American-made, nice sights with a match-grade barrel, reliable, and affordable – what's not to like about the SW22 Victory from Smith & Wesson

While I’ve never been much of a target shooter, I can certainly appreciate the precision and shooting skills behind the sport. Still, I felt a bit out of my comfort zone when I first pulled the Victory out at the range. It’s hardly the type of gun I normally review, which would usually fall into the range of military surplus, concealed carry, or more tactical options. 

But it turns out this little gem has a lot going for it as a go-to option for the casual target shooter, avid plinker, or handgun novice. 


Table of Contents

SW22 Overview
Specs & Features
Range Time & Accuracy
Who’s It For?
Pros & Cons
Final Thoughts

SW22 Overview


Despite American shooters’ long love affair with the small but versatile .22 Long Rifle round, the SW22 Victory is actually relatively new to the market. Smith & Wesson rolled it out in 2015 in what can only be described as a jab at Ruger’s beloved Mark series. To that end, S&W pitched the full-sized Victory as a target-shooting-ready option with a low price point.

 
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
The SW22 Victory is a relatively new addition to the .22 LR handgun family. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


At first glance, the SW22 Victory has a distinctly modern Luger vibe. But that is basically where the comparison ends. The action, caliber, sights, trigger, hammer system, and disassembly process are drastically different from any Luger. Other than the profile, the angle and shape of the pistol grip are about the only things that resemble the old Luger.

Fortunately, that grip has long been hailed as a very comfortable shape, and that pairs nicely with the Victory as a target pistol. This somewhat hefty .22 LR was clearly meant as an easy-shooting and accurate pistol that’s fit for beginners and practiced target shooters alike. 
 

Specs & Features
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Takedown is easy enough but requires a tool. The gun breaks down into four main parts, and you can choose to swap out the barrel if needed or desired. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

I snagged this stainless-steel SW22 from the Guns.com Certified Used Vault, more out of curiosity than anything else. There are other options with more bells and whistles, though the stock SW22 Victory comes with a few already. 
 

The green fiber-optic front and rear sights are easy to pick up in bright sun and low light conditions. They’re fully adjustable at the rear for windage and elevation. The fit is nice and tight, and the matte-silver finish is handsome without causing glare in the sun. Anti-glare cuts are found on the top and back of the rear sight. However, in a nod to the growing fan base for pistol-mounted optics, the rear sight can be easily swapped for a Picatinny rail that comes with the gun from the factory. 
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
The factory sights are definetly a highlight on this gun. Also notice the fat bull barrel, which accounts for a lot of the weight. There are carbon-fiber options if you want to put the gun on a diet. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Feel free to run wild with some optics. The gun comes with a ready-to-mount rail. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


This semi-auto blowback rimfire is not your standard striker-fired affair and even has a small polymer bolt buffer inside to protect the bolt assembly during recoil. Instead, it hosts an internal hammer with a removable firing pin that makes cleaning out residue a cinch after a long day of shooting.

The gun breaks down into four main parts: lower, barrel and receiver, bolt, and recoil spring/guide rod. A single screw holds the entire assembly together, but you will need the included wrench to disassemble it.
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Here you can see the hammer and removed firing-pin assembly. Also note the white buffer. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
The adjustable trigger stop is in the center of the trigger. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


You can easily change out the match-grade bull barrel and pluck out the firing-pin assembly, which is housed inside the bolt body. There’s even an adjustable trigger stop on the trigger itself. 

Here are some additional specs for the gun:

Weight (With Empty Mag): 2.31 pounds
Length: 9.2 inches
Barrel Length: 5.45 inches
Height (With Magazine): 5.66 inches
Width (Widest Point): 1.29 inches
Trigger Pull: 2.81 pounds
Capacity: 10+1
Included Mags: 2

That length of 9.2 inches has some nice advantages, affording shooters a sight radius of 8.25 inches. Trigger travel is right around 0.1 inches with a light take-up. You then hit a small amount of smooth mush before the wall with a crisp break. The following reset is tactile with about 0.1 inches of travel. All in all, it’s a very serviceable factory trigger for accurate target shooting or fast plinking. 
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Compared to a lot of guns these days, the trigger guard is rather small. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
The ejection port is also rather small. Not really a big deal since I didn't notice any stovepipe malfunctions. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


I will note that the trigger guard and ejection port are quite small, but neither caused me issues while shooting on the range. Still, a gloved hand may impede smooth operation for you. There is a steel-reinforced thumb safety. It’s unobtrusive and easy to use. I do wish it was a bit more positive because I have found myself activating it while fiddling around with the gun for pictures. That hasn’t been an actual issue on the range yet.

The controls are easy to reach without adjusting my grip, and the magazines spit out positively. Unfortunately, there is nothing really ambidextrous about the gun. Sorry lefties.
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
I'll add a small ding to the gun because I would like a more positive safety. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol grip
The 18-degree grip angle on the 1911, left, is noticeably shallower than that of the SW22 Victory. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
This gun even shipped with a pretty sweet case, making it range ready. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Magazines eject positively with energy. All the controls are also easy to reach without adjusting my grip. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


The grip is steeper than the 18-degree angle on 1911-style pistols. When held with a single hand, I notice there is an initial tendency to point high for me. That levels off nicely when I bring in my support hand, and the accuracy is hard to argue with in the end anyway. Speaking of which, let’s get to the actual shooting.
 

