September 4th, 2011


LRB · John Lanchester · The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway: The Belgian Solution

LRB · John Lanchester · The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway: The Belgian Solution

Quarterly GDP data don’t, on the whole, tend to make the person studying them laugh out loud. The most recent set, however, are an exception, despite the fact that the general picture is of unrelieved and spreading economic gloom. Instead of the surge of rebounding growth which . . .

Posted by Michael Zeleny on 4 Sep 2011, 14:57

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korth revolvers redux

Thanks to everyone at for their kind and productive comments. To answer several questions:
  • I am not Jonathan Goldsmith, a.k.a. “The Most Interesting Man in the World”. On the one hand, I too am a Jewish performance artist. On the other hand, I am exactly nineteen years and five months younger than him, my hair still has more pepper than salt in it, I went not to Boston University but to another little college across Charles river, my mother was not was a Conover model but a Russian doctor and WWII veteran, and the only part I play these days is myself.

  • Regarding Colt V-spring revolvers, the Schmidt-Galand design uses its distinctive “double-headed hand” as a kind of sacrificial element. The hand is stressed past its yield point at the moment of firing and bears the brunt of recoil, because as the combustion gases cause the cartridge case to expand, it briefly locks to the walls of the cylinder chamber and transfers most of the recoil momentum to the cylinder, which in its turn bears upon the hand by way of its interface with the extractor star, which at that moment is tensioned by the trigger being squeezed by the shooter’s finger. In a nutshell, Colt’s factory authorized maintenance procedure allows for one-time stretching of the hand by peening. The second time around, the hand must be replaced with a new factory part. The service interval for this work depends on a variety of factors such as the chambering of the revolver and the use of high velocity ammunition that generates a higher recoil impulse. Unlike S&W N-frame revolvers, Colt’s post-WWII V-spring revolvers do not suffer from excessive wear in rapid double action shooting or fast hand-cocking, because their cylinders aren’t oversized with respect to their chamberings, and consequently do not generate an excessive angular momentum, the brunt of which must be borne by the bolt, the counterpart of the S&W cylinder stop, as it slips into the locking notch of the cylinder, bringing it to an abrupt stop at the moment of lockup. But take it easy while cycling your pre-WWII .38 Special and .357 Magnum Colt Shooting Masters and New Service revolvers.

  • 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. Certain features of its design make it less well suited for such use than its Manurhin and S&W counterparts. To cite just one factor, the stroke of its ejector rod is comparable to that of a snubnose 2½" MR73, and shorter than that of a full-length 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. I do not consider this trait appropriate for a service revolver. Aside from that, there remains an issue of economies. Arguably the costliest sidearm ever drafted into constabulary service outside of the petrodollar economy, the Manurhin MR73 was designed and built for an administrative market that formally required extreme precision and durability orders of magnitude greater than that expected from and built into contemporaneous U.S. police sidearms. The aesthetic sensibility of most American shooters derives from an appreciation of fancy sporting goods and service sidearms meant by their makers to be surplused after firing several thousand rounds. Although that is no longer the case owing to the worldwide decline of revolvers in constabulary use, throughout its history Smith & Wesson and Colt never had an economic incentive to forge their gun parts out of tool steel. It was far more cost effective to sinter and machine 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 and SIG, the P210 to KTA. Hence the unexcelled durability and precision of their military and constabulary service handguns, combined with a more or less utilitarian finish in most of their variants. Whereas Korth takes this philosophy to the point that most casual 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.

  • On the other hand, in my experience, every part on a Korth is significantly more robust than its S&W counterpart. For example, here is an independent testimonial made earlier on this forum, 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.
    Please note that the frame size of the Korth falls between those of the K and L frames in the S&W lineup. A 4" Korth Combat revolver weighs 1016g, whereas a 6" Sport model weighs 1175g, as against the 4" and 6" S&W 686 weighing in at 1191g and 1298g, respectively. The Korth cylinder is sized comparably to the cylinder of the late S&W M19, originally known as the Combat Magnum, and takes the same speedloaders. And yet it appears that the Korth withstands the pressures of heavy .357 Magnum loads much better than the S&W N frame. Additionally, the S&W lacks comprehensive single and double action trigger weight and stacking adjustments built into every .357 Magnum Korth revolver. To many European shooters, these factors alone warrant its premium price.

