Monday, September 20, 2010

Do you know what else there's a market niche for?

A good-quality, reasonably priced .22LR self-loading pistol.

Smith & Wesson offers either the very nice and very expensive Model 41, or the extremely shoddily constructed Model 22. Don't get me wrong, the Model 22 is very accurate for the price, and is a common entry-level rimfire target pistol, but they just don't hold up well over the long run.

In an effort to remain price-competitive, Browning has cheapened up the Buckmark so much over the years that I have a hard time recommending current ones. Plus, the idea of a gun whose grip panels are used to retain important mechanical components doesn't jibe well with me; especially in a budget deuce-deuce autoloader that might spend time under truck seats and in tackle boxes.

The various little "clone guns" like the P-22 and the Mosquito and suchlike? The zamak-and-plastic construction gives me serious worries about life expectancy. When I say "good-quality", I mean a pistol you can shoot every weekend for your entire shooting career, and then your grandkid can shoot every weekend over theirs. Similarly, I haven't run into too many really high-mileage Beretta Neos's.

Bill Ruger built his entire business from this market niche, but with the replacement of the Mk.II by the Mk.III, the whole concept of "good-quality and inexpensive" took a hit. I mean, by the time you've fixed the atrocious trigger by junking the magazine safety, you've got time and effort in the gun that could have been as easily spent on shopping for a used Mk.II. Or a Colt Woodsman, for all that.

Now, mind you, this isn't some kind of codgerette-like pining for glorious blued steel and walnut; I'm talking about something that could be retailed in the $300-$400 range, so aluminum, and possibly a polymer gripframe, would obviously have to come into play. I just want something that has a decent trigger and no internal components that give up the ghost in 5,000 rounds or less; something that fits in the price niche between the budget autos from Browning, Smith, and Beretta and the serious .22 target pistols.

Y'know, or Ruger could just fix the trigger on the Mk.III by ditching that magazine disconnect. And monkeys might fly outta my butt.

Oh, and speaking of .22's, you know what always got on my last nerve when I was slinging guns across the glass? Seth & Jared (or Jethro & Cletus) would be standing in front of the revolver case and one would point at the S&W 617 and say "Lookit that! It costs just as much as the .357 Magnum next to it! They must think we're stupid!"

"Sir, it's pretty much the same gun..."

"Yebbut, it's just a .22!"

Because, you know, if you drill a smaller hole in the barrel, you can shave hundreds off the price tag. Hey, it's got more metal in it; by that logic it should cost more!

53 comments:

The Duck said...

Here Here, I fully agree

I use Buck Marks, and Smith 22A's as loaners in class, and it seems there is always at least one waiting for parts. I just fixed 2 of the BM's and then this weekend another went down.

I think it's more than niche market

pdb said...

I wonder if this product category hasn't gotten all ate up by the new wave of 1911 and Glock .22LR conversions.

Anonymous said...

The NAA web site has the top break minni up for pre order $499.00 seems a bit steep for the minni revolver though. On your advise my AR was $650 +or- can't put it in my pocket though.

Anonymous said...

I think people's problem with the cost of the 617 is that you can find right next to it a MKIII, Buckmark, etc for less than $300. The average person doesn't get the difference between them other than one is a revolver and the others aren't.

What burns my bum is that the price of j-frame 22lr revolvers have jumped so much in recent years. They cost as much as 3x what their 38 or 357 brethren cost.

Chris

Tam said...

"They cost as much as 3x what their 38 or 357 brethren cost."

That alloy cylinder just kills the price, ironically. That, and the fact that they're only available with every bell and whistle. There's no reason they couldn't make a steel-cylindered, fixed sight six-shot kit gun for the same price as a Model 642 or 60. But they've completely abandoned the steel-framed "Kit Gun" market to Taurus and its Model 94.

Robert Langham said...

I toy with the idea of sending my Target Mk1 in to Clarks guns and have them do a rebuild. Dad bought it for me in the 60s so it got hard used as a kid carry gun, now lives in the Bullseye Box and shoots good enough for that, but when you shake it the barrel rattles on the grip. (so I don't shake it)

Certainly enjoying my K22!

Anonymous said...

If there was a market for it, they would build it.

People want shlock, Tauri, WPBF P22s, inter alia, so that's what is sold.

Shootin' Buddy

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Never understood cheap guns. Well, much. I understand the not wanting to pay. But for gunnies that are introspective enough and consider themselves buying a plinker for themselves and the next generation, the difference between $400 and $800 isn't that much.

Anonymous said...

"That alloy cylinder just kills the price, ironically."

I was actually referring to older guns.

Chris

Anonymous said...

Well, the flip side is that used Ruger MKIIs are cheap around here. I scored a Govt model for less than 200 recently.

Al T.

