It’s not that often that a new revolver manufacturer arrives on the Canadian market, so getting a close look at a pair of the newly minted Alfa Proj six-shooters in .357 and 9mm is an interesting treat.
Alfa Proj is a Czech manufacturer from the famed firearms mecca of Brno. Founded in 1993, they began by manufacturing blank-firing revolvers and duty-grade handcuffs, branched quickly into actual firearms, and adding a line of air guns in 2004. They have been building revolvers and semiautomatic pistols in their current form since 2002.
The two revolvers I have for testing are from the ALFA Steel line, one in .357 and one in 9mm. They’re essentially the same gun, with different cylinders and grips. Our testers have the optional wood grips which are reminiscent of Smith and Wesson classics: stippled, medallion-sporting walnut combat grips on the .357, checkered service grips on the 9mm.
Maybe I’m a sucker, but the woods really make these guns appealing. The minute I opened the box, I was looking forward to putting these things to work.
Let’s start with the triggers: they’re pretty good. A lot better than I was expecting for a coil spring revolver at this price point. I pulled a couple of fully-shrouded, .357 revolvers out of the safe for comparison purposes: a 6” Ruger GP100 and a Smith and Wesson 686 Classic Hunter. In double action, they’re a little heavier than the GP100, but smoother and less stagey. Naturally they’re heavier than the 686, but no rougher, which I found surprising, as the 686 came with a factory trigger that is nearly otherworldly. In single action, they’re very similar to the GP100: short but definite travel, clean break, no grit, no mush.
The cylinder release is a S&W-style forward push and it releases cleanly on both Alfas. The frame is scalloped out slightly just ahead of the release to allow clearance for the ejector rod. This is common on a lot of revolvers although the Alfas have such an extreme cutout it’s actually visible from behind. That’s not a problem from a technical perspective and it works fine; I just find it a little artless.
The sights are likely going to divide people a bit: some will find them ugly, some will find them fast. I find them fast. I like ultra-visible front sights and most of mine get painted fluorescent orange. The orange blaze on the tip of the Alfa sights suits me fine.
The barrels are fully shrouded which really works for me on the .357. On the 9mm it’s not bad, but with the service grips I feel it really needs a standard ejector rod shroud. But there’s no accounting for taste; I know shooters who love a full underlug on a 3-4” gun, and hate it on a six inch.
Speaking of barrel length, the 9mm gun has a distinguishing feature that I feel should appeal to every red-blooded Canadian: the shorter cartridge allows for a shorter cylinder, which in turn allows for the barrel to be set back into the frame about three-eighths of an inch. This gun, therefore, looks like a true 4” revolver. I realize it’s petty, but I’ll take any last scrap of normalcy I can get when it comes to our bizarre and nonsensical laws.
Of course the price you pay is that short cylinder, which is a little odd looking. But then, a 9mm revolver is something some people will go a long way to get. If you want one, a short cylinder and an inset barrel is a small price to pay.
And the cylinder is fairly attractive in its own way: unfluted, with no roll marks, just clean bluing on a smooth surface. The .357 has a more classic appearance with a fluted cylinder, which goes well with the combat grips and longer barrel. The lockup on both guns is solid, with a similar amount of play to the GP100.
The frame is smaller than either the GP100 or the 686. It’s closer in dimensions to the Ruger SP101 or Smith and Wesson K-frame guns. That’s partly why I find the 9mm gun appealing; it’s a bit reminiscent of the old police Model 19s. Overall, these are well-executed guns. The fit and finish are similar to that of the Ruger, the design cues taken more from the Smith and Wesson.
Shooting the Alfas
Alfa’s .357 is a tight, solid revolver. Shooting four inch groups at 25 yards was not at all difficult; the big walnut grips soak up recoil and even with full-house loads the gun is not unpleasant or difficult to manage. The sights are certainly adequate for 25 yard shooting and the bright orange front makes it easy to stay focused on the front. For really extreme precision work, you could probably pick up a tiny bit of extra help by smoking the front sight with carbon the way old bullseye shooters used to do; if you don’t think you’ll ever need the slightly faster orange front, you could have a very accurate 25 or 50 yard revolver for an extremely competitive price that way. The trigger is smooth enough that it’s pretty easy to run the gun at a reasonable speed without disrupting the sights.
The only issue I encountered was that the combat grips – which I do like very much – prevent you from dumping all of the spent brass in one smooth motion. You have no choice but to rotate the cylinder while hitting the ejector rod a couple of times. That’s not unheard of for some of the larger grips so I wouldn’t consider it a deal-breaker, and those grips are optional to begin with (but desirable enough that I’d almost call them mandatory). But it’s worth noting.
The service-gripped 9mm was an entirely different experience to shoot. The light recoil of the 9mm makes the slender grips not unpleasant and although the shorter sight radius cuts down on the ease of precision shots, the combination of the low recoil and the shorter barrel makes the 9mm an easy gun to shoot quickly. Moon clips are a necessity to run the 9mm, so reloads are automatically pretty quick by revolver standards, so naturally I wanted to go fast.
In fact, the most fun I had testing these revolvers was shooting Todd Green’s F.A.S.T. – the Fundamentals, Accuracy and Speed Test. This is two shots on a 3×5” card, a reload, and four shots on an eight inch circle, at seven yards. With a six-shooter, it’s easy to run it a few times in a row, as the four on the circle leaves you set up for the two precision shots on the next go-around.
I’ll admit that I could barely get my time under eight seconds, which for any gun I shoot regularly would be more than a little slow. But I’ve never tried it with a revolver before and I couldn’t believe how much fun it was. If you pick one up, I highly recommend giving it a try.
One tip for anyone shooting the moon-clipped 9mm: bring along a ballpoint pen. A typical disposable pen fits easily in a 9mm case mouth, and makes it much easier to pop the spent brass off the rather tight spring clips.
If you are looking for a low-priced revolver with significant accuracy potential, I think the Alfa .357 is tough to beat. The trigger is not much different than my well-worn Ruger and the gun shoots. In single action, the break is very crisp and while there is a little bit of stacking from the coil spring during double action, it’s not pronounced or troublesome in my opinion. I like the classic walnut combat grips with the dark bluing; overall it’s a handsome gun and for the money I don’t think you could do better.
If you are looking for something closer to what in a saner country would be called a carry revolver, the 9mm with service grips accomplishes that very nicely. There aren’t a ton of wheel gun options in 9mm, and if you’ve been curious about trying one, the Alfa does it well. The roughly K-sized frame makes the entire package appealing in a modern-take-on-a-classic kind of way. And, of course, if you’re not a committed revolver shooter but you’re already up to your neck in 9mm autos, there’s almost no reason not to have one. Personally I’d be outfitting it with the service grips and four to six moon clips and doing some moving and shooting at one of the local clubs. I think it would be a great change from the usual pistol work I do.
Bottom line: Alfa Proj is offering some interesting revolvers and the price is tough to argue with. Yes, the fit and finish are a little behind the classic Smith and Wessons, and maybe even slightly behind the current Rugers, but overall these are decent machines for a very reasonable price. As for me, I’m calling to check up on the availability of extra moon clips.