Wheelgun Wednesday: Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 Magnum Review

Recently when I have joined all of our readers for Wheelgun Wednesday, I have been on a rimfire kick since I am not traditionally a big shooter of smaller cartridges. This running theme is going to continue this week as we take a look at one of Smith & Wesson’s less common rimfire revolvers in the Model 648 .22 Magnum! With the full-size appearance of their staple 686 yet chambered in .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) it is a deceiving revolver by its looks. We are going to see what kind of practicality, accuracy, utility, and fun this wheelgun could potentially be for you. Let’s dive in and get this Wheelgun Wednesday rolling!

SPECIFICATIONS: Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 Magnum

As alluded to above, the Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 Magnum revolver is a curious piece because from a distance it looks almost the same as their Model 686 .357 Magnum wheelgun. Once you get closer and see the holes in the cylinder and barrel though an alarm goes off in your head like, “What’s going on here?” All of the specifications for the intriguing Model 648 can be read below as presented by Smith & Wesson:

  • 6″ Stainless Steel, Full-Lug Barrel
  • 8-Round Cylinder chambered for .22 WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire)
  • Stainless Steel Barrel, Frame & Cylinder
  • Overall Length: 11.1″ | Overall Weight: 46.2 Oz.
  • Adjustable Blade Rear Sight w/ Partridge Blade Front Sight
  • Hammer-Fire, Single-Action/Double-Action Firing Mechanism
  • Synthetic Rubber Grip
  • K-Frame

This rimfire revolver punches in at an MSRP of $752 and is backed by the Smith & Wesson Lifetime Service Policy in the rare event that you would ever need a repair or factory maintenance performed on your wheelgun. An additional Press Release statement can be found from Smith & Wesson on their website motivating people to potentially add this revolver to their collection:

The eight round all stainless steel Model 648 features a 6 inch full underlug barrel, a Partridge front sight and adjustable rear sight, synthetic finger groove grips, and DA/SA action. The Smith & Wesson model 648 is ideally suited for target shooting and small-game hunting with the 22 WMR -Winchester Magnum Rimfire cartridge.

model 648

FIRST LOOK: Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 Magnum

When you crack the seal or open the box on a Model 648 .22 Magnum from Smith & Wesson, you see the usual accoutrements that come with every one of their revolvers. You have a simple cable lock for safer storage, your owner’s manual, a set of 2 internal lock keys, and it all comes in the iconic blue plastic box. So what were some of my initial thoughts while unboxing this revolver for the first time?…

For one, it has a similar profile, handling, and the familiarity as their staple Model 686. Simultaneously, it is lighter and a touch more wieldy or easier to manipulate as a result of the weight savings. A Model 686, by comparison, is not overly heavy, but the Model 648 is simply that much easier to cock the hammer one-handed, hand eject the cylinder, and pull the trigger one-handed through a double-action trigger pull. All in all, the slightly lighter weight and dimensions make everything easier to manipulate.

model 648

Another element that immediately catches your eye is the stainless finish on this Smith, and seemingly all Smith & Wesson revolvers, because it is like a mirror finish. This is definitely hard to duplicate for competing manufacturers because you do not see anything quite like it in terms of curb appeal and the reflection it gives off. In the photo above on an overcast day while I was trapping, you can see the reflection of the revolver’s own cylinder on its finish. Quite impressive!

model 648

I run a winter and spring trapline for fox, coyote, and beaver as hobby in Minnesota, and to keep order (and some trees alive) at my local gun club. I view this revolver as a great companion for outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen who may need to dispatch various varmints and predators. You have a substantial barrel length to hopefully give you the accuracy you need to hit your mark, but as discussed earlier, this wheelgun is not too heavy to carry on a day’s walk. To further address the question of accuracy, we next brought it out to the range to see how it truly performed on paper!

model 648

RANGE TIME: Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 Magnum

The ammunition I shot while out at the range was some CCI TNT Green 30 Grain Lead-Free Hollow Point. I had fired this ammo in the past in varying firearms and platforms, and always found it to be reliable. Ironically enough, while shooting this CCI ammunition on this particular range day I had 3 light-strikes or rounds that would not detonate. When I hand rotated the cylinder to hit them a 2nd time every round fired. This might be attributed to the revolver, the ammunition itself, or the fact that it was a miserable, blustery 20°F day on the Minnesota tundra.

This revolver has a lot more bark than I anticipated which added to the fun of shooting it, but the Model 648 still had that mild, rimfire recoil that we all enjoy. I could also see a little bit of flame coming out the front of the barrel which makes me wish I had shot this revolver closer to dusk or dawn for maximum cinematic effect.

model 648

One thing that I am very heads-or-tails on with nearly all revolvers are the sights. The black on black iron sights are classic and true-to-form, but even with my young eyes, they are difficult to see and shoot accurately. I collect older double-action Smith & Wesson and Colt revolvers so I appreciate the authentic look of this kind of sights, but they admittedly are not always the easiest to shoot. Fiber optic replacements are out there for people who would prefer an upgrade like me, but a factory-configured model would be nice as well.

model 648

One feature I appreciated for its appearance and performance was the full lug barrel profile. It was lean yet added beneficial weight to the frame for less muzzle rise. This is not to say that .22 Magnum has a lot of recoil, but it always helps you stay on target and better maintain your sight picture when your handgun has some decent heft to it.

model 648

In regards to accuracy, I tested the Model 648 with the CCI ammunition I mentioned at 15 yards shooting off-hand. I like to test revolvers in the manner I envision myself using them in the field, or in a practical sense. If I were to take this squirrel hunting or any other type of varmint hunting, I would definitely be firing it unsupported or in an off-hand position. From that shooting position and distance, I was consistently getting 2″ groups or better.

model 648

I only tested out to 15 yards because further distances than that I would honestly reach for a rifle of some sort to be doing varmint hunting. Overall though, I was very pleased with the accuracy of the Smith & Wesson Model 648. If you bagged this revolver and played around with your ammo choices, you would undoubtedly get even better groups; probably close to 1″ or even better. I might have been able to achieve that off-hand if I had a wider selection of ammo to play with because my final group had a small amount of vertical stringing which is indicative of inconsistent powder charges.

model 648

final thoughts: Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 Magnum

So after fondling the Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 Magnum and taking it out to the range for some rimfire fun, what are my takeaways? Well, it is right on par with many of the large-frame, centerfire revolvers that Smith & Wesson produces. The 6″ barrel and long sighting plane make it fairly easy to be accurate. The full-lug barrel mitigates recoil for fast follow-up shots. The grip is comfortable and the mirror stainless finish is attractive.

The only things that were a slight cause for concern was a couple light-strikes (which could have been due to inconsistent rimfire ammunition or the sheer MN cold temps), and the black-on-black iron sights that always have me torn. It is purely preference: do you want the authentic, nostalgic appearance of revolvers of old, or do you want modern, easy-to-see iron sights? Not a knock on Smith & Wesson; simply a point of preference.

model 648

At an MSRP of $752 and the host of positive attributes I already mentioned, I absolutely believe this revolver is worth your money if you are in the market for a .22 Magnum wheelgun. It just depends if you want one with a barrel this long because with the Smith & Wesson brand there is little to worry about.

In closing, I want to say thank you to Smith & Wesson for allowing TFB and myself the opportunity to try out their Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 Magnum! That is greatly appreciated. Also, we would like to know what all of you guys and gals think? Do you believe that the Smith & Wesson Model 648 is something worth spending your money on? Would you carry it while camping or hiking? Shoot a league with it? Hunt with it? Let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.

model 648


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