Buy one on GunsAmerica/Search.htm?T=Smith + Wesson + 647
Check it out at Smith & Wesson: Smith & Wesson 647 Varminter
I first laid eyes on this little/big gem while on a prairie dog hunt in the great state of Montana. It took just one shot at a distant prairie dog for me to know I had to get one in my hands. Big, heavy, long and beautiful, its performance on varmints was astounding.
The Smith & Wesson 647 Varminter is a product of the famous Smith & Wesson Performance Center. That’s where souped up guns, with lots of extra design features, and tender loving care come from. While you can discern the Performance Centers roots from the engraving on the side, this gun looks the part. Brushed stainless steel finish, shrouded and fluted barrel and beautiful wood stocks make its premium status pretty obvious.
In the box
This revolver arrives in pieces so to speak. You can think of it as a modular platform with a bunch of goodies inside the box that you can configure to your personal taste.
The revolver itself arrived naked. It had an adjustable rear site and the built-in rail, but nothing else mounted. The rear sight is a standard black notch design with windage and elevation adjustment screws. Included in the box is a front sight that clamps onto the exterior of the barrel, just forward of the fluting. This sight is a flat black, partridge style blade. The edges and corners are sharp, so you can get a crisp sight picture. If you want to go irons only, just pop this on and you’re ready to rock.
While we’re talking about sights, you’ll find a UTG 6” Commando red dot sight in the box too. This model comes with a Weaver / Picatinny mount that installs on the machined-in rail on the 647 Varminter. The optic offers adjustable red and green illumination and a sun shade up front.
You’ll find a stainless steel Picatinny rail segment that’s about 1 ¾ inches long. This screws onto the base of the barrel shroud just forward of the ejector rod. This is for the included UTG Shooters Bipod. This Bipod comes with a Picatinny rail clamp to mount directly to the Smith rail segment. The legs are about 4 ½ inches long with wide rubber feet for stability. The bipod legs lock into the up and down positions and release with a gnurled sliding knob. It’s an easy, quick, and positive locking action. The mount itself has a limited swivel movement, so once the legs are planted, you can traverse the revolver side to side. This traverse plate has a friction adjustment, so you can loosen the swivel action or lock it down according to your personal preference. The UTG Bipod comes with its original packaging, so there are extra goodies in there like a swivel stud mount. You won’t need this for the Smith & Wesson 647, so just know they’re there in case you want to use the bipod for other guns.
Also in the box are the obligatory extras including cable gun lock, owners manual, and fired cases. You’ll also find two keys for the internal lock present on most (or maybe all) of new Smith & Wesson revolvers. Because lawyers.
At first glance, you might think the 647 Varminter is a slightly scaled down version of the 460XVR, except the cylinder is a heck of a lot smaller. A barrel shroud with machined-in rail extends forward of the frame, then transitions to a long and elegant looking fluted barrel. On the 647 the shrouded section extends almost 4 ½ inches from the frame. The fluted barrel segment is an additional 7 inches, part of which is covered by a locking ring. Overall barrel length is 12 inches. With a satin stainless finish all around, this is one attractive revolver. You’ll notice a shallow beveled crown on the muzzle which helps protect from nicks and dings.
The shroud completely covers the ejector rod until you release the cylinder. One note here. There are about 1 ½ inches of clear space between the front of the ejector rod and the bipod mount which I found to be plenty of room to operate the ejector rod without interference.
The cylinder itself is fluted. As the .17 HMR is a rimmed cartridge, the chambers are inset into the cylinder, so cartridge bases line up flush when inserted. The ejector star is inset likewise.
