Do you mind if I hide out here for awhile? My wife is on a Hallmark Movie kick and I’m pre-diabetic. On the plus side, Hallmark is one of those places where characters still celebrate and extol the virtues of good friends and family, where problems are small and everyone has a positive attitude… even when they begin with frictional clashes. While we’re here…
Smith & Wesson has good coverage in firearms chambered for the 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire. There are two J frames, the Model 351 PD with exposed hammer, and the 351 C with internal hammer, both lightweights with aluminum frames and short barrels. Two Model 48 steel K frame revolvers, 4″ and 6″ barrels as modern versions of the K-22 Masterpiece. In August 2019, the Model 648 was reintroduced, bringing the total for S&W 22 Magnums to five.
The Smith & Wesson Model 648 is the latest incarnation of the Smith and Wesson Model 48, the K-22 Masterpiece Magnum Rimfire. Produced between 1959 and 1986, the K-22 Masterpiece is a double action revolver built on the square butt K target frame. The K-22 has a six round capacity, target barrel with narrow, shallow top rib and micrometer adjustable sights. During its production run, there were options for: barrel length, an auxiliary 22 LR cylinder and crane, wide trigger and hammer thumb piece. The blued, alloy steel K-22 Masterpiece Magnum Rimfire was reintroduced mid-year 2014 as part of Smith & Wesson’s Classic revolver line.
In 1989, the Model 648 was introduced as the 22 Magnum Rimfire Stainless. A K-22 replacement in stainless; same frame, full underlug barrel with broad top rib, six round capacity, same options as the Model 48 with the exception of the auxiliary 22 LR cylinder, and without the K-22 Masterpiece designation. Gone were the walnut Magna grips, replaced with soft black synthetic. In 2003, the Model 648 was moved to the current, internal key lock frame design and the production run continued on until 2005.
In August, 2019, Smith & Wesson reintroduced the Model 648 with significant changes. The current Model 648 has a capacity of eight rounds and is built on a round butt target K frame with the grips providing the square butt form. Where the K-22 Masterpiece in six inch version weighed 41.2 oz, the current 6″ barrel Model 648 6″ weighs 46.2 oz.
|Smith & Wesson Model 648
|Type Action||Double / Single|
|Trigger Pull DA / SA||11 Lbs 10 Oz / 5 Lbs 12 Oz|
|Rear Sight||Adjustable W/E|
|Type Safety||Hammer Lock|
|Width At Cylinder||1.45″|
The Smith & Wesson Model 648 is, as was the case with the early Model 48, intended for target shooting, small game hunting and plinking. To those ends, the Model 648 takes an ideal form.
The substantial stainless steel frame and hefty top ribbed and underlug barrel are made to take a life time of use with minimal maintenance. The target weight barrel tapers from the frame at 0.781″ to 0.764″ at the muzzle.
Its eight round capacity, while probably not a necessity, is surely a shooter’s convenience. Its nose heavy attitude makes for a steady sight picture and settles the gun when double action shooting. The smooth surface 0.312″ combat trigger and 0.375″ semi-target hammer work well when shooting either double or single action.
Double action trigger pull is approximately 0.520″ with the classic trigger finger journey over varying levels of resistance mandated by double action revolver trigger design. However, pull isn’t gritty or spongy. Single action trigger pull is crisp and a brief 0.030″ long. Double action shooting is always preferable as it eliminates a step between wanting to shoot and shooting.
Top side is a clean, non glare sight system thanks to matte black sights and serrated stainless. The long 7.235″ sight radius will make a marksman out of any shooter with decent skills. The windage and elevation micro adjustable rear sight is a good match for the revolvers accuracy potential.
The round butt frame offers a wider range of grip form possibilities than the older square butt. That said, and I did say that, the soft grips with finger grooves are very comfortable and hand filling.
The 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire
Rimfire cartridges have been with us since 1845 and the Flobert BB Cap and they have been produced in many sizes and levels of power. In the late 1800’s there were over seventy-five different rimfire cartridges in production. Some are well known, like the 44 Henry and .56-56 Spencer, but there others like the .58 Miller loaded with 60 grains of black powder and pushing a 500 grain bullet to a muzzle velocity of 1,150 FPS that are rarely the subject of dinner table conversation.
What probably killed all but a handful of rimfire cartridges was harder to ignite smokeless powder and accompanying high operating pressure. Where rimfire cartridges relied on thin, malleable cases for reliable ignition, the same could not stand up to elevated chamber pressure. Subsequently, brass was thickened and hardened, case heads were thickened and reinforced and the primers of Berdan and Boxer became the standard for ignition in the then new cartridges.
The market place is where ideas are rewarded or rejected and utility purpose seems to be central to those responses. So the big rimfire rounds fell away early in the 1900’s and the smaller rounds remained with many more added over the years. Within today’s popular extra power rimfire culture, the 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire is an elder statesman.
With us since 1959, the 22 WMR remains the king of the 22 rimfire magnums. From the beginning, it brought more than increased velocity, it brought jacketed bullets with greater accuracy and better performance on small game.
Left, both 40 grain, externally lubricated 22 long rifle bullet and a jacketed, poly tipped 22 WMR bullet. The 22 Long Rifle bullet has a driving band that takes the rifling imprint. 22 Long rifle groove diameter is 0.222″ +0.002″/-0.000″ and bore diameter is 0.217″ +0.002″/-0.000″. 22 WMR groove diameter is 0.224″ +0.002″/-0.000″ and bore diameter is 0.219″ +0.002″/-0.000″.
In addition to the bullet diameter differences, and 0.090″ longer magnum case length, case diameters differ significantly, 0.226″ for the long rifle and 0.242″ for the 22 WMR. 22 WMR ammo won’t chamber in a 22 LR firearm and 22 LR ammunition cannot be fired in a firearm chambered for the 22 WMR . The Smith & Wesson Model 648 is a dedicated 22 WMR firearm.
Like all of the 30-06 length belted magnums that have survived the barrage of Ultra Magnums, Short Magnums and belt removed standard length magnums, the 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire has withstood the onslaught of the “New! New! New!” rimfire magnums. How do I know? Remember my comment about, “The market place is where ideas are rewarded or rejected, and utility purpose seems to be central to those responses”?
So the next time ChuckyCheese@rimfirewarriors.com tells you in no uncertain terms that the 22 Winchester Magnum is dead, the victim of new magnumitus, tell him that people love to talk about cartridges that are new, but it doesn’t mean they actually buy them… Plato, 380 BCE.
The Smith & Wesson – 22 WMR combination
The S&W 648 is a natural 22 WMR. There are a number of short barrel, light weight, small frame revolvers from variety of manufacturers that are unpleasant to shoot and extract little of the 22 Magnum’s potential. They bark and belch flames and unburned powder, which is great if the intention is to start a barbecue or to illuminate the immediate area in lieu of a tactical light. Fired from the Smith & Wesson, the 22 WMR looks like the following, left to right below and top to bottom on table…
Not a lightweight at just under three pounds, the S&W Model 648 is still very manageable shooting one arm bullseye stance or from what ever contorted version of a two handed Weaver stance you’ve found to be comfortable. Yes, nose heavy, but sights steady as a rock. The groups above were all shot from a rest, but my own flavor of two hand hold is playing card accurate if I am wearing the right eyeglasses and I did not drink too much coffee prior to a range session.
Report from the longish, heavy barrel is moderate, as is muzzle flash. Muzzle rise is minimal. Cylinder indexing was right on as verified with a range rod and an absence of spitting powder and/or lead residue. Ejection of empties was clean, as was loading.
Trigger pull was generally was generally smooth… perhaps a little harsh at let off, but something easy to adapt to with a little practice. Single action pull was crisp brief as noted earlier. Grip form and angle was comfortable and yielded a natural alignment of sights when shooting from a standing position. Recoil was hardly noticeable.
I’d like a trigger that was cleaned up a bit, but this could have been an issue with the subject gun. I would like a fiber optic front sight for contrasting with the rear sight and darker backgrounds. Neither issue is significant enough for me to not purchase a Model 648 as it just has too many good things going for it. Not a cheap price tag, but then it is not a cheap gun, It’s about where good gun prices are these days. Nice revolver.