May 2018

New Kit-Gun Revolvers from Charter Arms, S&W, Heritage

These 22 rimfires offer a lot of safe plinking fun for the outdoors enthusiast. You can opt for fancy features or a basic revolver that you would not be afraid to accidentally drop in a stream.

New Kit-Gun Revolvers from Charter Arms, S&W, Heritage

From the business end, is it obvious the Model 317-3 at right is smaller and lighter than the Pathfinder Lite, left, and the Heritage Small Bore Revolver, center.

A Kit Gun, by definition, is a small-frame revolver that is packed up with rest of the kit when fishing, hiking, camping, hunting, or some other outdoor pursuit are being planned. The intention of the Kit Gun is to deal with pesky varmints raiding your cooler or a coiled viper in the middle of a foot trail that refuses to move. They also help decide bragging rights around the campfire after a session of plinking empty soda cans. These revolvers have been called Kit Guns since after WWI, but S&W was the first to use the name in 1935 on the 22/32 Kit Gun, which was built on the now-discontinued I-frame. This original Kit Gun had an adjustable rear sight, a DA/SA trigger, short barrel, and a smallish grip. Since then, the features of a Kit Gun have come to include single-action triggers, fixed sights, and snubnose-length barrels. It could be argued the semi-automatic 22 rimfire pistols have usurped the revolver’s position, but that is for another test.

We took a look at three of the latest packable handguns, which included a S&W Model 317-3 Kit Gun, Charter Arms Pathfinder Lite, and Heritage Manufacturing’s Small Bore single action. We were looking for a lightweight revolver that was accurate enough to shoot the head of a snake at 10 yards, had the ability to accurately fire a variety of 22 rimfire ammo, and be safe should we accidentally drop the revolver while trekking through the great outdoors.

We tested at 10 yards, which we thought was an optimum distance for these rimfires and used a variety of 22 rimfire ammo, including 22 LR with a range of bullet weights and types, 22 Short, and 22 Shot cartridges. Ammo consisted of commonly found CCI Mini Mag with a 36-grain copper-plated hollowpoint (CPHP), CCI Target 22 Short with a 29-grain lead roundnose (LRN) bullet, Browning BPR 37-grain fragmenting hollowpoints, and the hot Aguila Supermaximum loaded with a 30-grain CPHP. We also tested Federal Game-Shok Shot cartridges loaded with #12 shot. We used a rest and fired the revolvers in single-action mode to gauge accuracy. Then we let loose, plinking away in both DA and SA mode, using a two-hand hold until all the ammo was gone. Here’s what we found out.

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