Shooting a handgun accurately is a simple process involving two steps. 1. Using the sights on your handgun, align the weapon with the intended target. 2. Press the trigger without disturbing the weapon’s alignment. As with most things in life, stating what needs to be done is much simpler than getting it done.
During the 20th century, the handgun learning/training process usually started with the new shooter using a .22 caliber handgun. He or she progressed to a larger caliber weapon as needed or if desired. Motivation was usually recreational use and not tactical or self-defense oriented as seems to be the case today. Emphasis was on precisely placed shots as opposed to number of rounds delivered. Six-shot revolvers dominated the market. Slightly past the mid-point of the century, the .22 Magnum was introduced dramatically improving the .22 LR’s hunting capabilities and, though much less discussed at the time, the defensive potential of the round.
Smith & Wesson’s re-introduced Model 648 chambered in .22 Mag. brings some interesting upgrades relevant to both the original purposes of the .22 LR revolver and the concerns of today’s citizens wanting to protect themselves and their families in an increasingly violent world. For teaching new shooters, the .22 Mag. recoil is only slightly more than the .22 LR and the ammunition only slightly more expensive. The slim, synthetic (they feel like rubber) grips with the gently rolling finger grooves provide more manageable control in smaller hands, accommodate shorter trigger fingers and help reduce felt recoil. The black adjustable rear sight and patridge front-sight blade encourage precise sight alignment while the six-inch stainless steel barrel creates a longer sight radius. The full length underlug adds stability when shooting from the standing position, but may be a bit more weight than small stature shooters can handle.
The increase from six to eight rounds may not mean much to a purely recreational shooter or small-game hunter, but in a self-defense scenario, that 33-percent increase can make a huge difference. No one I know touts the .22 Mag. as a great defensive round, but they all agree it’s far better than the .22 LR. Whether you’re dealing with a rabid dog on a hike or an intruder in your home, you’ll appreciate the increased power of the magnum round and the instant availability of two extra shots. And the .22 Shot cartridge option is considerably more devastating on poisonous snakes than .22 LR shot. Throw in the .22 Magnums ability to harvest small game and you have an effective survival weapon on several levels.
The trigger is almost as wide as the trigger guard (which I like for precise single-action shooting), but smooth faced to facilitate double-action shooting. Single-action trigger pull is a crisp and easy 4 pounds 12 ounces while the double-action weight exceeded my Lyman trigger gauge and could use some attention from a competent gunsmith. As long as a revolver fits my hand, smoothness and consistency of pull are much more important to me than actual weight, and the 648 fits my hand quite well.
With an overall length of 11.1 inches and total weight of 46.2 ounces, the Model 648 is definitely not intended for the concealed-carry market, nor is the caliber a leading candidate for urban self defense. That said, remember the old rule that in a confrontation that can lead to a life-threatening situation, any gun is better than no gun. The 648 can be very comforting in a rural environment and is easily transported in a car (check your state and local regulations.) Most importantly it will do an excellent job making you and your family members competent pistol shooters as did its .22 LR predecessors for several decades. It can extend your potential engagement ranges considerably beyond what most folks would consider possible with a 2-inch pocket pistol or even the more typical 4-inch revolver. If you create distance, you buy time, perhaps enough time to make an escape and avoid the typically horrendous outcome of a gun fight.
Having grown up with .22s and progressed to big-bore handguns for competition, recreational shooting, self defense and big-game hunting, I now find the increased years pulling me back to the use of rimfires. My varmint-hunting trips to the SPUR Outfitters in Wyoming are almost 100-percent rimfire outings these days, and the most popular iron-sighted handgun over the last few years has been an earlier six-shot S&W Model 648 with a 6-inch barrel. I think we tend to stay with the things that make us successful. If I were young enough for a wilderness trek where foraging was a reality, the Smith .22 Mag. would be the leading candidate to join me. I’m a believer!
Winchester 34-grain JHP
Velocity measured in fps 10 feet from the muzzle for 10 consecutive shots with a Chrony chronograph. Temperature: 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Accuracy measured in inches for five consecutive, five-shot groups from 25 yards.