Clay Buys His First Revolver – Smith & Wesson 325 Night Guard

An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

Hey, fair warning, if you are a big-time revolver nut, you might want to skip this week’s review. I have personally fired less than 1000 rounds out of a wheel gun in my life, and quite possibly less than 500. So why am I covering a revolver? Because I bought one to correct that, which is the point of this exercise. That said, our 325 review is not your normal expert look at something new and hot. It’s an amateur look at something Smith and Wesson doesn’t even make anymore, but probably should.

Excellent grip choice for reducing recoil effect

Now I’m also not a total noob, though that round count is real. I’m pretty handy with an auto, for starters. And I actually considered switching over to revolver class in USPSA a long time back, because it looked like fun. In researching that idea, I also got to sit down and talk wheel guns with His Majesty Jerry Miculek when we were squadded together once. My most important question at the time, as the USPSA capacity rules for revolver had just changed, was 6 shot major power or 8 shot minor? His answer was that he would bring both, and make the decision once he had looked at the stages. A single competitive revolver was already a heavy investment, two was absolutely out of the question, and so I stuck with my Glock 34 in Production class.

Unfortunately, an internal lock model. I will be correcting that.

But the desire never left me. So last month when a friend of a friend knew an FFL that was selling off his entire inventory and retiring, my ears perked up when he said a 45 ACP Night Guard was in the offering. And once a quick Google search showed that Smith and Wesson presently produced ZERO wheel guns in 45 ACP, and Ruger makes one, I paid the asking price before they even listed it on GunsAmerica. I actually paid $200 more than Smith’s original MSRP, before they ended production of this model.

6 large cylinders of ” not today goblin”

Why, exactly, would I pay that for a circa 2008 revolver? Because the Night Guard 325 met all the criteria I was looking for. Things I like about wheel guns are I can leave them loaded forever, in the truck or a kitchen cabinet, with no loss of reliability. I like that in theory at least, it always goes bang. I wanted a gun that was a gun that fed off a caliber I already had plenty of ammo for, considering the current market. That means an auto chambering in my house. Not only did I want it fed, but I wanted to be able to train with it. Like, correct those revolver shortcomings I have. And I wanted it short enough to reasonably conceal carry. The Dirty Harry model 29 with a 6.5-inch barrel is a bit much for me unless I also want to dress like Inspector Callahan. (Side note: ask HouseHold 6 if she likes the 70’s era California Detective  look.)

A short concealable barrel

Anyway, the Night Guard did all that in spades. It features a 2.5-inch barrel, which is very short for a 45. It is an N Frame (ie large, but not the biggest of the S&W frames sizes), but the Scandium Alloy body keeps it reasonably light at 28 ounces. The matte black finish might not be a work of art, but it would also hurt my feels less than chucking some engraved collector’s item in the glove box. And it included XS night sights, a nice bonus feature.

Trijicon front sight

Out of production or not, I intended my purchase to be a working gun. In the interest of review, how does it feel? Like a Smith and Wesson. To say, everything that is supposed to be tight is tight, the moving parts are smooth, and it works. It’s not like I could really call out S&W on finish this time anyway since none of us really know the history of this gun for the last 12 years. The bigger question for you, dear reader, should be “Do I want one?”.

Rear sight with U shaped notch

As I said, I am pretty inexperienced with revolvers. So accuracy testing would be a moot point if we want to talk real capability of the gun. However, if you are also a rookie you could expect I would say results similar to mine. Double action only (which is how the gun would be shot defensively), I had an easy time keeping them in a paper plate at 7 yards. 15 yards, not so much. If you are an auto guy, the long double-action pull of a revolver trigger takes some getting accustomed to. It is also a weird feeling to have things moving as you pull the trigger, as in the external hammer and the cylinder. Weirder even than a DA/SA auto such as a Beretta 92 or CZ 75.

RIMZ to the rescue with moon clips

It takes a little getting used to, but it does get better as you go. Within 100 rounds, I noticeably improved. There is still a long way to go before I would consider myself truly competent with this gun, but it is nice to feel progression come that early. I would also say that is part of the fun and challenge of owning a revolver.

Polymer, but so far durable and easy to use. No tool required to unload them

Single Action, I was very surprised by how easy the 325 was to shoot. Now, this is a bit of a cheat, if you bought the gun to use defensively. Few, very few, would be the situations where you got to start with the hammer cocked. And almost none were would you be manually cocking the hammer between shots. I don’t know, a 50-yard firefight with good cover? It isn’t really how we think of using a gun like this. But it did make it easier to focus on the recoil. To be honest, I expected this gun to kick a little harder. 45 ACP isn’t exactly a powerhouse of a bullet, but it isn’t European for “stun” either. Having mostly shot 41 Magnum or 357 Magnum before, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice 45 ACP was in this platform. Hat tip to the synthetic grips, which provide a nice cushion.

