Smith & Wesson 327 M&P R8 - Tanaka Works

You could be forgiven for thinking of the revolver as yesterday’s handgun (at least for law enforcement), but the Smith & Wesson Model 327 M&P R8 (replicated here by airsoft revolver specialists, Tanaka Works) is very much a revolver for the 21st century, designed especially for SWAT team point men who need a 100% reliable weapon delivering man-stopping punch - The R8 carries 8 rounds more powerful than the much vaunted .45 ACP round.

Tanaka's revolvers have a deserved reputation for great replication

Tanaka Works' revolvers are usually of a very high realism, quality and performance, so would their latest revolver live up to their usual high standards?

In the Box

The box features a dark background photographic lid showing the R8 and also bears a sticker to distinguish the gun inside as the “Heavyweight” version.

Box is a bit 'old school' nowadays, but is smart and secures the 327

Inside, the familiar Tanaka extended gas nozzle (to reach the fill valve, which is hidden in a fake round in the cylinder) and ‘speedloader’ is present along with a couple of allen keys and a key, the usual collection of paperwork and the gun itself in a polystyrene base.

First Impressions

Tanaka’s 327 M&P R8 is a truly wonderful replica, even by their exceptional standards.

It is heavy for an airsoft revolver at 875g, due to the use of heavyweight ABS, which mixes metal dust in with the ABS for extra weight and a cold touch.

Shrouded, railed barrel and 8 round cylinder.

It’s also a great looking airsoft pistol - assuming the R8’s quirky looks themselves don’t put you off. Its matt black finish and sharp edges remind me very much of the Lamborghini Reventon or F117 stealth fighter.

The frame, fluted 8 round cylinder and barrel look fantastic and very realistic and the markings are detailed, deep and sharp and mostly 100% accurate, with Tanaka ones well hidden.

N frame is more familiar from .44 Magnum revolvers.

There are quite a few metal parts, including the trigger, hammer (with a heavily chequered spur), cylinder/crane, side plate, sights, top rail and safety. In the past,

Closer Look

So, how does S&W squeeze 8 .357 Magnum rounds into what is traditionally a 6 shooter? The answer is in their vast range of revolver frames.

The 327 isn’t (as you might expect from the “7” if you’re familiar with the S&W range) an L frame revolver, but an N Frame, usually used on the .44 Magnums. This allows them to fit 8 .357 magnum rounds (or 16BBs in Tanaka’s case) into the cylinder.

Crane and cylinder are all metal - frame ABS with metal dust mixed in.

This is a PEGASUS system gun, with a gas reservoir in the cylinder, along with space for additional BBs inside (8 go in the cylinder and then another 8 can be forced into the inside of the cylinder via one of the holes – as the 8 in the cylinder openings are used, the other 8 are popped into their place from the cylinder ‘magazine’). This usually delivers great power and exceptional gas efficiency. It also allows the mechanism of the gun in the frame and grip to be close to the real thing, with no gas release or chamber to get in the way.

Fixed shells in cylinder which holds gas and 16 BBs

The downside for some is a lack of removable shells, but after the CASSOPEYA disaster (The authorities forced Tanaka to recall these guns) I think it unlikely we’ll ever see them again from Tanaka.

The frame is marked “Made in Japan”/”Marcas Registradas”/”Smith & Wesson”/”Tanaka Works” above the trigger on the right side in a form very similar to the real Smith & Wesson markings. Performance Center logos feature on the left side of the frame, to mark this revolver out as something special amongst S&W’s output.

Markings are good and mainly accurate.

Tanaka have fitted what look very like genuine Hogue rubber grips, complete with S&W logos moulded in near the top, to the R8 and these feel, as always, excellent in the hand. They also look very much the part on this ‘tactical’ revolver; wood grips wouldn’t work on this gun, although (as usual with Tanaka) real steel grips should fit without problem.

'Hogue' grips look and feel like the real thing.

Fortunately, partly due to the grips, the 327 isn’t a huge hand cannon like the short muzzled 500s, but it was always intended as gun for real world usage in environments where ergonomics matter more than image and style

Despite big frame, the 327 isn't unweildy

The R8 features excellent, clear sights. There’s a V rear slot and an interchangeable front sight, featuring a white dot, which is removable with pin through barrel.

As with most modern handguns, the R8 features a lock, in this case above the safety/cylinder release which locks hammer in position and Tanaka have replicated this system faithfully, including a key to lock it.

Chequered hammer spur - action is smooth and precise

The 327 M&P R8 features a heavy, shrouded 5” barrel, in which the inner actual barrel runs through a shroud which features an integrated under rail for laser or torch. On the Tanaka gun the barrel shroud is totally seam free and features “M&P R8” markings near the frame and an 8 surrounded by 8 dots nearer the muzzle on the right side. The left side is marked “S&W 357 MAGNUM” over the ejection rod.

Upper rail bolts into barrel shround (after you remove grub screws)

Another rail can be fitted on top of barrel to allow an optical sight to be fitted. There are 4 bolt holes in the barrel top (the rearmost allows access to the hop-up adjustment) and 2 bolts are provided to secure the included rail. Oddly you need to remove grub screws from the holes first, which seem certain to get lost pretty quickly.


The image above is taken from Smith & Wesson's own site and shows how an R8 might be configured in the field.

Shooting Impressions

So, you are probably thinking there’s nothing much to dislike about this modern style revolver, but sadly when you gas the gun up things go badly wrong.

Tanaka Works have fallen foul of legislation introduced a couple of years ago in Japan which restricts the power of airsoft pistols to low levels. Earlier Tanaka revolvers were capable of 400+fps with green gas, but this would be highly illegal in Japan now, so Tanaka have erred dramatically on the side of caution with the 327 M&P R8.

Over 10 shots, using Green gas and .2g BBs at 8C, the M&P R8 delivered an average of just 190 FPS.

Shot      FPS
1 224.1
2 182.0
3 193.6
4 194.1
5 178.2
6 196.1
7 184.0
8 186.1
9 179.5
10 183.5

You might think the cool temperatures account for this, but GBBs tested at the same time delivered 50FPS more, which is incredible when you consider this is a NBB revolver. Airsoft Armoury, who kindly provided this example for review, also reported that the latest Tanaka revolvers are highly restricted in terms of power.

Even at 20C this would only equate to around 230 FPS, which is not much better than a decent AEP or spring pistol can deliver.

This would be disappointing enough in itself, but the power is so dismal that, even at 5m, it adversely affects accuracy, almost to the point of being untestable on a cold day.

At 5m, the best 5 from 6 shots fell in a 75mm (nearly 3 inch) diameter and these all fell far below the aim point – this is poor by most standards and my usual 70ft testing proved fruitless with the BBs never getting that far.

Click on image for bigger version in separate window.

The trigger pulls at 1,305g (around 3 lbs) in single action which is pretty much on par with other recent Tanaka revolvers, but the overall impression is of a clean and precise action rather than a heavy pull.

Double action is much heavier, but again smooth and pleasant in feel.


Overall, the S&W M&P R8 is a great, modern style revolver that shows that there’s life in the wheel gun still.

If only it shot HALF as good as it looks... :(

Tanaka’s replica is beautiful, up with their very best, but it is cruelly compromised by abysmal power which destroys accuracy and renders this very much a gun only for those who appreciate the aesthetics of airsoft pistols.

Weight : 875g (60g extra with scope rail)

Realism : 90%
Quality : 95%
Power : 25%
Accuracy : 25%

Real Steel review at Handguns Magazine

Back to the Homepage