Since I'd can't do a podcast for a day or so — well, I could, but you couldn't hear it — I wanted to start writing my SHOT impressions.
First up, I finally got to spend some time Tuesday with Joe Bergeron at S&W. Specifically, I to talk about the whole Night Guard series of revolvers that Scott Moore talked about early on in the Show Show blog. For the last couple of years we've batted around the "fighting revolver" concept...that concept is, of course, a revolver for concealed carry/Real World use as opposed to our currently more familiar semiautos.
Like a bunch of people — most notably the esteemed Clint Smith, who has twisted S&W's arm to get a number of modernized big bore revolvers to the market — I've sort of been obsessed with the concept. In the two years since I first wrote that fighting revolvers blogpost, I've fiddled with a 4-inch AirLite S&W 329 in .44 Magnum, a 4-inch S&W M-21 .44 Special, a custom-built 3-inch 629 .44 Magnum, a custom-built 4-inch .44 Special L-Frame "Mountain Gun," a custom 2.5-inch 1917 .45 ACP, AirLite S&W 296 and 396 .44 Specials, a Taurus .44 Special and most recently a Charter Arms Bulldog. Would it suprise you to hear me say that none of them are exactly what I wanted?
Would it surprise you even more for me to say that apparently S&W channeld my angst and produced a whole line of what I wold have to say are the perfect "fighting revolvers?" Okay, I haven't shot these guns, and the proof is in the pudding, but damn, they look just about perfect!
The Night Guard series includes six guns — the K-framed 315 in .38 Special, the L-framed 386 in .357 Magnum and the 396 in, bless us all, .44 Special, and the N-frame 327 in .357 Magnum, the 325 in .45 ACP and the 329 in .44 Magnum. All will carry the additional "NG" designation on their model numbers. All the guns in the series, which will be available in March, feature 2.5 inch barrels, scandium frames with stainless steel cylinders, XS Dot tritium front sights and the superb Cylinder & Slide "Extreme Duty" fixed rear sights. The guns in the series are bead-blast black, with a PVD coating on the stanless cylinder.
Essentially, each gun comes equipped exactly as I would have spec'ed it (okay, we can quibble about three inch or 2.5 inch barrels, but it's not a breaking point). All the guns weigh in a similar ballpark, with (I think my stats are correct here) the 5-shot L-frame .44 Special at the light end of 24.2 ounces and it's six-shot brother, the 329, at the heavy end at 29 ounces. This is extremely light for a big bore revolver — my 3-inch 629 is about 10 ounces heavier than the 329NG — so yes, with a heavy load they'll thump you...however, the whole line comes equipped with special Pachmayr compact rubber to take some of the sting out.
The coolest thing to me is that ALL of the big bore cartridges are there for your choice...okay, not the .41 Magnum, so Frank James is right now sitting at home and weeping, but he can console himself with the fact that Taurus has reintroduced their light-weight Tracker in .41 Magnum, and he can also begin stocking up on S&W 610s in 10mm, now that they're back on the schedule.
One of the most important points is the stainless steel, versus titanium alloy, in the cylinders. Yes, there's a weight penalty over the AirLite guns...my 396 AirLite Ti .44 Special clocked in at just 18 ounces...but boys and girls, the AirLites are a bitch to shoot. Plus, the. 44 Special are specifically marked for 200-grain or lighter bullets for fear of the heavy, super-fast recoil impulse causeing the bullet to jump the cripm and move forwward in the casing, locking the gun up. The Night Guard is .44 Special carries no 200-grain warning. The slightly heavier NG guns should be a little easier on the shooter. Plus — and this is pure speculation — the slightly heavier weight should elimate the possiblility of a "perfect storm" failure of the lock mechanism, which I am convinced is caused by the speed and amplitude of the recoil pulse through and ultra-light gun.
I asked Joe to go ahead and send me the .44 Special 396 Night Guard as soon as it's available, not as a T&E but as a purchase. I would not be surprised if I ended up with the .38 Special and .45 ACP version as well. Prices, BTW, will be in the $1000 MSRP range, with street prices a couple of hundred bucks lower.
The Night Guards may prove to be the ultimate fighting revolvers!