By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2022
“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog
in the fight — it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
— President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1958.
On February 11, 2020, Gunpowder Magazine very kindly published my article entitled “.22 LR Self-Defense Ammo Testing,” in which I rigorously tested seven different, popular, .22 Long Rifle loads for their possible self-defense potential. I fired each of them into wet, natural, modeling clay to provide a reasonably accurate measurement of bullet penetration and expansion, using my Walther P22Q Military target pistol. While that original article focused primarily on the ammunition choices, we’ll now take a closer look at the excellent, P22Q handgun itself.
First, though, it’s worth repeating from the first article that, “It’s definitely not my first choice for defensive carry, but what if that’s all you have at the moment?… in very remote areas where there is no law-enforcement presence. Often, that small, .22 LR trail gun that you packed in case of snakes, wild dogs, or rabid raccoons suddenly becomes your primary weapon against an armed assailant who is an immediate danger to yourself and your loved ones. A recent example of this was the murder of one man and felonious assault with intent to commit murder by knife-wielding (17-inch, survival knife) attacker James L. Jordan, age 30, on the Appalachian Trail in western Virginia…on May 11, 2019.
“A .22 LR may not be ideal for self-defense against humans, but it’s certainly much better than a rock, a stick, or any other makeshift tool that you may pick up in the forest. No one wants to be shot, and an armed felon will usually flee the scene as soon as a law-abiding citizen draws a pistol, but in that very rare instance in which they stand their ground, your trail gun will have to suffice. In any gunfight, shot placement is usually the decisive factor, and the .22 LR, with very light recoil, definitely provides the best-possible opportunity for a smooth, well-placed shot against either animals or humans.
“Even little, .22 bullets hurt, a lot, and stopping-power studies from 1,800 actual shootings have proven that felons hit with a .22 LR were incapacitated by just one shot to the torso or head 60 percent of the time (better than a 9mm or .45 ACP), primarily due to better shot placement…A Walther P22Q…is fairly typical of the weapon size that most people might carry for hiking or camping, while perhaps not expecting heavy-duty, anti-social trouble…My P22Q functions perfectly, every time, and it works best with high-velocity ammunition, so that’s what I always use.”
Earlier this year (2022), Andre S. Bush of Florida wrote an article entitled “The Walther P22Q Honest Review” for Plead the Second, LLC. So, before I offer my own assessment of this fine weapon, let’s hear from this knowledgeable, professional, firearms journalist on the same subject. He wrote that, “The Walther P22Q is a .22 LR, micro-compact handgun that is hammer-fired, and both single-action and double-action…The lower frame…is made from high-quality polymer…the P22Q was able to easily take 1,500 rounds of CCI Mini-Mag .22 LR with absolutely no problems. On a .22 LR alone, that’s rare, but on a .22 LR pistol, that’s legendary…it’s (utterly) reliable.
“It’s a great plinking gun that brings a lot of joy between the different ways you can shoot it…the Walther P22Q comes with amazing ergonomics for a handgun…The grip has organic finger grooves that naturally fit a person’s hands…It runs for only $300 (realistically, about $330), and it hits guns with higher price tags (like the $430 Glock 44) out of the park…The P22Q also comes with some of the easiest-to-load magazines…Additionally, Walther designed the P22Q to come with a threaded barrel. The potential for barrel attachments is the icing on the cake for this little guy.
“When firing with the hammer back, the P22Q has a four-pound trigger pull with a very little travel distance required…very quick and crisp…Overall, the P22Q has one of the better-feeling triggers in the .22 LR market…a firearm with virtually no recoil. When you pull the trigger, (it) pushes out a round at 1,200 fps (actually, about 977 to 1,123 fps from a P22 pistol) without nearly any kick, bang, or buck. The small amount of recoil it does have is very manageable and easy to control…keeping the gun on target at any point…It’s also a great gun to practice rapid-fire with.