McVee said...

What Al said. As long as people keep b!tch'in the rugers difficult to reassemble I'll be able to find decent MKIIs.

aczarnowski said...

I'm glad to have my MKII 22/45. Still haven't found sights I really like for it, but I don't ever see that bull barrel of stainless and its matching bolt wearing out.

Anonymous said...

I heartily concur. I very much prefer to start new students with a .22; my problem is I don't have/can't find enough quality .22s.

Have a couple of old Buckmarks that work well, not thrilled about the new ones; tried a MK III, now trying to buy more old MK IIs instead.

Have a pair of 63s, a 617 and a 94. With the 63s, it's real tough to get a smooth, easy trigger in a J frame-sized gun. My 617 has been smoothed by a very good revolver guy, but it's too big for most female hands and "smooth and light" still translates to a 9-10 lb DA pull, and if a beginner is concentrating on how hard the trigger is they're not focused on technique. As for the 94, I've seen smoother, lighter actions on rusty farm gates.

My ideal: a MK II Buckmark hybrid. Solid, reliable, easy to fix, reasonable trigger, about a 5"-6" barrel for good sight radius, adjustable sights, and a side-frame mag release button so I can use it to train to a center fire pistol.

T.Stahl said...

Hämmerli x-esse aka SIG Trailside:

Trigger: nice
Sights: adjustable
Magazines: cheap
Ergonomics: like a big gun
Grip: fits the tiny hands of my wife and the paws of a friend who's around 6'6"
Reliability: with CCI SV on par with my Glock
Durability: broke the trigger bar spring once (penny part), lost the screw holding the rear sight (fixed it with glue), broke the firing pin at 27,921rds (gotta call my dealer for spare part).

Matt G said...

The whole time I was shooting pass-around guns at Blogorado this years, it was FarmDad's heavily-worn old M17 that I kept going back to, again and again and again, and kept coming back for more ammo with, with a big smile o my face. I have GOT to get me one of those, or a 617. Being able to snap off 6 shots, DA, ringing the 6" plate from 20 yards as fast as I can pull the trigger, is just something that makes me giggle like a little school girl.

Tam said...

Chris,

"I was actually referring to older guns."

Ah. Well, the facts that A)They are less common than their centerfire brethren and, more importantly, B) They Aren't Making Any More have had their inevitable effect on the marketplace.

Darrell said...

Ditto on the Trailside.

Papa Whiskey said...

Just buy a used high standard IMO.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the patent off the Ruger MK1?

Toolup and bring back Ruger's first pistol. Mine are still going strong. However, it is not a target pistol.

John B said...

Shootin' Buddy: I and my friends, over 100 of them have been pestering Kel-Tec to build a Sub2000 rifle in 7.62X25 tokarev caliber for a couple years now. Market demand or pressure isn't as potent a force as you believe. I'm waiting for a PMR 30 style pistol in plain .22LR instead of WMR. I'll probably be waiting forever. Customer input isn't high with those guys......

ishootstuff said...

I'm in the minority, but...

My P-22 has 6k+ through it, may have even broke 7k by now. It was finicky early on, but as it broke it, it eats anything. I haven't seen any wearing on the slide or rails to speak of, and the only time I've needed service was for a safety detent that would slip out of the 'fire' position. S&W made the detent a little deeper, problem solved.

Now that I've said that, the slide will crack next time I take it out, I'm sure...

Nate said...

My Neos has proven trouble free and plenty accurate for my use for several years now. It hasn't had millions of rounds through it but thousands and except for some brand pickiness, I love it and recommend it.

Bubblehead Les. said...

" ....abandoned the steel-framed "Kit Gun" market to Taurus and its Model 94." Buddy of mine lent me his 94 so the wife could get some training time in. Went to the Range, tried to shoot it. Heaviest Double Action trigger pull I've felt in my life! Took it home, thinking there was a burr or some crap in the innards, nope, every things fine. Cleaned and lubed it, still felt like it was pulling a Locomotive by hand. We went online to see if there were any lighter springs, nope, Taurus won't let you have them, nothing at Wolff or Numrich. Called Taurus, they claimed it was deliberately made that way because "of the wide variance in Rimfire Ammunition out there that needs a Heavy Strike". I said that's fine, but if you can't pull the trigger, how do you get a Hammer Strike to begin with? They said to send it back. Gave it to my buddy, he sent it off, came back a few weeks later, still no change. When he called them up, they said there's nothing wrong with it, that's how it was designed, and we were always free to sell it off.

It's been to several gun shows, and as soon as people pull the trigger, they put it down, shaking their heads, some asking why it's broken.

So there's still a Kit Gun niche waiting to be filled, and I now believe that Taurus is the Spanish word for P.O.S.

Anonymous said...

