When you’re alone in the backwoods, an accurate firearm can be the difference between staying alive and starving to death. I feel an accurate .22 handgun is a near-perfect survival weapon for the person who needs his or her hands free for more pressing activities in the backcountry. Let’s face it, there are usually a lot more “small things” to eat in the woods than there is big game. In a real do-or-die situation, frogs, reptiles, fish swimming close to the surface, birds of all types and rodents in any form become legitimate game for the pot. Better yet, .22 ammo is light—a 50-round box tips my scales at around 6 ounces, meaning you can carry several hundred rounds for only a few extra pounds in your pack. It is also very compact since the standard box measures roughly 2.5 by 1.25 inches. At this size, a box or two is hardly noticeable in a shirt pocket. In the past at least, it was inexpensive, and it is still much less per round than any of the standard centerfire cartridges. The noise level of a rimfire cartridge is also relatively low and recoil is mild.

For me, the latest proof of all of the above is High Standard’s revival of the classic Victor target model. The latest Victor is offered in both 4.5- and 5.5-inch-barreled versions, with the longer version being the one provided for my evaluation. One of the advantages of this model is that the sights are mounted on an extended bar attached to the barrel rather than on the slide. This means that your sight picture doesn’t change as the slide reciprocates with each shot, and there is less chance of recoil jarring the adjustments on rear mount.

Bug-Out Rimfire

Not having worked with a true target .22 handgun for some time, I had kind of forgotten how little you feel the recoil on one of these relatively heavy (43 ounces, unloaded) weapons. I have air guns with more felt recoil than this! Obviously, this helps keep the Victor dead on target when firing 10-round groups on the range and gives it a rock-steady hold in the field nearly equal to a rifle.

Testing a handgun of this type as a potential small-game harvester requires a different mindset from the average combat-type pistol. Training for defensive shooting situations normally means how quickly you can place two or three rounds into something like a pie-plate-size target at very close ranges. Target practice for small game, on the other hand, depends on placing the first round in a relatively tiny target at more extended distances. In general, a rabbit head can be considered a 2.5-inch target, a grouse a 1-inch target and squirrels somewhere in between. I feel that 30-foot accuracy on grouse is the minimum acceptable distance for a small-game handgun, and 50 feet is even better. Anything beyond that is probably getting beyond the average shooter’s abilities without serious practice.

Let me say right up front, I really appreciated High Standard using coin size slots on the pistol’s adjustable sights. Way too many times I’ve tried to adjust the sights on a handgun only to find that I didn’t have a small enough screwdriver on hand. All you need with this pistol is a dime.

Backcountry Hunter

I’m going to have to admit up front here that I haven’t been firing the hundreds of practice rounds a month I did in the old days, so my accuracy testing of the Victor had to be modified a bit. Basically, I moved back until I found the maximum distance where I could consistently keep my off-hand groups in what I considered the size of a grouse’s head, which ended up being about 30 feet. You should understand that this is still a small target area! During my forestry days, I had a knack for finding improvised rests over tree limbs, stumps and large rocks, something that is not always easy to duplicate on the range. I have no doubt that the Victor is capable of better accuracy than I am and, with practice, that I would eventually be able to move the target back to 50-foot line.

Combining a good target .22 like the High Standard Victor, three or four boxes of ammo, a practical knife and a means of starting a fire will give you the means to stay alive in the woods long enough to walk out of just about any place in the U.S. For more information, visit highstandard.com or call 713-462-4200. 

Specifications: High Standard Victor

  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Barrel: 5.5 inches
  • OA Length: 9.5 inches
  • Weight: 46.08 ounces
  • Grips: Wood
  • Sights: Adjustable rear, front blade
  • Action: SA
  • Finish: Blued, stainless
  • Capacity: 10+1
  • MSRP: N/A

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