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Smith & Wesson’s 351C Revolver: A Truly Great Self Defense Gun?

Smith & Wesson 351C
Image: Creative Commons.

Smith & Wesson 351C, A Quick Review: Smith & Wesson is without a doubt one of the United States’ oldest and most experienced firearm manufacturers. With nearly 170 years of gunsmithing experience under their belt, it’s no wonder that their firearms are well regarded. Though Smith & Wesson does offer both semi-automatic pistols as well as rifles, perhaps their area of greatest expertise is with revolvers.

The Springfield, Massachusetts-based company has a wide array of revolvers in many chamberings on offer, though one of their special designs is the Model 351C.

The Model 351C is based on Smith & Wesson’s J-frame, a proprietary revolver frame size that is small, though still robust enough to comfortably handle both .38 Special +P and .357 Magnum ammunition. In the case of the Model 351C however, the cartridge is .22 Magnum.

Though the .22 Magnum cartridge is one of the smaller rimfire cartridges that is widely available, don’t let it’s small size fool you — the .22 Magnum has approximately double the amount of energy at 100 yards than the shorter .22 Long Rifle parent cartridge has at the muzzle, depending on ammunition and firearm combinations. Thanks also to the .22 Magnum’s small cartridge size, the Model 351C can accommodate 7 cartridges, offering shooters a relatively high cylinder capacity.

Though .22 Long Rifle cartridges would fit into the Model 351C’s cylinder, under no circumstances should the revolver fire that smaller cartridge, as the revolver could suffer catastrophic failure and harm the shooter.

The J-frame lineup is relatively lightweight, a factor that is aided by both an aluminum alloy frame as well as an aluminum alloy cylinder, though the revolver retains a stainless steel barrel. The small revolver comes with black synthetic grips complete with finger grooves and checkering that afford a firm grip despite the revolver’s small size.

And talk about small — the Smith & Wesson’s barrel is the definition of snub-nosed at just 1.875 inches. The Model 351C is intended as a low-profile, easily concealable revolver, and to that end is matte black to reflect less light. The small revolver also features an internal hammer, which prevents the pistol from snagging, say on a holster or cloth pockets.

Compared to some of Smith & Wesson’s other, pricier revolvers — some of which are priced upwards of $1,300 — the Model 351C is quite modestly priced at just over $700 on the S&W website.

With the Model 351C, Smith & Wesson has combined both the many years of firearm engineering under their belt with modern components and the small .22 Magnum rimfire cartridge to offer a well-thought-out concealed carry revolver. For those looking for an easily concealable revolver — look no further.

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Michael Cappello

    November 26, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    It’s irresponsible to suggest a .22 of any type as a suitable self defense round, due to the nature of rimfire cartridges in general being typically of lesser reliability than centerfire cartridges. Not to mention that for use in such short barrels, the velocity loss makes precision shots crucial for survival purposes. A lot to ask of anyone in a life or death situation. I’m no expert, but I’ve listened to enough experts to have learned that much.

  2. P

    November 26, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    Better than none

  3. Grumpa

    November 26, 2021 at 9:10 pm

    The best caliber is the one which you can hit center mass twice. Source Israeli Mossad

    There is no advantage to a .22 mag in a hand gun over a .22lr. None. The .22 mag need the longer barrel. However I have 3 .22 mag Rossi pistols in my house for my family to access if a brute force entry happens.

    Hitting the target matters most

  4. Hunter James

    November 26, 2021 at 11:36 pm

    If you’re going to spend that much money, GET A REAL GUN.

  5. Carl Williams

    November 27, 2021 at 12:47 am

    While Smith & Wesson is undoubtedly one of the world’s premier makers of firearms (I have two of their rifles and one S&W pistol), and, yes, they have a lot of expertise with revolvers, the .22 magnum cartridge — especially paired with such a short barrel — is woefully unsuited for almost any purpose, but definitely under-everything for self-defense. You’d be better off throwing the whole revolver at an attacker. The short barrel makes any comparison of energy at 100 yards irrelevant; neither a .22 LR nor a .22 magnum will generate sufficient energy from such a short barrel. Plus, you’d be unlikely to hit at target much farther away than 10 feet. It’s also too short to sight easily. For self-defense, buy this gun chambered in .357 magnum. At least then the loud BANG might scare an attacker away. Otherwise, you might just piss off an attacker with seven .22 magnum rounds, and he might take this gun from you and beat you to death with it. For less than $700, you can get a Glock 19 with 15 rounds of 9mm that will stop anybody. Or a 10- or 12-round Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 subcompact 9mm ($581 on their website).

