Gun Review: Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun .22LR Revolver

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Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun .22 revolver review
Courtesy Chris Sanzaro

Reader Chris Sanzaro writes . . .

Lots of outdoorsmen carry a gun with them when they’re in the field. Whether it’s for self-defense, pest control, or just some fun, a small, light gun is generally what they choose. In the early 20th century, small frame revolvers in rimfire calibers fit that bill. Before polymer and aluminum frame firearms, these smaller calibers were the best compromise.

With the introduction of the J-frame and, later, scandium started to pack way more of a punch. However, Smith & Wesson really capitalized on the weight savings with .22lr in the their Model 317 Kit Gun. It’s everything an outdoorsman would want out of a .22 revolver; extremely portable, feels great in the hand, and it’s easy on the eyes.

First Impressions 

Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun .22 revolver review
The Model 317 J-frame (L) compared to my Model 657 N-frame (Courtesy Chris Sanzaro)

The 317 is built on Smith & Wesson’s popular, compact aluminum alloy J-frame. It sports a 3-inch barrel with a green fiber optic sight and a V-notch rear sight.

The revolver is extremely portable at a mere 12.5 oz., but also comfortable to shoot with an elongated synthetic grip instead of the usual stubby J-frame grip. The balance on the wheelgun is excellent. And the .22 revolver’s trigger lives up to Smith’s reputation for excellence.

This is an absolute gem of a rimfire revolver. Now the question is, how does she run?

Shooting It

Practicing with this revolver couldn’t be more enjoyable. Its feathery weight combined with the ultra low recoil keep fatigue at a bare minimum. That being said, every move you make has an effect on your sight picture.

Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun .22 revolver review
Courtesy Chris Sanzaro

Speaking of sight pictures, the sights on this gun don’t really match up. The large fiber optic front dot and the rear sharp v-notch rear blade aren’t really a good fit for each other.

Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun .22 revolver review
Courtesy Chris Sanzaro

It’s hard to show on camera, but it’s the same concept of a round peg that doesn’t fit into a square — or in this case, v-shaped — hole. A square rear notch would have been a better choice.

That being said, that fiber optic sight is bright. The learning curve of round dot in angular notch takes a little getting used to, but worth the time. Rimfire ammo is, once again, relatively cheap. Put in about $10 or $15 worth of work, and you should get the hang of putting rounds right where you want them with this little J-frame.

Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun .22 revolver review
Courtesy Chris Sanzaro

As you can see from my targets, the gun is capable of great accuracy from the standard seven yards. I was still able to make hits out to 20 yards, but it definitely puts your skills to the test. 

To my surprise, the gun shot 40gr bulk ammo best. The lighter, faster Mini Mags tended to shoot low at seven yards (that will change with distance). And .22 shorts seemed to wander. I shot a lot of ammo of each weight ant type, but I fired a few extra shorts just to confirm that I wasn’t pulling any shots.

I also tried some rapid fire shooting at seven yards. You can definitely get some good groups, but you aren’t going to be sending rounds down range as fast as you do with your full size duty or target pistol.

I also noticed towards the end of my range session that the rear sight had come loose. That’s a little disappointing, but it’s easy to fix with a little Loctite. Overall this great little wheelgun gun is a hoot to shoot.

Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun .22 revolver review
Courtesy Chris Sanzaro

Pros and cons

The Model 317 Kit Gun is purpose-built to be as lightweight and portable as possible to be with you wherever you go.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Reliable
  • Accurate
  • Eight-round cylinder
  • Excellent build quality
  • Smooth double action and crisp single action trigger
  • J-frame ergonomic excellene
  • Aesthetically pleasing

Cons

  • Aluminum frame and cylinder are easily marred 
  • Rear sight came loose during a long range session
  • Front dot and rear v-notch sights aren’t the best combination
  • Somewhat expensive 
Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun .22 revolver review
Courtesy Chris Sanzaro

If you can’t tell, I absolutely adore this little revolver. It’s light, accurate, and a whole lot of fun. It’s been wet and muddy, even a little bloody at times, and it’s no worse for wear. The aluminum alloy construction combined with case-hardened parts make for a corrosion resistant gun.

While I have carried the Model 317 concealed, l’d opt for a J-frame chambered in a more potent caliber or a single stack semi-auto before relying on this one for personal defense.

The only thing that will give some pause is the Model 317‘s $839 MSRP (about $800 retail). Some other comparable models include the Taurus 942 (about $350) and the Ruger LCRx (around $600). In my opinion, the Smith 317 is the perfect trapline or survival pistol. YMMV.

