Archive for June, 2009

Choosing a .22 revolver.

June 26, 2009

I recently decided to purchase a .22 caliber DA revolver with 2-4 inch barrel in order to practice shooting a DA wheel gun with less expensive ammunition. My requirement was simple: the revolver had to be from a manufacturer who is still in business of making DA revolvers. This would allow me to send gun for repair if necessary, obtain parts, find holsters and speed loaders, etc. This simple requirement eliminated a large number of makers and left me with revolvers from Charter Arms, Comanche, Ruger, Smith and Wesson, Taurus. I only ever held Taurus Tracker 6 inch and S&W 617 4 inch and had to base much of my opinions on internet research and calls to manufacturers.

I first eliminated Comanche as one with the worst quality from the bunch. In fact, Argentinian made (?) Comanche has such an awful reputation, I should not have even mentioned them in the same sentence with the other four makers. Terrible finish (even visible on their marketing pictures), shameful aim, jamming, etc. This makes complete sense given sub $200 price for the new gun.

I don’t think I need to elaborate on Ruger reputation, so I’ll skip pouring customary honey on them. Ruger currently does not make DA .22 wheel guns. Based on what I read, they made some SP101 in .22 in the past. I would love to have one of those, however I could not find locally nor on any of the three big internet action sites: gunbroker, auctionarms, or . This fact also suggests that it’s probably a collector’s item due to its rarity and as such will be too expensive for me.

Smith and Wesson seems to offer the best quality .22 revolvers of the group. I would love to have their model 617 even more than SP101. Unfortunately their prices have a direct correlation to the quality – they are high. Most of the used guns, especially coveted K22, are in high demand due to collector value and aforementioned quality. Supply is fairly generous, but demand is high, and so prices for a used S&W DA .22 are a bit much for me. If I can find a used S&W in my price range I’ll jump all over it regardless of cosmetic wear as long as it functions well.

Taurus seemed like the way I would go. It has a good overall reputation and considered to offer great value. I didn’t like the tracker model – too heavy for my taste. However model 94 looked like a champ. It can be found for around $350 new. When I saw a used 94 with wooden grips in 97% condition for $200, I got very excited and almost “pulled the trigger” on it. Since it was late at night, and the shop was closed I decided to read a bit about the model 94. This is where excitement stopped. I started reading posts on Taurus user forum and almost every post regarding model 94 complained about trigger pull. One gentelman measured it to be 25 lbs! In addition there were multiple negative comments about the quality of the internal parts. Sending the gun to factory using the famous lifetime warranty does not seem to improve things. Poorly made parts get replaced with slightly better made parts, keeping the overall result the same. There are no aftermarket spring kits specifically for model 94, so that route is not available either. This reminded me of a comment by gunsmith Cunningham. Sorry Taurus, I really wanted it to work. I really did, but in the end you are eliminated from my list.

The last but not least is the Charter Arms. The maker has Pathfinder model that has been in production since 1970s (?). I saw a lot more positive comments regarding Pathfinder then negative. Same goes for the company that started as a solid maker, went through tough times and 50/50 quality, and now is back making reliable and innovative revolvers. Due to its lower price (about $250 for used old model and $400 new) and solid quality this might be the best choice for me. I called the technical department just to verify safety infomation on older Pathfinders and had a very positive experience with that call. First I was almost imediately greeted by young lady who had a good understanding of the revolvers. Then, when I asked something very specific about the Pathfinder, she asked someone of the floor who had the information. In addition Charter Arms offers to look over and adjust your revolver for $50 that includes shipping it back! Parts are extra, but that’s a nominal fee in most cases.

In the end, I’ll be looking locally for S&W or Ruger and in an unlikely event of seeing one for $300-$400 I will buy it on the spot. However, I’ll more likely become an owner of a used Charter Arms revolver aquired locally or via web.

P.S.

A few days after I wrote this, but before I got a chance to post it, I came across Astra Cadix on an online auction and bought it. Thus I broke my own requirement of buying from a manufacturer who is still in business of making DA revolvers. However, given price, parts availability, and reputation, I just could not refuse the deal. I ended up paying $189.68 for the S&W based Astra Cadix. Parts can be found and generally are not expensive ($25 for the full sping set for example). Not much is available on internet on Astra reputation, since they went under before internet took off, but whtever I was able to find was mostly very positive. I will find out shorlty if I made a right decision.

P.P.S I indeed made a right decision. Even though it is 42 years old, the revolver shoots very well, which is not a surprise given how well it is built. My only complaint so far is a “sticky”cylinder (I have to push pretty hard to swing it out after I slide the cylinder release button). Should be a quick and inexpensive fix by a gunsmith. I wanted to take to a gunsmith to be reassembled and cleaned anyhow, so it will work out fine in the end.
In summary I would recommend this revolver highly. Pros: shoots well, inexpensive, well built, comfortable to shoot, nice looking, adjustable sights, easily adjustable trigger pull, 9 rounds, disassemble diagrams are easy to find. Cons: need to look around to find parts if you need any, simple iron sights (they might need to be painted depending on your eye sight, but it is very easy to do), plastic grips (but I have a strong suspicion K frame square grips will work on it just fine), ribbed trigger.