the revolvers of willi korth

Willi Korth was born in Stargard / Pommern on 11 July 1913. He learned machining and toolmaking at the Deutsche Reichsbahn between 1930 and 1934. Ten years later, in the summer of 1944, he briefly worked at Mauser-Werke under contract as an independent designer of military small arms. In August of 1950 Korth moved to Ratzeburg. Next year he found a job as a manager at the Hubertus Metallwerke in Mölln. In 1952 Korth resigned to pursue his own designs. His first effort was a blank firing gas revolver. The few gas revolvers, designed and manufactured by Korth in the winter of 1954/55, are now sought after as collector’s items.
    On 1 October 1955, following the expiration of the postwar ban on German manufacture of firearms, Korth founded a company in Ratzeburg under the name of Willi Korth, Waffenfabrikation. In September of 1955 Korth exercised his first manufacturing license for firearms. In 1962 he designed and manufactured his first revolver, initially chambered in .32 S&W Long, the highest caliber allowed by the terms of his license. Instead of a traditional cylinder release on the left hand side of the frame, the cylinders of these revolvers were unlatched from the frame by pulling forward the head of the ejector rod. The crane lock was released by the leftward push of a button located on the right hand side of the frame under the cylinder, whereupon the entire crane assembly complete with the cylinder would slide forward for removal from the frame.
    The first series production of Korth revolvers began in 1964 with the police revolver chambered in .38 Special, serial numbered 20xxx. In 1965, Korth introduced 4″ and 6″ barreled six-shot revolvers in .22LR and .22 Magnum, and five-shot models in .357 Magnum, serial numbered in the 21xxx series. The subsequent 22xxx/23xxx series appeared in 1967, comprising a small run of 6″ revolvers in .357 Magnum and .38 Special, as well as .22LR, plus a few 4″ .357 Magnums. Its new feature was a torsion trigger spring mounted on a stud accessible on the left-hand side of the frame, and fixed with a set screw on its right hand side. This arrangement allowed an easy adjustment of the trigger pull weight between 1kg (35.274 ozs) and 2.5kg (88.185 ozs) without disassembling the revolver.
    The 24xxx series, introduced in 1969, featured another innovation in the trigger action, patented in Germany as DE 1904675 A1, designed for a precise and tunable stacking transition in double action, achieved through the use of variously sized rollers on the trigger impinging upon the double action sear on the hammer. Thenceforth every revolver was shipped with five numbered metal wheels of different diameters that ranged from No.1 (0.283″) for the hardest stacking transition to No.5 (0.293″), for no stacking at all. Korth also added the second cylinder lock, achieved by latching the head of the axially fixed ejector rod inside a lug located under the barrel. Because the head of the ejector rod was no longer accessible for manipulation with the cylinder latched, Korth added a pivoting lever at the right side of the hammer to cause the cylinder release. The floating firing pin with its spring was retained in the frame by a transverse pin. Finally, the exposed coil mainspring gave way to the definitive sleeved telescopic design inspired by the MP38 recoil spring.
    The production of the second, Combat revolver variant started in 1973, with the first 15 specimens numbered in the 27xxx and continuing in the 28xxx series. They upped the centerfire cylinder capacity from five to six rounds and featured a rounded grip frame, a ramp front sight combined with a low mounted rear sight. Most significantly, they initiated the transition from the one-piece barrel topped with a ventilated rib and fitted with a short locking underlug, reminiscent of Dean W. King’s patented 1936 custom conversions of S&W revolvers, to a two-piece assembly comprising a tensioned barrel surrounded by a shroud topped with a ventilated rib and fitted with a full-length underlug, in an arrangement that referenced Colt’s 1955 Python externally, while replicating Karl R. Lewis’patented 1967 design originally realized by Dan Wesson. Throughout their production, Combat barrels varied in length between 77mm and 82mm, nominally designated as 3″. Meanwhile, the Sport revolvers retained their one-piece barrel fitting, with both five- and six-shot cylinders available through the 28xxx series.
    In the series 29xxx begun in 1974, Korth co-branded his revolvers with Dynamit Nobel serving as a distribution partner. All revolvers in this series were fitted with six-shot cylinders. The 30xxx series completed the transition to the two-piece barrel construction and introduced the optional 102mm or 4″ Combat barrel configuration. Finally, the 32xxx series introduced the definitive, semi-slabsided profile of the barrel shroud. All these features remained unchanged in the 1980 33xxx series, which for the first time added the 6″ Combat configuration. Meanwhile, beginning in 1978, Willi Korth had refocused his design work on a new autopistol, considering the action of his revolvers fully perfected. From the first five prototypes with features patented in Germany as DE 3111037 A1 and DE 3203991 A1, and produced in 1982, the manufacture of the first series did not start until 1989. The pistol never succeeded commercially, owing to lack of development and the initial price of $6,750.00.


