The men racing toward the hijacked Air France flight 8969 belonged to the French counterterrorist unit, Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale (a.k.a. GIGN), and they carried a variety of weapons and specialized equipment. Captain Thierry Prungnaud took point in the assault that ended with the rescue of all the passengers and crew still onboard the aircraft.
Immediately after the front-side door was forced open by the GIGN team, Captain Prungnaud moved into the airliner and into the sights of the four members of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria. Within a matter of seconds he killed two of the terrorists and seriously injured a third.
But, unlike what might be assumed by those not familiar with this elite French force, the firearm that went through the door first and into the hail of terrorist rifle bullets wasn’t an automatic rifle or a semiautomatic pistol. Instead, the three terrorists succumbed to wounds inflicted by a .357 Magnum revolver.
The weapon used by the GIGN point-man to, in his own words, ‘neutralize three of [the four terrorists]’ was the French-manufactured Manurhin MR73. This firearm was designed specifically to stand up to the incredibly punishing training regimen employed by this elite force.
Each member is required to fire 150 rounds of full-power .357 ammunition through their MR73s every day. In fact, during the initial proof-of-concept tests, 170,000 full-power cartridges were fired through an MR73…and the revolver was still functioning perfectly when the tests were finally suspended.
The level of training – which caused other brands of revolvers to literally come apart at the seams – resulted in the kind of rapid, and extremely accurate, marksmanship demonstrated in the rescue of the Air France hostages. That the assault team was employing six-shot ‘wheel-guns’ was, according to the first commander of the GIGN, a decided advantage.
He maintained that the limited number of cartridges resulted in carefully-placed shots. The outcome of Prungnaud’s terrorist engagement provides proof that the highly-skilled operatives are indeed incredibly efficient, and lethal, when using their Manurhin revolvers.
What about a ‘normal’ shooter?
The above account of one of the myriad of actions (mostly secret) involving the GIGN and their preferred sidearm indicates the toughness and accuracy of the MR73, albeit in the trained hands of an elite force. But, what about for the non-elite shooter? Like yours truly, for example?
The day I processed the FFL for the Manurhin MR73 through Tom McElwayne of Shooters Den I was heading to a property for a feral hog hunt, so I didn’t have time to try out the MR73 sent by the North American Importer Kebco.
I decided to take the revolver, and a box of Hornady’s 140-grain FTX LEVERevolution ammunition to my hunt. Who knew, maybe I’d have the opportunity to try out the wheel gun ammunition on a feral hog.
When I arrived at the site of my hunt, I decided to use my host’s range to put the first few rounds through the Manurhin revolver. There was no bench close enough to the target stands for handgun shooters, or at least not for this handgun shooter. Instead, I used a post that was 25 paces from the targets on which to rest my hands.
Those are my first three shots. I stopped while I was ahead. (As another aside, when I sent the photo to Ken Buch, he asked why all the shots weren’t in the same hole…) My first three shots turned out to be no fluke. The Manurhin MR73 was incredibly accurate with all four of the ammunition types used.
These included two varieties of Hornady rounds (the other was 135-grain Critical Duty), as well as Remington 125-grain SJHP cartridges and Speer 158-grain Gold Dot. The Hornady 140-grain FTX loads are designed for hunting applications. The other three cartridge types are more in line with the MR73’s raison d’être – to stop those intent on harming others from achieving their goal.
Before moving forward with the results of my range analysis, I should point out that not only is the MR73 a wonderfully-accurate, and tough handgun but it’s handsome as well. The accompanying photos will hopefully convince you that this is a seriously attractive revolver.
The explanation may lie in the design having originated within the French company. Whatever the reason, this revolver looks as good as it shoots.
NRA Twenty-Five Yard Targets at 42 yards?
O.K., I have some explaining to do. All of the data gathered for the Manurhin MR73 came from sessions at my local gun range. I arrived with my NRA-approved 25 yard slow-fire pistol targets planning to fire from the bench at, well, 25 yards.
But someone had removed the 25-yard free-standing frames for repair. I was left with fixed-frames positioned 42 yards from the bench. I could have fired off-hand from 25 yards, but that wasn’t appealing. This change in my design actually turned out to be fortuitous because the resulting groups were actually quite presentable.
