Sixgun Savvy: Armscor’s
.357/.22 Magnums

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Armscor doesn’t suffer from the “Not Invented Here” syndrome and is quick to seek new technology, talent and products to meet customer expectations. Yet, I see many companies stumble, missing markets because they hesitate to reach out into the world marketplace to find products suitable for their own brand. It’s virtually impossible to try to invent everything you might need in a company, so why not partner with those already skilled in areas you need to fill? Seems logical to me.

“We wanted to offer a new revolver line,” said Martin Tuason, President of Armscor. He and I were chatting about their new lineup of upscaled .22, 9mm and .357 revolvers. “We already have the solid selling 200 series, but were looking for something a bit special, guns with different features and benefits. After doing market research, we found Alpha Proj in the Czech Republic, who were making a very nice lineup of high-quality revolvers. It was a perfect match for us and we introduced them into the American market. Shooters here have taken a strong liking to them.”

The people of the Czech Republic have a proud history of creating, crafting and building going back hundreds of years. What they make today relies on that history and experience as they cater to today’s marketplaces. Many of the products in our industry originate in these green hills and modern cities, and if you want high-end optics, seasoned gun designs and well-made accessories, Czech companies can supply them. Armscor was savvy enough to recognize that fact.

The Guns

Armscor’s newest lineup of .22 LR, .22 Mag., .357 and 9mm revolvers reflect the business experience the Czech industry shows off. After vetting Alpha Proj’s products, Armscor decided to add several revolver models to its lineup. Our two test samples are the AL3.1 .357 Magnum, a 2″ fixed-sighted model, and the AL22M 4″ .22 Magnum. There are also blued models and even a 3″ 9mm version using moon clips, the AL9.0.

I already own a model 206 and 200 (2″ and 4″ fixed sighted .38 Special revolvers) so I wanted to see how this new lineup from the Czech Republic balanced the books in the product lineup. When they arrived, right off the bat I could see they were more substantial guns, with smoother actions out of the box, in line with their higher prices.

I’d call the frame size similar to a K-Frame from S&W but it’s not a clone at any level. I think it’s important to evaluate these guns for what they are, not what they aren’t, and they’re not simply copies of anything. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of features that really make them stand out.

Let’s get some boiler-plate out of the way. The line can be had in stainless like our samples, or blued steel. From what I could tell there are no lightweight alloy bits so these guns weigh from around 24 to 38 oz. or so, depending upon the model. The .22 Magnum carries eight rounds, while the .357 fills the cylinder with six. Neither will usually quite fit into a K-Frame holster so you might need to nose around a bit. I did find a sort of generic heavy nylon field holster for an S&W, which allowed the 4″ .22 Magnum to fit nicely. Your results may vary.

Some highlights are the adjustable sights on the .22 Magnum — also on the 9mm version — and comfortable rubber-like grips. There doesn’t seem to be a 4″ adjustable-sighted .357 version though. I think a 4″ .357 6-shot revolver is one of life’s handier items so I’m going to predict one will appear down the road.

The front sights are pinned in on both the adjustable sighted version and the fixed sighted guns. That’s handy if you need to change them out to correct any zeroing issues. The crowns on both guns are nicely cut, showing attention and care often overlooked on production revolvers. Both guns have counter-clockwise cylinder rotation, frame-mounted firing pins and transfer bar safeties — so they’re both safe to carry fully loaded.

The crane reminds me of the Charter Arms guns as it goes “through” the frame and is visible on both sides, unlike, say, the S&W, which rests into a cut milled into the frame and lug area. I also like the fact you can easily take the crane/cylinder out via a single screw in the front of the frame.

Specifics

The 2″ AL3.1 weighs in at about 24 oz. or so due to the shorter barrel, no heavy under-lug and .357 chambering. The fixed sights are bold enough to see and present a good, solid sight picture. My test gun was zeroed nicely, shooting most loads well-centered at 15 yards, with minor changes as different bullet weights or .357 loads were fired. I liked the lightly grooved trigger and the hammer spur was right at hand if you wanted to cock it for some reason. The grips are hand-filling and comfortable, even when I shot heavy .357 Magnum loads. I might wish for a smaller grip option some day since this gun is really intended for defensive use and concealed carry.

