fill your hand!

Symmetrical wraparound Nill grips on the recently produced Korth revolvers are ambidextrous and nicely hand-filling. I am getting the last two made by Nill for post-1986 Korth revolvers, and have their likes installed on my five favorite Manurhin MR73 revolvers. Original Korth stocks have an open backstrap and a shallow thumb rest just big enough to block a speedloader. They offer a nice rolling fit for the right hand; not so good for the left. Korth revolvers have two kinds of gripframes: the square butt frame on the Sport and Match revolvers, and the rounded butt gripframe on the Combat models. Since every revolver is benchmade individually, factory stocks are hand-fitted to each gun, and cannot be expected to interchange between them, much like the original Magna stocks on S&W Registered Magnums.

The Manurhin MR73 has a uniformly dimensioned, compact grip frame in a true round butt configuration. There are two kinds of factory stocks for the MR73. Most of the early revolvers regardless of the model, and most of the Police and Defense models regardless of vintage, are fitted with abbreviated walnut stocks that follow the contours of the grip frame, except for filling the gap behind the trigger guard in the manner of the pre-WWII S&W grip adapter. They are very comfortable to hold, but require a very firm grip for controlling the roll under recoil, and provide little feedback for a consistent handhold. The factory walnut, symmetrical finger grip Sport stocks fitted to later production Sport and Gendarmerie models wrap around the front strap and extend past the butt in a squared configuration, exposing the typically grooved backstrap. They are more hand-filling and offer better indexing, albeit not to the degree afforded by Nill grips. Full wraparound Trausch rubber grips, which can be had with or without a shelf at the bottom, offer all advantages and drawbacks of their kind.

No revolver designed and manufactured in the U.S. after 1911, was intended or suited for combat, as that destination was interpreted by the makers of Webleys and Nagants. Owing to America’s late entry into WWI, none of them were widely and successfully used in trench warfare, in the manner of the LP08 Artillery Luger. Like the S&W M19, its delicate precursor, the MR73 was designed and built for fighting by the constabulary personnel, not for combat by the military. Its typical application took place 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. His fellow GIGN intervention troopers still choose to carry their vintage Manurhin MR73 revolvers alongside a modern automatic pistol such as a Glock G17 or G19, or a SIG P228 or P2022. Such anecdotes add up to all the data at my disposal, attesting to the relevant user preferences. N.B.: The plural of “anecdote” is “data”.

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.

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 redux

Thanks to everyone at 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.

colt government model vs dwm luger p08

One of my favorite handguns is a 1939 National Match Colt Government Model. It is the first shootable M1911 pattern gun that I ever came across. I call a gun shootable if it throws bullets where I aim it, with high precision and little fuss. All other M1911 handguns that I fired either made too much fuss for my taste or fell short of my expectations for precision. I consider a handgun fussy if it cannot be counted upon to fire 200 rounds fast without acting up. I do not consider it precise unless it can consistently hit a silver dollar at 75 feet. My Colt can do both in style. Most of its brethren fall short in one way or another. Continue reading colt government model vs dwm luger p08