You gotta hand it to Smith & Wesson’s marketing mavens. It takes serious stones to enter the .22’s-that-look-like-Lugers market decades late, facing not one but two well-established players, and declare victory. So, does the Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory smell like victory (in the morning)? Or is Smith’s entry-level .22 a pyrrhic pistol?

The SW22 looks like the lovechild of a Ruger Mark X series and a Browning Buck Mark pistol. Not there’s anything wrong with that. Predating the 1911 by a decade, the Luger design survives as one of the classic shapes in all of pistoldom.

With their big ass bull barrels, present-day .22 Luger riffs swap the original’s tapered shape for something a bit more Tiger tank-esque. Especially the Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory.

Whereas the Ruger Mark series’ uppers maintain the barrel’s rounded shape from stem to stern, the Victory goes with the Buck Mark’s squared-off back-end. The main difference: the Smith’s indented and exposed loading gate. Open, it gives an excellent view of the chamber. Closed, it ruins the lines and looks cheap.

Ergonomically, the SW22’s grip is a gripe. The handle’s front and rear checkering is about as aggressive as a Xanax-fed dairy cow. The SW22’s side panels are only slightly more tacky; reminiscent of nothing so much as well-used sandpaper. Sweaty-palmed pistoleros need not apply. Make than can not apply.

Luckily, but not without cost and delay, you can remove the Victory’s slick side panels via two screws and swap them out for something (i.e anything) more griptastic.

The SW22’s Chicklet-sized safety is another issue.

It’s too small to rest your thumb on top of its striated surface and it’s too easily activated to rest your thumb underneath it. Two shooters attempting to grip the Victory as high as possible flicked the safety on in the middle of a string. Hilarity did not ensue.

Yes, the Victory’s frame-mounted safety isn’t dissimilar to the competition. But in these days of endlessly ergonomic polymer pistols, it’s an unnecessary late-to-the-game loss on the ballistic battlefield.

On the positive side — the left side — the SW22’s textured, steel-reinforced polymer mag release is perfectly positioned and springy as hell. The Victory comes complete with two ten-round mags. They practically leap out of the magwell; I reckon you could use them for self-defense. The Victory’s mag safety is also the right answer, given the pistol’s natural milieu as a beginner’s gun.

The main complaint against ye olde Ruger and Buck Mark .22’s: they’re a bitch to clean (the Ruger infamously so). The Victory comes apart with a simple turn of a screw just underneath the barrel, forward of the trigger guard. Yes, well, the latest Ruger has a PHEV (Press Here Et Voilàbutton. Ah, but . . .

Unlike the Ruger, the Victory’s frame is the serialized bit. New Ruger barrels are an FFL to FFL extravaganza. SW22 Victory barrel? You’ve got mail! (FYI same deal for the Browning Buck Mark.) Swapping Victory barrels is like a one night stand: one screw and you’re done.

The Victory leaves base with three models: the stainless steel version tested, a slightly more expensive model with a threaded barrel, and an again more expensive pistol with a Kryptek finish. But wait! Here come the reinforcements!

The precision shooting peeps at Volquartsen have produced some pricey but fly barrels for the SW22 Victory, ready to ship. You can pony-up $215 for a lightweight THM carbon fiber tension barrel (above) or ding your plastic for $295 and buy an I-fluted SS barrel with forward blow comp.

Volquartsen’s also ginned-up a range of $150 psychedelic wooden grips that totally eliminate the thumb/safety position problem. Or, jump over to TANDEMKROSS for a whole line of SW22 hop-up parts including replacement grip panels, SuperGrip traction enhancement, and much more.

The best bit of the SW22: the adjustable trigger.

The Victory’s textured two-stage go-pedal is as crisp and clean as a freshly laundered shirt. It breaks like the proverbial glass rod after a scant 3.5 pounds of pressure. Those who’ve [rightly] slagged Smith for their gritty & graunchy M&P triggers will find their happy place touching off rounds with the Victory.

Green fiber-optic three-dot sights sit atop the Victory’s slide. As you’d expect for a target pistol, the rear’s adjustable for windage and elevation. A good thing, too. Our Victory started life shooting high right.

