Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Smith Wesson AirLite 317 .22LR Revolver Review

Smith Wesson AirLite 317 .22LR Revolver Review

When many of us look at the .22LR in a pistol we expect to see more of a 4”-6” barreled trail gun, hunting pistol, or target pistol, however Smith and Wesson has a snubby AirLite revolver option for rim fire fans.  Preferably for a defensive revolver more powerful .38 special, .357 or even some of the 9mm revolver variants will obviously provide substantially more stopping power, however there are still many times where this little 8-shot revolver makes sense.  

Notably there are some defensive minded shooters who are highly sensitive to recoil to the point that a .22 is the only option from a control and confidence perspective while still providing a level of defense with simple revolver operation and 8-rounds on tap.  If you are just walking trails and want to assure you have something to take care of random or aggressive critters along the way, a small ultra light high capacity snubby in .22LR is a sensible choice. 
Many folks these days want to have a gun similar to their carry pistol that consumes light recoiling and inexpensive .22LR ammo for training. This 317 could pay for itself as a training gun after around 4000 rounds, which may sound like a lot of ammo, but in reality can go by in as quickly as forty 100-round range visits. The last option is in an extended survival situation where a highly concealable snubby revolver, able to shoot the most widely available and lightest packable ammunition in the world, could come in mighty handy for both defense and to put food in your cook pot.  Although training was a consideration or at least justification, the last two reasons were my rational for picking up the feathery 10.8oz S&W AirLite 317 and fit the profile for an ultra-light packable tool for trail and extended survival.

The 317 has a great slim profile for concealed carry.
S&W is without a doubt the king of revolver model diversity and outstanding fit and finish. Although the gun has the felt weight of a couple wine corks when in the pocket, it still feels like a very high quality piece due to S&W’s attention to detail. Typically .22LR pistols downsized from other calibers like S&W’s famous .38 Special snubbies, are designed to hit a price point and quality suffers, however that is definitely not the case with the 317. It is those little details like finish consistency, softly radiused edges, and the perfect ergonomics of the grip that add up to a premium finished revolver equal to any other caliber.
If you want a certain size, weight and caliber revolver, chances are S&W has a model in their expansive line-up to fit your needs. In this case the S&W AirLite 317 fits a niche in the market as the lightest high capacity snub nosed .22 revolver. The 317 minimizes weight with S&W’s proprietary aluminum alloy used for both the frame and cylinder. 

The 317 is equipped as any of S&W other AirLite revolvers with fixed front and rear sights, smooth trigger pull, and bobbed hammer. It is the other little often missed details and refinements that set the 317 apart such as the lanyard attachment on the grip back strap, the inlet on the under side of the trigger guard to shed just a little extra weight, and a trigger/child lock mechanism to prevent un-authorized use without the special unlocking key.

The obvious features are the very light weight that the AirLite design brings to the 317 and the eight round capacity which provide a few extra rounds when you need them.

Smith and Wesson’s famously smooth trigger pull allows you to easily stage the trigger for accurate double action shooting.  If you do decide to cock the bobbed hammer for singe action shooting you will be rewarded with greater accuracy and a very crisp light trigger with no take up.  The .22LR rounds are short which means that, although this is a small frame snub nosed revolver, the extractor provides more than full length reliable extraction of spent cases.

With a .22 there are so many variances between ammo that it can be tough get lucky with a point of aim zero’ing, however for the purpose of this pistol, adjustable sights would simply clutter up the ability for this gun to do its primary job of defense.  My S&W 317 shot sligtly to the right during my 15 yard accuracy test.

Honestly I was surprised by how accurate this little pistol was with substantial credit going to the outstanding trigger.  With CCI Mini-Mags, and a number of  high-velocity “Tactical AR” .22LR rounds the Smith and Wesson 317 delivered consistent 1” groups at 15 yards off sandbags and allowed me to pretty consistently hit my rabbit spinner target off hand at those same distances.  I would definitely feel comfortable using this as a trail or survival hunting pistol to bag a setting rabbit or squirrel or with some of the CCI 22LR bird shot rounds on snakes and birds at close range.  The pistol is certainly more than accurate enough for defensive duties. 
There is one downside to this no corners cut S&W AirLite 317 with excellent fit, finish, quality, and function, and that downside is the price.  You will spend as much on this gun as you will for a S&W Airlite .38 Special variant however the sunny side of the cost equation is that it is so inexpensive to shoot that it could pay for itself as a training revolver for your larger carry gun in a year or so of weekend shooting or sooner if you consume bricks of .22LR ammo like I do.  The S&W 317 is certainly a quality revolver which would be handy for a variety of tasks and for me will find a place in one of my Bug Out Bags when it is not in use on the trail. 
  • S&W Model 317
  • MSRP $699.00
  • Street $550
  • SKU:160222
  • Model: 317
  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 8 Rounds
  • Barrel Length: 1.875" / 4.7 cm
  • Front Sight: Integral
  • Rear Sight: Fixed
  • Grip: Synthetic
  • Action: Single/Double Action
  • Frame Size: Small - Exposed Hammer
  • Finish: Clear Coat
  • Overall Length: 6 1/4"
  • Material: Aluminum Alloy Frame
  • Aluminum Alloy Cylinder
  • Weight Empty: 10.8 oz / 306.2 g
Smith & Wesson S&W

1 comment:

thedavemyster said...

Sir, I concur 100 percent with your excellent review! I have an older model, just like yours but without the safety, and it is one of my favorite handguns. I have seen some reviewers bash this gun and question what it is for, but you have nailed it; it is excellent for a trail gun, a backpacking gun, or a kayaking gun (I like it for that as it adds so little weight) Like you, I find the gun very easy to stage on double action shooting, and on single action shooting my gun shoots to point of aim at 50 feet and can hit a soda can every time using Remington golden bullet hollow points. I love this gun! Thanks for the great review.