December 18, 2020
Ask gun enthusiasts about Korth revolvers and you’ll see either a look of confusion or longing come across their faces. Many shooters have never heard of the German brand, and even fewer have actually shot a Korth revolver. But those who have aren’t likely to forget the experience, and thanks to a partnership between Nighthawk and Korth, Germany’s über-accurate line of world class revolvers will once again be available to American shooters.
New this year from Korth is the NXR, a Teutonic take on the all-American .44 Magnum wheelgun. And while parts of the NXR look downright familiar, this revolver has some touches you won’t see on any other firearm. Could it be possible that the very best .44 Magnum handgun is actually made—gulp—outside the United States? We’ll see about that later, but first let’s take a quick look back at the history of one of Germany’s finest firearm manufacturers.
Willi Korth was born in Stargard, Germany, in 1913. In the years leading up to the Second World War, Korth was employed by the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the German national railway, and in the years following, he worked at Mauser-Werke small arms. In October 1955, the postwar ban on firearms manufacturing ended in Germany, and that same month Korth applied for his first firearm manufacturing license.
Twenty years after Korth began making experimental gas revolvers in his basement, his namesake company became one of the premier revolver manufacturers in the world. During the 1970s, benchrest and bowling pin shoots were popular, and that increased demand for high-end revolvers. Willi Korth was ready, and revolvers like the Korth Combat were shooting just as well or better than anything else on the market—and winning fans to the brand.
Korth revolvers were unquestionably good, but the company languished throughout the 1990s. By 1999 Korth was bankrupt, and it seemed the German revolver brand was destined to become a footnote in gun history. But in 2008 Martin Rothman took over the reins at Korth, and since then the company is back in the black. This was accomplished by blending the old-world craftsmanship with modern machining and metallurgy. The results have been fantastic.
The recent partnership formed between Nighthawk owner Mark Stone and Korth’s Rothman has also been advantageous, too. And while a company that primarily makes semiauto pistols in the United States and a German company best known for its revolvers may not sound like a perfect match, the Nighthawk/Korth partnership seemed a natural fit.
“It’s funny how similar the two companies are in many ways,” said Bob Reeves, customer service and custom shop manager at Nighthawk. Both companies, he said, have a “one gun, one gunsmith” manufacturing philosophy, and as a result, these guns also share similar fan bases. North and Nighthawk buyers demand a premium product, and both companies deliver just that.
The Korth NXR .44 Magnum is a six-shot, double-action revolver based on Korth’s large frame, which is only slightly larger than the company’s medium frame found on guns like the Mongoose .357.
The NXR comes with a six-inch steel barrel surrounded by a barrel housing. The barrel housing features angled vents on the sides for faster cooling, and it comes equipped with top and bottom rails. The bottom rail allows shooters to add or remove barrel weights, and there are two separate rail sections on the top of the gun: one five-slot rail on top of the frame and another four-slot rail on the front top portion of the barrel housing. Between the two top rails is a small section of ventilated rib.
In addition to all that top rail space for mounting optics, the NXR comes equipped with iron sights. The blacked-out notch rear sight has serrations to reduce glare, and the sight adjusts easily. Using a flat head screwdriver, turn the elevation screw (located on the rear portion of the top strap) counterclockwise to raise point of impact. The smaller screw in the right side of the sight assembly allows the shooter to adjust windage, and turning the screw clockwise moves point of impact right. Adjustment clicks are pronounced and consistent, and there are reference lines to measure left/right adjustment of the rear sight.
The ramped front sight is a serrated black blade. It features dual removable side panels.
The NXR’s cylinder release is located just to the left of the hammer. The lever cylinder release is one of the hallmarks of Korth guns, although many current models like the Mongoose have a more traditional frame-mounted sliding cylinder release. On older Korth revolvers, the release lever is actually located on the right side of the hammer.