  • We live in a market economy, governed by supply and demand. It is possible to build a rifle to satisfy any reasonable demand. I am having Roger Green build me a switch barrel double square bridge Mauser Magnum on a new old stock Brevex M400 action serial numbered 40, with numerous barrels chambered in .338 Lapua and .416 Rigby, at a cost well above that of a Winchester M70, but well below that of a comparable Accuracy International kit. That way, if untimely bore erosion interferes with my objective to stall a speeding APC or stop a charging elephant, relief will be ready at hand with a quick spin of a barrel wrench. Because handgun construction lacks the modularity of bolt action rifles, this sort of custom production is not available for a Magnum revolver. There is no pistol or revolver counterpart to a Brevex action. I am talking big-bore Magnums with JANZ-Präzisionstechnik. Maybe they will come through with the next best thing.

After nearly 40 years of amateur photography, I am teaching myself the essentials of studio lighting. Next week I should be getting a Broncolor Mobil A2L travel kit to complement the Leica S2 that I use in my performance art. So put your trust in God, and keep your powder dry, while I work on my first gun photo shoot and update my blog thread. And stay thirsty, my friends.

korth revolvers ride again

In reference to increments cited on, Jeff Cooper wrote:
In rifle work group size is of some interest, but it is by no means the critical consideration that some commentators seem to deem it. It is well to remember that a rifleman does not shoot groups, he shoots shots. A tight group is nice, but one must not fall into the error of PII (Preoccupation with Inconsequential Increments). I have shot a great deal in a long shooting life, and I have only once encountered a rifle that would not shoot better than I could shoot it. (That was a 32-20 lever gun which had been allowed to rust and then scraped out. In getting the rust out of the barrel, most of the rifling went along with it.)
    Group size is unimportant, unless it is very bad. If you can hit a dinner plate, first shot, every time, under all conditions, at 100, that will do.
I am sorry to say that this nugget of cantankerous cogitation is cute but dumb. Three years ago, its daft but pervasive notion of a gun that shoots better than the shooter inspired me to write this post. To summarize its argument, any mechanical looseness built into your handgun in order to ensure its reliable operation, compounds your errors of aiming, shooting, and following through. Any additional degree of slop caused by stacking production tolerances will degrade your shooting performance, regardless of its level.
    Furthermore, imperious imputations of unimportance to this or that aspect of our avocation, are both unapt and un-American, even when announced by anointed authorities. It may please you to “hit a dinner plate, first shot, every time, under all conditions, at 100”; but that has nothing to do with realizing my interest in doing likewise to a barn door or a silver dollar. We live in a free country, where it behooves everyone to formulate his own goals in the pursuit of happiness, and everyone else, to stay out of his way, inasmuch as he reciprocates in kind.
    Lastly, in the issue at hand, the consequential increment relates not to accuracy, but to ruggedness and durability. I have some remarkably accurate guns, which include two of my favorite centerfire target pistols, the long-barreled W+F 06/29 Swiss Lugers from the 40 pistol Swiss National Match production run for the 1949 ISSF competition in Buenos Aires, won by Heinrich Keller, as discussed in my article linked above and shown in the photo reproduced below. Korth revolvers are not dedicated target guns that distinguish themselves along the same lines. They are optimized for other qualities, which may or may not serve your interests in shooting. Don’t rely on reviewers. Find out what’s important for you, and do as you see fit.

Heinrich Keller of Frauenfeld, Switzerland, aged 40, representing his country with a specially constructed 170mm-barreled W+F 1906/29 7.65mm Luger in his first international event, the 1949 ISSF competition in Buenos Aires.