Firearms

Range Review: Smith & Wesson 317 Lite Kit Gun

Smith and Wesson Model 317 Lite revolver with an open cylinder loaded with 8 Winchester Super X .22 LR ammunition

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.

Smith and Wesson Model 317 Lite revolver left profile
The S&W 317 .22 is a fine all-around outdoors kit gun.

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.

rear micro-click sight on the Smith and Wesson 317 Lite revolver, top down view
The micro-click rear sight enables the shooter to sight-in the revolver precisely.

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.

three boxes of .22 ammunition from Winchester, Remington, and Fiocchi
A wide range of .22 caliber ammunition is a great excuse to test all day!

As for accuracy, I set the S&W 317 on a shooting rest and took aim at a bullseye at 15 yards.

LoadVelocity5-Shot Group
Remington .22 Short 29-grain630 fps2.0
CCI CB CAP 29-grain550 fps2.5
Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain960 fps1.9
Blazer 40-grain RNL910 fps2.0
Fiocchi 38-grain HP       1,001 fps1.75
Winchester M22 40-grain980 fps1.9
Winchester Super X 37-grain HP943 fps2.1
*Groups measured in inches

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.

The .22 revolver is a handy little pocket gun ready for fun or duty in a variety of roles. Which role would you consider the Smith and Wesson?

  • three snub nose revolvers chambered in different caliber to include .32 magnum, .38 special, and .22 LR
  • Smith and Wesson Model 317 Lite revolver with an open cylinder loaded with 8 Winchester Super X .22 LR ammunition
  • rear micro-click sight on the Smith and Wesson 317 Lite revolver, top down view
  • Smith and Wesson Model 317 Lite revolver's front fiber yellow/green optic sight
  • three boxes of .22 ammunition from Winchester, Remington, and Fiocchi
  • Smith and Wesson Model 317 Lite revolver left profile

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. Have had three of these in 3″ bbl’s for many years now, first was almost twenty years ago with a ramped front site. It’s a stiff double action trigger pull but for its primary role as a plinker or critter getter, it works much better in single action.
    I’ve put everything from 22 short CB’s to Velocitors as well as Aguila’s Colibris and up to their 60gr SSS through mine. It all works and so long as I keep the cylinders clean, it’ll function and feed everything I’ve tried (shorter rounds will foul the cylinder pretty quickly and become an issue for trying anything longer next).
    They are as accurate as you can be and for the weight and ammo versatility, it really is that one gun you should always have on you. Expensive, but like the man said here, it’ll get more range time than your centerfire just because the ammo is so cheap and it shoots so easy.

  2. Have had one for years, great little gun. It goes well with the all the other Smith 22s I have. One thing; the way you wrote this, it is like this is a new gun, but I’ve had one for a few years.

  3. The S&W .22 revolver was the original “KIT” gun. Now we don’t use the term “KIT” but instead say “BUG OUT”. Still, as a “BUG OUT” gun, a good .22LR handgun has many things going for it. IF an alternate ,22 WMR cylinder could be swapped with the .22LR cylinder, then it would be very hard to find a better option.

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