I also have a 617 and it shoots great. If your going to use a K frame for training smaller folks, converting the square grip to a round butt isn't too hard. If I was going to use my 617, I'd have the full (4 in) underlug machined off and the grip converted to a round butt.

DirtCrashr said...

Mr. Completely likes his High Standards, my local shop has a slew of old ones in the 'used' case.
I like my Sig P220/.22lr conversion but don't think it's a substitute for a dedicated .22 pistol and if the build quality of the Mosquito is like the old Sig's (like my '89) then they should stand up - but I've heard less complimentary stuff about them lately...

Anonymous said...

I have been very happy with the .22 conversion for my p229. At $250 brand new, very reasonable if you already have a Sig :)

The Mosquito I had was garbage, though.

Anonymous said...

own a mk1 and a 617 and love them both. As for the new ruger what a joke!! and the browning has never done anything for me. wish high standard or the woodsman was back as they are very hard to find here in Ga.

Walt

Anonymous said...

I also have a neos with probably 2k rounds (all federal bargain ammo w/ no problems) through it and not a single problem. I wasn't thrilled by the space-gun look, and I wish they would have put the mag release in a reasonable spot, but other than that this pistol seems very solid. I've actually had fewer problems out of it than with my MkII.

Anonymous said...

Well, you can buy a brand new Woodsman for $150. If your Canadien.

http://www.marstar.ca/gf-norinco/22-M-93.shtm

Rob

Anonymous said...

""Yebbut, it's just a .22!""

That attitude is why you are very, very lucky indeed to find a shop that has CZ rifles, S&W .22 revolvers, Marlin 39s, Browning BL22s, or Rem 572s in stock. You'll find scads of cheap cheap Mossberg, Marlin and Savage bolt actions and autos, the ubiquitous Ruger 10/22 (still a fine gun, though), and Henry lever action rifles, and the ever popular Walther P22 and Taurus revolvers.

David H. said...

I have both a S&W 22A and a Beretta Neos.

The S&W shot nicely, however the grip for it was absurdly bad (and the "target" grips the sell for it are equally awful) - it felt like I was trying to grip a brick, and I don't have small hands.

I was dissatisfied enough that I picked up the Neos. It's better, although still not perfect.

I don't know how much the long term will affect them, as I've probably only put about 1000 rounds through each.

I'd say that I made the common mistake of trying to find a "cheap" solution. In the end, I will probably get rid of both of them and just do what I should have in the first place and buy one of the more expensive S&W .22 pistols.

Weer'd Beard said...

I LOVE my S&W 617. Its a joy to shoot, the first gun I hand to a new shooter on the range, and the easiest way to turn .22 ammo into smoke and noise, even if the ammo is water damaged or of an odd vintage.

I bought it used for likely twice what most of the S&W 22As go for new. I had my doubts about spending so much money on a .22 handgun when so many other guns were so much cheaper.

I have never regretted spending a little bit more on this gun.

Also this year I managed to shoot it to death. 4 Chambers went out of time. Sent it back to S&W and 2 weeks later it was back to me with a fresh cylinder, star, and timing pawl, and the trigger feels a lot better too (or maybe I just missed it...)

No regrets at all!

Tam said...

Anon.,

"I also have a neos with probably 2k rounds..."

For a lot of people, that's a couple months' worth of range visits.

Seriously, there's not a lot wrong with many of these guns, given the performance envelope most shooters expect from them. But for the 1k+/mo. rimfire shooter, most current budget .22 selfloaders aren't going to hang.

Stranger said...

Various gunnies wonder why I refuse to trade my Mark I's and Woodsman's in. There's plenty of room in the safe when I find something of comparable quality but I have not found it yet.

Stranger

Joe in PNG said...

I went for the old High Standard option- a Duramatic 6 1/2" model that some nut wire brushed all the finish off of . It still shoots great- great trigger, super accurate.

There's just one problem. After +/- 50 rounds it begins to jam. So, I break it down, clean it up, and it's good to go for another 50.

As for the M17/617, it's one of the most fun guns I've ever shot in my entire life (that wasn't full auto).

Tam said...

The biggest problem with the old High Standards is that extra mags are such a hit-or-miss proposition. Sometimes it seems like each magazine will only work in the gun with which it shipped.

I know that one of the things I do like about my Mk.III 22/45 is that mags are cheap and plentiful. At the moment, I have six, and can spend the time when the range is called cold loading them up...

Mulliga said...

I think a lot of the market has been swallowed up by .22 conversions. I have a CZ Kadet kit that's sees at least two bricks worth of rimfire every month and it still works fine.

Anonymous said...

I still have my High Supermatic I bought in 1972 for $98.50. Technically, it's a Target pistol but does field & plinking quite nicely. I haven't heard a lot of wonderful comments about the Houston production. Apparently, someone is making "improvements".

