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Old 11-03-2010, 11:45 AM
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Default K, L, N what's with frame size?

New to revolvers does this relate to hand size?
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Old 11-03-2010, 11:49 AM
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Hand size is pretty much the same on them, K&L share the same grips, Ns' are taller at the top of the grip. Mainly to accommodate larger cylinders allowing for bigger calibers and 7 & 8 shot 357s'.
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Old 11-03-2010, 11:52 AM
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They don't relate to hand-size.

K and L have a grip-size that most people will find comfortable. K and L are S&W's "Medium" frame.

N's grip is a touch larger than K/L (about 1/4" longer trigger reach) and is S&W's "Large" frame.

There's the X-frame (S&W's "extra-large" frame) which actually shares the grip frame of the K/L-frame (thus it'll have the same grip size).

There's the J-frame, S&W's small frame, which is meant for CCW/Kit-gun type revolvers.
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Old 11-03-2010, 12:24 PM
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Welcome to the boards.

You've asked one of the more confusing questions about S&W revolvers, but I'll take a swing at it. In general, S&W frames were developed for a specific bore diameter, and had larger cartridges wedged into them over time. All have been made in square-butt and round-butt versions at varying times.

The J Frame started as a .32-caliber pocket gun, and has since been built in cartridges from .22 LR to .357 Magnum. Their cylinders are too small to hold six .38 Special or .357 Magnum cartridges, so they hold five. J-frame guns are very small in the hand, but most people can shoot them pretty well.

The K Frame began as a .38-frame gun for the military and police. It chambered cartridges from .22 to .357 Magnum without much fuss. Most are six-shot, but some .22's hold 10. Some have been converted to five-shot 44 Specials outside the factory. K-frame guns fit the hand well, and nearly anyone can shoot one well.

The L Frame was built to take a steady diet of full-house 125-grain .357 ammo, which corrects one of the few failings of the K-frame. It's slightly overbuilt for that, and Smith has since built 7-shot versions. It's also been chambered in 40 S&W and 44 Special, again with a 5-shot cylinder. The L Frame has the same size grips as the K-frame, so all comments apply equally to both.

The N Frame began as a platform for the .44 Special. It's great in .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .45 ACP and .45 Colt, but a little light for the .44 Magnum. Smith has refined its innards to withstand long use with heavy 44 loads, but shooters who prefer those loads usually switch to a Ruger. The N-frame is slightly larger than the K/L frame. Shooters with small hands may have trouble with it, but this is often cured by using smaller grips. Recoil is usually much more an issue than frame size with N-frame guns.

The X-frame was developed specifically for the .460 and .500 cartridges. It's far larger than anything else Smith has ever built, but it has the same grip as a round-butt K-frame. A special grip was developed to manage their recoil, which also fits round-butt K/L frames and round-butt N-frames.

There's a lot more to it, but this is a decent bird's-eye view.

Okie John

Last edited by okie john; 11-03-2010 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 05-23-2011, 08:28 AM
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So then the 686 is listed on the S&W site as a medium frame. Does that make it a K or an L.

Next month, I am adding to my revolver collection by getting a 327 TRR8, which, I am sure is an N frame.

Having been s semi auto guy for a long time, I am finding the S&W revolvers fascinating.
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Old 05-23-2011, 09:05 AM
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The 586/686 series are L frames but they share the same grip size as the K frame. So grips for the K will fit on an L frame or vice versa as long as you buy the correct one in terms of square butt or round butt to match the revolver you are going to put them on.
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Old 05-23-2011, 09:13 AM
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The 686 is a L frame. Here is a example of a K frame and L frame.
Model 66-4 4 inch K frame 357

686-2 4 inch L frame 357
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Old 05-23-2011, 02:05 PM
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The five frame sizes with 3 square butt guns and two round butt (Mod 60 & 500)...

Last edited by TDC; 05-23-2011 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 05-24-2011, 04:29 PM
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Here's a handy explanation (with pics):

Nill Griffe - Frame typesSmith & Wesson
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Old 05-04-2013, 12:45 PM
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Default Model 19

So help me out here! what frame is a model 19??
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Old 05-04-2013, 01:05 PM
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Model 19 is built on a K frame.
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Old 05-04-2013, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Joebklyn View Post
New to revolvers does this relate to hand size?
The letters are merely factory designations to distinguish the sizes of the frames used for the different models.
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327, 357 magnum, 44 magnum, 586, 686, ccw, colt, j frame, k frame, k-frame, l frame, military, n-frame, nill, round butt, ruger

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