The Kit Gun – Weird Gun Genres


The gun world has lots of weird corners that result in lots of interesting little guns often designed to fit niche uses. Today’s weird genre of firearms is the kit gun. When I heard kit gun I assumed someone meant like a kit car. A gun that’s dressed up to look like a high-performance weapon, but isn’t necessarily a high-performance weapon. You know, like the GSG 5 rimfire MP5 wannabes. 

I was wrong. 

What’s a Kit Gun 

Kit guns, a fascinating part of firearms history, were designed to tackle the challenges of the great outdoors. These were often compact, lightweight guns, with the most common being rimfire guns in .22LR. However, the caliber varied significantly. S&W crafted .38 Special and .44 Special kit guns, and the .32 S&W Long was a popular kit gun cartridge in the past. 

American Rifleman

These guns were designed for hunting small game, killing pests, and even self-defense. Hunters might employ a kit gun to deliver the coup de grace to a wounded animal, and fishermen might carry one to eliminate moccasins and other similar predators. Campers would be well armed with a kit gun for self-defense, pest control, recreational shooting, and small game hunting. 

The name comes from these guns being easily packed as part of one’s fishing, hunting, or camping kit. 

S&W started the idea of the kit gun in 1911 with the I-frame .22lr 22/32 revolver. This was a six-shot, double-action revolver with adjustable sights and a swing-out cylinder. The idea quickly caught on, and there is a lot of overlap with another weird genre of revolvers known as tackle box guns. 

S&W came up with the name and first design, but guns from budget revolver makers like Merwin and Hubert, Iver Johnson, and countless imports were the most common kit guns. Who wants to spend S&W money on a revolver that is going to be used and abused in the woods or in the boat? I can only imagine the dread creeping up on a fisher who drops a S&W over the side of the boat. 

Notable Examples of Kit Guns 

S&W continued to produce various kit guns. The company had the original 22/32, as well as the Model 35, the 34, the 43, and the 317. To this day, the company produces the eight-shot 317 Lite Kit gun, which is a sweet little gun that’s sadly often hard to find. 

Other kit guns include guns like the Iver Johnson 55-SA series that was available in both .32 S&W Long and 22LR. H&R produced revolvers that had a lot in common with my first girlfriend. They were stout but ugly. These were often nine-shot .22LRs that were affordable and tough enough for the abuse. 

The Modern Kit Gun

What does the modern kit gun look like? While the 317 has kit gun in its name, it costs 800 bucks. That’s a tough sale to me. I’d argue there are still plenty of good guns that would qualify as kit guns. They should be compact, light, and affordable. With that in mind, I have a few modern kit gun suggestions. 

Taurus TX22 Compact – Small, light, and affordable all describe the semi-auto TX22 Compact. No one said a kit gun had to be a revolver. The TX22 Compact gives you 13 rounds of 22LR on tap. It’s perfect for hunting, fishing, etc. 

Ruger LCRX .22 LR – The 3-inch model of the LCRX in .22LR is the definition of light and handy. The polymer frame helps reduce the potential for rust and keeps the weight and price low. The adjustable sights are a throwback to the original 22/32, and the gun even holds eight rounds. 

Heritage Barkeep – The Heritage Barkeep is stupidly simple. It’s a single-action only .22LR revolver, but with a cylinder swap, it can shoot .22 Magnum. The Barkeep has a short two-inch barrel but maintains its front sight. For about 150 bucks, it’s a great kit gun that you won’t mind messing up. 

Kitted Up 

Kit guns aren’t quite so popular these days, and I think it’s because most people who carry already have a CCW handgun. Why not just bring your Glock 43X on the boat? It seems simple enough. This weird gun genre likely saw it’s death to the spread of concealed carry. The idea itself is still sound for some, and maybe you can use it as an excuse to buy a new gun? 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.