S&W Model 22-4 Thunder Ranch Edition – Range Review

| February 20, 2011 | 9 Comments

The Smith and Wesson Model 22-4 chambered in 45ACP is not just the next Smith and Wesson revolver. It is a revolver in which Smith and Wesson partnered with Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch to come up with what many have said to be the ultimate home and self defense revolver. Today I ventured out to the range to see what all the hype was about. Anyone having shot a 45acp revolver knows there is something special about 45acp in a revolver, but today was going to be extra special as my daughter wanted to tag along with her 1986 MKII Ruger. The Smith and Wesson Model 22 features a 4inch barrel without a full length barrel underlug, providing for a very easy to point and well balanced platform. This weapon is a replica, of the 1950 version of this gun and the barrel is roll-marked as such with ?.45 Caliber Model 1950.? It is made of carbon steel with wood grips etched with the Thunder Ranch logo and fixed sights. A square cut rear notch is machined into a gutter cut right up to the end of the frame. The front sight is a rounded blade, pinned in place displaying the same half moon shape style much like the 1917 models. The Model 22 TR latch is shaped precisely like S&W latches were for almost a century and sports the square butt most revolvers were known for of this era. On first sight most would be in awe at the beautiful bluing job by S&W other than that it would leave you to wonder what’s so special about such a plain looking revolver. This is exactly what Clint Smith a 30 year Marine, Policeman and training instructor was after, a no frills retro-styled defensive revolver.

Smith and Wesson Model 22 Features
Type double-action revolver
Caliber .45 ACP, .45 Auto Rim
Capacity 6
Barrel Length 4
Overall Length 9.25in
Weight 37.5 oz.
Sights fixed
Grips African Cocobolo, TR logo, Magna
Finish polished blue

The Thunder Ranched engraved panel grips are a rare and a beautiful sight. Those with large hands like myself may want to get a tyler t-grip to fill the under side of the frame. Or you can do like I did and replace the factory grips to preserve the beauty and collector value. The wood grips I replaced them with gives me a much firmer grip and better control when launching the 230gr 45acp bowling balls down range.

This revolver came in a olive drab green soft case with a embroidered Thunder Ranch logo on it, as well as 5 half moon clips. These moon clips are needed because the 45acp cartridge is a rimless cartridge used mostly in semi-auto pistols like the 100 year old 1911. The moon clips provide head spacing as well as the mechanism in which the revolver ejector pushes to remove the empties. These moon clips also assist with smooth fast reloads, but many unfamiliar with them have ended up with sore thumbs loading them and unloading them. There are a number of ways to alleviate the 45acp moon clip sore thumb, Brownells and MidwayUSA carry both moonclip loaders and demooners. Though I have both tools I seldom use them as I have become very fond of the 45 Auto Rim cartridge. The 45 Auto Rim was specifically designed for the 45acp revolver. For the reloader this cartridge is very easy to reload but will require a special case holder for your press but they are easily had.
All of my brass are purchased from Starline which is known for making strong reliable brass.

The 45 Auto Rim brass has a thicker rim which makes loading this revolver no different than if you were reloading a 357 or 44 Magnum rimmed style revolver. These make it very easy to practice with at the range, but in carry for defensive style situations I would be using the 45acp with moon clips for the quicker reload.

Enough on the Thunder Ranch features, let’s put some rounds down range and see how she shoots.

Fit&Finish = Great
The fit and finish of this revolver is one of the better of blued revolvers I have seen out of Smith and Wesson as of late. The bluing is a polished blue which is perfect for the era of this weapon. I could not find any tooling marks on the frame any where. The reason the Model 22 TR is receiving a grade of Great is due to the logo’d panel grips. They were just to small for my hands for me to be comfortable in defensive situations which this revolver was intended for. Those with medium to small size hands shouldn’t have to make any grip changes at all.

Trigger Grade = Great
The trigger face is smooth which helps with deliberate double action shooting and the hammer is checkered. The single-action trigger pull on this Model 22 TR tested in at about 5 pounds on the RCBS trigger tension scale. The Single action was clean crisp with no take up before the sear released and the hammer falls. On the other hand, double action was nothing to write home about, peaking at 11 1/2 pounds on the RCBS trigger tension scale with very noticeable stacking. In a defensive weapon a heavier trigger is my preference but one would think 10 pounds would be adequate. The stacking is what degraded the trigger from an excellent rating to a great rating. If ever in a combat or defensive situation, once I have unholstered my weapon I have already made up my mind to use it and a clean glass breaking 10 pound trigger establishes one fluid movement for muscle memory. The stacking on this trigger almost feels like a small speed bump. A good gunsmith can have this cleaned up in a matter of minutes with a small bit of stoning and polishing.

