I never saw the 2007 film, Transformers. I think it had something to do with Megan Fox reconfiguring a 1975 AMC Pacer into a Flowbee vacuum hair cutting system using nothing but toenail clippers and a half stick of Wrigley’s DoubleMint gum.
Or maybe that was an old episode of MacGyver.
Either way, it’s clear to me that flexible and reconfigurable products can be useful. I have to admit, though, that even without ever seeing Transformers, it was the first thing that came to mind when I got my hands on the new Smith & Wesson Victory pistol.
On the surface, it shows some resemblance to other .22LR pistols—it looks like the love child of a Browning Buckmark and a Ruger Mark III. But then again, the grips have the distinctive profile of those on the Smith & Wesson 22A. Like most things in life, the immediate visual impression only hints at the full story.
The Victory does what you might expect from a semi-automatic .22LR pistol. It’s a single-action design, so the trigger pull is light and consistent from shot to shot. You cock the internal hammer for the first shot by pulling and releasing the bolt-charging handle. The hammer is reset by the semi-automatic operation for subsequent shots.
The trigger on the Victory goes far beyond what’s expected on a production plinker. It’s fantastic. The flat trigger face with vertical serrations breaks at three pounds and offers a short and exceptionally crisp feel. A manual safety on the left side of the frame prevents trigger activation until it’s pressed down and emits a positive click. The grip houses a removable ten-round magazine, and there’s a second one in the box. The pistol itself is made from stainless steel and has polymer grips. The finish is bead blasted and has a matte appearance. This helps hide those little nicks and dings you’ll collect over time, and minimizes glare.
Those are the basics, but it’s the Transformer features that make this pistol unique.
One Tool, Many Uses
The design of the Victory provides for simple disassembly for cleaning and maintenance. How that’s done will help you understand the Transformer features built into it:
Just forward of the trigger guard, you’ll find an Allen screw that points up—right smack into the bottom of the barrel. You know Allen (or hex) screws—they have six-sided holes, and you tighten or loosen them with those bent pieces of metal that look like the letter “L.” I mention this to point out that there is no special tool required to field strip the Victory. Smith & Wesson includes an Allen wrench in the box, but you can get them just about anywhere for next to nothing. If you lose the included tool, Ace is the place for a replacement.
Once you remove that single screw, the barrel and receiver pop right off of the frame. (Make sure the gun is unloaded before doing this!) You’ll also need to remove the magazine, as that allows the receiver to separate more easily from the frame. From this point forward, you can do the rest with your fingers. Pull the charging handle rearward and the entire bolt assembly slides out of the receiver. You can pull the firing pin and spring out for detail cleaning. If you’ve ever tried to take apart a Ruger Mark-type gun for cleaning, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of the Smith & Wesson Victory design.
Once you have field stripped the Victory, you’ll see another Allen screw in the bottom of the receiver, also pointed right up towards the chamber portion of the barrel. Loosen this, and the entire barrel slides right out of the receiver.
Consider this: In less than 30 seconds, using just an Allen wrench, you can completely swap out the barrels. Want a lighter one for easier carry in the field? No problem. Want a heavier or longer one for bull’s-eye target shooting? No problem. Want to go from a threaded to a non-threaded barrel? No problem.
As a direct result of the design, companies like Volquartsen Custom are already producing all sorts of aftermarket components for the Victory. In fact, Scott Volquartsen hand-delivered two different custom barrels for the SW22 Victory way back at the fall 2014 writer’s preview event. That was a long time ago, considering the gun was just publicly released last month! At that time, Smith & Wesson had not developed a factory-threaded barrel option, so Volquartsen stepped in and addressed that.
The receiver and barrel design offer the first nifty Transformer feature. Smith & Wesson includes another feature right in the box—the sighting configuration. When you buy a Victory, it’ll have a fiber optic front sight on a metal ramp. The sight is also attached to the barrel with a single Allen screw, so expect to see aftermarket front sight options. On the rear is an adjustable notched sight. A U-shaped fiber optic tube presents dots to the right and left of the notch, so the rear sight is bright and highly visible. The adjustable rear sight is mounted on a four-inch long platform that covers the entire top surface of the receiver. This rear sight module is also mounted to the receiver with—you guessed it—a single Allen screw. As a result, you can replace that rear sight module with a Picatinny rail that allows you to easily mount a scope or red dot optic. In fact, Smith & Wesson includes a rail right in the box. You can replace the rear sight platform with the rail in less than a minute.
One more thing about the included rail segment: On the back, you’ll find a sighting notch, so the rail segment doubles as a fixed rear sight too. That’s a clever idea, and useful if you prefer a black rear sight notch instead of the fiber optics.
Shooting accuracy is all about precision, engineering tolerances, and a gun’s ability to return all the parts to the exact same alignment from shot to shot. The most accurate gun possible will be a precision barrel bolted to a massive concrete bench. With no moving parts, there’s not much to go wrong from shot to shot. Given that the Victory is designed to come apart and reconfigure itself like a Transformer, could the Victory be accurate? I decided to find out.
.22LR guns are notoriously picky about ammo, so I used a broad variety of commonly available ammunition to see what it liked regarding both function and practical accuracy. The reliability results have been stellar. I’ve been shooting the bejeebers out of this gun for over a year now (I had a pre-production model) and it eats everything without hesitation. From inexpensive cheap stuff sold in buckets and 500-round boxes to pricier practice and match ammo, I’ve not yet found ammo that the Victory won’t shoot and cycle reliably.
To see what types of ammo the Victory liked from a practical accuracy perspective, I mounted a Bushnell Elite 3500 handgun scope to the pistol and set up targets 25 yards downrange. The 2-7x scope allowed me to get near perfect sight alignment and factor the ill effects of my old eyes out of the equation. To keep things steady when shooting groups, I used a Caldwell Pistolero handgun rest weighed down with a 25-pound bag of lead shot to eliminate shooter error. I fired multiple five-shot groups with each type of ammo and calculated the average group size. The results:
Aguila Super Maximum: 2.43 inches
American Eagle HV Copper Plated: .76 inches
Armscor Precision Standard Velocity: .39 inches
CCI Green Tag: .62 inches
CCI Mini-Mag HV: .86 inches
CCI Quiet-22: .98 inches
CCI Stinger: .50 inches
Eley Practice 100: .58 inches
Federal Target Grade: 1.13 inches
Remington 22 Golden Bullet: .91 inches
Remington 22 Thunderbolt: 1.42 inches
Winchester Match T22 LRN: .79 inches
Winchester Bulk Pack 555 HP: .77 inches
That’s pretty impressive, considering the fact that none of the ammo tested was super-duper-premium match ammunition. Remember, these results are from the factory barrel included with the least expensive model. When I added one of the Volquartsen Custom barrels, accuracy improved with many of the loads listed above.
Since I picked up the pre-production Victory shown here back in late 2014, Smith & Wesson has developed two other variants, so three different models were finally released to market in January 2016. If you know you want a threaded barrel, you can order it pre-configured that way. You can also order a stealthy field model coated with the Kryptek Highlander camo pattern. The base model sports an MSRP of $409. The threaded-barrel and Kryptek model retail for $429 and $459 respectively. Street prices dip down into the $300s, so the Victory is a heck of a deal…considering that it doubles as a Transformer.