16 comments

  1. I have the model 36-16, which is a near-copy of the 3 in. version in the first photo. It’s a .357 Magnum revolver, but of course I stuff it with .38 +P rounds. Full power magnums in that gun are a bit overwhelming.

    Here’s the thing. The three-inch with the round butt and underlugged barrel has a “just right” balance and feel yet it is still readily concealable.

    That square butt four inch? The vaunted S&W “kit gun” was the blue steel, un-shrouded ejector rod version of the same. Thousands of those were worn, and worn out by fishermen, backpackers and outdoorsmen of all kinds. A gun of legend, with tens of thousands of words written of it in the pages of every Outdoor and Gun mag of the late 20th Century.

    But, in that configuration, it’s really a belt-holster gun, and not nearly as pocket friendly* as the 3 inch round butt.

    * or proper IWB holster, lest the anti-pocketites object

    Like any shooty decision…the one you like best is the best!

    Jim
    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  2. I own no guns (I’m a slew foot. We shouldn’t own firearms or power saws) however, the first thing that springs to my mind is “Which gun feels better in your hand?”. It seems to me that the shapes are different enough that, if it matters at all, it might matter a good deal.

  3. Pick them up. See which feels better. Check the trigger. The last Smith I tried, band new 686, at the gun shop had a D/A trigger that felt as though it was filled with sand. The Ruger GP100 next to it felt smooth and a lot lighter. Ruger makes a GP 100 in .22LR also a 10 round gun. See if you can find one to hold and try.

  4. Have a 4″ 617 and an earlier (6-round) 63 w/ 4″ bbl., use both with students (assuming I don’t wear the 617 out first myself). Both needed a good action smoothing, after which the 63 was damn good and the 617 was orgasmic. If more clubs held rimfire ICORE matches I’d shoot the hell out of the 617 and never look back (I’ve seen 10-round .22LR speedloaders, no idea if they work, or how well, but there are 10-round brand X .22LR speed strips and that would be good practice for reloading the backup carry snubby).

    If you want a K/L frame wheel gun in .22LR, go 617. If you want a lotsa-shots small revolver, look very closely at the Ruger LCRx (model 5435) – 3″ tube, 8 rounds, and a better action out the box, good enough that you won’t want to spend anything on improving it. MSRP is $579, street is ~$80-100 less.

    Pro Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for a 4″ 651 (.22 WMR) with the (optional) S&W-fitted 22LR cylinder (it’s a look-a-like to the 63). Warning: It’s a Holy Grail gun, will be rare and spendy. Emphasis on rare.

    FYI, the older 63s were not as accurate as the Models 48, 14, K-22 or their bretheren; claim was, caused by the difference in barrel machining between the stainless 63 and the blued steel in the others. Better rumor was a lot of 63 barrels were sized for .22 mag projectiles (.2230″-.22LR, 2240″=.22 WMR) because way back when they were also used on some of the now discontinued .22 WMR S&Ws. Truth probably has at least as much to do with cylinder timing/lineup. No clue if the new 63s are more accurate than the old ones, haven’t shot a new one.

  5. I think a man of your tastes might go for a K-22 Target Masterpiece. They preceded the 617’s and are classic blue and wood stocks. I got mine at Pack and Postal in Lancaster, MA. They do C&R sales and advertise in Gun Digest. Recommended!

  6. I have a 617 six shot with 6″ full underlug barrel I bought in the earlyish 90s, provides MUCH more accuracy than I’ll ever be able to use. It came with skimpy wooden finder groove grips with I replaced with big target grips since I have fair sized hands.

    1. LOL actually, it IS for a friend — who doesn’t know much about .22 S&W revolvers — but he’s looking to buy a plinker that holds more than 6 rounds, and saw the two for sale at Bud’s.

      I know about the 617 — owned one briefly — but I know diddly about the 63, hence the RFI.

  7. I’ve had three examples of each of the revolvers, two M 17s and a 617 and the earlier model 63
    (and five other S&W K & L frame revolvers) Aside from the obvious difference in the revolvers size between a J frame and K frame, the 617 is easier to shoot with its longer barrel and higher weight. The 63 is handy, easily carried and concealed if desired.
    Accuracy with either is good and far more dependent upon the shooter than the revolvers accuracy.
    The 617 with its longer sight radius will have an edge though.
    Aftermarket grips can make a huge difference in how each will feel in your hand, the revolvers weight should be a more important factor.
    From a totally personal point of view, I prefer the M 63 due to its lighter weight, easy handling and its fit in MY hand.
    Finally, any of them will benefit greatly from a smoothing, polishing of it innards and fitting of springs more suited to shooters than the stock heavy duty ones.

