no second place winner

The meeting was billed as “A Salute to Bill Jordan and the United States of America—A Bicentennial Spectacular Celebrating Over 200 Years of Lawfully Armed Citizenry Helping to Preserve Freedom.” Bill Jordan was being saluted because he is a recently retired top field representative of the National Rifle Association, a Marine veteran of the Second World War and Korea, a veteran of thirty years’ service with the United States Border Patrol in Texas, a holder of the trophy for Outstanding American Handgunner, a developer of Smith & Wesson’s Model 19 Combat Magnum revolver and the owner of Serial No. 1, the designer of the quick-draw Jordan holster and Jordan grip now used by many police officers, and author of the widely read book on handgun shooting titled “No Second Place Winner.” Mr. Jordan is also something of a trick shot, and this was to be his last public demonstration of his hip-shooting and quick-draw techniques.


Bill Jordan shooting his S&W M19

    In the lobby of the theatre, before the show, we saw some eight hundred Federation members; a display of nine target rifles; flags saying “Don’t Tread on Me;” a display of historic arms contributed by the New York State Police, including an original 1886 Winchester .36-30 repeating rifle, two .38 pistols, a service Colt .45, and a Thompson submachine gun, all guarded by two smooth-faced, blue-eyed state policemen in gray uniforms; four shiny-helmeted members of the New York National Guard, three with M-16 rifles, arriving in an armored jeep pulling a howitzer; five men dressed as British Army regulars of the eighteenth century, with .757-calibre antique Brown Bess muskets; and one man dressed as a Colonial soldier, who would have looked plausible in his tricorne hat and assorted animal furs if he had not also been wearing lavender-tinted aviator glasses. When Mr. Jordan arrived, the people in the lobby parted before him. He was wearing blue pants and a blue shirt-jacket with white stitching. He was tall and slope-shouldered, and his face looked like a less exaggerated version of Buddy Ebsen’s. He moved slowly, and he smiled and blinked a lot, and he shied away when one of the public-relations men leaned up to kiss him on the cheek. 
    Inside the theatre, we sat behind a man wearing a red blazer and an ankle holster. William G. Kalaidjian, a New York City police chaplain, opened the meeting with a prayer. Then a color guard brought Bill Jordan to the stage, and everybody recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Then Jerry Preiser, a clothing manufacturer and president of the Federation, gave a one-hundred-dollar Courageous Citizen Award to a camera-store owner who last February shot and killed an armed robber in his store. People applauded and cheered loudly, and the camera-store owner smiled and waved back as he accepted the check. Then Dr. Richard Drooz, a Manhattan psychiatrist, who is vice-president of the Federation, made a speech introducing Bill Jordan, which ended, “He has an articulate and beautiful way of relating to people. He has a beautiful sense of humor. And tonight he brings together under one roof the best of the military, the best of law enforcement, the best of humanity.”


FBI’s Jelly Bryce and
Bill Jordan of the Border Patrol
“Gunman’s Crouch” and “Standing Tall”

    Bill Jordan used paraffin bullets for his demonstration. He has a very fast draw, and he shot a number of balloons from the hands of his old Marine buddy Ray Heatherton, TV’s Merry Mailman. Firing from the hip, he hit a white Life Saver and then an aspirin on a table ten feet away. He told the audience one of his favorite sayings from the Border Patrol: “Speed is fine, but accuracy is final.” Then he made a speech about ways in which the National Rifle Association could increase its membership. He encouraged people to tell their hunting companions to join, and he said that he thought Citizens Band radio might also be effective in enlisting new members. 
    After Representative Mario Biaggi made a speech, the meeting broke up. As we were leaving, we heard a Federation member say to the man who had been sitting in front of us, “Hey, there, Paul. Don’t go running off with my handcuffs. Or my bullets.” They both laughed.

The New Yorker, Volume 52, 19 April 1976

how tight are your charge holes?

