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  #1  
Old 02-02-2013, 01:27 PM
photoman12001
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S&W 63 vs 617...I just couldn't decide



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I thought this information might help someone considering one of these revolvers. It's all completely subjective based on my perceived needs for a .22LR revolver. There is no wrong decision among these; they are all great. The only way you can go wrong is by not getting at least one of them.

I decided a few months ago that I wanted a .22LR revolver but couldn't decide among several models: S&W 617 4"/6", 63 4"/3", and Ruger SP101. So I've spent the past few months acquiring examples of each to compare them.

Summary Ranking:
  1. S&W 63-5
    Why: Best all around. Good size/accuracy for many tasks (CCW, trail, range, all ages).
  2. Ruger SP101
    Why: Good size and value for cost. Very close to 617-1 4". Beat it due to comparable accuracy for $200 less.
  3. S&W 617-1 4"
    Why: Great versatile gun but a little big. Beats SP101 for sights and trigger but doesn't equate to much better accuracy. SP101 is better value.
  4. S&W 63 No Dash
    Why: Good size but poor fit/finish and very sticky extraction knocked it down. I did buy this one well used but things like the off-center hammer and sticky extraction I think were issues from the factory.
  5. S&W 617 No Dash 6"
    Why: Beautiful fit/finish/action/trigger. Just too darn big/heavy to be good for much outside of the range.

Ruger SP101 Good:
  • Great size; not to big or too small; between K and J frame
  • Great sights; love the fiber optic front sight
  • VERY solid gun
  • Trigger is smooth without noticeable stacking
  • 8-round cylinder
  • Reliable
  • Accuracy/precision is on par with more expensive S&Ws
  • Size/weight make it good for many tasks

Ruger SP101 Bad:
  • Fit/finish are not the best
  • Trigger is HEAVY (much heavier than all the S&Ws) but smooth
  • Cheaper than a new S&W but still $500-600
  • Factory grip was too small for my medium-size hands
  • Not easy to find

S&W 617 No Dash 6" Good:
  • Beautiful, classic gun with great fit and finish
  • Buttery smooth DA/SA trigger and reasonably light for a rimfire
  • Accurate, precise, reliable

S&W 617 No Dash 6" Bad:
  • Big and HEAVY (did not do shooting comparison with others due to longer barrel)
  • Too big/heavy to be very versatile
  • Getting harder to find pre-lock models and more expensive

S&W 617-1 4" Good:
  • Beautiful, classic gun with great fit and finish
  • Buttery smooth DA/SA trigger and reasonably light for a rimfire
  • Accurate, precise, reliable
  • Better balance than its 6" brother

S&W 617 No Dash 6" Bad:
  • Still big and heavy
  • On the border of being too big/heavy to be very versatile
  • Getting harder to find pre-lock models and more expensive

S&W 63 No Dash 4" Good:
  • Beautiful, classic gun with great fit and finish
  • Decent DA/SA trigger and reasonably light for a rimfire
  • Accurate, precise, reliable
  • Very versatile size for the caliber good for trail, range, possibly carry

S&W 63 No Dash 4" Bad:
  • Worst trigger of the S&Ws
  • SA is good but there is some stacking in DA
  • I personally don't like the look of exposed extractor rods
  • Getting harder to find pre-lock models and more expensive
  • I think round butt is better for a J frame
  • Empty rounds really get stuck in the 63 No Dash's cylinder making extraction difficult even with clean chambers

S&W 63-5 3" Good:
  • Beautiful gun
  • Great DA/SA trigger and reasonably light for a rimfire
  • Accurate, precise, reliable
  • Very versatile size for the caliber good for trail, range, possibly carry
  • Great sights; love the fiber optic front sight

S&W 63-5 3" Bad:
  • Worst fit/finish of the S&Ws
  • Barrel is slightly canted towards shooter's right and noticeable gap between barrel rib/extractor shroud and frame
  • SA is good but there is some stacking in DA. Much better than 63 No Dash trigger though.
  • I personally don't like the lock being there
  • Hard to find and expensive

The Ruger SP101 did hold the top spot for a while due to its nice size and overall versatility. Its heavy trigger doesn't seem to interfere with shooting. However, the 63-5 has taken over as my favorite 22LR revolver. Its size, balance, and ease of shooting pushed it ahead of the others. The SP101 still comes in a close second followed by the 617-1 then the 63 No Dash.

