It seemed about time to write up a fun and practical handgun review. This Smith & Wesson Model 317 brings me back to the days when my dad would take my brother and I out to shoot his .22 rifles. During one such excursion, when I was about 14, we got a chance to shoot the one handgun my dad owned: a Smith & Wesson Model 1953 22/32 Kit Gun.

The 1953 22/32 Kit Gun, introduced in 1953, was a six-shot .22 LR revolver built on the .32-caliber-pistol frame (later becoming the J-frame). It was very compact and was designed to be carried in an outdoorsman’s “kit” — think tacklebox or backpack. It was made of deeply blued steel throughout and featured black, adjustable Patridge sights; a 4-inch barrel; and the traditional S&W thin, service-style checkered walnut grips. It was a beautiful gun I could never imagine actually carrying in a tacklebox.

That 1953 Kit Gun was a smooth shooter and so much fun to fire, especially because we were with our father.

Fast Forward to the Model 317

The S&W 317 is a 21st-century version of the old 1953 22/32. While the 317 retains the same overall profile as its forebear of 67 years, it is a significantly different gun and better adapted to both outdoor recreation and self-defense.

Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun Specifications

Weight: 11.7 ounces
Caliber: .22 LR
Barrel length: 3 inches
Overall length: 7.2 inches

Part of S&W’s Airweight series, the 317 weighs in at a mere 11.7 ounces. This is due to the aluminum construction of all its major components: frame, cylinder and barrel shroud. The 3-inch stainless steel barrel fits inside the shroud, and the eight-shot cylinder uses stainless steel inserts inside each chamber. The Model 317’s all-stainless counterpart — the Model 63 — weighs in at 24.8 ounces by comparison. That’s a noticeable weight difference when on a long hike on the trail.

The sights are also a big improvement over the sights of the original. The 317’s front sight is a green HI-VIZ fiber optic, while the rear is a fully adjustable S&W Micrometer with “V” notch. Trigger operation is traditional double-action with single-action capability.

S&W Model 317 at the Range

I conducted my test using Remington Target Standard Velocity .22 LR lead round-nose ammunition, which is likely similar to what I shot in dad’s original 1953 Kit Gun for the very first time.

The double-action trigger pull on most rimfire revolvers is heavier than those on similar centerfire revolvers. A stronger mainspring is needed in rimfire guns to ensure reliable ignition of the .22 rimfire cartridge. After running the first eight shots though the 317, I noticed the trigger and action needed a bit of lubrication. After applying a few drops of Hoppe’s gun oil, the trigger smoothness was much improved. Carbon steel trigger and action components will smooth out easier than stainless steel ones with a bit of shooting and lubrication.

The HI-VIZ front sight seemed almost illuminated on that sunny day. I was consistently able to fire 2-inch groups (and sometimes better) at 25 feet. I fired using the “trigger staging” method rather than pulling all the way through without pausing. There were no malfunctions. The oversized rubber grips were a big improvement over the thin walnut grips on the original Model 1953.

Wrap Up

It was a fun and relaxing range testing session. Nothing evokes pleasant memories like the distinctive smell of .22 rimfire cartridges being fired. The Model 317 is a superb trail gun, and if stoked with high-velocity hollow-point ammo, it could be called upon to provide eight rounds of reliable rapid-fire self-defense for the user who wants the lightest-recoiling/carrying revolver available. Oh, and it would be much more at home in a tacklebox than the original due to its rust-resistant construction.

MSRP is $766. MSRP of the stainless steel Model 63 is $780.


Smith & Wesson:

About Scott W. Wagner

After working undercover in narcotics and liquor investigations, Scott W. Wagner settled down to be a criminal justice professor and police academy commander. He was also a SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader before his current position as patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. Scott is a police firearms instructor certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.