A few words on another aspect of close clearances. Tight chambers yield better accuracy. Given that revolvers are no longer used for combat, there is no reason to build them with clearances required for reliable operation in the dirt, which would degrade their accuracy. As Bill Jordan put it, “Speed is fine but accuracy is final.” I never had any problems in chambering, cycling, or ejecting good quality ammo in the Korth or Manurhin revolvers. There is only one legitimate reason to make handloads that cannot be chambered in them, and that is to use heavier bullets that cannot be seated deeply enough for the loaded round to fit inside their chambers. You would then be limited to the models endowed with longer cylinders. Otherwise, if you resize and trim the fired brass to the SAAMI spec, it’s all good.

I have used Meyer minus gages to measure the chambers of two representative French and German revolvers, along with their American counterparts. On a 4″ MR73 Police and Defense number C37705, the .382″ gage enters only at the mouth, whereas the .381″ gage goes all the way in. On a 6″ Korth Sport number 32126, the first gage to enter the throat is sized .382″, whereas the first gage to go all the way in is sized .379″. By contrast, on a 6″ S&W Registered Magnum numbered 50138, registration 1829, the first gage to enter the throat is sized .383″, whereas the first gage to go all the way in is sized .380″. Lastly, in a Colt Python numbered 2894, the first gage to enter the throat is sized .382″, whereas the first gage to go all the way in is sized .379″, though the one sized .380″ makes it almost all the way in. I think the previous owner was more fond of firing .38 Special than .357 Magnum.

I am collecting these critical measurements for an ongoing study, meant to correlate them with shooting performance. Tighter chambers should yield better mechanical accuracy, up to a point. Whether or not that can be demonstrated in practice, remains to be seen.

tempus judex rerum

I am thinking about a good way of saying “Time Judged All” in Latin. Curiously, the literal formulation appears not to be attested in literature until its late 18th century use by August Ludwig von Schlözer: “Judex rerum omnium tempus, diligensque Tuorum ministrorum inquisitio, multa inopinata, quae adhuc latent, modo Deus intersit, nobis aperient.” The traditional way of expressing the underlying thought is the Greek “Χρόνος τὰ κρυπτὰ πάντα πρὸς τὸ φῶς ἄγει”, time brings to light all hidden things, of Menandri Sententiae 592, or the more concise “πάντ’ ἀναπτύσσει χρόνος”, time reveals all, of Sophocles’ Fragment 301. In Latin, this thought is rendered by Aulus Gellius in Attic Nights, XII.11, as “Veritas temporis filia”, truth is the daughter of time. Erasmus cites a paraphrase of this thought, “Tempus omnia revelat”, time reveals all things, as Adagia II.iv.17. Francis Bacon amplifies the formulation of Aulus Gellius as “Recte enim Veritas Temporis filia dicitur, non Authoritatis”, truth is rightly called the daughter of time, not of authority, in Novum Organum I.84. Thomas Nashe paraphrases it in English: “Veritas temporis filia, it is only time that revealeth all things.” Shakespeare is more prolix in The Rape of Lucrece 990-1010:

Time’s glory is to calm contending kings,
To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light,
To stamp the seal of time in aged things,
To wake the morn of sentinel the night,
To wrong the wronger till he render right,
To ruinate proud buildings with thy hour
And smear with dust their glittering golden towers;

To fill with worm-holes stately monuments,
To feed oblivion with decay of things,
To blot old books and alter their contents,
To pluck the quills from ancient ravens’ wings,
To dry the old oak’s sap and cherish springs,
To spoil antiquities of hammer’d steel,
And turn the giddy round of Fortune’s wheel;

To show the beldam daughters of her daughter,
To make the child a man, the man a child,
To slay the tiger that doth live by slaughter,
To tame the unicorn and lion wild,
To mock the subtle in themselves beguiled,
To cheer the ploughman with increaseful crops,
And waste huge stones with little water drops.

Few mortal judges enjoy such abounding authority.

