The Walther P22 is available with two barrel lengths, but I prefer the 3.4″ length. Here’s a picture of the 5″:
I prefer the 3.4″ because that extra inch and a half makes the pistol feel top-heavy to me. You can see more here.
I recommend this gun to first-time shooters, particularly if they’re female because the grip is perfect for smaller hands, and because of the [small] recoil. I think it’s important to learn to deal with something that’ll buck a little (and when you’ve never shot a pistol before, any recoil will be startling) because you have to learn not to flinch, not to anticipate recoil, and not to jerk on the trigger. The P22 is also loud, and again, when you’ve never shot a pistol before, you have to learn not to react so that you don’t learn bad habits. I recommend the P22 with the 3.4″ barrel because the longer one is a bit top-heavy.
Here are some things you need to know about the P22:
- she’s picky about ammunition. Use CCI MiniMags. Try other ammo, of course, but I think you’ll find she jams more often with anything else.
- keep your wrist stiff. If you have a loose wrist when you’re shooting, the gun will jam.
- keep her clean. The ramp gets scummy with residue and that interferes with how the cartridge enters the chamber, resulting in a jam.
If you master shooting the P22 you’ll have no trouble moving on to the higher calibers. I remember when I first shot it that, although the combination of the noise and the little kick startled me, it was manageable and not intimidating. And because it wasn’t intimidating I was also confident about taking the slide off and cleaning it. (It’s a bitch to put back together, though, so if you do this, make sure you have someone knowledgeable to help you till you get the hang of it.) Here’s a .pdf of the P22 manual.
Guys come into the shop and want to get their wives or girlfriends a gun, and they nearly always want to get her a 9mm or higher because they want her to have something for self-defense. I understand this, but I believe they should budget for two guns because what good is a pistol if she’s afraid to use it? It’s like buying a Harley when you don’t know how to ride a bicycle. Buy the P22 and she’ll fall in love with it. And put it in her name. There’s something incredibly cool about owning your own gun(s).