The good old revolver is making a comeback. Not
that it ever went away, but its popularity has waned over the
past few decades with the ever increasing reliability and
firepower of the modern auto loading pistol. Auto pistols have a
well-earned reputation these days, as there have been steady
improvements in their design and execution over the last several
years. The revolver has been declared obsolete before, and
likely will be again, but it is as good now as it ever was, and
in many ways, even better. While Smith & Wesson has
certainly been on the cutting edge of auto pistol development
over the past half century or so, they have not neglected to
steadily modernize their revolver line as well. Introducing the
new X frame size along with the .500
S&W Magnum and .460
S&W Magnum cartridges aimed at the hunting handgun
market, they have also introduced many variations of their other
revolvers as well. The most recent of which is their Nightguard
series of double action revolvers chambered for the .38 Special,
.357 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, and .45 ACP cartridges.
While these new revolvers could serve well as hunting handguns,
they are built for a different, much more serious purpose. The
Nightguards are fighting revolvers. They are built with a
lightweight Scandium alloy frame and a stainless steel cylinder.
The metal is finished in a matte black to reduce glare. The
small metal parts like the hammer and trigger are finished in a
matte black as well. The triggers are wide and smooth for
comfortable double action shooting, and the hammer spurs are
wide and heavily checkered for easy thumb-cocking. The
Nightguards are built on three frame sizes. The Model 315NG is a
six-shot .38 Special built on the K frame. The 386NG is a
seven-shot .357 Magnum built on the slightly larger L frame. The
327NG is an eight-shot .357 Magnum built on the large N frame.
The 325NG is a six-shot .45 ACP built on the N frame. The 396NG
is a five-shot .44 Special built on the L frame, and the 329NG
is a six-shot .44 Magnum built on the N frame.
One of the most noticeable and useful features
of the Nightguard revolvers is the sighting system. The sights
are large, rugged, and easy to see. The front sight is the XS
Sights 24/7 Standard Dot Night Sight, which wears a Trijicon
tritium insert that is easy to see even in total darkness.
It never needs batteries, and is always “on”. Most gunfights
take place in the dark, and the tritium front sight is a very
welcome feature on the Nightguard. The rear sight is a
high-profile yet rugged and unobtrusive Cylinder & Slide
Extreme Duty fixed unit. Both sights are smooth in profile and
easy on both clothing and flesh when carried concealed. Both
front and rear sights are made of steel. The revolvers are also
drilled and tapped for a scope mount, if the owner desires to
use one. The grips are Pachmayr Compacs, and are both
hand filling and comfortable to shoot. If you have a small hand,
you will find that these grips are too large for a comfortable
and secure hold, but grips are easily changed, and while
shooting these handguns, I really appreciated the secure hold
and comfort provided by the Pachmayr grips. For deep
concealment, a set of Eagle Secret Service grips were
tried on a couple of the N frame guns. The Eagles felt good in
the hand, and are a good choice for carry, but for shooting
comfort, the rubber Pachmayr grips were easier on the hand. Each
of the Nightguard revolvers wears a two and one-half inch barrel
that is constructed in the two-piece style with a stainless
barrel and a Scandium alloy shroud. Like most modern S&W
revolvers, the Nightguards have the internal key lock mechanism.
This allows the owner to render the revolver inoperable until
unlocked, if so desired. It can also be ignored, if the owner
prefers to not use the lock. I know some shooters who prefer to
have the lock permanently disabled, and that is an easy
procedure if you choose to do so, but it is not recommended by
Smith & Wesson nor Gunblast.com. However, some shooters do
not trust internal locks, so if you are one of those, don’t
let that stop you from owning a late-model S&W revolver.
With loaded capacities of between five and eight
cartridges, the Nightguards offer firepower approaching that of
many modern compact auto pistols, but with Magnum power and
revolver reliability. For reliable, easy operation, nothing is
as simple as a good revolver. Just point and shoot. Another
often overlooked advantage of a revolver is that it doesn’t
throw empty brass on the ground. This is very helpful to a
shooter who reloads his brass, but can be an even greater
advantage should you ever have to fire the handgun in self
defense. Over the past couple of decades, more and more states
have decided to stop infringing upon the rights of its citizens
to carry guns, but there are still many places in which it is
illegal to carry a handgun. For most of my adult life, it was
illegal to carry a handgun in Tennessee, but I carried one every
day. I am sure that many of you do so illegally as well. Just
because a government makes it illegal to carry, that does not
negate the need to protect oneself and one’s family. An auto
pistol dumps empty cartridges upon the ground, complete with
fingerprints. A revolver does not. Just a small detail that may
or may not matter in your particular situation.
