Anything that .22 LR can do, .22 WMR can do better, in a bolt gun, at least. While the magnum rimfire shines in manually operated actions, getting it to run reliably in a semi-auto is a rather large ask. The problem lies in the cartridge’s power factor, as it is too high for an unmodified blowback action yet not strong enough to operate a conventional gas-operated feeding system. Of the two, delaying a blowback system seems to yield the best results, but getting it there through simple means can be challenging. Challenges become motivation to a team of German engineers, and motivation becomes a product. Clear evidence of this concept can be found in the WMP, or Walther Magnum Pistol, a semi-automatic handgun chambered to fire classic .22 Magnum.
The WMP is undoubtedly Walther, as it takes cues from two highly recognizable designs, the PPQ M2 and the Creed. The former is a terrific move, as I loved the ergonomics of this series of handguns. The WMP carries over the same curvature, texturing and even palm swells of the legendary PPQ M2 but abandons the interchangeable backstraps. Why would such a beloved feature be omitted, you ask? Easy, the overall cartridge length of the .22 WMR makes for an exaggerated grip in the first place. Only the largest meat mitts will find it too small for them. That’s not to say that you need to have a large hand to find this pistol controllable, as smaller hands can easily form a complete grip, thanks to the superior geometry of this design. In fact, the WMP is made to be as inclusive as possible, as it features two different ambidextrous magazine release systems and a slide-stop that can be flicked off by either your thumb, forefinger or even both.
As for the portions that look like they were made from leftover Creed parts, I don’t get it. While the frame exudes a pin-up level of firearm sexiness, the slide is best likened to one of the lunch ladies from your old high school. Nobody is going to buy this pistol for its attractiveness. However, the extra girth allows for the addition of some stellar, accuracy-enhancing features. A broader canvas allowed for the implementation of a bull barrel as well as an optics cut that can accept a wide variety of red dots. Together, they make for a package that is more than capable of placing headshots on gray squirrels within the typical distances they are hunted. Those not interested in making that separate investment are spared, as the WMP comes standard with a drift-adjustable rear sight and a fiber optic front sight that all but glows under bright daylight.
So the big question, what makes it run? Surprisingly, not much. While most German products are overengineered to a fault, the WMP simply utilizes the hammer mechanism to provide the delay needed to hold the pistol together while firing. All it took was getting the weight of the hammer and spring tensions just right. This leaves us with fewer failure points that ultimately add production costs to the firearm, resulting in a win for everybody.
Like most rimfires, this pistol has ammo that it’s going to like and ammo that it isn’t going to like. Much respect goes to Walther for not shying away from this fact but instead embracing it by listing a large cross-sample of what works and doesn’t work right on the website. While I am not too proud to take advice from a manufacturer, I couldn’t stick strictly to the list. However, I was confident that my choices would function well enough for paper punching. After rounding up three different ammunition weights, I slapped a Primary Arms SLx RS-10 mini reflex sight to the gun and headed out to the range.
We decided that the best distance to test this rimfire was 25 yards, as most squirrel and rabbit engagements happen right around this distance. However, for fun, I set up 8-inch AR-500 gongs at 50 and even 100 yards just to see how far I could push things. Starting with the Federal Game-Shok load, I snugged up a sandbag rest and sent my first round downrange. Expecting some sort of muzzle flip, I was delighted with how flat the gun shot. Typically when a bore axis sits that far above the hand, things get jumpy, but this just wasn’t the case. After firing my second shot, I had an accuracy concern, as I couldn’t spot an additional hit on paper. After clearing the pistol and walking downrange, I realized that the reason I couldn’t find it was because it was in the same hole as the first! Returning to my shooting point, I fired three more shots and turned in a group that measured just 1.10 inches. Things only got tighter from that point, with groups measuring as small as .81 inch, rivaling the accuracy of handguns that cost several times more. The other two types of ammunition also shot rather well, and all three made it through the test without a hiccup.
Stepping away from the bench, I decided to push out to the 50-yard target, which this gun had no trouble covering with a good two-handed shooting position. Even plopping rounds onto the 100-yard gong was relatively effortless, leaving more on the shooter than the firearm itself. Through it all, the muzzle stayed just about parallel to the ground, allowing me an unobstructed view of my impacts. That’s important in the field, as we need to be able to see if we struck that unassuming tree rat and he fell or if we whizzed one past his head and he ran up the back of the tree. As I digested magazine after magazine of ammo, I experimented with the Quad Release mag-catch system. I found the paddles to be a terrific option for gloved hands, while the button-style frame release provided a familiar feel. The best part is that no matter what you are used to already, there is zero learning curve in this department.
After exhausting more than 200 rounds of ammunition, my day on the range came to a close. I found the WMP to be accurate beyond words and reliable enough for the type of high-volume shooting that accompanies a good small-game hunt. It also makes an excellent pistol for bigger critters like opossums and raccoons, as it has the energy to dispatch them humanely with a single shot. Overall, it’s got everything you need to put more energy on distant critters or even just ensure that you have enough punch should you come across a fox or a coyote while out and about.
• Type: semi-auto rimfire handgun
• Caliber: .22 WMR
• Magazine Capacity: 15 rnds.
• Barrel: 4.5"; carbon steel; bull profile; 1:16.5"; RH twist
• Trigger: 4.5-lb. pull weight
• Sights: optics-ready slide; fixed rear; fiber-optic front
• Safety: trigger bow style
• Grip/Stocks: polymer frame
• Metal Finish: matte black
• Overall Length: 8.2"
• Weight: 27.8 ozs.
• Accessories: spare magazine, optics adapter plates, plastic case, owner’s manual
• MSRP: $549; waltherarms.com