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Reviews : Arsenal

Smith & Wesson Night Guard Revolvers

S&W's new lightweight but powerful wheel guns make excellent backup and off-duty weapons.

May 01, 2009  |  by Paul Scarlata - Also by this author

While the revolver's popularity among American police forces has taken a nose dive in the past few decades, Smith & Wesson has recently introduced a new line of revolvers that I believe will engender new interest from law enforcement, especially for concealed carry by undercover officers and as an off-duty or backup gun.

Night Guard revolvers are now available in three frame sizes: K, L, and N-frame. Buyers also have a choice of .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, and .45 ACP. The K-frame Model 315 NG is a six-shot .38, while the two L-frame guns are the 386NG, a seven-shot .357, and Model 396NG, a five-shot .44 Special. There are three N-frame guns: Model 327N holds eight rounds of .357, while the Models 329NG and 325NG hold six rounds each of, respectively, .44 Magnum and .45 ACP (using half or full moon clips).

All six come with 2.5-inch barrels, practical matte black finishes, and Pachmayr Compac grips. The entire line is very light, weighing 24 to 29.3 ounces unloaded. In fact, they are so similar looking that it is very difficult to tell them apart at a glance.

Scandium Alloy

Night Guards feature a frame constructed from a special alloy that contains a small amount of Scandium, a rare metal that has the ability to transmit its strength and flexibility when alloyed with other metals, in the case of the Night Guard revolvers, aluminum. This allows the construction of lightweight frames capable of standing up to the operating pressures of Magnum cartridges.

But the Night Guards differ from S&W's other lightweight revolvers in that a replaceable blast shield made of thin, hardened steel is positioned above the cylinder/barrel gap where it prevents hot powder gases from "cutting" the frame's top strap.

While it would have been possible to use titanium cylinders to reduce the weight of the Night Guard revolvers even further, S&W decided to fit them with stainless steel cylinders featuring a Physical Vapor Deposit (PVD) matte black finish that provides increased protection against salts, solvents, powder residue, abrasion, and just about any other problem the revolvers may encounter.

Great Sights

Night Guard revolvers feature what just might be the most practical set of sights I have ever seen on revolvers intended for service use. The XS Sight Systems 24/7 Big Dot front sight has a tritium insert surrounded by a large white ring, making it equally visible in the dark or in bright light conditions. The rear sight is a Cylinder and Slide Extreme Duty fixed unit whose generously proportioned "U" notch allows a fast sight picture and alignment under a variety of light conditions.

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