May 23rd, 2021

Buying Your First Handgun — The Rimfire Revolver Rationale

Smith Wesson 22 .22 LR Revolver model 63 17 617 wheelgun revolver cylinder
S&W Model 617 now has a 10-round cylinder, but early models were six-shooters.

Over the past year and a half, the ranks of first-time gun buyers have grown dramatically. Millions of Americans have purchased their first-ever handgun. With so many handgun options (from derringers to Desert Eagles) many first-time buyers have trouble making a choice. What should those millions of new gun buyers have acquired first? Perhaps it should have been a rimfire revolver. Here is why…

The Argument for a Rimfire Revolver
Some years back, a close relative contacted this Editor. Wanting to get started in handgunning, he sought my advice on purchasing his very first handgun. “Should I get a Glock?”, he asked. “No” was my response. “Well how about an M&P?” he inquired. “Better ergos” I said, “but ‘No’ is still my reply.” “OK, how about a KelTec, they’re cheap…” “Absolutely not”, I replied.

I could tell he was getting annoyed, when he said “OK, Mr. know-it-all, so what handgun should I get?” Calmly, I replied: “Get a .22-caliber rimfire revolver. You will never out-grow it. You will learn sight alignment and trigger control. You can practice with inexpensive ammunition. A good .22 revolver will be considerably more accurate than 90% of the self-loading pistols you could buy. If you get a Smith & Wesson, you will keep the gun for the rest of your life and pass it on to your kids. If you or your heirs ever wear out the barrel or cylinder, Smith & Wesson will replace the parts for free, forever.”

Smith Wesson 22 .22 LR Revolver model 63 17 617 wheelgun revolver cylinder

First Handgun Choice — Consider a .22 LR Wheelgun

A very good choice for a first handgun is a Smith & Wesson .22 LR revolver, such as the S&W Model 617. The model 617 is extremely accurate, with a crisp trigger and good sights. Choose either a 4″ or 6″ barrel. The current model has a handy, 10-round cylinder.

S&W model 617 smith

This Editor’s first really accurate handgun was a .22 LR Smith & Wesson Model 617 that could easily stack ten shots in a dime at 10 yards. It remains my favorite and most-used handgun. What can we say about the Model 617? The single-action trigger pull is superb, and the accuracy surpasses most any semi-auto rimfire pistol, except for a few, very expensive target pistols. We like the 6″ version for the longer sight radius, but the 4″-barrel 617 is also very accurate, and it balances better.

Hickok 45 Demos a 4″ Model 617. See also Hickok 45 m617 Part 2:

You can learn all the fundamentals with this ultra-reliable handgun, shooting inexpensive .22 LR ammo. The model 617 is rugged, durable, and can give you a lifetime of shooting fun. Once you have mastered the basics of shooting with a .22 LR, you can move on to larger caliber handguns suitable for self-defense. Below is a slide-show illustrating a S&W model 617 ten-shot, with 6″ barrel. S&W also makes a 4″-barrel version of this revolver. (See: Shooting Demo Video with 4″ model 617.)

Another .22 Revolver Option, the Smith & Wesson Model 63

Smith Wesson 22 .22 LR Revolver model 63 17 617 wheelgun revolver cylinder

The current S&W Model 63 is a J-Frame .22 LR with 3″ barrel and fiber optic front sight. The Model 63 is compact enough for comfortable carry and well-balanced. The older Model 63, aka the “Kit Gun”, is an appreciating classic.

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