Smith & Wesson Model 60 .357 Magnum Five Inch Kit Gun


by Jeff Quinn

Photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

February 8th, 2005




A few years ago, Smith & Wesson beefed up their handy little J-frame stainless .38 Special Model 60 revolver a bit to enable it to fire the .357 magnum cartridge. That subtle change made a good little pocket gun even better. The Model 60 has been popular since its introduction into the S&W line many years ago. For a long time, the little stainless gun sold for a premium, bringing much more money than suggested retail. It was for many years the standard by which all other small revolvers were measured. Through the years, it has been offered in several variations, with different barrel lengths, grips, and sights.

About six weeks ago, I was speaking on the telephone with an executive at Smith & Wesson when he mentioned to me the newest variation of the Model 60. He said that they were about to produce that little gun with a five-inch barrel. As the title of this piece suggests, I immediately thought "Kit Gun". While S&W makes no mention of the name "Kit Gun" in their promotion of this little Model 60, it was the first thought to enter my mind, and ever since, that is what I believe to be the true destiny of this little five-inch revolver.

For those who have no idea of the concept of a Kit Gun, I will attempt an explanation here, if for no other reason than to head off several emails regarding the term. The term "Kit Gun" came into being many decades ago, and loosely describes a handy little firearm made to be carried in a fishing tackle box, knap sack, back pack, or any other outdoorsman’s kit. For years, S&W marketed some fine little .22 rimfire revolvers such as their models 34, 43, 63, and 651, among others, as Kit Guns. While other firms have offered kit guns, the name "Kit Gun" to me has always brought to mind the small framed, adjustable sighted, four-inch barreled Smith & Wesson twenty-twos. My personal favorite for many years has been a dandy little Model 63 stainless J-frame four-inch twenty-two; a gun which is dear to my heart. While a kit gun could be used for a number of reasons, one prerequisite for me is that a kit gun must be accurate.  It also must be of a size that is, while shootable, handy enough to be carried unobtrusively while doing other chores. A kit gun is the sidearm that you have along while engaged in other projects, such as hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, or any number of other outdoor activities. It is an "always gun" to be along for the ride anytime one is enjoying the great outdoors. It serves for plinking, protection, and to fill the pot with whatever game presents itself.  I often carry my Model 63 when big game hunting while packing a center fire rifle. The little gun is light enough  and compact enough to be out of the way, but is there if needed to finish an animal or to dispatch a gray squirrel or ornery copperhead.

Sometimes, a squirrel or poisonous snake might not be the only things for which a kit gun is needed. Sometimes, more power is called for, and that is where the Model 60 .357 comes into play. Having five shots of .357 magnum power available is a lot better than six shots of .22 Long Rifle. Five shots of .357 magnum can also be a lot better than a larger, more powerful sixgun that you left back on the riverbank or in the pickup truck because it was just too heavy and bulky to carry comfortably on your hip. The Model 60 is for all practical purposes the same size and weight as the Model 63. It is slim enough and light enough to be always at your side. Whether fishing in bear country, hiking in areas where big cats or wild dogs are present, or camping in remote areas where your only backup is your sidearm, a good .357 magnum can answer the call when a less powerful cartridge might not. Now so that there is no misunderstanding, I am not advocating hunting grizzlies with a .357 handgun. However, five shots of 180 grain hard cast lead is much better than beating seven hundred pounds of angry bear with a fly rod.

