HARPERS FERRY ARMORY’S NEW SNUBNOSE IS A WHEELGUN ENTHUSIAST’S DREAM
Pretty and potent—Harpers Ferry Armory’s new snubnose is a wheelgun enthusiast’s dream.
When the Harpers Ferry Armory A.H. .357 Magnum revolver arrived at my local gun shop, the dealer made his first impression of the gun very clear.
“I want one,” he said. His revolver envy was very apparent.
He was concerned about the price, however, because he was certain it was some high-end custom piece that I was lucky to have the chance to review. I told him the MSRP was $639 and he became even more enthusiastic. It was easy to see why he thought it was a custom gun. First, the gun is stunning in appearance. The all-American-made gun is made of stainless steel throughout, but the barrel and frame of this one had a bronze Cerakote finish. Blue and black Cerakote finishes are also available. The cylinder, trigger, trigger guard and grip frame are all highly polished stainless steel.
The second thing is that the West Virginia company, Harpers Ferry Armory, is new, so not many have heard of it yet. That will change if it continues to make guns of this quality. New companies making semi-autos spring up on a regular basis. But only a handful of companies offer revolvers and even fewer offer much of a selection. So, the creation of Harpers Ferry Armory should be good news for revolver enthusiasts.
The A.H. .357 is designed as a concealed carry/personal defense handgun and features a 2-inch barrel and a five-shot cylinder. The barrel is ported, a feature that’s obviously intended to keep the muzzle from jumping too dramatically when firing heavy .357 loads. In a carry gun, however,
“IT’S WELL MADE, OPERATES SMOOTHLY AND FLAWLESSLY AND IS PLENTY ACCURATE FOR SELF-DEFENSE PURPOSES...”
I’d worry about the increased flash in low-light conditions. Added noise could be a factor with the ports, too, but you have to realize that a 2-inch .357 will have a significant bark, ports or not.
The revolver is available with a snag-free, spur-less hammer for double-action-only use. The model I tested had a hammer with a spur that allowed it to be manually cocked for single-action operation. In defensive use, I would be firing double action. But I like to have the single-action option, especially if I’m roaming the woods and need to make a longer shot.
Upon cocking the gun, the cylinder locked up good and tight. I measured the short, single-action trigger pull at just 3 pounds and the long double-action pull at 10 pounds. It was an excellent trigger. The single-action pull was crisp and the double-action pull was smooth all the way through the stroke with no stacking. A coil spring, known for durability, is used in the trigger mechanism.
The cylinder rotates clockwise as do Colt and Charter Arms revolvers. The cylinders on Ruger and Smith & Wesson revolvers, on the other hand, rotate counter-clockwise.
Why is that important? It’s important because you never want to shoot until empty in a fight if you can help it. If you carry loading strips in addition to regular speed loaders, you can depress the extractor rod part way and pluck the empty shells from the revolver and then top off the cylinder with live rounds. Naturally, you do this from behind cover and only if there’s a lull in the action.
Knowing which way the cylinder rotates helps you to quickly locate those spent casings. Also, if you are using loading strips or have access only to loose ammo, there might be a situation where you have time to reload only a couple of rounds. You’ll have to know how to index the cylinder when you close it to ensure that the gun will go “batng” and not just “click” when you pull the trigger.
The cylinder latch is situated on the left side of the frame, and you push it forward with your right thumb to open the cylinder. A shroud under the barrel protects the extractor rod.
The Harpers Ferry Armory two-piece custom grips that come with the gun are soft rubber and feature finger grooves. The backstrap is left exposed. These grips fit my hand well, which is not always the case with grips that feature finger grooves. The grips were configured so that I was able to take a natural hold high on the back strap, which aids in shooting double action and helps to control recoil.
The sights consist of a ramp front that’s integral to the barrel. My test gun had the same bronze Cerakote finish. I’d probably paint it orange. The rear sight was a simple groove in the top strap of the frame as is typical with snubnose revolvers. That sturdy setup has been fine on small revolvers for years and it works here, too.
“...IT’S JUST A BEAUTIFUL GUN THAT WILL INSTILL MUCH PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP...”
The great thing about a snubnose revolver is that there are so many ways to carry one comfortably. Hip holster, inside-the-waistband, appendix carry, cross-draw, shoulder holster, ankle holster or pocket holster, whichever way you carry a small revolver, you can do it safely with its long, double-action trigger pull. And you can deploy it ready to fire without any external safeties to worry about.
For this Harpers Ferry Armory revolver, I decided to try the Vanquisher IWB holster from DeSantis Gunhide that is equally as versatile. The excellent thing about this holster is that it’s not designed around one specific handgun. So, you might be able to use it with several handguns that you own or might buy in the future. For instance, I found that the larger size that I tested could accommodate not only the Harpers Ferry Armory revolver, but also my Smith & Wesson Model 60, Glock 26, S&W Model 10 and full-size Oriskany Arms 1911. That makes this holster the most useful
IWB holster I have.
The holster is made of nylon with a padded, flexible backer that allows it to conform to the contours of your body. The gun rides in a nylon fabric pocket that is open at the bottom to accept guns with different barrel lengths. It’s designed to allow the shirt to be tucked in if desired, and it’s a very comfortable rig. The belt clips keep the holster secured so that it doesn’t come out with the gun on the draw.
I fired the revolver from a rest at 15 yards to get an idea of its accuracy potential. Groups for all the loads I tested averaged under 2 inches. As expected, recoil was significant, but not brutal with the heaviest .357 loads. The point of impact seemed to be a couple of inches low with most loads.
Shooting off-hand at various distances from 10 to 25 yards, the gun handled well, although the muzzle did jump quite a bit with the heavy loads. I fired double-action singles and double taps starting from a holstered position as well as some carefully aimed shots at a plastic target ball.
I did run an odd assortment of .38 Special ammo through it, too, which was much more manageable. To be honest, I would load a small revolver such as this with .38 Special +P loads or 125-grain .357 defense loads most of the time. Having the ability to shoot the heaviest loads still gives the gun more versatility, such as if you wanted to use it to administer a finishing shot on a downed big game animal.
Below: The cylinder locked tight on the Harpers Ferry Armory revolver. The cylinder latch was positive and worked by pushing it forward to unlock the cylinder.
Above: The shroud under the barrel protects the extractor rod.
Below: The author teamed the Harpers Ferry Armory revolver with a DeSantis Gunhide Vanquisher IWB, tuckable holster that proved very comfortable for allday carry.
Above: The barrel is ported in an effort to reduce muzzle rise, especially when shooting heavy .357 Magnum loads.
Above: The five-shot cylinder keeps the revolver slim enough for even pocket carry, but provides enough firepower for most self-defense situations.
The empty .357 shell casings extracted well with a firm thrust of the extractor rod. Right: The bronze Cerakote finish on the frame and barrel is attractive and durable. Combined with the highly polished cylinder, the two-tone effect is very attractive.