Once in a blue moon I’ll get a phone call from my editor when he’s got a little excitement working and wants me to get on a story right away. It doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen. Usually, we’ll just converse by email, but when enthusiasm has him by the tail, he’s on the horn immediately. The cause for his most recent exuberance was Beretta’s announcement of their importation of new Manurhin MR73 revolvers. The MR73 began hitting the American shore this spring.
The Beretta Manurhin MR73 Revolver
I’ll admit that I got a little excited myself. Originally designed for France’s GIGN, a special unit of the Gendarmerie, the Beretta Manurhin MR73 revolver was built specifically as a hard-use revolver that could withstand the rigors of daily training where operators fired approximately 150 rounds of 158-grain ammunition per day.
Crafted from the highest grade of ordnance steel, the MR73’s robust construction has allegedly allowed one example to fire over 1 million rounds without any major parts failure. That’s the stuff of legends and is why shooters and collectors around the world seek the Manurhin MR73. As well as its highly vaunted accuracy.
My mission was to take a new MR73 in hand and provide an assessment on its performance. Beretta is currently importing two versions. One has a 4-inch barrel and bears the “Gendarmerie” name, while the other has a 5.25-inch barrel. It is the “Sport” version. I received the Sport model for this review. It was my endeavor to provide the best assessment possible in the limited time I had with this classic.
Beauty Of The Beast
One of the first things you’ll notice when you pick up the MR73 is the magnificent finish. The MR73 wears a deep bluing that’s as good or better than I’ve ever seen on any firearm. Although, it’s an oil and fingerprint magnet. Like some crafty chameleon, its appearance varies with changing light. At times, it seems to have a deep black, reflective appearance. There are moments when the light catches it just right for a flash of brilliant indigo-sapphire blue. Contrasting against that gorgeous finish are the steel trigger and hammer. Both have a gold/bronze appearance that is a result of the heat-treat process.
The top of the barrel has a matte finish for a more subtle contrast. It also includes full-length serrations for glare mitigation. However, the surface beauty stops when we reach the rubber Trausch grips. Pebbled for comfort and a secure purchase on the gun, the Trausch grip is uniquely shaped to provide recoil absorption and ultimate control. While not as appealing as a nice set of checkered walnut grips, there is no mistaking the message. No matter how good the MR73 looks, it was built for heavy use.
The Inner Beauty
Despite the great first impression the MR73 makes, the real beauty can be found in the specific features. There are characteristics and tolerances that make this revolver the true gem that it is. For example, the MR73 includes an adjustable trigger with serrations on its face that also includes an overtravel stop. Additionally, there is a hammer spring-weight adjustment screw and a hammer-force adjustment screw as well. You can make adjustments in these two areas to provide the best trigger action, while still maintaining absolutely reliable ignition.
The MR73, quite simply, has the best double-action trigger pull of any revolver I have ever tried. The DA pull registered an average weight of 7.81 pounds on my Lyman digital gauge. More important than the weight, however, is that the pull is incredibly smooth and has a relatively short throw for a revolver. This translates to almost zero movement in the gun during the stroke. This allows the shooter to stay on target during the double-action pull. The single-action pull and break was also quite nice at 3.88 pounds. But that double-action pull is what it’s all about for those that take it into harm’s way.
As mentioned earlier, the MR73’s construction uses high-grade ordnance steel and it must be really good stuff. Despite its size being similar to a Smith & Wesson K-frame revolver, the MR73 can reportedly withstand twice the pressure of a standard 158-grain .357 Magnum round. Another significant feature is the cold hammer-forged barrel. The rifling is formed during the forging process, resulting in a much longer service life.
Up top, the MR73 includes a quality set of sights, ideal for precise, long-range shots. The rear sight is serrated for glare reduction and sports two white dots. The front sight is a plane black blade that yields minimal daylight on the edges in the rear sight. While this choice may be staying true to the original MR73, I’d prefer something with more visibility up front. Either a high-visibility dot in orange or yellow would work, or even a gold bead would help to a degree. Aside from that, the sights were spot-on and worked well during the range testing.
Finally, in regard to its charms and appeal is what you can’t see with the naked eye. The Manurhin gunsmiths spend a significant amount of time polishing and hand-fitting all of the parts. This also includes the time spent test firing the MR73. This ensures it shoots 15-round groups that are no larger than .80 inches at 25 yards. This is a demanding requirement. But is indicative of the special needs of the GIGN and other special units that conduct counter-terrorism and hostage-rescue operations.
