Pop quiz, hotshot. What’s the lightest production double action revolver on the market? Answer: it’s the Smith & Wesson 351PD in 22 Magnum, and we’re reviewing it today. Why? Because it’s awesome, that’s why. This is the S&W 351PD Review.
What is the S&W 351PD?
To start off the S&W 351PD review, we first have to explain a bit just what this gun is. It’s a S&W J-frame, chambered in 22 Magnum, and the frame is made of S&W’s composite aluminum/scandium alloy, so it’s incredibly light. If you wanted to buy a gun just to have the world’s lightest double action revolver, this would be the gun to get. For reference, the entire gun and grips unloaded weigh about as much as 6 rounds of 180gr JHP .40 S&W ammo. It’s 7 shots, has a gutter rear sight, and a fiber optic front sight. Like most rimfire revolvers, the trigger pull is on the heavy side, around 14 pounds to guarantee reliable ignition.
What’s it for?
Personally, the only justification that I need in my S&W 351PD review for owning one is that it exists. There’s something undeniable cool about having the lightest DA revolver ever made by mankind. However, there is a deeply practical purpose for this revolver as well. Because its of incredibly light weight and very small size, it’s the perfect deep concealment gun. It’s the gun for those moments where you really want to have a gun, but the social/employment/etc consequences of being discovered with a gun are very high. This gun is unbelievably easy to conceal.
How hard is it to shoot?
Honestly, when I started writing the S&W 351PD review, I had to go back to older videos of me shooting it. It shoots really well. Again, the trigger is rough, but with a little practice it’s easy to clean a plate rack at 20 yards, or get a sub 1.0 second draw from AIWB concealment. Because 22 Magnum has minimal recoil, it’s easier to develop shooting skill with this J-frame than it would be with a larger caliber, specifically because you’re not getting slapped around by recoil.
Okay but, really, 22 Magnum?
Yes, absolutely. A critical part of the S&W 351PD review is discussing the caliber. There are quite a few very switched on revolver gurus who believe in carrying a 38 Special with 148 grain full wadcutters, because these rounds don’t have a lot of recoil. If we’re willing to accept that no J-frame is going to be a hammer of instant death, scaling the caliber down to 22 Magnum suddenly becomes a reasonable proposition. In Lucky Gunner’s ballistic tests with 22 Magnum, it successfully achieved the FBI recommended penetration of 12-18 inches out of a Ruger LCR after defeating 4 layer denim. Plus, you can solve the reliability concerns inherent with rimfire ammo by only buying quality 22 Magnum, such as Federal, Hornady, or CCI. My personal gun has only had a few hundred rounds through it, but has never experienced a light primer strike.
Alright, what’s the catch?
Well the catch is simple: the gun is expensive. Brand new it will set you back 700-800 dollars, and that was before the Great 2020 Gun Panic. If you’re willing to spend that kind of money to get a limited use gun, it’s definitely worth it. For me, the S&W 351PD is the ultimate hide-out gun, and the king of deep concealment. It’s absolutely worth that amount of money in my eyes, but it might not be in yours.