Smith & Wesson Brings Back the Marvelous Model 63 .22 LR Revolver!


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

October 3rd, 2007




One of the first articles I ever wrote for Gunblast was on the Model 63 Smith & Wesson. Titled "Little Big Gun", I praised the little sixgun as being one of the best trail guns ever made. To those who own them, they are legendary little revolvers, and are priced accordingly. S&W discontinued production of the Model 63 a few years ago, and they are very hard to find on the used market.

I lamented back in the year 2000 when I wrote about the Little Big Gun that S&W was not at the top of their game at that time, and had entered into a deal with the Clinton administration that was good for neither the company nor shooters. However, they did what they did to survive those times, as the government at that time would have liked nothing better than to drive every gun manufacturer in the country into bankruptcy. You folks keep that in mind when you go to cast your vote for a new President this year. Do you want another administration that is as anti-gun as the first Clinton administration? I donít. Anyway, S&W has rebounded like no other company that I have seen since Harley-Davidson recovered from near-death a couple of decades ago. The new Smith & Wesson has invested in people and machinery, but best of all they have a new attitude, and are building guns that shooters want, and are building them to higher standards and with better materials than ever before.

Back in June, I was visiting the S&W factory, and was shown again the prototype new Model 63 that I had seen briefly at the 2007 SHOT Show in Orlando, Florida. Ever since, I have been waiting somewhat impatiently to give one a thorough workout. Last week, a production gun finally arrived, and I have spent a lot of time and ammunition into seeing how the new Model 63 compares to my beloved original.

The new Model 63 has a five-inch barrel that is a bit larger in diameter than the four inch barrel on my older sixgun, resulting in a weight of 28.3 ounces, about two ounces heavier than my original. While I really like the five inch gun, hopefully, shorter barrels will follow. I would love to have a three inch version, as it would carry so well in a hip pocket. The five inch 63 rides very comfortably in my Mernickle crossdraw  FC-3 holster, but a pocket gun would be a welcome addition. One nice feature of the new Model 63 is the front sight. It still has the excellent fully adjustable J-frame rear sight, but thankfully, the new gun has a black front sight, instead of the red ramp version of the original. Like the original, it is built primarily of stainless steel to resist corrosion. The fit and finish on the new Model 63 is better than on my original.

The new Model 63 has the S&W key lock system, which locks the hammer from movement. This feature is useful in those jurisdictions where the law requires it, or to anyone who wants to secure the gun from unauthorized use. I do not use internal key locks, and can just ignore the one on this Model 63. If they bother you, they can be ignored, or disabled if you just donít trust such things. However, especially on this .22 rimfire revolver, the lock will cause no trouble at all. It wonít activate itself. Unlike the earlier Model 63, the new one has a full ejector rod shroud, to better protect the ejector in case the weapon is dropped. The hammer and trigger are case-hardened on the new 63.

The most noticeable and welcome feature of the new Model 63 is the number of rounds that it carries in its cylinder; up from six shots in the original to eight in the new version, without increasing bulk or weight. I also couldnít help but notice that the cylinder is plenty long to accommodate the .22 Magnum cartridge, so hopefully, we will also see a return of the Model 651 .22 Magnum Kit Gun. Even better would be a gun with both cylinders, but I will be content with just buying the two sixguns separately, if needed. While I am dreaming, an eight shot Model 650 fixed sight three inch .22 magnum would be extra nice as a defensive piece for those who cannot handle the recoil of heavier cartridges, but I am getting a bit off topic here. Back to the subject at hand; the new Model 63 Kit Gun.

The Model 63 is built on S&Wís smallest frame; the round-butt J-frame. It makes for a very handy, yet reliable, rugged, and accurate revolver. The barrel/cylinder gap on the test gun measured five one-thousandths (.005) of an inch. The single action trigger pull is typical Smith & Wesson; a crisp two pounds, thirteen ounces.  The double action is very smooth, and measures just under eleven pounds. The round-butt finger groove hard rubber grip is very comfortable, and offers good purchase in my large hand.

I tested the new S&W Model 63 with several different brands and styles of ammunition. Chronograph readings were taken with a PACT Professional chronograph at a distance of eight feet from the muzzle, and the velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Accuracy testing was done at a distance of twenty-five yards with the pistol held in  a Ransom Rest, with the group sizes listed below in inches, or fractions thereof.

Wolf Match 40 Solid 945.4 1.375
PMC Match 40 Solid 861.1 1.625
Federal Bulk 36 HP  1000.3  1.875
Remington Gold 36 HP 889.6  1.187
Winchester Dynapoint 40 HP 937.9  1.625
Winchester Xpert  36 HP 977.9  3.125
Remington Bulk 36 HP 1005.6  3.250
CCI Mini-Mag  40 Solid  969 1.625
American Eagle 38 HP 986.4  2.625
Aguila Colibri 20 Solid  559.3  9.250

Reliability was perfect with all ammo tested.  The ejector rod stroke is plenty long, easily ejecting all eight empty cases with one smooth stroke. Accuracy was also very good with most ammo. However, rimfire twenty-twos are finicky about the ammo that they prefer, and as can be seen in the chart, some shot better than others. I tried some of the Aguila Colibri twenty grain loads, and accuracy was terrible with those. However, as it shot so well with many loads, I cannot fault the gun for not shooting those odd loads well.

I am very glad to see Smith & Wesson bring back the best twenty-two revolver that they ever made, and with a couple of improvements. I like the larger ammunition capacity. I like the new front sight. I like the round butt. I donít personally need  the internal lock, but it is here to stay, and causes no problem at all. The new Model 63 is reliable, accurate, durable, beautiful, and is probably the best little double action rimfire trail revolver currently made. It is perfect for a leisurely day of plinking, or for hunting squirrels in the tall hardwoods on a crisp fall day. As a trail gun, I dearly love a good .22 revolver. It fills a need more efficiently that anything else, and the Model 63 is a perfect little trail gun.

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Jeff Quinn

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Smith & Wesson's new Model 63 .22 revolver.





Sights are S&W's fully adjustable rear sight (top) and black front sight (center). Comparison of the original Model 63's front sight (bottom left) shows that the new sight is an improvement on the original red-insert version.



Top of frame is drilled for scope mount.





Checkered hammer spur (top) and smooth wide trigger (bottom) aid in single-action and double-action shooting.





Ejector is plenty long to fully eject fired cases.





Smith & Wesson's internal key locking mechanism.



Smith & Wesson's new Model 63 (center) compares favorably with the greatest .22 revolvers S&W ever made: the Model 651 .22 Magnum (top) and the original Model 63 (bottom).



Original Model 63's ejector rod (top), new Model 63's fully-shrouded version (bottom).



The New Model 63's cylinder (bottom) is slightly longer than the original's (top).



New Model 63's barrel (left) compared to the thinner barrel found on the original Model 63.



Another improvement over the original Model 63 is the eight-shot capacity.





Bob Mernickle's FC-3 holster is an excellent choice.



Mernickle's FC-3 features a thumb break retainer.



Author tested the Model 63 using a wide variety of ammunition. Accuracy testing was done from the Ransom rest.



The Model 63 proved to be very accurate, as these 25-yard groups show.