Anyway, after opening the box containing the new five-inch Model 60, I knew right away that this little five-shot revolver just might be the sidearm to displace my beloved Model 63 as the gun that is most often on my hip when I am rambling through the woods, if it proved to be as accurate as I hoped that it would be.
The new Model 60 is built almost entirely of stainless steel, and incorporates Smith & Wesson’s newest changes to their revolver line, such as an internal key lock and a two-piece barrel/shroud system. The five chambers have a very slight chamfer to the mouths , and the extractor star is shaped to fit its recess without the use of alignment pins. The ejector rod has a longer throw than on most Model 60s to help quickly eject spent cases. The round butt grip is fitted with some very attractive rosewood finger-groove grip panels. While the trigger is left smooth for quick double action work, the hammer and cylinder release are checkered for secure, non-slip activation. The sample gun had a smooth double-action trigger pull weighing nine pounds and three ounces, and a crisp single action pull of three pounds and six ounces.  The barrel/cylinder gap measured .007 inch, which is a bit larger than I like, but entirely serviceable. The sights consist of the excellent S&W adjustable unit rear and a red insert on the pinned-in blued front blade. I prefer a plain black front sight, but this one is easily changed. I had to have the red ramp sight on my old Model 63 milled off and a black blade installed by David Clements ( The sight blade on this Model 60 can thankfully be replaced at home. The barrel on the Model 60 has a two-thirds underlug that protects the ejector rod, while not adding too much weight to the barrel. The weight of the five-inch Model 60 is a handy 25.8 ounces; only two tenths of an ounce more than my Model 63 with a four-inch barrel.

While I found the slim rosewood grip panels to be quite attractive, I have a large hand, and needed a bit larger grip to comfortably control this svelte little gun. I bolted on a set of synthetic rubber laser grips from Crimson Trace, which fit my hand much better. More on these grips a little later.

For shooting the little magnum, I gathered a variety of ammunition and proceeded with velocity and accuracy tests. Velocities were recorded over the electronic eyes of my PACT chronograph at a distance of ten feet, with an air temperature of fifty-nine degrees. Velocity is listed for all loads in feet-per-second as follows:

Handload # 9 Lead Shot in Speer Capsule 1005
Federal 158 Grain Jacketed Hollowpoint 1284
Handload 125 Grain Jacketed Hollowpoint 1380
Handload 162 grain Semi-Wadcutter (Keith) 1095
Handload .38 Special 162 Grain Keith 819
Cor-Bon .38 +P 110 Jacketed Hollowpoint 1294
Cor-Bon .38 +P 125 Grain jacketed Hollowpoint 1162
Cor-Bon .357 110 Grain jacketed Hollowpoint 1497
Cor-Bon .357 140 Grain Jacketed Hollowpoint 1283
Cor-Bon .357 180 Grain Soft Point 1186
Cor-Bon PowRBall 100 Grain 1691
Glaser Silver Pre-fragmented Bullet  1710
Glaser Blue Pre-fragmented Bullet 1770
Black Hills 158 Grain Jacketed Hollowpoint  1084
Buffalo Bore 125 grain jacketed Hollowpoint  1549
Buffalo Bore 158 Grain Jacketed Hollowpoint 1410
Buffalo Bore 170 Grain Jacketed Hollowpoint 1371
Buffalo Bore 180 Grain Lead Flat Nose Gas Check  1313
Grizzly Cartridge 180 Grain Wide Flat Nose Gas Check 1127

Depending upon the situation, there is not likely any handgun need that cannot be filled by one or more of the loads listed above.  The Model 60 functioned flawlessly with all loads tested. Extraction was easy with each load tried, with the exception of the Cor-Bon 140 grain JHP load, which gave sticky extraction. With most of the loads listed, recoil was brisk in the lightweight revolver, but not at all painful. The Model 60 Kit Gun has an excellent balance of weight and power. It is easier to shoot well than the super-light titanium revolvers that I have tried, but still weighs about a pound less than a full size .357 magnum such as a Smith & Wesson Model 686 or Ruger GP100. It even weighs almost a pound less than my other favorite five-shot .357 magnum, an old Flattop Ruger Blackhawk. Weight is not the only advantage that the Model 60 has over these other sidearms; bulk is much less with the little S&W. I spent a great deal of time recently wearing the little Model 60 on my side in a Bob Mernickle FC3 cross draw holster. This is a superb holster for field carry. It carries the handgun in a position that is very comfortable while sitting on an ATV or tractor, and should work just as well while riding a horse. The gun rides in an almost horizontal position that doesn’t poke the ribs while seated, and keeps the weapon out of the way of a slung rifle or backpack. The thumb break design keeps the gun holstered regardless of activity, yet allows instant access should the need arise. The holster is extremely well built, and fits the gun perfectly. I have used the FC3 for a Ruger Single Six Hunter previously, and the decision to get one for the Model 60 proved to be an excellent choice.