“Walther limited its mags to a 10-round capacity…(but) the gun could hold more…a result of Walther trying to keep the gun compliant to states with strict, magazine-capacity laws, like New York and California…there are a lot of people looking at this gun as a potential, concealed-carry option….being compact, light, hammer-fired, and reasonably cheap…When comparing it to other .22 LR pistols I have shot, I put it at the top, with a rating of 9.5/10…In fact, it’s my number-one pick for .22 LR pistols on the market.”
Chris Heuss wrote earlier (2018) for The Truth About Guns that, “The budget-friendly P22Q is…a remarkably comfortable gun to have and to hold…(It) wouldn’t be a Walther without a great trigger…The reset is short and well-defined. The P22Q’s trigger is head and shoulders above its price-point peers…While the original P22(W) required high-velocity ammo to run semi-reliably, the new model cycles subsonic ammo without complaint…that backs-up Walther’s claim that the new P22 is suppressor-ready. Speaking of which…You need to buy a $20 adapter to attach a suppressor to the P22Q barrel’s M8x75 threads. Attach your can and go about your business quietly.
“Walther…Replaced the fly-across-the-room spring with a captured recoil spring. As for reliability, the new P22Q is significantly more reliable than my first-gen version…the more I shot the pistol the more reliable it became.”
Donald J. Mihalek added for Personal Defense World on March 22, 2021, “Six Great, .22 LR Pistols That Actually Work for Self-Defense…(including) the Walther P22Q, the first polymer-frame, semi-auto, rimfire pistol…As reported in Maine’s Bangor Daily News, a man was awakened by a knock at the door of his apartment…two men then forced open the door, knocking the man down…the second assailant wielded a knife…resulting in a minor cut to the victim’s abdomen…The man’s roommate ran out of his bedroom.
“One of the victims broke free and…armed himself with a .22-caliber handgun equipped with a laser sight. He proceeded to shoot one attacker in the leg, which caused the attackers to flee the apartment…two .22 LR rounds…impacted the vehicle’s trunk, in an effort to aid police in identifying the vehicle. At the end of this violent encounter, the victims were saved by a .22 LR handgun.”
The mere fact that Walther Arms now manufactures a P22Q Tactical FDE (Flat Dark Earth) model ($449 MSRP) shown above, with a HIVIZ fiber-optic, front sight ($23 sold separately), and Walther-supplied barrel adapter ($20 sold separately) for quickly fitting a suppressor, speaks volumes about the P22Q’s growing popularity as a potential, self-defense firearm. However, virtually any P22Q may be quickly and easily modified to Walther’s “Tactical” configuration with these same two aftermarket items.
My own Walther P22Q Military (with OD green frame) is a 2012 model, that cost $345 ($330 plus $15 sales tax) at that time. I downloaded the online “Walther P22 Bible” from www.rimfirecentral.com to examine some of the possible modifications that might improve functioning and reliability. This is an excellent reference guide, and I followed its detailed instructions and photos on thoroughly disassembling the pistol down to its tiniest components.
The trigger-bar ears were a bit rough, needing sanding and polishing for an ultra-smooth finish to avoid surface contact with the underside of the slide. Also, the breech block and hammer required some minor smoothing and reshaping, to prevent hammer drag when firing the weapon, and the feed ramp of the barrel was smoothed and polished to improve hollowpoint feeding into the chamber. Otherwise, all I did was smooth out any rough edges on all components, and carefully reassembled the gun. It probably didn’t really need these slight, reliability modifications, but once they were done, I knew for certain that the pistol would operate smoothly and efficiently, every time.
My P22Q came with a standard, old-fashioned, recoil-spring guide rod and spring, but newer models have a captive-spring assembly, which is safer to use during firearm disassembly and reassembly. I purchased a stainless-steel, Brass Stacker captive recoil-spring assembly in 2018 to update my Walther. I also purchased two spare, stainless-steel magazines with flat base plates, and a very lightweight, Fobus WP-22 holster and #6922 magazine pouch. The holster was made for the earlier, P22W model, and required extensive modifications to fit the P22Q, which is wider at the front of the slide, but I made it happen.
