One of the first articles I ever wrote for
Gunblast was on the Model 63 Smith & Wesson. Titled
"Little Big Gun",
I praised the little sixgun as being one of the best trail guns
ever made. To those who own them, they are legendary little
revolvers, and are priced accordingly. S&W discontinued
production of the Model 63 a few years ago, and they are very
hard to find on the used market.
I lamented back in the year 2000 when I wrote
about the Little Big Gun that S&W was not at the top of
their game at that time, and had entered into a deal with the Clinton
administration that was good for neither the company nor
shooters. However, they did what they did to survive those
times, as the government at that time would have liked nothing
better than to drive every gun manufacturer in the country into
bankruptcy. You folks keep that in mind when you go to cast your
vote for a new President this year. Do you want another
administration that is as anti-gun as the first Clinton
administration? I donít. Anyway, S&W has rebounded like no
other company that I have seen since Harley-Davidson
recovered from near-death a couple of decades ago. The new Smith
& Wesson has invested in people and machinery, but best of
all they have a new attitude, and are building guns that
shooters want, and are building them to higher standards and
with better materials than ever before.
Back in June, I
was visiting the S&W factory, and was shown again
the prototype new Model 63 that I had seen briefly at the 2007
SHOT Show in Orlando, Florida. Ever since, I have been
waiting somewhat impatiently to give one a thorough workout.
Last week, a production gun finally arrived, and I have spent a
lot of time and ammunition into seeing how the new Model 63
compares to my beloved original.
The new Model 63 has a five-inch barrel that is
a bit larger in diameter than the four inch barrel on my older
sixgun, resulting in a weight of 28.3 ounces, about two ounces
heavier than my original. While I really like the five inch gun,
hopefully, shorter barrels will follow. I would love to have a
three inch version, as it would carry so well in a hip pocket.
The five inch 63 rides very comfortably in my Mernickle
crossdraw FC-3 holster, but a pocket gun would be a
welcome addition. One nice feature of the new Model 63 is the
front sight. It still has the excellent fully adjustable J-frame
rear sight, but thankfully, the new gun has a black front sight,
instead of the red ramp version of the original. Like the
original, it is built primarily of stainless steel to resist
corrosion. The fit and finish on the new Model 63 is better than
on my original.
The new Model 63 has the S&W key lock
system, which locks the hammer from movement. This feature is
useful in those jurisdictions where the law requires it, or to
anyone who wants to secure the gun from unauthorized use. I do
not use internal key locks, and can just ignore the one on this
Model 63. If they bother you, they can be ignored, or disabled
if you just donít trust such things. However, especially on
this .22 rimfire revolver, the lock will cause no trouble at
all. It wonít activate itself. Unlike the earlier Model 63,
the new one has a full ejector rod shroud, to better protect the
ejector in case the weapon is dropped. The hammer and trigger
are case-hardened on the new 63.
The most noticeable and welcome feature of the
new Model 63 is the number of rounds that it carries in its
cylinder; up from six shots in the original to eight in the new
version, without increasing bulk or weight. I also couldnít
help but notice that the cylinder is plenty long to accommodate
the .22 Magnum cartridge, so hopefully, we will also see a
return of the Model 651 .22 Magnum Kit Gun. Even better would be
a gun with both cylinders, but I will be content with just
buying the two sixguns separately, if needed. While I am
dreaming, an eight shot Model 650 fixed sight three inch .22
magnum would be extra nice as a defensive piece for those who
cannot handle the recoil of heavier cartridges, but I am getting
a bit off topic here. Back to the subject at hand; the new Model
63 Kit Gun.
The Model 63 is built on S&Wís smallest
frame; the round-butt J-frame. It makes for a very handy, yet
reliable, rugged, and accurate revolver. The barrel/cylinder gap
on the test gun measured five one-thousandths (.005) of an inch.
The single action trigger pull is typical Smith & Wesson; a
crisp two pounds, thirteen ounces. The double action is
very smooth, and measures just under eleven pounds. The
round-butt finger groove hard rubber grip is very comfortable,
and offers good purchase in my large hand.
I tested the new S&W Model 63 with several
different brands and styles of ammunition. Chronograph readings
were taken with a PACT Professional chronograph at a
distance of eight feet from the muzzle, and the velocities are
listed in feet-per-second. Accuracy testing was done at a
distance of twenty-five yards with the pistol held in a Ransom
Rest, with the group sizes listed below in inches, or
Reliability was perfect with all ammo tested.
The ejector rod stroke is plenty long, easily ejecting all eight
empty cases with one smooth stroke. Accuracy was also very good
with most ammo. However, rimfire twenty-twos are finicky about
the ammo that they prefer, and as can be seen in the chart, some
shot better than others. I tried some of the Aguila
Colibri twenty grain loads, and accuracy was terrible with
those. However, as it shot so well with many loads, I cannot
fault the gun for not shooting those odd loads well.
I am very glad to see Smith & Wesson bring
back the best twenty-two revolver that they ever made, and with
a couple of improvements. I like the larger ammunition capacity.
I like the new front sight. I like the round butt. I donít
personally need the internal lock, but it is here to stay,
and causes no problem at all. The new Model 63 is reliable,
accurate, durable, beautiful, and is probably the best little
double action rimfire trail revolver currently made. It is
perfect for a leisurely day of plinking, or for hunting
squirrels in the tall hardwoods on a crisp fall day. As a trail
gun, I dearly love a good .22 revolver. It fills a need more
efficiently that anything else, and the Model 63 is a perfect
little trail gun.
Check them out online at www.smith-wesson.com.
For the location of a Smith & Wesson dealer
near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR icon at www.lipseys.com.
To order a Bob Mernickle custom holster, go to www.mernickleholsters.com.
For a list of dealers where you can
buy this gun, go to:
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