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S&W’s New Model 17 Classic

by Joel Hutchcroft   |  September 23rd, 2010 0


Pinned Front Sight, Target Hammer, Key Lock, Cylinder Latch
Thumbpiece, Laminated Grips, Smooth Trigger, Recessed Muzzle Crown.

If you’re like me, you probably have at least one gun that just feels like it’s a part of you. It might be your 1911 that feels like a natural extension of your arm when you raise it and aim at the target. Or maybe it’s a .22 rimfire rifle that you shot so much while you were growing up that now it just seems to effortlessly point exactly where it needs to and you simply can’t miss each and every time you squeeze off a round. Or maybe it’s a shotgun that comes to your shoulder and moves to your focus point so easily that you don’t even realize you’re mounting it.

I feel attached to a lot of my guns, but if I had to pick the one that just feels right to me every time I handle and shoot it, I wouldn’t have to think long or hard. I’d pick my old Smith & Wesson Model 17. Some of you know what I’m talking about, but for those who haven’t experienced this fantastic revolver, after about a 10-year hiatus in production, S&W brought back the traditional six-shot, bright-blue, non-lug-barreled Model 17 last year as part of its Classics line, and now you can experience it firsthand.

Shooting Times has a long and well-established history with the Model 17, also known as the K-22 Masterpiece. ST writers the likes of Skeeter Skelton, Bob Milek, Dick Metcalf, and Mike Venturino have written about the classic K-Frame .22, detailing just about every significant mechanical change and many of the less significant configuration changes that were made to the Model 17 and its stainless-steel brother, the Model 617. So, since we are celebrating our 50th anniversary, it is fitting to report on this newest version. The new model is called the Model 17 Masterpiece Classic, and it is stamped “17-9″ inside the cylinder yoke. My old Model 17 is stamped “17-4,” and it was produced in 1980. It was my first brand-new store-bought handgun, and I’ve been shooting it for 30 years. It’s one gun that has never been sold off or traded, and I can’t see myself ever parting with it. But let’s get back to the new one.

The new Model 17 carries on the tradition of S&W’s medium-frame, square-butt, double-action revolvers, but it has a few differences. For one, the square-butt, service-style stocks are laminated wood instead of walnut. For another, the new barrel’s muzzle has a recessed crown, whereas my old one doesn’t. And the new barrel itself is slightly larger, measuring .611 inch in diameter at the muzzle, while my 17-4′s barrel is .590 inch at the muzzle.

Also, the leaf of the Micro adjustable rear sight of the new gun is rounded and entirely recessed into the topstrap; my old 17-4′s Micro adjustable rear sight leaf is squared off and the end is not encased by the topstrap. The rear sight blades on both models are plain black.

My old 17-4 has a pinned barrel, whereas the new one’s 6-inch barrel is compression fitted. The top rib on the new barrel measures .240 inch wide, and the one on my old 17-4 is wider, measuring .425 at the frame and slightly tapering down to .333 right in front of the front sight.

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Specifications:

Model: Model 17 Classic
Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson | 800.331.0852
Type: Double-action revolver
Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
Cylinder capacity: 6 rounds
Barrel: 6 in.; rifling : 6 grooves, 1:15 RH twist
Overall length: 11.25 in.
Width: 1.45 in.
Height: 5.4 in.
Weight, empty: 40 oz.
Grips: Checkered laminated wood, square-butt, service-style
Finish: Bright blue
Sights: Micro adjustable rear; primed Patridge front
Trigger: 4-lb., 6-oz. pull (single action, as tested)
Price: $1,051


My 17-4 came with a target-style hammer,
as does the new model, but my old gun has a serrated, .495-inch-wide target trigger, whereas the new model has a smooth, narrow, .312-inch-wide trigger. Both models have a Patridge-style front sight, but the new gun’s is .240 inch longer and pinned in.

The new revolver has the S&W trademark stamped on the left-hand side of the frame, whereas my old Model 17′s frame is stamped on the right side. The lettering on the new model’s barrel is larger in size but not as deeply set. The new model’s cylinder latch thumbpiece is virtually the same size and shape as the thumbpiece on my old 17-4, but the new one’s checkering is finer.

The new model comes from the factory with its topstrap drilled and tapped for a scope mount. My 17-4 is also drilled and tapped for a scope mount, but I had to do that myself. Back when my gun was made, that feature was not a standard offering from the factory. And lastly, the new model has the S&W key lock located on the left side of the frame; my old 17-4 has no such integral locking device.

As for the new model’s accuracy, well, it is just as accurate as my old 17-4. I installed a Burris 3-9X handgun scope on the new model, set it on 9X, and fired six different .22 LR loadings at 25 yards from a benchrest. The details are listed in the accompanying chart, but suffice it to say, the Model 17 is head-shot accurate on tree squirrels and cottontail rabbits at that distance. In fact, I used the new 17-9 this past fall to do a bit of Fox squirrel hunting at home here in Illinois, and last summer I fired another Model 17-9 while on a prairie dog and ground squirrel shoot in Wyoming. The new model feels almost as good in my hands as my old 17-4.

Quoting from a 1939 Stoeger catalog, former Shooting Times Handgun Editor Skeeter Skelton once referred to S&W’s K-Frame .22 as being as accurate as a watch and as sturdy as a tractor. That rings as true today as it did back then.

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S&W Model 17 CLassic Accuracy

Ammuntion Velocity (fps) Standard Deviation (fps) Extreme Spread (fps) 25 Yard Accuracy (in.)
.22 Long Rifle
CCI 32-gr. Stinger 1305 29 65 2.65
CCI 36-gr. Mini Mag HP 1134 26 62 2.08
Winchester 36-gr. Xpert HP 1145 25 48 2.75
Federal 38-gr. Game-Shok HP 1171 33 64 2.58
Federal 40-gr. Gold Medal Solid 1009 32 67 2.65
Winchester 40-gr. Power Point 1180 21 44 1.63
Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups fired from sandbag benchrest.Velocity is the average of five rounds measured 15 feet from the gun’s muzzle.

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