A more ominous sense of judging is captured by Ovid in Metamorphoses XV.234-236:

Tempus edax rerum, tuque, invidiosa vetustas,
omnia destruitis, vitiataque dentibus aevi
paulatim lenta consumitis omnia morte.

As rendered by Arthur Golding in 1567:

Thou tyme the eater up of things, and age of spyghtfull teene,
Destroy all things. And when that long continuance hath them bit,
You leysurely by lingring death consume them every whit.

“Tempus edax rerum” is proverbial, e.g. as employed in the slogan “le temps détruit tout” at the portentous ending of the movie Irreversible by Gaspar Noé.

stirred, not shaken

Citing Orwell to the effect that the mixing of incompatible metaphors is “a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying”, is a hackneyed excuse for failing to think independently. Mixed metaphors are as venerable as Plato, whose dialectic gently draws forth and leads up the soul sunk in the barbaric slough of the Orphic myth, in the Republic 7.533d. Likewise, in Timaeus 81c-d, when the root of the triangles that form the elements of living creatures grows slack owing to their having fought many fights during long periods, they are no longer able to divide the entering triangles of the food and assimilate them to themselves, but are themselves easily divided by those which enter from without. Most notably, criticasters have agonized over Hamlet echoing the proverbial Greek usage of “thalassa kakon” in proposing “to take arms against a sea of troubles”. Thus Alexander Pope proposed amending “sea” to “siege”, whereas William Warburton advocated the reading “assail of troubles”. For my part, upon being confronted with such noisome cavils, I repeat the immortal battle cry of Sir Boyle Roche: “Mr Speaker, I smell a rat; I see him forming in the air and darkening the sky; but I’ll nip him in the bud.”

the return of the son of korth and manurhin revolvers

Concerning Python accuracy, Colt used to advertise its Python Elite as accurized to shoot a 2" group at 15 yards. By contrast, Manurhin tested the MR73 to shoot within 25mm (<1") at 25 meters (>25 yards). I am not sure whether or not this disparity in factory requirements makes Pythons less than a third as accurate as their Old World competitors. To the contrary, thus spake Massad Ayoob:

How accurate? From a Ransom rest with Match ammo, the Python will generally deliver about 1 3/8" groups at fifty yards. This is about what you get out of a custom made PPC revolver with one-inch diameter Douglas barrel. My 8" matte stainless Python with Bausch & Lomb scope in J.D. Jones’ T’SOB mount has given me 2 1/4" groups at 100 yards with Federal’s generic American Eagle 158 grain softpoint .357 ammo. The same gun, with Federal Match 148 grain .38 wadcutters, once put three bullets into a hole that measured .450" in diameter when calipered. That’s three .38 slugs in a hole a couple of thousandths of an inch smaller in diameter than a single .45 auto bullet.

I am not sure what to make of this testimonial. Please stay tuned while I gear up for my own round of Ransom rest testing. As for the Korth, here is the official factory statement:

In order to give a statistically covered statement of the shooting performance of our weapon, numerous test series need to be performed. Single shooting results are therefore subjective. For this reason, we abstain from including an original target.

As an aside, this worry didn’t prevent SIG from including an original target with its early P210 pistols, putting ten shots well within a 50mm circle at 50 meters. On the other hand, as I previously mentioned, Willi Korth used to guarantee his revolvers to maintain “the same accuracy even after 50,000 shots fired”. I cannot fathom how this guarantee comports with the more recent disclaimer by his successors, of “a statistically covered statement of the shooting performance of our weapon”. Be it as it may, in an otherwise inaccurate review, Gun Tests reported five-shot groups fired from a bench rest, measuring at the most between 1.6" and 2.2", depending on the ammunition used. While I cannot duplicate these results with a Korth by aiming each shot individually with iron sights, I can easily do so with a 6" MR73 topped with a Docter sight.

