Review: Pachmayr Guardian Grips

By Wilburn Roberts published on in Gun Gear

Snubnose revolvers are a favorite of armed professionals and have been for many years. The balance of lightweight power and maneuverability are excellent. About the only thing about these revolvers we may change are the grips.

Two Smith and Wesson revolvers with Pachmayr grips

Snubnose revolvers are a favorite of armed professionals and have been for many years. About the only thing about these revolvers we may change are the grips.

There are various models with 2-, 2.25- and 3-inch barrels. The J frame five-shot revolver is a great hideout and a reasonable choice for front line carry. The snub nose .38 Special revolver requires dedication and practice with the proper technique. If you deploy one of the J frame Magnums, then you really must practice.

Some of the revolvers are supplied with good, hand-filling grips, but they are large for pocket carry or easy concealment. The J frame revolver with its five shots for certain is a good close range defensive handgun. The grips have been called minimal or even diminutive—and they are. However, if you put hand-filling oversize grips on the piece, you might as well carry a larger handgun.

The J frame is meant for a rapid draw and deployment. Many of the grips are so small that you have the small finger hanging off of the end of the grips. Yet, if you add a larger set of grips, you end up with a measurement that is just enough larger that the handgun, so it becomes very difficult to conceal.

Pachmayr Guardian grip with finger extension retracted on revolver

The grip itself is small and easily concealed. There is an extension of the grip that is activated by a spring-loaded lever.

With these larger grips, the J frame revolver is actually much easier to fire and use. The accuracy potential is greater than many would think. Many attempts have been made at designing a grip that offers a good gripping surface but remains compact. The Pachmayr Guardian grip is among the most interesting yet and certainly the most innovative.

The design is simple enough. This spring-loaded extension rocks into place and allows firing the pistol with much more comfort. A rough analogy is the difference between the flush fit and extended grip offered with compact self-loading handguns. The longer finger extension is more comfortable to fire while the flush fit magazine is more difficult to control. The same applies to the firing grip of the J frame revolver, but the grip is more permanent—until now.

You mount the new Guardian grip on the J frame revolver, and then the revolver easily stashes in the pocket. Draw the handgun and, as you take the firing grip, the lever on the face of the front strap activates the small finger rest and it comes into play. This is a neat, reliable system that works well in practice.

Pachmayr Guardian grip with finger extension extended on revolver

Draw the handgun and, as you take the firing grip, the lever on the face of the front strap activates the small finger rest and it comes into play.

When the grip is mounted, you must remove the alignment pin from the grip frame that usually butts into the grips. The tension of the grips and attachment points are good enough. As for firing the piece, the difference is considerable. There isn’t a choice; you cannot fire the revolver without the extension. When you take a firing grip the piece extends on its own.

The grips were tried on a Smith and Wesson Model 442 five-shot .38. I fired the powerful Federal 129-grain Hydra-Shok +P during the evaluation. The results were excellent.

I also fitted the grips to a Smith and Wesson Model 649 .357 Magnum and fired a cylinder full of Federal .38 Hydra-Shok. Then, to mix it up a bit, I worked over a favored load I sometimes deploy for protection against animals, the Federal .357 Magnum 180-grain JHP. A 180-grain bullet at 1,000 fps from the 649’s 2.25-inch barrel is very impressive. This is an overlooked option and a hard kicker.

The Guardian grips made a big difference. I think that they have earned a place on the J frame. I will be deploying them on my personal .357 Magnum J frame revolver in the future.

What do you think of a retractable finger extension? What is your favorite revolver grip? Share your answers in the comment section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (12)

  • BikerJeff

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    Is about time Pachmayr figured out that a few of us wanted a bobbed rubber grip for the J frame and like compact wheel guns. I bobbed one of their presentation grips to fit on a Charter OD-38 about 30 years ago. Fits into the Sneaky Pete for J frames just right, and really takes the sting out of those 158 gr loads.

    Reply

  • Stravo Lukos

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    Not only are the Pachmayrs great for a steady grip, but they increase the speed at which one can draw. I tried both, the wooden factory grips & the Pachs on my old Ruger .357– no contest. Remarkable difference. I used a shoulder rig, crossdraw, fyi.

    Reply

  • OldGringo

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    I never argue with a 1911 guy.. cause I r one. Started my law enforcement career in the Military Police, and once you carry a 1911 a while, you never lose that familiar feel. I carried a Colt Officer model, a Satin Nickel Commander which I thought was the prettiest gun on the planet back then, a custom 1911 made just for our military group and several generic ones. I have a 1911-22 with suppressor and laser, about 2 feet from the bed as we speak, we have varmints at night, often. I built one in 38 super and one in 400 Corbon, much like your 10mm—that one shoots factory ammo, 165 grains at 1,361 fps. Yes the rubber grips are ugly and sticky, but they work. Taurus and Rossi have some grips they call “ribbers”. I have some on a 2 inch 44 magnum, and they are wonderful, lol. Just saying, if you want the tiny 357s to come with full power, rubber works. FWIW

    Reply

    • Sam

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      Similar background (military & law enforcement). The same or similar handguns. Like you, I prefer as much fight-stopping power available as possible (within reasonable limits of the particular arm I’m using and the situation). Regarding the little revolvers, I don’t reload anymore but have found some pretty hot commercially available ammo for .357 mag (and even .38 Special +P) depending on the intended use. Some of the best I’ve used include: Buffalo Bore (158 grain JHP), Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman (158 grain HC Keith solid lead), Underwood Xtreme Defender (100 grain FTX solid copper), Hornady (110 grain FTX), and some .357 mag low flash (in my bedside gun). All are top performers, depending on their intended use. As good as these are, I’d still rather be armed with my tried and true .45 or 10mm when the goin’ gets rough.