Hornady XTP was used in testing

Shooting steel at reasonable defensive ranges, I was very happy with my purchase. It is still quite possible to forget the long trigger pull and start chucking rounds, but with a bit of focus, hits are reasonably fast. Again, something I am sure improves over time. It’s also pretty cool to have all your brass stick together in a moon clip, so clean-up is a cinch!

Ready to get some

A note on that, if like me you are planning a first-ever revolver purchase, I did choose an auto caliber, for the reasons noted above. One thing I did not realize going into this was that moon clips aren’t a nice accessory; they are required to shoot an auto cartridge in a revolver. I guess I had just never considered the physics of how a non-rimmed cartridge fits in a cylinder. The answer is, without moon clips, they don’t. That is actually true even of the original WW1 issue M1917 g45 ACP revolver, if it was made by Colt. In an odd bit of trivia, the Colt needed them but the Smith and Wesson did not. If you are buying a modern revolver, just consider that you probably need them and order a gaggle. My purchased model 325 was missing the two included S&W moon clips, which meant my gun was a brick until some arrived by mail. I chose polymer EZ brand moon clips, to make the Fudd crew even madder.

Moon clip during extraction

All in all, I am very happy with my purchase. While it is true S&W no longer makes the Night Guard series, they do pop up from time to time on GunsAmerica. And if you are as new to wheel guns as I am, I would also dare suggest you are just as well off with a Charter Arms Bulldog or Taurus 905. The challenge of learning a new gun is extremely rewarding, as is the security of knowing a bullet is coming out when I pull the trigger, hell or high water. Revolvers might be old tech, but they aren’t obsolete.

Brass pick-up is much nicer with wheel guns.

***Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!***

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Kb3141) July 30, 2022, 12:11 am

    I also like revolvers, even though my EDC are semi autos.
    My first handgun was a Ruger security six a 357. My brothers and I all purchased one in the 80s when PDs were switching to the wonder nines.
    “always fires when you pull the trigger “,,, One of my brothers fired his rarely, and had last cleaned it with WD40. Over the long time interval that it was stored, the WD40 turned to gunk that fouled the mechanism such that the cycle time was several seconds. We could literally watch the hammer fall, with the round not going off.
    The point is that while a revolver is quite reliable, nothing is absolute, especially if used infrequently,
    I have many guns, but my first, and probably my last, will be that old security six in 357.

  • Tom Brollini July 29, 2022, 1:41 pm

    I’ve had 45ACP revolvers since the 60s & currently have a M25 & 325PD. They are great. I carry the PD, depending on clothes. I have many S&W revolvers, they are the best! Carry several S&W revolvers from 38 pocket guns, 357, & the 45s. Also carry the 45 Shield & 4513TSW. What can I say, I’m a Smith fan.

  • DEFENDER July 29, 2022, 11:03 am

    Great review.

    I am a Semi Auto Guy – Competitions AND Carry.
    BUT
    REVOLVER
    I keep one in the Bathroom in a ZipLoc bag 🙂 Up High on a shelf.
    Chrome.
    With 2 Reloads.

    Many yrs now. All Good.

    Cant get much more Vulnerable and you Never Know.

  • Dave July 27, 2022, 7:00 pm

    Have a longer barreled 325; have other .45 wheelguns, and this one is more than a little rappy to shoot, compared to the steel framed versions.
    Ended up loading some 185 grs in AutoRim brass, to get things more manageable.
    Encountered the same issue with 9mm revos.
    Dave

  • Link Lackluster July 26, 2022, 5:31 am

    I own a 329NG in 44 magnum. Of course I can also shoot 44 special. Great gun. I shall never part with it until I depart. I also own a Ruger GP100 Match Champion with a 4 inch barrel in 357 mag. It’s a forever keeper, too.