With an eight-inch sight radius and plenty of air on either side of the front sight, bringing the SW22 on target is child’s play. Or . . .

. . . mount your favorite optic on the SW22 using the picatinny rail that ships with the gun. The rail features a notch on the end; you can aim using the rear site on its own, sans optic. And you can remove the front sight entirely. Very thoughtful.

With all these interchangeable bits and pieces, you’d be forgiven for wondering about the Victory’s accuracy.

Shooting 25-yards free-hand at The Range at Austin (closed course, non-professional shooter), my average group size clocked-in about about 2.5 inches. A little less if you discount frequent-flyers.

While this is not the high-level .22 caliber competition gun beginners may [someday] be looking for, it’s about what I’d expect from an mass-market entry-level 36-ounce .22 caliber pistol with a 5.5″ bull barrel.

The Victory is not a finicky beast. The SW22 got a [soft] kick out of CCI Mini Mags, Federal Premium, CCI, Winchester bulk packs and Remington Thunderbolts. In all this confusion, I forgot which round delivered the best accuracy. But forgetting was a lot of fun. And all fired flawlessly.

As $400 MSRP, the base model Smith & Wesson Victory undercuts its competition. The “extra” Benjamin or so you save for not purchasing a Ruger or Buck Mark would go some way towards buying the [not] slick stuff that would improve the SW22 by a large margin.

Does the Victory take the field? The SW22’s barrel-swapping opportunities certainly outflank Ruger — who return the favor with their one-button-to-clean-it-all design. But it’s the Victory’s lacklustre ergos that ultimately deny the gun the battlefield domination Smith seeks.

Specifications: Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory Pistol

Caliber: .22 LR
Capacity: 10+1
Safety: Thumb Safety
Barrel Length: 5.5″
Overall Length: 9.2″
Front Sight: Green Fiber Optic
Rear Sight: Adjustable Fiber Optic
Action: Single
Weight: 36.0 oz
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
Slide Material: Stainless Steel
Frame Material: Stainless Steel
MSRP: $409 (standard model, $429 for threaded barrel, $459 Kryptek finish)

Ratings (out of fives stars):

Style: * * * *
An ageless design with an attractive, utilitarian aesthetic. Not in love with the frame’s right side.

Ergonomics: * * *
Why-did-they-bother front and rear checkering and slippy grip deny sufficient purchase, especially in hot weather. The safety is not my friend.

Reliability: * * * * *
Zero problems, even when using bargain basement bulk ammo.

Accuracy: * * * * *
Spot on. As you’d expect from a heavyweight .22

Customize this * * * * *
Hell yeah. You can swap barrels faster than kinky Austinites swap wives. Volquartsen and TANDEMKROSS makes it party real.

Overall: * * * *
The Victory is an excellent opening salvo: well-priced, crisply triggered and easily cleaned and customized. With a grippier grip and a safer safety, it would be ideal.

Recommended For You

45 Responses to Gun Review: Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22LR Pistol

  1. I wasn’t impressed at all with this pistol. We got one in at our shop and I went to pull the action back and the entire gun came apart in my hands very shoddy Construction wasn’t impressed at all. My buddies dad purchased one of these and had some issues as well with firing out of battery and a bunch of debris coming out the ejection port kind of scolding the top of his right hand. Go back to the drawing board Smith and Wesson this one’s junk.

    • Hyperbole of the day!

      Everyone 22lr I have shot peppers me with some kind of blowback. Pistols or rifles. Mostly due to the ammo. If all of the guns fell apart when racking the slide it would have come to light by now. Most likely you got a T&E or one that was fiddled with at another shop. The Victory requires the take down screw to be torqued down properly, which would be my main complaint.

  2. Ur. Um, eh.
    Looks like a Colt Cadet from 199o’s. Which was so close to a high standard they got sued. I like the Colt slide a lot more. But the trigger on the Smith HAS to be better. Which it should be for the outlandish amount of money they want for it.

  3. I’m surprised you gave this four stars, for all the complaints you had about it. It would have been a three star for me, especially considering it’s starting from behind against Ruger and Browning.

