Ruger’s very first firearm was the now-classic Ruger Standard Model .22 Long Rifle semiauto pistol, introduced in 1949. Its two newest handguns are likewise rimfire offerings: the SR22P, also a semiauto, and the LCR-22, a compact polymer-frame double-action revolver. In the 60-plus years since that first introduction came dozens of other rimfires, including such iconic guns as the Single-Six and the 10/22. Ruger has always been a rimfire company, and its two newest offerings continue that tradition.
The SR22P is an entirely new platform and differs from anything ever offered in the Ruger lineup. It is a compact, traditional double-action .22 semiauto with a direct blowback action. It incorporates a 3.5-inch stainless-steel barrel and features an aircraft-grade aluminum slide, glass-filled nylon polymer-frame construction and steel magazine. It is approximately the same size as a Colt M1911 Officer’s Model but weighs only 17.5 ounces.
The SR22P’s straight blowback action utilizes an accuracy-enhancing fixed-barrel design in which the slide is held closed by the recoil spring until the moment of firing, whereupon the slide is driven to the rear by the expanding gas pressure, extracting and ejecting the spent case. The recoil spring then returns the slide forward, picking up a fresh cartridge from the magazine and loading it into the chamber.
Unusual for a rimfire pistol of this format, the SR22P action utilizes an exposed hammer rather than an internal striker. After a first-shot traditional DA trigger pull, the hammer is left cocked for single-action fire with following rounds. Trigger pull is factory spec’d for 8 to 11 lbs. in double-action mode and 4 to 6 lbs. in single-action.
When the last shot in a magazine is fired, the slide stop automatically holds the slide open. When there is an empty magazine in the pistol and the slide is manually retracted, the slide stop will also automatically hold the slide open. When a loaded magazine is inserted into the SR22P with the slide closed, the slide stop does not engage when the slide is retracted—releasing the slide will charge the chamber. The user can lock the slide open at any time the gun is at rest, either with a loaded magazine inserted or no magazine present, simply by pushing upward on the slide stop lever.
The SR22P is very user-friendly. It’s equipped with ambidextrous manual safety levers that also allow decocking without touching the trigger. When the pistol is cocked, move either the right-side or left-side safety downward from the fire (“F”) to the safe (“S”) position. When moved fully downward, the safety lever will cover the red area on the frame and the hammer will fall to the decocked position and rest on the hammer blocker (which prevents contact with the firing pin). When the safety is engaged, the trigger is disconnected from the hammer and the hammer cannot be actuated, even by moving the trigger.
Placing the pistol on safe also separates the trigger from the internal firing pin blocker, which prevents the firing pin from moving even though the trigger can be pulled rearward. With a round in the chamber and the safety engaged, the pistol can be fired simply by disengaging the safety and pulling the trigger in the double-action firing mode. Or, with safety off, you can manually cock the skeletonized and serrated hammer fully to the rear to fire single action; it is not necessary to cycle the slide to eject the chambered round and load another one. There is also a visual loaded-chamber inspection port at the top rear of the barrel chamber.
Like the manual safety, the magazine release buttons (located Browning-style behind the triggerguard) are fully ambidextrous. The SR22P has a magazine-disconnect safety that prevents the gun from being fired without a magazine in place, even when the chamber is loaded and the hammer cocked. Both supplied magazines hold 10 rounds. They feature a polymer follower with external load-assist tabs and come with two polymer base pads. One is flat, the other has a subtle forward extension for an “all-finger” grasp.
In addition to complete ambidexterity and the extended magazine pad option, the SR22P’s user-friendliness is further enhanced by the design of the grip frame itself. The pistol comes with two different wraparound polymer grip sleeves to accommodate different size hands. The surface of the sleeves have serrated gripping surfaces on the rear and the front sides, plus a deeply embossed Ruger Eagle logo. They slide tightly over the magazine well and are held in place by closely fitted detents. They’re so closely fitted, in fact, that considerable force is required to pull them free the first few times you do it. But they will break in after a few tries (without becoming loose). On the tactical side of things, the SR22P has a 1913-spec Picatinny rail with multiple cross slots on the underside of its frame.
