Smith and Wesson’s Venerable Model 60

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09/19/2021 – I just wrapped up the last live fire session for the S&W Model 60. I have to say, it was a lot of fun. But, Joe, aren’t all guns fun to shoot? Not really, but thank you for asking. As a personal perspective, some guns are boring. Some are not the greatest in quality. Some are awkward in use by design if not intention.

The AR 15 is the reigning king of boring. All of the optional chambers, save for some of the .30 caliber and above cartridges, are anemic. Loaded up with accessories, they carry like an open Swiss Army knife. I buy them, or build them, shoot them, then sell them as I can’t really find a useful application for my purposes. Fortunately there are many firearms that have a personality and are not, as my Mother would have said, “Pasta secca”.

Smith & Wesson’s Model 60

Smith & Wesson Model 60
Manufactured Springfield, MA
SKU Number 162420
Type Action Double / Single
Caliber 357 Magnum / 38 Special
Capacity 5
Material Stainless Steel
Grips Synthetic Combat
Trigger Pull DA / SA  10 Lbs 7 Oz / 4 Lbs 11 Oz
Barrel Length 2.125″
Rifling  1:18.75″
Rear Sight Grooved Frame Top
Front Sight Black Blade
Type Safety Hammer Lock
Overall Length 6.56″
Overall Height 4.77″
Width – Cylinder 1.305″
Cylinder Length
1.600″
Ext. Chamber Wall
0.053″
Weight 21.4 Oz.
Approvals CA, MA
MSRP $775

Smith & Wesson was the industry innovator in 1965 when the Model 60 .38 Chiefs Special Stainless was introduced. It was a stainless, round butt J Frame with a five round cylinder.

The 357 Magnum version was introduced in 1996 on a slightly larger J Magnum frame. Cylinder length was increased from 1.53″ to 1.60 inches to accommodate the longer cartridge.

Introduced in 2001, the Model 60-14 version has been offered in numerous configurations. The current SKU 162420 barrel length is 2.125″ and the sights are fixed.

Optionally, the Model 60 is available with a 3″ barrel and adjustable sights in both standard Smith & Wesson and in slicked up Performance Center versions.

All S&W Model 60 revolvers are California and Massachusetts compliant.

The S&W Model 60 can be put to use on a daily basis. Concealed carry, trail carry, house gun; it has everyday applications and it is suitable for the whole family.

The Model 60 even has an exposed hammer so folks who refuse to practice and master double action shooting and cock the hammer and shoot single action.

The Model 60 is small. How small is it, Joe?

At 6.5″ long and only 1.3″ at its widest point, the Model 60 is easily carried concealed or open, its 21 ounces barely noticeable in a good belt holster.  It is almost small enough to palm. Compared to a maximum performance/capacity 357 Magnum revolver, the compromises associated with reduced size are 5 shot capacity and 2.125″ barrel. However, the upside is ease of concealment and a significant reduction in weight.

Designed with a long 1.6″ cylinder, even 180 grain HSM Bear Loads fit with plenty of room to spare. While not delivering the velocity of a 6″ gun, the short barrel proved not not much compromise in velocity.

Not so loud bark, a good amount of bite…

In addition to the 180 grain HSM Bear Loads pictured previously, the Model 60 was also shot with 125 grain Barnes TAC X PD, 125 grain Hornady Critical Defense, 158 grain American Eagle, and 158 grain Hornady Custom 38 Special.

Cartridge Type Bullet
Type
Bullet
Grains
Rated
Muzzle
FPS
Recorded
Muzzle
FPS
357 Magnum Barnes TAC-X PD Copper HP 125 1200 1337
357 Magnum Hornady Critical Defense FTX 125 1500 1305
357 Magnum American Eagle JSP 158 1240 1224
357 Magnum HSM Bear Load RNFP Cast 180 1200 1038
38 Special Hornady Custom JHP 158 800 775

I always try to practice with ammo that will be used for an application, but some folks like to take advantage of lower cost, lower power 38 Special ammo compatibility for practice. Report and recoil with such ammo make the word “mild” an understatement. The Model 60 is also approved for continuous use with 38 Special +P ammo.

Listed is all factory ammo. However, the 357 Mag is an easy and very flexible round to handload. My favorite within the table group is the HSM Bear Load.With hard cast bullets, it is not much on expansion, but it is a heck of a penetrating round. Yes, you do have to be a good shot and stick to hitting vitals, just as it should be with all types of ammo.

Personality

Accuracy with all loads was playing card size at 10 yards, about double at 25 yards. The latter if I wrapped my hand around the little Model 60’s grip and rested by fist on sand bags.

No, I don’t know what brand sand bags, but I am sure they were the good ones. My shooting skill limit with compact revolvers and fixed sights, not the S&W Model 60’s limited potential.

The 158 grain and 180 grain loads were easy to shoot. Recoil was not very significant, nor was report. 125 grain high velocity ammo wasn’t a slap in the face wake up call, but it was more noticeable… sharp.

Yes, that little combat grip did absorb recoil well making none of the loads all that much to manage.

Trigger reach is comfortable with a near 90° trigger finger bend at sear release. The hammer can be thumbed without awkward motion. The cylinder unlatches cleanly, swings open smoothly and ejection is low effort regardless ammo fired.

My personal J Frame Airweight is a great concealed carry. However, it is unpleasant to shoot and, consequently, is not shot as often as it should. The Model 60 handles feels like a larger gun. All stainless, the Smith & Wesson Model 60’s balance is good, the heft is steadying and makes shooting more frequently a positive anticipation. yes, I did use the term “positive anticipation” because it is the right descriptive.

Longum, brevis

My open carry firearm is a 4″ 357 Magnum. It is a gun that makes me confident that I could defend myself against human or animal attack if necessary. I am also confident I could use it for getting game up to deer size animals inside 50 yards, preferably inside 25 yards. My sense is that the same would apply to the S&W Model 60. I do believe I can shoot the 4″ more accurately because of  the longer sight radius and the 4″ barrel would provide a slight edge in ballistic performance.

I do believe the 2.125″ barrel gun offers the benefit of lightweight and its compactness tends to keep it out of the way while working unrelated tasks; clearing brush, operating a chainsaw, casting a line, operating a boat, hiking steep grades, or grasping for branches while involuntarily rolling down a hill.

At this point, I think the benefits of the shorter barrel gun outweigh the compromises. Very nice revolver.

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