As for the relative strength, in my experience Colt Python, Manurhin MR73, and Korth frames are immune to stretching commonly observed in S&W frames. I am sorry to report having personally experienced a forcing cone fracture in my prized 1957 Python. Regardless of round counts, I’ve yet to see such breakage in a Korth or an MR73, despite their dimensional similarity to the notoriously fragile S&W M19. In GIGN service, none of the S&W revolvers could handle the daily practice regimen of 150 rounds of Norma 158 grain .357 S&W Magnum ammo. The MR73 was originally tested with this ammunition. Its torture test was abandoned without observing appreciable wear after firing 170,000 full power Norma .357 rounds. Numerous published tests witness this capacity. According to an article in Cible No. 342 on the MR73, its rectangle of shot dispersion remained the same after firing 20,000 Magnum rounds. The writer concluded that it would take at least 300,000 Magnum rounds for the bore to begin to wear. Several French police armorers confirmed this estimate from their experience with high round counts in service revolvers. Make of their claims what you will.

korth revolvers ride again

In reference to increments cited on 1911forum.com, Jeff Cooper wrote:

In rifle work group size is of some interest, but it is by no means the critical consideration that some commentators seem to deem it. It is well to remember that a rifleman does not shoot groups, he shoots shots. A tight group is nice, but one must not fall into the error of PII (Preoccupation with Inconsequential Increments). I have shot a great deal in a long shooting life, and I have only once encountered a rifle that would not shoot better than I could shoot it. (That was a 32-20 lever gun which had been allowed to rust and then scraped out. In getting the rust out of the barrel, most of the rifling went along with it.)
    Group size is unimportant, unless it is very bad. If you can hit a dinner plate, first shot, every time, under all conditions, at 100, that will do.

I am sorry to say that this nugget of cantankerous cogitation is cute but dumb. Three years ago, its daft but pervasive notion of a gun that shoots better than the shooter inspired me to write this post. To summarize its argument, any mechanical looseness built into your handgun in order to ensure its reliable operation, compounds your errors of aiming, shooting, and following through. Any additional degree of slop caused by stacking production tolerances will degrade your shooting performance, regardless of its level.
    Furthermore, imperious imputations of unimportance to this or that aspect of our avocation, are both unapt and un-American, even when announced by anointed authorities. It may please you to “hit a dinner plate, first shot, every time, under all conditions, at 100”; but that has nothing to do with realizing my interest in doing likewise to a barn door or a silver dollar. We live in a free country, where it behooves everyone to formulate his own goals in the pursuit of happiness, and everyone else, to stay out of his way, inasmuch as he reciprocates in kind.
    Lastly, in the issue at hand, the consequential increment relates not to accuracy, but to ruggedness and durability. I have some remarkably accurate guns, which include two of my favorite centerfire target pistols, the long-barreled W+F 06/29 Swiss Lugers from the 40 pistol Swiss National Match production run for the 1949 ISSF competition in Buenos Aires, won by Heinrich Keller, as discussed in my article linked above and shown in the photo reproduced below. Korth revolvers are not dedicated target guns that distinguish themselves along the same lines. They are optimized for other qualities, which may or may not serve your interests in shooting. Don’t rely on reviewers. Find out what’s important for you, and do as you see fit.


Heinrich Keller of Frauenfeld, Switzerland, aged 40, representing his country with a specially constructed 170mm-barreled W+F 1906/29 7.65mm Luger in his first international event, the 1949 ISSF competition in Buenos Aires.

korth revolvers redux

Thanks to everyone at 1911forum.com for their kind and productive comments. To answer several questions:

