The scandium-frame/stainless-steel-cylinder Night Guard revolvers made quite a stir when Smith & Wesson announced them in 2008. It’s kind of hard to believe it’s been two and half years since then. The first models were chambered for .44 Magnum, .44 Special, .45 ACP, and .357 Magnum.
Now there’s one in 10mm/.40 S&W and one in .41 Magnum, and that’s the one I was waiting for. I’m a real fan of the .41 Mag. round. But I have to warn you, don’t be fooled by the gun’s model designation. You see, it’s called the Model 357 Night Guard. For some reason I just can’t seem to associate that number with a gun chambered for the .41 Mag.
Like its littermates, the new Model 357 .41 Mag. Night Guard has a fixed, U-notch rear sight by the Cylinder & Slide company and a tritium bead front sight by XS Sights. It also wears the same matte black finish and similar rubber Pachmayr grips as the other Night Guards. And its barrel length is 2.5 inches just like the other Night Guard wheelguns.
The Model 357 has a six-round cylinder, and the gun weighs just shy of 30 ounces unloaded. It’s built on S&W’s large N-Frame, which in this case has a rounded butt.
The Night Guard series was designed for self-defense, and to my way of thinking two aspects of the Model 357 make it perfect for that application. They are the short, 2.5-inch barrel and the easy-to-carry weight of 30 ounces. As many of you know, the classic full-length Model 1911 auto pistol generally weighs about 39 ounces with a 5-inch barrel. By comparison, the Model 357 Night Guard is almost 10 ounces lighter. That’s almost three-quarters of a pound less. And as I’ve said so many times before, the 1911 is revered as being one of the most comfortable-to-carry full-sized guns ever produced.
Obviously, the Model 357’s shorter barrel makes it easier to pack than a full-length 1911, and the revolver is just slightly thicker than the slim 1911 (0.25 inch to be exact).
The Model 357 is not only comfortable to pack around, it’s also very comfortable to shoot with 175-grain ammo that generates on average about 400 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. It’s not so pleasant to shoot with full-power 210- and 250-grain loads, though. They churn up muzzle energies in the 500 to 550 ft-lbs range, and that extra oomph really makes a difference in the scandium-framed revolver. Accuracy with all loads at 25 yards was well within what is generally expected for self-defense guns (the chart lists the details of my shooting of three factory loads), and at ST’s standard self-defense distance of 21 feet, the Night Guard produced darn near one-hole groups for five-shot strings with each load. You can’t ask for more than that.
The smooth 0.43-inch trigger was crisp and consistently broke at 4.25 pounds, single action. The double-action pull was more than my old Lyman trigger pull gauge measures, which tops out at 8 pounds, but it was clean and consistent. The hammerspur is wide, measuring 0.5 inch, which makes it easy to thumb in single-action mode.
Comparing Technical Editor Dick Metcalf’s shooting results for his recent .41 Mag. report (August 2010 issue) in which he fired a 7.5-inch-barreled S&W Model 657 .41 Mag., I discovered that velocity loss of the factory loads I fired from the 2.5-inch-barreled Model 357 was approximately 275 fps. That equates to 55 fps per inch of barrel.
The Night Guard is designed for close-range self-defense, but it’s surprisingly accurate to 25 yards. It’s pleasant to carry on the hip, and it’s comfortable to shoot with lighter bullets.