Gun Review: Smith & Wesson Model 617 22LR

I probably won’t be the first one to say that Smith & Wesson knows how to make a revolver. And a beautiful one at that. The Model 617 happens to be one that shoots .22LR, looks sexy while doing it and gives you 10 shots in the cylinder. Its K frame is about the same size as a .357 Ruger GP100 and it may be the highest priced .22LR revolvers on the market today. But it’s worth every penny . . .

Top – Smith and Wesson Model 617 .22LR; Bottom – Ruger GP100 .357 Magnum

 

Smith & Wesson 617 in a Galco GP100 Holster – yep, it fits.

Features

The Model 617 sports a 4 inch barrel, stainless steel satin finish and synthetic grips that aren’t oversized. Best of all, it will shoot any .22LR ammunition you choose to run through it. If you already own a K frame revolver in any other caliber, a 617 would make a fine choice for practice.

Some also call it the quintessential “kit” gun – a firearm you can stick in your tackle box or a pack for a walk in the wilderness. The front sight is basic black…I plan on changing mine out for a fiber optic version. Otherwise, the sight picture is excellent and the rear sight is easy to adjust for various ammo types.

 

Fit, Form & Function

To say this revolver is pretty is like saying Alessandra Ambrosio is attractive – it’s wholly inadequate.  There’s just something sexy about a piece of highly polished stainless steel. All of the parts of this revolver are tightly but properly put together. There’s no wobble in the cylinder, whether it’s in the frame or not, and everything moves together in unison, just as it should.

Smiths don’t have a reputation for target-style hair triggers on their revolvers and this one is no exception. But the bangswitch on this Smith is buttery smooth, albeit slightly on the heavy side. Grit, however, is conspicuous by its absence. It breaks in the same place every time with no slop or sluggishness to speak of.

In single action mode, you get more of the same with a much lighter pull. After a lengthy range session with hundreds of rounds, my trigger finger was still ready for more. If you like an extremely stiff trigger where your finger will be sore when you’re done shooting, I’d suggest you give the Ruger LCR in .22LR a try.

A warning, though: while some gunmakers say that you can dry fire any of their .22’s, do not dry fire this one. First of all, Smith & Wesson does not recommend it and says in the FAQ section of their website that it can cause damage to your precious and very expensive revolver. Plus, I found a Smith & Wesson forum posting by someone who acquired a used Model 617 and posted the following picture.

Yikes! Appears to have been dry fired extensively.

Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 617

With a gun this heavy and shooting .22LR, there is absolutely no recoil to speak of. The pistol appears to be a gun that shoots a bigger caliber unless you look closely or someone watches you shooting it and notices the absence of muzzle flip.

While I tried as many brands and types of ammunition as I could, I adjusted the rear sights for my go-to .22LR round – the 40grain CCI Velocitor. Once I got the sights where I needed them to be, I could put rounds just about wherever I was aiming. Distance to the target was 20 yards and 15 yards between two range sessions. I used a rest to test the gun for precision.

With proper ammo, sight adjustment, and technique, this may be a viable target or varmint pistol.  Range to target – 20 yards.

As you’d expect, the 617 fired everything I could put through it without any problems. A word of caution regarding proper seating of the rounds, though. Make sure the cartridges  are fully seated into their respective chambers. On one chamber full of Velocitors, one out of the ten rounds wasn’t fully seated which caused the round to fire (explode) in the chamber itself.

Some debris was sprayed back into my arms and face and the case was deformed beyond recognition. This tank of a revolver, though, didn’t skip a beat and I just kept on shooting.  Extraction of empties was flawless and effortless. There was one instance where I had to use a little more force on the plunger, but nothing that required tools or heavy machinery.

Ammunition Tested:

  1. CCI Velocitors Hollowpoints
  2. Federal Premium Target Loads – Solids
  3. CCI .22LR Shot shells
  4. CCI Mini Mags Solids
  5. Federal Premium Game-Shok
  6. CCI Mini Mags – Hollowpoints
  7. Winchester White Box
  8. CCI Blazer Value Pack
  9. American Eagle – Federal

It was very refreshing to read the Smith & Wesson Manual. I mean . . . I was reading between the WARNINGS and legalese looking for any ammunition restrictions like “Don’t use lubed ammo in this gun! Didn’t find anything. Ammo that locked up my LCR .22 didn’t phase this pistol whatsoever.

Conclusions

If you have the money for a 617, you’ll be getting one of the best .22 revolvers made by anyone on the planet. Of course, for the price, you could pick up a 1911, a Glock and a thousand rounds of ammo for it. Or six Kel Tecs. But hey, for a revolver this shiny and that you’re great grandchildren will enjoy, it’s worth it.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Model 617 in .22LR
Caliber: .22LR
Magazine capacity: 10 rounds
Materials: Stainless Steel
Weight empty:  38.9 oz
Barrel Length: 4 inches
Overall length: 9.13 Inches
Sights:  Replaceable, Front Pinned Partridge; Rear Sight – adjustable
Action: Double Action/Single Action
Finish: Satin Stainless
MSRP: $829.00

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Style * * * * *
As pretty as a Bond Girl, regardless of which one we are talking about.

Ergonomics (carry) * *
While you’re probably not going to be concealed carrying this firearm, it’s the approximate size of other revolvers in its class. So if you own a Ruger GP100, for example, this weapon will fit into any holsters you may already have on hand for it.

Ergonomics (firing) * * *
A dream to shoot…and a better trigger than other “ahem” .22LR revolvers out there.

Reliability * * * * *
Fired absolutely every type of .22LR I could find to put through it from CCI Snakeshot, Winchester Bulk White Box to Highly lubed Mini Mags. I even blew up a Velocitor round in its own chamber and kept shooting. I could almost hear the gun say, “Is that all you’ve got?”

Customize * *
Changing out the grips and sights is about all you can do to this gun. Perhaps a trigger job could be done if you are so inclined, but I wouldn’t mess with it. I also found out you can mount a small rail in place of the rear sight in case you want to use optics on this revolver.

OVERALL RATING * * * *
One of the finest .22LR revolvers I’ve had the pleasure to shoot. Its size and weight are the only things that caused the subtraction of a star. My grandkids will be shooting this thing long after I am gone.