How Durable Are the Airweights


December 11, 2010, 09:19 PM
These S&Ws are so light I wonder how they stand up to repeated shooting. Even the 317 (at an unbelievable $500+), a .22LR, feels like a toy.

Has anyone had problems with these guns? And would anyone prefer a 317 8-shot .22LR to a 6-shot 63 stainless revolver?

I like the idea of leightweight .22s and .38s, if they last, but these guns were marketed as space age guns that could take the punishment of repeated firing. Based on what I've heard, though, even some of the .22s have not held up well.

Are these guns made for shooting only, or do they hold up? And why are they going for so much $$$. Aluminum isnt that tough to machine (not anything like steel or stainless steel), yet they're outrageous.

Or is it me?

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December 11, 2010, 11:23 PM
I have 2 317's a 1.875 and a 3.00 barrel and love shooting both. I haven't had any trouble with
either in the 3-4 years I have owned them. I also have the 10 shot 6 inch model 617 but I shoot
the 317's more. Sometimes with some ammo my thumb is not enough to extract the spent
brass (tight cylinder chambers ?) on both 317's.

December 11, 2010, 11:45 PM
My wife will carry my S&W 37-2 and my wife shoots it a lot. Although we shoot only mild loads, it has served her well for close to 5 years with not one issue. I inspect it about once a month with gages for headspace (chamber to firing wall and cylinder to forcing cone. I have not noticed any wear. It is honestly too light for me to shoot with my arthritis, but it is a fine handgun.

December 12, 2010, 11:01 AM
There are still early production models going strong everyday. The average S&W will outlast the average person. Don't worry about it.

Marvin KNox
December 12, 2010, 05:35 PM
I'm not sure which models you mean exactly. But I have a 340 scandium alloy that has a few thousand rounds through it and half were full power .357 magnum stuff.

It still shoots tight and accurate (and kicks as bad as ever I might add. :eek:)

Jim K
December 12, 2010, 05:48 PM
I can't cite a source, but rumor has it that the lightweight revolvers have a design life expectancy of 5 thousand rounds of full power ammo. That might not seem like much (100 boxes), but it is almost certainly more than 99.9% of the owners will fire in a lifetime. And with the light .357's it is a LOT more than most owners will ever fire. A poster on another site said the stores in his area are full of used Scandium .357 J frames, each with a box of 47 rounds.


December 12, 2010, 06:22 PM
I love my 638 with wadcutters and target loads for regular practice. 158gr+P will make you develop a flinch so I don't shoot them much. On this diet, I suspect that it will last forever. If you must shoot hot loads all the time, a steel revolver is a better choice.

December 12, 2010, 07:48 PM
Well I am in possession of my Grandpa's 638 air weight from the 70's, Does that answer your question? And also it is shot and carried regularly, the only thing wrong with it is a spot of blue missing from each side of the bottom of the trigger guard from holster wear.

December 12, 2010, 07:55 PM
I can't cite a source, but rumor has it that the lightweight revolvers have a design life expectancy of 5 thousand rounds of full power ammo. If anyone can verify this, I'm curious to know being the owner of a 340PD with roughly that many rounds put through it.

December 12, 2010, 08:39 PM
I've had a 317 for a while now. The revolver seems durable enough for .22LR, with the only issue being S&W uses some fairly soft paint. The turn line on the cylinder is through the paint with bare aluminum now showing. The black paint on the PD models seems much more durable, the paint on the cylinder of my 351PD (.22 WMR) still looks good, with a very faint turn line.

December 14, 2010, 11:51 AM
So the .22 models have aluminum cylinders and frames? The .38/.357 models have to be steel, don't they?

Why the high cost, then?

December 14, 2010, 03:45 PM
The manufacturing cost is likely about the same. Steel or aluminum, probably no big cost difference when when purchased in bulk.

The cylinder of a .38/.357 will be steel, stainless steel, or in the case of an AirLite, Titanium.

December 14, 2010, 03:50 PM
Great guns, very durable, should last a lifetime of shooting and then some. Just don't allow any solvents you may use to get on the frame. The paint will melt away. Doesn't affect reliability at all... just doesnt look so great. LOL

December 15, 2010, 09:27 AM
of the frame - the screw that held the cylinder in place...I really don't care much for the airweights anyway - they are great to carry, but I'd rather have a steel frame for shooting...I can shoot them more accurately in a followup shot situation, and the weight difference is really not staggering...
I'm talking .38 Specials here - I guess an alloy frame .22 would be just fine, in fact I have a 2 old High Standard 9 shot .22 revolvers with aluminum frames and they are both great shooters. One was made in 1956, the other in 1955. I'd guess the Smiths whoud hold up as well.


December 16, 2010, 11:29 AM
If one is talking about the aluminum-framed guns, then I'd buy the idea of a 5,000-round life. As for its source, I've not verified it either.

The scandium-frame guns (M&P 340, 340PD) are another matter. That (frame) material strikes me as being comparable to the better steels. Note that the 357 guns are NOT aluminum, but the scandium formula, no matter the frame size.

My M&P340 has been shot nominally 2500 rounds now. There was no discernible wear; my (amateur) measurements detected none, and it now has a smoother trigger that can be staged nicely.

Jim H.

December 17, 2010, 10:44 PM
The Airweight J-frames are perfect for shooting .38 Special for years and years to come. The .22LR models? No problem at all!

Here's my "always" CCW revolver . . . a Model 37 in .38 Special made in 1971. Shoots great too!!!

December 18, 2010, 09:18 PM
I've owned a 442 for five years, It's gone through thousands of rounds of .38 special handloads without a single hitch, good carry piece, shoulder cross draw with a light sports coat and no bulge at all. not a long, as in thirty yds, range shooter, but could come in real handy as a "Get the #@$%* off me!" gun.

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