The 4″ .22 Magnum weighs in at about 38 oz. or so due to that longer barrel and .22 caliber hole leaving more steel in place in both the cylinder and barrel. The adjustable sights are, frankly, excellent and have an orange insert in the front blade. I was able to zero it for 25 yards easily with several .22 Magnum loads. Both guns had nicely contoured cylinder releases too, and the hand-filling grips really made shooting both guns a pleasure.

Both guns use the same frame/action and I found them to run easily with no stacking. The DA pull was surprisingly long yet relatively smooth on both guns, measuring in the 11- to 12-lb. range. Call the SA pull around 3.5 lbs., give or take. I think both will smooth up more with use or with an action job.

I was intrigued by a screw head visible in a hole in the side plate of both guns and another pinhole in the center. So, being me, I popped the side-plate off and much to my surprise, found the screw was to adjust a spring bearing on the trigger. By simply turning the screw-head you can lighten the force it takes to pull the trigger, which is a pretty darn cool idea. Lightening it offers a “lighter” feel to the press and even at the “lightest” mode, the trigger would still return reliably. I think this deserves more testing and experimenting, which I’ll do as I work on the actions on the guns.

That pinhole is to accept a probe to facilitate reassembly when you install the side-plate. Speaking of that, there are three screws holding things together there and the side plate fit neatly. The action is a proprietary design that I think has improved on the classic S&W action at several levels. There is still a cylinder bolt, hand, DA sear and hammer block, but that coiled spring with legs you can adjust with the screw, even with the side plate on, is a stand-out feature. The hammer spring is also a coil spring, reminding me of something you might see on a Ruger GP100 revolver — and that’s a good thing. I suspect this gun will really respond to action work and I’ll be doing that soon and will report back on it later.

Shooting

The 2″ gun is clearly made for self-defense and carry so I shot it at seven and 15 yards with quite a cross-section of ammo. I got ragged one-hole groups at seven yards with virtually every load, and at 15, 1.5″ to 2″ was easy to hold from the bench. American Eagle 158-grain JSP .357 beat me up to the tune of 1,295 fps, SIG 125 JHP V-Crown skated along at 1,370 fps and Armscor 158-grain FMJ chased 940 fps (a sane load).

The .38 Special stuff seemed more sensible and I found the Black Hills 100-grain HoneyBadger at 945 fps to be a good go-to load and doesn’t break your wrist like some of those .357 loads do. Yikes. I’d likely carry some sort of premium defensive .38 Special ammo in the 2″ gun if I had to rely on it for protection.

The .22 Magnum was a delight and remarkably accurate. The weight meant there was virtually no recoil and the full grips meant it was easy to handle and control. Velocities from that 4″ barrel were surprisingly high. Armscor 40-grain JHP hit 1,285, Norma 40-grain JHP clocked 1,245, CCI Maxi-Mag 30-grain JHP blasted out at 1,595 and some old Federal 30-grain JHP (with a genuine Sierra bullet) raced over the chrono at 1,660 fps!

Benching it at 25 yards showed it was easy to manage 1.5″ groups and frankly, I’m sure the gun will do better than that, but it was freezing out when I shot it! It also dawned on me this would make a swell trail or camping gun and, as Taffin might say, definitely qualifies as a candidate in the ongoing “Perfect Packin’ Pistol” contest.

Final Thinking?

At $794 for the .22 Magnum and $799 (MSRP) for the 2″ .357, these fall right at the sort of “high mid-range” for a quality revolver. But keep in mind these are MSRP prices and I’m betting if you’re a smart shopper you’ll do considerably better. I think these guns bring a bit of out-of-the-box thinking to the American market, while still managing to seem familiar and comfortable to our tastes and hands.

Many European guns can seem odd, quirky — even just plain strange to our eyes on this side of the pond. Yet these latest from Armscor are simply stout guns, even over-built at many levels, with lots of features and benefits we expect in a good gun. I think they’re sure to deliver what American shooters expect from them.

For more info: Armscor.com, Ph: (775) 537-1444

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