I was also very pleased with the accuracy of the Model 60 Kit Gun. It would group most loads within two inches at twenty-five yards, and did much better with its favorite ammunition. The best groups fired were with a handload using a 162 grain Keith bullet at just under 1100 fps. This load would group under one inch at twenty-five yards, and I was trying hard too keep that red front sight in focus with my aging eyes.

After dark, I tried the Model 60 on a man-sized silhouette target at a distance of twenty-five yards using the Crimson Trace laser grip sight. For several years, I was opposed to these laser type sights on handguns, but the Crimson Trace unit is unobtrusive, and very useful. I have had to change my position on these little devices. It was much too dark to see the sights on the Model 60, but the silhouette target could be easily seen in the dim moonlight. It was positioned in the woods, with enough light reaching the target to make it visible from that distance. Placing the laser dot on the torso of the target, I fired off five quick double-action shots, reloaded, and fired five more quick shots into the head of the silhouette. In the pictures, you can tell that it was very dark outside, but the hits were accurate, quick, and easy. I am a believer in the Crimson Trace laser grip! Late at night in a dark lonely campsite, the little Model 60 with the CT laser grip would be a very valuable asset to have at your side should a stranger with ill intentions come calling. For those who do not need a larger grip as I do, Crimson Trace makes a smaller version of the same grip. These grips are available directly from Crimson Trace, Smith & Wesson, and many other retailers. They fit the gun very well, are easily sighted in, and extra batteries are commonly available most anywhere that batteries are sold.

Perhaps it was a little presumptuous of me declaring this little Model 60 to be a Kit Gun. It is also a very accurate handgun for informal target shooting and plinking. It has plenty of accuracy and ample power for deer hunting within handgun range. It would certainly make for a good bedside gun, particularly with the Crimson Trace grips. It would also be an excellent concealed carry revolver properly holstered, having much less bulk and weight than a larger framed .357, while possessing more power and better shootability than a snub nosed revolver. To me however, the five-inch Model 60 is the ideal Kit Gun; the sidearm of the outdoorsman, the gun that is always at his side no matter what the activity, be it hunting, fishing, cutting firewood, hiking, or just bumming around in the woods or desert. In this five inch Model 60, I just might have found a sidearm that will travel with me more than my old Model 63 Kit Gun. It’s a keeper.

Check out the entire line of pistols, revolvers, and accessories from Smith & Wesson online at:

For more information on the Crimson Trace laser grips, go to;

For custom holsters expertly crafted to fit just about any handgun, check out the line of leather at:

For more info on the quality ammunition listed above, go to:,,, and

Jeff Quinn


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Click pictures for a larger version.


Smith & Wesson Model 60 .357 Magnum Five Inch "Kit Gun".



S&W's 5" Model 60 comes with a lockable hard plastic case.



The 5" Model 60 features S&W's well-designed and easy-to-ignore key lock system.



The 5" Model 60 (top) compares favorably in every way with Jeff's beloved Model 63 .22 "Kit Gun" (bottom), with the added benefit of .357 Magnum power.



One of Jeff's favorite "five-shot" .357s, the Ruger .357 Blackhawk "Flattop" (left) dwarfs the handy S&W 5" Model 60 (right).



The 5" Model 60 comes with a very nice set of round-butt grips, but they proved to be a bit small for Jeff's hand. Installing a set of Crimson Trace laser grips solved this, and added the benefit of an unobtrusive night-sight system.



The Crimson Trace laser grips proved to be quick and easy to use. Long a skeptic of such sights, Jeff is now a believer!



Jeff tested the Model 60 with a wide variety of handloads and factory loads.



Both author Jeff (top) and webmaster Boge (bottom) found the Model 60 to be very easy to shoot, and shoot well.



Bob Mernickle has become one of Jeff's favorite holster makers, and Mernickle's FC3 Extreme Crossdraw holster proved to be the perfect carry option for S&W's great little Model 60.