  • I am not Jonathan Goldsmith, a.k.a. “The Most Interesting Man in the World”. On the one hand, I too am a Jewish performance artist. On the other hand, I am exactly nineteen years and five months younger than him, my hair still has more pepper than salt in it, I went not to Boston University but to another little college across Charles river, my mother was not was a Conover model but a Russian doctor and WWII veteran, and the only part I play these days is myself.
  • Regarding Colt V-spring revolvers, the Schmidt-Galand design uses its distinctive “double-headed hand” as a kind of sacrificial element. The hand is stressed past its yield point at the moment of firing and bears the brunt of recoil, because as the combustion gases cause the cartridge case to expand, it briefly locks to the walls of the cylinder chamber and transfers most of the recoil momentum to the cylinder, which in its turn bears upon the hand by way of its interface with the extractor star, which at that moment is tensioned by the trigger being squeezed by the shooter’s finger. In a nutshell, Colt’s factory authorized maintenance procedure allows for one-time stretching of the hand by peening. The second time around, the hand must be replaced with a new factory part. The service interval for this work depends on a variety of factors such as the chambering of the revolver and the use of high velocity ammunition that generates a higher recoil impulse. Unlike S&W N-frame revolvers, Colt’s post-WWII V-spring revolvers do not suffer from excessive wear in rapid double action shooting or fast hand-cocking, because their cylinders aren’t oversized with respect to their chamberings, and consequently do not generate an excessive angular momentum, the brunt of which must be borne by the bolt, the counterpart of the S&W cylinder stop, as it slips into the locking notch of the cylinder, bringing it to an abrupt stop at the moment of lockup. But take it easy while cycling your pre-WWII .38 Special and .357 Magnum Colt Shooting Masters and New Service revolvers.
  • Aside from an early run of 20,000 2" and 4" 5-shot revolvers chambered in .38 Special and numbered in the 20xxx range, meant for, but not purchased by, the Hamburg harbor police, no Korth revolver has been made for constabulary service. Certain features of its design make it less well suited for such use than its Manurhin and S&W counterparts. To cite just one factor, the stroke of its ejector rod is comparable to that of a snubnose 2½" MR73, and shorter than that of a full-length ejector rod fitted to MR73 revolvers with 3" or longer barrels. Consequently, rapid ejection may leave one or two expended shells hanging at the chamber mouths of the cylinder. I do not consider this trait appropriate for a service revolver. Aside from that, there remains an issue of economies. Arguably the costliest sidearm ever drafted into constabulary service outside of the petrodollar economy, the Manurhin MR73 was designed and built for an administrative market that formally required extreme precision and durability orders of magnitude greater than that expected from and built into contemporaneous U.S. police sidearms. The aesthetic sensibility of most American shooters derives from an appreciation of fancy sporting goods and service sidearms meant by their makers to be surplused after firing several thousand rounds. Although that is no longer the case owing to the worldwide decline of revolvers in constabulary use, throughout its history Smith & Wesson and Colt never had an economic incentive to forge their gun parts out of tool steel. It was far more cost effective to sinter and machine softer materials, replacing the products under warranty in the rare instances of their being put to hard use. That was not an option for Manurhin in delivering the MR73 to GIGN and SIG, the P210 to KTA. Hence the unexcelled durability and precision of their military and constabulary service handguns, combined with a more or less utilitarian finish in most of their variants. Whereas Korth takes this philosophy to the point that most casual shooters would disparage with a tinge of fascination, as wretched excess. For many European shooters, this is not the case, in so far as their licensing requirements deny them the option of accumulating numerous handguns. By dint of being limited to a few specimens, they acquire a compelling incentive to invest in more durable goods.
  • On the other hand, in my experience, every part on a Korth is significantly more robust than its S&W counterpart. For example, here is an independent testimonial made earlier on this forum, pitting a Korth revolver against a vintage, all-forged S&W M28:

    I mentioned the strength of the metal in the Korth as well as the care of the hand fitting. I began some tests of the Korth vs. the M28. At the beginng of the tests the barrel to cylinder gap of the Korth was just over .0025 while that of the M28 was .003. With just under 200 rounds of heavy hunting loads through both guns the barrel to cylinder gap of the Korth was where it had begun for all cylinders. The M28 however had opended up and varied from .003 to .004. The S&W showed wear and some additional gas cutting on the frame above the barrel from some hot .125 grain loads. The Korth showed no significant wear.

