November 2000

Oddball Revolvers: We Test .45 ACP, .41 Magnum, and 10mm Wheelguns

The .45-caliber S&W Model 625 Mountain Gun and 10mm Model 610 proved accurate and versatile. The titanium Taurus M415Ti .41 Magnum was a handful.

[IMGCAP(1)] In most Gun Tests evaluations, we stick closely to our bread-and-butter formula of matching like or nearly like guns—4-inch stainless .38 Specials, polymer-framed .40 S&W pistols, .270 bolt-action rifles, to name a few popular categories. But this apples-to-apples approach does have a hole or two where interesting, and potentially worthwhile, oranges or kiwis would slip through the test net.

Never ones to leave any fruit or stretched metaphor unturned, however, we recently set out to test three different revolvers that don’t have readily available competitors. Our choices were the $684 Smith & Wesson model 610, also known as the Classic Hunter, which will chamber the 10mm cartridge and its shorter cousin, the .40 Smith & Wesson. Another unusual Smith gun is the $540 .45 ACP Model 625 Mountain Gun. The Taurus M415Ti, $599, melds lightweight titanium construction with the potent but rarely seen .41 Remington Magnum cartridge.

Naturally, our comparison of these three revolvers will be, in a sense, with themselves, but we’ll also attempt to assess their broader value in the market. We’ll examine if the lack of competition means they really serve no purpose, or, instead, if they have value consumers have simply overlooked.

Which one of these guns would we buy, if any? Only lead downrange would tell the story.

Range Session
We decided to keep our test routine simple and let the guns themselves sort things out.

We settled on using leather sandbags for support when we collected accuracy data, firing shots single action at 25 yards. Our test shooter sat at a bench, supporting his head on his outstretched arms similar to a steady prone position. Since all three guns afforded very different sight radii, we made sure all prescription eyewear afforded the same clarity of focus at the front sight in relation to the 3.9-inch black bullseye downrange.

Click here to view the Accuracy and Chronograph Data

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We used various slug weights and bullet profiles and in the 610, we shot .40 S&W ammunition as well as full-length 10mm cartridges. We began with the shorter .40 caliber rounds first and as you will see this brought a strange phenomena to light. Both Smith & Wesson products were designed to be used with their ammunition held in a stamped metal clip.

Only the Taurus 415Ti required the use of a padded glove and wrist wrap. We don’t feel this affected the accuracy of the revolver. Otherwise, here’s how the guns performed.

Taurus M415Ti
Our recommendation: Don’t Buy. The only available .41 Magnum ammo is too beasty for this lightweight frame, not to mention the human hand. Perhaps a sub-100-grain frangible is the answer.

Click here to view the Taurus M415Ti features guide

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Too begin with, we weren’t very impressed with the action of our five-shot revolver. The trigger was very heavy and rough. Putting this aside, we noted the M415Ti revolver was handsome and the grip and general relation to the hand seemed right suitable. Also, the sight picture looked fine. Thus, in terms of most of the things we look for in a concealed carry revolver, the 415Ti was in the game.

But there were problems. Two out of the three cartridges we were able to purchase for the gun weighed in at 210 grains (Federal Classic Hi-Shok JHP and PMC’s Truncated Cone Soft Point). To escape the pounding these loads developed, we took a low hold on the grip and tried to let the gun ride up in our hand and dissipate some of the energy. This didn’t work because of the sticky rubber-ribbed grip that features a palm swell. Normally, we like a high hold to fight recoil, but firing this gun from a bench put the recoil right on our hands, wrists and elbows. The 175-grain Silvertip Hollow Point from Winchester was noticeably easier to handle. Still, this round is marked “Hunting” right on the box. Perhaps if it had been formulated for “personal defense,” as were two of the .40-caliber rounds, recoil would have been lower more tolerable. In our minds, the .41 Remington Magnum cartridge is not being produced to suit today’s modern superlight self-defense guns. But did it break? No. The trigger did fail to return on two occasions after firing rounds that produced 500-plus foot-pounds of muzzle energy, but nothing cracked or flew off.

