I own and shoot many Korth revolvers that I imported from Germany. I have a similar number of Manurhins, which I am able to compare to a passel of Colt Pythons, Bankers and Police Positive Target Specials and Single Action Armies, as well as a good selection of Smith & Wesson's best, ranging from prewar Kit Guns to Registered Magnums and a Triple Lock Target. Here are some ensuing talking points.
- The Manurhin MR73 is the best fighting revolver ever made, designed as an improved S&W, strengthened at the yoke, refined at tensioning the hammer and the rebound slide, and manufactured to the quality standards of 1950s Colts. In a nutshell, an early Python is a better revolver than a Registered Magnum, in the same sense whereby a Ferrari 330 P3/4 is a better car than a Ford GT40. But the MR73 is the only revolver I would take in harm's way, in the way I would choose the Citroën ZX over the Ferrari and the Ford for entry in the Paris-Dakar rally. The problem with S&W is not design, but quality. Their basic action layout is capable of uncompromising performance, as witness this Manurhin chambered in .32 S&W Long, beating match guns by S&W, SAKO, and Walther. But in order to get a current production S&W to perform like that, you would have to rebarrel it and replace its MIM lockwork with increasingly unobtainable forged parts. And even then, it will not approach the performance of Manurhin's hammer-forged frame, barrel, and cylinder.
- The Korth is the best made modern revolver, comparable in quality only to the best of the pre-WWI classics, from the French M1873, the Swiss M1878 and 1882, and the Mauser M1878. It is equal in precision to a Target Triple Lock, and far superior to it and the Registered Magnum alike in ruggedness and durability. Among post-WWII revolvers, only the first generation Colt Pythons compare to it in fit and finish. It is arguably the best sporting revolver ever made, as distinct from a social work tool such as the MR73. Its lockwork is hand ground out of steel forgings and deep hardened, and nowise stressed at ignition. Its design incorporates some Colt traits such as clockwise cylinder rotation, within an original layout that resembes S&W's two-point lockup and single stage transport. Its hand detachable yoke is a boon to maintenance, and its spring tensioned ejector built into the optional 9mm Para cylinder is the best such system that I ever used with rimless ammo in a revolver.
- Aside from an early run of 20,000 2" and 4" 5-shot revolvers chambered in .38 Special and numbered in the 20xxx range, meant for, but not purchased by, the Hamburg harbor police, no Korth revolver has been made for constabulary service. It is less well suited for such use than its Manurhin and S&W counterparts. For example, the stroke of its ejector rod is comparable to that of a snubnose 2½" MR73, and shorter than that of the ejector rod fitted to MR73 revolvers with 3" or longer barrels. Consequently, rapid ejection may leave one or two expended shells hanging at the chamber mouths of the cylinder. This trait is inappropriate in a service revolver.
- The Manurhin MR73 was designed and built for an administrative market that required precision and durability orders of magnitude greater than that expected from and built into contemporaneous U.S. police sidearms. Throughout their history, Colt and S&W never had an economic incentive to forge their gun parts out of tool steel. It was far more cost effective to work with softer materials, replacing the products under warranty in the rare instances of their being put to hard use. That was not an option for Manurhin in delivering the MR73 to GIGN. Hence its unexcelled durability and precision, combined with a more or less utilitarian fit and finish. Korth takes this philosophy to the point that most American shooters would disparage with a tinge of fascination, as wretched excess. For many European shooters, this is not the case, in so far as their licensing requirements deny them the option of accumulating numerous handguns. By dint of being limited to a few specimens, they acquire a compelling incentive to invest in more durable goods.
- In my experience, every part on a Korth is much more robust than its S&W counterpart. For example, here is an independent testimonial pitting a Korth revolver against a vintage, all-forged S&W M28:
I mentioned the strength of the metal in the Korth as well as the care of the hand fitting. I began some tests of the Korth vs. the M28. At the beginng of the tests the barrel to cylinder gap of the Korth was just over .0025 while that of the M28 was .003. With just under 200 rounds of heavy hunting loads through both guns the barrel to cylinder gap of the Korth was where it had begun for all cylinders. The M28 however had opended up and varied from .003 to .004. The S&W showed wear and some additional gas cutting on the frame above the barrel from some hot .125 grain loads. The Korth showed no significant wear.
- Colt used to advertise its Python Elite as accurized to shoot a 2" group at 15 yards. By contrast, Manurhin tested the MR73 to shoot within 25mm (<1") at 25 meters (>25 yards). This disparity in factory requirements may make Pythons less than a third as accurate as their Old World competitors. To the contrary, thus spake Massad Ayoob:
How accurate? From a Ransom rest with Match ammo, the Python will generally deliver about 1 3/8" groups at fifty yards. This is about what you get out of a custom made PPC revolver with one-inch diameter Douglas barrel. My 8" matte stainless Python with Bausch & Lomb scope in J.D. Jones' T'SOB mount has given me 2 1/4" groups at 100 yards with Federal's generic American Eagle 158 grain softpoint .357 ammo. The same gun, with Federal Match 148 grain .38 wadcutters, once put three bullets into a hole that measured .450" in diameter when calipered. That's three .38 slugs in a hole a couple of thousandths of an inch smaller in diameter than a single .45 auto bullet.
- Regarding the Korth, here is the official factory statement:
In order to give a statistically covered statement of the shooting performance of our weapon, numerous test series need to be performed. Single shooting results are therefore subjective. For this reason, we abstain from including an original target.
- In my experience Colt Python, Manurhin MR73, and Korth frames are immune to stretching commonly observed in S&W frames. I am sorry to report having personally experienced a forcing cone fracture in my prized 1957 Python. Regardless of round counts, I've yet to see such breakage in a Korth or an MR73, despite their dimensional similarity to the notoriously fragile S&W M19. In GIGN service, none of the S&W revolvers could handle the daily practice regimen of 150 rounds of Norma 158 grain .357 S&W Magnum ammo. The MR73 was originally tested with this ammunition. Its torture test was abandoned without observing appreciable wear after firing 170,000 full power Norma .357 rounds. Numerous published tests witness this capacity. According to an article in Cible No. 342 on the MR73, its rectangle of shot dispersion remained the same after firing 20,000 Magnum rounds. The writer concluded that it would take at least 300,000 Magnum rounds for the bore to begin to wear. Several French police armorers confirmed this estimate from their experience with high round counts in service revolvers. Make of their claims what you will.
- In Germany, used Korth revolvers of the latest design cost between 1,200 and 3,500 Euros, depending on the condition, configuration, and luck of the draw. By contrast, you would have to spend between 700 and 1,800 Euros for a used Manurhin MR73, and between 400 and 1,000 Euros for a used Colt Python. To put this in perspective, my nicest blue steel Korth cost me around $2,200 to acquire and import in a large combined lot. I wouldn't part with it for three times that price.