    Please note that the frame size of the Korth falls between those of the K and L frames in the S&W lineup. A 4" Korth Combat revolver weighs 1016g, whereas a 6" Sport model weighs 1175g, as against the 4" and 6" S&W 686 weighing in at 1191g and 1298g, respectively. The Korth cylinder is sized comparably to the cylinder of the late S&W M19, originally known as the Combat Magnum, and takes the same speedloaders. And yet it appears that the Korth withstands the pressures of heavy .357 Magnum loads much better than the S&W N frame. Additionally, the S&W lacks comprehensive single and double action trigger weight and stacking adjustments built into every .357 Magnum Korth revolver. To many European shooters, these factors alone warrant its premium price.

  • We live in a market economy, governed by supply and demand. It is possible to build a rifle to satisfy any reasonable demand. I am having Roger Green build me a switch barrel double square bridge Mauser Magnum on a new old stock Brevex M400 action serial numbered 40, with numerous barrels chambered in .338 Lapua and .416 Rigby, at a cost well above that of a Winchester M70, but well below that of a comparable Accuracy International kit. That way, if untimely bore erosion interferes with my objective to stall a speeding APC or stop a charging elephant, relief will be ready at hand with a quick spin of a barrel wrench. Because handgun construction lacks the modularity of bolt action rifles, this sort of custom production is not available for a Magnum revolver. There is no pistol or revolver counterpart to a Brevex action. I am talking big-bore Magnums with JANZ-Präzisionstechnik. Maybe they will come through with the next best thing.

After nearly 40 years of amateur photography, I am teaching myself the essentials of studio lighting. Next week I should be getting a Broncolor Mobil A2L travel kit to complement the Leica S2 that I use in my performance art. So put your trust in God, and keep your powder dry, while I work on my first gun photo shoot and update my blog thread. And stay thirsty, my friends.

french and german revolvers for sport and social work

I own and shoot a good number of Korth revolvers that I personally imported from Germany on an ATF Form 6. I have a similar number of Manurhin revolvers, which I am able to compare to a passel of Colt Pythons, Bankers and Police Positive Target Specials and Single Action Armies, as well as a good selection of Smith & Wesson’s best, ranging from prewar Kit Guns to Registered Magnums and a Triple Lock Target.

As a preliminary evaluation of these revolvers, here are some talking points.