Korth revolver parts:

1. Frame
2. Barrel assembly
2.1 Barrel
2.2 Barrel shroud
2.3 Front sight •
2.4 Front sight retaining pin
2.5 Front sight Target Model •
2.6 Front sight retaining screw
2.7 Barrel shroud screw
3. Sideplate
4. Cylinder
5. Extractor
5.1 Extractor spring for rimless cartridges
6. Crane
7. Extractor axle
8. Cylinder retaining pin
9. Spring guide rod
10. Return spring for extractor
11. Extractor axle head
12. Spacer bushing
13. Cocking spring
14. Extractor axle guide bushing
15. Circlip for cylinder mount
16. Plunger for cylinder stop
17. Compression spring for cylinder stop
18. Retaining screw for #16 and #17
19. Crane locking piece
20. Compression spring for #19
21. Retaining nut for #9
22. Locking screw for trigger spring stud
23. Trigger spring stud
24. Trigger spring pawl
25. Trigger torsion spring
26. Trigger
27. Cylinder stop bolt
28. Pin for cylinder stop
29. Cylinder hand
30. Double action roller •
31. Guide pin for the hand and double action roller
32. V spring for the hand
33. Hammer cocking cam
34. Retaining pin for #33
35. Hammer complete with axle
36. Double action sear
37. Compression spring for #36
38. Retaining pin for #36
39. Pin for #40
40. Hammer strut
41. Bushing for hammer spring
42. Mainspring •
43. Mainspring guide housing
44. Cylinder release lever
45. Cylinder release lever plunger
46. Spring for #45
47. Firing pin
48. Firing pin return spring
49. Firing pin retainer pin
50. Rear sight tang for Model Sport
51. Rear sight blade for Model Sport
51.1 Rear sight blade for Model Combat
51.2 Adjustable sight blade for Model Combat
51.3 Retainer for elevation for Model Combat
51.4 Rear sight with blade for Model Target
51.5 Rear sight blades for Model Target •
51.6 Locking screw for sight blades
52. Elevation screw for Model Sport
52.1 Elevation screw for Model Combat
52.2 Elevation screw for Model Target
53. Compression spring for elevation
54. Steel ball for elevation
55. Snap ring for elevation screw
56. Windage adjusting screw for Model Sport
56.1 Windage adjusting screw for Model Combat
56.2 Windage adjusting screw for Model Target
57. Windage screw retaining pin for Model Sport
57.1 Windage screw retaining pin for Model Target
58. Leaf spring for rear sight
59. Cylinder locking plunger with retaining spring pin
60. Compression spring for cylinder locking bolt
61. Locking bolt for cylinder lock
62. Retaining pin with compression spring for #61
63. Trigger pivot screw
64. Sideplate screw
64.1 Fitted pin for side-plate
65. Lower retaining pin for grips
65.1 Single retaining pin for Match grip
65.2 Upper retaining pin for grips
66. Trigger stop screw
67. Grips
68. Grip screws (pair)
69. Grip screw bushings (pair)
70. Stop pin for hand lever spring

• Variable dimensions.


    Willi Korth’s revolvers were benchmade by five gunsmiths at the rate averaging about 120 pieces a year. In contrast to the mass production standards, Korth revolver parts were neither cast nor milled. They were ground in the course of hard fitting from steel forgings that boasted a tensile strength of 1,700 psi. Each revolver required 70 man-hours that comprised 600 distinct operations. Their major components were surface hardened up to 60 HRC on the Rockwell hardness scale. The original production of Korth revolvers ended in 1981 with the serial number series 33xxx, adding up to a total of 7141 revolvers in calibers .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .22LR, and .22 Magnum, with barrel lengths ranging from 3″ to 6″, fitted with 6-shot rimfire and both 5- and 6-shot centerfire cylinders. The three main variants were the Combat, the Sport, and the Target models, some of which were finished as engraved luxury pieces.

