Smith & Wesson K-Frame Series Revolver Review

The medium-frame revolver design from the Smith & Wesson K-Frame Series is one of the most significant wheelgun innovations!

One of my favorite winter pastimes is shooting icicles with handguns– yes, icicles! I usually pack four or five revolvers and pistols into the car. I select remote cliffs where water oozes out of the rocks. Along many of these cliffs I can shoot to my heart’s content and never run out of targets—plus, as a bonus, there are never any bullet-riddled cans or plastic bottles to clean up. I’m a serious reloader. Consequently, revolvers predominate in my icicle shooting. If ever there was a series of great looking double-action revolvers it has to be the K-Series from Smith & Wesson.

It was one early winter afternoon of shooting icicles that I told myself, “Nick you need a K-22.” In the 1960s one of my mentors in hunting was Arch Hulings, a Marine veteran of Guadalcanal. Arch had some guns I yearned for, like Model 70 Winchesters in both .270 and .220 Swift, a Browning Superposed, an S&W K-22 and others. Right from first glance those decades back I knew I loved the looks of that K-22—as well as the feel and balance when Arch had me shoot it at the range.



As most handgun buffs know, Smith & Wesson started bringing back some of their old “Classics” that had been discontinued, and several K-Series revolvers are among them. A figurative jillion of their Model 10s were produced—though in its earliest days it was called the .38 Military & Police model. Manufacture started way back in 1899. Thousands of them found their way to foreign armies and foreign police departments, though many of these .38 Military & Police models were sold here in the USA as well. Tens of thousands, maybe more were produced. Eventually the name .38 Military & Police model was changed to the Model 10. The Model 10 was/is sort of a no frills 6-shot double action with fixed sights—in .38 S&W Special with many barrel lengths once offered—2-, 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-inch. The Model 10 is one that S&W brought back in 2010 and is available with a 4-inch barrel in their “Classics” line.

It’s the looks of the Model 10 that appeal—and those cosmetics were transferred to many of the K-Series revolvers. Of course, the K-Series only refers to the relative size of the frame. The S&W J-frame was smaller than the K-frame. As more powerful handgun cartridges were developed Smith & Wesson went to bigger frames, the L- and the N-frame, to better accommodate those more powerful cartridges.

Other reintroduced “Classics” in the Smith & Wesson line featured a K-frame. They include the Model 14 in .38 S&W +P (same as .38 Special +P) in 2009 with a 6-inch barrel. The Model 15, brought back in 2010, uses same caliber but with 4-inch barrel. The Model 17 .22 rimfire with a 6-inch barrel came on in 2009—the same year we saw the Model 18 re-introduced with a 4-inch barrel in .22 rimfire. The Model 22 in .45 ACP, a 6-shot with a 5.5-inch barrel, arrived in 2009. Meanwhile a number of “Classics” have returned on the N-size frame.

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  • JJMcD

    In the 1960s (after I got my orders) my uncle went out and got me a S&W K 19 with a 4 inch barrel, 100 rounds of 125 grain JHP and a under the shirt holster. “Boy, you take this with you and keep it clean, it will save your life.”

    As an enlisted man, in Uncle Sams Misguided Children, such a thing was strictly “Verboten”.

    I did. And it did. Ammo was a hard thing to come buy for the portable cannon. In those days a “care package” from home usually had cookies. Mine had 50 round boxes of Remington.

    2 years, 4 months and 29 days later, I headed for home to “The World”. I left her behind with a chopper pilot who I thought would need her more then I did.

    My Stainless 66 is my house gun. Same 4 inch barrel. Same 125 grain JHP.
    Some things just work.

  • Edwin Rudy

    The 4 inch model 15 also was used by USAF pilots and air crews and USAF OSI. I personaly saw a USAF medical technicion with a model 15 concealed at Mogadishu to protect the medical supplies and the wounded.
    A lot of Army pilots used the 2 inch and 4 inch Model 10 Smith & Wesson.

  • CrusaderKnight

    The model 15 was the USAF Security Police sidearm for a long time.