a target yields solid undeniable feedback, and in so doing, gives faster results towards building skills. I use a .22 pistol to build trigger skills on semi autos. The double action revolver trigger is significantly different from a .22 pistol though. So, why not a S&W revolver to build trigger skills for the K frame?

The Smith & Wesson revolver trigger is unique. It's long, firm double action pull demands dedication and diligence to master, then regular shooting to maintain proficiency. A Smith & Wesson revolver has the ability to shoot one hole groups double action IF the shooter is up to the task. One thing is almost certain, if a man can shoot a double action revolver well, he will shoot almost any handgun well.

The Smith & Wesson K-22 has exactly the same feel and trigger pull as a K frame .38 special, or a K frame .357magnum. Thus, a shooter can train on the double action S&W trigger while shooting ammo that is very inexpensive, often shooting until they are exhausted.

So, what is that kind of trigger control worth to you? $500? $350? To build the skill, you can shoot thousands of rounds of .38 special. The cheapest .38 special I can find is about $16 per 100 rounds, thus $500 buys roughly three thousand rounds of training. The other alternative is to use that same $500 to buy another gun, with the same trigger, weight and feel, that shoots a less expensive caliber. If you find a decent used gun for $350 (my price limit) the $150 difference buys 7500 rounds of .22LR ammo. Thus, $500 can buy 3000 shots from your .38 special revolver, or $500 can buy another gun, with the same trigger, and 7500 shots through it. Which is the better investment towards building skills? Is the K-22 overpriced?

The K-22 and the Model 17 command a princely sum on the open market because they are desirable guns. That is why shooters desire them. The price is what the market will bear.



Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for filling me in. The K-22 has been duly placed on my list of guns to be on the lookout for.

11:39 AM  
Blogger AlanDP said...

Although I don't yearn for this particular gun, I do now see why I should have a double-action .22 revolver.

According to the Ruger website, they do make a .22 SP-101, but I have never actually seen one for sale anywhere. (Since I do carry this model, a .22 version would be perfect for me).

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say the K-22 is by far the most balanced, skillfully crafted, accurate revolver I've ever had! Those who wonder have never felt the solid quality in their hands, and I'm betting they will be very suprised when they see just how accurate a handgun can be! I own a MOD.17 K-22 Masterpiece and will only pass it down!

9:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the information I was complaining to my dad today about how much it was costing me to shoot my Kimber .45 and he mentioned buying a .22 so i automaticlly started talking about semi-auto .22s (Ruger,Sig,Etc.) He put some of the old school wisdom down and told me a Smith K22 was the best 22 he had ever shot so I guess the hunt is on. and if i dont like it i can always sell it to him.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one of these beauties. It's a 1949, bought new by my dad. I've shot it in league matches and it does very well at 50 yards (yes...50 yards with a 22 revolver). The ammo is cheap (it'll shoot anything, unlike the Hammerli that's in the box with it). And, you can literally shoot it until you just can't shoot anymore. I've routinely run a brick or two through it on a Saturday afternoon (sometimes as many as 1000 rounds, but usually around 750). It doesn't seem to heat up and accuracy is never a problem...NEVER. The gun is always disappointed when I put it away.

And, it IS the perfect trainer for the Combat Magnum...exactly the same trigger in double action.

What's it worth? To me, this one's worth the South 40 (with the oil well).

6:22 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Good advice. I, also, have a K-22, purchased new in 1967 by my father and now it's mine. The very few friends that I have allowed to shoot it marvel at the accuracy and ease of shooting. I recently acquired a like-new Model 14 (K-frame, .38 Special, 4-inch heavy barrel w/ fixed sights). It's a little heavier and makes more noise but otherwise it's just like handling/shooting the Model 17. If you ever happen to find the little Smith for sale, buy it, you won't be sorry. It's the nicest .22 rimfire revolver out there.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read for years owner's speaking in glowing terms of these series of handguns. Two weeks ago I pulled the trigger on getting a almost NIB 1980 model for $650. It seemed a lot to spend on a .22 as lots of people have said. Having shot it a few times I understand now what everyone was talking about. These are truly pieces of mechanical art. My last six shot string, offhand at thirty feet was a little over an inch group centered on the bullseye. No other gun I own gets close to that-and I've got some good ones. I am truly bitten now and will keep an eye out on good deals to be had for these gems-they're not making them like they used to.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a matched pair of K-22 and K-38 revolvers that I won in a US Navy pistol match in 1967. I have owned many fine pistols over the years, but these two are true works of the gunsmith's art! I am now in my late 60s, and I still score 1" patterns at 50 feet with either pistol. The feel of one of these in the hand is a true experience. If you can find one in decent shape, buy it!!!

12:48 PM  

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