Affordable 22 LR Revolvers: S&Ws Air Lite Redeems Itself

As the cost of centerfire ammunition continues to ascend, many gun owners will turn to the standby 22 LR round as a way to shoot economically, whether those pursuits include knocking over cans, punching holes in paper, or killing the occasional rodent. Of the many available guns chambered for the rimfire round, perhaps the easiest to load and shoot and enjoy is the revolver.We recently tested a trio of wheelguns chambered for the 22 round, and versions of two of them have previously been tested and graded for their utility. For example, just over a year ago (October 2007), we shot the Taurus Model 94SS4, $406. That stainless-steel gun with a 4-inch barrel got a B-, mainly because it was too heavy to be considered as a trail gun. We also said back then, "But the Taurus is a great deal less costly, so if you dont mind its weight and if you can do without extreme accuracy, it might be right for you. It looked great, performed quite well, and was easier to load and unload."We were more enthusiastic about a Taurus Model 94B2UL Ultra-Lite Nine, $375, reviewed in March 2006. We said of that gun, rated a Best Buy: "…All in all, the Taurus doesnt need a lot to make it into one of the finest 22 revolvers weve seen. As we found it, it worked well, and the price was modest."In that same issue, there were two Smith & Wessons reviewed. The 4-inch S&W Model 317-2 HIVIZ No. 160221, $691, earned a Conditional Buy because "…We liked this gun in every respect but for its trick sights. Wed throw them as far as we could, as fast as we could, if we owned this gun, and put on a black or red front post and a square-notch rear as fast as you can say HIVIZ." Next, the S&W Model 317-2 Air Lite No. 160222, $633, received a Dont Buy rating, with our staff saying, "There was nothing whatsoever wrong with this gun, and some readers might have a desperate need for it, and theyll buy it no matter what we say. …We would not buy this gun as long as its adjustable-sighted brother [the HIVIZ unit] was available, unless we had a great need for the smallest, lightest 22 revolver for some special close-range purpose."With that background in mind, we acquired a 22 revolver we havent tested, a Charter Arms Pathfinder No. 72224, a 2-inch-barrel stainless gun that MSRPs for $350. The 6-shooter weighs in at 21 ounces, more than the lightweight aluminum-alloy-frame Smiths and about the same as the Tauruses weve tested. The Pathfinder comes with a Patridge front sight, square-notch rear sight, and full rubber grips.Since we had previous reviews of what are the equivalent of guns rated D or F, (the Dont Buy-rated S&W Model 317-2 Air Lite No. 160222) and what would be an A- or A gun (the Best Buy-rated Taurus Model 94B2UL Ultra-Lite Nine), we went to Fountain Firearms in Houston ( and got fresh samples of those two and pitted them against the Charter, bracketing it. Would the Charter hold its own against the top-ranked Taurus? Would the Pathfinder navigate our tough testing protocol and again leave the Air Lite in the cellar? Extensive shooting would establish the Charters proper place in the established Gun Tests hierarchy, or so we thought.

More .22 Revolvers for the Trail: S&W AirLite Still Our Choice

In our ongoing search for the best .22 handgun for the trail, wherever that trail may take us, weve looked at a bunch of .22 handguns and have rejected quite a few. This time we mix the single-action stainless Bearcat from Ruger ($480) with a DA Model 94SS4 from Taurus ($406), and take a look back at one of our earlier test guns from March 2006, the eight-shot S&W AirLite Model 317 ($735) with "HIVIZ" sights. Below, we recap the earlier results from the AirLite first, add long-term results weve gleaned about it since our original test, and then mix in facts and opinions about the other two guns to produce grades for the Ruger and Taurus guns.

Three Small .22 Wheelguns: We Loved the Taurus Ultra-Lite

Last month we reviewed a batch of Walther .22 semiauto pistols, and we have a couple more from other makers in the works. The autos shot well enough, but some shooters will never like self-loaders. Also, some folks don't want to leave behind all that brass, which the autos fling everywhere. The solution is to get a revolver, so — in keeping with our small-gun scenario — we gathered two of Smith & Wesson's feathery-light eight-shot revolvers, one with a 2.0-inch barrel and fixed sights ($633), the other with a 3-inch barrel and adjustable "HIVIZ" sights ($691). We also got a Taurus Ultra-Lite Nine ($375), which seemed to have a mix of the S&W's features at the cost of a significant weight penalty, but with the benefit of a huge price reduction.

