September 24, 2010
If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that at least 90 percent of the handguns sold today are semiauto.
That's not to say that revolvers don't have their fans. They do, and those fans tend to be pretty dedicated. But the fact is, unless one likes Westerns and Dirty Harry, semiautos tend to have more appeal. They are faster in the hands of most shooters than a revolver, hold a lot more cartridges, are typically reloadable quicker and just simply have more cool factor.
I am one of the aforementioned wheelgun guys. And, yes, I like Westerns, and Clint Eastwood is one of my heroes. And as much as I realize that the semiauto will dominate the future of handgunning, I'm reluctant to believe that it is a better choice for everyone.
Recently I had a chance to test a revolver that stacks up well against any semiauto, and it's one of the coolest guns around.
The Smith & Wesson M&P 327 TRR8 (Tactical Rail Revolver 8) is capable doing almost anything a semiauto can do and some things it can't do. Basically a souped-up version of the 327 Performance Center revolver, the M&P TRR8 was designed for--as the name indicates--military and law enforcement use.
In order to keep weight to a carryable limit, the frame of the revolver is built of a scandium alloy. The cylinder and five-inch barrel are stainless steel, and the barrel is mounted in a shroud--a design that has many advantages, superior accuracy among them.
The cylinder holds eight rounds of .357 Magnum cartridges, which is the same number as a 1911 pistol, and is more powerful than the revered .45 ACP.
S&W 327 M&P TRR8
|Smith & Wesson, www.smith-wesson.com, 800-331-0852
|10 1/2 inches
|adjustable rear, dot front
|Hogue rubber (standard)
|scandium alloy N frame
The cylinder is also cut for moon clips, so reloading is a snap, and with a little practice reloads are just as fast as with any semiauto pistol. Yet--and this is the neat part--since the .357 is a rimmed cartridge, the revolver functions just as well with loose ammo; no moon clip needed. Show me a semiauto that works without a magazine.
Optics, if desired, are easily attached through use of the provided top rail mount. The top of the barrel shroud is drilled and tapped, the mount easily attached, and best of all, the iron sights are still usable with the rail mounted, as the plane of the rail sits below that of the sights.
Attaching scopes, red dots, and so on is as simple as clamping them to the mount and can provide an added level of performance in certain areas. I really like the fact that a handgun scope in quick-detach rings can be mounted in a matter of seconds, and that provides a significant improvement in long-distance capability--an option that simply doesn't exist in the world of semiautos.
What hotshot, self-respecting sidearm today is complete without a bottom rail for a tactical light? I must admit that at first I was mildly amused by the rail milled into the bottom of the 327 TRR8's barrel shroud. I suppose that law enforcement officers (which of course the revolver is designed for) may need a light on occasion, but for us citizen types, I figured the rail was 110 percent cool but useless.
That was before I attached SureFire's new X300 light and a Leupold 2.5X scope at the same time. Suddenly it dawned on me that I now had the capability of making precision shots at night--out to ranges of 50 yards or more.
As soon as I had the chance, I was out prowling my friend's back field after dark, looking for a marauding skunk that had been in his chickens. I never did find that skunk, but I was amazed at how well the combination of the powerful light and the scope worked in the dark. I could easily discern and aim at objects way out there. If the light touched it at all, I could get a clear sight picture on it.
I figured that there was only one thing missing to make the TRR8 a true jack of all trades: a set of Crimson Trace Lasergrips. The 327 TRR8 is an N-frame, and the Crimson Trace grip designed for it is as comfortable, if not more so, than the factory grip. And, of course, there is that spectacular little red dot it casts onto the target.
After an afternoon of shooting with the iron sights just to break in the handgun, I cleaned it, attached the scope, and headed back out to see what the 327 TRR8 could really do. Since I had the Leupold scope aboard, I decided to stretch the test distance to 50 yards. I fired three consecutive full-cylinder eight-shot groups with each type of ammo that I had on hand, without allowing the revolver to cool between groups.
Some of the results were simply spectacular. Others were about what I would have expected from a quality revolver. The results can be seen in the accompanying chart.
ACCURACY RESULTS: S&W 327 M&P TRR8
|.357 Ammo Type
|Bullet Weight (gr.)
|Avg. Velocity (fps)
|Avg. Group (in.)
|Speer Gold Dot
|Winchester Partition Gold
|Speer Gold Dot
|Black Hills +P JHP *
|* .38 Special load.
Notes: Velocity recorded 10 feet from the muzzle with a Shooting Chrony chronograph. Accuracy tested off a bench rest; results are the average of three eight-shot groups at 50 yards.
One tendency I did notice was that groups opened up just a bit as the handgun heated up. I'm sure that had I allowed the gun to cool between groups, averages would have been even smaller. In fact, most loads grouped under two inches for the first string, with one--the Winchester 180-grain Partition load--grouping into an amazing 1.06 inches.
If I were to hunt big game with the 327 TRR8, that would definitely be the load I'd choose. It's a full-house high-velocity load with a premium, heavy bullet and should perform very well.
After I finished my testing, I spent some time shooting steel silhouettes at 100 yards. Ringing the ram and pig was a cinch, and I worked my way down to a three-inch square swinger. Much to my amazement, I connected about four out of five shots off the sandbags.
When I had the chance, I took the revolver along on a Wyoming prairie dog hunt. At one point my buddy and I left the bench to stretch our legs, and I brought along the 327 TRR8. We managed to get within 50 yards of several of the large rodents. After missing a couple offhand, I settled into a sitting position, got steady, and dropped one with a perfect shot. I never could have done that with an iron-sighted semiauto.
While breaking it in, I ran the revolver through its paces without the scope to evaluate its ergonomics as a combat handgun. Balance and pointability are superb. Operation of the cylinder latch and ejection plunger rod is smooth and solid. The single-action trigger is excellent, and the double-action, once broken in, was satisfactory, although it never did get as smooth as the other Performance Center pieces I've handled.
The rear sight is an adjustable, V-notch blade and was the source of the only other complaint I had. While clear and quick enough to pick up, the blade was slightly loose in its channel, and sight adjustment was slightly sticky. I also would prefer a square notch.
The interchangeable front sight, on the other hand, was great. Sturdy and nicely contoured, it sported a white dot for easy acquisition. The only way to improve it would be to replace the dot with a tritium insert for night work.
Rapid-fire capability with the gun is excellent. Double-taps with full-power .357 loads were smooth and fast, and when stoked with +P .38 Specials muzzle jump was almost nonexistent. I fired 200 rounds rapid-fire at 15 yards and managed to keep all my shots in the vitals of a torso target, until I got bored and began trying to double-tap head shots. Then it became a little tricky. Still, I managed to keep about 80 percent of my shots within the outline.
Reliability wasn't even a question, of course. It's a revolver. What can happen? As expected, it functioned flawlessly throughout the time I had it.
The M&P TRR8 is a handgun capable of any real-world scenario that might arise--and then some. It is a combat-ready handgun that carries eight rounds of powerful cartridges (flat-shooting enough to provide real 100-yard capability) and can be fitted with a scope or other sight in a matter of seconds.
It provides rugged durability and simplicity. It will never fail. It would be at home on a rancher's hip in Montana or a detective's in Miami. Action shooting, hunting or home defense are all right up its alley.