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S&W 317 vs. Ruger Bearcat

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by tubeshooter, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. tubeshooter

    tubeshooter Participating Member

    Aug 15, 2006
    I've been looking for a good .22 revolver for what seems like forever. I had researched, weighed the pros and cons, and felt that I knew about as much as you can know via googling and the occasional gun shop visit where something was present.

    I was really looking to round out my collection; it had no .22 handgun of any sort. I felt like I had everything else I wanted.

    I've been a wheelgun man from day one pretty much... but the lack of selection and the pricing on what *is* actually available had me seriously considering a semi-auto (Ruger MK-series or Buckmark). The prices are literally through the roof, and I wish I had been in a position to get something 5 or 6 years ago.

    Anyway - so I go to the funshow this past weekend. It was one of the smaller ones, which I kinda like because you don't have to walk 3 miles to see everything. I was scouring the tables, looking for something that fit the bill.

    I was thinking in terms of something double-action that would work well as a trainer. Something small, light and handy. I know how great the 617 is and all, but I just didn't want a 3-pound .22.

    I used to rule out single action totally, but I had warmed up to the idea of them and was seriously considering a Bearcat. A Single Six with a relatively short barrel would have been among consideration also.

    After looking around, I saw 3 candidates. A S&W 317 3" (new), a Bearcat (I think it was new) and a Taurus 94 with 4" barrel (new).

    Without getting into pricing and brand differences... I'll say I chose the 317.

    I haven't gotten a chance to shoot, but I feel decent about my purchase. It's very light and I'm reading that some people feel it's hard to shoot accurately as a result, but for what I was seeking this seemed to come closest.

    My question(s) to the group: Will this alloy 317 hold up well enough to be a dedicated, one-and-only .22 plinker? Should I maybe get a Bearcat also to split the duty? Can either of these guns be as accurate as the semis seem to be (according to what I've read; no first or even second-hand experience)?

    I know there are some sweet older .22s around (S&W 34, 43) but I've been looking forever and I didn't want to grow old waiting to get lucky and find something like that.

    I hear that they are making the S&W model 63 (stainless) in 3", and that would have been great if it was around, but I think that's a new offering and no telling when I would have seen that one either. I got to handle a used 5" version; I liked it but for what they were asking I figured I might as well go new.

    Thoughts? Thanks in advance.
  2. ceadermtnboy

    ceadermtnboy New Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    Hendesonville nc
    I have a 317 and love the weight for carrying when hunting with my rifle. I would start a single six fund and you will definetly have all your bases covered with the 22lr short of an automatic.
  3. ClemY

    ClemY Member

    Feb 10, 2008
    You made a good selection. I have a 317, a 63, a 17, a few 617s and a Bearcat. All are great guns in their own way, but for you, the best at the moment is probably the 317. It has good accuracy, good sights, a trigger that may be pretty good out of the box, but if it isn’t, it is easily improved, good size and light weight. The Bearcat has most of these qualities, but for me the standard sights are pretty bad. I love my Bearcat, so I had J frame sights installed. Much better, but expensive.

    I have also ordered the 3” 63, but who knows when that will show up. It should have better durability than the 317, but the 317 should hold up quite well, just not as well as the SS 63, IMO.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2012
  4. dennis228

    dennis228 New Member

    Aug 19, 2008
    I just got back from the range this morning. Brought my 22's out today. My 3" kit gun 317, my new 63 (5" bbl.) and my Stainless Bearcat. I really like all three.

    The 317 is so light and handy. I find it quite accurate in either SA or DA. But I limit my range with it to 10 yards usually. This little handgun has gotten better over time as the DA trigger has improved a lot. Its not a serious target gun of the likes of a 617 or even my 63, but its plenty accurate none the less for casual target shooting and plinking. Its been 100% reliable thus far and I've had it for 4 years and shoot it often. Its a great little trail gun because it is so light. I swapped out the factory grips for some nice wood grips that I got off of ebay that give it more of a "square" butt look and feel.

    Looks like Clem has Pachmayr's on his 317 and those also work and feel well. Like I said, I love my little 317, but your results may vary. Key for me has been lots of practice.