The Scandium alloy frame give the Nightguard
revolvers a relatively light weight for such heavy duty
handguns. The weights vary from about one and one-half to one
and three-quarters pounds, depending upon model. Inside the
cylinder window, just above the rear of the barrel is a
stainless blast shield to protect the frame from gas cutting.
The blackened stainless cylinders are slightly beveled at the
front for easy holstering. All of the six revolvers have nice,
smooth typical Smith & Wesson double action trigger pulls,
and crisp single action pulls. The barrel/cylinder gaps measured
a bit tighter than on most S&W revolvers that I have checked
lately, varying from .0035 to .007 inch. The trigger pull
weights, barrel/cylinder gaps, and actual unloaded weights of
the Nightguard revolvers are listed in the chart below. Trigger
pull weights are listed in pounds. Barrel/cylinder gaps are
listed in inches. Gun weights are listed in ounces.
I fired each revolver for function, accuracy,
and velocity. I used an assortment of ammunition that I thought
appropriate for these revolvers as combat ammo, along with a
couple of handloads. There were no functioning problems
encountered. The accuracy and velocity reading are listed in the
chart below. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second (fps), and
were taken at a distance of ten feet from the muzzle, using a Chrony
Master Beta chronograph. X means that no velocity reading was
taken for that load. Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is
jacketed hollowpoint. JSP is jacketed soft point. LSWC is a lead
semi-wadcutter bullet. WFNGC and LFNGC are gas-checked lead
bullets. LRN is a lead roundnose bullet. Keith is a lead
semi-wadcutter style that was designed by Elmer Keith,
and is probably the most useful handgun bullet ever designed.
DPX is an all-copper hollow-nose expanding bullet. All accuracy
testing was done using a Ransom
Master machine rest at a distance of twenty-five yards.
Group sizes are listed in inches.
||Buffalo Bore JHP
||Buffalo Bore LFNGC
||American Eagle JSP
||Buffalo Bore JHP
||Buffalo Bore LFNGC
||Buffalo Bore JHP
||Bruin Keith 250
I normally test a handgun with every type of
ammo that I have available in that caliber, but with these
Nightguards, since I was testing all six over the course of a
few days, I limited the variety of ammo tested. However, each of
the revolvers displayed acceptable accuracy with most ammo that
I ran through it. Each revolver displayed excellent accuracy
with certain loads, and average accuracy with others, which
illustrates that every gun is an individual, and experimentation
with various loads will usually find at least one good load that
a revolver prefers.
These Nightguard revolvers are some of the best
ever built as defensive handguns. The night sight on the front
and the high profile rear allow them to be brought into action
quickly and accurately. They would also serve well as protection
from wild animals. I often get requests to suggest a good trail
handgun for areas in which a bear or large cat might be
encountered. The magnum Nightguards should prove ideal for this.
They are both light and powerful. They ride on the hip in a good
holster without becoming a burden. If ever needed in an
emergency, a defensive handgun will be needed quickly. A good
revolver can come out shooting without the need to remember to
disengage the safety. Just point and pull the trigger. When it
comes to power, the magnum Nightguards have any compact
semi-auto beat, which means a lot when deep penetration is
needed. Don’t get me wrong; I like a good auto-loader, and I
own a few, but there are times when nothing beats the power,
simplicity, and reliability of a good revolver. If you need a
lightweight, powerful, handgun with Smith & Wesson
reliability, the Nightguard is a good choice.
Check out the Nightguards and other Smith &
Wesson products online at www.smith-wesson.com.
For the location of a Smith & Wesson dealer
near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at www.lipseys.com.
To order a Nightguard online go to www.galleryofguns.com.
To order any of the high performance ammunition
listed here, go to www.buffalobore.com,
www.cor-bon.com or www.grizzlycartridge.com.
|For a list of dealers where you can
buy this gun, go to:
||To buy this gun online, go to:
The web of the shooter's hand is well protected by
Pachmayr's "Compac" synthetic rubber grip.
If a smaller, more concealable grip is desired,
the Eagle Secret Service grip is a great choice.
396NG (bottom) compared to discontinued stainless
Model 696 (top).
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