There are a few popular 22LR semiauto handguns on the market right now. In this post, I'll discuss the most popular guns and the features of each.
First (and my favorite) is the Beretta U22 Neos. The first thing I noticed about the Neos when I picked it up is that the grip is small. I'm a big guy and have big hands, so the small grip wasn't a selling point for me. The magazine release can be easily engaged with the right hand's trigger finger, extended and out of the trigger guard. The placement of the mag release is a bit different, but makes sense to right handed shooters. I am a left handed shooter, so this took a little getting used to.
The ease of disassembly is what sets this gun apart from the other 22s. Disassembly requires zero tools and cleaning the gun is simple. A wheel is spun (infront of the trigger guard) which releases the barrel from the frame. the barrel is cantaleevered over the slide, holding it in place. the slide comes off easily and holds a recoil spring. with the slide out of the way, the striker and its spring are easily seen. all the parts are big and easy to clean, perfect for the novice shooter. I'd consider this a great first gun for someone getting into 22s.
Next on the list is the Smith and Wesson 22 series. They used to make the 22S and now only make the 22A. The difference between the guns was the finish used. The S&W 22 has a takedown similar to that of the Neos, but it has some flaws. The cantaleevered portion above the barrel is made out of a cheap cast aluminum alloy and is prone to breakage. there is a pin protruding from the bottom of the barrel that holds the barrel in place on the frame which is also prone to breaking, as well as backing out. Still, no tools are needed to disassemble this gun, so I give S&W big points for that. Instead of turning a little wheel like the Neos, the S&W uses a button the user presses towards the trigger guard to release the barrel from the frame. The grips on this model gun are ugly and not super-comfortable, rather boring actually, but they're easily replaceable with fat wooden grips for about $70.
The magazine release on this gun is in a wierd place: exactly where it can be found on earlier 22LR pistols such as the 422, 622, and 2206. Where might you ask? the frontstrap of the grip. Again, a little odd to get used to, but its ambidexterous, which means they get a lot of points from a leftie like me. The sights on this gun are the best of any i'll be talking about today.
Next up is the Browning Buckmark. A bit more expensive than the others i've discussed, its truely a better quality firearm. The trigger on this gun is nothing short of superb. The gun disassembles with the use of an allen wrench. When the rail is removed from the top of the gun, allowing for disassembly, the sights will sometimes be misaligned when the rail is returned to the gun. It loses points in my eyes because the user needs a tool to take it apart. Its not the worst i've ever seen though. This gun features a regular magazine realese like you'd see on a 1911 pattern pistol as well as most other popular modern pistols. Because of the location of the magazine release, the gun is a great tool to teach new shooters. They have to learn where the magazine release is once before progressing onto other guns in larger calibers.
The last popular 22LR semiauto I'll be talking about today is the Ruger Mark III. This gun is a departure from the more classic mk1 and mkII that use a heel/european style magazine release, but the takedown and operation of the pistol is similar to that of generations past. The gun balances well and feels like a well made piece of machinery, but the overall style of the gun is just weird. To cock the gun, wings on either side of the back of the gun are pulled towards the shooter, opening the breech. It looks like the gun has a backstrap safety, but no! that's part of the downright horrific takedown of this little gem. I would tell any new shooter to not walk, but run away from any Ruger 22LR semiauto. Even an experienced gun tinkerer such as myself had trouble getting one of these back together. The directions in the owner's manual are complete garbage and don't show pictures. These guns are commonly sold at gun shops around here with the warning of "never take it apart to clean it" because its such a bitch to get back together, even for veteran gun hobbyists. The takedown is downright terrible. That's why I won't own one of these guns. Shooting and cleaning guns should be fun, not frusterating. If you don't beleive me about the takedown of this particular firearm, check out the youtube video featuring the dingleberry and the cheeze. sorry folks, i will not, under any circumstances, own a gun that requires a hammer to put back together. Imagine how cheaply this gun could be produced (and then sold to the public) if it utilized a simple design! If it were mde of the same quality materials and implemented a simple design, I bet the gun would cost at least a hundred bucks less.
Function on all of the guns explained above is excellent. Each hold 10 rounds per single stack drop free magazine. These guns are the big players in the $350-ish range. Others exist, but these are the most popular sellers.