Disassembly is a tool-free snap. Simply remove the magazine, clear the chamber and place the slide in the forward position. Then rotate the takedown lever inside the top front of the triggerguard fully downward, pull the slide fully to the rear, lift upward on the rear of the slide and remove it from the front end of the barrel. Pluck the full-length guide rod and recoil spring from the gun, and you’re through. Reassemble by reversing the procedure.
The standard-issue fixed barrel, incidentally, stays in place with the frame, although it can be removed and swapped with a threaded barrel, also available from Ruger, by following the detailed instructions provided in the instruction manual.
Small and Shootable
The SR22P sights are surprisingly good for a pistol of this size and caliber. The white-dot fixed front is drift-adjustable for windage and accepts replaceable blades of varying heights for different loads. The rear sight—which has bold white dots—is very low-profile but fully adjustable for windage and elevation. Plain black replacement rear sight blades are also available. The pistol’s handling and operation are enhanced by deep slide serrations, both front and rear. The triggerguard is squared and serrated on its front surface in case you like to wrap your forefinger there. The aluminum slide is anodized in a semi-satin black, with subtle laser-etched manufacturer and model markings. The polymer frame is dull black.
When I received the SR22P for review, I was immediately struck by how unlike any other Ruger pistol it appeared. It’s truly a different type of gun for this company. Ruger has described the specification for the SR22P as a “scaled down version of a full-size centerfire Ruger pistol, based on the SR9.” But it’s not an SR9, or even an SR9C. In fact, it looks little like either of them. Plus, its operation and mechanical function are entirely different. The existing pistol it most resembles in appearance is the similar-size Walther P22, and at first sight many remark on the similar “look” of the two pistols. Both are indeed direct-blowback .22s, but the safety systems, magazine release mechanism, grip design and takedown procedures for the two are quite different.
The second thing that struck me was how natural the SR22P felt in my hand. Its pointability is as natural as the much-praised Model 1911, and the balance afforded by its aluminum slide/polymer frame design is simply perfect. Ruger also emphasizes that while most small-scale blowback .22 rimfire pistols function reliably only with high-velocity ammunition, the SR22P is compatible with all .22 Long Rifle cartridges “loaded to U.S. industry standards,” with the possible exception of subsonic and some match-grade loads that may not have sufficient energy to cycle the slide. The company suggestion, should that happen, is simply “try another brand of ammo.”
Taking Ruger at its word, I put the little pistol to work with a half-dozen different varieties of ammo, ranging from standard velocity 40-grain to high-velocity 36-grain hollowpoints to hyper-velocity light-bullet loads. All functioned perfectly, assisted (I’m sure) by the gun’s pivoting extractor design. The only hiccup I encountered in several hundred rounds was with my first magazine, where I had neglected to remember that it’s as important to make sure all rimfire rounds are seated and aligned fully to the rear of their magazine tube as it is with centerfire .223 AR magazines (duh).
As for accuracy, the “groupability” specification for most pistols of this basic format is about four inches at 25 yards. The SR22P beat this standard easily, coming in with an overall three-inch 25-yard average for all groups fired. With the individual loads it liked best, it averaged in the 2½-inch range.
Purely by happenstance, my colleague Richard Venola showed up for an unexpected visit to PASA Park while I was working with the SR22P as well as the new LCR-22 that had arrived at the same time. We passed an entertaining hour or so shooting the two guns on the steel-target .22 rimfire range. It was all I could do to keep him from sticking the SR22P in his backpack when he left. His most emphatic comment on the new pistol was that it was “just about the only small .22 I’ve ever fired that feels completely comfortable in my hand.” Considering that his hand is about the size of a roast ham, I took that as a high compliment to the designers of the SR22P’s grip.
Ruger’s Kurt Hindle says, “We see the SR22P as an all-around fun-to-shoot .22 that’s a plinker, a trail gun or small-game pistol. It’ll function with a broad range of ammunition and is loaded with features. It is easy to disassemble and can be reassembled without the use of tools.”
That’s what I was just about to say.