In hopes of finding more suitable ammunition we contacted MagSafe, Triton, Cor-Bon and MagTech. What we were looking for was pre-fragmented or frangible ammunition that might supply more gas to the ports and reduce recoil, since these rounds usually carry composite slugs that typically weigh well under 100 grains. The closest we came to finding such ammo was an out of production MagSafe .41 Magnum cartridge, which has been discontinued due to low demand.

We doubt our review of the Taurus product will increase demand for either the gun or the ammo, but we think that most of what is wrong with today’s featherweight revolvers is not the guns but the ammunition. The .41 Magnum ammunition is nearly as scarce as guns that will chamber it. Frankly, if the trigger on our M415Ti was improved and we could find an aggressive low recoil cartridge, we would have no problem giving this gun a Buy recommendation.

We recall reading an article in which the author stated that before the wave of semi-autos crashed ashore, law enforcement had missed the boat when the development of a .41 Special cartridge was passed by. All things considered—the paucity of .41 Magnum ammo choices and this gun’s stiff recoil—we feel Taurus’s titanium revolver in .44 Special reviewed in the October 2000 issue is probably a better choice than the M415Ti.

Smith & Wesson 625 Mountain Gun
Our recommendation: At $540, this is a Best Buy. Designed for practical use, this is exactly what the 625 Mountain Gun is. It shoots a formidable cartridge with ease, reloads quickly, and carries well.

Click here to view the Smith & Wesson 625 Mountain Gun features guide

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Smith & Wesson’s .45 ACP revolvers used to be big guns. The modern 625 models are still built on S&W’s largest frame (the N-series), but are available in three different profiles. The 625-2 features a 5-inch full-lug barrel, but is also available in limited quantities with a 3-inch barrel. The Mountain Gun, the subject of this test, is topped with a 4-inch barrel tapered at the frame and shrouds the ejector rod but without an underlug. The result is that the Mountain Gun is subject to more muzzle flip than its fully underlugged brothers are. But, the Mountain Gun is lighter, steers faster and points easier. What we liked best about this design, which harkens back to Smith & Wesson’s .44 Special-only Model 624, is the way it feels in the hand. With the light barrel, most of the weight of this gun appears to be in the palm of the hand. This gun decidedly favors double-action shooting.

Other features that make this gun practical are the slim Hogue monogrip and rounded edges on the cylinder. The Mountain Gun speed-loads quickly because the .45 ACP round is tapered. Even without breaking the inner edges of the chambers (chamfering), the huge holes in the cylinder simplifies inserting a round. Additionally, there is little metal separating each chamber, minimizing the possibility of rounds being hung up. Rounds can be fired in this gun without first mounting them on a clip. But you will have to pick them out individually with your fingers. Mounting cartridges on the two 3-round half-moon clips or all six on a full-moon clip is not difficult with bare fingers, but there are tools to make the work of loading and unloading these clips easier. Moon clips are also a safety feature. Beyond locking a gun in a safe or using a lock on the gun itself, another method of safely storing any gun is to separate the gun and the ammo. Should the need for a loaded weapon arise, all six rounds can be loaded into a 625 in a flash.

We found it odd that the 625 Mountain Gun, supposedly meant for carry, was fitted with a black serrated-ramp front sight, when the Classic Hunter has a ramp featuring an orange-plastic insert. Orange inserts are generally thought to speed sight acquisition. Thus, logic would dictate that this sight should be on the Mountain Gun. However, we have found that plastic inserts produce glare that only spoils the sight picture. Generally, we like a flat or undercut Patridge sight on hunting or target guns. Ramp front sights are preferred on a carry gun to prevent snagging on clothing or the holster itself. But we found the Mountain Gun’s ramped front blade to be both snag free and an excellent target sight that settles light evenly. For fast acquisition under low-light conditions, filling a couple of the serrations with White-Out will do.

The 625 Mountain Gun did not prove to be a tackdriver with the ammunition we chose, but it was on par with most out-of-the-box .45 ACP semi-autos that cost hundreds of dollars more. With the variety of .45 ACP ammunition available, we feel accuracy could be improved without sacrificing the fast-handling characteristics that 625 revolvers are famous for.

Smith & Wesson 610 Classic Hunter
Our recommendation: This $684 gun gets a Buy nod. The 10mm and .40 S&W ammunitions are friendlier than other powerful revolvers such as .44 Magnum, .41 Magnum, and .44 Special. You can hunt and play a lot of different games with this gun.

