As most shooters are aware, Smith &
Wesson Firearms has undergone major changes in the last few
months. The changes reflect a new and improved attitude in the
leadership of this corporation, due to the recent change in
ownership. S&W is now, once again, American owned. Smith
& Wesson has a new leader, America has a new leader, and
things are looking brighter for both.
As a result of the good news of a change in
ownership, Gunblast.com has recently been testing a nice little
Smith & Wesson revolver which is the subject of this
Most readers of Gunblast.com are aware of my
affinity for Smith & Wesson rimfire revolvers in general,
and the stainless little model 63 .22/32 Kit Gun in particular (see
Jeff's article on the Model 63 at Little
Big Gun). The little 63 is one of my all-time favorite
revolvers, but has been out of production for several years. The
subject of this article, the Model 317, is Smith’s replacement
for the model 63. As much as I bemoan the demise of the model
63, the 317 may well be a worthy replacement...but it has very
big shoes to fill. As you will notice in the photos, I use my
old model 63 as a comparison in judging every attribute of the
newer model 317.
The 317 is handy little rimfire, having a three
and one-half inch barrel, adjustable sights, an eight-shot
capacity, and a comfortable grip. It is a bit shorter and much
lighter than my old 63. The 317 weighs just under 12 ounces in
the Kit Gun configuration. The 63 weighs twice as much. The
weight savings are due to using aluminum in the 317, along with
other design features that shave a bit of weight by carefully
reshaping non-critical parts. The 317 has an aluminum frame and
cylinder, and an aluminum barrel with a stainless liner. These
changes result in a revolver that can ride un-noticed in a
pocket or holster until needed. The model 63 was never a burden
to carry, but the 317 Kit Gun is noticeably lighter and easier
Both the double-action and single-action trigger
pulls were excellent on the 317. The double-action pull has that
smooth, even feel that is characteristic of most Smith &
Wesson revolvers. The single-action pull is crisp and breaks at
about three pounds.
The sights on the 317 consist of a
fully-adjustable V-notch rear and a green high-visibility front.
I found the sight picture very conducive to quick shooting in
all but total darkness. Placing the green dot optically
into the notch and the target just above the dot resulted in a
sight picture that made quick plinking and target shooting
possible. The front sight on my model 63 was quite
possibly the worst ever devised for accurate shooting. It came
from the factory equipped with a stainless ramp with red plastic
insert, which seemed to disappear in bright sunlight. I had
David Clements (www.clementscustomguns.com)
replace the sight with a blued and pinned-in-place front post
that is a great improvement over the original. The front sight
on the 317 is an improvement over the 63, and is also pinned in
place, rendering it easily replaceable if needed.
The handy little Smith 317 has an eight-shot
capacity cylinder which locks securely in place at the rear into
the frame and also at the front of the ejector rod. The
revolver has a very tight barrel / cylinder gap, resulting in a
minimum loss of velocity at that juncture. The 317 was
tested with a variety of .22 Long Rifle ammo, with the resulting
velocities listed below. As expected, the hyper-velocity
Yellow Jackets, Zappers, and Spitfires turned in the better
velocities, but all ammo tested clocked decent speeds from the
three and one-half inch barrel. Even the 60 grain Aguila
sub-sonic averaged over 700 feet-per-second.
|Winchester 40 gr. Dynapoint
|Winchester Xpert 36 gr. HP
|Federal 36 gr. HP Copper plated
|American Eagle 38 gr. HP
|CCI Mini Mag 40 gr. Solid
|Remington Yellow Jacket 33 gr. HP
|Federal Champion Target
|Aguila 60 gr. SSS
|RWS R50 Target
|Remington Cyclone 36 gr. HP
|Remington Golden 36 HP
|Federal Spitfire HP
|CCI Shot Cartridge
|Federal Wildcat 40 gr. Solid
|Average velocity of all
Most five shot groups fired at twenty-one yards
averaged between two and one-half to three inches, which is
better than I expected for such a light weight revolver, but the
Federal Champion and PMC Zapper ammo turned in the best
performance, with groups of one and one-eighth and one and
three-eighths inches, respectively.
After the accuracy tests were complete, I fired
several hundred rounds of various Long Rifle ammo through the
little Smith, with never a malfunction of any kind. All ammo
tested fired and ejected without a hitch. The ejector rod spit
all eight cases clear of the cylinder each time. The little gun
became warm to the touch at times, but never balked at firing or
functioning throughout the test.
While I am not ready to retire my model 63 just
yet, I have found myself carrying the model 317 more often than
not when piddling around the woods or farm. I was pleasantly
surprised by the accuracy and shootability of the little gun.
Check out the 317, along with other Smith & Wesson products
online at: www.smith-wesson.com
The 317 Kit Gun is American made, by an American
company, that is committed to producing a quality product. For a
light, handy, reliable, and accurate trail gun, I recommend it.
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