A piece of advice for those who own this gun: the aluminum build is softer than steel. Those aluminum components are going to wear faster than steel. The Model 317 is meant to be carried much and shot relatively little, so that aspect doesn’t bother me as much.

My only real gripe with the Model 317 — and it’s not a huge one — is the combination of the rear sight v-notch blade with the fiber optic front sight. That could easily be swapped out…or you could just get used to it as I have.

The Model 317’s price makes it a more expensive niche gun. But if you want a quality revolver to pack in your woodsman/survival kit, the 317 is an excellent option. 

Specifications: Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun

Caliber: .22lr
Capacity: 8
Barrel Length: 3”
Overall Length: 7.2″
Height: 5″
Width: 1.3″
Frame: aluminum alloy
Grips: synthetic
Sights: hi-viz green front, v notch rear
Weight: 12.5 oz
MSRP: $839 (about $800 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance: * * * * *
A relatively dainty tool with utilitarian purpose. It definitely keeps the same classic lines as it’s bigger caliber brothers. Smith & Wesson revolvers are just a good-looking bunch.

Customization: * * *
It’s a J-frame so there is a plethora of speed loaders, grips and sight options out there for it. You can even find optics mounts if that’s your thing. That being said it’s not really a gun you’ll want to put a lot of junk on.

Accuracy: * * * *
The sight combination means there may be a learning curve. But the Model 317 isn’t inaccurate, you just need to learn to be accurate with it.

Reliability * * * * *
It operates just as it should. I’ve put thousands of rounds through it without a malfunction. Just clean out those cylinders and bring a flathead screwdriver.

Value * * * *
It’s on the pricey side of .22 revolvers, but given the materials and build quality, it’s really hard to beat a Smith & Wesson rimfire revolver.

Overall * * * * ½
If the price doesn’t put you off, the Model 317 Kit Gun is the perfect revolver to stow in your backpack or tackle box when you’re heading out.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. Add one more to my list of dozens of guns that I will never buy from S&W because of the hole they drilled in the side of the frame.

  2. I picked up a used one of these a few years back for relatively cheap, and I agree that the sight setup sucks. I used a small (3/32″ maybe) round file intended for chain saws and turned the rear sight blade into a “saddle” to work more betterer with the front sight. It matches the brass round peg / saddle notch sight setup on older Redhawks.

  3. You won’t carry it concealed because it is a rimfire and lacks punch? But you’ll carry it in the boonies where there is stuff that might want to eat you?

    • It depends where your boonies are. In mine, there’s no generally no predators bigger than coyotes. There are have been stories of the occasional bear or cougar sighting, but those are so rare as to almost be mythical and nobody in my county has ever been attacked by one.

      • We have attack helicopters in our boonies as there is a reserve training base there. They like to practice popping up over the trees at a lake I like to kayak fish. I have never been attacked by one, although they have bluff charged a few times. But I agree that .22 would probably be insufficient for them.

        Dean Weingarten over at Ammoland has done yeoman’s work compiling bear pistol defense data. All pistols, including .22 run about a 97% effectiveness against bears. I have not seen any data on pistol defense against helicopters 😉 😉 😉 😉 😉

      • Believe it or not I have encountered black bears, an angry cougar and packs of coyotes right here in sunny CA.

        I do not blame that cougar for being pissed. I would have been, too. Fortunately he saw reason and left without any shooting.

  4. If you want to carry a .22 for defensive purposes, a wheel gun is the way to go. In the event of a misfire (not all that unusual with .22) you simply pull the trigger again.

  5. As a kid in the early ’80s who flew all over the country in the summertime I always managed to carry a Smith & Wesson 22 revolver onto commercial airline flights in my tackle box. I was a strange little kid and every summer some libyans would hijack an airplane or two and make a spectacle flying all around with it. I wasn’t smart enough about geography to realize that wasn’t happening in my part of the world but I was ready for them. The way I would do it is I would hand my Tackle Box to an airport employee when I was going through the metal detectors and the employee always walked right past them and escorted me to my seat on the plane. Did it more times than I could count and it worked every single time. Kept a big knife in my tackle box also.

  6. I ordered a Kit Gun at the same time I ordered the 442 in my pocket now. 4″, stainless round butt. Replaced those soft Houge square butt grips right away. Too soft; and who puts square butt grips on a round but revolver? That Kit Gun rides in my hunt pack every time I walk out the door. Who in his right mind would go to the woods without a .22 LR handgun?

  7. For $370 you can buy a Taurus 942 in .22WMR
    .22 magnum is about as low as I’m going to go in rimfire.
    I might have been retarded last night but not tonight.
    $839 for a .22 revolver is “somewhat expensive”?
    Rear sight came loose, been there, done that.