After all the methodical smoothing and polishing of internal parts, the pistol functions flawlessly, far better than any other .22 LR handgun that I’ve ever fired. While I never intended for this P22Q to be a self-defense weapon, its utter reliability certainly places it into that class. I use it primarily as a trail gun for backcountry hiking, and to teach young, novice shooters how to safely handle and fire a pistol.
However, should I ever come across someone who intends to inflict harm upon myself or a loved one while I’m carrying the P22Q, I’d have no hesitation whatsoever in drawing it as a measure of deterrence. And should deterrence fail (statistically only about eight percent of the time), it’s an exceedingly accurate handgun with almost no recoil, so shot placement and rapid fire can be quite precise. Ammo selection can also make a difference, so here I’ll briefly summarize the results of my previous, clay-block testing with this same handgun.
Águila Interceptor 40-grain hollowpoint: 1,123 fps (Mach .993) muzzle velocity and 112 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. Temporary cavity = 2.4 inches wide, penetration = 12.2 inches deep, and bullet expansion = .361-caliber. This speedy bullet mushroomed very nicely, with excellent expansion and a moderate, temporary cavity.
Browning BPR 40-grain HP: 1,010 fps velocity, but a mere 91 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. Temporary cavity = 3.25 inches wide, penetration = 10.6 inches deep, and bullet expansion = .382 caliber. The ragged, breathtaking, temporary cavity was as large as that of some 9mm rounds, and indeed the very largest of the test group, with adequate penetration, great expansion, and a rough, gaping, entry hole. This would be an excellent, self-defense choice.
CCI Mini-Mag 36-grain HP: Velocity was 1,007 fps, with 81 foot-pounds of energy. Temporary cavity = 2.75 inches wide, penetration = 11.0 inches deep, and bullet expansion = .370-caliber. The bullet expanded well but fragmented into two sections.
CCI SGB, 40-grain, flat-nose lead: The Small-Game Bullet (SGB) was specifically designed for hunting small animals for food and minimizing damage to the meat by expanding just slightly, but not fragmenting. Muzzle velocity was 967 fps, with 83 foot-pounds of energy. Temporary cavity = 1.8 inches wide, penetration = 13.0 inches deep, and bullet expansion = .221-caliber. This is not well-suited for self-defense purposes.
CCI Stinger 32-grain HP: 1,112 fps (Mach .984) velocity, which equates to 88 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. Temporary cavity = 3.125 inches wide, penetration = 8.5 inches deep, and bullet expansion = .403-caliber! The famous, Stinger load proved itself to be quite formidable, with an instantly impressive, temporary cavity, rivaling some 9mm bullets, the second-largest of all tested rounds, evoking a stunned, “WOW!” response from me.
Remington Viper 36-grain flat-nose lead: Muzzle velocity of 977 fps, with a fairly low, 76 foot-pounds of energy. Temporary cavity = 2.5 inches wide, penetration = 12.0 inches deep, and bullet expansion = .315-caliber. Deep penetration, but very little expansion.
Remington Yellow Jacket 33-grain HP: Muzzle velocity was 1,019 fps, with 76 foot-pounds of energy. Temporary cavity = 2.75 inches wide, penetration = 6.5 inches deep, and bullet expansion = .468-caliber! However, bullet penetration was quite shallow.
“In conclusion,” I wrote previously, “they were all readily-available, reliable loads, but in a sudden, self-defense situation, where all you have is a .22 LR pistol, every small advantage counts, and your ammunition choice could be a decisive factor…if I had to defend myself again an armed, human assailant with only my trail gun available, my first ammo choice would be the Browning BPR (or the very similar CCI Velocitor), followed closely by the CCI Stinger, which expanded even better…Knowing exactly how each load is likely to perform is definitely a confidence booster, so choose wisely for your defense on the trail.”
Coming back to the Walther P22Q pistol itself, my experience with it over the past 10 years has been that it is compact, lightweight (only 16 oz. empty), reliable, easy to load-aim-fire, and exceptionally accurate at close range. While I normally prefer a larger-caliber handgun in self-defense situations, the P22Q could easily save my life in a very bad confrontation someday, so I would never underestimate its tactical abilities.
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism and is an NRA member. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.