I'm glad I got all of them and don't plan on getting rid of any except maybe the 617 6" if I really want something else and need the money.

All targets were shot in an unsupported isosceles stance. I'm sure a Ransom rest would better suss out the accuracy potential of each gun but I'm not interested in that so I won't be investing in that. I only care what can be done with each gun in my hands. All of them are great but the 63-5 shoots better than I think it should given its smaller size and shorter barrel. It's just an all-around great gun that could serve many roles.

Whichever one you have or want, invest in a Speed Beez system for it. Very sweet.

I prefer pre-lock Smiths but I own several lock models as well. If the lock version offers features I want that the pre-lock doesn't, I'll buy it. I have a great 627-5 PC, 351PD, and now this 63-5 that have the lock and I don't mind it. The new 617 doesn't offer anything over the pre-lock models so I sought out pre-lock for those. I didn't care about 10 vs 6 round cylinders.

Single Action Shooting at 50 Feet:

S&W 63-5 3"


S&W 63 No Dash 4"


Ruger SP101 4"


S&W 617-1 4"



Double Action Shooting at 25 Feet

S&W 63-5 3"


S&W 63 No Dash 4"


Ruger SP101 4"


S&W 617-1 4"


Other Photos:




















Last edited by photoman12001; 02-22-2013 at 02:28 PM. Reason: Added some information
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  #2  
Old 02-02-2013, 01:57 PM
tbendtom
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Excellent photography, If you did this, consider yourself a pro...Tom
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  #3  
Old 02-02-2013, 02:04 PM
photoman12001
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Excellent photography, If you did this, consider yourself a pro...Tom
Thanks. I enjoy photographing them as much as shooting them which I guess is a good thing with the shortage of ammo right now.
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  #4  
Old 02-02-2013, 03:51 PM
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JD,
There is just something beautiful about these models.

My wife loves the 63, bought used at a pawn store almost 23 years ago.

I love the classic look of iron sights, but had to try a Red Dot on the new 617.
The cheap 'dot' works amazingly well.

They're both tack drivers...



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Old 02-02-2013, 04:02 PM
photoman12001
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
JD,
There is just something beautiful about these models.

My wife loves the 63, bought used at a pawn store almost 23 years ago.

I love the classic look of iron sights, but had to try a Red Dot on the new 617.
The cheap 'dot' works amazingly well.

They're both tack drivers...
Nice photos. I like the grips on that 617.

I too tried optics on my 6" 617 but decided to stick with iron sights because it was so heavy with both a Burris Speedot 135 and Leupold M8 2x, as if it weren't heavy enough already. The no dash 617s were not factory drilled/tapped so you have to use that big clamping mount. While it is aluminum there still a lot of it so it adds some weight. Both optics worked very well on it though.
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:28 PM
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The extra two shots on the new 63s is nice but I prefer the old model 63 with the 4" barrel.
I like the 617 (ten shot) with a 4" barrel for an overall shooter. It has a real good balance.
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by photoman12001 View Post
Thanks. I enjoy photographing them as much as shooting them which I guess is a good thing with the shortage of ammo right now.
Reminds me of my younger days when I used to enjoy washing and polishing my Harley as much as I did riding it! Very nice photos.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:57 PM
Florida Guy
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photoman - terrific pictures.
So life-like.
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Old 02-02-2013, 11:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by photoman12001 View Post
I just couldn't decide among the Model 63 old and new version and the 617 4" and 6" so I picked them all up over the past few months.
I like your style
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Old 02-03-2013, 12:02 AM
photoman12001
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I like your style
Would you mind talking to my wife? Maybe you can bring her around.
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Old 02-03-2013, 07:25 PM
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Would you mind talking to my wife? Maybe you can bring her around.
. I strongly recommend a secret account.
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Old 02-04-2013, 01:24 PM
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I have a 17, a couple of 617s, and a couple of 63s. To add to the confusion and ambivalence about the .22 revos, add the new 4” Ruger SP101 in .22LR and perhaps later in .22 mag. I like it better than the 3” 63, about the same as the 5” 63, but it isn’t quite as good as the 17 or 617s, but I would carry the 101 in the field before I would take the 617.
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Old 02-04-2013, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Clem View Post
I have a 17, a couple of 617s, and a couple of 63s. To add to the confusion and ambivalence about the .22 revos, add the new 4” Ruger SP101 in .22LR and perhaps later in .22 mag. I like it better than the 3” 63, about the same as the 5” 63, but it isn’t quite as good as the 17 or 617s, but I would carry the 101 in the field before I would take the 617.
Hi Clem,
What is it about those Smith .22s that keep us wanting more