  8. I have an old H&R top break 9 shot .22 that I use for such things. It is a nuclear bomb on squirrels. It is more accurate than I can shoot it freehand. And I always have a soft spot for top breakers. Goes back to my childhood. A lot of the WW2 guys had them in various calibers.

  9. Most S&W’s revolvers have gotten really spendy. I think they are now basically specialty only collector items.

    The Shield, other M&P pistols, M&P-15 and 10 Sport rifles, are reasonably priced. The basic 642 and other AirWeight .38sp revolvers aren’t too badly priced. I think these firearms must now make up the majority of S&W’s sales.

    This revolver doesn’t begin to compete on a practical economic basis. The $200 Ruger Wrangler is good enough. The Heritage $125 Rough Ryder also works fine. The $200 Kel-Tex P17 is super small, lightweight, and holds 16+1. The $300 Ruger SR22 is another great lightweight competitor. The Taurus TX is yet another option. If it has to be a double action revolver, I’d seek an old NEF or H&R. My used NEF R92 (9 shot DA) was only $115.

    If someone has tons of money, this gun might make sense.

  10. While I have a “thing” for S&W “J” frames. in .38 or .357, in a .22LR I would use a Charter Arms revolver. I would put the savings into ammo. In today’s environment, my kit gun would be in a centerfire cartridge. A 3″ S&W model 60 is my current choice. Wish that a “J” frame .327 would be offered, as that can also use .32 S&W or .32 H&R rounds. .32 S&W round for small game, and the .327 for 2-legged varmints. The 3″ CA .32 H&R revolvers are a catalog item but are like unicorns in real life. Maybe some day!

  11. I would like the Smith and Wesson Revolver, but I ended up buying the Charter Arms Pathfinder Target Model in a 4 inch stainless model for much less, as in around $250 and have seen them from $300 to $450 new still in both the 6 shot and 8 shot models.
    Comfortable grip and good sights. I have used mine for almost 10 years now to teach beginners and even those with more experience. A very accurate little 22lr in both single and double action. Available in 22WMR as well, several of my students have bought them after shooting mine in a class.

    • They have really awful triggers, they keyhole .22 WMR like crazy on the shorter barrels, at least, and you’re lucky to get “minute of pie plate” at 7 yards.

  12. I have yet to shoot a rimfire revolver with anything remotely approaching a reasonable double action pull.

  13. Nice little gun, but mine had an issue with the barrel/cylinder gap ablating the cylinder face and ended up getting the aluminum cylinder replaced with the stainless one.
    Also, the sights don’t work for me. I replaced them with a square, serrated ramp front and a square notch rear.
    The stainless cylinder added a couple of oz. to the weight, which I feel is a good thing.

  14. CLEAN CYLINDER DO NOT USE A STAINLESS STEEL TORPEDO , OR COPPER BRUSH , JUST USE CLEANER AND SWAB IT , INSIDE .. THAT’S WHAT I WAS TOLD .. CALL S&W …VERIFY …

    YEP WILL MAR SOME ON OUTSIDE , HELL I RUFF UP EVERY PISTOL I HAVE ANY WAY , NOTHING NEW TO ME .. CLEAN , SHOOT , DO IT AGAIN , MORE AMMO PLEASE … HA
    WEAR IT OUT .. BUY NEW ONE AGAIN ..

    O COULD CHANGE REAR SIGHT FOR SQUARE ONE .. JUST A THOUGHT …

  15. “The Model 317 is meant to be carried much and shot relatively little, so that aspect doesn’t bother me as much.”

    If they’re gonna ask just south of $1,000 for the thing, it bothers the hell out of me.

  16. I looked at the 3″ 317 and the 3″ all stainless steel Model 63. They were the same price. Guess which one I bought?

    • Where did you manage to find the SS M63? I am on every “wish list” in very 2A-friendly Idaho, and it’s easier to get an audience with the Pope than to find one of these rare birds…

  17. I don’t like the hole either, but I’m not going to let that keep me from buying a quality revolver. If it abrades you, then don’t buy it and leave them for we who have the money, the inclination and the opportunity. Oh, I’m 77 the 25th of next month so all the business about S&W capitulating was real time for me. I get it; I’m, just not going to let “it” get me.

    I don’t own a single gun that’s perfect. Every one has its little uglies and they all will for eternity. That’s the nature of mechanical things.

    I bought one of these as a gift for my daughter and she absolutely loves it. That equates to money well spent in my book.

  18. 317, I have an early one in great condition without the Hillary Hole.
    Took the God-awful rubber grips off of it and put on wooden ones.
    Nice little pistol.
    Smitty

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