The rail gun revolver rivalry
By Dennis Adler
When you talk about a level playing field you also need to have two relatively equal competitors, and that we have with the ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 4-inch BB model and the Umarex S&W Model 327 TRR8 BB cartridge firing rail equipped revolver. Rail guns are nearly always semi-autos and the list is endless from 1911s to Glocks, Sigs, Walthers and so on. When it comes to revolvers the choices are more limited. Among the handful of centerfire wheelguns are the aforementioned Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P R8, S&W Thunder Ranch and the 327 TRR8, the Chiappa Rhino 40SAR, 50SAR and 50DS, 60DS, and 60SAR models, the biggest selection of rail gun revolvers available, last, the Taurus Judge rail model, and the massive German Korth Super Sport .357 Magnum. What’s not mentioned here is a Dan Wesson model because they don’t make one, at least not in .357 Magnum. But when it comes to air pistols, Dan Wesson, via ASG, does have a rail gun and it is a near perfect match up for the only other BB cartridge firing rail revolver, the Umarex S&W TRR8. Both are, of course, smoothbore guns (but you can shoot lead or alloy pellet cartridges with them if you want), and both have excellent triggers, and sights. The big advantage seems to lean toward the S&W CO2 model because it has excellent green fiber optic sights and a longer 6.25-inch (external length) barrel vs. the ASG Dan Wesson’s 4-inch (external length) shrouded barrel. Internally, the smoothbores measure 3.5 inches for the DW and 5.44 inches for the S&W with a 0.81 inch recess from the muzzle. That gives the S&W almost a two inch advantage. Still, the Dan Wesson smoothbore has delivered some very tight 0.875 inch groups at 21 feet.
Fit and Finish
The Umarex Smith & Wesson holds true to the centerfire 327 TRR8 and Performance Center R8 with a smooth, matte black finish. The centerfire guns have hard rubber grips that help absorb some of the .357 Magnum’s felt recoil. The Umarex uses hard injection molded plastic grips which look the part (since there is no recoil) but are not as comfortable in the hand as the real hard rubber combat-style grips used on the ASG Dan Wesson, which are remarkably similar to the Hogue grips on the actual .357 Magnum models. Trigger pull is really a game changer here with these two, the Dan Wesson pulling at 9 pounds, 6.5 ounces double action and 5 pounds, 8.0 ounces single action. The Umarex has an almost ridiculously smooth double action pull of 6 pounds, 12 ounces double action and 5 pounds, 3.5 ounces single action. Both revolvers easily stage the hammer for accurate double action target shooting, so it is going to come down to barrel accuracy, trigger pull, and sights.
For looks, if you like the tactical style, then the S&W has an edge, but for my money (and perhaps yours) the high polish blued (steel grey) sheen on the Dan Wesson is hard to resist. Both have factory markings on the barrels, the Umarex with Smith & Wesson 327 TRR8 on the left side and the Dan Wesson with a deeply embossed .357 Magnum on the right. Both bear airgun manufacturers marking as well, but the DW’s are far more subtle and the guns are individually serial numbered.
For what it is worth the Dan Wesson feels like a real centerfire pistol in the hand for weight and balance, the S&W is about the same weight as the actual 327 TRR8 (35 ounces) but has more of an air pistol feel about it. If you shake it, it rattles. The Dan Wesson Model 715 feels is as solid as a vault door. The DW comes in at about $30 more than the S&W, so you are paying for what you get. If you have one and want the other the good news is that they use the same front loading BB cartridges and speed loaders.
Open Sights at 21 feet
Throwing out all previous tests, I’m shooting new targets at 21 feet using Umarex steel BBs. First up, the S&W 327 TRR8 with its green fiber optic sights and longer 8-inch sight radius. The Model 715 has matte black sights and a shorter 6-inch sight radius.
With open sights the TRR8 put six shots at exactly 1.0 inches with two overlapping and one in the red bullseye. With open sights, six rounds from the Dan Wesson delivered a 0.93 inch group. The two guns are so close that the difference in barrel length almost becomes negligible. The Dan Wesson is more accurate at the same distance with a shorter barrel.
Adding the laser
I was not expecting to see a significant improvement with the laser on the Dan Wesson which punched six rounds into 0.81 inches, a mere 0.12 inches tighter and still under an inch at 21 feet with the 4-inch barrel.
The S&W 327 TRR8 put six rounds at 0.81 inches, exactly the same as the Dan Wesson. The TRR8 really fits the Walther Night Force laser a little better with its longer barrel, but overall the two guns are just about equals, which means the Dan Wesson gets the nod with a shorter barrel and better overall performance, handling, fit and finish. Now, if Dan Wesson would just build a .357 Magnum 4-inch rail barrel to match the airgun!