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Capacity Battle March 2023
Gerhard Schroeder  

They had me at 20.

When I first got seriously interested in firearms, back in Germany, catalogs from Kettner and Frankonia were great for drooling over, especially the handgun sections. Back then they were legally off limits for 15-year-old me, but at least I could dream about getting one in 22 LR someday, a caliber I could and did get ammo for at the local shooting club, practicing some with target rifles and taking the rest of the box home. Pistols of the day had 10-shot magazines, at best.

Fast-forward to the 80s, and me now residing in Arizona. Which pistol did I want?? Ten-shot mags still seemed to be the ceiling. Can’t remember when, but eventually a 12-shot capacity was advertised. Hmm. Even better, in recent years somebody must have figured out how to double-stack 22LR ammo in a flush-fitting handgun mag. Today we see FN and Beretta with 15, Taurus with 16, KelTec with 17. Then came SigSauer in their P322 with 20!

Add to it that FN and SigSauer also offered barrels threaded and slides RedDot-ready. Both mattered to me greatly. The optics option because my eyes aren’t getting younger, and I already have ‘schtuff’ to thread onto muzzles. Yep, that did it! I wanted the P322 with higher capacity. But good luck finding one.

Months went by, yet patience prevailed and eventually I ended up with one. First time out I loaded one of the two magazines it ships with to full capacity, racked the slide and fired at a rock, and fired and fired. Twenty rounds is a lot of shooting. In the end the slide stayed back. No problems, no failures, no regrets, much fun.

Of course I plinked a little more, all with CCI MiniMags. Right about when I was on my 4th or 5th magazine I convinced myself that the pistol functioned just fine, that it was time to get serious and purchase the Romeo Zero RedDot for it. The front sight made my decision easy by flying off the slide. Apparently, the tiny screw holding the sight to the slide from underneath loosened. Fine, we’ll go Romeo Zero.

Once in hand, installation was easy. So was zeroing. What was not is switching the unit on and off. The little button for that is located ‘under the hood’, right in front of its lens. Not ideal at all for fat fingers. But it makes sense for operation on a defensive pistol such as the SIG 365. It prevents that the sight is inadvertently turned off. For me on this P322 it was so awkward that I made a simple special tool to actuate that tiny switch, from a nail of course. More serious evaluation followed with that little red dot sight riding on the slide.

The magazine loading tool that ships with the P322 works well for up to 18 rounds. That is the way I tested most of the ammo, with 18-shots in the magazine. The 19th will go in when pushing down enough on it. The 20th will only and barely go in while pressing down really hard on the magazine follower buttons. Makes for unhappy fingertips.

After my initial field trip with this pistol I decided to keep track of what the thing is capable of. Over several trips out of town, often interrupted by deer hunt, our friendly matches, elk and javelina pursuits, etc., I subjected my P322 to a little endurance test. Here’s what happened:

Federal Auto Match went first, had 3 failures to feed out of 50. Disqualified for this gun.

Norma TAC-22 (same as RWS Target Rifle? The ammo is made in Germany, has the RWS logo on the brass base, and RUAG owns them both) did not generate enough thrust for reliable functioning. Disqualified for this gun.

Out of 130 Aguila Super Extra HV, 5 failed to fire, and 4 times the slide did not lock back after the last shot. Disqualified for this gun. I don’t have any more of them anyway.

Out of 330 Remington Thunderbolts, 2 failed to feed, 6 failed to fire, and except for 3 times the slide did not lock back after the last shot. Disqualified for this gun. Those were my last of this ammo also. Over the years, decades, really, I have never gone through a bulk box of Thunderbolts without some failing to fire. Their brass seems a little harder such that they typically run better in sensitive semi-autos. By the way, all ‘failed to fire’ Aguilas and Remingtons fired when I inserted them a second time, with the firing pin hitting opposite of the first strike.

CCI Blazer did better. For the first 100 fired the only functional issue was 4 times failure to lock back the slide after the last shot. Then I brushed only the inside of the magazine well, where the slide lock engages with the magazine. After that the slide locked up as designed. But for the next 100 Blazers, 5 failed to fire. These also fired when I inserted them a second time. I committed to cleaning this pistol thoroughly for sure if failures to fire would become annoying, just in case so much shooting would also leave their residue in the firing pin area. But for the time being I simply kept shooting.

