Hey, fair warning, if you are a big-time revolver nut, you might want to skip this week’s review. I have personally fired less than 1000 rounds out of a wheel gun in my life, and quite possibly less than 500. So why am I covering a revolver? Because I bought one to correct that, which is the point of this exercise. That said, our 325 review is not your normal expert look at something new and hot. It’s an amateur look at something Smith and Wesson doesn’t even make anymore, but probably should.
Now I’m also not a total noob, though that round count is real. I’m pretty handy with an auto, for starters. And I actually considered switching over to revolver class in USPSA a long time back, because it looked like fun. In researching that idea, I also got to sit down and talk wheel guns with His Majesty Jerry Miculek when we were squadded together once. My most important question at the time, as the USPSA capacity rules for revolver had just changed, was 6 shot major power or 8 shot minor? His answer was that he would bring both, and make the decision once he had looked at the stages. A single competitive revolver was already a heavy investment, two was absolutely out of the question, and so I stuck with my Glock 34 in Production class.
But the desire never left me. So last month when a friend of a friend knew an FFL that was selling off his entire inventory and retiring, my ears perked up when he said a 45 ACP Night Guard was in the offering. And once a quick Google search showed that Smith and Wesson presently produced ZERO wheel guns in 45 ACP, and Ruger makes one, I paid the asking price before they even listed it on GunsAmerica. I actually paid $200 more than Smith’s original MSRP, before they ended production of this model.
Why, exactly, would I pay that for a circa 2008 revolver? Because the Night Guard 325 met all the criteria I was looking for. Things I like about wheel guns are I can leave them loaded forever, in the truck or a kitchen cabinet, with no loss of reliability. I like that in theory at least, it always goes bang. I wanted a gun that was a gun that fed off a caliber I already had plenty of ammo for, considering the current market. That means an auto chambering in my house. Not only did I want it fed, but I wanted to be able to train with it. Like, correct those revolver shortcomings I have. And I wanted it short enough to reasonably conceal carry. The Dirty Harry model 29 with a 6.5-inch barrel is a bit much for me unless I also want to dress like Inspector Callahan. (Side note: ask HouseHold 6 if she likes the 70’s era California Detective look.)
Anyway, the Night Guard did all that in spades. It features a 2.5-inch barrel, which is very short for a 45. It is an N Frame (ie large, but not the biggest of the S&W frames sizes), but the Scandium Alloy body keeps it reasonably light at 28 ounces. The matte black finish might not be a work of art, but it would also hurt my feels less than chucking some engraved collector’s item in the glove box. And it included XS night sights, a nice bonus feature.
Out of production or not, I intended my purchase to be a working gun. In the interest of review, how does it feel? Like a Smith and Wesson. To say, everything that is supposed to be tight is tight, the moving parts are smooth, and it works. It’s not like I could really call out S&W on finish this time anyway since none of us really know the history of this gun for the last 12 years. The bigger question for you, dear reader, should be “Do I want one?”.
As I said, I am pretty inexperienced with revolvers. So accuracy testing would be a moot point if we want to talk real capability of the gun. However, if you are also a rookie you could expect I would say results similar to mine. Double action only (which is how the gun would be shot defensively), I had an easy time keeping them in a paper plate at 7 yards. 15 yards, not so much. If you are an auto guy, the long double-action pull of a revolver trigger takes some getting accustomed to. It is also a weird feeling to have things moving as you pull the trigger, as in the external hammer and the cylinder. Weirder even than a DA/SA auto such as a Beretta 92 or CZ 75.
It takes a little getting used to, but it does get better as you go. Within 100 rounds, I noticeably improved. There is still a long way to go before I would consider myself truly competent with this gun, but it is nice to feel progression come that early. I would also say that is part of the fun and challenge of owning a revolver.
Single Action, I was very surprised by how easy the 325 was to shoot. Now, this is a bit of a cheat, if you bought the gun to use defensively. Few, very few, would be the situations where you got to start with the hammer cocked. And almost none were would you be manually cocking the hammer between shots. I don’t know, a 50-yard firefight with good cover? It isn’t really how we think of using a gun like this. But it did make it easier to focus on the recoil. To be honest, I expected this gun to kick a little harder. 45 ACP isn’t exactly a powerhouse of a bullet, but it isn’t European for “stun” either. Having mostly shot 41 Magnum or 357 Magnum before, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice 45 ACP was in this platform. Hat tip to the synthetic grips, which provide a nice cushion.
Shooting steel at reasonable defensive ranges, I was very happy with my purchase. It is still quite possible to forget the long trigger pull and start chucking rounds, but with a bit of focus, hits are reasonably fast. Again, something I am sure improves over time. It’s also pretty cool to have all your brass stick together in a moon clip, so clean-up is a cinch!
A note on that, if like me you are planning a first-ever revolver purchase, I did choose an auto caliber, for the reasons noted above. One thing I did not realize going into this was that moon clips aren’t a nice accessory; they are required to shoot an auto cartridge in a revolver. I guess I had just never considered the physics of how a non-rimmed cartridge fits in a cylinder. The answer is, without moon clips, they don’t. That is actually true even of the original WW1 issue M1917 g45 ACP revolver, if it was made by Colt. In an odd bit of trivia, the Colt needed them but the Smith and Wesson did not. If you are buying a modern revolver, just consider that you probably need them and order a gaggle. My purchased model 325 was missing the two included S&W moon clips, which meant my gun was a brick until some arrived by mail. I chose polymer EZ brand moon clips, to make the Fudd crew even madder.
All in all, I am very happy with my purchase. While it is true S&W no longer makes the Night Guard series, they do pop up from time to time on GunsAmerica. And if you are as new to wheel guns as I am, I would also dare suggest you are just as well off with a Charter Arms Bulldog or Taurus 905. The challenge of learning a new gun is extremely rewarding, as is the security of knowing a bullet is coming out when I pull the trigger, hell or high water. Revolvers might be old tech, but they aren’t obsolete.
is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com