351PD/Case Head Separation


July 13, 2008, 10:43 PM
Has anyone experienced this problem? I took a new Smith & Wesson “J” frame, model 351PD Airlite revolver, which is chambered for .22 Magnum Rimfire ammunition, into the woods behind my house to sight in. I verified that the chambers and barrel were clean and free of grease or any obstructions as is my habit. I used Winchester 45 grain Dynapoint .22 Magnum Rimfire cartridges.

The first three shots were un-eventful and bullets went downrange; however, round number four detonated in the chamber and the head separated from the case. My right thumb nail was perforated by fragments and I sustained powder burns on my trigger finger at the third joint. I also sustained powder burns and embedded case head fragments on my left thumb because I was firing double action and used my off side hand for support but did not have my support hand near the cylinder front.

After shaking out my trousers from the afore mentioned occurrence, I opened the cylinder with some difficulty and noted that round number four’s head was missing and the next round up in the adjacent cylinder was crushed longitudinally along the cartridge axis. This cartridge had to be punched out of its chamber. The left grip panel end that is adjacent to its alignment pin had a piece broken off (I found it and super glued it back together so the piece would not get lost). Also, the revolver’s right-hand access panel gap had widened due to stretching, and was very noticeable to the right of the hammer. The crane gap was more noticeable now when viewed from the front.

I went on-line to locate contact information for both Smith & Wesson and Winchester ammunition. S&W’s website was easy to navigate and I was able to quickly locate corporate contacts. I contacted a very helpful individual at Smith & Wesson to notify them of the problem and to seek advice as to procedure. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate anywhere on Winchester’s website any way to easily contact their company. Consequently, Smith & Wesson was graciously able to supply me with contact information at Winchester.

After talking with both companies, I was able to remove the three remaining un-fired cartridges from the cylinder. I isolated the two boxes of Winchester .22 MRF ammunition and returned them to Winchester. Of interest here is that there was no lot number embossed anywhere on the cartridge box end flaps. There was damage to the revolver which required returning to the factory.

Winchester sent me a letter in which they informed me that they could not determine any problems with the ammunition. They sent me a case of .22 magnum Dynapoints for my trouble, which was exceptionally nice of them. Kudos to Winchester for this gesture!

The revolver was returned to the factory at their expense. Smith & Wesson examined the revolver and reported that they could not discover any problems with it but replaced the cylinder, crane, and some of the internal lock work, all at their expense. The revolver was returned in firing condition. After test firing (one-handed with a glove), the revolver functioned flawlessly and the DA trigger had been smoothed. However, the gun would not group anywhere near point of aim. I noticed that the front sight was canted in the barrel and was positioned to the left. I contacted S&W again, they had me ship the revolver back to them and they fixed the sight and “cranked” the barrel so that bullets went to point of aim, sort of like what gunsmiths used to do with new Colts back in the day. This revolver has fixed sights and this step was required to regulate the point of impact. S&W then returned the revolver back to me, again at their expense. The revolver now shoots to point of aim with CCI ammo. It is a little less accurate with Dynapoints. Some rimfires like different ammo and it is always interesting to find what they like.

Let me be very clear about this…Smith and Wesson really stands behind their products and has probably the best customer service in the business and I own quite a few of their products because of this.

It is still a mystery as to what happened.

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July 13, 2008, 10:56 PM
And it sounds as if it will remain just that - a mystery !

Wether S&W or Winchester found anything I would not expect them to document it to you, or admitt it, if I can put it that way. Obviously one of the two failed for some reason. Either metal failure of the cylinder, or an overloaded round of ammo. I can speculate which is more likely, but all evidence of that is within the hands of S&W or Winchester (ammo div).

Good thing you were not injured more than you were - had it been a higher pressure catridge your user name might have been stumpy or some such reflection of what was left of your hands.

Good info - glad you posted it .

July 13, 2008, 11:18 PM
My wife prefers CCI Maxi-Mag +V in her 351PD. The regular Maxi-Mag uses a 40gr. bullet and keyholes the target.

July 14, 2008, 12:56 AM
I would put my money on it being bad ammo; I know that Winchester has had some recalls of various types of rimfire ammunition over the past couple years.

