Revolver Review: Smith & Wesson’s M&P R8, Keeping Revolvers Competitive

This modern workhorse proves revolvers are still competition worthy.

This modern workhorse proves revolvers are still competition worthy.

My pistol shooting career began in the early days of Metallic Silhouette shooting in the NRA Hunter’s Pistol class.

In those early days, silhouette shooters weren’t using the scoped, specialized pistols they use today; for the most part, we used production revolvers or semi autos. My choice was a 6-in. barreled Model 28. With that gun, I won countless trophies in the local matches and managed to be the second AAA classified Hunter Pistol shooter in North Carolina.

To stay competitive, I eventually switched over to a scoped T/C Contender and somehow, over the years, I let that great old gun slip away. When I picked up the S&W Performance Center M&P R8, my mind instantly went back to that great old Smith that won so many Hunter Pistol trophies for me.

A Modern Workhorse

Like the model 28, the M&P R8 is a workhorse gun, without a shiny, high polish finish. It has the same great adjustable rear sight, the same smooth double- and single-action trigger and the same tough as nails reliability.

The M&P R8 is a little more sophisticated than my old Model 28; in fact, it’s a lot more sophisticated.

It has a state of the art, scandium frame and a shrouded barrel with an under-barrel rail for mounting a laser or a light. The top of the barrel is drilled and tapped for an over the barrel optic mount.

Swinging the massive N frame cylinder out reveals another big improvement, eight chambers instead of the Model 28’s six. The cylinder is also specially recessed to allow using full moon clips that provide super-fast reloads.

Revolver Relevance

In a world of special purpose 1911s and double-stack striker fired pistols, some might think the revolver has been eclipsed. I love semi-auto pistols as much as anyone, and I’m really happy that I can get a double stack 1911, and that the modern striker fired guns are super reliable and have great triggers.

There is one issue, though, that no autoloader can ever get around. All semi-autos use the energy of the previous shot to prepare them to fire the next round. If there’s a bad round, the operator has to perform the task of cycling the gun to get it in condition to shoot again. This is not the case with the revolver.

With a revolver, the operator supplies the energy to bring the next round into position and preload the spring that drives the hammer.

The R8 would make a fine service revolver with its eight-shot capacity and weighting only an ounce or so more than the old S&W Model 19.

The R8 would make a fine service revolver with its eight-shot capacity and weighting only an ounce or so more than the old S&W Model 19.

Proper Trigger Management

Revolvers can have quite functional triggers if properly set up.

The M&P R8 came with a fairly smooth and decently light double-action trigger. There was little backlash and it was easy to prep the trigger and have only a slight movement when the pull fell through and dropped the hammer.

The M&P R8 is not a glamorous revolver. It is a workhorse designed to serve the purpose the purchaser plans for it.

It would make an admirable service revolver with its eight-shot capacity and weighing only an ounce or so more than the old S&W Model 19, which was the Cadillac of service revolvers when every police department depended on wheel guns. It’s a viable choice as a home defense gun with a rail for laser and flashlight.

It would be an admirable hunting sidearm, coming with a top of the barrel scope mount. Smith and Wesson’s N frame guns have served shooters well since before the late and great Elmer Keith shot the 600-yard deer and they continue to serve us today.

This article appeared in the April 8, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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