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Thread: The Kit Gun, revisited

  1. #1
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    The Kit Gun, revisited

    The concept of a "Kit Gun" has always intrigued me. A compact, lightweight, accurate, weather resistant handgun to accompany one while just bumming around the outdoors.
    The criteria is different for everyone and no one size fits all. Some folks like a handgun chambered in .22LR, others want a larger caliber. Some folks lean towards a pistol while others favor a revolver. Then there's the SA vs. DA question. A gun capable of taking small game? A gun for informal plinking? A gun that can be pressed into service for signaling or self-defense in an emergency?

    The individual criteria is just that - Individual, unique, personal.

    Many years ago I played with the 32 S&W long and its larger cousin the 32 H&R magnum. Loved the cartridges but I drifted away from that caliber. The .22 rimfire pistols and revolvers were fun back when you could buy a brick of .22's for the cost of a cheap lunch. However finding a stainless steel .22 that didn't weigh a lot or require mortgage was not easy in my younger days.

    Fast forward to the more modern era and the C.E. "Ed" Harris' article on the full charge wadcutter resonated with me. The 38 Special could fill the role of a "Kit Gun" and be versatile enough that it fill other roles as well. I have always held the 38 Special in high regard. So that clenched it for me - the cartridge would be a 38 Special.
    All that was left was to find the gun to fill the other half of the gun/cartridge equation.

    That turned out to be far more difficult than I initially assumed.

    In my world, that gun needed to be: A DA revolver, have a 4" tapered barrel, be as weather proof as possible, be as lightweight as possible but still be suitable for +P loads if needed, have either fixed sights or very tough adjustable sights and be capable of decent accuracy and ....oh yea..... be obtainable on my budget during my lifetime. No problem

    My first thought was a S&W model 67. Stainless steel, it's chambered in the right cartridge and close to the desired dimensions. I wasn't thrilled about the adjustable rear sight and I couldn't seem to find one that was priced right. The model 64 was another option but they all had heavy barrels, I didn't want that extra steel. A Ruger Service-Six in stainless with a tapered barrel would have been acceptable but I just couldn't seem to find one with all of the right combinations (Ruger made a LOT of variations of the DA six's ! )
    My quest wasn't a full time endeavor but it was always in the back of my mind. Then I found a S&W Model 10-5 on-line that was priced right and appeared to be in excellent condition. It was a re-import in the U.S.A. and it became mine. Then I found out why it was unfired and cheap; the barrel to cylinder gap was more like a spark plug gap.
    OK, so much for the bargain - caveat emptor.

    The serial number placed the production in 1969 and the gun was in excellent condition other than the poor assembly tolerance of the barrel. I had the barrel set back and the forcing cone cleaned up a bit. I made a few other changes to suit me and I had a mechanically perfect model 10. Being a dash 5, it had the tapered barrel and I decided this would be the "Kit Gun".

    The next hurdle to overcome was the rust prone carbon steel construction. So off to Robar it went for a complete NP3 refinish. (after correcting the B/C gap the budget wouldn't allow NP3+). A set of Pachmayr "Gripper" stocks replaced the wooden factory grips with a more weather proof rubber grip.

    It was a journey but a good one:

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    Last edited by Petrol & Powder; 08-21-2019 at 08:02 AM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master Tatume's Avatar
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    A particular criterion that is important to me is light weight. Another criterion is chambering for 22 LR. These criteria lead me to the S&W Model 317, a revolver with which I am very pleased. The criteria are different for others.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    During my years in South America and travels through the Andes and Rain Forest, I gave much thought about what would be the one pistol I would own. Upon my return to the States, I went to Carter Country Guns in Houston and purchased a new Smith and Wesson (Model 63) Kit Gun. I still think it is the nee plus ultra.

    Now if a person can reload and have access to componets, I would agree the 38 Special would make a great choice. Ed Harris makes a convincing argument for the full charge wadcutter and I load and shoot lots of them. I have a great 4" Smith Model 64 that will do nicely in such a role.Click image for larger version. 

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    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

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    I'd like to attach a photo but either my computer of the website is throwing a tantrum right now.

    Success !

    Thanks to those that offered advice. I went back and added a photo.
    Last edited by Petrol & Powder; 08-04-2019 at 04:15 PM.

  5. #5
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    Char-Gar, thank for sharing that photo. And I agree with your take on the model 63.
    The barrel on that 64 looks more tapered than any of the ones I could find. If I had located one of those, I would have been extremely happy.

    Opps - the photo is a model 63 not a 64. My mistake.
    Last edited by Petrol & Powder; 08-05-2019 at 01:12 PM.

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    Lovely gun porn Charles, made getting up today worth while.

  7. #7
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    I loved my Ruger SP101 for that role. 3" and .357 The only drawback for me was the fixed sight, but, with my std .357 loads it shot to point of aim at 20yds. I would keep snakeshot in the first chamber. Sorry I got rid of it.

    Right now I usually carry my HK VP9, but, even it can feel a bit bulky when out fishing or hiking. I have tried carrying my Radom P64 (9mm Mak) but I am just not very accurate with it. Both of these fail with light loads, which is nice to have in a revolver sometimes.

    I have been considering a small .38spl to fill that roll these days, like a Ruger LCR in 3". I do not really feel the need for a 4" barrel. I have a 4" Python and the extra barrel length makes it a bit cumbersome to me for field carry. The sight radius of a shorter barrel is just a small difference at distances I would shoot it. I guess I need to try shooting some of the smaller revolvers to see how they do.