July 14, 2008, 01:13 PM

For sure the ammo.
Nothing S&W can do to a new gun will make a case rupture.

That takes bad brass, or too much powder.

And as noted, this is not the first time for Winchester .22 Mag Dynapoint ammo.



July 14, 2008, 09:18 PM
Try the Remington Premium .22 Magnum. It groups the best for me
http://i284.photobucket.com/albums/ll17/colt1903/IMG_0909_edited.jpg 50 rounds fired at 25 feet.

July 14, 2008, 10:39 PM
Not too long ago, I located a link on North American Arms website to a Winchester site warning that a batch of Dynapoint .22 MRF cases were double charged. This was not apparent from Winchester's homepage, which is very difficult to navigate through. The only concern I had about the revolver was the alloy cylinder having too much elasticity. S&W really turned it around for me. They are a great company.

A while back. I fired a Tarus .22 MRF pump rifle and had it blow apart on the fourth round, also with Dynapoints. The take-down screw seperated where the retaining pin went through and the rifle violently seperated into two pieces plus the broken screw. At the time, I thought it might have been a result of too little metal. The rifle was based on the old Winchester gallery rifle design and was originally designed for .22 short, long and LR cartridges. I assumed that the mag round was too powerful for the design. I now suspect that I got a bad batch of Winchester ammo. It is significant that there was no lot number or serial number embossed on either of the two boxes that I had.

Jim March
July 15, 2008, 08:54 AM
Wow. Ammo. And in my view, Winchester did NOT do right by you - they should have covered the cost of the gun. As is, you got REAL lucky S&W stood by you, as they could just as easily (and legitimately) said "ain't our fault".

Very, very interesting.

I've owned three 22Magnum guns so far - sold an old beater Single Six, still have an NAA Mini-Master and a Freedom Arms 22Magnum minirevolver). I've always had best results with CCI 22Mag ammo, and am at a point where I won't buy anything else. I tried some Winchester 33gr "Supreme" once and the rims were too thick for smooth revolving of the cylinder. Worst trigger pull ever.

I've yet to have a CCI fail to go boom, or squib, or do anything the slightest bit funky.

July 15, 2008, 12:02 PM
The rifle was based on the old Winchester gallery rifle design and was originally designed for .22 short, long and LR cartridges. I assumed that the mag round was too powerful for the design.I can't speak for the Taurus replica, but the original John Browning designed Winchester 1890/06/62/62A is a very strong action.

While it did start out as a .22 Short, it later was chambered in .22 WRF, which in the oldtime loadings, was a pretty powerful .22 RF load.

It has been said by a noted authority that the 1890 action could easily handle .22 Hornet center-fire class cartridges if it were able to feed them through the action.

The .22 Hornet produces at least double the pressure & bolt thrust of the .22 WMR.


July 18, 2008, 01:48 AM
The rifle was a model M62. I went to the Taurus International website and noted there was no longer a rifle listing for .22 WMR in the M62 series. Could Taurus have realized that there was insufficient metal in the take-down screw to hold the rifle together when firing a .22 WMR cartridge? The screw had sheared at the hole where the retaining pin went through and there was barely 1/64th inch of metal there. I got a full refund and bought a Henry .22 mag lever gun instead. Much wiser choice! slickest production lever gun I have ever fired, and I have shot quite a few, mostly Marlins.

If Winchester had designed their Gallery Rifle with this screw, then one would be hard pressed to contemplate this rifle in .22 Hornet! This is not the same as the more robust design of the Colt Lightning. A double-charged .22 Mag could easily pop the screw on the M62 and in my case, that may have been what happened, then later in the 351PD.

F.Y.I. Winchester forwarded my revolver to S&W for rehabilitation, and then S&W returned it to me. I sent the two boxes of remaining unfired ammo, the four fired cases (headless one still stuck in the revolver cylinder) and revolver to Winchester first because I suspected that ammo could be a problem. Having said that, I also could not rule out a cylinder that was too elastic. these space age alloys can be tricky, especially titanium. I maintained communication with both companies and S&W's customer service was really great. They stand by their products.

