June 30, 2009

Smith & Wesson 625-8 (160935)

The basic 625 revolver was introduced in 1989, and has largely retained its basic design — it’s a stainless-steel N-frame revolver with full-lug 5-inch barrel, adjustable sights and a tall plain Patridge blade up front. However, the input of competitive shooters and the rules under which they compete has reportedly fostered the arrival of the “dash-eight” model 625.

Organizations that govern this style of handgun competition include the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), the International Practical Shooting Conference (IPSC), the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICORE), and the International Defensive Pistol Association, or IDPA.

The change to the shorter 4-inch barrel makes the 625-8 legal for IDPA, which prefers that shooters use what is generally considered to be standard “carry” equipment. Interest in revolver shooting has recently prompted the USPSA and IPSC to change the reward for winning from merely a single “High Revolver” trophy to Division status, wherein awards are given for several classes based on relative ability.

Much to the dismay of seven- and eight-shot revolver shooters, the latest rules declare that no more than six shots can be fired without a reload. This is where the new model 625-8 comes in. With so many reloads required per course of fire, the gun that gives you the best chance of winning is the one that can be refilled the fastest. A look at the cylinder of the 625-8, which is mostly open chambers, should tell you which gun that is. Indeed, with the use of full moon clips and attributes such as a cartridge that is tapered, short, heavy and topped with a smooth round surface, it is no wonder the 625 has proven to be the revolver of choice for competition.

Smith & Wesson

Courtesy Gun Tests

The 4-inch barrel points fast. This gun likes lead, so handloads are easier. For six-shot practical matches, it would be our pick.

Still, revolver expert Jerry Miculek opines that this new model has been improved, with several subtle changes making the gun more competitive in the Practical Shooting arena. Miculek is beyond question the fastest double-action shooter of his time or, probably ever. He said he had been after Smith & Wesson for years to make several changes, including:

• The rifling of the 625-8 is designed for lead bullets.

• The cylinder has been shortened, so the bullet spends less time before engaging the rifling. This also reduces “torque-over,” the jolt from starting and stopping the motion of the cylinder.

• The interior dimension below the top-strap has not been altered, but the barrel and forcing cone have been extended across the cylinder gap.

• The target sights are still in place, and there is still plenty of sight radius despite the shorter barrel and long front-sight blade.

Smith & Wesson

Courtesy, Gun Tests

The cylinder has been shortened (black arrows), so the bullet spends less time before engaging the rifling. The barrel and forcing cone have been extended across the cylinder gap (white arrows).

In our hands, we noticed the dash-eight steers from target to target noticeably faster than 5- and 6-inch models. The last time we tested a 625 variant (November 2000), it too was a 4-inch model, but without the full underlug. The extra material directly under the barrel is worth 5 ounces of recoil control.

The most recent production Smith & Wesson revolvers, including the 625-8, feature a key-operated lock on the left side of the frame that freezes the gun’s action. We’d also like to point out that moon-clip revolvers such as the 625 and the Taurus 455 should encourage their owners to put in play another safe practice. That is, storing the gun and ammunition separately. Should the need arise these revolvers can be charged much faster than other revolvers, even with the use of speedloaders that are either slower to use or less secure than moon clips.

In our choice of test cartridges, we almost forgot about the 625-8’s alleged preference for lead. But then we were not overly impressed with performance from the 230-grain jacketed rounds nor with the way it handled the +P Cor-Bon ammunition. So we decided to try a handload consisting of Hodgdon’s Clays powder and the 230-grain roundnosed lead (RNL) bullet from GAT, (800) 640-7145, X0093. Even when loading a selection of well-used brass with mixed headstamp, we dumped 25 shots into a group measuring under three inches from the bench at 25 yards.

Smith & Wesson

Courtesy, Gun Tests

The 625-8 comes only with half-moon clips. We recommend you chamfer the cylinders. The arrows point to where the edges need to be broken.

Recoil with the lead bullets was significantly reduced due to less friction compared to the jacketed 230-grain rounds from Federal. Winchester’s 185-grain FMJ round was the best of the jacketed trio, averaging 2.8 inches for five five-shot groups, however. The best individual group firing this round measured only 1.2 inches. But our 25-shot lead target displayed a 1-inch gaping hole that we estimate was home to 10 to 15 separate hits.

We felt the double-action trigger was heavier than it needed to be, even taking into account that in some smaller hands, the big N frame can make the hands work a little harder. But Smith & Wesson revolvers respond so well to trigger work that we feel a heavy stock trigger is not an issue, especially if the action is smooth and consistent, which in this case it was.

To our surprise the 625-8 comes only with half-moon clips, so we weren’t able to demonstrate any lightning fast reloads. Full-moon clips and a tool for stripping the spent cases can be purchased through . If you want to have some real fun, we recommend you spring for chamfering the cylinders, which typically costs about $40. This breaks the edge of the chambers to help the rounds funnel even more quickly into place. Next, go to a Practical Shooting match and join in.