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    I have a couple of revolvers that I consider to fit my "kit gun" needs. One is an Old Model Single 6 convertible (carried with 5, and the hammer on the empty 6th). The other is a S&W 3" model 10, sometimes with shot loads in the first two cylinders. Both are fairly light and easy to carry all day.

  9. #9
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    Since I'm a outdoorsman or woodsman, my kit gun/woodsman gun is a Colt Woodsman

  10. #10
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    Charlie b - I agree with you on the 3" vs. 4" barrel and I'm a HUGE fan of the 3" tube on a DA revolver. With the tapered barrel the extra 1" on a K-frame adds very little weight and you get a little longer sight radius; however I agree a 3" barrel is much more "packable" in terms of carrying.

    I've never considered fixed sights to be an impediment or somehow inferior to adjustable sights. In fact, I generally prefer fixed sights for their strength and lower profile. If one changes bullet weight often, adjustable sights may be an advantage but the negatives of adjustable sights outweigh the positives in my world. (they are prone to snag on things, they aren't as strong as fixed sights and they can get out of adjustment if handled roughly)
    Most of the skilled shooters that I've known use adjustable sights to center the point of aim and point of impact for a particular load. After that one time adjustment, they NEVER touch the sights again.
    I've seen many poor shooters use adjustable sights as some type a substitute for bad technique. They are constantly adjusting the sights and chasing the group all over the target. An old marksman once told me that adjustable sights allow you to move the group around the target but the adjustable sights don't make that group any smaller

    The 3" SP101 is a great candidate for the Kit Gun role, stainless, rugged, fairly thin with the 5 shot cylinder. They're a little heavy for their size but very compact overall.

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    I'm also a fan of the 3" revolver and have a gaggle of them, a 3" Colt Cobra .22 LR, two 3" Detective Specials in .32 NP and .38 Special, and an actual 3" Ruger Speed Six .357 leftover from the Customs and Border Patrol run I got as a Ruger employee sale. I'm currently in the process of having Sandy Garrett at NoVA Gun Works making a 3" Official Police Colt for me, fitting a new barrel, shortening it to 3", refitting the original front sight on the bobbed barrel and tweaking to shoot on at 25 yards with full-charge wadcutters.
    Last edited by Outpost75; 05-09-2020 at 07:40 PM.
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  12. #12
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    I bought one of the .44 WC 6 cavity group buy molds from a member here and I'm going to see how my early 3" Charter Arms .44 special will work for a kit gun. I have a 3" 696, but it probably weighs close to twice as much. GF

  13. #13
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    My answer is the Ruger LCRx3 in 38 sp. I put the LCR grips on it to make it even more compact. It is ugly as hell but shoots Lee 125 RF's 129gr. actual in my alloy) to the same point of aim as my 130 WW Ranger HP's at 875 fps. Accurate, lightweight, and cheap to shoot. I've not played with the wadcutter's yet.

  14. #14
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    Make mine a 4 inch for woods walking. For many years,my favorite was a 4 inch Police Positive, these days it is the S&W M-63 or Ruger 327 Sp-101. That extra inch helps my aged eyes focus on the front sight a bit better.
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    (And the pink grips let my 11 year old grand daughter Shoot a "cool" magnum)
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  15. #15
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    My choice for a kit gun is my SP101 327 Fed. Mag using a lite load of bullseye and a cast 103 gr. SWC in 327 brass.I have to have help with pistol sights so I use a Burris Fast fire red dot on my revolver.


  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hodges View Post
    My answer is the Ruger LCRx3 in 38 sp. I put the LCR grips on it to make it even more compact. It is ugly as hell but shoots Lee 125 RF's 129gr. actual in my alloy) to the same point of aim as my 130 WW Ranger HP's at 875 fps. Accurate, lightweight, and cheap to shoot. I've not played with the wadcutter's yet.
    That's exactly what I was looking at.

    I only use adjustable sights when I change loads. With the .357s the POI is dramatically different with .38spl loads and then magnum loads. For really light loads the Python's sights won't even adjust far enough.

    It may be good to have fixed sights on a .38spl since difference in POI between loads might not be that great.

  17. #17
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    I have a stainless Charter Arms Bulldog made in Stratford that I always thought would fill that role. 200 grain WNFP works well in it.
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  18. #18
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    For me the 32 candidates are 32 Long in a 4" S&W I frame from about 53 and a Ruger SSM 5 1/2" bbl. Both can be shot cheaper than a 22. 38's vary between a Model 15 a 4" and a Model 36 snubby. I have found a good shooting Kahr in 40 S&W that is the same size as my palm. All of them occasionally spend time in the woods with me.
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  19. #19
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    The is my fishing partner. Smith & Wesson Model 43 Kit Gun. 22 LR, 3 1/2 inch barrel, unmarked alloy frame. I had a custom holster made for it.


  20. #20
    Boolit Man glaciers's Avatar
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    Model 63 stainless 22 lr with 4" barrel. The 63's are about as sweet as they come.
    When I feel need for more I like a 3" 5 shot SP101. The 3" guns fit in my back pocket just right. I have a Ruger Security Six 4" 357 that I'll carry but it's pushing the limits on size and weight. Really like it, and if I ever run across a 3", it will be mine.
    I also like the Lady Smith 357, now that's a pocket size gun with horsepower. I keep that one in my motorhome in the lower 48.
    The Ruger LCR's are interesting. The 32 H&R mag and the 327 Mag are something on my short list also.
    So many guns, so little money.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check