The design and positioning of the cylinder release allows shooters to open the cylinder without breaking their grip on the gun, and positioning the release on the left side of the gun makes more sense for right-handed shooters. Incidentally, the cylinder’s direction of rotation has also changed. On older Korth guns, the cylinder turns clockwise. On new Korths, like the NXR, cylinder movement is counterclockwise.
The right side of the NXR’s frame sports a silver button that stands out against the gun’s black DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating. To remove the cylinder, swing it free from the frame, press the button and slide the cylinder forward.
It’s a simple system that’s also quite robust, but the .44 Magnum version doesn’t offer the ability to quickly switch between calibers. For example, Korth offers 9mm cylinders to accompany its .357 revolvers, and thanks to some German engineering, the 9mm cylinder doesn’t require moon clips. This cylinder release also eliminates any excuse you have for not cleaning every nook and cranny of your revolver.
The Korth’s DLC finish is smooth and even, and it stands up well to abuse. DLC is fast becoming the finish of choice on firearms that are subjected to rough handling on a regular basis. Hardness, wear-resistance and a low coefficient of friction are all reasons why a DLC coating is a great choice for a high-end gun, and the contrasting black and silver metal parts adds to the NXR’s high-end look and eye appeal.
A heavy gun like the 50-ounce NXR needs a solid handle, and Korth outfits each of these pistols with oversize Turkish walnut grips. It’s the same grip design you’ll find on the Korth Ranger, a grip design by outdoor writer and wheelgun aficionado Sheriff Jim Wilson. The grips are plenty large for even the biggest hands, and the broad, flat base works well for benchrest shooting. The fit on these grips is so good it’s difficult to see the seam between the two grip halves, and they make shooting full-house .44 Magnum loads more pleasant and manageable.
The perfect fit and finish is a hallmark of Korth revolvers, and that level of quality isn’t just reserved for the grips, either. Because these revolvers are hand-fit and hand-finished (one gun, one gunsmith, remember?), the timing and operation are flawless. The hand effortlessly rotates the cylinder with each pull of the trigger, and the lockup is rock-solid.
In single-action mode the trigger on the test gun broke at 3.6 pounds without a hint of creep. But where the NXR really shines is double action. One of the unique features of the NXR is its roller system design. Traditionally, the contact points between the trigger and hammer of double-action revolvers are flat. The Korth, by contrast, features a roller that contacts the hammer and that allows makes for a much smoother trigger pull.
In double-action the trigger broke at 8.1 pounds, and the pull was exceptionally clean. There are three different rollers that can be swapped to adjust trigger pull weight, and those who prefer noticeable stacking in their trigger can have the gunsmiths at Nighthawk Custom swap out the rollers for the desired amount of tension on the trigger.
The NXR is not a light gun. The one sent for testing weighed 49 ounces without the barrel weight and 55.8 ounces with the barrel weight attached. That’s about average for a full-size .44 Magnum, with Smith & Wesson’s N-frame 629 Classic weighing slightly less (48.4 ounces) and Ruger’s Super Redhawk weighing slightly more (53 ounces).
The barrel weight is a nice addition to the NXR, and it allows you to customize the gun’s balance. Removing it is simply a matter of removing four hex-head screws.
The NXR’s overall length is 11.65 inches, width is 1.72 inches, and height is 6.38 inches. Suggested retail price starts at $5,299 and goes up depending upon any additional features you’d like to add, say, a compensator. That kind of price places the NXR out of reach of a lot of shooters, but is the Korth’s price commensurate with its performance?
Range testing .44 Magnum revolvers can be a real bear, but as .44s go, the Korth NXR is quite manageable to shoot. That oversize, Jim Wilson-inspired Turkish walnut grip really fills the hand, and it provides a comfortable and secure grip on the gun. Plus, like I said, the large, flat base of the grips worked well shooting off the bench.
The grip angle reminds me of a Ruger Super Redhawk, but the superb Turkish walnut sets the NXR apart. It’s not particularly showy in terms of wood grain, but the grips are beautifully fit and functionally designed, and the understated design complements the rather radical vent cuts on the barrel housing.
