Smith & Wesson’s New Nightguard Series Revolvers


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 9th, 2008




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 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.

Model 315NG 386NG 327NG 325NG 396NG 329NG
Caliber .38 Spl .357 Mag .357 Mag .45 ACP .44 Spl .44 Mag
Capacity 6 7 8 6 5 6
Weight 23.8 25.1 28.5 27.5 24.8 28.8
DA Pull 9.2 9.1 9.5 10.4 9.8 11.1
SA Pull 4.75 4.6 4.2 4.6 3.25 4.75
B/C Gap .0035 .004 .005 .005 .007 .005
Frame Size K L N N L N

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.

Revolver Ammo Bullet Weight Velocity Group Size
315NG Cor-Bon DPX 110 932.2 2.25
315NG Buffalo Bore JHP 125 915.7 3.50
315NG HSM LSWC 158 X 1.875
386NG Buffalo Bore LFNGC 180 1182 2.375
386NG Cor-Bon DPX 125 1251 2.125
386NG American Eagle JSP 158 1190 2.50
396NG Buffalo Bore JHP 185 1097 2.375
396NG American LRN 240 X 2.75
396NG Handload SWC 245 659.8 1.25
396NG Remington LRN 245 X 2.675
396NG Speer JHP 200 762.6 1.50
327NG Cor-Bon DPX 125 1223 1.75
327NG Buffalo Bore LFNGC 180 1165 2.375
325NG Buffalo Bore JHP 200 1031 1.875
325NG Cor-Bon DPX 185 1016 1.75
325NG Handload SWC 200 813.9 1.75
329NG Grizzly JSP 250 1055 3.25
329NG Grizzly WFNGC 300 1029 3.125
329NG Handload LSWC 200 933.4 2.25
329NG Remington JSP 180 1383 2.75
329NG Bruin Keith 250 250 1127 1.625

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

For the location of a Smith & Wesson dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at

To order a Nightguard online go to

To order any of the high performance ammunition listed here, go to, or

Jeff Quinn


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).

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.


S&W's new Nightguard revolvers. Top L-R: 329NG, 396NG; center L-R: 325NG, 327NG; bottom L-R: 386NG, 315NG.



Top L-R: 386NG, 325NG, 629NG; bottom L-R: 315NG, 327NG, 396NG.



Stainless blast shield protects frame from gas cutting.



Barrels are stainless steel with Scandium shroud.



XS Sight Systems 24/7 "Standard Dot" Tritium front night sight.



Cylinder & Slide "Extreme Duty" rear sight.



Top strap is factory drilled & tapped for scope mount.



Internal key lock.



325NG uses moon clips for easy extraction of rimless .45 ACP cases.



327NG holds eight rounds of .357 Magnum ammo.