  4. I’ve got a 22a that has been a great shooter. Had the 22/45 and got rid of because it would not cycle the 60gr bullets and the 22a would. Topped with a cheap BSA RD30 red dot and oversized grips it’s a tack driver. I like shooting the heavy bullets to smash possums and armos. Aqulia .22 “sniper” very quiet and good knockdown for “pests”. Try em’ you’ll like em.

  5. Mine also shot to the right. I had to spin the rear sight a few turns. Watch out for loose barrel screws , it won’t go into battery if it comes loose. The trigger is better in my opinion than the Ruger 4 and the stainless construction is nice. I’ve got a cheap truglo on mine and it’s fun to shoot. I never had a problem with the safety location or function and the grips are fine with me. YMMV.

  6. Did the author mean a Luger look-alike or a Ruger look-alike? I have an Erma La 22 tucked in the back of my handgun safe and THAT looks like a Luger. This thing looks like a Ruger.

  7. There seems to be a race between major handgun manufacturers to see who can make the ugliest gun.

    Glock leads the pack, as always, but Ruger’s Mark IV 22/45 Tactical is gaining (losing?) ground and Smith has tossed its hat into the ring with this visual travesty.

    The Victory looks like it was designed by a plumbing supply company.

    • I’ve been trying to describe what’s wrong with the appearance from my perspective for a while now; several people have asked me what I think of them for target shooting. I always reply “depends on the size and distance of your target,” which gets me comments along the lines of “I had no idea you were such a wise-ass.”

      Frankly, I see all such pistols as an aesthetic embarrassment. Everything from the High Standards, Colt Woodsman and Model 41’s is a big step down…

      At a gun show recently, I saw a mint condition 3rd revision Woodsman Match Target. Owner wanted $1200. I was distracted by some customers pulling me away to talk shop, and next thing I knew, it was gone, and for $1K (which is what I was going to offer). Grrrrr. I need to learn how to tell customers “You will have to wait, there’s a gun that needs rescuing from someone who won’t appreciate it as much as I will…”

      • When you introduced Hi-Point into the conversation as being uglier than Glocks, you proved my point.

        I was addressing “major handgun manufacturers,” such as Glock, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, SIG etc. Hi-Point is a niche manufacturer that sells inexpensive guns and cannot be expected to produce anything that looks good. Hi-Points possess all the aesthetics of a DIY plumbing project but, like some DIY plumbing projects and Glocks, they work.

      • Hi-Points are ugly, and they carry a price of an ugly gun.

        Glocks do not carry an “ugly gun” price.

  8. Feh.

    First, this doesn’t have the lines of a Luger. The barrel isn’t tapered, there’s no meaty toggle, and the grip angle looks wrong.

    Second, once again, we see the futility of judging a pistol’s ability to group without a Ransom rest. Most .22 pistols will do their best groups with standard (ie, subsonic) velocity ammo. So will most .22 rifles.

    Third, the Ruger Mk I, II, III aren’t difficult to disassemble or re-assemble. They’re foolishly easy, in fact. The problem is that Ruger failed to tell people the most important issue in getting the pistol back together – ie, that you must tip the muzzle upwards whilst closing the mainspring housing closing latch, so as to get the hammer strut to push up into the recess in the underside of the hammer. I continue to be amazed that people have such problems re-assembling this pistol.

      • A Ransom Rest isn’t practical in many cases. It would work on this pistol, yes, if they make a grip clamp thing that’ll work with it, but some guns like a Glock may not even show proper accuracy because of how much play there is between slide and frame. The Ransom Rest doesn’t align the barrel on target, it aligns the frame on target. While a shooter taking his/her time would align the sights and therefore the barrel, the relation of those sights to the frame isn’t necessarily the same every time in many semi-autos due to the slop between slide and frame.

        In the case of the SW22 Victory here, I’m going to borrow it, put a magnified optic on it, and shoot a few match-grade loads through it from a sandbag rest. That’ll get us close enough to the gun’s mechanical accuracy potential. Look for a follow-up next week. We’ll see if we can’t get a Volkquartsen upper on loan to test out as well.

