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125 grain .357 mag loads.

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Warren, Dec 31, 2006.

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  1. Warren

    Warren Member

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    Hi,

    I'll be the new owner of a 1979 vintage New Model Blackhawk in .357 soon and I've gone and purchased a lot of 125 grain loads for it.

    I did this before doing some research on the load and I found a thread here on THR (that I cannot find now) that stated that because the round is so short that gas flows around the bullet upon firing which could, with many firings, result in cutting the top strap.

    The poster said that the number of rounds fired through any given gun should be kept to a minimun.

    So just how many can I get away with before the integrity of my gun is compromised?

    Thank you,

    Warren
     
  2. Ifishsum

    Ifishsum Member

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    I wouldn't worry about a Blackhawk. Shoot away, it's one of the strongest revolvers out there and has a nice thick topstrap.
     
  3. Warren

    Warren Member

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    Cool, thanks.
     
  4. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    Unfortunately, this issue has to do with more than the strength of the revolver. The Blackhawk certainly won't warp or loosen, but the gas does exit the case before the bullet when 110-125gr JHP/JSPs are used and the flame and gasses surround and extend out in front of the bullet, which doesn't happen with 158gr bullets. Anyway, this mixture of gas and flame hit and surround the forcing cone and topstrap of the revolver, eroding it significantly more than heavier bullet loads, which block the gases.

    Stainless is more resistant to this than ordinary steel, but the light bullets will sooner or later take their toll on any revolver.

    I found this reference on the Internet and it sounds accurate to me. It's in reference to the Smith & Wesson 19/66. The gun was envisioned by the legendary Bill Jordan, who, BTW, called the 19 a ".38 that can occasionally shoot .357." The site states, among other things:

    If you keep your ratio of Specials to Magnums about 9:1, or one Magnum for every nine Specials, you'll be OK. The gun, while tough, won't take a steady diet of Magnum ammo. In particular the 125gr stuff. Only shoot 158 grain .357 ammo in this gun!!! That's straight from Smith & Wesson's mouth. ...

    The lighter bullet causes a few things to happen.

    1: It accelerates faster in the cylinder, striking the forcing cone MUCH harder than the 158gr bullet. Look at your forcing cone, you'll notice it's cut-out at the 6 o'clock position to allow the ejector rod to clear. As the gun recoils back, the bullet strikes the forcing cone at this 6 o'clock position and causes erosion and cracking over time. Your accuracy will go to hell and you need a new barrel.

    2: the shorter 125gr bullet leaves the case before a 158gr bullet, casusing more unburned powder to fly forward and combust in the throat and barrel. This causes flamecutting on the topstrap and peening of the forcing cone. Again, very bad.

    3: The recoil impulse of the 125gr loads are much sharper and severe than a comparable 158gr load, so it batters the gun HARD.

    4: To be honest, the 125gr load is the most common out there, but it is not the best load. It is light and fast and while it expands violently, it tends to underpenetrate. The 158gr expands and has enough momentum to smash through and hit vitals.

    If you want to shoot lots of 125gr loads, get an L-frame or even better, an N-frame. Smith & Wesson started seeing lots of K-frame magnums in for warranty work in the '70s due to shooting 125gr ammo and issued an advisory to not do it.


    Keep in mind that your Ruger is far more robust, but it's not immune. The 125gr JHP is the best round for defense, bar none, but when shooting for sport, try to stick with the 158gr or heavier bullets.
     
  5. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    How many loads are we talkin' here, couplea boxes or couplea cases? It could erode the top strap. As I recall, that was a problem with the .357 maximum in the blackhawk, a much higher pressure round. But, 125 grain factory stuff is pretty mild anymore. Heck, I've shot a few in my Taurus and Rossi revolvers with no problem, just don't make a habit of it. I carry 'em for defense. They have a great street rep and I don't like the over-penetration potential of heavy bullets in the self defense scenario. I do have a good 140 grain load that's very accurate that I like, though, sort of a compromise.

