The Hammerli Trailside.
Hammerli's products have well-deserved reputations for accuracy, but they have also always been expensive. Last year SIG USA debuted a Hammerli .22 autoloader called the "Trailside: In addition to good looks this gun features an attractive price. Gun prices in the real world are always nebulous, but a Hammerli pistol with a price tag of less than $500 is newsworthy.
The real distinctions, however, become apparent when you look inside the gun. The Trailside is manufactured using the latest technology. The frame and barrel are a single casting, which allows for easy manufacturing, but poses challenges to drilling, reaming and rifling. Typically, rifling is done on round tubes that are easy to hold in proper alignment for the cutting operations.
The shape of the Trailside's frame and barrel required some very precise work to get a good straight bore. They've done that, as both models shot quite well. There is also a dovetail cut along the top of the barrel for scope mounting without separate bases.
The slide is another precision casting. Most .22 pistol slides have a separate breech block part that is assembled into the slide. Hammerli's is a single unit that contains only the firing pin, safety and extractor (with springs and pins where needed), but it looks as if machining operations are held to a minimum. In fact, all the parts take advantage of the newest manufacturing methods such as metal injection molding, precise stampings and casting. The 10-round magazine is also molded polymer.
A .22 Wonder Gun
Mechanical operation is conventional blowback with a single-action trigger. Everyone wants to know about trigger feel and weight, but in this day and age of too many lawyers and contingency fees, gun companies don't turn out great triggers anymore. Both pistols had 4 lb. triggers and both had a bit of creep. Since the mechanics of the Trailside's trigger are pretty standard, a good gunsmith could work wonders with it.
These are target pistols in the strict constructionist sense, but they do have an overtravel adjustment. In fact this one's just a little different. It appears to be a simple screw sticking out of the frame right behind the trigger, but there is also a tiny spring loaded ball on the end of the screw. When the trigger moves back it actually makes contact with the overtravel screw and compresses that spring just a bit until the pistol fires.
This is not a handicap or hardship. Some competitive shooters think this type of arrangement promotes better trigger control, as shooters can move the trigger quickly until they feel it come up against the stop and then just apply a little more pressure to fire the shot.
Choose Your Weapon
Shooters have quite a few choices in the Trailside's configuration. It is available in either 4 1/2" or 6 barrel lengths and with fixed or adjustable sights. There are two types of grips, which while they are the same size, offer very different looks. There is a pair made of molded black polymer with a slightly textured finish, or Hammerli offers laminated wood with blue and gray colors and a smooth finish. Both feel the same -- it's strictly a matter of aesthetics.
Field stripping of the Trailside is very much like the Walther PPK but with a twist that could completely defeat you if you don't read the directions. There's a little plastic part called the frame extension that actually slips into a notch on the barrel to eliminate the gap between barrel and frame.
You need to loosen the screw in the barrel extension, then pinch inward on the dimples provided and slip the extension off to the front. Make sure the chamber is empty and magazine removed and then lock the slide to the rear. Pull the trigger guard down and push it gently to one side so it is held open by the frame. Then pull the slide back just a bit and lift it up. It will move forward and off the gun. This is all that is needed for normal cleaning.
Shooting The Trailside
One of the neat things you get with a new Trailside is a test target, nicely mounted in a little metal carrier. The target is five shots at 25 meters with unstated ammo. The pistol's serial number completes the package. Exactly the same sort of arrangement arrives with the most expensive Hammerli target pistols.
Both of the test guns had very handsome groups, but since the ammo used was unknown I could not duplicate the test targets. Came close though. Accuracy was good with a variety of ammo. Testing included match, standard and high velocity loads.
Function was even better. The pistols were function-fired with a wide variety of both high and standard velocity loads. Both pistols functioned flawlessly.
A word is needed about one of my ammo choices. The Quik-Shok is a segmented bullet that separates into three pieces when it penetrates flesh, but I chose to use it because it is a hyper-velocity load using CCI Stinger cases. These are a little longer than the standard .22 LR and have proven to be the acid test for function in .22 autoloaders. Their heavier recoil sometimes is a challenge for the self-loading mechanism. The Trailside functioned with aplomb. Both of the little guns are fun to shoot and utterly reliable.