Korth by way of nighthawk: three of the nicest revolvers on Earth are coming to America through Nighthawk Custom.
Personally, I think that gives Rolls Royce too much credit. I was just a bit ahead of Cooper in Korth lust. By the early 1990s, I was doing a lot of revolver shooting, and a fellow dub member approached me about his revolver. He wasn't sure it was shooting as well as it should. You can imagine my surprise to see a Korth lying in a gun rug on the shooting bench. "[It] wasn't shooting tight groups," he said, which was like saying a Leica camera wasn't focusing properly. It is simply not possible.
I didn't have any .38 or .357 ammunition with me, so he agreed to bring it back the next time I was going to be at the club. When we next met, I had some .38 wadcutter loads and .357 ammo that I knew shot well. The first group with the soft-shooting .38s off the bench produced a cloverleaf of six shots, all touching, at 25 yards. That's when he fessed up and showed me his ammo. I tried to be gentle, but it was difficult. He was using the most god-awful box of loose rounds of various weights, brands, ages and storage conditions.
"Dude, you're using this in a revolver that costs thousands of dollars?" His reply was classic: "It's all I've got." So I shot the rest of my ammo, gave him the brass and mentioned a few brands of reloading presses he could buy.
I'd love to tell you that the action was so smooth, so light, so buttery that it changed my life. It wasn't. It was good, but not earth shattering. The fit, feel and precision of the crane and cylinder were amazing. And the finish? To die for. It was lustrous and even. There wasn't a toolmark on any surface.
A flawless finish is to be expected because Korth does not have a production line. Their revolvers (and pistols) are made one at a time, on order, by an individual gunsmith. And in Germany, a gunsmith is somebody. Here in the States, if you want to be a gunsmith, you apply for an FFL, you hang out your shingle, and you start taking work. If you're good, you'll be busy, even if you're never rich. If you are not good, you won't last long. You can, if you wish, attend a gunsmithing school, which will teach you useful skills related to both gunsmithing and business.
In Germany, becoming a licensed gunsmith is more akin to becoming a medical professional. Schooling, apprenticeship, demonstrating skills and making a proof firearm from scratch will take more than just a couple of years.
That's the kind of gunsmith who made the Korth revolver that our club member was feeding random ammunition.
It used to be a hassle to get a Korth--or so I've been told. I've never owned one, which is an oversight on my part. Order, pay, wait, nag the importer--it wasn't for the faint of heart. Now it is going to be much easier because we have a dedicated group of gunsmiths in the United States handling the hard part. Nighthawk Custom will be importing three specific models of Korth: Mongoose, Sky Hawk and the Super Sport. The Korth approach is the same one taken, with pride, by Mark Stone of Nighthawk Custom: "One gunsmith, one gun."
The parts for each Korth are machined from specially selected alloys. That's not quite one-third of the work required. The parts are then hand-fitted, the action tuned, test-fired, given its appropriate finish and proofed. The Mongoose is all steel, chambered in .357 and is available with either a 3-, 4-, 5 1/4- or 6-inch barrel. The Sky Hawk, with a 2- or 3-inch barrel, is a lightweight revolver built on an anodized aluminum frame with a steel cylinder. The Sky Hawk is chambered in 9mm. Due to the Korth design for the extractor, we don't need moon clips. Each comes with Hogue grips and a gold-bead front sight. The Super Sport is a radical twist on long-range wheelguns featuring a 6-inch barrel. It wears rails for attaching red dots, scopes and lights. The Mongoose and Super Sport models can be ordered with an extra fitted cylinder in 9mm for an additional $1,000. If you want that extra cylinder, make sure you order it from the beginning.
How long will a Korth last? The founder, Willi Korth, began his company in 1954. At that time, his aim was to make a revolver that performed exactly the same on its ten-thousandth round as it did on its first.
I've put a bunch of ammo through a lot of wheelguns, and with the exception of a PPC revolver I built, I'm not sure I've gotten 10,000 rounds through one. And the others I built or used needed TLC well short of that number.
I had a chance to handle a Korth since that first range day. I was in Nuremberg, Germany, at the IWA trade show and stopped by the Korth booth. While I was there, I did my best to wear the finish off the demo gun, handling it and dry-firing it. Yep, same smooth action, precise fit and gorgeous finish. And they had a show-off revolver as well.
When a gunsmith wants to demonstrate his or her prowess, they do a "wow" gun. It is usually perfect in fit and finish, or it's in a caliber thought undoable, or it has features that require exquisite skill. Korth made a revolver out of Damascus steel. Damascus isn't easy to machine, file or polish. Trying to do an action job on an all-Damascus revolver is not something I would undertake on a lark--or perhaps at all. And Korth had one on display for all to see!
Those are the people making the wheelguns Nighthawk will be bringing into the country and proudly putting their name on.
Do you need a revolver as expensive as the Korths available through Nighthawk Custom? Good question. When it comes to cameras, those who abuse them use one of two brands: Nikon or Canon. Those who demand the absolute best in optical performance pony up the cash and go Leica. One lens for a Leica can cost more than a complete pro camera from the other two, lens included. Those who can see the difference insist on the performance. I can't see the difference in cameras; however, that day at the gun club, I could see the difference with a Korth.
Cooper finished his observations on the Korth line with: "Sometimes it takes a while to follow up on a subject. Admittedly, this one took longer than usual, but was worth it." He was right, and that's no great surprise. It does take a while, and I'll admit we took a good long time ourselves. I know it's going to be worth the wait.
RELATED ARTICLE: Cooper on handguns.
"[T]he big towns are now jungles after dark. Yet there are those who demand that we enter them disarmed. Curious. Actual tropical jungles are a great deal safer. You can traverse the Amazon without a gun and have no fear. A sad commentary."
--Jeff Cooper, June 1969