        As for the rest I’d certainly agree. It’s reliable and very pleasant to shoot with great sights and a great trigger. The hard grip is pretty darn smooth and, for a gun designed so recently, I’d also expect better ergos for grip shape and texture as well as the shape and location of the controls. Additionally, due to the fact that the safety pivots on the front of the lever (the rear goes up and down, which is the opposite of the vast majority of guns where it’s the front that goes up and down on a rear pivot) and its tiny size, etc, the detent in the “off” position is almost non-existent. It moves upwards towards the “safe” position very easily, and even creeping up part of the way disengages the trigger. I found it uncomfortable to try and ride my thumb over it, 1911 style, couldn’t get my thumb under it in an acceptable way with a 2-handed grip, plus its left edge is sharp enough that riding my thumb across its side was uncomfortable, too. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t a major ding on the gun and it’s something I’d probably learn around while shooting it more, but, again, this is a fresh, ground-up design so I’m a bit surprised it isn’t all modern ergo’d out.

    • I agree re the reassembly, noting two things.

      First, I RTFM before trying to put it back together. Amazing how much that helped.

      Second, a Mark III was my first semi-auto pistol. I had zero problems with dis/reassembly until I bought my CZ semi-auto. Then I started having issues with the Ruger, and it’s only gotten worse as I’ve added more semi-autos. I think the thing is, the Ruger’s procedure is so different from what most other semi-autos are like. It makes a 1911 and a Glock look almost the same by comparison.

      Which brings me back to reading the manual. 🙂

      • “It makes a 1911 and a Glock look almost the same by comparison.”

        I can understand that looking in reverse. I started with the Ruger Mk I and II, so Glocks seem like Fisher Price toys too assemble/disassemble, and the first I cleaned my 1911 I couldn’t understand why people find it to be difficult.

        The only real difficulty with the Ruger Mk I was that when I inherited my grandfather had clearly not cleaned in a couple decades, and everything was gritty.

    • “the Ruger Mk I, II, III aren’t difficult to disassemble or re-assemble”

      Seriously laughed out loud 😀

      • If you can’t learn how to easily take a Ruger Mark apart and put it back together after a very few times practicing, I’m not sure you should be allowed to be around mechanical things. Lord help you if you ever have to work on something complicated.

      • I can have a Mk I, II or III apart, down to the pins, in about 45 to 60 seconds on my bench – that includes taking the barrel off the frame.

        I can have it back together in about four minutes, and most of that time is spent getting the lockwork to line up on their respective pins. Closing the mainspring latch is one of the most trivial aspects to the operation.

        Compared to some pistols (Beretta 92, I’m looking at you), Ruger handguns are trivial.

  9. Only one gripe – but as a Ruger fanboy I just can’t let it slide: the Ruger had the profile of the Luger, deliberately. But ol’Bill copied the action of the Japanese Nambu with it’s reciprocating bolt instead of an external slide.
    Okay, that was it – good review. As you were.

    • What is “affordable?”

      Lugers have a LOT of machining invested in them. A LOT of machining – before the finishing. There’s a reason why the Germans abandoned them as a service pistol and went to the P-38 – they just couldn’t sustain the investment of skilled machinist time into a sidearm.

    • It’s impossible. Too much machining time. A Luger repro is going to be a $2,500 gun even if mass-produced. SiG only manged to price American P210 at $1,300..$1,600 because of the changes they made to the design. If they re-produced original Swiss P210, it would cost right at $2,500.

  10. I have a Ruger Mark III with over 36, 000 rounds through it and a Browning Buckmark with over 10,000 rounds through it and I will continue to choose the Victory over either of the two more established models. I have over 5000 rounds through it and I’ve never had a problem. It shoots great and eats up everything I put in it.

  11. Aesthetics?? Who cares as long as the pistol puts the round where I aim it? This one does, and with a sweet trigger to boot. I bought one of these SW22s at a gunstore closing sale and am very happy with it, and looks be damned. No problems so far – it functions just fine. As far as cleaning, I just punch out the barrel once in a while and hit the bolt with some Balistol and all is done. I was thinking about getting one of the Ruger or Browning models, but this one came up at a very good price point, so I laid my money down. Oh, and I shoot only hi-vel ammo in it – learned my lesson with a Chiappa 1911-22 that wouldn’t cycle reliably without it.