  • Willie-O July 26, 2022, 5:27 am

    Welcome to “the club”. I’ve always been fond of revolvers, while acknowledging the capacity advantage of semi-auto’s. I own entirely too many of both – I can say that here because my wife will never see it. I stay out of her closet and she stays out of my gun-safe and it has served us well for almost 30yrs, but you don’t ever admit to owning too many even if you do. Always liked multiple guns utilizing the same ammo, especially long-gun and handgun combinations. I had the Charter Arms “Pitbull” in .45acp and loved that it didn’t require moon-clips. Personally I’ve always preferred the 3” barrel, but can live with either a 4” or snub (in that order). I typically carry and shoot what I own and prefer PRE-LOCK S&W’s. Enjoy that piece, it will serve you well. Thank you for your service sir.

  • Charles Cochran July 26, 2022, 2:11 am

    Congratulations Clay, on your excellent purchase. I started with a revolver back in the late 70’s, a 4″ S&W Mod 66. Eventually, the Auto Bug bit, but I still take the 66 out now and then and run drills with it (I have my Grandfather’s Model 36, his off duty gun as well, occasionally I carry it in the hot months).
    Yes, I love my Autos, but I’ve a fondness for Revolvers as well.

  • Rick July 26, 2022, 12:28 am

    One thing to check for is a cracked frame. S&W had a lot of problems with the 325’s doing this. Open the cylinder and the crack if there is one will be under the barrel on the frame. It happened to my 325PD with very little use.

  • Mike Moser July 25, 2022, 9:25 pm

    I have always had some revolvers started out with a S&W M19 and M36.My favorite is the S&W M25 -5 45LC,I do need to get a shoulder Holster for it.It is a 4″beauty.

  • Peter July 25, 2022, 8:54 pm

    My daily carry is a Taurus 617T – a 7 shot Ti framed 357 Mag. Not for target or plinking, but that’s not it’s job. For field carry I go with a Redhawk in 45 – dual chambered for LC or ACP flavor. Or there’s the 586 or the 686, both 357 Mag. Or maybe one of the Blackhawks. Or the Single-six. Or another Redhawk, Super variety in 480.
    But I do have one very good semi-auto handgun, that is way better than I am in it’s realm – a Sig 226 Legion.

  • jim July 25, 2022, 5:19 pm

    Clay, if you like that 325 find an early 625 w/5″ bbl, mine’s a blast and it’s great on steel.
    And the TK Custom’s moon clips are great. Strong (I’ve bent others) and solid, I’ve got about 70 of them.

  • Kane July 25, 2022, 4:57 pm

    I thought just about every gunner shot both revolvers and semi-autos. my mistake. I like that revolvers can be loaded but are not under spring tension.

    Like this Smith except for the “Hillary Hole.” I plugged up the Smith .22’s I own even though they are just range guns.

  • Walleye July 25, 2022, 4:02 pm

    A S&W Night Guard 325 is certainly an excellent choice, but the Governor in 2.75″ is also worth considering if you want a good home defense wheel gun in 45 ACP.

  • Dane Cowling July 25, 2022, 3:44 pm

    Great pick up, Clay. I bought the exact same model several years ago after watching it gather dust in the case at my local gun shop for several years. Struck a reasonable deal for it and will never regret it. It truly is a sweet wheel gun in my favorite caliber. The gun shop owner said S&W quit making them because most people’s hands were too small to operate it and they didn’t sell enough to keep making them. Fortunately, I have big hands so it fits like a glove. So glad when I saw your review…you just never hear anything about them.

  • E Poole July 25, 2022, 3:24 pm

    I have a S&W Airweight Crimson trace in .38 P+. Very light, very slim. I put it in pocket holster and you can’t tell it’s there, even with your suit on. One drawback is it’s only 5 rds. To compensate, I use Liberty Ammo Civil Defense rds.

  • C J July 25, 2022, 12:26 pm

    So…..this is the first revolver you purchased? And that’s what you bought? NICE!
    I would love a revolver in .45 acp also.

  • Wade Voltz July 25, 2022, 11:54 am

    I have a 325PD, the Nightguard’s predecessor. Full moon clips are bulky for carrying for reloads but 45 Auto Rim in a speed strip carries nice and flat.

  • Edward Allen July 25, 2022, 11:12 am

    I, like Clay, tend towards the semi-auto handgun. However, I also believe that you should be proficient in revolvers as well. My first revolver was a S&W 586 Performance Center chambered in .45 ACP for the same reason as Clay. I like to match calibers to firearms that I already own. When I saw the 586 I fell in love with its looks. Brushed stainless with red/white/blue wood grips. She’s a real shooter.

    I also agree, practice DA because if you are in a situation where you need to respond quickly, you won’t have the time to pull the hammer back manually between shots.

    Anybody that has fired my 586 absolutely loves it. Recoil is manageable and it is a very solid sidearm.