Both hammer and trigger are chromed. The trigger has an adjustable over-travel screw, accessible with a small Allen wrench from the back side. When I received the gun, it was properly set with no detectable over-travel, but you can adjust according to your preference in seconds. While we’re talking about the trigger, I tested single-action pull weight at exactly 4.25 pounds. In single-action mode, there is hardly any movement prior to a crisp break, perhaps somewhere between 1/16 and 1/32 of an inch. The double-action trigger press exceeded my 10 pound Timney Trigger scale, but my educated guess is that it’s around 12 pounds. This is one of the few revolvers I would almost always shoot single-action anyway. I for one am not going to go all revolver purist and take precise long distance shots through a magnified optic using double-action. The hammer has aggressive checkering and has a positive feel, so cocking for single-action shots is easy and sure.
The stocks are two-piece wood. They are mounted using pins that lock them into position on the frame and an additional pin that secures them to each other. A single screw keeps them in place. Unlike other two-piece handgun stocks I’ve seen, these are incredibly secure. There is what I would describe as “soft” checkering on the sides of the stocks. This is appropriate as there is not enough recoil to make a super-sticky grip surface a necessity.
.17 HMR is a rimfire cartridge, but fortunately, it’s a lot easier to find than standard .22LR. It’s also more expensive, owing to its performance, bottleneck design and premium bullets.
Brought to market by Hornady back in 2002, this cartridge is derived from the .22 Magnum. The .22 WMR cartridge case is necked down to take a .17 caliber projectile. Large case capacity, combined with bullets in the 17 to 20 grain weight range, make for a smokin’ hot rimfire. .17 HMR can max out, in the right gun, around 2,500 feet per second. To put that in perspective, it’s about twice as fast as .22LR although the projectiles are about half the weight. It’s a flatter shooting, longer distance cartridge perfect for varmint hunting. I guess that’s why this gun is called the Smith & Wesson 647 Varminter.
For this review, I tested three varieties of .17 HMR ammunition.
Hornady V-Max 17 grain
Hornady XTP 20 grain
CCI FMJ 20 grain
We’ll get into specific performance of each through this revolver a bit later.
As we mentioned earlier, the 746 Varminter comes with a red dot optic. It’s fast, and perfectly appropriate for hunting, but this gun far exceeds the sighting capability of a 1x red dot. The very first thing I did was install a Bushnell Elite 3500 handgun scope. The Bushnell Elite 3500 is a 2-7x variable optic with duplex reticle. The outer area crosshairs are thick, while the inner crosshairs are fine to improve visibility and assist with precise aiming. Now we’re all set. The gun is capable of making a fire ant dance at 100 yards, so some magnification is in order, but that’s just my opinion. With the wide variety of potential uses for this revolver, I completely get why Smith & Wesson includes a general purpose red dot. If you buy a gun like this, you’re probably going to have very specific preference in optics. The included red dot lets you get started, then you can customize as you wish.
Oooooh. That about sums up the shooting experience. This revolver is noticeably louder than a .22LR, but that’s expected given the significantly larger case and charge. Recoil is non-existent, also owing to the tiny, lightweight bullets coming out the fiery end. I started off shooting with the included red dot, but it immediately become clear that this is a 100 yard plinking gun. 25 yards is simply too easy. You can literally pick off aspirins all day long at that distance. The included red dot is fast and will get you going immediately after purchase, but I got spoiled and quickly mounted the Bushnell Elite 3500 magnified optic.
Shooting the iron sights with precision was surprisingly easy. Depending on exactly where you mount the front sight, you’re going to get about a 14-inch sight radius, which starts to approach rifle territory. This extra long sight picture, combined with the sharp flat black blades and notches, is easy to shoot, even for aging eyes. The front sight is about a mile and a half in front of your face.
This gun is not so heavy as to prevent a two-handed hold, but the bipod will spoil you. Rest it on a table, nearby log, or even the ground, and your ability to make precise shots magnifies ten-fold. The bipod is heavy duty enough that you can apply forward pressure against the legs to gain stability. I didn’t worry about bending or breaking anything.