    Mr. Larson, stick to writing about what you know: public policy, politics, and German culture. Leave firearms, their reviews, and self-defense to more knowledgeable individuals (more knowledgeable than I, too).

  6. Sven

    November 27, 2021 at 1:48 am

    @ Michael Capello, the reliability of modern 22 magnum ammo is not to be overlooked nor is it to be compared to the notorious spotty 22lr ammo of yesteryear. There is a fair more amount of quality control and attention to tolerances that goes on in the manufacturing of 22 mag ammunition compared to 22lr. Furthermore this revolver’s firing pin strikes more robustly than your typical 22lr semi auto. So to claim it’s irresponsible to recommend this firearm as a deep conceal option due to presumed lackluster reliably is rather conjectural and not based on any modern real world data. And yes, the very short barrel lends itself to a significant loss in velocity yet one can still expect muzzle energies in the 70-80 ft-lb range with this sort of gun which is plenty enough to poke holes in an attacker. Attackers hate having holes poked in them and most will readily reconsider their foolishness once they see the surprisingly significant muzzle flash and hear the insanely loud noise the 22 magnum produces with this short of a barrel. Of course their are better carry options. Personally I have daily carried firearms chambered in 22 magnum, 380, 9, 40, 45 and 10. For deep conceal options and in cases in which I would otherwise not carry due to not wanting to be encumbered with the weight and size of my larger firearms, I have gladly carried my 22 magnum or 380 and have always done so without fearing that I am somehow not armed well enough.

  7. Rex T. Dog

    November 27, 2021 at 9:11 am

    We own a different .22wmr revolver, and it gets carried…no argument heavier calibers can be more effective, but .22wmr in a revolver fulfills rule #1, have a gun…there are at least two manufacturers of defensive oriented ammunition with consideration for the short barrel…we didn’t like two things about the 351c, the double action only and the price…

  8. Larry M Whalen

    November 27, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    First of all I am something of an expert re this particular subject and at 75 years old I have now been shooting for 63 years, or since I was eight.

    My first rifle was a British Jungle carbine in .303 cal., but my Brother wanted me to have something which would develope my shooting skills so for my 12th birthday in 1958 gave me a .22 single shot made by COLT, which I still have and amazingly I can still hit a quarter with it at 100 yds!

    Now as to the .22 WMRF magnum being an effective man stopper it can be quite lethal with the proper round, meaning a hollow point with the highest fps rating you can buy; for me I prefer HertInberg’s .22 mag. which are made in Austria last I knew of and can attest to it’s capability of what happens when a semi-jacketed H.P. at 2’200 fps can do when it hits flesh and bone.

    About fifty years ago, while shooting in the Mojave Desert I shot three huge Cal. Jack Rabbits, 3′ long approximately with each one virtually desintigrating into several pieces from the impact of the shell at distances from 25yds to 45yds and the only time I’ve ever witnessed this was with a true ‘varmit round’ when taking various game at long range on an open field.

    As a former police officer Ive carried a Llama .380 auto, and a 2.5″/.38 S&W Chiefs Special, both with hollow points, and for those who say a .380 cannot do the job, the first three homicides I responded to were all committed with a .380 auto at close range which is exactly what these guns are meant for – ‘Up Close and Personal!’ – Not from 15 nor 20 yds. which most of these “experts” seem to forget when they write about a weapon they have been given to test.

    The ‘average’ shootout (per the FBI’s stats) is within twenty-one feet, think about that, and the reality is if you drop the hammer on anyone further than that you need to be able to testify to the fact that you believed them to be a threat to you or another Human Being’s life; and while I’m on the subject, you should know that a ‘man/woman’s with a knife, meat cleaver. machete or any blade that can harm you is fair game since they can ‘cover’ the the distance of 21′ to 25′ in about 1.2 to 1.5 seconds. and with the normal human’s reaction time being .45 seconds you will need to respond to any threat with a blade the second they start to lift a foot to move towards you !

    And although I know what a .22 LR OR Mag can do – for the money S&W is charging for this gun personally I’d get a Taurus or Rossi, or an older COLT or S&W revolver in .38 S&W SPECIAL for less money- and NEVER the anemic .38 S&W (short) which is about 3/4 the length of the .38 Special – because there is a HUGE Difference

    I hope this helps someone decide upon what they choose to carry since you may only get one chance if you have to use your gun in self defense.

    Sorry to have taken so much of your time, but this subject deserves more than a simple “Yes it will, no it won’t” answer.

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