September 27, 2022
By Brad Fitzpatrick
When Winchester introduced the 350 Legend cartridge at SHOT Show 2019, most hunters and shooters were delighted to have a new light-recoiling, low-cost straight-wall hunting cartridge. While the masses were busy wondering how the 350 Legend would perform in the woods and in gun shops, the engineers at Smith & Wesson had something else on their minds; how many of those new rounds could they stuff into the cylinder of an X-Frame wheelgun?
The answer is seven, by the way, and I know this because there’s currently a brand-new Smith & Wesson Model 350 lying on my gun bench. It’s a beast of a revolver, weighing in at 71.5 ounces, or about four-and-a-half pounds, and measures 13.5-inches long. The Model 350 is no carry gun, to be sure.
But it is a hunting revolver, and it might be the best of the breed. Smith & Wesson’s other X-Frames are chambered for the substantial .460 and .500 S&W Magnums, both of which offer prodigious stopping power. That’s great for stopping grizzly bears, but both of those rounds are overkill for deer at moderate ranges. They’re also overkill for most shooters, and while I wouldn’t say I will never shoot a .460 or .500 again, I will say that there are better options, Like the .350 Legend.
Winchester’s straight-well wunderkinds fires a 150- or 160-grain .357-inch bullet from a 1.71-inch case at velocities over 2,200 feet per second from a rifle barrel. That long case precludes most revolvers from ever being chambered in .350, but not the X-Frame. Its beefy stainless steel frame can accommodate all seven rounds of .350 with plenty of metal left to spare which makes the X-Frame suitable for the relatively low-pressure .350 Legend round. The big question, then, is how well the Model 350 handles the legend’s recoil.
In short, the Model 350 is by far the most pleasant of the X-Frame to shoot. The large, black rubber grip allows for a firm hold on the gun, and the weight of the seven-and-a-half-inch barrel with full underlug helps tame muzzle rise. The Model 350 also comes with a brake that’s positioned just ahead of the red ramp front sight, and it helps further tame this beast.
350 Legend cartridges lack the rim found on the .44 Magnum, .460 and .500 S&W Magnums, and other traditional revolver cartridges. The solution for Smith & Wesson was simple enough: include three moon clips with each gun to ease loading and extraction and serve as speed loaders. At $1,599 this isn’t a cheap gun, but for a guy like me who likes to hunt with a handgun and lives in a state where straight-wall cartridges are required, the Model 350 makes sense. It’s the most fun of all the X-Frames to shoot, but how does it perform on the range?
It seemed a shame to accuracy test this revolver at 25 yards with the included adjustable iron sights. There’s nothing wrong with the black, adjustable rear and red blade front sights Smith & Wesson included on this gun, but they don’t offer the precision required to wring out the Legend’s full accuracy potential. I contacted my friend, Shawn Skipper, at Leupold who informed me that he might have an adapter available that would allow me to mount a DeltaPoint Pro on the Model 350, and he overnighted the base to me. I removed the Model 350’s rear sight, and the adapter fit perfectly, the base screws mating with the drilled and tapped holes left by the rear sight. I mounted my 2.5 MOA DeltaPoint optic on the base without issue, and the Model 350 was ready for the range.
Upon learning that I’d laid hands on one of Smith & Wesson’s Model 350s revolvers, all shooters want to know what it feels like to press the trigger on a 350 Legend revolver. Put briefly, the recoil isn’t off-putting, but the muzzle blast can be. I’d equate it to shooting a .257 Weatherby Magnum rifle, where all that noise and bluster makes the shooter believe that there’s a lot of recoil when, in fact, the gun barely moves. For full effect, I brought my Ruger Super Redhawk .44 magnum to the range and fired each gun in succession. The .44 gives a big push, and there’s plenty of bang. The 350’s recoil is negligible, but that roar (which is enhanced by the brake) is enough to put inexperienced shooters on edge. The Model 350’s bark is far worse than its bite.
Now that you’ve learned this seven-shot wheelgun won’t wrench your wrist out of socket, you’re probably curious how this gun shoots, and the answer is it shoots very well. Normally, accuracy test protocols require five-shot groups at 25 yards with five different loads, which is fine for a target, personal protection, or bear defense handgun. But this is a gun that’s almost certain to find its way into the hands of whitetail hunters, and with an optic in place you can expect groups of 1.5 to 2-inches with a load this gun likes. After testing was complete I backed up to 50 yards and managed groups between three and four inches, which means that’s closing in on maximum effective range for this gun in my hands. I’ve killed a half-dozen whitetails with wheelguns, which doesn’t make me an expert handgun hunter, and I’m sure with careful load selection and practice a competent shooter could be punching groups under six-inches at 100 yards with this gun. It’s worth noting that the Model 350 shot better with heavier bullets.
The .350 Legend loads that normally reach 2,200 to 2,300 feet per second manage between 1,500 and 1,800 fps out of the Model 350’s 7.5-inch barrel. Hornady’s 170-grain American Whitetail soft-point load, for example, managed 1,551 feet per second out of the Model 350 as compared to 2,200 feet per second from a rifle barrel. With that load the Model 350 strikes with 625 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards, which is about 10 pounds more than Hornady’s 200-grain .44 Magnum Handgun Hunter load from an eight-inch barrel.
The provided moon clips make loading and unloading the Model 350 fast and efficient. And, not surprisingly, there were no reliability issues with this revolver. The quality of the fit and finish is excellent, as you’d expect from a Smith & Wesson revolver costing $1,600. Will Smith & Wesson start a trend with their new Model 350 revolver? Time will tell, but there’s no doubt that this gun has the build quality and accuracy potential to become the stuff of handgun hunting legend.
Smith & Wesson Model 350 Legend Revolver Specs
- Type: DA/SA revolver
- Cartridge: .350 Legend
- Capacity: 7 rds.
- Barrel: 7.5 in.
- Overall Length: 13.5 in.
- Weight: 71.5 oz.
- Grip: Black, rubber
- Finish: Stainless steel
- Sights: Black notch adjustable (rear), red ramp (front)
- MSRP: $1,599
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson