By Bob Walsh
The Gun of the Week this time around is the Smith and Wesson K-22 Masterpiece revolver, AKA the Model 17.
This weapon is built on the K-frame. This frame with target sights was first offered by S&W in 1899, in .38 special, so it has been around a very long time.
In 1927 the factory began the development of a .22 lr version of the revolver. The first batch was ready to go in 1931. The weapon was advertised at the time as the K-22 Outdoorsman, but was cataloged as the K-22 target revolver. It had a 6” barrel and the firing pin was spring loaded, and mounted on the frame. The weapon weighed 33 ounces, came with a Patridge front sight and came from the factory with a 3-4 pound trigger pull. A good shooter could shoot 1 ½ inch groups with it at 50 yards.
In 1939 a second iteration of the theme came out, officially called the K-22 Masterpiece. Collectors refer to it as the Second Model. It had the new micrometer rear sight, the new short action with a faster lock time than the first model and a carefully hand fitted anti-backlash trigger. At the time they were released, January of 1940, they sold for $40. That was a chunk of change at the time. Only about 1,000 were made before production was halted in December of 1940 for wartime production for England.
In 1946 production resumed. The third model had ribbed barrels, a trigger over travel block and the newest version of the micrometer rear sight. It could be had with either a 1/10” or 1/8” Patridge front sight. These newer guns all featured the automatic hammer block.
In 1949, at the request of serious target shooters, S&W tweaked the guns so that the .38 special and .22 lr versions both weighed the same when loaded.
In 1957, when the factory assigned model numbers to the guns, the K-22 Masterpiece became the Model 17. In 1958 an 8 3/8 “ barrel version was offered. The model 17-8 featured a ten-shot alloy cylinder and came out in 1996.
Various other modification were made along the line, a Heritage version was offered with the 6 shot cylinder, and variations were offered chambered for .22 WMR and with 4” tapered barrels. A stainless steel version, the 617, also came down the road.
The original versions of these weapons are still much sought after by both collectors and shooters.