Range Time & Accuracy


I’ll happily confess I’m not much of a target shooter per se. But the Victory makes it feel like a possibility. After a bit of practice, I was shooting about as well as I do with handguns. At 30 feet with a single 10-round magazine, I was able to group six shots in the inner-center ring. Two more floated just outside but still in the red, and two others slid into the nine ring on an NRA pistol target. Overall, for me, that’s not what I normally expect to see. 
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Here you can see my first 40 shots, which were largely dead center at 25 feet after I figured out where to hold before adjusting my sights. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


The sights are great for a factory target gun at this price. I made a few minor adjustments for my shooting at 30 feet, and I was hammering the center in seconds. The trigger pull and reset both lend themselves to accurate shooting. Since there is no slide, you don’t risk forcing a malfunction with your grip.
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Before adjusting my sights (left) and after (right). It only took a few seconds to bring the gun into the red. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
With the sights adjusted, the gun shot cleanly in the center red when I did my part – minus the two slight fliers – at 30 feet. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Perhaps my biggest complaint is the weight. The gun is heavy for a .22 LR pistol, yet not necessarily for a target-shooting one. There’s almost no felt recoil. Even better, the gun likes to float on the target thanks to a center of gravity that sits right between where my shooting hand and support hand fingers overlap.

I now have 600 consecutive rounds through the gun without cleaning. Most of that was cheap Federal 40-grain Range Pack ammo. I also ran 50 rounds of 38-grain Aguila hollow-point ammo, 29-grain Federal Punch, and 40-grain CCI Velocitors through the gun. As a note, the manual does caution that excessive use of high-velocity ammo may shorten the life of the barrel and some parts, though that round count is likely still very high given the heavy use of steel in this gun.
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
I ran a variety of ammo types through the SW22 with only a few minor hiccups. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
The 10-round magazines include an easy-to-use loading button. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


During testing, I had three minor but different malfunctions – failure to feed, failure to extract, and a light primer strike. These are things I have come to expect from time to time with budget .22 LR ammo. So, all in all, I was quite pleased with the reliability, especially given the ammo and price of the gun. 
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
I had one minor light strike on a primer, but that's not uncommon with bulk rimfire ammo and may not have even been the gun's fault. For what it's worth, the manual does advise you to test multiple types of ammo for reliability. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
At first, I wasn't thrilled with the grip shape and texture. I normally prefer a flared base for a more positive grip. But it grew on me when I saw how the gun shot. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Part of me really wishes the bottom of the pistol grip flared outward a bit instead of narrowing. That would make the grip feel more positive in my hand, but it’s hard to argue with the performance results. The texturing is just positive enough to be controllable without causing friction issues. Sometimes, with overly aggressive texture, I notice that any shift in my grip pressure shifts the gun more than I like.

As a heavier gun, I felt a bit of fatigue while shooting. The same cannot be said about reloading. This gently used test gun came with four magazines, and each has a sliding button to make reloading a fairly painless process.
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Sometimes you get lucky with "accuracy." The SW22 is predictably and repeatably accurate. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
 

Who’s It For?


Frankly, it's a great option for just about anyone who is looking for a small-caliber handgun they can shoot accurately and comfortably with very little maintenance. I could see the Victory making a name for itself as a pest control gun, training platform for new shooters, or just a fun plinking companion. 

With that said, it falls on the heavier side, so extended shooting or carrying is not necessarily its “Goldilocks Zone.” But if you want to cut the heart out of targets and build some good shooting fundamentals and confidence, this gun will make you smile.
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Here's a target after 100 consecutive rounds. You can actually see how I drifted down slightly as fatigue set in on me. I'd like to blame the fact that I had a shoulder-heavy workout that morning, but that might just be an excuse for getting lazy after 50 rounds. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


If we’re measuring the merits of the gun on its ability to hit in the red at 25 feet, the score would be 98 percent from my 100-round string of fire at that distance on a single target. I dropped two just into the black, and I could feel my own personal mistakes with both of those shots. Indeed, you can actually see my grouping walk down the center of the red area as fatigue set in on the second half of my shooting.
 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
Racking the bolt is easy with the flared rear serrations. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


The gun is easy to customize with the included Picatinny rail and interchangeable barrel. I like it just the way it was when it came out of the box, but there are plenty of compensators, sights, grips, and other accessories for those who enjoy really making a gun their own. S&W also offers a tricked-out Performance Center and Target Model version.
 

Pros & Cons

Here’s a quick list of my pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Accurate with match-grade barrel
  • Nice factory trigger
  • Good adjustable sights right out of the box
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Reliable with low felt recoil
  • Mags are easy to load and eject positively
  • Optics-ready with included Pic rail
  • Affordable and cheap to shoot
  • Easy to rack the bolt
  • Anti-glare cuts and coating
  • Adjustable trigger stop
  • Controls are easy to reach

Cons:

  • Small trigger guard and ejection port
  • Somewhat heavy for a .22 LR pistol
  • Safety could be more positive
  • Somewhat limited but acceptable grip texture
  • Disassembly requires a tool
  • Not ambidextrous
     

Final Thoughts

 

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory .22 LR Pistol
It's hard to complain about a gun when it performs on the range like a champ. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


I like a lot of guns – what can I say – but I only really love shooting a few. The Victory was one of those right from the start. Clever and unique guns are cool, but nothing beats watching the center of your target dissolve on the range. Accuracy matters, and the SW22 has it in spades.

I wasn’t really in the market for a target-style .22 LR pistol. Yet, the Victory just jumped up on my list of personal guns to purchase in the near future. At the price, I won’t feel very bad about it, either.

revolver barrel loading graphic

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