Click here to view the Smith & Wesson 610 Classic Hunter features guide

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The 610 also requires its ammunition to be held in a moonclip. However, we found the clips for the 610 to be easier to load and unload than the ones fitted for the .45 ACP Mountain Gun. But they do not speed-load as quickly because there is more area between chambers, and the 10mm cartridge is a straight-walled case. The .40 caliber ammunition loads pretty quick, and shooters favor this round when competing in practical shooting events. Accuracy with the shorter-cased .40 was impressive despite the slug’s having to travel a greater distance across an unrifled surface before reaching the forcing cone. Each of our .40 S&W ammos shot of 1.8- to 1.9-inch five-shot groups. Personal Protection rounds from both Federal and Winchester proved remarkably consistent. Winchester’s 180-grain SXT rounds grouped from 1.8 to 2.1 inches, but it seemed we could shoot 2-inch groups or better all day with the Federal Hydra-Shok ammunition. Even the inexpensive ammunition from MagTech brought in a 1.8-inch group, although the range in group size was larger. We credit the ability to shoot consistent groups to the orientation of grip to trigger on the 10mm Classic Hunter. The angle at which our trigger fingers fell on to the trigger, especially in single-action, was superb.

We found approximately the same level of consistency firing the full-length 10mm as we did with the .40 caliber rounds. The difference was accuracy was improved. Winchester’s Silvertips were the least accurate, with an average of 2.2 inches. We wish we could say this for every gun we test. The Federal Hydra rounds also excelled in 10mm, with an average group size of 1.6 inches. PMC’s 180-grain full metal jacketed flat-point round was a tick behind with an average of 1.7 inches.

The 610 offers a solid hold and 8.3 inches of sight radius. The aforementioned single action trigger is very smooth and natural in reach. These are two characteristics that should make it competitive in the game of Hunter’s Pistol Steel Silhouette. Likewise, the power of 10mm cartridges should make it a good hunting choice as well. Its 6.5 inches of full-lugged barrel accounts for much of its 52 ounces of weight, distributed in all the right places to kill recoil. The double-action trigger as it comes from the factory was rather heavy but smooth, without any grit or dead spots in the action. This means the potential for fast and accurate double-action shooting is possible. Just don’t let an incompetent gunsmith mess it up and you can have some fun in the action shooting sports.

By this time it would appear that the 610’s testing went off without a hitch, but one problem did arise. After testing with the .40-caliber MagTech ammunition, we switched to the longer 10mm cases. We immediately noticed that they would not fully seat inside the chambers. We scrubbed the chambers with a bore brush, but felt no obvious resistance. When we removed the copper brush, however, several ringlets of brass were hanging from the rod. The resulting build up of these ringlets acted like washers, taking up space in the chambers. Upon inspecting the spent cases, we noted that only the MagTech cartridges were brass. The other test rounds used nickel cases, and there was not a hint of nickel anywhere. The empty MagTech cases seemed rough at the edge. Some were uneven, and all of them showed a curvature, perhaps the remnant of a tight roll crimp. This would be unusual because ammunitions for semi-automatic pistols are generally taper crimped, not rolled.

Smith & Wesson suggested that either the bullets were oversized or the cases were crimped tight enough for the malleable brass to tear away with the bullet. With further investigation pending, we find it hard to blame this malfunction on the 610 instead of the ammunition.

Gun Tests Recommends
Taurus M415Ti, $599. Don’t Buy. This expensive five-shooter is limited by currently available .41 Magnum ammunition, which is just too hot for this design to handle.

Smith & Wesson 625 Mountain Gun, $540. Best Buy. With so many guns trying to stuff heavy hitting packages in practical revolvers, we feel the Mountain Gun accomplishes this feat where others fail. It is also a good battery mate to your 1911.

Smith & Wesson 610 Mountain Gun, $684. Buy It. Full-power 10mm loads and fast-loading, easy-shooting rounds of .40 S&W make this gun as versatile as you want it to be. For serious hunting or serious fun, this revolver and its successor, scheduled to appear in 2001, should continue to make people happy.