NPB said...

It's an odd proposition trying to find such a pistol. Between '98 and '06, I went through 3 frames on a Smith 22A. It was unfortunate, because they felt good in my hand and had good accuracy. I'd like to try a 22S and see if the steel frame makes a difference, but I'm unwilling to drop money on a gun with a 3-5 year lifespan.

My sister shoots an older Buckmark, but like you say, the new ones leave much to be desired.

I'm glad that Ruger finally put the mag release on his 22 in the right spot, but as you say, the value proposition of that gun is not so good.

I hope that the Kel-Tec PMR works out, but even if it a high-quality and durable pistol, 22 magnum ammo is much more expensive.

My first pistol was a Single Six, and I think that a revolver is probably what I would go to again for a good-quality, reasonably priced 22, even though the autoloaders are fun.

My dad shoots the Benelli "Atlanta" model, and Mom shoots a Smith 41, and when it comes down to it, a "shoot every weekend" gun that'll last through my grandkids is worth dropping the coin on. I think the conversions are the way to go for that route, and when I got tired of my 22A, I saved for a couple of years and had a dedicated pistol built out of a STI Master frame and a 6" Marvel Unit 1. I ended up also picking up a dedicated Kart Ace, and while paying for the guns hurt, I've found it's well worth it.

D.W. Drang said...

Wolverine!
;-)

TheGraybeard said...

You have shown me the error of my ways, and corrected me. Just a few weeks ago, I was telling the Mrs. that I'd like a .22 revolver but I don't want to spend big bucks on it 'cause "it's only a .22".

I have a S&W 22A and a couple of k-rounds through it with no problems at all. My only gripe is that for a gun that size, why make it a single stack magazine and 10 rounds? The grip is thick enough as it is to make it a double stack. It's actually thicker than my XD subcompact which is a double stack of 9mm.

Steve Skubinna said...

Interesting question, Graybeard. I don't think I've ever seen a double stack mag in .22. Is it because the rimmed cartridge causes feed problems?

DirtCrashr said...

Drang!
I want an old Smith K-22 Masterpiece like I carried in the Trinity Alps when I was gold-mining, it's the ultimate.

Tam said...

"I don't think I've ever seen a double stack mag in .22. Is it because the rimmed cartridge causes feed problems?"

In a nutshell, yes.

Anonymous said...

Another hold out for the old High Standard Supermatic. Also I recently handled a .22 clone of the 1911. I think it was a PUMA? It seemed like a pretty good build for ~$300.00

Joat said...

You can get a double stack mag for a 10/22 and feeding is hit or miss.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

Who, who, who...

Having remembered that the last time I shot my H&R .22 revolver I managed a near-touching group at 7 yards, it occurs to me that the people who need to get on this are:

Charter. And I could easily see something like a mass-produced steel chamber with a knurled/grooved/'wave-locked' exterior surface that could be set into a mold and have a cylinder of (ye Gods!) zamak or (horrors!) polycarbonate cast around them. If timing is going to ever be an issue, then design a 'grip safety' or even a hammer extension that pushes a coned chamber mouth into an oversized forcing cone, a la Nagant (without the 30 pound springs).

Matt G said...

I'm only moderately happy with the Ceiner conversion kit for my .45s.

I'm saddened to hear that the Buckmark has declined in quality lately. But as for my 25 year-old Browning Buckmark 6.5" pistol, I can only say, "I got mine!" It's my cheater training pistol, which I hand to all newbies, or frustrated oldsters. It makes you remember that pistol shooting can be PHUN!

Laughingdog said...

I've got over 30 bricks of .22 through my Neos, and the only thing about it that pisses me off is that I still can't buy other sized barrels for it, despite that being the marketing tool for it when I got it in 2004.

When coaching younger kids, being able to swap the 6" barrel for a 4.5" would be really useful.

Anonymous said...

High Standard Model B, Browning Nomad / Challenger, you are correct, used market is probably your best bet for finding a high quality plinker that will last a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

gave up on rugers when the QC started going in the crapper...
i still have my fixed sight single six and it just seems to keep going forever...
sad to hear about the BM's(fitting abbreviation is it not?)...
almost bought one until that 'feeling' that something wasn't right warned me off...
the neos are in recall, and are fugly!
colt woodsman for the win!

James family outpost, Iowa. said...

Dammit, thanks for pointing out the glaring gap in the safe. I traded me old buckmark in on a model 63, and the Mark III did not last long - did not like the sights (v-notch & Hi-vis). Trailside would be nice to try, a bit spendy though.

oldsmobile98 said...

I'm looking forward to hearing reviews of the Colt 1911-style .22 when it comes out. We'll see.