Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Period & Exclmation Point on the Concept of the "Fighting Revolver"

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 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!


Anonymous said...

Michael: I hope your voice returns and you get your rest before enduring the indignity of continued air travel.

As for my weeping over the .41 Mag, I'm actually in mourning. Smith & Wesson has NO, as in Absolutely NONE, .41 Magnums of any kind in their 2008 product catalog. It's a sad day in Magnum-ville.

And Yes, I saw that cute little Taurus with the proper bore dimension at SHOT.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Eric said...

Any plans for S&W to offer them all as part of a set, at a discount?

Me like!

Anonymous said...

They are beautiful guns. I've not had the pleasure in this life to spend time with a .41 Mag but there were several standing about the S & W booth lamenting the lack of their favorite caliber and cartridge.

I'm in love with .45 ACP after getting smoked for too many years by JM with his signature revolvers at the ICORE championships. I can't tell how a .45 moonclip loads in combat but Jerry chucks 'em in there. Oh yeah, that boy can shoot too.

Lots of great guns in the S & W stable after those lean years. And the Night Guard series is a great addition. Any word on light rails coming to more S & W revolvers ala the Thunder Ranch .45 ACP? I'm going to break down and buy one for a bed side shooter but the thought of a dull black gun with a bright light and laser combo hanging under a big hole has appeal.

Doug said...

The 315? The Combat Masterpiece snubby is BACK?


Anonymous said...

Yes, but....not until S&W loses that freakin' lock system.

Anonymous said...

For me, personally, the 38 Special 315 makes the most sense for my use. I just wish Smith had brought out the gun as an Airweight w/aluminum frame instead of the high priced Scandium.

Anonymous said...

"this is pure speculation — the slightly heavier weight should elimate the possiblility of a "perfect storm" failure of the lock mechanism"

So the stinking lock is still there in the wheelgun even though people don't use it, don't want it, and can order their semiauto without it? WTF???

Nice little guns..but you WILL NOT find me carrying a weapon for SD that has parts in it that are designed to render it inactive. Plinking, yes. SD, no freakin way.

Yes parts break, wear and shit happens that can turn my handgun into an expensive club.
I can replace parts and springs on a schedule and try to keep the goblins of misfortune at bay. The lock is there solely to screw the potential shooter.
ALL my Smiths don't have locks. There won't be another is my safe fresh from the factory until they dump the stupid idea.

"Fighting revolver?" Not with that crapper hole in the side.

They want to sell in states that demand locks?
Man up and pull a Ronnie Barrett on them. They wouldn't lose sales if they put out some revolvers that gun writers could show a picture of *left* side of the gun!


Anonymous said...

The new S&W "stable" sounds great. I'm still concerned about the internal lock. I'm also concerned about the long list of recalls on the S&W website. It lists too many of their recent releases. Michael, what was the defined root-cause of the failure on your gun?
As far as a heavier cylinder on a light-weight frame, the inertia of the cylinder has to be wrestled by that frame during recoil. That loads the frame and the attachement of the cylinder to it; namely the crane/cylinder pin assembly. To me, a heavier frame and lighter cylinder is more appealing.
As far as the .41 is concerened, the Model 610 in 10mm is a viable alternative. "Moon Clips" of the 2X, 3X, or "full" configuration give flexibility. You can also shoot .40 S&Ws in it. Balistically, it isn't off too much from the .41. I've got an original 6 1/2" 610 and it's the most accurate revolver that I've ever shot. It's also offered in 4" now and those are sweet. There're many ammo choices too, including low-cost stuff. A few of the 1911 makers chamber their guns in it from time to time and they sell out quickly. 10mm is the best kept secret of the defensive caliber world, IMHO.
Life Member

Anonymous said...

I tell you what this is one time I wish I was rich because I would buy one of each!
I've been waiting a long time to see these types of fighting revolvers come back. I know I know a semi auto is the go to gun right now but one on one these revolvers are fast and effective.
It looks like S&W did it right except for leaving out the 41 magnum%^&^$^*&*@#@!

Anonymous said...

NRA MEMBER IN IDYLLWILD CA I think NG is a great idea and the 396 is on the list in CA! I ordered in from BIG JOHN'S FIREARMS of YUCAIPA. I've used a MODEL 19,KAHR'S IN A POSI BOX, MODEL 64.But this has all the bells and whistles already for a revolver!

Anonymous said...

Life Member
Last week I finally received my 396 ng. I took the box home and immediately noticed that the stainless blast shield that is supposed to be on the underside of the top strap above the cylinder/barrel gap was missing. The top strap had'nt even been machined to accept this part. I contacted smith and wesson and they said I needed to return it to them for for the installation. The really great part of this is that when I asked what the turnaround time would be, they said I should get the gun back "sometime in September". So much for quality control on a $1000 revolver.

muebles guipuzcoa said...

This can't have effect in actual fact, that is exactly what I consider.