Smith & Wesson focuses on the handgun hunter with its M350 big-bore revolver. The pistol features the X-Frame and delivers seven rounds of the hunting round. Not to mention the level of accuracy and reliability that you want in any hunting scenario.
The Smith & Wesson M350 X-Frame Hunting Wheelgun Review
It is often said that the thrill of the hunt is not in the kill but in the chase. And if you think of your most memorable hunts, you will undoubtedly recall the preparation involved. Everything from gear selection to scouting to the final stalk and even adding the last few ounces to the trigger to break your shot were important.
What you harvest is the result of months and even years of planning and experience and, sometimes, luck. Of all the factors involved in a successful hunt, however, the one you don’t want to rely on is luck. Having a dead-nuts reliable gun that is accurate and possesses adequate power for your quarry, is essential! This is even more critical for handgun hunters.
When Smith & Wesson recently rolled out the Model 350—an X-Frame revolver chambered for the relatively new 350 Legend cartridge—they left nothing to chance. The gun is built from the ground up as a dedicated hunting gun. For this reason, it possesses many features that savvy handgun hunters demand!
All of the M350’s major components are machined from stainless steel—from its beefy cylinder that easily contains seven 350 Legend rounds to its massive X-Frame, to its 7.5-inch barrel with a full-length underlug and serrated integral top rib.
To understand the desirability of the new M350 as a hunting handgun, we must first understand the cartridge.
Winchester’s Latest Legend—The .350
Winchester introduced the 350 Legend cartridge in 2019 as a new option for Midwest and Eastern states that offer a straight-wall cartridge big game season. Regions that previously offered shotgun-only seasons because of nearby populated areas began looking for new ways to cull deer herds.
Archery and primitive gun seasons helped, but more states have included a straight-wall cartridge season. By design, straight-wall cartridges have limited range, in contrast to bottleneck cartridges like the .30-06 or .243. Winchester lists the cartridge’s maximum range as 250 yards.
The straight-wall case has no taper, is 1.71 inches in length, and is loaded with a .357-inch diameter projectile. Its overall case length of 2.25 inches and .378 inches nominal rim diameter were purposefully chosen by Winchester ballisticians. The purpose of that is to work within the confines of the AR-15 platform.
In fact, most AR magazines will work without modification with the 350 Legend cartridge. Handloaders will be able to select projectiles from 125 grains all the way up to 280 grains. As a result, they can customize their loads based on their needs. The versatility of the 350 Legend cartridge is what caught Smith & Wesson’s attention.
Full Moon Monty
Winchester’s new Model 350 uses the X-Frame as a platform because of the round’s overall length. S&W chambers the big, beefy cylinder for seven rounds, and there is plenty of meat between the charge holes. S&W includes two stainless steel moon clips with the gun, and it is easy to clip the 350 Legend rounds into them at the round’s extraction groove.
The gun can be fired without the moon clips. However, you’ll need a pencil or similarly sized dowel to punch the rounds out of their chambers. The moon clips do not hold the rounds rigidly. So, it can be a chore to line up the rounds with the chambers.
The easiest way I found was to put my index finger through the moon clip’s center hole and hold it 90 degrees to the charge hole while slowly easing the rounds into the chambers.
Suffice it to say, you will not be doing speed reloads, like Jerry Miculek does with his M625 loaded with .45 ACP rounds that he literally throws into the cylinder. Given the gun’s chambering, you should not be hunting dangerous game with it, anyway.
S&W outfits the M350 with a 7.5-inch barrel with a full underlug and integral top rib. This gives the gun the sight radius needed for distant shots and also gives it a decidedly muzzle-heavy balance. Additionally, S&W cuts a vent at the top of the barrel and internally cuts an expansion chamber inside the barrel. These features are designed to vent gas through the port to drive the muzzle down for quicker follow-up shots.
The Impressive Trigger on the S&W M350
What impressed me most about the new M350 was its lock-work. The double-action trigger pull registered at just 8.25 pounds! It is smooth, and you can feel the cylinder bolt lock into place just before the hammer falls. Considering the mass of the M350’s cylinder, I was amazed that S&W engineers could deliver such a relatively light double-action trigger!
Smith & Wesson equips the M350 with a standard width trigger. It is devoid of any grooves or serrations and has radiused edges for smooth double-action shooting. Cocking the behemoth’s hammer is easy, and it possesses a sharply checkered spur. This is because S&W understands that most hunters will take advantage of the gun’s light and crisp single-action for a precision game shot.
My test sample, when firing single action, required just 3.25 pounds of pressure to break.
The Test Zone
My M350 showed up not long after our summer monsoons had started. Here in the desert southwest, our salvation are these annual rains. They not only break the blast-furnace heat but also turn our normally brown scenery emerald green.
My two range sessions with the M350 were in the afternoon, and temperatures were in the mid 80’s, with little wind. I honestly couldn’t have asked for better weather.
I set my targets out at 25 yards and used a Shoot N C 2-inch diameter target. All rounds were fired from a seated rest with the M350’s barrel underlug resting on a Millett BenchMaster. All rounds were fired single-action for accuracy, five rounds to a group.
I’ll have to admit I had a bit of apprehension before firing the first cylinder of ammo. Accuracy was so-so, and I knew that the anticipation of the muzzle blast and concussion were causing me to flinch.
After a few cylinders, I settled down and started producing some nice groups. I was able to easily adjust the sights to the point of impact. After 100 or so rounds, an unrelenting thunderstorm forced me to pack my gear and head home.
Taking the M350 Out for a Second Spin
My second outing with the M350 went even better, and groups continued to shrink. Both loads featured a 170-grain spire point bullet going between 1,450 and 1,500 feet per second (fps). Likewise, they produced between 800 and 850 foot-pounds of energy.
My two best groups were 1.25 inches to 1.39 inches at 25 yards. My only criticism of this revolver is there is no provision for mounting a red-dot or low-magnification scope to stretch the M350’s legs. I know this gun is capable of making distant hits—beyond what I am capable of with iron sights.
It probably won’t take long for Smith & Wesson to offer a Performance Center gun or production model with the ability to mount an optic.
I had brought along two MGM BC C-Zone steel targets and set one out at 50 yards. From my bench I was able to produce a seven-shot group of about 4 inches while shooting it single action. The other target I set out at 25 yards and had no problem making all seven hits, shooting it double-action.
Is the S&W M350 Ready To Hunt?
The more I shot the M350, the more I began to like it and become more comfortable with it. It went from being a concussive, fire-breathing monster to a comfortable, precision gun. This makes it perfect for hogs, javelinas, whitetail and Coues deer, antelope and coyote.
There was nothing painful about shooting it. And the Hogue-style finger groove grips and recoil absorbing 4.5 pounds of weight made shooting the gun a blast!
If you’re a hardy individual who enjoys the challenges of handgun hunting, the new Smith & Wesson M350 chambered for the 350 Legend cartridge might be just what you’ve been looking for!
It possesses inherent accuracy, complete reliability and is entirely machined from rust-resistant stainless steel. Priced at $1,599, the M350 represents a tremendous value for those in search of a medium-size game-getter!
Smith & Wesson M350 Specs
|Overall Length:||13.5 inches|
|Weight:||4.5 pounds (empty)|
|Sights:||Adjustable rear, ramp front with red insert|
|Hornady 170 Spire Point American Whitetail||1,500||849||1.24|
|HSM 170 Spire Point||1,454||798||1.39|
Bullet weight measured in grains, energy in foot-pounds, velocity in feet per second (fps) by tripod and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 25 yards.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Tactical Life magazine. Get your copy today at OutdoorGroupStore.com.