Toss-up: DA Taurus Raging Hornet Vs. SA Magnum Research BFR

The $898 Taurus and $999 Magnum Research revolvers are unique among firearms. Chambered for .22 Hornet, both guns offer the varmint and small-game hunter a lot of performance.

.22 Long Rifle/.22 WMR Combos: Single-Action Rimfire Showdown

Can .22-caliber LR/Magnum wheelguns offer twice the punch of single guns alone? We test Ruger's New Model Single Six, the Heritage Rough Rider, and EAA's Bounty Hunter.

Smith & Wesson Model 317 AirLite: Reliable, Expensive

Some outdoorsmen prefer a rimfire handgun they can carry in their pocket or tackle box. For this, you need a .22 LR revolver that is smaller and lighter than those covered in this issue. One such revolver is the Smith & Wesson Model 317 AirLite.

As its name suggests, the Model 317 AirLite is extremely lightweight and compact. When equipped with a two-inch barrel, this small-frame double action revolver weighs in at 9.5 ounces with wood grips or 10.5 ounces with a rubber grip.

Why does this 8-shot model weigh so little? It has an aluminum alloy frame, barrel and cylinder. The cylinders chambers are reinforced with steel inserts. The barrel has a steel liner and forcing cone.


Smith & Wesson Model 63: A Good .22 LR Double Action Revolver

We've been asked: Why would I want to buy a double action .22 revolver over a .22 semiautomatic pistol? The answer is: It depends. If targets are your point of aim, you're better off with a target pistol. After all, holding on a bullseye while cranking the average double action trigger isn't the easiest thing to do during a course of timed or rapid fire.

On the other hand, small-caliber double actions have long accompanied campers, hikers and fresh water fishermen as part of their basic survival equipment. The little wheelguns have been known to pick off many a squirrel or rabbit and even an occasional partridge in a pine tree. They also have the capability to take out or seriously discou...

Firing Line 12/98

NAA Customer Service
I have been a subscriber to your publication since it began and consider it the finest publication that exists on the subject of firearms. I only wish you published such a magazine on computers.

Almost ten years ago, I purchased a North American Arms .22 Magnum Mini-Revolver. I carry it when I jog or rollerblade and as a backup to the .45 Colt Officers Model I routinely carry.

Three weeks ago, while disassembling the Magnum Mini-Revolver for cleaning I lost the $3 hand spring. Upon calling the factory, their representative (Mr. Wayne Martin) suggested I return the gun for replacement of the part and reassembly.

In less than three weeks, the gun was...

How to Evaluate Used .22 Handguns And Rifles Before Buying

Without question, there are more pre-owned .22 rifles, pistols and revolvers occupying table space at guns shows, rack and counter case space at dealers and house space than any other caliber firearm. Based on the popularity of the cartridge, the guns that shoot it and the number of years both have been around, such abundance isn't in the least surprising. Due in part to that abundance, the prices attached to other-than-collectable .22s can be irresistible to the uninformed. All too often, many of these "bargains" become nightmares of additional expense once its discovered they don't function very well or not at all. You can be reasonably certain of one thing. A used .22 rifle, revolver or p...

Four-inch .22 LR Revolvers: We Test Three Pretty Good Plinkers

[IMGCAP(1)] Regardless of which firearm you shoot most often, the only way to ensure its safe and effective use is through constant practice. Enter three revolvers chambered for .22 Long Rifle: The $359 Taurus Model 94, Smith & Wesson's 617, $534, and the $280 Sportsman 999 from Harrington & Richardson, now known as H&R 1871, Inc. While the Taurus 94 appears slightly smaller than the company's medium-sized revolvers, the Smith 617 is a standard sized K-framed revolver with full lug barrel bored to fire 10 rounds of .22 LR instead of .38 Special or .357 Magnum. We've lost count of the old hands who first learned to shoot on the break-top H&R, and the other two guns in this test offer an inexp...

Color Me Skeptical

A press release on the PR Newswire said, breathlessly, “Biofire Announces World’s First Smart Gun® Secured by Fingerprint and Facial Recognition.” Will this smartphone...