  1. Based on my experience, the quality ratio of Colt to Smith & Wesson is proportional to that of Smith & Wesson to Harrington & Richardson. The Colts are much better made and more precisely fitted, of finer and stronger materials, than Smith & Wessons. I base this statement on the personally observed differences in working internal parts with a diamond file, and wear and peening in contact surfaces with comparable round counts.
        The Smith & Wesson single stage lockup is not nearly as precise as, but much more durable than, the Colt double stage lockup. The Smith & Wesson bolt is softer but less stressed than the Colt bolt. The S&W action is much easier to work on than the Colt action. All the more so for the Manurhin MR73 action, a S&W derivative relentlessly rationalized in the true Cartesian tradition. The Korth is easy enough to work, but the need never seems to arise. As with the MR73, the only part subject to wear on it is the forcing cone that erodes from firing Magnum ammunition. In principle, the shrouded barrel of the Korth should be relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. In practice, I wouldn’t know how to go about it. The MR73 seems to resist this erosion a little better. The only part liable to break on it is the floating firing pin.
  2. The Colt V-spring action as used in the Python with its “Bank Vault Lockup”, is a licensed derivative of the Schmidt Galand patents. As the trigger of these revolvers is pulled, the double hand forces the cylinder against the locking bolt. The harder the trigger is pulled the tighter the cylinder is locked. Consequently, as the cylinder recoils, it compresses the hand, eventually peening it out of spec. This is all the more applicable to Magnum chamberings never contemplated by the original European inventors. The ensuing requirement for periodic maintenance is the price you have to pay for shooting a Python.
        The basic features of Colt double action revolvers are well summarized by Grant Cunningham: “Colt revolvers have actions which are very refined. Their operating surfaces are very small, and are precisely adjusted to make the guns work properly. Setting them up properly is not a job for someone who isn’t intimately familiar with their workings, and the gunsmith who works on them had better be accustomed to working at narrow tolerances, on small parts, under magnification.” On the other hand, by referring to a copy of Kuhnhausen’s shop manual, I was able to fit a new bolt to one of my Bankers Specials using NSk calipers, S&W screwdrivers, the diamond-coated file of a Leatherman Charge TTi, and a wooden shaft. So I agree that Colt actions are highly refined. I also agree that they require working at narrow tolerances, on small parts, under magnification. But much of that is within the reach of a hobbyist equipped with a $30 manual and $200 worth of hand tools.
        In this regard, Grant Cunningham says: “On a properly timed Colt, the cylinder bolt (which is the piece in the bottom of the frame window) will drop into the cylinder’s locking notch just before, or just as, the hammer reaches full cock (in single action) and just as the sear releases (in double action.)” On the other hand, every Colt double action revolver that I own, including unfired and factory overhauled guns, fails to carry up when thumb-braked in the course of cocking the hammer, though it carries up when the cylinder is free to rotate in the course of cocking the hammer, no matter how slowly I cock it. So either this tuneup represents a factory error, or the factory rightly or wrongly considers this condition normal.
  3. The Manurhin MR73 is the best fighting revolver ever made, designed as a significantly improved S&W, crucially strengthened at the yoke, ingeniously refined at tensioning the hammer and the rebound slide, and manufactured to the quality standards of 1950s Colts. I have tried the current S&W revolvers. There is no comparison. In a nutshell, an early Python is a better revolver than a Registered Magnum, in the same sense whereby a Ferrari 330 P3/4 is a better car than a Ford GT40. But the MR73 is the only revolver I would take in harm’s way, in the way I would choose the Citroën ZX over the Ferrari and the Ford for entry in the Paris-Dakar rally.
        American shooters tend to be impressed by popularity. Smith & Wesson is the most successful revolver maker in history, and the biggest handgun maker in the world. But these ratings attest to the quality of S&W handguns in the same way, and to the same extent, as the international market proves that the Big Mac is the king of burgers. To disparage Manurhin for refining the S&W Hand Ejector instead of following the example of Willi Korth in designing a revolver from scratch, is to disparage Colt for copying Schmidt-Galand designs in the wake of its homegrown failure to develop a robust and reliable double action revolver. The problem with S&W is not design, but quality. Their basic action layout is capable of uncompromising performance, as witness this Manurhin chambered in .32 S&W Long, beating match guns by S&W, SAKO, and Walther. But in order to get a current production S&W to perform like that, you would have to rebarrel it and replace its MIM lockwork with increasingly unobtainable forged parts. And even then, it will not approach the quality of Manurhin’s hammer-forged frame, barrel, and cylinder.