  12. I read the entire review in the voice of Lt. Col. Kilgore. The “one night stand” part came out just right.

    CHARLIE DON’T PLINK

  13. I bought one of these with a threaded barrel last November, only complaint so far is mine does not like Federal bulk .22lr at all. Cant wait to make a supressor for it.

  14. Browning BuckMark fan here, I’ve been using one for bullseye competition about 7 years. Initially, I chose the BuckMark over the Ruger Mark series because I read all the talk about the trouble reassembling. And I’ve seen guys beat on their Rugers trying to get them back together. But both the BuckMark and Ruger Mark Series have proven to be accurate, reliable, entry level guns for this sport. The guys with the older Hi Standards and S&W Model 41’s, and other more expensive target pistols tend to call for refires due to misfeeds more often than do the Ruger and Buckmark shooters. A few of the people I shoot with have given the Victory a try only to have trouble with them. I wasn’t too impressed with the one I got to shoot either. It might be fine for plinking but I think its worth spending the extra on a Ruger or BuckMark to get a trouble free pistol if you are looking to get into competition with it.

  15. So this, mark 4, 22 revolver, or try to buy my friend’s 22a? His gun is the only 22 pistol I’ve ever fired and I love the trigger.

  16. I like the writing style of the author, kinda like Tom MaCahill (sic) of Mechanics illustrated many years ago. I appreciate your evaluation of the Smith. I have reworked a couple of rugers, and have always like them, but as noted they are problematic for dissasembly. Keep up the good work.

  17. I think it was American Rifleman that reviewed the SW22 and commented on it being an ideal first pistol for kids. But even for me, 36 oz. is a drag. I sprung for a BuckMark Lite Grey at 28 oz. and while I wouldn’t call it especially lightweight, it is not bad. It is super accurate, but I’m not a fan of the BuckMark mags which are sensitive to fouling and hard to clean.

  18. I love the victory I picked up late last year. I have about 5k rounds through it without an issue.

    It makes me regret the mark iii competition I purchased a few months before that.

  19. I had the chance to buy one NIB for $300 so jumped on it. Wife had wanted a nice .22 SA to plink with. This fills the bill. She has a Buckmark Carbine and if I’d bought a Buckmark they would have had common magazines. However, I couldn’t find one around here that wasn’t a lot more expensive.

    Couple of comments on the Victory:

    First, this pistol is pretty heavy. It was the first thing my wife noticed. It isn’t too bad for the average guy, but some females will find it hard to hold up for the entire magazine.

    Second, they comment that the barrel screw might be hard to remove in the owners manual. Hard? I broke two quality Allen wrenches. Finally soaked it in penetrating oil for 48 hrs then used an Allen wrench adapter on a socket wrench and it still took me 30 seconds of torquing it to break it free. That screw now has anti-seize on it “just in case.”

    Third: Take your laser boresighter with you to the range. (I didn’t). Zero out of the box was horrible. 6″ low and 4-5″ left on ours. Darned near off the target from a sandbag.

    Don’t let this dissuade you if you want the weapon. It digested every brand of ammo I threw at it, and we only had one malfunction, a stovepipe which probably was ammo related.

    The new Ruger Mk 4 looks great. May have to acquire one of those when the budget allows, but the Victory has its place in our range bag and gun safe.

    Be well, fellow gunners.

    • I had a similar experience with the takedown screw. I tried using the factory supplied Allen wrench but twisted it so much that it looked like a metal candy cane (it never broke though). Broke another Allen wrench, then went to Autozone and bought a set of smaller impact bits that had some hex bits included. It took about 10 seconds of sustained driving with my battery powered impact driver to finally get it off.

      Although the screw didn’t appear damaged after all that, I got S&W to send me a free replacement for peace of mind.

  20. Hi Guys, A heads up. The Ruger is a copy of the Japanese type 16 Nambu pistol.action is different from the Luger, Last people that made a Luger copy was Stoeger. But I am being to picky. A very nice article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *