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Smith & Wesson Model 647 Varminter Review

Smith & Wesson Model 647 Varminter Review

The newer version of Smith & 
Wesson's Model 647 is one cool-looking revolver — a trim, no-nonsense type of field gun that will be popular with hunters and those just looking for something different and fun to shoot. I say "newer" because there was a precursor to this gun a few years back with an 8.4-inch barrel complete with the then-popular heavy underlug. To me, that gun was a bit of overkill with its heavy barrel, and even though it was an accurate revolver, there was something missing.

The Performance Center's latest take on the 647 addresses a lot of what I thought was wrong with the original. Chambered in the popular .17 HMR, the revolver features a 12-inch tapered barrel, and along with the gun, Smith packs a UTG Shooter's Bipod — which mounts to the bottom of the barrel via a short section of Picatinny rail. The arrangement raises the barrel of the gun roughly five inches, which is a little short for prone shooting but will come in handy from a rest.

The Model 647 also ships with a UTG 1x25 red/green dot scope. Since I'm more interested in shooting at longer ranges, I instead installed a Bushnell 2-6X scope in a set of detachable mounts, which allows me to use the adjustable open sights if I want to. If you want the revolver to have a more streamlined appearance, the front sight is a separate piece that's easily removable via an Allen screw.

The Model 647 is based on the popular K frame and built completely from satin-finished stainless steel save for the chrome hammer and trigger. It is well-made, finished professionally with all the corners held true to form and the flats on the sides of the frame and barrel perfectly planed for a sharp presentation.

The cylinder release is serrated and tapered from back to front to aid in opening the cylinder more easily. Within the bounds of this release is the proprietary locking system, a standard item on S&W revolvers since 2001. It locks the action courtesy of a supplied key, and when locked a small flag appears just above the lock, next to the hammer.

Like most Smith & Wesson revolvers, the cylinder rotates counterclockwise. On my sample, the timing was off just enough to score the cylinder with a bolt mark around its periphery.

The trigger has a trigger stop and is smooth, and an old-school guy like me would call it "service" width. The hammer is serrated and teardrop in shape. The gun has a Performance Center Tuned Action; in single action the trigger broke at 5.5 pounds, around 11 pounds in double action. I thought the single-action pull could be lighter, but this is personal preference and could be addressed with a bit of gunsmith work.

The barrel shroud measures out to a width of .88 inch and butts up against the frame. The barrel is inserted and torqued against the shroud, which is then tightened against the frame for rigidity. As I mentioned, the barrel is 12 inches long; it's fluted and runs out to .59 inch at the muzzle.

The upper surface of the shroud has a machined-in Picatinny rail for scope mounting, and the rail is dished out so you can see the irons if you go that route. The Picatinny rail section underneath is attached at an angle that suits bipod use. Finally, a classy set of laminated, checkered grips finish off the gun.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the .17 HMR, it is a rimfire round Hornady created by necking the .22 WMR down to .17 caliber, so any gun that was originally designed to handle the WMR can be made into an HMR with a proper barrel.

At the range on a cold day with a bit of a wind, the Hornady 15.5-grain NTX bullet was disappointing — and more so at longer ranges. At 25 yards, while the groups were around two inches, all the bullets showed a nasty tendency to keyhole within that circle. Maybe the twist rate does not match this lighter bullet, which as a no-lead bullet lacks a heavy core.


The game changed With the Remington 17-grain V-MAX and the Hornady 20-grain XTP, with groups going into an inch or better at 25. For fun, I tried 50 yards with 10-shot groups with the Hornady NTX grouping at five inches, while the the Remington did two inches and the Hornady XTP hitting three inches.

So as with any handgun — and especially rimfires — it pays to experiment with ammo. Once you find one or two types the Model 647 likes, you're going to have one good-looking, fun and accurate revolver to show off.

The revolver features a teardrop-shaped hammer and also an integral lock. When locked, a small tab pops up next to the hammer.
The machined-in Picatinny-style rail is dished out, so if you decide to shoot the irons the rail doesn't obscure them.
This is one handsome revolver, aesthetics that are due in no small part to the rosewood-laminate grips.

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