I’m not sure why Korth opted to color the cylinder release on the left side of the gun bright red, but the mechanism itself functions perfectly well. Using it becomes intuitive, and I was afraid that space might be an issue when placing the cylinder release so close to the hammer. But like everything else on this hand-fit gun, the cylinder release operates smoothly, and the cylinder swings wide from the frame for easy loading and unloading. And although the NXR’s push-button removable cylinder doesn’t allow for caliber swaps like the Mongoose, it remains a nice feature for cleaning and maintaining the gun.
Adjusting the NXR’s rear sight is fast and easy, and the precise click adjustments allow you to dial in quickly. The traditional black post-and-notch style sights are fine for target shooting, and I used them to accuracy test the revolver.
With so much available rail space, it would have been easy to attach a reflex sight to the NXR and accuracy test it that way, but because the preponderance of .44 revolver tests in the magazine base accuracy on iron sights, that’s what I decided to use. I know what most six-inch factory .44s shoot, so firing five-round groups from the NXR using iron sights gave me a pretty clear understanding of how well this revolver stacks up to the competition.
The answer is it stacks up quite well. I expect most factory six-inch .44s to shoot between two and three inches for five shots at 25 yards from a fixed rest, and that’s exactly what most will do. The NXR did noticeably better: 1.5- to two-inch groups were common, not an exception. It’s safe to say there is a noticeable decrease in group sizes when shooting the NXR as compared to similar iron-sighted .44 Magnums.
I did shoot a few groups with a Sightmark Mini Shot M-Spec in place, and the groups shrank even further. Mount a red dot on this gun and it will go under an inch at 25 yards for five shots.
If the NXR’s accuracy is a step above the competition, its function and operation are two steps above anything else. Everything from hammer pull to cylinder rotation to the trigger is buttery smooth. The hammer spur on the NXR is smaller than on older Korth guns, yet it’s still easy to reach.
But if I had to pinpoint one factor that sets this $5,000 revolver apart from the list of other .44 Magnums on the market, it’s simple: double-action trigger pull. The Korth double-action trigger is smooth, light and even throughout the pull thanks to the wheel design. My Wheeler gauge told me it was eight pounds, but I’d swear it was less, and it’s easy to shoot this gun well in double-action mode.
After the benchrest portion of the range test was complete, I fired several rounds at torso targets from 10 yards offhand without cocking the hammer. Firing Black Hills Honey Badger .44 Special ammo, I could consistently punch star-shaped holes into the vitals of the torso target offhand. The barrel weight helped with offhand accuracy, too. It helped keep the muzzle balanced through the trigger pull and mitigated muzzle rise.
The NXR is a superb handgun that’s built with premium machined parts in a state-of-the-art factory, and there’s little doubt to its claim as the finest handgun in the world. Is it worth $5,000? I guess that depends on your tastes and budget, but bear in mind that mountain rifle hunters and wingshooters head to the field every year with hunting guns that are worth $5,000.
If you’re still rolling your eyes at the price tag, keep in mind that as of this writing Nighthawk is sold out of the Korth NXR .44 Magnums. That’s right—if you want one, you’ll have to wait.
Building the world’s best revolver is a lofty goal, but it seems Korth may have done just that. I suspect founder Willi Korth would be happy to see where his namesake company is today, and his company’s partnership with Nighthawk Custom will ensure Germany’s royal revolver keeps showing up in the States.
Korth NXR Revolver Specs
- Type: Single-action/double-action revolver
- Caliber: .44 Magnum
- Capacity: 6
- Barrel: 6 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 11.7/6.4/1.7 in.
- Weight: 49 oz.; 56 oz. w/barrel weight
- Finish: Armor-Tuff
- Grips: Turkish walnut
- Trigger: Single action, 3.8 lb. pull; double action, 8.1 lb. pull (measured)
- Sights: Fully adjustable black rear notch; black post front w/removable side panels
- Price: $5,299
- Importer: Nighthawk Custom, NighthawkCustom.com
Korth NXR Revolver Accuracy Results