so, what *was* the original 357 loading, anyway? - and a bonus question


September 25, 2005, 07:08 PM
yeah, yeah, another 357 thread... :p

i've been pondering 357 loads lately. it's my understanding that everything factory is weak, pretty much, and the original loads were fairly... energetic. but, i realized, i don't know what they *were.*

so what weight bullets and muzzle velocities did 357 magnum start life with?

the bonus question:

i'm pondering ordering 1000 rounds of for use in my model 13. it's my understanding that the l frame exists because of magnum k frames being somewhat overstressed by a steady diet of heavy loads, however. so, would the above (125gr@1775fps from unspecified barrel) be too much for the gun? it treats me well and i would like to do the same in return.

it's the first decent price i've found on 357 fmj, which is a range requirement. yeah, i gotta start reloading... but i'll need brass if i do that, anyway...

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September 25, 2005, 07:37 PM
The stoutest load that Phil Sharpe gives in his "Complete Guide to Handloading" (Copyright 1937) is a 158 grain LSWC at 1290 fps. This is from an 8.75" vented test barrel. In some of Skeeter Skelton's writing, he opined that the original 1500 fps numbers were from pressure test barrels and that actual velocities were closer to 1200, which makes Sharpe's data easier to accept.

Since Phil was the guy who developed the .357 for S&W, I'm inclined to believe his numbers.

The hottest 125 grain load he shows is only 1265 fps. I think the load you are mentioning is easily hotter than that.

Use that stuff in a Model 27 or equivalent.


Burt Blade
September 25, 2005, 07:43 PM
Cor-Bon sells some rather stout loads for .357 magnum.

September 25, 2005, 08:15 PM
Sharpe also did not reccomend that individuals attempt to duplicate the factory load. A couple of years ago on eof hte gunmags did a test on some origonal ammo, got within 50 fps of the sdvertized load with 70 year old factory ammo.

I use an M28 and a GP100 fairly regular and shoot a lot of loads that are right on 1500 with 358156 which weight 162 in Wheelweight metal.
The M28 is 35 years old and still shoots real nice.


September 25, 2005, 09:46 PM
well... huh. i've got a box of american eagle that's 158@1240, and a box of umc that's 125@1450, both from 4" vented barrels. doesn't sound like things have been downloaded in the slightest :confused:

September 25, 2005, 09:48 PM
Doubletapammo has a 125 gr that shoots 1600 fps out of a 4 inch barrel, pretty impressive.

Jim K
September 25, 2005, 10:01 PM
A couple of sources state that the original ammo, loaded with a 158 grain lead bullet, developed 1515 fps and 807 fp of energy out of the 8 3/8" barrel revolver, not from a special test barrel. The tables published in the Gun Digest, 1st edition, give 1510 and 800 respectively, and specifically state that the figures are for the 8 3/8" barrel.

How much of that was hype, I don't know, but a friend who had fired some of the very first ammo told me that it was a lot hotter than later loadings.

The 2005 GD tables give the maximum for the 158 grain bullet as 1235 fps and 535 fp. The barrel length is not given.


Old Fuff
September 25, 2005, 10:06 PM
Anyone that might be getting ideas about loading data in old manuals should remember that the first .357 Magnum ammunition was loaded using balloon-head cases that have a larger capacity then modern solid-head cases. So if you're using old loading information cut the load, and then work up until its time to stop. :eek:

Incidentally, this is why S&W recessed the case rims in the original 1935 version of "the" Magnum revolver. Following World War Two and onward they continued the practice, although the supported rims were no longer necessary.

September 25, 2005, 10:11 PM
The original .357 factory load used a lead 158 semi-wadcutter and as I recall the claimed velocity was the 1515 mentioned above. It seems to me that when chronographs became generally available the published data was reduced to around 1450. Most shooters reported that from a 6" barrel factory ammo actually ran around 1350 or so. Also, the factory lead bullets leaded so badly that accuracy was nil after one cylinder full. I vividly recall trying to scrub the lead from my barrels after shooter this stuff. That's why I now only shoot JHPs from my Magnums.

