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.