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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Eight-round cylinder
- Excellent build quality
- Smooth double action and crisp single action trigger
- J-frame ergonomic excellene
- Aesthetically pleasing
- 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
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
Barrel Length: 3”
Overall Length: 7.2″
Frame: aluminum alloy
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.