Reliability&Accuracy Grade = Excellent
For a defensive style weapon this category would be the most important of all and the Model 22 TR did not disappoint. The 4inch barrel provides what I would consider to be the best eye relief of any barrel lengths, making itself conducive for better accuracy. Firing the gun was truly a pleasure, the weight of the pistol combined with the mild recoiling qualities of the .45 ACP/.45 AR makes this revolver very fun on the range. This alone will ensure more practice time making you very familiar with a weapon which embraces all of the characteristics to possibly save your life someday.

All testing was done with a 2 handed unassisted hold.
The first test was conducted at 7 yards with 6 rounds on a silhouette target.

I was very impressed and pleased with the results.

The second test conducted was with 12 rounds of 45AR fired at 15 yards.

These shots were fired as fast as I could while acquiring the proper sight alignment and sight picture.

The last of the accuracy test was 12 rounds at 25 yards on an Official NRA 25 yard slow fire target, 12 rounds fired in 45 seconds with reload.

The S&W Model 22 Thunder Ranch Edition may not be full of bells and whistles but it is full of nostalgia. It is well balanced, soft recoiling and delivers plenty of fun on the range which often ensures plenty of practice time and no matter which platform you choose practice is essential in becoming proficient. For many years I have used my trusty S&W model 65 stoked with Speer 38 special +p 125gr Hollow point bullets as my bedside bump in the night weapon.

After this range session I have found what I believe to be one of the best defensive revolver platforms on the market today. Loaded with Hornady 185gr FTX 45ACP Critical Defense ammunition this revolver is capable of ending any defensive situation quickly.
Clint Smith and Smith and Wesson great job!

We all know any day on the range makes for a great day but having my daughter along today to bond with was very special. She tagged along to shoot her 4inch Ruger MKII, notice the flame and smoke nice action picture.

She did very well and I am proud of her. If we can improve upon her stance to get her feet shoulder width apart and leaning forward over the balls of her feet she could become an even better marksman.

What an AWESOME range day!

Edit 6-24-17

The S&W 22-4 continues to get more popular as time passes. Thor sent me a picture of his, along with a great comment which embodies the style and look of the 22-4 — “It?s got a sort of Gen Patton meets Indiana Jones sort of vibe going on…”

About the Author:


9 Comments on "S&W Model 22-4 Thunder Ranch Edition – Range Review"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Tom Baselice says:

    I have the same revolver. My experience is similar, a great gun. I use the plastic moon clips at the range and metal moon clips for defensive use.

    Thanks for the review !

  2. Richard Arant says:

    This is one of my favorite revolvers. Beautiful grips, accurate. The RIMZ 25 plastic full-moon clips are hard to beat.

  3. Gary Mattson says:

    I agree whole heartitly with all of the positive feedback!! It’s another great S&W

  4. cisto e flores says:

    picking up one of these in a week. beautiful weapon. never had a revolver that fires the colt acp cartridge. any info would be appreciated thanx

  5. Fred B says:

    Who made those replacement grips you used on this Model 22? I really like those. What material are they?

  6. Alan Yates says:

    I picked up a plain M-22-4 at Cabela’s. Except for the rollmarks it’s the same gun. I really like this revolver for carry and for home defense. I have Hogue grips, Tulipwood with line spacer and checkering, on mine and they are a great add to it. I buy full moon clips for around $9.50 for 10 of them and use them exclusively. I started carrying an M-1917 Smith on duty in the late 70s and after using half moons for a while…a long while…full moon clips seem a luxury.

  7. Thor says:

    Just to bump this…I picked up one of these about 6 months ago. I put Grashorn Elk stag grips on it and carry it regularly. It was used and I’m not sure the fellow I bought it from was the original user but I experienced light strikes in DA (it was very clean and not shot much prior; but I think someone might have tried to ‘improve’ it). I replaced the hammer spring (the one I removed was defiantly not stock length), removed the Hillery hole safety, and installed an extended firing pin. Problem solved. Great gun, looks great, shoots great, love it.

  8. I was very lucky to discover & purchase a pair of S&W Model 22-4 Thunder Ranch revolvers with consecutive serial numbers. My revolvers included an extra set of aged ivory micarta grips and Tyler T grips for that super cool “old school? look! I?m absolutely thrilled to own them even though some critics complain about the new fangled lock.

  9. Ben Haney says:

    What is (if any) the difference between a Thunder Ranch (TR) 22-4 and a regular 22-4? Is there a TR engraving on the barrel? I have a beautiful 22-4 that has no TR markings, just the “45 Caliber 1950” on the left side of the barrel. I bought it in an Arizona pawn shop and it is beautiful.

Post a Comment