I haven't shot any factory .357 ammo in over 30 years. My favorite handload is a 125 JHP at a clocked 1525 from my 5" M27. I have gone as high as 1700 but muzzle flash is excessive. My K frame Magnums have not shown any signs of problems from this load, so far. But I don't shoot them all that much, either. For steady use in a 13 or 19 I might back off to 1400 with a 125 JHP. Should still be plenty for any use I would have for a .357.


Jim K
September 25, 2005, 10:20 PM
Good points, Fuff. None of the sources I found mentioned either the actual powder charge or the type of powder in the factory loads, but apparently the early ammo was made exclusively by Winchester.

Some years ago, I had friends who read too much by Sharpe and Elmer Keith and loaded the .357 pretty hot, as in all the 2400 that could be crammed, pounded, compressed or otherwise gotten into a case, under a 158 grain Keith type SWC. I don't recall any blown up guns, but those loads not only blasted and kicked, but plain scared the h**l out of me, so I didn't shoot them much. I later wondered how much of that powder burned outside the barrel.

I always figured that for a carry gun, just killing the bad guy was enough; there was no need to vaporize him in a mushroom cloud. As for hunting, I figured that was what they made rifles for.


Peter M. Eick
September 26, 2005, 07:40 AM
Hottest I have read about was 1550 with a 158 lead out of an 8 3/8" barrel. I intent upon trying out my 8 3/8" soon with these type of loads. I bought a very nice 8 3/8" pre-27 that looked unfired. Unfortunately the sideplate just did not look right, but I took it anyway. All assembly numbers match along with matching grips. After showing to several other collector's we have all agreed that it is an "unfired" but "refinished" gun. DANG! Why would someone refinish a gun that was unfired. Also the hammer has been polished internally.

Our best guess is someone took it to a shadetree smith, he did a "trigger job" on it and then buggered the side plate. He then refinished it and polished off the edge of the sideplates so it looks wrong! :fire:

Anyway, I now have a nice looking sacraficeable pre-27 8 3/8" shooter grade gun. I will eventually go out this fall and chrono map some 2400 158 grn reloads and see how hot I can go before I wimp out or I exceed 1550.

I have made it to 1450 with my Registered Magnum. This was with max book loads from modern loading books. Some guns just shoot fast!

September 26, 2005, 06:49 PM
The November, 1935 American Rifleman has an article by Elmer Keith about the new .357 Magnum. (amazing what you can find on E-Bay!).

On page 11 he describes the new load. It is loaded with an 158 grain bullet, and a healthy charge of Hercules 2400. The muzzle velocity is reported as 1518 fps, (this with an 8 3/4" barrel.) The Winchester cartridge case is described as being "very thick and heavy, and has a cone-shaped powder space, the small end of course being to the rear, which leaves a very thick wall near the head of the shell."

In the same article he mentions heavy handloads with 2400 for the .38-44 and .44 Special. He actually loaded some heavier loads than the classics he is well known for, but then reduced them.

He did a lot of work with hollowpoint bullets, preferring to load them in .38/44 cases, since Winchester did not recommend reloading the magnum cases at that time. I think that he viewed the .357 Magnum as a great varmint cartridge, since he shot so many "John" rabbits with it. He did, however say that he could recommend it for police officer's use.

In the dark days of the Great Depression, I wonder how many police officers could afford Smith & Wesson's new Magnum revolver? I also wonder what the ballistics of the new cartridge were out of a 3 1/2" barrel?