    I shoot a LOT of .38s in my other .357s, but my blackhawk gets a lot of .357s, but mostly heavy loads because it's an outdoor type gun, hunting and outdoor utility revolver so 158 and 180 grain loads are its staple. It's not a self defense revolver unless I get charged by a wounded boar hog. I have carried it out in black bear country, too. For that sort of service, I don't mess with light bullets.

    The Blackhawk is one of the strongest .357s extant, stronger than N frames, GP100s, nearly ANYthing short of a Freedom Arms or TC Contender in the caliber. But, it's not immune to top strap cutting by hot 125 grain loads. I do think it'd take quite a lot of 'em to show any damage, though.
     
  6. Warren

    Warren Member

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    I purchased 1000 rounds of Federal 125 HPs.

    I am planning on getting another .357 soon so they won't all go through the same gun.
     
  7. Lou22

    Lou22 Member

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    Gosh darn it, the evidence sounds pretty damning (darning?). I'm getting a .357 snubby soon and that was the load I was going to use. I guess what I'll do is practice with .38s, then carry with the .357. Maybe consider 158gr for self-defense instead.

    Lou
     
  8. jad0110

    jad0110 Member

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    Lou,

    Or you can do as Confederate, I, and probably many others do: practice with 158 grain mags and carry 125s for defense. Just note POA differences between the two and adjust your aim accordingly.
     
  9. glockgod

    glockgod Member

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    OK-I've got a (silly?) question. Will all these bad things associated with the 125 gr. .357 load cause any issues with my Marlin 1894 .357 rifle? Currant load is 125 XTP/19 gr. H-110.
     
  10. cookekdjr

    cookekdjr Member

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    The above warning relates to S&W K-frames.
    Any Ruger revolver can shoot 125gr .357's all day every day. You will wear out before the Ruger will.
    -David
     
  11. Gunrnr

    Gunrnr Member

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    No, this does not affect any .357 rifles, since there's no gap to jump and no forcing cone. Fact is, I load my .357 rifle ammo completely different from my revolver ammo (and keep it separate, of course).
     
  12. Shawnee

    Shawnee member

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    Hi Warren...

    FWIW...

    I had a .357 Blackhawk for about 18 years and used 125gr. almost exclusively. These were almost all handloads loaded to near maximum. I am certain I fired a couple thousand (at least) of these loads and had no problem.
     
  13. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    I spoke to a well known local gunsmith and he said it was a big problem with Smith & Wesson revolvers. The forcing cone on Smith are weakened by having the bottom part (6 o'clock) removed so the cylinder will close. Even the "L" frame guns are affected, he added.

    Since I'm a big advocate of Ruger, I asked him about the Security-Six and he said that the forcing cones may look smallish, they stand up extremely well to smaller bullets and the flames and gas. Ditto on the GP100s and the other double actions. I would assume the single action guns also stand up to it.

    Also, Colts stand up fine to the gas cutting, but the rotation star and pawl (hand) can take a beating from the stress of repeated blasts. Ruger, too, doesn't have this problem because of its oversized parts.

    The Smith 19/66s tend to have a lot of cracked and worn forcing cones with 110-125 gr. JHPs. Frame warping also can be a problem. This doesn't mean that Smith & Wesson isn't a damn good gun, but it does indicate that Rugers are much better, which I know. :neener:
     
  14. RevolvingCylinder

    RevolvingCylinder Member

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    Has anyone or does anyone know of anyone personally who has killed a Ruger Blackhawk or GP100 from 125 grainers? This isn't a rhetorical question, I'd really like to know. I'm considering purchasing both models in the future and would really like to know. I always hear about how tough they are. I'm also curious as to Ruger's customer service if someone managed to kill one from really, really heavy use. Sorry if I got a little off topic.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2007
  15. Steve C

    Steve C Member

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    David is correct in that the problems associated with full power 125gr JHP's is in the K frame S&W's only in that they're known to crack the forcing cone on some after even moderate use because of the cut at the bottom that thins the forcing cone area. The L frame was specifically designed to eliminate this problem for police agencies which preferred the load. A 125gr JPH from a .357 mag 4" barrel is one of the best if not the best factory man stopper ever made.

