December 22, 2021
By Keith Wood
We live in a throwaway society where low-cost goods are made to be used and then discarded. Gone are the days of the television repair man, and the gunsmith might not be far behind. This manufacturing trend is arguably great for consumers as it keeps prices low.
However, efficiency in manufacturing is prioritized rather than craftsmanship. Even now, though, there are some brands who refuse to compromise quality in the name of price; they simply build the best product that they can and pass that cost along to the consumer. Among those firms are Korth and Nighthawk Custom, two gunmakers who strive for quality over quantity. The companies have combined their talents to deliver the NXS, a new revolver that is proof of craftsmanship’s survival.
Bringing Korth Stateside
Korth Arms was founded in Germany in 1954. Its focus now, as it was then, is turning raw steel into precision firepower. The company’s founder, Willi Korth, set out to design and build “the best revolver in the world,” and many feel that he achieved that goal. Korth handguns have trickled into the U.S. market through the years, but never in significant numbers. That changed at the 2015 SHOT Show when Korth CEO Martin Rothmann met his counterpart at Nighthawk Custom, Mark Stone. The two hit it off quickly and realized they had similar values and business practices.
Like Nighthawk, Korth uses a “one gun, one gunsmith” model to build every revolver from start to finish. There are other similarities, too. For years, Nighthawk’s gunmakers have stamped their initials under the grip panel when completing a handgun. As it turned out, Korth’s in-house makers did the same. Finally, both Stone and Rothmann share a common faith that further binds them. What began as a personal connection and fast friendship led to a full-fledged collaboration between the two companies.
Rothmann’s background is in the aerospace industry, so he is intimately familiar with the process of building to exacting tolerances. Korth’s revolvers are 100 percent machined from solid billets of 4140 carbon or 416R stainless steel; there are no cast or MIM parts used in the construction of their handguns. Parts are machined oversized and then fit by hand, combining automated manufacturing prowess with old-fashioned skill.
Even given Korth’s dedication to quality, Stone didn’t want Nighthawk’s name attached to a product that hadn’t received their own internal stamp of approval. If a gun was going to wear the Nighthawk Custom brand, it had to meet their scrutiny. To ensure their familiarity with the product, two of Nighthawk’s gunsmiths traveled to Germany to learn from Korth’s lead craftsman. German gunsmiths from Korth also made the trip to Nighthawk’s facility in Berryville, Arkansas.
The revolvers are fully built in Germany and imported by Nighthawk Custom. Once stateside, each revolver is inspected by one of the specially-trained ’smiths before being testfired. Once the guns and their performance on target are approved, they get cleaned, lubricated and repackaged for shipment. This redundant system of quality control ensures that nothing slips through that’s less than perfect.
Nighthawk imports several models from Korth, ranging from the no-nonsense Mongoose to the striking Super Sport ULX. In July 2020, gunsandammo.com announced the double-action, 8-shot NXS chambered in .357 Magnum.
Meet the NXS
The NXS is built on a large frame, the same platform used for the company’s .44 Remington Magnum revolvers. Think of it as the Smith & Wesson N-Frame equivalent in terms of size. Six- and 4-inch barrels are offered, with G&A’s test gun wearing the longer of the two.
The NXS is a very distinctive-looking revolver with aggressive mill cuts, lots of rail space and a two-tone finish. If traditional styling is your thing, this may not be the gun for you. As a lifetime revolver fan, I’ve long wanted to spend some quality time with a Korth. For me, the true beauty of the NXS is found under the frame’s sideplate. There is a tactile smoothness to the working parts on this revolver that must be experienced to appreciate. As soon as I held the NXS in my hand, I knew that it was something special.
The NXS’ barrel is cold hammer forged from 416R stainless steel and threaded into the frame. The ribbed, railed and scalloped steel shroud fits over the barrel precisely, and is actually installed first! The barrel is then threaded into the frame, holding everything securely in place. Thanks to this two-piece arrangement, the cylinder gap is a scant .004 inch, one of the tightest that I’ve measured. You have to hold the NXS up to a light to see the clearance between these parts. A tastefully dished crown protects the rifling at the muzzle.
The cylinder release on the NXS is like no other. This steel latch rides just to the left the hammer, making it very easy to engage without a shift in grip. Pressing the latch forward releases the cylinder. The cylinder locks at the rear by a spring-loaded plunger, and the ejector rod interfaces with a detent at the front. A third locking point is achieved by an oblong stud in the crane that fits in a recess milled into the frame. The precision lock-up of the cylinder evokes a bank-vault-like click. A very slight bit of play in the cylinder allows bullets to align themselves with the forcing cone, which is a good thing.
