Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sunday Smith #17: Model 53-2, 1974


In the mid-1950's, experimenters started playing with Model 17's (.22LR K-frames) by fitting new cylinders machined from cylinder blanks and chambered in a variety of wildcats made from necking down centerfire pistol cartridges to accept the .224" jacketed bullets then becoming popular from the new small-bore .222 Remington varmint cartridge. The .224" bullets would function fine in the .22LR barrels, and the idea was a revolver that would be lethal on small game and varmints at ranges far beyond those considered practical with a .22 rimfire.

In 1961, S&W and Remington legitimized one of these wildcats by naming it the .22 Remington Jet and chambering it in the new Model 53. The Model 53 was a square-butt K-frame revolver with target sights, marked ".22 Magnum" on the barrel, and was available with a 4", 6", or 8 3/8" barrel. Unique features included either a second cylinder chambered for .22LR, or a set of .22LR chamber inserts. The revolver had dual firing pins in the frame, and had a pivoting striker in the hammer that could be toggled back and forth between rimfire and centerfire positions.

The .22 Remington Jet round itself was based on the .357 Magnum casing, but necked down to take a .222" projectile. The large powder charge launched a 40gr projectile at a claimed 2460fps out of an 8 3/8" tube (although test numbers chronoed noticeably lower.) Still, the .22 Rem Jet had numbers far surpassing the modern 5.7x28mm round from FN.

The round's fatal weakness was a result of its shape and the fact that it was intended to be fired from a revolver. Based on a rimmed midbore revolver cartridge, the round was tapered like an incense cone. Unless the chambers were scrupulously degreased, firing the round would cause the case to expand and force the base hard against the revolver's breechface, preventing the cylinder from turning. With the growing popularity of the .22WMR, the .22 Rem Jet's day came and went, and with it, the Model 53.

Early Model 53 "no dash" four-screw guns (first year of production) command a substantial premium, but any Model 53 (there was no "53-1"; deletion of the triggerguard screw in '62 resulted in the 53-2) will bring close to eight bills or more if it is in good shape. Ammunition is no longer commercially manufactured, so it behooves the Model 53 owner to take up reloading or make friends with someone who already has the bug. The Model 53-2 in the above picture was purchased in '05 for $450 and has the less-common 4" barrel; combined with the short barrel, the light bullet and relatively large powder charge result in spectacular pyrotechnics on a darkened range.

3 comments:

triticale said...

Be a great cartridge to do an Ackley improvement on. I wouldn't up the total power, but the shape would sure make a difference.

AgPilot60 said...

Tam, this reminded me of a long ago event featuring a .22 Jet. Back in about 1964 a high school friend had a .22 Jet in a SA revolver. He was playing fast draw and shot himself just below and to the front of the knee missing the knee bone less than 1/4 of an inch. It was a hollow point and traveled front to rear all the way down through his calf without hitting any bones and stopped just under the skin in his heel. He would have probably lost the leg if it had hit a bone. At any rate it was a terrible mess. The Dr. cut about an 8 inch slit to the side of his shin to let it swell. The bullet tore through nerves. A few years later he had to have a nerve block in his back as gremlins were eating him up with pain. He eventually made a full recovery, except for his common sense. That didn't improve any.

Daniel E. Watters said...

Actually, there were improved versions of the .22 Jet introduced almost as soon as the cartridge was announced. One that leaps to mind was the .22 Sabre Jet.

Jeff Cooper wrote fondly of the Model 53 and the .22 Jet in the 1964 "Gun Digest". Among his comments were:

"And don't underrate its combat potential -- the Jet hits about twice as hard as a .38 Special."

"The only "triple-purpose" handgun equally useful for plinking, field shooting, and self-defense."

Before the collectors started to snap up the remaining Model 53, some pistolsmiths thought it was trick to use the M53 as a base for their .38 Special PPC guns. The theory was that the frame mounted firing pin allowed for reliable ignition with lower mainspring tension. One of the folks that did this was C. Reed Knight Jr.