    I have since acquired 2 more revolvers. One in 22LR/22WMR and an 1873 SA chambered in .357 Magnum. And yes, I am still of the opinion that you should have matching calibers across platforms. As a result, I have .357 caliber compatibility in lever guns, a 357 Coonan and the 1873.
    For the .45 ACP, I have the 586, Multiple sem-auto handguns and am building a 45 ACP AR15 (pistol and rifle).

    Plans are for 10mm ARs to go with my 10mm 1911s and to get a 10mm Revolver.

    • Aquaman July 25, 2022, 12:12 pm

      I was under the impression that S&W 586 was blue steel and 357 magnum.
      You have the stainless model in 45acp?

      • Robert Moore July 25, 2022, 3:55 pm

        You are correct. I own a S&W Model 686. It is a stainless .357 Magnum.purchaed new in

  • Mike in a Truck July 25, 2022, 11:11 am

    For once in my life I was at the” right place at the right time” May ’09. Coming home off the road I parked my tractor at my LGS. The place was overflowing with all the rage newly arrived bottom feeding plastic guns and the lonley 325 still sat in the display case where it had for the last 6 months . I asked the owner if he was ready to talk turkey. Exasperated he said “I gotta make room.”I got it for $20.00 above dealer cost, a box of hardball and free range time. Its a true fighting revolver for those that know how to fight with one. A revolver that was 10 years ahead of its time and probably never made again. In ’17 I added another true fighting revolver- a Performance Center 327 pug nose. N frame snubs are very addicting.

  • nomikes July 25, 2022, 11:03 am

    You will find the Rimz polymer moon clips excellent for range use but not viable for carry in .45acp. Fortunately, in my 20 years of competition with a 625/25-2 I have never found a .45acp metal moon clip that did not work so buy cheap. Moon clip removal and loading tools are plentiful

    • Kjohnson July 25, 2022, 8:55 pm

      I was thinking the same thing when i saw polymer. Stick with the metal for reliability

  • Ken July 25, 2022, 10:46 am

    I have an LCR in 9mm. I’m not big into wheelies either, in fact it’s the only one I still own. I love it though. It’s a handy little piece for short errand runs. I like how easily moon clips make reloads. I don’t know if they are faster than speed loader but I feel pretty confident in my reload times using them. Currently I’m running 147gr. Federal HST in mine. I’m thinking that since you’re not getting full velocity anyways, the heavier round is more better? What would you recommend? Do you think 124 , 115 or lighter would be better?

  • Sgt. Pop July 25, 2022, 10:28 am

    On handguns in general, of 18, and I could only keep one for the rest of my life, one of my S&W 19’s (.357) would be it. I have 1911’s, 75’s, Glocks, Rugers, XD’s, M9, etc., but down to one- The revolver. One of mine was handled by Bill Jordan at our hunting camp many years ago, and as I have two 19’s, thats the one I’d keep as both being equal. A lot can be done with a .357/.38 as to variation of loads and use. My experience, your milage may vary……. Pop

  • Tedd July 25, 2022, 10:03 am

    Clay, Congratulations on your S&W Night Guard 325. I also own 2 Night Guards, a 327 in .357 Mag (8-shot) and a 310 in 10MM. I sent the cylinder of the 327 to TK Custom and had it machined for using full moon clips, something that S&W ought to have done already as they had with other .357 Mags.

    I’m actually surprised and maybe just a little disappointed in your choice especially since you reviewed my FAVORITE S&W revolver, the PC 327 in .38 Special/.357 Magnum. In your review you seemed just as smitten as I am with mine and I was certain you’d own one soon enough, as they are still a S&W Stocking Item and can sometimes be found gently used or as new in the box. I had seen one at my FFL that was on consignment for $900 but I passed because it didn’t have the original factory box, which you absolutely must have when buying any S&W as it helps with the resale value a lot.