Never looked at the 101, but now I'm curious. Is it a more rugged field gun??
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Old 02-04-2013, 01:49 PM
photoman12001
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I couldn't agree more

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clem View Post
I have a 17, a couple of 617s, and a couple of 63s. To add to the confusion and ambivalence about the .22 revos, add the new 4” Ruger SP101 in .22LR and perhaps later in .22 mag. I like it better than the 3” 63, about the same as the 5” 63, but it isn’t quite as good as the 17 or 617s, but I would carry the 101 in the field before I would take the 617.
Actually I couldn't decide among these 63s, 617s, and the new Ruger SP101 so I got all of them and I think the SP101 is the bee's knees. Allow me to quote myself from another thread:

Quote:
Originally Posted by photoman12001 View Post
I own an SP101 and several of its S&W competitors: 617 6" no dash, 617-1 4", 63-5 3", 63 no dash 4". I just couldn't decide among them and wanted them all for different reasons. They are all great but I must say that I think the SP101 is the best all-around gun of the bunch followed by the 63-5 then the 617 4". The Ruger has a great size that's in between the 617 (too big) and 63 (a little small). With its unmolested factory trigger I can shoot the SP101 almost as well as my 617 4". I shoot the Ruger better than my 63 no dash but haven't gotten to shoot the 63-5 yet. The fit, finish, and trigger are better on the Smiths but the 617 trigger doesn't seem to equate to much better shootability for me. The Ruger trigger is heavy but smooth.

I would definitely buy the Ruger again even owning the others. If I'm heading for a hike or hunt the Ruger would be my first choice. I loved the look of the factory Ruger grips but they were too small for me. The Hogue Monogrip feels great and really improved the accuracy. I have some custom Hogue wood grips inbound for it too.

Here are some targets shot side-by-side with my 4" 617 and the Ruger. I am not a marksman but it will show you a comparison in the hands of an average shooter. The Smith's trigger is much better but I don't think it is really reflected in the groups. I thought that was strange. And in the Ruger's defense it was shooting low, left and I didn't have my tools to adjust the sights. On the 50-foot target I was trying to compensate for that a bit so the group drifted some.

All groups were shot standing, unsupported in an isosceles stance.

50 feet single action


50 feet single action


25 feet double action


25 feet double action
And another photo of some of my Rugers for good measure.


Last edited by photoman12001; 02-04-2013 at 01:55 PM.
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  #15  
Old 02-04-2013, 05:45 PM
Clem
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Hi Clem,
What is it about those Smith .22s that keep us wanting more

Never looked at the 101, but now I'm curious. Is it a more rugged field gun??
The 101 in .22 or .357 is built like an anvil. The thing is rugged. I put the original springs back in mine after I had intermittent misfires with reduced power springs. I have smoothed it up and it has a nice trigger, both single action and double action. It was surprisingly accurate right out of the box. Didn't seem to really need any break-in. I also look at the forcing cone at the distribution of fouling to look at chamber alignment. It seems to have very good alignment and consistency from chamber to chamber. I attribute this to CNC production machinery used to make the cylinders.
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