Of course, since it’s hazardous to shoot a gun without a suppressor, you will probably want to buy a pistol that can be easily adapted to use a suppressor. I actually shopped for my suppressor first.
Given the hassle and cost in acquiring a suppressor, I figured it would be wise to get a removable (threaded) can in case I wanted to use it on different guns. Which made this an easy choice: The current standard in removable baffle .22 suppressors is the $300 Gemtech Outback-II. As with any “Class III” NFA device, you have to pay an extra $200 to the feds and wait months for the BATFE to review your fingerprints and transfer application. And if you live in one of the sixteen states that forbid private ownership of suppressors, all you can do right now is petition your government to stop restraining your right to own this safety accessory.
A lot of people buy Walther P22’s, which cheaply and easily accommodate a threaded end for attaching a suppressor. But after reading some reviews criticizing the accuracy and trigger on that model, I decided to step up to either a Ruger Mark III or Browning Buck Mark. And between these two the deciding factor was the following: The Ruger design integrates the receiver with the barrel, which means that the barrel itself falls under all of the federal firearms restrictions, and therefore any replacement threaded barrel would have to be purchased through a FFL dealer. In contrast, the Buck Mark barrels completely detach from the gun so they aren’t regulated.
I bought a Buck Mark Camper – the model with the cheapest barrel I could find – for $275. Then I paid another $200 for a 4″ aluminum-clad “Trail-Lite” barrel with a threaded end, from Tactical Solutions. I could have instead paid $100 to have Gemtech (or many other gunsmiths) thread the original barrel, but the Trail-Lite has the distinct advantage of significantly reducing the weight forward of the trigger, so that gun stays very balanced even with the silencer hanging off the front.
I was originally thinking of getting a longer barrel to increase accuracy. The problem is that longer barrels increase muzzle velocity. Regular .22s shoot right around the speed of sound, and as soon as a bullet breaks the sound barrier it adds a “sonic crack” to the sound signature, which a suppressor cannot control. The goal with this gun is to keep the bullet subsonic, and my final configuration delivers: I chronographed dozens of Federal 40gr Champion High Velocity rounds at just over 1000fps, with a stdev of just 7fps. (The speed of sound in standard atmospheric conditions is 1100fps.) And in the end, this setup seems to be as accurate as a shooter can be with conventional notch-and-post sights.
In order to enhance indoor, low-light shooting I upgraded the standard black front sight post with a $30 HiViz fiber sight. It stands taller than the regular sight, but still within the range of the standard rear sight’s adjustment. For practicing at home I bought a $50 “Do-All Bullet Box“, which reliably traps .17 and .22 rimfire bullets. I shoot only in my garage, and would seriously recommend against shooting in living spaces: .22 bullets are typically unjacketed balls of soft lead, which spall when they impact anything, leaving shards of lead everywhere. It’s easy to dump this out of the bullet box, but some of it is going to be vaporized into the air. Also, even though the suppressor traps most of the propellant gas that normally blasts out the muzzle, there is plenty of leakage out the ejection port and one can smell it when I’m done shooting in the garage.
The gun itself is a pleasure to shoot. It has nice beefy grips (though these would not be well suited to shooters with smaller hands), and a light, crisp trigger with minimal travel and reset. The magazines can be painful to load without a $4 speedloader, so be sure to pick one up.
This is the hardest gun I have to clean, which is a shame because it’s also the cheapest to shoot, and also because unjacketed .22 rimfire seems to be the dirtiest ammunition this side of black powder. Cleaning requires unscrewing two screws and dislodging the recoil spring from the rear post and then the plastic firing-pin assembly from the slide. None of these steps are easy to do. And you’re still left with that rear post on the frame, which prevents you from easily cleaning the barrel from the breach end without undoing a third screw to completely remove it. (And I read reviews that said this is easier to clean than a Ruger!)