Working S&W .22 Pistols

Many people ignore the first generation S&W “budget” .22 LR pistols, but those who own and shoot them tend to keep these reliable and accurate pistols. Chances are likely that you will see one.

by Brian R. Smith

Twenty years passed from the end of production of Smith & Wesson’s budget Model 46 .22 “field” pistol in late 1966 or early1967 until the company introduced a competitive, low-cost replacement. The Model 46, introduced in 1957, was a “nothing fancy” version of its venerable Model 41 .22 target pistol. The Model 46 was not particularly successful, judging by only 8000-some examples made over a 10-year period in three barrel lengths. Consumers either went for the much prettier, high-polished Model 41 at one end of the spectrum, or the inexpensive Ruger Standard Model pistol at the other. In between were High Standards, Brownings, and Colt Woodsmans.

1987 saw Smith & Wesson introduce the low-priced Model 422/622 pistols in both 4” and 6” barrel lengths to compete directly in the marketplace with other value-priced blowback .22 semiautomatic handguns. These “budget” models also included the Model 2206, 2213, and 2214. Early 422/622 production was performed in Springfield, and later pistols were made at the then-new Houlton, ME plant that featured circa 1990 state of art PLC-controlled production machinery which increased production rate and cut costs. Unfortunately for Smith & Wesson, the 422-series pistols were a case of “too little, too late” because the Ruger MkII pistol was firmly established as the market leader, and significant demand for the 422 and its siblings never really materialized. Sales of the 422 family tapered off in the middle 1990s such that S&W management decided to end production in 1997 after only a 10-year run and use the production capacity at Houlton for the even less expensive S&W Model 22A and other new pistols it was planning to produce there.

The 422 had a blued steel slide and dark anodized aluminum alloy frame, and the 622 featured a stainless steel slide and a silver anodized alloy frame. Both models were offered with fixed or adjustable rear sight. Two to three years later, the 422/622 line expanded to include a rare ventilated rib model designated 622VR, an all-stainless version known as the 2206, two short-barreled/short gripped versions marked as the 2213 (stainless slide, silver anodized alloy frame), and the 2214 (blued carbon steel slide and black anodized alloy frame). In a sense, the 2213/2214 “pocket” models actually took the 422-series family full circle back to their progenitor, the S&W Model 61 Escort.

Read more in the September 2019 issue.

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