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« Part 4: My First Handgun | Main | Range Report: Bulgarian Makarov »

February 03, 2004

Part 5: Shooting the Walther P22

I got up bright and early last Saturday morning and headed out to my local range (Sevier County Indoor Range) to fire my new gun.

Ok, it wasn't really bright and early, more like 10:30, but for me, that's as close as it gets. I left the gun in it's case, put the bullets in the glove compartment and drove out to the range.

I wanted to go out on my own at least once before going back out with Uncle again, because I'm the kind of person that will rely on the people around me to backstop me in case I do something stupid. There's nothing wrong with that, but I also wanted to feel comfortable shooting without that safety net. You may want to go it alone right away, or you may want to stick with a group for awhile. It's all a matter of what you're comfortable with.

When I got there, I let the owner know that I was a new shooter, and just like at the other range, he took me on an orientation tour of the range, explaining the rules as he went. Unlike Guncraft, there was no fee for the orientation. As he showed me around, I asked about a Concealed Carry Class. He told me the next one was on Saturday, Feb 14, and the price was $65. That price included a month's free membership at the range, so I went ahead and signed up for the course.

I had to sign a liability waver, and give him a copy of my driver's license for identification purposes, bought a fe targets, and then he issued me eye and ear protection, and I was ready to shoot. Different ranges have different policies on targets. At Guncraft, I believe you can bring your own, but here, you had to use theirs.

I was the only one in there at the time so I chose a lane on the end to keep one side of me clear. There were tables and stools provided along the back wall to set your stuff, which was pretty nice, particularly if you brought more than one gun to shoot.

I took the gun out of the case and followed the pre use inspection in the owner's manual. It described a sequence of steps that

  1. Insured the magazine and chamber were empty
  2. Insured that all safeties worked
  3. Insured that the slide lock and magazine lock worked
  4. Insured that the gun was in good physical condition.

I had read the owner's manual before coming to the range, and had run through the steps a few times to get familiar with the gun before I actually took it out to shoot.

The controls were convenient for me. The magazine release is a little unusual. Instead of a button on the side of the gun, there's a lever that forms the rear part of the trigger guard. Depressing that lever releases the magazine. I could do it one handed, but I had to shift my grip on the gun fairly significantly. This could be a drawback in a defense situation.

The gun has a standard manual safety, and a keyed trigger safety located on the right side, just above the trigger. When this is locked, the slide and the trigger are both locked, rendering the gun harmless, except as a blunt object. Since I havea house full of kids, this is important to me, but you may or may not want this feature.

Next, I loaded the magazines. The P22 comes with 2 magazines, one with a flat bottom, and one with a slightly bulging bottom that provides a little extra space for those with big fingers. Loading the magazines was easy, as they are supplied with a thumb button on the side to depress the spring. I could have used that on the Glock.

Shooting the Walther was a blast. I didn't have to worry about the recoil like I did with the .45, so I could shoot freely. As far as I can tell, it was pretty accurate as well. I was getting pretty good groupings even when I put the target out at 15 yds. I did notice that my shots tended to the right, though. I experimented using both clips, different aiming points, and a couple of other things, but the right bias persisted.

I was a little worried, because I had read Les's comments about how the P22 was prone to jam. I'd done some additional reading, and it seemed that the gun had a reputation for being picky about the ammo. I read though that later models had fixed these problems, so I verified that my gun and the magazines were the latest version, and hoped for the best.

I fired 100 rounds of CCI MiniMag without a single jam. So far so good. The next time out, I'm shooting Remington Thunderbolts, so we'll see how they do.

After I finished shooting, I cleaned up my spent brass by sweeping it out onto the range, and went back into the store, where I talked with the owner a little more. I showed him my targets, and he gave me a guide on possible causes for pulling to the right, and how to correct that. One of the nice things about the P22 is that it has adjustible sights, so he said I had a choice. Since my groupings were all good, I could either correct my technique, or adjust the gun. I'm planning on letting a few other folks shoot with it before I decide whether it is my technique, or the sights that are at fault.

When I got home, I immediately got out the cleaning kit and commenced a'cleanin. I broke the gun down according to the owner's manual, then broke out the cleaning kit. The instructions said to run the brush through the barrel away from the breech, so I inserted the brush, soaked in cleaning fluid, pushed it through, then unscrewed it from the holder, pulled the rod back, reassembled the brush, and did it again. After 5 repetitions, I switched to coton squares soaked in the cleaning fluid, and passed each one through using the same technique. I used a new square each time until the last one came out clean, then used one more to oil the barrel.

I used a nylon tooth brush to break up the residue on the magazines and the breech area, as well as more squares to soak up the dirt and excess cleaning solution. Once everything was clean, I reassembled the gun, and went back through the pre use inspection to make sure everything still worked right.

The only hard part about the whole thing was reassmbly. In order to control the spring on the guide rod, Walther includes a small guide stick. You thread it through a small hole under the barrel and use it to hold the spring steady. It's kind of awkward, and I don't know if that's a standard solution or not. But other than that, it was a piece of cake.

As I said, after reading a lot of reviews about the P22, I was a little worried about it's tendency to jam. But I'm a little less leery now, and after a few hundred more rounds, I'll relax.

Posted by Rich