September 26, 2005, 08:15 PM
As I recall, my favorite M27 .357 load in the late 60s thru late 70's was 15.5 grains of 2400 (warning: the powder was a different lot than today's , so it is not a reccomended load) under a 173 grain Keith bullet. This was a lightly compressed load and when I chronographed it in the late 70's I remember it give close to 1500 from an 8 3/8 Model 27 and 1350fps from a 4" model 28(which was a Magnaport custom with a custom throat and tightened barrel gap.). I stopped shooting these 'blue pill whistlers' in the early 80's . I've never shot them in K frames, although L frames, from what I gather, are actually stronger than N frame .357s because of a few design features.Still the most powerful load I've ever found for the .357 is the now defunt(sadly) 200 grain hard cast Corbon load. This load actually approachs 1400fps in an 8 3/8ths gun-1380 avg. (1500 fps in my 10" t/c !!!!!! and 1700 in my 20" marlin)) and a solid 1250fps in my 3.5 " model 27. With good case extraction!!! This thing won't stop unless it hits the side of a mountain or something similar :what:

September 26, 2005, 09:28 PM
I use to load that same .357 load using 15.5 gr of 2400 but pushing a 158 gr SJHP, usually a Speer. I normally ran it out of my 6" Mod 28. I carried it for a while in a 2.5" Mod 19 as my 3rd back up in my squad. I definitely didn't run a steady diet thru that Mod 19. Then one night while patrolling some back roads I come across a possum waddling down the road for all he was worth. I put the spot light on him, grab the 2.5" Mod 19, and line the sights up on him as he's about 15 yds down the road and still going. I touched off 1 rd and it was like a 1000 flashbulbs had suddenly gone off. I couldn't see anything but spots. A tremendous fireball. The Mod 19 was OK and I still carry it some. But that much 2400 out of that short of a barrel just wasn't the ticket.
It was a good hot load tho. Worked very well in the Mod 28.

September 26, 2005, 09:39 PM
I forgot to answer the bonus question. I am not familiar with the Armscor ammunition, but I have heard that it is indeed quite hot. How much of that hot is flash and blast, and how much is actual pressure I don't know.

The lighter jacketed bullets tend to be harder on guns than the heavier bullets, especially lead bullets.

I prefer the 158 grain bullets for this, and other reasons.

Myself, if I did not roll my own, I would search for a different load.

September 27, 2005, 03:41 AM
Armscor website did or does say 1775fps for the 125gr loads in a 5" barrel! I love that stuff! I avoid it in guns like K frame S&W's though.

September 27, 2005, 03:51 AM
Mike McNett at Double Tap Ammunition is duplicating the original "357 S&W Magnum 158-grain load." It fairly smokes ot of a 6" GP100 barrel @ 1500 fps!

Its the Real McCoy!

Scott :cool:

September 27, 2005, 01:06 PM
All I know is Remington's 125 gr load is too much out of my snubby.

But 158 @ 1500 out of something the size of a New Service? Do-able.

September 27, 2005, 01:45 PM
I've had great success with Lil'Gun and 158 Noslers, and a 4" 686. I've Chrono'd over 1380fps at 48" from the muzzle (IIRC Avg Vel 1382, but due to overcast conditions had several no reads and don't know how accurate the data really is)

Lil'gun supposedly runs at much lower pressure than H110/W296/2400/H4227, while producing the same velocity. I have no way to confirm this other than my brass is on it's 11th loading with Lil'Gun compared to the 8-9 I get with H110.

September 27, 2005, 05:57 PM
I have some of the Armscor .357 ammunition. It IS stout.

I don't have a Chrono anymore but the recoil is stouter than anything else I have found.

It's controllable from a J-frame, but you definitely do know that you've touched one off. :eek:

Ben Shepherd
September 27, 2005, 07:48 PM
I use 15.2 grains under a 158 lazer cast swc slug all day. Very accurate(but stiff) load. Clocks right at 1550 in my redhawk. Very consistent and accurate load. The above load is ABOVE current maximums use at your own risk.

As for the original, It's within a half a grain of the above load no matter who you listen to. It's definently not meant for super-scandi-ti-unobtainium guns, that's for sure.

Brad Johnson
September 29, 2005, 04:24 PM
I have some of the Armscor .357 ammunition. It IS stout.

Seems like everything from Armscor is almost brutally hot. I had some 9mm a few years back that shot like a house on fire, but the recoil and muzzle blast were more in line with some of my hottest handloads.


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