Review: Korth Carry Special

posted on May 16, 2023
Korth Carry Special

West German Willi Korth got into the manufacturing business in 1954 and started producing revolvers a decade later. His wheelguns quickly earned a reputation for high quality—and high price tags—and, through the decades, numerous importers have brought a trickle of Korth products into this country. Things really took off, however, in 2016 when M1911 maker Nighthawk Custom became the exclusive distributor for Korth products in the United States. Nighthawk offers a full line of Korth’s .357 Mag. and .44 Mag. revolvers with features tailored to the American market. This partnership is exhibited in the fact that the Korth logo on the left side of the frame is mirrored by the Nighthawk logo on the right side.

Korth revolvers are 100 percent built in Germany. All parts are fully machined from billet steel before being hand-fitted by a single gunsmith. Once in this country, the revolvers are given a final quality-control review and accuracy test by Nighthawk before being shipped on to the customers.

Despite their distinctive external appearance, the most interesting parts of Korth revolvers are internal. They use a roller trigger system that prevents the stacking of the trigger during double-action operation. Instead of a leaf mainspring, an enclosed coil spring is employed. The pull and rebound weight of the trigger can be adjusted externally. The single-action pull can be user-adjusted between approximately 2 and 5 lbs. The trigger also features an overtravel screw. Nighthawk recommends that its gunsmiths adjust the rebound-spring tension, and the company can also give the trigger a distinct breaking point—for those who prefer to “stage” a double-action trigger pull—by changing the rollers.

The 2.75" Carry Special that we tested is the entry point into Nighthawk’s Korth lineup. It mates the company’s six-shot .357 Mag. frame to a 2.75" barrel. The round-butt-style frame uses rubber Hogue Bantam stocks. The entire revolver is finished in a matte-black diamond-like carbon “DLC” coating, with select parts like the trigger and the hammer receiving a high polish. Both the top of the frame and barrel are serrated to reduce glare, and the revolver features a fully adjustable rear sight.

Korth sight and cylinder
The 2.75" Carry Special’s rear sight (l.) can be adjusted for windage and elevation. Korth .357 revolvers can be fitted with an optional cylinder chambered for 9 mm Luger (above, center) that is available in a clipless version (above, r.) that doesn’t require moon clips for extraction.

While the Korth revolver design is known for its unique cylinder release, which is mounted near the hammer, Nighthawk’s Korth line uses a push-forward cylinder release that is positioned on the left side of the frame in a more traditional configuration. Another feature of the Korth is that its cylinder assembly can be easily removed. Pressing a button on the revolver’s right side allows the cylinder and crane to slide off the frame. While this feature makes cleaning a snap, it also allows .357 Korth revolvers to be fitted with a 9 mm Luger cylinder. The value of a spare cylinder in this chambering is that 9 mm produces about half the recoil of the magnum cartridge for extended practice sessions, and it also costs considerably less. There is excellent 9 mm ammunition available that is designed to perform reliably from a short barrel, making a 9 mm-loaded Korth a viable defense choice in its own right. The optional cylinder is fitted to each specific revolver and adds an additional $1,399 to the cost.

To accommodate a rimless semi-automatic cartridge in a revolver, the 9 mm cylinder is available in two configurations. The first makes use of the traditional solution of a moon clip for expedited loading and to provide a surface for the extractor to contact and eject the fired cases. The option we tested was a clipless system. When working the ejector, small extensions move out of the extractor to engage the 9 mm rim. When loading, the extensions retract and allow the cartridge mouths to headspace on counterbores in each chamber of the cylinder in a similar manner to that of a semi-automatic pistol. Nighthawk offers a 9 mm speedloader, which, combined with the clipless cylinder system, means that rimless cartridges can be loaded and unloaded just like rimmed revolver cartridges.

Although Dope Bag protocol states that a handgun with a 2.75" barrel should be tested at 7 yards, that seemed a bit like cheating with the Korth, so we extended our testing distance to 15 yards—still a reasonable distance for a self-defense handgun. The black, square-notch rear sight and square ramped front of our test pistol proved to be an excellent target sight for working on paper. At 15 yards, five-shot groups averaged 1.7". Current-production Carry Specials feature a gold-bead front sight more appropriate for defensive shooting.

Korth Carry Special shooting results

The trigger pull on our test revolver measured 3 lbs., 8 ozs., in single-action mode and 8 lbs., 8 ozs., in double-action, and its operation was so smooth that we felt no need to adjust the weight. In single-action mode, which we used for accuracy testing from the bench, the break was crisp with no take-up. Firing off-hand self-defense drills in double-action mode, the trigger pulled through smoothly and cleanly with no stacking.

Despite its weight, the 2.75" Carry Special conceals easily in an outside-the-waistband holster. The six-shot, .357 Mag. Korth approximates the size of Smith & Wesson’s L-frame revolvers, and most holsters and speedloaders designed for that line can be used with the Carry Special. The Bantam stocks are a perfect choice for a concealed-carry revolver of this size, affording a full-handed grip with minimal bulk; and although they expose the backstrap of the frame, the all-steel revolver’s 34.7-oz. weight tames the recoil of even the heaviest loads.

Korth Carry Special

All Korth reviews either start or end with the same question, so we’ll avoid it here. Suffice it to say that the fit, finish and function of the Korth do live up to its price tag, and the 2.75" Carry Special showcases those three areas in their most practical forms. A refined self-defense firearm, it’s all barbecue and no bling.
Korth Carry Special specs


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