I'd been reading about the now-discontinued Smith & Wesson 442 and its relatives (622, 2013, 2206) in one of my favorite rimfire forums, and that encouraged me to go looking for one. After a few weeks of searching I managed to find a relatively inexpensive 422 with fixed sights.
The various versions of this pistol could be had with aluminum, steel, or stainless steel frames, with 4" or 6" barrels, and with fixed or adjustable sights. The 422 is one of the least expensive variants, with an aluminum frame and fixed sights. That would seem to relegate it to the role of inexpensive plinker, but that isn't actually the case- as we'll see shortly.
The muzzle reveals an interesting detail of the construction of the 422: A threaded barrel held in place by a nut:
This system of attachment holds the barrel in tension, which is a good way to achieve accuracy in a short, light, barrel. The Dan Wesson revolvers made in the 80s used this system, and my Dan Wesson .44 was one of the most accurate center fire revolvers I've owned. It has a secondary benefit as well: Threaded adapters that replace the barrel nut are available from a few gunsmiths and class III dealers that allow a silencer to be attached.
Pulling back on the slide (which locks open on an empty magazine) we see what looks like the breech opening on top of the gun- but a close look indicates that's not the case:
This can be a bit puzzling to first time 422 handlers until they remember that the magazine is located in the grip, and look there:
Note that the barrel is located very low in the receiver- just above the trigger, in fact. That's a common characteristic of high end target pistols and it produces straight-line recoil and minimizes barrel lift, something thats very important in timed and rapid fire stages, when you're trying to get back on target as soon as possible after each shot. It also minimizes the perception of recoil.
A lot of people don't like the magazine release, which is right smack in the middle of the grip frame:
I like it. I found it easy to release, and not at all prone to accidental release.
Those familiar with the S&W 41 may note a strong resemblance, and that's because design of the 422 and related guns is a simplified version of S&W's high-end Model 41 target pistol, with lighter materials and a nonadjustable trigger. The similarity is such that the 422 takes exactly the same magazines as the 41, which means there are plenty of new and used magazines available.
Being mainly aluminum, the 422 is pretty lightweight- the 6" version weighs only 23.5 ounces, compared to the 42 ounces of a Ruger Mk-III Target- and you'd think that would mean it's not as accurate or easy to shoot as a heavier gun. That may be true, but this is very easy to shoot, and very accurate gun all things considered. I took it to my club and set up a few targets at 50'. My first two shots went right where I was aiming:
That's lot better than I usually shoot, and that's with iron sights. The fixed sights were dead on at 50' and I'm guessing that should be pretty close at 25 yards. Back in the 1950s you could probably have been a competitive shooter with this gun. I'd been thinking about mounting a dot sight, but I think I'm going to leave it exactly as is. Given the light weight and great accuracy, it's a great gun to pack afield. Of course now that my appetite has been whetted for these guns I'm looking for more variations, starting with an adjustable sight 2206, and maybe even a Model 41.