All of the cartridge types resulted in group diameters of 4-5 inches, reflecting the inherent accuracy of the MR73. The bullet weights of the four types of ammunition varied from 125-grains to 158-grains. The velocities of the various bullets ranged all the way from ~1100 fps to well over 1500 fps as they left the muzzle.
If the Manurhin .357 Magnum was finicky about what weight and velocity, it should have shown up in this analysis. Instead, it compensated for both the widely-varying loads and the ‘experimental error’ due to the shooter’s quivering.
The excellent accuracy at 42 yards suggests how well the MR73 will perform in its different guises. First, when the revolver is used in self-defense situations, it will likely involve targets engaged at bayonet range. Such was the case in the assault of the hijacked Air France jetliner.
The bullets from Captain Prungnaud’s MR73 landed precisely, killing or severely wounding the hijackers, yet missing the plane’s crew who were standing beside them.
The second conclusion applies to hunting applications, specifically when pairing the Manurhin revolver with the Hornady 140-grain FTX LEVERevolution ammunition. The group sizes obtained when using these cartridges provides support for using the MR73 and the Hornady ‘big-game’ load for species such as whitetail deer and feral hog.
Muzzle energy for this cartridge was ~650 ft-lbs, and thus I personally wouldn’t want to exceed the 50-yard mark when firing these at game animals. However, within 50 yards, I would have confidence in bullet placement and penetration.
How does the Manurhin MR73 handle?
Here is where I switch from quantitative to qualitative observations. In other words, I want to address the topic of how it felt to hold the MR73 post-trigger break, especially when firing the loads with the highest velocities and/or heaviest bullets.
Let me first mention that I fired 12 cartridges per ammunition type, and that I did all my shooting in one session at the range. So this revolver is quite shootable. However, I wouldn’t want to leave you with the impression that the response of the MR73 to sending a bullet down its bore was ‘mild’.
Another anecdote should illustrate this point. When discussing the design of my range analysis with Ken Buch, he mentioned that the MR73 could be very, um, noticeable when one touched off a full-power load. I heard the warning, but at the start of my session, I ignored Ken’s advice.
My first 12 shots were fired minus my shooting gloves. After the 12th cartridge, I noticed that a bruise was starting to form on the palm of my right hand. The remainder of the session saw me decked out in my lightly-padded gloves.
I think it is apparent that I am greatly impressed with the Manurhin MR73. I’m a history nerd, as well as a person who is humbled by those who sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. Needless to say, I was captivated by both the origin and application of the MR73 as the GIGN’s preferred sidearm.
Likewise, my rangework with this revolver confirmed its capability for both personal-defense and hunting applications. And Manurhin makes them in a variety of barrel legths.
So, if you are looking for an incredibly tough, powerful and yet handsome handgun – one that you will enjoy showing off to your friends – I would refer you to the Manurhin MR73. It’s guaranteed to impress your friends. It will also impress anyone, or anything, at which you shoot.
Specifications: Manurhin MR73 Revolver
Caliber: .357 Magnum
Grips: Factory Rubber Trausch
Front Sight: Ramp
Barrel Length: 5.25″ tested (available in lengths from 2.5 to 6″)
Material: Proprietary carbon steel
Capacity: 6 rounds
Rear Sight: Adjustable
Twist: 1:18 ¾” RH
Finish: High polish blue
Overall Length: 10 ½”
Weight: 2 lbs 5 oz
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Style * * * * *
This is a seriously attractive handgun. The grips aren’t only functional, but look like a piece of artwork. Likewise, the overall lines on this revolver and the finish give it the appearance of what it is – a product designed to look as good as it shoots.
Reliability * * * * *
The history of this firearm speaks much louder than anything I can write concerning its reliability. However, it performed flawlessly with all of the loads I used.
Accuracy * * * * *
I’ll restate what I found with each of the four types of ammunition – whether at a distance of 25-paces, or 42-yards, the MR73 gave excellent accuracy with Remington, Hornady and Speer cartridges.
Overall * * * * *
Having never heard of (let alone fired) the Manurhin MR73 before, I definitely started out with a clean slate regarding my opinion of this firearm. I have come away disappointed from other esoteric guns, but not this one. While it’s not inexpensive, this is one of the finest handguns I have encountered.