July 18, 2008, 01:04 PM
If Winchester had designed their Gallery Rifle with this screw, then one would be hard pressed to contemplate this rifle in .22 Hornet!The action take-down screw is not even a stressed part on a Winchester pump.
All the force of firing is self-contained by the bolt locking into the upper receiver, into which the barrel is also screwed.

All the Take-down screw does is hold the upper receiver and lower trigger group together.
An 1890, 06, or 62A will work just fine without the screw even tightened down, or with it completely missing.

The only problem you would have is keeping the takedown rifle from coming apart in the middle as designed, but it would still be perfectly safe to shoot.

I'm hard pressed to see how one could possibly break, unless over-tightened and twisted off.

It certainly isn't going to break from an over-pressure round on a Winchester, and I fail to see why it would on a Taurus either.


July 18, 2008, 01:41 PM
The rifle was based on the old Winchester gallery rifle design and was originally designed for .22 short, long and LR cartridges. I assumed that the mag round was too powerful for the design.

The 1890 was first introduced in 22 short, long, and .22 WRF which was more poweful than the 22 Long Rifle, fairly close to the modern .22 magnum. The .22 WRF was designed specifically for the 1890 in fact.

I recall reading that pretty much up until the last minute the thought was to make the 1890 a 32 caliber gun, and it was built with that required strength level in mind. Dropping that much in caliber at the last minute it emerged as one of the most overbuilt .22's of it's day, hence it's popularity as a "gallery gun" that would likely fire hundreds of thousands of rounds over it's life.

July 18, 2008, 10:15 PM
I repeat, the gun blew into two pieces upon firing the fourth Dynapoint. It made a loud crack, it hurt and I was left holding two pieces (barrel assembly in one hand, and the stock/receiver assembly in the other) and both the bolt (which shot out of the action when both halves seperated) and part of the sheared take-down screw were found lying on my shooting bench. Also, the magazine dumped all remaining cartridges all over the place since there was no longer a completed assembly to hold everything together. The "unnecessary" screw that "holds the two pieces together" let go and I was smacked in the face by the action halves. And yes, I have fired many gallery guns in my life, mostly at county fairs and at scout camps, so I have prior experience with the Winchesters in .22 short and .22 LR. That is one of the reasons I was initially attracted to this model. This gun (in .22 WMR) also appealed to me because it was compact, and I wanted a magnum rimfire to pack on my Mule. Bear in mind that the old .32 rimfires operate at a lower pressure than the more modern .22 Winchester magnum Rimfire. Plus, if this trim little rifle had been intended for a bigger cartridge (such as .32 RF or .22 Hornet) then God would have decreed it be so. The little rifle is just too small to handle the .22 Hornet cartridge. You can only stretch metal so far... or build a bigger action, and then it would be something else. Also Taurus no longer lists this rifle on their website in .22 WMR (I just checked and couldn't find it). The point I was making was that there is possibly a batch of double charged ammunition floating around, and furthermore, you would be most unwise to attempt to just hold both pieces together without this screw and then try to fire the blame thing! Believe me; that screw is there for a reason, and it was neither over torqued nor loose. And since it does indeed hold the barrel assembly to the receiver, it bloody well gets stressed when you fire a round. There was insufficient metal in the screw. It broke in two at the place where the retaining pin hole is drilled through. This thing had less than 1/64th inch of metal there. The take-down screw diameter was considerably smaller than the one holding my Marlin 1897 CB in .22 LR together and I've never had a problem with any of my Marlins! That is why I passed on this gun and went with a Henry in .22 WMR.

July 18, 2008, 10:58 PM
As far as your revolver goes you probably had a double charged round which several lots were recalled by olin about a year and a half ago. I've never seen any ammo that did not have a lot number, not saying that it couldn't happen. Some lot numbers are pretty hard to see. Anyway I too think olin did you wrong. If you have any more dynapoints I would not shoot them until you can verify that they were not involved in their recall. The lot number should be stamped (embossed) on the flap. Some are so lightly embossed and are very difficult to see.

Regardless you were not badly injured and you now have your revolver along with a case of ammo. Good luck.

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