The Model 63 is one of those little revolvers that beg to be taken to the practice range.
For rimfire enthusiasts, the .22 LR semi-auto pistols are all the rage. And well they should be. They’re fun to shoot, quick to load, and affordable to buy. However, magazine-fed handguns are not the only option worth investing in. Hidden deeply within Smith & Wesson’s inventory of semi-auto pistols, big-bore wheelguns and AR-style rifles are some of the best rimfire double-action revolvers available. Among the most versatile options is the compact Model 63 kit gun.
One of my all-time favorite Smith & Wesson revolvers is the 4” barrel Model 617 10-shot .22 LR. Beautifully balanced and producing almost no felt recoil, this full-sized rimfire serves very nicely as an understudy to the Model 686 .357 Magnum, or as a target shooting revolver in its own right. However, the 617 is a bit on the beefy side for a walking-around gun or for new shooters who tend to tire of holding it out at arm’s length.
While researching a lighter, more compact revolver to supplement the Model 617, an opportunity to try out an early version of the feather-weight Model 317 Kit Gun came along. This little 3” round-butt J-frame is constructed almost entirely from aluminum. As a result, it weighs just 12.5 ozs. unloaded. An ultra-light .22 seemed like the right direction to go, until I spent some time with it on the range. Some folks will disagree but it seemed like this feather-weight revolver was so light that it was fairly easy to jerk the muzzle off target in the course of cycling the trigger. Although using the single-action trigger improved shot placement, it was still more work than fun. The goal in testing the gun was to find a compact .22 for casual plinking, field use and new-shooter training. It seemed this particular gun would take too much work for folks to enjoy using it right off the bat. And so, the 317 Kit Gun fell out of the running.
A good amount of time had passed when, during a visit to the local gun shop, a factory-fresh Smith & Wesson Model 63 caught my eye. It had all of the same features as the 317 Kit Gun but it was constructed of stainless steel. As I held it and looked it over, I knew I’d found the Goldilocks rimfire I had in mind. The 38.9-oz. 617 was too heavy for some tasks, while the 12.5 oz. 317 was too light for others. But the Model 63, with an unloaded weight of 26 ozs., was just right. I placed an order for one to work with and waited none too patiently for it to arrive.