The Röhm Gesellschaft RG 31 Revolver: It's Trash, But It Works!

Rohm Revolvers RG 38 Special
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The Röhm Gesellschaft RG 31 Revolver: It's Trash, But It Works!

In the panorama of firearms history, the Röhm Gesellschaft (RG) brand occupies a niche that reflects innovation and controversy. Among its lineup, the RG 31 model stands out as a symbol of the company's approach to firearm design and manufacture. This article delves into the origins of Röhm Gesellschaft and the development of the RG 31 revolver, shedding light on its specifications, uses, and the legacy it carries.

The Genesis of Röhm Gesellschaft

Röhm Gesellschaft, commonly abbreviated as RG, was founded in the early 20th century in Germany. Initially, the company did not start as a firearms manufacturer. It was primarily involved in the production of tool accessories and drill chucks. It wasn't until the mid-20th century that Röhm diversified into the firearms industry, marking its history indelibly.

The transition into firearms was motivated by a demand for affordable handguns, which Röhm sought to fulfill. The company's entry into this sector coincided with a period of regulatory changes and market demands that favored the production of small, inexpensive firearms. Röhm's strategy was to cater to this niche by offering a range of revolvers and pistols accessible to a wider audience, both in terms of availability and cost.

The RG 31 Revolver

The RG 31 model is emblematic of Röhm's product line during its foray into the firearms market. The RG 31 was designed with practicality and affordability in mind. It was offered chambered for two popular revolver cartridges: .32 S&W and .38 SP.

The design of the RG 31 was straightforward, featuring a compact alloy frame that made it easy to conceal and carry and a steel 5-shot cylinder. The RG 31 only came with one barrel length, 2 inches, featuring an alloy vent rib with a simple integrated front sight blade.  Its simplicity was also evident in its mechanics, focusing on reliability and ease of maintenance. Despite its economical positioning, the RG 31 and its counterparts were often the subject of debate regarding their quality and safety. Nonetheless, for many, the RG 31 served as an entry point into firearm ownership and operation, thanks to its accessibility and affordability.

My particular example was gifted to me by a co-worker who fully understood RG pistols were of dubious quality. While it did function well, I found the barrel's forcing cone to have a slightly peened-over section protruding into the bore and a loose barrel/front sight shroud.  It was also obvious this little shooter had lived a rough life as it was full of sludgy gunk and many spots of rust inside and out.

This RG 31 was one crusty, rusty revolver!

I refurbished my RG 31, a .38 SP example, by fully disassembling and deep cleaning it in an ultrasonic cleaner. All non-alloy parts were re-blued, and the alloy frame and barrel shroud were finished with Birchwood Casey’s Alumablack.  I carefully used a Grobet ball carbide burr to clean up the peened portion of the barrel’s forcing cone. Also, I improved the movement of the barrel shroud by tightening up the barrel during re-installation.  To finish it, I tossed on a set of uncracked original RG grips!

Look at the filth dislodged by ultrasonic cleaning!  Yummy - NOT!

I love rebluing old gun parts that need some love!

I love a good Before & After photo!  This junky little .38 has come a long way!

Functionally, this pistol is less than ideal for self-defense, as reloads necessitate unscrewing and removing the cylinder pin to open the cylinder. Once the cylinder is open, you must use the cylinder pin to manually poke the spent shell casing from it as it doesn't have an extractor. This does not sound like it'd be a fun exercise while crouched behind cover during a reload in the mioddle of a gunfight!  Otherwise, it’s a fine shooter with mild .38 SP loads with a typical revolver double-action pull and a nice single-action trigger when the exposed hammer is cocked.

The Controversy and Legacy

Röhm Gesellschaft's journey in the firearms industry was not without its controversies. The company's focus on low-cost handguns led to a mixed reputation, with critics pointing to issues related to the durability and reliability of some models. This perception was further compounded by legislative changes in various countries, particularly in the United States during the 1980s, which targeted importing and manufacturing so-called "Saturday night specials" — a term often associated with inexpensive, small-caliber handguns, including those made by RG.

Despite these challenges, the RG 31 and Röhm Gesellschaft's broader catalog of firearms hold a place in gun history. They represent an era of firearm production characterized by the democratization of access to guns. Today, Röhm's firearms, including the RG 31, are sought after by collectors and enthusiasts who appreciate their historical significance and the stories they tell about the evolution of gun culture and legislation.

Conclusion

The Röhm Gesellschaft model RG 31 pistol is a testament to a period in firearm history marked by accessibility and the proliferation of small arms. While the legacy of RG and its firearms is complex, involving debates over gun control and firearms quality, the RG 31 remains a symbol of a rapidly evolving industry. For collectors and historical enthusiasts, the RG 31 offers a glimpse into the past and a little entertaining novelty!

RG 31 Revolver: It's Trash, But It Works!
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