Saturday, December 3, 2022

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Gun Review: Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-frame revolver (Image courtesy JWT for

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It didn’t take much imagination to come up with the name. Almost 20 years after Smith & Wesson introduced the X-Frame revolver and the .500 S&W Magnum to the world, Smith has taken a decidedly different turn with the X-tra large wheel gun.

For 2022, they made a middle-bore on the big frame. They call it the Model 350 and chambered it in .350 Legend.

I’m a huge fan of these huge guns and not just because JDub likes ’em thicc. The X-Frames are just made well. I don’t know if it’s because there’s lots of space to work with, or because the large amount of polished real estate makes any mistakes easy to see.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

Whatever the reason, it’s easy to see the quality throughout the Model 350.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

Particularly nice is how well the entire top of the gun is finished. Not only is the entire surface bead-blasted to a non-reflective finish, but the serrations continue in solid lines up through the ramp of the front sight.

Note that the port isn’t just a hole in the barrel, but a cut-out from the ramp of the front sight. This leaves the ramp forward of the port to continue up in an imaginary line to meet the edge of the front sight. It’s a great bit of functional design that looks classy on the big wheelgun.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

The wide top port of the compensated muzzle sits just in front of the pinned red ramp front sight. The adjustable rear sight has a square cut with a white outline, and the elevation and windage move with solid clicks (but only when you want it to, not under recoil).

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

The hammer spur is wide, flat, and very heavily textured. It looks right, but it also works right, giving the shooter solid purchase to work the gun in single action, even with winter gloves on.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

Take a look at that massive crane and the ball-detent. It’s all smooth, with no rough edges or machine marks (photo taken after all the shooting was done and not cleaned). Push the cylinder release and that seven-shot cylinder falls out with some heft. The release never failed to let go or catch back, nor would I have expected it.

The Model 350 does, unfortunately, include the internal lock. I find these nothing but an overcomplication and potential source for failure. That said, in all of the S&W guns I’ve fired and the tens of thousands of rounds I’ve fired through them, I think I’ve only actually experienced one lock up inadvertently. But, as my mom would say “It takes a whole lot of “atta-boys” to make up for one ‘oh shit.’”

Smith & Wesson has been filling cylinders with non-rimmed auto-loading cartridges for over a century. The technique is fairly simple — moon clips. The same goes for the Model 350.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

You’ll need to use the two supplied seven-round moon clips in order to load the revolver.  The moon clips are stout enough to hold the cartridges, but thin enough and wide enough that you can pull each round out without a tool. It’s a lot easier if you just load six, as your fingers will have more room to work.

Don’t expect reloading to be fast. All the casings come out together with a solid push of the plunger, but since it’s 7 long cases in a not-so-tight moon clip, they don’t hold perfectly straight.  That means a bit of maneuvering to get them to line up with their respective places in the cylinder. If the moon clips were thicker and held the cases more firmly, this might fix the issue, but then you’d likely want a tool to remove the empties.

It seems that the larger the revolver, the better the trigger pull feels, at least within the same action. That’s certainly the case for the Model 350. The single action pull weighs in at 4lbs, 3.5oz and the double action breaks at 11lbs 1.9oz, when averaged over five pulls on a Lyman digital trigger scale.

Like all modern S&W triggers, it’s a solid pull will very little stack toward the rear wall in double action, and nothing but a clean break on the single action.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

You’ll also find the same large grooved rubberized grip on the Model 350 as the other X-frames. These grips aren’t particularly attractive, but they provide a solid purchase on these notoriously heavy-recoiling guns, even when wet.

Except this gun isn’t heavy recoiling at all.

The entire X-Frame line screams “BIG GUN.” No matter what the barrel length, these are massive revolvers. The Model 350 is certainly no different. With its 7.5″ barrel, the gun weighs just a hair under four and a half pounds. That’s as big as the Colt Dragoons of yore, putting them squarely in the “saddle gun,” not “belt gun” category. If you want to carry this revolver into the field, it’s best in-hand, and second best in a solid chest rig, like the ones offered from Simply Rugged.

Of course, the reason for those damn big guns is because they fire damn big bullets. Originally designed for the .500 S&W Magnum, the X-frame needed every bit of that metal and a big ol’ cylinder to handle such a massive and capable cartridge. That goes double for the even more energetic .460 S&W Magnum.

The .350 Legend is no .500 S&W Magnum.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

The .350 Legend round was created by Winchester in 2019 specifically to comply with the laws that require straight walled cartridge cases for hunting. There’s really no parent case to the .350 Legend, but as the case has the same rim diameter of the .223 Remington, it’s fair to think of it as a straight-walled .223 with a .357″ bullet. The .357 Magnum and the .350 Legend barrels both share the same SAAMI barrel bore and groove diameter, and both should have a bullet exiting the barrel at .355″ in size.

A ballistic twin of the century old .35 Remington, the .350 Legend checks off a lot of boxes. It runs fine in lightweight bolt action rifles. It runs in AR-15 platforms with full magazine capacity. It’s fast, for a straight-walled cartridge. It’s legal in Ohio and public land Indiana hunts (and other straight-walled only areas) and it’s made in several varieties by major manufacturers.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

I’m hoping the .350 Legend is a lot more available in those areas that require a straight walled cartridge for hunting. I found a total of five boxes of 20 for this review in local stores, and I was able to order two more online. That’s four boxes of 145gr Winchester FMJs, 2 boxes of 160gr Winchester Power Max Bonded, and a single box of 255gr Winchester subsonics, for a total of 140 rounds.