The NXS is available with an auxiliary 9mm cylinder that is fit, tuned and timed in-house at Nighthawk; it is not a drop-in component. Removing the cylinder is one of the neat little elements of the NXS. Just forward of the triggerguard, a radiused pin protrudes from the frame. Depressing this plunger with the cylinder unlatched allows the entire assembly to slide forward and off the frame. The process takes about 3 seconds to complete. Both the standard .357 Magnum and 9mm cylinders are machined for compatibility with moon clips, which makes reloading the revolver quick and painless. The NXS also ships with a machined aluminum eight-shot speedloader that is a work of machining art.
There is a lot going on in terms of sights on the NXS. The plain, black, target-style rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. A small tool is included for just this purpose. The front sight is a serrated steel ramp that is secured using a hex screw above the muzzle. This blade is user-changeable. The front sight is protected by removable side panels, which contribute to the revolver’s unique look. Finally, rail sections are present to allow for the mounting of either a red-dot sight or a magnified handgun scope. The rails are machined integrally into the frame and barrel shroud so they will never come loose. Another rail section milled into the bottom of the barrel shroud allows for mounting a light or laser, if you think you need one.
Internally, one of the more unique elements of the design is the hammer strut. It uses a coil rather than a leaf spring, which rides in a tube that works much like a shock absorber on an automobile. Thanks to the unique lockwork and hand-fitting, the NXS’ trigger is absolutely amazing. The 8 1/2-pound double-action pull is the smoothest that I’ve ever experienced, and it is consistent throughout the hammer’s travel; there is no stacking, staging or hesitation. The single-action trigger was clean and consistent at 21/2 pounds with zero creep. An adjustable overtravel screw threads through the trigger blade and was obviously correctly set during the build process.
The grips, which are made in-house, establish that Korth’s gunmakers are equally as skilled with wood as they are with steel. The two-piece Turkish walnut stocks are cut from the same blank and fit seamlessly with one another. The fit to the frame is so tight that, even with the four retaining screws removed, the panels must be carefully pried apart for removal. Designed in collaboration with gunwriter Sheriff Jim Wilson, the grip includes three finger grooves and a flare near the top that provides a comfortable thumb rest. Grip fit is an individual thing, but I found these to be quite comfortable. A high-quality screwdriver, correctly ground for the grip screw slots, ships with each revolver.
Much of the NXS is finished in a satin black, Diamond Like Coating (DLC), which is an attractive, durable and functional product. DLC is well-suited to guns with such tight tolerances since, unlike many spray-on finishes, it adds negligible dimension to the parts. Stainless-steel parts, which include the barrel, hammer and trigger, are polished to create accents against the black backdrop. The overall fit and finish on the NXS is outstanding. There are no gaps and no machine marks. No flaws of any kind are evident. Everything about this handgun exudes quality and craftsmanship.
Shooting the NXS was pure pleasure. Thanks to the weight, balance and grip design, even full-power magnum loads were comfortable to shoot. The gun came perfectly zeroed, which allowed me to focus on shooting the smallest groups that I could. It was quickly apparent that this is an incredibly accurate handgun. The best five-shot group that I could muster measured a seemingly impossible one-half inch at 25 yards! No light target loads were used, either. All of my shooting was done with powerful defensive loads. Other than on custom-made and line-bored single-actions, I’ve never achieved such accuracy from a revolver. If only I’d had a handgun scope with the correct eye relief; I would have loved to see what kind of results are possible.
About The Price
I’m fully aware that the price of this handgun ($5,299) is unrealistic for most of us, but I hope everyone can appreciate learning about the NXS. I picked up a car magazine and enjoyed reading about the technology of a new, $200,000 Porsche that I won’t be buying. One doesn’t have to be wealthy to appreciate quality, and I am glad that guns such as the Korth NXS exist. Performance matched the price.
I can’t definitively say that this is the finest double-action revolver in the world, but I am confident in saying that it is the most well-built and flawless revolver that I’ve ever tested.
Korth NXS 8-Shot .357 Magnum Specifications
- Type: Revolver, DA/SA
- Cartridge: .357 Magnum/.38 Special
- Capacity: 8 rds.
- Overall Length: 11.65 in.
- Height: 6.38 in.
- Weight: 3 lbs., 2.7 oz.
- Material: 4140, 416R stainless steel
- Grip: Turkish walnut, two pieces
- Trigger: 8.5 lbs. (DA), 2.5 lbs. (SA)
- Safety: Transfer bar
- Finish: Black DLC
- Sights: Serrated ramp (front); black, adj. notch (rear)
- MSRP: $5,299
- Importer: Nighthawk Custom, 870-423-4867, nighthawkcustom.com
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