    I’ve enjoyed a lot of your reviews because you have had very positive reactions to other firearms that I own as well, and you have normally indicated in your review that you would choose them as I have. I’m talking about the S&W PC 327 (my EDC) and the FN Five-seveN, as well as the Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM 16, and my newest member of the Family the Springfield Armory Saint Edge Pistol with the 10.3″ barrel and the Maxim Defense brace. Again, you seemed very taken by all of these, as I am as well. They’re basically all I need, but I have others too that fill some needs. The S&W PC 327 is superior to any of the S&W Night Guards IMO, and the trigger from the Performance Center (PC) is the best in the business. It’s actually lighter than my GLOCK G29 and with 8 cartridges of 38 or 357, and an extra full moon clip or two, I’m content for an EDC. Your Night Guard will hold its value and actually increase in value over the years as long as its not battered into retirement. A Chaser Arms and a Taurus don’t even belong in the same conversation with a S&W as they don’t even come close to the quality and collectibility nor have the value retaining ability of the S&W revolvers. The only other revolvers I might consider would be the Ruger and the snubnose revolvers that Korth has produced in the past several years. The Gunsmiths at the S&W PC can improve your Night Guard, especially the trigger and you’ll be a happy guy. I’ll keep an eye out for a S&W PC 327 for you, and you can thank me later…

    Regards,

    Tedd

  • Frank Garza July 25, 2022, 9:30 am

    Congrats on the new aquisition. I have always tried to have revolver around, even if semi-autos are quicker to reload and easier to conceal. I have owned revolvers that shot the 45 acp round but I always came back to revolvers that shot multiple calibers like 357 mag(38 special) and 44 mag(44 special). I agree that for defensive purposes it’s good to practice double action shooting a revolver. Semper Fi and God bless..:)

  • John Hill July 25, 2022, 8:44 am

    The night guard series of revolvers was one of the best S&W ever produced. K,L, and N frame sizes, light weight, best revolver combat sights, what’s not to like. Maybe they were too expensive and too few revolver aficionados, but ending their production was a huge loss. I carry the 386: slim, light weight, seven shots, superb grip, superb combat sights, doesn’t get any better than that!

  • Don C. Hayward July 25, 2022, 7:47 am

    Fascinating lead for buying Clay’s book as I also belive that there are those human beings that deserve to be shot dead. There is much evil in the Marxist Party that supports selective genocide based on “class distintinction.”

  • MeSeaHunt July 25, 2022, 7:45 am

    good buy!! if ya ever wanna sell it let me know 🙂

  • Russ Will July 25, 2022, 7:37 am

    I have this exact model of revolver, and it’s a peach! I have the .41 version as well, and it’s great to have guns that will serve a different purpose while using a holster you already own.

    If you like speed loaders, the auto rim is a good suggestion. I like speed loaders but I personally prefer those moon clips. Smaller, faster and lighter. I get my clips from tkcustom.com (No personal affiliation) where you can obtain different thickness of clips and clips tailored to different sized brass, to keep the rounds tight and minimize or eliminate the rounds wobbling.

    Have fun with it!

  • David Barnes July 25, 2022, 6:34 am

    I have many revolvers, including 2 BP. My EDC is a S&W 360PD and it is the easiest-to-carry pistol that I own. It is equipped with a CT green laser grip sight and I use an OWB holster. It is quite accurate, extremely dependable, light weight, easily concealed and provides many options for ammunition in both .357 and .38 Special (+P). Only drawback is capacity (5) and extra ammo carry options. Itis a handfull when shooting full load magnum rounds but my experience is that you won’t realy feel the extra punch in your hands when the adrenaline is flowing- for practice, .38 Special is my choice. BTW- the second choice in my rotation is a Sig Sauer P365. I just purchased a KImber K6s DAO, 3″ barrell and may put it in rotation at some point but it does not have all of the “all day long” carry characteristics of the 360PD. My wife’s EDC is a S&W 337 Airlite Ti (discontinued in 2004) .38 Special and she loves it. Her second choice is a Glock G43.

  • Nikki Magnusson July 25, 2022, 5:09 am

    Buffalo Bore makes 45 Rim..in +P and standard load..no moon clip required

    • Irish-7 July 25, 2022, 10:59 am

      Smith & Wesson representatives told me NOT to shoot +P rounds in a scandium revolver. I bought some Hornady .45 ACP +P in error a few years ago. I was not sure which weapons would handle the higher pressure loads. I own a Colt Gold Cup, Remington R1, Ruger P345, Springfield XD-S and S&W 457 plus a Governor revolver. I wrote to Colt, Remington, Ruger, Springfield and Smith and Wesson. ONLY S&W responded. I did get feedback online from guys who reload. Several stated that +P rounds are fine in the automatic models I owned, as long as I didn’t shoot a lot of them. None of the online input addressed scandium weapons.

  • Nikki Magnusson July 25, 2022, 5:07 am

    You can also try 45 rim +P..no clip required.. I’ve used Buffalo Bore..

    • Big Al 45 July 25, 2022, 10:34 am

      True, but he did say he wanted a caliber (and cartridge) he already had and used.

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