Smith & Wesson Model 60 Pro Series: Pint Size Performance

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

The compact snubnose revolver has been a staple of concealed carry since the first person to figure out that a shorter barrel made the gun more portable cut down the barrel on a percussion revolver. Since then, shooters and people interested in powerful, compact weapons for personal defense have done everything they can to make revolvers easier to conceal and carry while maintaining shootability-the ability to place rapid, accurate hits on target in a defensive situation.


In 1965, Smith & Wesson introduced the Model 60, the first regular production all stainless steel revolver. Originally chambered in .38 Special on S&W’s J-frame platform (the designation for their small-frame revolvers), the Model 60 was an immediate hit. In .38 Special the Model 60 holds five cartridges. Later updates to the Model 60 included being rechambered in .357 Magnum, allowing the gun to fire the hotter magnum rounds as well as the .38 Special rounds. The gun was also offered with various barrel lengths including a five-inch barrel model.

In 2008, Smith & Wesson introduced the newest member of the Model 60 family, the Model 60 Pro Series. Chambered in .357 Magnum, the 60 Pro features a three-inch slab-side barrel, wood stocks, and a Trijicon night sight on the front sight blade. While clearly designed for concealed carry, the all steel construction and three-inch barrel relegate the 60-Pro to a belt carry gun as it is too heavy and large for pocket carry in all but the largest of cargo pants pockets. However, the 60 Pro is lighter and smaller than the next size up on the S&W revolver chart, the K-frame guns, giving it an advantage for carry permit holders and armed professionals of a smaller stature.

The Smith & Wesson Pro Series guns feature touches normally seen on Performance Center Guns but without the hefty price tag that those revolvers usually demand. But night sights and pretty grips aren’t just for show on this gun.


At the range
Unfortunately, all the technical specs in the world cannot tell how well a pistol shoots. Small frame revolvers are notoriously difficult to shoot well, combining an alliance of heavy trigger pull, short sight radius, and stouter-than-average recoil into a package that is often challenging for even expert shooters to manage. The Pro series from Smith & Wesson sought to address many of these issues on the Model 60 Pro, starting with the trigger. While the single-action trigger on a defensive revolver is largely irrelevant; this trigger breaks cleanly at three pounds in single-action mode. The double-action trigger is heavy, but unlike many other factory small frame revolvers is not gritty or rough. A clean, smooth double-action trigger that does not stack goes a long way toward making a small revolver shoot well.

The extra inch of barrel on the 60 Pro also helps, as do the excellent adjustable sights. While adjustable sights on a carry revolver are somewhat controversial, they provide a much clearer sight picture than the traditional “gutter” rear sight that is integral to the topstrap part of the frame. Most importantly in a defensive gun though, is the tritium insert in the front sight. In low light and night conditions the front sight glows green. This gives the shooter an aiming reference far superior to non-illuminated sights on similar revolvers, and is probably one of the best features on this gun.


Taming recoil is the overall weight of the gun, coming in at 23.4 ounces, and the excellent wood stocks on the pistol. While the stocks are attractive, they’re also highly functional at reducing muzzle flip by positioning the shooter’s hand high on the backstrap of the small pistol. A high grip on a revolver is popular among competition shooters to control recoil and assist with rapid delivery of follow-up shots.

A challenging test for any shooter and gun is the Pistol-Training.Com Dot Torture test, which features 10 two-inch dot targets on a single sheet of paper. Shooting the dots with a variety of strings of fire, to pass the test the shooter and gun must keep all 50 hits in the designated dots. At seven yards, the Model 60 Pro scored 48 out of 50, with the two misses being entirely shooter error on a weak-hand-only string. The Model 60 Pro is capable of impressive accuracy. At 25 yards shooting slow fire double-action, all shots stayed well within the eight-inch A-zone of a standard IDPA target. While eight inches at 25 yards doesn’t sound like much, the ability to produce on-demand center of mass hits from a defensive revolver is no small feat.

Standard pressure
.38 Special loads produced negligible recoil, while .38 +P loads were easily manageable for follow up shots. With 110 gr. .357 Magnum rounds recoil was sharp, but not unpleasant-an experience mirrored when using .357 Magnum Glaser Safety Slugs. With 158 gr. bullets in .357 Magnum loads, however, the recoil did become unpleasant and hard to control in follow-up shots.


Carry impressions
Ultimately though, the Model 60 Pro series is a carry gun. Carry guns that are unpleasant to carry stay at home, and carry guns that are unpleasant to shoot don’t come to the range. For the last three months, the Model 60 Pro has been my primary and everyday carry gun. It replaced a much smaller and theoretically easier to conceal pocket pistol which created the first challenge: changing from a pocket carry set up to the more complicated belt carry system. Belt carry is more difficult for anyone employed in a professional environment who wishes to carry. Business casual is not forgiving for carrying a concealed firearm. The Model 60 Pro Series conceals very well underneath even a fitted shirt in a simple Blackhawk nylon holster. The gun is very comfortable despite the assertion that a carry gun should be “comforting, not comfortable.” It’s a fact that people won’t carry guns that cause pain or discomfort. In an inside the waistband holster, I was able to carry the 60 Pro every day for three months without ever thinking, “I can’t wait to take this gun off!” From business casual to a t-shirt and jeans, the little J-frame was easy to conceal and easy to carry day-in and day-out. Inside the waistband (IWB) carry can be difficult at times with revolvers. That cylinder bulges into some painful spots sometimes! However, contrary to popular belief, the J-frame Model 60 isn’t much wider at its widest point than a 1911. With a good holster, the cylinder bulge isn’t even a factor.


One of biggest strengths of the 60 Pro is that the parent design has been around for so long. Because of that, there is a plethora of good gear out there for the Model 60. Holsters come in all different types, from Kydex models to exotic leather and everything in between. There is no shortage of speed loaders for the gun either. Safariland makes their excellent Comp-I and Comp-II speed loaders for the J-frame, and Buffer Technologies also make their competition-popular Jetloader (which is similar to the Safariland Comp-III) for J-frames. Of course, there is the ubiquitous HKS speed loader, which releases the rounds with a twist of the knob on top and is my personal favorite for concealed carry. I tend to favor the HKS over the Safariland models for carry because the “twist” mechanism makes it less likely to accidently discharge the rounds into your pocket when reloading in a hurry.

Bottom line
The Model 60 Pro Series isn’t a perfect gun-no gun is. The 60 Pro gives up on portability in favor of shootability and sacrificing ease of carry compared to a smaller, lighter revolver in favor of shooting easier. Even with those sacrifices, the Model 60 makes an excellent concealed carry gun for day to day use. The relative light weight of the gun comes together with the smooth trigger and excellent sights to make an ideal package for the shooter looking to carry a double-action revolver. What sets this particular gun apart from other small frame revolvers is that people will actually shoot it. A revolver made out of space age metal that weighs less than my cell phone isn’t any good if you don’t practice with it. But the Model 60 Pro is a gun that can be taken to the range, shot 100 – 200 times, wiped off, loaded with defensive ammo and put right back into the holster it came out of.


Editor’s Note:
Thanks to our friends at the United States Concealed Carry Association for this article. To know more about concealed carry, please click here.

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