CCI Mini Mag HPs were next. I had 50 left, and they operated without flaw. That small quantity is not much proof of reliability, but good that their hollow point bullets did not cause feeding problems, even after firing more than 500 shots by then.

Some of this testing and playing occurred with my Ruger 22-45 tagging along. Yes, some comparing naturally happened. I like the way the Ruger feels, hefty in hand(s), with match-like trigger. But I hate-hate-hate it when a gun pukes. Well, the Ruger failed to feed annoyingly often in the past. That contributed greatly to me pursuing another 22LR pistol. Now, I just recently I figured out that 3 of my 6 magazines are NOT made by Ruger. With the Ruger mags the pistol became way more reliable. Even so, capacity is 10, and those mags do not always drop free from the gun when empty and the release button is pushed. Neither do fresh mags enter the gun quickly without a ton of practice. Plus, upon slide release the first round even in the Ruger magazines tends to nose-dive unless it is purposely pointed “up” when carefully inserted into the gun; carefully such as to not disturb the pointing up.

With the P322 the mags do drop out without assist, and because of the staggered arrangement of the 20 rounds these mags are fatter in their belly and therefore enter the pistol as slick as I’m used to with high capacity 9mm pistols.

25ers for 10-22, CZ45X, P322,+20rd

Then this P322 deal became sweeter. You see, SigSauer also offers 25-round magazines. No surprise that at first those were always out of stock. Late in January 2023 that changed, and I quick-drew my plastic to order two of them. About an inch longer than the 20 rounders, that inch simply sticks out of the pistol, with part of the magazine spring showing. Then again, once in the field there is no better place for extra ammo than in the gun’s magazine. Those 25’ers functioned fine when fully loaded. Loading those with 25 was easier than loading the 20s with 20. The tool again was good for 23, the last two only going in by finger power.

By the time the CCI Mini Mags got their endurance turn, over 600 shots had been fired. There have been no issues with CCI Mini Mag roundnose so far, with about 300 fired by the time I’m documenting this. As experienced with other 22LR guns, the Mini Mags seem to be a notch up in quality. It will be the ammo in this pistol when its use is more serious than plinking.

And just for info, at my last outing I tried a magazine full of Federal Auto Match again, simply because they are still the least expensive to purchase at this time. They ran without problem, may remain a plinking option after all.

To clarify, FN, Beretta and SigSauer do not ‘make’ these 22 pistols. They are all produced by Umarex in Germany. It appears that they have figured out high-capacity functionality in a small package, while making them look quite similar to the respective bigger brother 9mms. Due to the characteristics of the 22RF ammo, none can be striker-fired. They all have a hammer, inside for the P322. I would have preferred an external one, like on the Beretta M9-22 and FN 502. But that would have taken away some optical similarity to the bigger brothers in the SigSauer family.

Before I forget, of course I made good use of the threaded barrel. It took an adapter to get the threads to 5/8-24 size, to be compatible with my ‘schtuff’. No surprise to me, with a substantial section of pipe with welded-on muzzle brake threaded to my P322, hitting targets became easier. It’s the same ‘adapter’ my CZ452 and Tikka T3 in 223Rem like so well. Could not help myself, had to Schroederize this gun also, of course. In time this P322 may be worthy of its own performance-enhancing muzzle hardware.

One more thought: with an empty weight of 17.7 oz, it is a delight of a camp and trail gun. I simply don’t feel it riding in a belt holster, with full magazine. With a total of 26 shots on tap, there is clearly protective potential. Or call it “spray and pray”. Hmmm, could it even be a type of ‘bear spray’? Another test! Placing four rocks at 10, 8, 6 and 4 steps out, simulating somewhat of a charge, I let ‘em have it when the timer beeped, only pointing, not aiming. Firing all 26 took over 6 seconds. The trigger is not the fastest with respect to reset. For bear spray I will employ sumpfin else.

So, my P322 is far from perfect. Its trigger is good but certainly not great. The pistol is a plinker, not a target gun. With concentration I can hit the pig silhouettes. Punching paper once, ten shots off the bench went into 2.3 inches at 25 yds. Its hammer strike appears on the lighter side, and not unlike other 22s, the thing is ammo-sensitive. Still, God willing you will see me using it under the clock at some of our future matches, enhanced more to my liking, and with CCI Mini Mags in its high-capacity magazine(s).

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