Smith & Wesson Model 617
I recently had a chance to handle and fire three rimfire revolvers I may buy, either new or slightly used. I’m fond of wheelguns because they’re easy to maintain on a day-by-day basis, and I understand what usually goes wrong with them, which is not much. Also, I try to bring new folks into the gun culture as opportunities present themselves, and having a stable of easy-to-shoot revolvers is often a great way to do that. Here’s how this trio performed at the range.
Smith & Wesson 617 No. 160584, $829 MSRP
A friend who’s a serious revolver shooter opined that this is an ideal training tool to learn trigger control and other fundamentals. After firing a Like New used model ($600), I’m strongly considering it.
Smith & Wesson Model 617 Cylinder
This 10-shot .22 LR is built on the company’s K-Frame, originally manufactured to handle the .38 S&W Special cartridge. It featured a lightly polished stainless-steel surface, click-adjustable sights for windage and elevation, a rounded case-hardened trigger, target hammer, snag-free cylinder latch, full-lug barrel and shrouded full-length ejector rod.
The S&W Model 617 looks and feels like many of the company’s other revolvers. Weight unloaded was 2.5 lbs., with an overall length of 9.6 inches. The 4-inch barrel and topstrap provided a sight radius of 5.5 inches, and the gun stood 5.9 inches tall from sights to grip bottom. The gun I shot had a full-sized rubber Hogue monogrip with an exposed backstrap — not an issue with the rimfire cartridge.
At 4.5 pounds, the Smith’s single-action trigger pull was heavier than I expected, but it was also smooth and predictable, making point-of-aim groups from a rest easy. I didn’t like the Smith’s 13.5-pound double-action pull, and it had a hitch just before let-off that was distracting. Also, the 617’s sights offered very thin lightbars, which I’m not sure I can resolve in all light conditions.
But at the bench, it helped me shoot about as well as I can do without optics. Winchester High Velocity 40-grain roundnoses shot 2.2-inch five-shot average groups at 15 yards, followed by 2.4-inch average groups with Federal Gold Medal UltraMatch 40-grain LRNs and Remington Golden Bullet 36-grain High Velocity JHPs with 2.5-inch average groups.
Taurus 94B2UL Ultra-Lite Nine .22 LR, $467 MSRP
Taurus 94B2UL Ultra-Lite Nine .22 LR
This LNIB’s frame was aluminum alloy, but the cylinder, barrel, crane, sights, hammer and trigger were all steel, hence its 18.2-ounce weight. I’m not sure that qualifies as “ultra-light,” but it’s certainly “pretty light.” It measured 6.4 inches in overall length with a 2.1-inch barrel and a sight radius of 3.9 inches. Overall height was 5 inches.
The nine-shooter had a nicely blued finish covering tightly fitted mechanics. Its cylinder swung out positively and locked back up tightly. A sprung latch pin in the crane snapped into a cut in the frame. The main lockup was at the rear of the cylinder, using a central sprung pin.
Fit and finish were generally excellent, except that the ejector rod was an eighth of an inch too short to clear rimfire cases completely. But a little shake and tilting the butt downward cleared them. The hammer spring felt too strong for a rimfire, but the upside was no misfires. The single-action trigger pull was 5.1 pounds; the DA pull was above my max gauge weight, so I’d estimate 13 or 14 pounds.
Taurus 94B2UL Ultra-Lite Nine .22 LR Red Front Sight Insert
Perhaps the best part of the gun were its excellent adjustable sights, with a bright red insert in the flat-top front post, and the white-outline square-notch rear. The red-insert front blade stood out well against shrubs, black targets, and range-berm dirt.
At 15 yards, the Taurus shot best with Winchester SuperX Power-Point 40-grain hollowpoints (1.6 inch five-shot group average), beating group averages with CCI Velocitor Gold Dot 40-grain HP (2.4 inches), Remington Target Rifle 40-grain Lead RN (2.2 inches), and surprisingly, Eley Pistol XTRA 40-grain Lead RN (2.0 inches).
I liked the lockup, grips, and accuracy. If I buy it, I will probably respring it to lighten the stiff DA pull.
Ruger New Model Single Six Convertible No. 0623, $569 MSRP
Ruger Single Six Convertible
Ruger took the construction of this gun seriously. It does not look or feel like a Cowboy toy, and it offers improvements on the basic single-action design that are notable.
Perhaps what I like best about this gun is its simple loading gate–activated hammer block that deletes the need for pulling the hammer back and then having to touch the trigger to lower it. This makes the Single Six safer than many other single actions. Further, it has a block that prevented the hammer from striking a loaded round unless released by the trigger. This makes it safe to carry a loaded round in the chamber under the hammer.
The aluminum frame Convertible tipped the scales at 34 ounces and held six rounds of .22 LR or .22 WMR, depending on which cylinder was installed. The gun I shot was an older LNIB model that came with wood grips; the current No. 0623 model comes with rubber grips. Trigger pull weight was 5 pounds. I liked the gun’s trigger face. It was smooth, polished, and properly radiused for comfort and control.
Ruger Single Six with extra cylinder
The modern adjustable rear sight works with a front blade on a stanchion. The stout 4.62-inch barrel produced plenty of velocity, muzzle energy, and accuracy with each choice of ammunition.
At 15 yards with Remington High Velocity 22 LR 40-grain lead roundnose bullets, the Single-Six shot an average group size of 1.2 inches, followed by Federal Classic 40-grain 22 LR rounds at 1.5 inches. On the magnum side, Winchester 22 Magnum 40-grain FMJs shot 1.4-inch average groups, trailed by CCI Mini Mag 22 WMR 40-grain rounds at an average group size of 1.6 inches.
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