Regardless of what round I fired, the Model 350 Legend is an absolute pussycat to shoot.  You’d never think there would be an X-Frame for the recoil sensitive, but this is it.

Two handed, double-crush and crossed thumbs is how all double action magnum revolvers should be fired, but this one shoots just fine single handed. Seriously, there’s not much to it it at all. The reason is obvious, and it’s not just the weight of the gun.

There’s no getting around the velocity lost that goes with dramatically shortening a barrel.  According to my chronograph on a Texas summer day, the same 145gr round that Winchester advertises as 2,350fps with a rifle leaves the muzzle of the Model 350 at 1,785fps. The 2,225fps advertised for the Power Max Bonded 160gr bullet dropped to 1,635fps ,and the 255gr subsonic round jogs out of the barrel at 846fps, putting that round about equal to a .45 Colt in terms of muzzle energy.

Those numbers put the Model 350 in some very good company. With the same diameter bullets, it’s delivering more energy than any .357 Magnum, but not as much as the rare and exceptional .357 Remington Maximum.

Combine that light weight bullet — compared to the .500s and .460s — with those speeds and 4½ pounds of gun, and you end up with an X-Frame your grandma can shoot, if she can hold it up.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

Of the three different rounds I had available, the 160gr Power Max bullet is the most appropriate for hunting whitetail-sized animals. From the Model 350, it’s barely subsonic at 200 yards. It’s generating about the same amount of energy at 100 yards as a 180gr .357 Magnum does at the muzzle.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

The Model 350 shoots like every other X-frame with a reasonable barrel length, pretty darn good. The revolver has a nice long sight radius and quality sights. Combine that with a solid lock-up, good cylinder throat/forcing-cone/bore diameters, and the recipe for precision is there.

One entire box of the 145gr FMJ round fit inside a 1.5″ circle. The 160gr Power Max bullet scored 1.1″ five-round groups, when averaged over four shot strings. A single five-round group of the 255gr subsonic load opened up quite a bit, to 2″. All groups were shot on a fouled bore, untimed, off bags at 25 yards.

I’d love to see what it could do with a magnified optic.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

With this level of precision and energy delivered right out of the box, I’d have no issues taking our little Hill Country whitetail deer any any distance under 100 yards. Shooting from the kneel, with my hands resting on a stump, I was able to shoot seven rounds in about an 8″ circle at 100 yards, with a couple rounds just outside the white. At that range, I’d limit myself to broadside shots, but at 50 yards, quartering or frontal shots should work just fine.

With only 140 rounds through the gun, I don’t feel like this was much of a test of reliability. That’s a shame, because this is one X-Frame that you could shoot all day long and enjoy it. Nothing went wrong at all with any of the rounds I fired, and I would have liked to fire a lot more. It’s a fun, easy revolver to shoot.

That’s what’s so different about the Model 350 when compared to the other X-frames. Sure, it’s fun to shoot a cylinder of .500 or .460, maybe a box. But, that’s a lot of sound and fury (not to mention expense) to deal with.

This X-frame chambered in .350 Legend gives the hunter an easy-shooting pistol capable of taking pig and deer-sized game at very common hunting ranges, especially east of the Mississippi. Fun guns get shot a lot and guns that get shot a lot tend to make good shooters.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 X-Frame Revolver
Image courtesy JWT for

Smith & Wesson chose a different path with the Model 350, and it worked. It’s really the only time I was ever interested in the .350 Legend cartridge. If you want an easy-shooting and capable hunting revolver, the Model 350 is a solid choice.

It’s a great choice for the new handgun hunter, and one of the best choices possible for folks brush and timber hunting in straight-walled cartridge limited areas.

Specifications: Smith & Wesson Model 350

Caliber: .350 Legend
Capacity: 7 rounds
Barrel Length: 7.5″ (19.1 cm)
Overall Length: 13.5 inches
Front Sight: red ramp
Rear Sight: adjustable
Action: single/double action
Grip: synthetic
Cylinder Material: stainless steel
Barrel Material: stainless steel
Frame Material: stainless steel
Frame Finish: stainless steel
Barrel Twist: 1:16″
Weight: 71.5 oz
MSRP: $1,599 (about $1500 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * * *
The simple mass of the X-frame series is an aesthetic in and of itself. Smith & Wesson does them justice with a satin stainless finish and solid design elements throughout.

Customization * * * *
You can swap out the front sight and there are aftermarket rear sights available as well. There are a few workable mounts for an optic. Aftermarket and custom grips abound, at a price.

Reliability * * * * *
Perfect for the relatively few rounds I put through it.

Accuracy * * * *
Nothing got below the 1″ at 25 yards mark, but plenty danced around it.

Overall * * * *
With the Model 350, Smith & Wesson has turned out a great, big gun in a not-so-big caliber. It’s an X-frame that you’ll actually enjoy shooting…and absolutely not a single deer in the woods will be happy about that.

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