I ended up taking the MR73 out to the range to “test” on three different occasions. It wasn’t absolutely necessary; it was just so much fun. That’s not even considering the long line that formed within the ranks of my shooting buddies and gun shop friends. They all knew the reputation of the MR73 and wanted to give it a whirl.
Despite this trying time of scarce and prohibitively expensive ammunition, we just couldn’t help ourselves. We ended up shooting six different premium loads from Buffalo Bore, Speer, Hornady, Sig Sauer and DoubleTap ammunition. On top of that, we also shot a good supply of Sig Sauer’s range ammo—125-grain Elite Ball FMJ loads. All in all, the results from just about every aspect of the experience were superb.
First up was bench testing at 25 yards, and no, I did not try for or achieve 15-shot, .80-inch groups. I’m just a mere mortal with aging eyes. Besides, I’m sure the smiths at Manurhin have a Ransom rest or other such fixed apparatus to competently test the accuracy of their barrels. I settled for a simple CTK Precision pistol rest and five-shot groups instead. Even so, I shot some of the best groups I’ve ever shot with a revolver (unscoped) at 25 yards.
There were certainly some brands and loads the MR73 preferred over others. However, the average size for all loads was in the range of 1.33 to 2.29 inches. But when it found a load it liked, it was on like Donkey Kong. Its two preferred loads were Sig’s 125-grain Elite V-Crown and Buffalo Bore’s 158-grain JHP. The best group from Sig Sauer was an astonishing 0.88 inches, with an average group size of 1.33 inches. Buffalo Bore’s round averaged 1.50 inches with a best group of 1.28 inches.
Just a hair behind was Speer’s 125-grain GDHP at an average of 1.51 inches. There’s enough human variables involved to say it was a toss-up with these three loads. With my relatively short time with the MR73, there’s no question for me that Manurhin can obtain .80-inch groups in a test environment where failing sight and consistent alignment isn’t a factor. To be honest, I thought the .88-inch group was just a happy accident on my part. But I do believe the MR73 is just really that good.
Having Some Fun
But the real fun came with addressing targets in double-action mode. With the trigger’s exceptionally smooth, clean stroke, everybody walked away feeling like a real gunslinger. At 7 yards, 1-inch groups were easily obtained during our offhand shooting. In fact, a couple of guys were shooting rounds into just one hole offhand. By all accounts with those that gave the MR73 a try, it definitely lived up to its reputation for accuracy.
The only negative interaction with it had to do with the grip and recoil with some of the heavier loads. The grip fit most of us just fine, but a couple of guys have large hands. They said it felt a little tight trying to squeeze their hand in between the top and the bottom of the Trausch grip. Otherwise, the grip worked well for almost all of us. It provided excellent traction, and the top part of the grip did wonders in helping to reduce muzzle flip during recoil, even with the hotter loads.
Speaking of recoil, the Sport version is relatively slight of stature for .357 Magnum—even with its high-grade construction. It weighs in at 37 ounces, a few ounces lighter than a Ruger GP100 with a 4-inch barrel. When we got to the heavy loads from Buffalo Bore and DoubleTap, the recoil was pretty dang stout, even with the superb Trausch grip. My middle finger took a bit of a beating from the triggerguard with those loads. Even the 125-grain Speer load offered a good thump. But the loads from Hornady and Sig Sauer were downright pleasant to shoot, so there’s something out there for everybody.
Best Of The Breed
It should come as no surprise that with all of the polishing and hand fitting of parts for that incredibly smooth action and phenomenal accuracy, there’s going to be a high price to pay. The MR73 rings in at an MSRP of $3,300 here in the United States. Some may shake their heads at the price and others might simply not be able to afford it. But there’s little question that the MR73 is the finest-made factory revolver in the world. And there’s always a high price for excellence.
With its high-polish, mirror finish and gold accents, there is the temptation to place the MR73 under glass for occasional viewing. Especially to keep oil and fingerprints away. But that would almost be an injustice. The MR73 is a thoroughbred that performs at the highest level. While it’s nice to have a thoroughbred in your stable, the real magic only happens when you let it run. For more information, visit Beretta.com/en-us/manurhin.
Beretta Manurhin MR73 Revolver Specs
Caliber: .357 Mag./.38 SPL
Barrel: 5.25 inches
Overall Length: 10.39 inches
Weight: 37 ounces (empty)
Width: 1.70 inches
Grip: Trausch Target
Sights: Blade front, adjustable rear
This article was originally published in the Tactical Life Aug/Sept 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email email@example.com.