Rock Island Armory (RIA) is known for hitting it out of the park with traditional firearms designs. If you have ever fired any of its amazing 1911s you surely can identify with this statement. Last year RIA stepped it up a notch and produced an amazing series of pump-action shotguns aptly named the “All Generations,” as it appeals to a variety of age groups. Keeping the faucet of innovation open, RIA introduced a new line of .22LR revolvers, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on the shiny new stainless-steel edition, the AL22.
Being married to another writer has its perks, because when I say “I” got my hands on it, I really mean “Barbara Melloni” got her hands on it, and I might have checked it out of her safe for an impromptu range day without her knowledge. (Hey, all’s fair in love in war, especially when you use your own ammo!) A large part of my interest in this handgun was the fact that I had a few boxes of Winchester’s new Silvertip defensive .22LR ammunition on hand and I wanted to see how it flew. At the same time, I have been flirting with switching my shotgun for a rimfire revolver for squirrel hunting this season, as most of my shots are within 25 yards anyway.
So, with “borrowed” gun and ammo in hand, I packed my tools and hit the range. Upon arrival I gave the gun a once-over and noticed that not only will it draw the attention of every old hand on the range, it checks all the boxes for a new shooter’s interest too. Because this gun is built on the same frame as the company’s AL3.1 .357 Magnum revolver, it’s ideal for teaching a rookie proper grip and fundamentals without a ton of investment on ammo or the associated recoil that comes with center-fire rounds.
Starting with this (and continuing to digest a healthy diet of rimfire) is really the only way to cure the flinch that every shooter has to some degree. These newly honed skills transfer directly over to its centerfire counterpart, making it a no-brainer if you already own one of its bigger brothers. Furthermore, features like the knurled hammer spur and protected ejection rod are perfect for training guns, as they accommodate the clumsiness of new fingers as they figure out what does what.
Lastly, I really dug the simple, yet effective studded rubber grip that finished the gun off. Arguably, there is no better way to keep the price of a gun down without sacrificing comfort. Aside from feeling good in your hand, a dealer price of around $550 makes it quite reasonable for a high-quality wheelgun.
I set my targets out at 15 yards to get a realistic idea of how the gun would perform at the distance that I planned to use it. Before filling the nine-shot cylinder I decided to measure the trigger pull in both its single-action and double-action mode. Although my finger confirmed it first, a Lyman Digital Trigger gauge measured a double-action break of 11 lbs, 7 oz.—which is heavy, but not outrageous for a double-action press. Once cocked, I measured just 3 lbs, 10 ozs. of pressure, which is lighter than many of my 1911s.
After loading up and firing off over 100 rounds of the Silvertip defensive ammo, I was able to determine an accuracy of 2.25”, with my best group measuring 1.37”. This was based on five consecutive groups without a chance to cool, nor clean. Using the same protocol with Winchester’s High-Velocity Varmint loads, I determined that groups in the 3.5” range could be expected with this fodder, annihilating the target when it got there. Understanding the ammunitions’ function helped me to determine each one’s best application. As the Silvertip is lighter, more consistent (in this gun at least), and shatters upon impact, it is just right for thin-skinned game. Winchester’s Varmint load produces a bit more energy and holds together through thicker skin, making it perfect for dispatching raccoons and like vermin.
Overall I found the gun functionally flawless, acceptably accurate, and just plain fun to shoot. As my range day ended I counted the days ‘till hunting season and prayed that my wife would finish her evaluation of the gun before then….leaving it available for a trek through the woods, likely without her knowledge. Learn more about RIA's new line of .22LR revolvers at Armscor.com.