Editor's Note: View our photo gallery featuring, "Smith & Wesson's Tactical Rail Revolver."
As someone who served in law enforcement when revolvers reigned supreme, I come from the generation that routinely went into harm's way while armed with nothing more powerful than a five- or six-shot Smith & Wesson or Colt wheel gun. Today, semi-automatic pistols are the personal defense weapons of choice for law enforcement officers, military personnel, and legally armed citizens. The question this article poses is whether the eight-shot Smith & Wesson 327 TRR8 .357 Magnum revolver is fit to serve alongside popular semi-automatic pistols. I believe it is.
The first time I saw a Smith & Wesson 327 TRR8 revolver with a five-inch barrel I experienced a flashback to the old days when I worked as a uniformed police officer and I carried a Smith & Wesson Model 10 and a Model 64 with a four-inch barrel. Even though many people who carry pistols will think I am crazy for saying so, I never felt that I lacked adequate firepower or that I was poorly armed when I carried one or two revolvers on duty. In fact, I am firmly convinced that if you are properly trained you can use one or two revolvers and a pocket full of speed loaders to accomplish anything that you can do with a semi-automatic pistol.
Although it seems hard to believe, there was a time in this country when law enforcement officers conducted raids while armed with nothing more powerful than a .38 or .357 Magnum revolver and maybe a shotgun or a lever-action rifle. Whether you like wheel guns or not, the truth is revolvers have a proven track record for being a more than adequate sidearm to carry on or off duty. Keep in mind that even in the real old days plenty of cops armed with revolvers that were loaded with rather anemic ammunition engaged plenty of bad guys who were armed with all sorts of firearms including 1911s and other pistols.
The Perfect SWAT Revolver
The worst thing that can happen to any law enforcement officer is to have your pistol jam when you need to use it to protect life and property. As the story goes, a police SWAT team reportedly contacted Smith & Wesson to discuss the need to arm the lead penetrator who carries the ballistic shield during tactical operations with a revolver instead of a semi-automatic pistol. The rationale behind this request was to provide a handgun to certain SWAT personnel that would not jam or malfunction, especially if the firearm made contact with the ballistic shield or any other obstruction when it was fired. In response, the Smith & Wesson Performance Center developed the Model 327 Tactical Rail Revolver in .357 Magnum with an eight-shot capacity.
In my opinion, the S&W 327 TRR8 is the premier tactical (SWAT) revolver for the 21st Century. Even though any armed professional or legally armed citizen can use a Smith & Wesson TRR8 for personal protection or home defense, this revolver is the ideal sidearm for certain law enforcement officers who participate in tactical operations. In particular, the S&W 327 Tactical Rail Revolver is best suited to be used by the lead penetrator of a SWAT team, especially since this revolver carries as many rounds of ammunition as the average .45 ACP 1911.
When a SWAT team enters a location to search and secure, the lead penetrator is assigned the job of holding the ballistic shield that the team funnels in behind. When this shield is carried the lead penetrator only has one hand free to hold a weapon for personal protection. This means that the tactical officer in the number one position on a SWAT team is generally restricted to using a handgun as a primary weapon.
When it is necessary to use deadly force, the lead penetrator has to hunker down behind his or her ballistic shield while returning fire with a service handgun. Due to the mechanics of a semi-automatic pistol it is possible to have the slide of any service pistol strike the edge of the ballistic shield during firing. Again, this was the rationale behind the original request that was reportedly presented to Smith & Wesson that resulted in the creation of the 327 Tactical Rail Revolver.
Even if the odds of having the slide on your service pistol impact the ballistic shield or the leading edge of a wooden door are incredibly low, it is possible that your pistol could malfunction for any number of reasons. In contrast, revolvers are notoriously reliable. This means that anyone who carries a Smith & Wesson 327 TRR8 is virtually guaranteed to always be able to fire eight rounds of .38 Special or .357 Magnum ammunition without any malfunctions or interruptions in operation.
Since many SWAT teams carry eight-shot 1911s, there is also no loss of firepower to be concerned with when using an eight-shot .357 Magnum revolver. The use of well-made "full moon" ammunition clips enables anyone who operates the S&W 327 TRR8 to execute a combat reload almost as fast as anyone can reload a semi-automatic pistol. As far as recoil is concerned, the S&W 327 TRR8 is surprisingly comfortable to shoot with factory manufactured +P .38 Special or .357 Magnum ammunition. The TRR8 is also amazingly accurate, even when fired with one hand.