    Now the Bearcat is a really nice, sturdy, reliable little single action. Quite small so you should try one out first to see if you like it. Mine is stainless and easy to take care of. Its not a target gun either. Its a fun little plinker but with practice my old eyes are getting used to the very basic fixed sights and I can do pretty well with it. It likes Velocitor and Stinger ammo for some reason. Clem's Bearcat has the really nice J Frame rear sights and a new front sight as well. I so wish mine was set up that way! Really nice!!

    For casual target work, plinking, and woods/trail carry, either one will fit the bill. I would say that unless you opt to have adj. sights installed on a Bearcat, then the 317 3" will be more accurate, has a swing out cyl. with 8 shots, and is nearly half the weight. But the little Bearcat is quite sturdy and easy to take care of and with practice its a nice shooter too. The 317 is quite expensive these days. So the Bearcat might be a better choice.

    I don't have any experience with Taurus 22's so I can't comment.

    BTW, my S&W 63 is very accurate, more so than I am. I guess you might say I really love 22's.
  5. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Senior Elder

    Sep 8, 2005
    Loading/unloading a .22 single action with no indexing (like a modern Ruger) is an upleasant PITA. Much as I like single actions, if I ever do get another .22 revolver, I want it to be the 317.
  6. tubeshooter

    tubeshooter Participating Member

    Aug 15, 2006
    Thank you, gentlemen.

    In addition to wanting something DA as a trainer to my centerfire revolvers, I had heard about what ArmedBear is saying regarding loading/unloading single actions. It looks like something you can learn to live with if you try hard enough, but I was concerned that it would suck all the joy out of what's supposed to be a fun plinking outing.

    I still like the Bearcat, though. I favor it because I have pretty small hands. Not as small as that guy in that BK commercial... but pretty small.

    The original plan was to have one .22 serve all my needs, but that doesn't look feasible. I see another .22 handgun (or more) in my future... just not right now. The sting of purchasing that 317 is still there. Like I say, the going rate is pretty ridiculous IMO.

    At least now I have some snap caps and can dry-fire it a bit until I get a chance to actually shoot it.

    Again - I thank you very kindly for the feedback!
  7. Brian Williams

    Brian Williams Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 22, 2002
    Kampong Cham, Cambodia
    For 22 revolvers the Bearcat is on the top of my to buy list.
  8. tubeshooter

    tubeshooter Participating Member

    Aug 15, 2006
    I wanted to post a follow-up, as I've had a chance to fire the 317 since I last posted.

    The gun functioned fine. I had a couple of what I guess were light strikes with some Remington Golden Bullet. I have had mixed-to-negative experiences with this brand (my shooting buddy bought them), so I wasn't too shocked or disappointed. Did fine with everything else, both single and double action.

    It is pretty hard to hold the thing on target, since it's so incredibly light. Unless you use (Super-)Colibri's; then it doesn't move at all. It can be done, though. Lots of practice, I guess. This makes for a less accurate plinker, but a great trainer. If you can master this gun, it would go a long way towards some .38 snub skills.

    I had read reports that regard the Hi-Viz front as "chunky". I see how one could say this, especially once you get out past 20 yards or so, but it's not too bad. It's something I can live with; YMMV. I guess you can always change it out if you want.

    It can get a little hot if you have an extended session and don't wait too long between cylinders.

    I still don't know how well the finish will hold up. My gut is telling me 'not very well', so I'll definitely keep it in a holster.

    All of the non-gun people I've shown it to have remarked that it seems "toylike". I always remind them that it's no toy... ;)

    Overall I'm very pleased. I just wanted everything to work, which it does. For that kind of cash... you really don't want to be disappointed on that. I still plan to get a Bearcat one day.
  9. paochow

    paochow New Member

    May 30, 2008
    Make sure you try the trigger on a Bearcat before you buy. My chunky fingers didn't fit in the trigger guard...

    My 317 has been a nice trail gun, super light, good accuracy, and a nice trigger once I swapped the stock 18# trigger spring out for a 12# one.

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