Accuracy

One advantage of the .357 Magnum chambering is, of course, versatility, since .38 Special runs in it just fine. (So, for that matter, will blanks—try THOSE in an unmodified semi-automatic pistol, bottom-feeder fans!) Accordingly, we tested the PC revolver with ammo that ranged from mild to wild.

With the increased price of a Performance Center model over a standard-production offering you’re paying for custom touches (a compensator, two sets of distinctly different grips in this case) and a Performance Center tuned action for a smooth double/single-action trigger pull.

For a walk on the mild side, we chose the always-accurate Black Hills red box 148-grain match wadcutter .38 Special. There’s no softer practice load, and some authorities—Dr. Gary Roberts and Chuck Haggard, to name a couple—have given it a thumbs-up for defensive carry in light, snub-nose revolvers. We tested all loads on a 3M rest from a concrete table at 25 yards. Each 5-shot group was measured overall center to center between the farthest flung shots, and once again for the best three.The latter measurement comes from long-confirmed observation that this can come very close to what the same gun/ammo will do for all five from a machine rest, and is a much easier test for our readers to duplicate with their own guns and loads.

Those .38 wadcutters printed a 2.60” group for all five shots. The best three grouped exactly half of that, 1.30”, all measurements being to the nearest 0.05”.

Here is an unported Combat Magnum (left) and the Carry Comp, both shown at height of recoil firing the same .357 Magnum ammunition for comparison. We can clearly see that, without the Performance Center’s integral compensator, muzzle rise is significantly higher.

Intermediate power level? Particularly with carry-size revolvers, a lot of .357 Magnum owners load them with .38 Special +P for defense purposes. .38 +P was represented in this test by a training round, Speer’s 158-grain full metal jacket Lawman. It put five shots into four and a half inches, the best three in a more satisfying 3.20”.

“Magnum Force” level was where this gun did its best. The load was Remington’s 125-grain scallop-jacket hollow point, rated for 1,450 foot-seconds velocity from a 4-inch barrel. One errant shot that was probably unnoticed error on my part stretched the 5-shot group to 2.90”; the other four were in exactly one inch even, center to center; and the best three were barely over half an inch apart—a 0.55” group to be precise.

The best 25-yard five-shot group of the day, shot with Black Hills notoriously-excellent-performing 148-grain .38 Special wadcutter, measured 2.60-inches.

People wonder how much velocity they lose with a ported barrel. Test team member Steve Denney and I compared the Carry Comp to Steve’s 3-inch, unported nickel Model 13 on a Chrony F-1 chronograph. The Black Hills .38 wadcutters averaged 686.6 foot-seconds out of the Carry Comp, and a very slightly lower 685.93 feet per second from the unported 3-inch Model 13. My 2.5-inch Model 66 spat the same ammo at 765.9 f.p.s. With the 158-grain +P .38 we got 757.02 f.p.s. from the Carry Comp, 744.17 from the 3-inch Model 66: the ported gun was again, counter-intuitively, slightly faster. The 125-grain .357 Magnums roared out of the Carry Comp at an average 1,295 feet per second, and here the unported Model 13 did have a velocity advantage at 1,330 foot-seconds. Bottom line: velocity loss isn’t something I’d worry about in the Carry Comp.

Value

25-yard group with the magnum load, 125-grain Rem-UMC .357 Magnum semi-jacketed hollow point, a “legendary man-stopper”. The best-three shots landed in a half-inch, with one errant shot opening the group to 2.90-inches.

S&W’s MSRP on this revolver is $1,092. We’re paying for the custom work, the slick Performance Center action and the integral compensator. If all you want is a 3-inch-ish barrel on a K-frame .357 and a full-length ejector rod, you can get it on Smith & Wesson’s stainless Model 66 K-frame .357 with 2.75-inch barrel from their standard production line, at $849. See the Carry Comp at your nearest dealer, or for more information, contact Smith & Wesson; Tel.: (800) 331-0852; Web: www.smith-wesson.com