    Korth turned over his business with all inventory, tools, and drawings to count Nikolas von Bernstorff on 30 June 1981. The company continued as Korth GmbH & Co. KG, its payroll peaking at 30 employees during the following decade. Its initial production comprised the 1982 transitional series 34xxx and 35xxx, still made under their inventor’s personal supervision. Following Korth’s resignation due to failing health in 1983, his successors produced the 36xxx, 37xxx, and 38xxx carbon steel series, mostly from the legacy parts fabricated and blanks forged by Willi Korth. They also introduced the Fxxx matte-finished Profi series priced 25% below its luxurious siblings and added the optional 5¼” barrel configuration and .32 S&W Long chambering. Additionally, in 1985 there appeared the short-lived Sxxx matte stainless steel series, highly sought after by collectors today. Starting with the 36xxx series in 1986, the top strap of the Korth frame was made about 0.5mm thicker, adding around 9 grams to its weight. Additionally, the crane was modified with a new cylinder bushing, which eliminated the gas check relief cut of the original centerfire revolver design. These modifications strengthened the revolver and improved its cylinder support, at the cost of accelerating the erosion of the forcing cone.





1985 Korth 4″ Profi Sport



    Willi Korth died on 10 October 1992, leaving the development of his autopistol unfinished, with its production by his successors falling short of the inventor’s design goals in accuracy and reliability alike. In mid-1999 Korth GmbH underwent bankruptcy following a long production slump. Its assets were taken over in April 2000 by the Armurerie Freylinger of Luxembourg. Over the following years, five gunmakers employed by Freylinger produced the 39xxx and 40xxx series, briefly expanding into the American market by establishing a subsidiary in the United States in 2001 in a joint venture with Earl Sheehan, an independent importer of Walther firearms. In 2001, they introduced the finish option of plasma TiAlN PVD surface coating in satin and matte styles, which boasted exceptional abrasion resistance. Since 2002, Korth revolver aficionados benefited from their comprehensive historical and technical analysis by Veit Morgenroth, arguably the most detailed investigation of a sporting firearm ever to be published. Regrettably, this treatise neglected the contributions of Korth’s successors, which included the Triple Lock, the externally tensioned mainspring, and switch-barrel configurations developed under the management of von Bernstorff.
    In November 2008 the original Korth factory in Ratzeburg clodsed its doors. But six months later, on 22 April 2009, Andreas Weber and Martin Rothmann revived the Korth trademark in Lollar near Giessen. The new owners of Korth exhibited their 41xxx revolver series and autopistol prototypes in 2012 and 2013, both at IWA in Nürnberg and the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. In the sequel, I shall examine some representative Combat and Sport revolvers manufactured by Willi Korth and his successors.

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]guns.

shot 2012

I went to the SHOT Show. Here are my impressions.

Sauer’s Legendary P210 is back in three variants. The standard fixed sight model is complemented by two adjustable sight variants, the Target with its standard 120mm-barrel and the 150mm-barreled Super Target. This lineup suggests that the original Swiss micrometer sight fitted into the standard milspec dovetail is no longer cost-effective. Since Dobler’s dovetail-mounted compact adjustable rear sight can be had for around half the cost of the traditional unit, Sauer’s new adjustable sight shared by the Targets and the Super Targets, with its housing milled en bloc with the slide, is also an instance of deliberate branding. The new integral rear sight is a less dedicated target shooting setup, moderately compromised in its sight picture, stability, and adjustment in comparison with its dovetail-mounted predecessor.

The safety lever of the Super Target has been made more familiar to M1911 shooters by relocating its pivot behind the hammer action retained by a Torx T15 screw, from its traditional forward position in the foregoing P210 variants. As explained in my Legend review, this arrangement appears to have been derived from an Ergosign design exercise long touted by Karl Nill. In addition to this modification, the Super Target’s frame also differs from the standard frame employed by SAN in its 2003 longslide version of the P210, in its newly extended dustcover, presumably adding a little extra precision to its alignment with the slide. The retail pricing of the new Super Target model, at $3,626.00, is set on par with similar going rates for previous P210-5 variants, cutting in half the current collector value of the original P210-5LS long slide pistol. Its street price in Germany is around 2,300.00 €, including the 19% excise tax, which may be refunded for export shipments.

