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What's the difference between K and L frame Smith's?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by storm shadow, May 7, 2007.

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  1. storm shadow

    storm shadow Member

    May 7, 2007
    What is the difference between a Smith and Wesson K frame and L frame revolver? Both are listed on Smith and Wesson's website as "medium" frame revolvers. So other than that, what is the difference, does anyone know? How do you know if you are holding a K or L frame at a gun show if they are both "medium" frame?
  2. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    The guns are marked on the frame, under the barrel where the cylinder yoke sits.

    Both use the same size grips.
    The "L" frame has a slightly larger, beefier frame, and the cylinder is significantly larger in diameter then the "K" frame.

    The "L" frame guns usually have full length lugs on the under side of the barrel, the "K" frames usually have a half-length lug.
  3. Sheldon

    Sheldon Member

    Oct 3, 2003
    La Puente, CA
    As mentioned the L frame is a little larger than the K frame so that it will accomodate a larger sized cylinder. This in turn allows more metal between the cylinder holes for better strength or allow the ability to put 7 rounds of 38/357 cartridges in it.
  4. FCFC

    FCFC Has Never Owned a Gun

    Jan 11, 2007
    Sometimes it's hard to tell. The very easiest way is by model number (which is imprinted on the yoke). For "medium frame S&W revolvers" the ones that say Model 581, 681, 586, 686 will cover 98+% of the L-frames you will ever see. The '5' is blue, the first '6' is stainless. The '1' is iron sights, the second '6' is adjustable sights.

    There are a very very few other L-frames that are out there. The model numbers for the others are 3 digits and will use the the x86 format (i.e., 386) or x96 (i.e, 296, 696). The x86 are .357 and the x96 are .44 spl.

    There is one other L-frame oddball out there, a model 242 that is so weird looking only a Smith nut would want one. (If you ever see a 242, PM me immediately.)
  5. Stainz

    Stainz Member

    Apr 24, 2003
    Pinson, AL
    You can't always tell by the half lug re K's... I have a half lug 5" 686+ L frame! You can see that the L frame's cylinder opening is taller - for the 7-shot cylinder (or 5-shot .44 Special cylinder). Note the 6" 66 and 5" 686+:


    Also, the front frame front is slightly thicker - for a larger OD forcing cone. The two pictured have the same grips - and I had fitted the 66 with a HiViz sight long before I saw the 5" 686+.

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