At the NRA Show last week a surprise lurked: another company known for 1911 pistols decided to jump into the revolver market. This time the company was Nighthawk Custom, and the revolvers they showed weren’t your average, ordinary wheelguns.
That’s because Nighthawk decided to team up with an established revolver maker, but one that has never officially sold their products in this country. That maker is the legendary Korth from Germany, makers of what have been described as the “Rolls Royce” of revolvers.
I was there at Nighthawk’s request to help introduce the American public to Korth!
Now if you’re like me you’ve read about Korth revolvers in the gun magazines, perhaps for decades. The Korth guns have been made since 1954, but always in small quantities and always to a very high degree of precision. They became legendary, almost mythical in this country. This isn’t surprising; the high cost and limited availability (along with much cheaper domestic competition) historically served to keep Korth out of the lucrative American market, leading to their legendary status. But this is 2016, and things have changed.
We no longer produce high-end double action revolvers in this country; the prices on excellent examples of Colt Pythons and S&W Registered Magnums, the two finest wheelguns produced in the United States, now routinely top $4k. Most owners report that they fear shooting their valuable collector pieces, and the new revolvers being made pale in comparison to the older versions. The problem is that the person who wants a really good revolver, one with careful fitting and superb actions, will find the pickings very slim.
It is fortunate for us that the Germans never stopped making their top-quality revolvers. The Korth company, wanting to attract an American audience, decided to slightly modify their idiosyncratic revolvers to better fit our expectations by relocating the cylinder release to a familiar location and changing the cylinder spacing and grip frame to mimic the L-frame Smith & Wesson guns. The result are revolvers much more suited to the American shooter, but possessing all of the attributes that Korth has always boasted.
All they needed was someone to bring them into this country. They found Mark Stone and his company, Nighthawk Custom.
Bringing Korth to America
Nighthawk burst onto the market a few years ago by making top-quality 1911 pistols. They saw a need for custom quality delivered on a more timely schedule and essentially streamlined the processes that custom pistolsmiths have used for ages. The result is that a shooter can get a high-end 1911 without a multi-year wait. Their prices reflect the quality of their guns and the work which goes into them. In other words, they aren’t cheap — yet you get what you pay for.
That could also describe the Korth company: custom, hand-fitted quality revolvers that you can buy from a dealer without waiting years. What’s that cost? Well, a hand-fitted Korth revolver will cost you about what a hand-fitted 1911 will: in the mid-$3,000 range. What you get for that money, though, is arguably the finest production revolver in the world (Manurhin adherents will be the ones to argue that point, but that’s like trying to decide between a Ferrari and a Lamborghini in a market otherwise filled with Toyota Camrys!)
What makes the Korth revolvers unique? First, the frames and parts are made of hardened tool steel. The barrels are tensioned inside of a sleeve, in much the same way that the Dan Wesson revolvers were — and for the same reason: accuracy. Korth revolvers have a reputation for outstanding accuracy and their barrels are a large part of the reason why.
The actions, though, are where the Korth guns really shine. They’re incredibly smooth in double action, thanks to a roller-bearing mechanism, and the single actions are uniformly superb. The actions are also user-adjustable five different ways: mainspring weight, trigger rebound weight, trigger overtravel, double action letoff, and hammer travel (lock time). It’s possible for the user to “dial in” exactly the action he or she wants without a trip to the gunsmith.
In fact, these are the first revolvers I’ve ever handled where I couldn’t really find anything that I wanted to change or improve (other than the very personal choice of grips.) Yes, they’re that good.
The Nighthawk Korth revolvers are chambered in .38/.357, and it’s also possible to order the guns with an accessory 9mm cylinder whose unique design does away with the need for moonclips. The cylinders interchange at the push of a button, and it takes almost no time to switch one for the other. I’m told that, due to their tight barrel and throat tolerances, there will be very little accuracy loss when shooting 9mm in the Korth. From pictures of targets I saw, I’m inclined to believe that boast.
Nighthawk did specify some of the features of the guns they’re importing: a gold bead front sight, modified rear sight, and rounded/polished trigger face. The result is a gun that is both familiar yet distinctly different from anything else on the market. Everyone I showed the gun to marveled at the quality of the actions and at the incredibly precise fit and finish.
Speaking of finishes, Korth is using a DLC — diamond-like carbon — coating that is hard, scratch-resistant, and impervious to darned near anything you can throw at it. Glock’s famous Tenifer finish isn’t even as wear-resistant as DLC. The look is one I instantly liked, for it looks like a bead-blasted bluing — a finish I’ve done on my guns for many years. It’s good looking and should, with minimal care, look new for decades to come.
Available at dealers this fall
Starting at about $3500, they’re certainly not inexpensive. Compared, however, to a used Python they’re competitive and (as much as it pains me to say this) a better gun than Colt ever put out. If you look at what a quality hand-fitted 1911 costs these days, they’re in the same ballpark; in this 21-century marketplace what was once very expensive suddenly seems more affordable in comparison.
They’ll be available in 3”, 4” and 6” barrels at your local Nighthawk dealer sometime around September. Just get one in your hands and try the trigger; I suspect you’ll start saving your money to own one!
– Grant Cunningham