While Sauer may have the capacity to improve on the Swiss originals in the long run, its initial efforts to do so failed in several ways. Five shot test targets fired at 25m have shown a spread comparable to that of SIG’s original ten shot test targets fired at twice that range. Initial changes in the control levers of the Legend left them poorly secured, while the lateral magazine release caused the omission of the trigger stop. Newer Legends appear to correct these shortcomings with their reconfigured slide stop spring, augmented safety detent, and abbreviated trigger stop free of interference with the lateral magazine catch. In this connection, I recommend consulting Barhin Bhatt’s excellent review of his fixed sight Legend variant, briefly available on the SIGforum.

All Sauer P210 variants are built on heavy frames, descended from P210-5 SN P54980 designed by the Swiss marksman Reiny Ruess and his friends at SIG. A special series from SN P79101 to 79150 has a heavy frame. Around three hundred of P210-6 pistols with forged heavy frames, for example those numbered between P76521 and 76620, or between P79621 and 79720. They can readily be found in Europe, at around twice the prices of comparable standard forged frame specimens. According to Vetter and Armbruster, CNC guns with heavy frames are found numbered P309600, P309650, P309660, P312382, P316550, P321108, etc. All P210-8 variants made by SIG, and all P210-6S and P210-5LS variants made by its Swiss Arms Neuhausen (SAN) successors with a lateral magazine catch, also had the heavy frame. If the newly reconfigured spring can secure the slide stop in the frame of the P210 Legend, the Sauer heavy frame design will represent an improvement over the Swiss standard and heavy frames, in virtue of deleting the slide stop spring retaining pin, originally press fitted into a hole drilled in the frame at a location subject to stress during the firing cycle. Nevertheless, reports of fractured Swiss heavy frames are conspicuous by their absence in hundreds of thousands of recorded individual round counts, so the structural benefits of this arrangement are likely to be moot. Besides, stainless steels used by Sauer in the construction of their pistols, are unlikely to exhibit the same wear characteristics as carbon steels formerly used by SIG and SAN, in particular appearing to be considerably softer than their predecessors. Along similar lines, it bears notice that unlike the traditional Swiss oxide finish, Sauer’s Nitron, a vacuum furnace heat treatment of physical vapor deposition, creates a surface buildup that results in tolerance stacking and complicates the assurance of proper clearances, consistently with anecdotal reports of various malfunctions observed in the Legend by European and American shooters.

A NIB P210-6 might fetch between 900 and 1400 € on eGun.de, more for special variants. I don’t know of a comparable online resource in Switzerland, but Kessler’s prices for vintage SIG P49 and P210 pistols are running high. The SIG P 210-S, “Versuch Schweden” SN P59699, which the auctioneers had estimated at Sfr. 7,000/14,000, sold for Sfr. 19,000 plus the auctioneer’s premium. Its approximate counterpart among Swiss Lugers, the W+F P29, “Versuch” SN 100000, of questionable authenticity according to Bobba’s study of its kind, and estimated at Sfr. 18,000/36,000, sold for Sfr. 43,000 plus the premium. These prices are likely to represent world records for a SIG P210 and a W+F 06/29 Luger. As ever, the ongoing economic crisis is continuing to inflate the values of high-end collector items. Notably, these values suggest the ongoing emergence of the P210 as an object of serious collector interest.

I have been assembling published materials and tracking U.S. online sales on the P210 Facebook page. I invite my readers to contribute to this resource, as well as similar pages for Korth, Korriphila, and Manurhin MR73. Among notable trends, sporadic availability of newly manufactured P210 Legend magazines does not appear to have affected the $150-200 going rate for used originals. California shooters will be heartened to learn that IGB Austria now lists 120mm and 153mm P210 barrels for 245.83 €, with P210-5 front sight threads and slots and CIP proofs costing 45.84 and 12.08 € extra. (Ready availability of unthreaded 6" barrels make the P210 eligible for circumventing the CA DOJ drop test via the “single shot exemption”.) In Germany, Waffen Verwertung, a.k.a. Schäfer & Schäfer, continues to offer 120mm polygonally-rifled P210 barrels at 198.00 €, while Harald Berty lists like items at nearly three times the price, along with complete 6" top ends, at 1,995.00 €. Note that all claims on behalf of barrels stabilizing lead projectiles should be evaluated against the twist rate specification.