The action was silky smooth right out of the box, as I would expect from a Performance Center gun. Even with the tiny, and sometimes finicky, .17 HMR cartridges, the ejector operated without fail. I have yet to get a cartridge rim stuck under the ejector star.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
.17 HMR is a tiny cartridge. As a result, the cylinder holes are also tiny, as is the ejector star. In fact, all the internals are tiny. Tolerances are tight, so it’s extra important to make sure the 647 is clean. When everything is small, there’s just not much room for slop. Check the chambers to make sure there’s no gunk in there that will interfere with proper headspacing of the diminutive .17 HMR cartridge. Dirt can push the cartridge back a bit, causing friction with the breech face. If you feel any unusual tightness in rotation of the cylinder, check for debris under the ejector star. It’s a simple case of knowing your gun and keeping it clean.
With the 12-inch revolver barrel, you won’t get the full velocity of 2,500 feet per second that you might obtain with a full length rifle. I tested velocity using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet down range and observed the following:
Hornady V-Max 17 grain: 2,096 feet per second
Hornady XTP 20 grain: 1,952 feet per second
CCI FMJ 20 grain: 1,987.5 feet per second
Bottom line? You’ll easily get about 2,000 feet per second with most, if not all, flavors of .17 HMR ammunition. That’s kinda smokin’ from a handgun, don’t ya think?
Hey, this revolver says performance center on the side so I decided to start my accuracy testing at 50 yards. 25 yards is for sissies. Since the target was 50 yards out, and my eyesight is rapidly stinking more and more, I used the configuration with the Bushnell Elite 3500 handgun scope, which offers 7x magnification. I shot 6-round groups, so every chamber was counted in the averages. From multiple groups, here are the average group sizes at 50 yards.
50 Yard Accuracy, Six shots
CCI FMJ 20 grain: 1.41 inches (Best 6-shot group was .78 inches!)
Hornady V-Max 17 grain: 3.7 inches
Hornady XTP 17 grain: 1.7 inches (Best 6-shot group was 1.41 inches)
When you look at that, you might think, “Oh, that’s nice.” Just remember, this was from 50 yards, using the bipod from a table, not a machine rest. The .78 inch group kinda blew me away, so I figured I’d move a target out to 100 yards. Yes, for a revolver.
100 Yard Accuracy, Six shots
CCI FMJ 20 grain: 2.94 inches
Hornady V-Max 17 grain: 5.92 inches
Hornady XTP 17 grain: 4.04 inches
Let me say that one more time. 100 yard accuracy testing for a rimfire revolver! Dang, this part was fun.
While this gun is clearly optimized for small game and varmint hunting, it sure makes a fun plinker. Take it to the range with a younger or newer shooter, and I guarantee they’ll be hooked. Using it from a table with the bipod makes the size and weight a moot point. The smallest (responsible aged) child can handle this gun with ease that way. Better yet, the inherent stability ill give them plenty of satisfaction with easy hits on target.
Lest you think this is a newbies gun, I think I appreciate it even more for plinking. There’s not much more fun than a good rimfire. The ammo for .17 HMR is generally premium stuff for hunting and varmint control, so you’ll pay more than for .22LR, but than than .22 Magnum on which this cartridge is based. One suggestion, if varminting, use any ammo you want. If you plan to hunt small game for the pot, consider using FMJ bullets as they’ll preserve a lot more meat. A V-Max projectile moving at 2,000 feet per second will certainly leave a mark!
Model 647 .17 HMR Varminter
MSRP: $1,419.00 *
Model: 647 – .17 HMR Varminter
Caliber: .17 HMR
Capacity: 6 Rounds
Action: Single/Double Action
Barrel Length: 12″ / 30.5 cm
Front Sight: Black Ramp
Rear Sight: Black Blade Adjustable
Overall Length: 17″ / 43.2 cm
Weight: 54 oz. / 1,530.9 g
Frame Material: Stainless Steel
Cylinder Material: Stainless Steel
Finish: Satin Stainless
Other Features: Red Dot/Green Dot Sight
Chrome Trigger with Trigger Stop
Performance Center Tuned Action