  8. Wheel guns should hold at most 6 rounds. 5 is also a good number.

    More is a violation of the laws of nature, akin to putting pineapple on pizza.

  9. For me, it’s not about capacity, it’s the barrel length. I prefer the longer barrel because it aids in sight picture and accuracy on paper. I’m not carrying or concealing a .22, so why not get the full sized gun?

  10. The only regret I have after owning my 4″ 10-round 617 for over 15 years is that I didn’t purchase the 6″ model. I’ve put nearly 11k rounds through it and it’s a hoot. About 18 months ago I had to send it back to S&W because of light primer strikes; it came back as good as new and I’ve had no issue with it since.

    BTW, the 10-round speedloaders work well, at least until the chambers get dirty.

  11. I’m a late arrival to wheel guns but the 4″ 617 could easily turn my head. It just looks comfortable – perhaps check out a change of grips.
    Aside from a brief period +50 years ago carrying a service issue .38 (terribly small grips), my experience & heart lies with the proven genius of an off-the-shelf 1911 – sloppier the slide the better. My feeling about the 1911 is that if all else fails, I could severely beat a bad guy about the head & shoulders with it. That sentiment conveys to the 617.
    All that said, if an opportunity on the legal side of deal & steal comes around, I’ll go with a Colt Commander.

  12. In my opinion (and in my experience) there’s no Smith like an old Smith. I have a mid-70’s S&W M17 .22lr that will probably be the second-to-last gun I ever get rid of (the last one will be the S&W M19 I bought new at the age of 23.) The old guns have a quality that the new ones seem to lack. True, it only carries 6 rounds but that’s enough for me.

    I also have a 9 shot Taurus M94, my first DA .22lr revolver. It’s an OK gun, nothing spectacular. Wife likes it because she can shoot it well. It’s basically a Taurus copy of the J-frame “kit gun.” Size is almost the same as a J frame and I was even able to find a Pachmayr grip for it.

    The Taurus is one of those guns that I’d honestly like to get rid of but I can’t “afford” to (meaning that it’s not worth enough on the open market for me to get rid of it. I could get MAYBE $150 for it, but it’s worth more than that to me, so I keep it.)

    BTW my theory on why I like “old guns” over new guns is this:

    Every manufacturer makes some “lemons.” That’s just one of the things that happens when you mass produce something – not everything is going to be perfect.

    BUT if a gun is a “lemon” and fails to work, generally speaking one of two things happens: It’s either returned to the manufacturer, or it’s repaired. So the guns that get put back into the “stream of commerce” are the ones that work, and the ones that don’t work are the ones that get “culled.”

    Let’s face it, guns aren’t like cars that have lots of complicated and fragile parts and need lots of routine maintenance, and are constantly exposed to wide ranges of climate, humidity, etc. All you need to do is keep a gun from rusting and that’s 99% of preserving a firearm. And since guns tend to be valuable (duh!) they tend to be stored in places that are safe from the elements. Hence the 80+ year old Winchester Model 70 that let me take an antelope at 200 yards last month with a single shot, or the late WWII-era M1 Garand I got through DCM that still looks brand new. Both of those guns are quite old but function just fine.

  13. My wife picked out a 6″ 617 at the gun store and simply calls it her gun. Period. Never mind the others she has. Accurate as H*$ll and a lot of fun to shoot. We’d buy another in a heartbeat if the price was right.

  14. I’ve shot a buddy’s LONG barrel (> 8″) Smith mod 17. SuhWEEET doesn’t come close. But if small is desired, what about a Ruger SP101? Yeah, I’ve become something of a Ruger fan-boi. I admit. I do. Really. I can stop any time. Oh, wait . . where’d I leave that 12-step book?
    But seriously . . . if said shooter wants to start with .22, Ruger also makes the ‘101 in many different chamberings, includling .357 mag. Or there’s the entire GP-100 series . . . just saying.

Comments are closed.