In related news, Fabryka Broni Łucznik-Radom returned with its elegant 2010-rollmarked Wz.35 VIS Semiautomatic Pistol, once again projected to retail for $450.00, less than one tenth of the current value of a decent Polish Eagle specimen. Regrettably, my inquiries about a wholesale import order in response to the 2011 appearance of the Radom VIS have gone unanswered by its makers. I would welcome the return of this classic M1911 derivative, second among them only to the SIG P210 in intrinsic accuracy, ruggedness, and durability. If I may be allowed to daydream, the revival of the long-lost 1937 Argentine test .45 ACP prototypes, would stand a good chance of rendering M1911 variants obsolete in the U.S. civilian gun market. The VIS Radom now benefits from a handsome Study and Photographic Album of Poland’s Finest Pistol, compiled by William J. York, more than sufficient to alert a new generation of shooters and collectors to the virtues of these remarkable handguns, documented among the official Swiss 1941 inspirations for the SIG P49 replacing the W+F P06/29 Lugers and M1882/29 revolvers in military service.

The sole Swiss gunmaker in attendance was KRISS Arms Group, with its subsidiary Sphinx, claimed to be the last remaining swiss handgun maker. Previously imported by ill-fated Sabre Defense Industries, Sphinx handguns, designed by the late Martin Tuma, have been absent from the U.S. market since 2005. It remains to be seen whether their customizable target handgun can succeed where Tuma’s previous design for ASAI failed, offered at less than one-fourth of the price projected by Sphinx for its deluxe CZ-75 derivatives. Likewise, I am not holding my breath for the XXIst century revival of the Tommy gun, touted by KRISS since 2008.

Italian gunmakers were well represented in both the traditional formats of double-barreled shotguns and black powder and cartridge historical replicas, and novel designs exemplified by the Chiappa Rhino revolver firing from the bottom chamber in the manner of its Mateba Unica and Stechkin OTs-38 predecessors. I was not surprised, though sorely disappointed, to see French firearms industry missing in their entirety. I would have loved to see such classics as sliding breech Darne shotguns, traditional doubles and up to date self-loaders made by the venerable Verney-Carron, or the constabulary wheelgun counterpart to the P210 service pistol that is Manurhin MR73, still produced in small batches by Chapuis. But that was not to be, as yonder cheese-eating surrender monkeys made themselves scarcer than accordions at a deer hunt, at the world’s most important gun show.

By contrast, the Germans invaded Nevada in force. I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of Korth, though their handguns, custom-made at the annual rate of around 300 units, are still not officially imported into the U.S. The most exotic piece on display was the Niebelungen Magnum revolver made out of Damascus steel pattern welded by Markus Balbach, and pre-sold for $32,500.00. Korth’s “classic revolver” with its externally adjustable trigger and cylinder yoke retained in the frame by a quick-release latch, starts at 5,000.00 €. Its current version is mechanically similar to the final iteration of Willi Korth’s design, and should be likewise capable of delivering the same accuracy even after firing 50,000 rounds of full-powered .357 Magnum ammo. I would not expect the same performance from revolvers made out of pattern-welded steel, but Korth’s top of the line products are clearly not made for such shooting duty. Zombified presence of Mauser’s latest incarnation was once again distinguished by the outrageously priced, traditional controlled round feed M98 rifles punctuating the banal lineup of their switch-barrel, push-feed M03 would-be successors. Among the real players descended from their Oberndorf am Neckar original, HK showed its piston-operated Stoner rifle derivative, which struck me as unremarkable despite its commercial success.

Surefire showed its innovative, 200 Lumen hard-anodized aluminum-bodied 2211 wristlight powered by a lithium-ion battery recharged through a mini-USB port. Like many of its other impending offerings ranging up to the 2,000 lumen UDR Dominator, it features an LED fuel gauge reminding the operator to recharge his light long before it begins to dim. If all goes as it did with its Invictus, we can look forward to Surefire delivering these lights before 2015. In the meantime, I invite my faithful readers to visit the web pages dedicated to my favorite service and sporting handguns:

http://larvatus.livejournal.com/tag/p210
http://larvatus.livejournal.com/tag/mr73
http://larvatus.livejournal.com/tag/korth

Shooters and collectors seeking advice or assistance in this regard are very welcome to address me with all their questions and requests. Lastly, I have a small assortment of Swiss, French, and German handguns available for adoption in good homes. Please look below for addressing your inquiries.

Michael@massmeans.com | Zeleny@post.harvard.edu | 7576 Willow Glen Road, Los Angeles, CA 90046 | 323.363.1860 | http://www.subrah.com |
http://larvatus.livejournal.com | “All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett

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 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.