This piece, about light, compact .22 revolvers, ran in our companion service Shooting Wire. The light, compact .22 revolver -- either a single action Ruger Bearcat or the Smith & Wesson double action guns depicted here -- are handy for outdoors adventures, especially if you have a piece of land. They're great tools. The new Ruger LCRx in .22 LR will also fit this role, as you'll see in the initial report in Shooting Wire today.
S&W Model 34-1
I last wrote about Smith and Wesson Kit Guns in a print feature in 2012. What I found then was that the first of these were categorized as .22/.32 Kit Guns: guns chambered in .22 rimfire (Short-Long-Long Rifle) in gun made on the .32 frame. Smith & Wesson would produce a "Chief's Special," a five-shot .38 Special on a .32 (J-) frame.
Fired from a stable rested position, the guns were quite accurate. Their great claim to fame, though, was portability. Hence the problem: how often do you use a field handgun from a stable rest position?
Model 63 three-inch, stainless steel.
The guns were made in the square and round butt formats with two and four-inch barrels. Six firing chambers were cut into the cylinder – shorter on the original .32 caliber I-frame than on the longer (and later) J-frame. A square butt two-inch Model 34-1 from the period of around 1984 or so is in the shop. It weighs 22 ounces.
Many years ago, one of the greatest of gunwriters was Skeeter Skelton. As I recall it, he'd left police work to take up ranching. As a gentleman rancher, he snagged a two-inch Kit Gun to carry about the place. According to him, he quickly realized that the gun was hard to hold on target and those fine little sights were hard to see – this from someone who made some impressive hits with the hard-kicking Chief Special snubs in his time.
Portable means portable. This is the Bianchi Model 152 "Pocket Piece" holster. The 34-1 fits deeply enough to keep the adjustable rear sight from snagging.
I took the Model 34-1 to the range, along with the current version of the Model 63 – a stainless, 8-shot, three-inch gun. It's 26 ounces and has a HI-VIZ fiber optic rod up front in red. As it was nearly no additional weight, I threw in a Model 317 Kit Gun, a 12.5 ounce, three-inch eight shot .22 with a HI-VIZ green fiber optic front sight. Both of the newer guns are round butt and have largish synthetic stocks factory-installed.
I found what many people find: short rimfire guns are hard to shoot well. The new fiber optic sights light up but I don't find them to be sharp. If it's very bright outside, the brilliance of the fiber optic rod obscures the top edge of the front sight.
These aren't target guns, but I found the older square butt kit gun to fit my hand better and fit my eyes and hold poorly.
As to the newer guns, the Model 63 thought it was a lot more target gun than it is. I could hold it steady and keep it still during firing strings. The shorter throw of the 8-shot cylinders was noticeable compared to the more conventional (for my era) six-shot cylinder. After a little practice, I was able to keep a rhythm with the 8-shot guns.
I'd made a grandstand shot in Wyoming last summer in front of a witness – something that's rare—by hitting a prairie dog in the head with the sub-two-inch Model 317 (fixed sights) at twenty-plus paces. I had a rest – a Ford F150 pickup truck. Trying for 20 yard groups on a target with three guns showed me what that phenomenon in Wyoming was: luck.
Here's the great thing about them: they're light, they're handy and fun to shoot. I won't win a PPC match (they still have those, right?) but they can't be beaten for portability and fun.
- Rich Grassi