        The SIG P210 remains my favorite autopistol. I consider the Manurhin MR73, the last and best revolver to be designed and adopted for constabulary service, as its wheelgun counterpart,. Apart from the gloomy Olivier Marchand polar, my favorite MR73 story unfolded on the day after Christmas of 1994, when Captain Thierry P. of GIGN entered the hijacked Air France Flight 8969 plane, grounded at the Marseille airport. He served as the point shooter, armed with a 5¼” .357 Magnum Manurhin MR73 and backed by his partner Eric carrying a 9mm HK05 submachine gun. Thierry killed two Islamist terrorists and wounded a third with his revolver, before taking seven bullets from an AK47 fired by the fourth hijacker. In spite of then absorbing a full complement of grenade shrapnel in his lower body, Thierry P. survived the assault, as also did 171 hostages. Not so the four terrorists, who had been planning to deploy the plane as an incendiary missile against the Eiffel Tower. Thierry could have armed himself with any firearm. He chose an MR73. I have mine at my side right now.
        You cannot appreciate a tool without considering its intended purpose. Like the SIG P210, the Manurhin MR73 was designed and built for an administrative market that formally required extreme precision and durability orders of magnitude greater than that expected from and built into contemporaneous U.S. police sidearms. The aesthetic sensibility of most American shooters derives from an appreciation of fancy sporting goods and service sidearms meant by their makers to be surplused after firing several thousand rounds. Although that is no longer the case owing to the worldwide decline of revolvers in constabulary use, throughout its history Smith & Wesson and Colt never had an economic incentive to forge their gun parts out of tool steel. It was far more cost effective to sinter and machine softer materials, replacing the products under warranty in the rare instances of their being put to hard use. That was not an option for Manurhin in making deliveries to GIGN and SIG, to KTA. Hence the unexcelled durability and precision of their military and constabulary service handguns, combined with a more or less utilitarian finish in most of their variants.
  4. The Korth is by far the best made modern revolver, comparable in quality only to the best of the pre-WWI classics, from the French M1873, the Mauser M1878, and the Swiss M1878 and 1882. It is equal in mechanical precision to a Target Triple Lock, and far superior to it and the Registered Magnum alike in ruggedness and durability. Among post-WWII revolvers, only the first generation Colt Pythons compare to it in fit and finish. It is arguably the best sporting revolver ever made, as distinct from a social work tool such as the MR73. Its lockwork is hand ground out of steel forgings and deep hardened. It is nowise stressed at ignition, resulting in unexcelled durability and enabling Willi Korth to guarantee the same accuracy even after firing 50,000 Magnum rounds. Its design incorporates some Colt traits such as clockwise cylinder rotation, within an original layout that bears some resemblance to S&W two-point lockup and transport. Its ingenious hand detachable yoke is a great boon to regular maintenance, and its spring tensioned ejector built into the optional 9mm Para cylinder is the best such system that I ever used with rimless ammo in a revolver.
        Korth revolvers are a breed apart. For all its mechanical excellence, the MR73 is fitted and finished like a Seventies handgun. Whereas the fit and finish of Korth revolvers rivals that of an S&W Registered Magnum, if not quite coming up to the standard of a Triple Lock. Speaking of the latter, it was obviously easier for S&W to achieve their superb surface preparation before they belatedly followed the example of Colt by starting to heat-treat their revolvers in 1920. Doing it nearly as well with steel hardened to a remarkable grade of 60 RC is a testimony to the diligence of Willi Korth. Like the MR73, a Korth revolver never wears in normal use, except for the inevitable forcing cone erosion caused by firing Magnum ammo. Every S&W revolver I ever saw suffer a high round count had its cylinder notches thoroughly peened. Every double action Colt revolver I ever tested, including brand new and freshly factory tuned specimens, failed to carry up in hand-cocking the hammer while braking the cylinder. Nothing of the sort is evident even in hard worn MR73 or Korth revolvers. And unlike the MR73, the Korth is refined to a fare-thee-well, with mirror finish on the major components and barely discernible joints between them. It is, however, a quintessentially sporting handgun, with the tightest possible clearances between its moving parts and a finely tunable two-stage double action trigger pull that is not meant for fast combat style shooting in the Bill Jordan fashion. If you want a range toy, the Korth is your finest choice. If you want a top notch tool for social work, get an MR73 or a P210.

I cannot answer the question of subjective value. In Germany, used Korth revolvers of the latest design cost between 1,200 and 3,500 Euros, depending on the condition, configuration, and luck of the draw. By contrast, you would have to spend between 700 and 1,800 Euros for a used Manurhin MR73, and between 400 and 1,000 Euros for a used Colt Python. To put this in perspective, my nicest blue steel Korth cost me around $2,200 to acquire and import in a large combined lot. I wouldn’t part with it for three times that price.