True innovations are few and far between. The introduction of polymer frames, high-pressure handgun calibers, and optics-ready handguns are important. The gradual development of ultra-lightweight materials is just as important. No matter how light your polymer frame pistol is, it is a pudgy puppy compared to my 10-ounce Smith & Wesson 317.
The S&W 317 .22 caliber kit gun has ridden trails, introduced new shooters to the shooting sports, and provided countless hours of shooting fun. It could feed the camp if needed, has dusted off reptiles and rodents, and while it isn’t my first choice, it is possibly a useful self-defense handgun.
S&W 317 Features
The Smith & Wesson ‘Kit Gun’ was intended as a fisherman or outdoors handgun. Handy, reliable, accurate, and lightweight all aptly describe the S&W 317. However, the original kit guns were steel frame revolvers. Later, the aluminum frame versions came to market.
While offered in 2 to 6-inch barrel lengths, the most common is a 4-inch barrel. Smith & Wesson’s click-adjustable rear sight offers a means of precisely sighting in the handgun. Many squirrel, rabbit, and other small game have fallen to the Kit Gun.
The new 317 uses modern technology to make several improvements on the kit gun. The sights are still fully adjustable, but more rugged than ever. The front sight features a bright fiber optic. The cylinder holds eight rounds of .22 Long Rifle, .22 Short, even the .22 Long — if you can find it.
This is a useful improvement over the original six rounds. The aluminum construction is ultra-light but durable. Take a look at the dimensions of this handy revolver.
Model: Smith & Wesson Model 317 AirLite
Caliber: .22 LR, eight-shot
Barrel: 4 inches
Weight: 9.9 ounces
Length: 8-3/16 inches overall
Stock: Uncle Mike’s boot grip
Sights: Adjustable rear, fiber optic front
Frame and cylinder material: Aluminum
Why Buy a .22 Revolver?
When I first purchased this revolver, I questioned the wisdom of paying such a price for a .22 caliber revolver. I could have purchased any number of good .38s or a .357. That wasn’t very broad thinking on my part.
This little .22 has seen far more use than most of my centerfire revolvers, been fired more, and provided more teaching moments than all my centerfire revolvers put together. The value of a good quality .22 caliber revolver is unquestioned.
Accuracy and Handling
The 317 is wickedly easy to shoot well. Despite its light weight, which would lead you to believe it is a whippy gun, it balances and handles well. Perfectly proportioned rubber grips, that fit most hands well, keep the relative index of the sights and hands in line for excellent practical accuracy.
The grip gives a little when you grasp the handles. The revolver naturally falls into the hollow of the palm. Even when pulling the smooth, double-action trigger against the lightweight frame, you have excellent control.
As for accuracy, I set the S&W 317 on a shooting rest and took aim at a bullseye at 15 yards.
|Remington .22 Short 29-grain||630 fps||2.0|
|CCI CB CAP 29-grain||550 fps||2.5|
|Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain||960 fps||1.9|
|Blazer 40-grain RNL||910 fps||2.0|
|Fiocchi 38-grain HP||1,001 fps||1.75|
|Winchester M22 40-grain||980 fps||1.9|
|Winchester Super X 37-grain HP||943 fps||2.1|
These are a variety of useful loads. I especially liked the light and quite loads. They are great fun in the backyard, and may be counted on to dispatch a pest without alarming the neighbors. The kit gun also handles appropriate shotshells and is kept loaded and ready in the locked pantry to dispatch the occasional reptile. I like the kit gun, and the concept is timeless. The Smith & Wesson 317 is a keeper.