      Reply

  • OldGringo

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    With all due respect the whole idea behind a tiny 357 is to actually have that power. I own a dozen J frames and love them. I have a 637 and have chronographed it and many others. When you shoot 38+P you seldom get over 925-950 fps with a 125 grain bullet. That is OK for stopping a person, maybe, and give about 225 foot pounds. In my 3 inch model 60, I am getting 550 ft lbs . If I am only wanting 225 foot pounds, I can carry a small 9mm with more 6-7 rounds of ammo. Just saying, with rubber stocks and training it is doable.

    Reply

    • Sam

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      You are absolutely right. Rubber stocks are much more comfortable to shoot small revolvers when loaded with .357 mag. But personally I’ve never much liked the sticky feel of the rubber stocks, which tends to interfere with my shooting (and also tends to kinda stick to clothing if carrying). But if you shoot a lot .357 mag in small revolvers, then the rubber stocks would definitely be more comfortable. I’m not particularly recoil sensitive, so I tend to go with what works best for me and it’s intended use – be it my S&W Model 60, S&W Model 66, S&W K-38 (plus a few other Smiths), and my favorite little revolver the Kimber K6s .357 mag (which I carry as my back-up piece, along with a couple of speed strips of .357 mag). For more fight-stopping power (I’ve seen the .357 mag fail to stop a bad guy in a shootout), I go to my 1911 .45 ACP (my main carry piece, with 2 extra 8-round magazines) or 10mm Auto, both of which I’ve shot a lot – both on and off duty.

      Reply

  • OldGringo

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    I think your problem is those really nice wooden grips. I have the 3 inch model 60 and for 20 years had a model 640, both with the factory issued pachmayr grips and they did pretty good with full power 158 grain bullets .I measured them in the 3 inch and they got a little over 1,250 fps, true 357 power. Rubber grips really help. FYI

    Reply

  • Sam

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    Looks like a very clever and innovative design. However, anything mechanical can break or fail, and, as pointed out, lint and/or debris might become a problem. As for my handguns, I’ve customized all my grips years ago so that they fit my hand perfectly. I prefer wood on most of mine, which made it easy for me to file and sand shallow finger grooves that perfectly fit my hand, and then I would refinish them. A couple that didn’t need my customizing work are: my Kimber K6s .357 mag polished stainless Deluxe Model that came with nice Rosewood grips, and my .40 S&W M&P which came with the nice feature of having 3 sets of changeable grips. Ya, this old wood & metal guy broke down sometime ago and got a plastic gun, but (much to my surprise) it turned out to be a nice shooter (not withstanding the fact that you need to use a mag loader to load the magazines because of them having extremely stiff magazine springs). Plus, I wanted to mount and shoot with a laser (just for the fun of it), and the M&P came with a mounting rail under the barrel. Regarding the laser, I found out that the laser is fine for across the room accuracy, but at any distance beyond that the regular sights are much more accurate (which pretty much agrees with the previous article about lasers). Good grips that comfortably fit your hand, good sights that allow for good target acquisition, the right caliber and ammo for the task at hand, functional reliability, lots of training, lots of practice, and the right mind set – is all part of what it takes.

    Reply

  • Jim in Conroe

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    I have the S&W Model 60 LS with beautiful rosewood grips. They work OK for .38 special, but are totally unsuitable for shooting .357 magnum – ouch!

    I tried a Hogue “slipover” grip, but could not get it to fit properly. I solved this problem by using camo tape – the kind that sticks to itself and is thick enough to provide a cushion, but thin enough that it does not appreciably increase the size of the grips.

    Reply

    • Sam

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      You are right about using .38 Special instead of .357 magnums in small revolvers. I have found that using .38 Special +P defensive loads in my favorite small revolver (.357 mag Kimber K6s) to be easier to shoot than .357 magnums, and yet still have the potential to deliver a reasonable amount of fight-stopping power at close-in defensive distances. There is also available some .357 mag ammo that features low recoil and low muzzle flash that looks promising, and might be especially useful in night encounters. I keep some loaded in my S&W Model 66 bedside gun.

      Reply

  • JimmyinTEXAS

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    Seems like pocket lint or dirt may pose a problem.

    Reply

  • OldGringo

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    I am not much for the 101 gimmicks that come out each year. However, the review involving the model 649 with 357 ammo got me interested. I have the Model 60 with 3 inch barrel. It moves 158 grain bullets out at 1,250 fps, far better than a 9mm with the short barrel but it does not give you quick follow up shots. I carry the little gun in places where black bears and cats are common, so follow up shot might save the bacon. Gonna try one of these. Unfortunately it will not work with my Tyler T grip which does help.

    Reply

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