Smith & Wesson Model 325 Thunder Ranch Revolver with included carrying case.
While auto pistols are now the norm for most agencies, it was not always so.
Some 31 years have passed since several other Yavapai County, Arizona, deputies and I petitioned our sheriff to allow the troops to choose between the mandated .38/.357 revolvers or 1911-type pistols. The sheriff finally gave his blessing after meeting with Colonel Jeff Cooper at the American Pistol Institute (API—now Gunsite) and being shown the advantages of the 1911. With that said—and although my preference is a 1911 for defensive use—I never felt unarmed carrying my Colt Python loaded with 125-gr. jacketed hollowpoints (JHP).
Thunder Ranch logo is engraved on right side of frame in front of cylinder.
Many of the “old-timers” continued to carry revolvers, but several of them upgraded in caliber, retiring their Colt Troopers and Pythons, and S&W Model 19s, 27s and 28s for Model 25s in .45 ACP. Using half- or full-moon clips, with practice they could be reloaded almost as fast as the auto-pistols. I always thought that was an excellent choice for anyone who preferred revolvers.
I recently received a Model 325 Thunder Ranch (325 TR) from the S&W Performance Center for evaluation.
The 325 TR is built on the large “N” frame. The frame is Scandium to reduce weight, while the cylinder is blackened stainless steel. The face of each chamber is chamfered to allow trouble-free loading with moon clips. The Thunder Ranch logo is laser engraved on the right side of the frame in front of the cylinder.
Revolver has integral lock for those who wish to make use of this feature.
The front sight is a Patridge-type with a gold bead. The rear sight is the standard S&W and is adjustable for windage and elevation. Stocks are rubber Hogue Monogrips with S&W’s logo.
For good double-action shooting, it is best to have a smooth-faced and radiused trigger, and the 325 TR’s is just that.
Barrel length is four inches and features a Picatinny rail denoting that this revolver is intended more for self-defense than sport.
The 325 TR comes shipped in an olive green nylon bag that has the Thunder Ranch logo embroidered on it, eight full-moon clips and a clip unloading tool, a cable-type gunlock, two keys for the integral lock mechanism and a manual.
I went to the range with seven different factory loads and one handload to evaluate the revolver.
Some problems chambering loaded rounds were encountered with four of the eight loads tested (see Table II). While rounds could be chambered individually, they would not load with the furnished moon clips.
This was a combination of several tight chambers on the revolver and loads that did not have as much of a taper crimp as the others. I also think the finish used to blacken the stainless-steel cylinder may have been too thick in some areas of the chambers, as I was able to solve the problem—to a degree—by using a brass bore brush with gun cleaning solvent, followed by cotton patches coated with Simichrome metal polish, followed by clean patches and some elbow grease. Again, in all fairness, the problem was as much due to certain loads as it was the revolver.
Outside of the above difficulties, the revolver was a joy to shoot. The 325 TR has the smooth action that Smith & Wesson has become famous for, and coupled with the smooth-faced trigger, firing the revolver double-action made getting good hits on target a simple affair.
User may attach a light or laser to the Picatinny rail.
Since no quality holster was available (at the time of this writing) for the 325 TR, I used a generic nylon, “one-size-fits-all” holster that I found at the bottom of my “no longer used holsters” box.
Using a PACT timer and drawing from concealment, I was able to manage an 9.8-second El Presidente drill—admittedly not world-class by any means, but it would have scored a “pass” (10 seconds) under the original API standards.
Front sight has removable Patridge-type sight with gold bead.
SIGHTS ’N’ LIGHTS
While a gold (or brass) bead on a front sight provides a good sight picture under ideal conditions, it is not my usual first choice. Why? Depending on the location of the sun, glint off the bead may create a false sight picture (see Training and Tactics, February 2008, S.W.A.T.). However, as much as I hate the term, this will probably not be enough to matter at “average gunfight” distances.
Any compact weapon light may be used with the 325 TR.
I like lights on self-defense firearms, and I like the option of being able to have one on this revolver. I tried five different lights on the 325 TR, and each one went on and off the rail easily.
There is one caveat, however, to using a light on a revolver: With a semi-auto pistol, hot gasses only escape from the muzzle. With a revolver, they escape from both the muzzle and the gap between the end of the chamber and the barrel’s forcing cone. I fired the 325 TR with my thumb on a SureFire X300’s momentary switch alongside the bottom of the frame and did not get burned, but depending on the size of your thumb, placement and load used—such as a +P loading that will produce more flash—it is possible you may be burned.
Revolver comes complete with eight moon clips and clip unloading tool.
When I was almost finished with this article, S&W advised me that the test revolver was a pre-production sample. As this is written, full production will not be underway for another month. As such, I’m sure the problem I experienced with different loads/tight chambers will be corrected on production models. The revolver should be available by the time you read this.
Overall, I think the collaboration between Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch and Smith & Wesson has produced a winner. If you are in the market for a big-bore defensive handgun, the 325 TR is worth a close look.
Smith & Wesson
2100 Roosevelt Avenue
Springfield, MA 01104
Black Hills Ammunition
P.O. Box 3090
Rapid City, SD 57709-3090
P.O. Box 369
Sturgis, SD 57785
Federal Cartridge Company
900 Ehlen Drive
Anoka, MN 55303-7503
9 Akira Way
Londonderry, NH 03053
30 Eagleville Road
Eagleville, PA 19403
18300 Mount Baldy Circle
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
16175 NW 49 Ave.
Miami, FL 33014