RE­VOLVER ENVY

HARPERS FERRY AR­MORY’S NEW SNUB­NOSE IS A WHEEL­GUN EN­THU­SI­AST’S DREAM

Concealed Carry Hand Guns - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Steven Paul Bar­low

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 SPECIFICS

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...”

CAR­RY­ING VER­SA­TIL­ITY

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.

RANGE TIME

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.

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