    Those that shot it in N frame Smiths didn't have any problems with cracking the forcing cone but the agencies wanted a lighter revolver like the K frame model 19's and 66's.

    Your Ruger has a very thick forcing cone area equal to any N frame Smith and you can shoot 125gr JHP's out of it with no worry of firearm damage.

    Below is a set of pictures. The first showing the forcing cone area of my Ruger BH .357 through which I've shot many 125gr JHP hand loads equivalent to any factory load, 13.8grs of Blue Dot with magnum primer for those handloader that are interested. This load with Remington GS 125gr bulk bullets chrono's at 1,485 from my S&W m66 4". The second is a picture of the forcing cone on a N frame S&W model 27. The third is a picture of my S&W model 66 that has had a fair amount of 125gr handloads shot through it. The last is a picture of a friend of mine shooting my Ruger BH .357 with the 125gr load I mentioned above clipped from a video.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  16. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    IMO it would take an immense number of rounds, even the "hotrock" ones, to shoot a Ruger Blackhawk to destruction.

    Not all of these 125-grain loadings are "hotrock," either. Some are reduced-velocity/recoil, e.g., the Remington Golden Saber. OTOH, I still have some Remington 125-grain SJHPs (R357M1) left. These have a tremendous roar, concussion and flash that turns heads at the indoor range where I shoot; the blast visibly blows my targets around at 15 feet. The remainder of that case is gathering dust as it is just too strenuous to shoot from snubnose revolvers (Ruger SP101). A few thousand of these might well cause some additional wear on even a Blackhawk.
     
  17. jad0110

    jad0110 Member

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    A local range rents various 357 Magnums. Most are S&W K Frames (mostly Model 65s with some 66s, 19s, and 13s) some Ruger GP100s, and a small number of Security Sixes. I think their may even be a Taurus M66 or two. Most of the guns dated back to the mid 80s, though the Security Sixes were a little older.

    Believe it or not (I saw it with my own eyes), the only gun they ever had fail in 20 years was a Ruger GP100 with a blown forcing cone. Sure enough, a nice sized chunk (call it about 2 to 3 mm worth of material) was blown away from the 6 o'clock position of the forcing cone. All had been rented out equally over that time period.

    That busted GP may be the exception, but it does go to show that any gun can fail, built like a tank Ruger or lighter duty K Frame alike. I've got a lot of respect for both Ruger and Smith, though right now I only own Smiths. I'd like to add an SP101 in the future. Regardless of what I own now and whay I may own in the future, I'll shoot mainly 158 grain 357s, especially in a K Frame Smith/Taurus.

    The K Frame was not designed to fire 357s originally. It was modified at a much later date. Check out the forcing cone on any 38 Special only K Frame and you'll see that the forcing cone has no cut out at the bottom like the 357s models do. I can't remember why the cutout on the 357s was necessary, maybe someone can explain.

    As a side note, I think the J Frame has a full, circular forcing cone with no cutout, so I suppose the forcing cone of the J Frame Magnums may well be stronger than that of the Ks.
     
  18. wheel

    wheel Member

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    This does not apply to S&W L-frames, or at least not all of them.

    My 686+ which is an L-frame has a round forcing cone, no flat spot.
     
  19. bhk

    bhk Member

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    They talk a lot about this over on the Smith and Wesson forum. It seems that consensus is hard to reach on the 125s in K frames (as far as how many rounds are too many), but a lot of these guys have fired many, many thousands of rounds of 125s in K frames with no problems at all. Most have heard of the problems of cracked forcing cones, but few have witnessed it.

    I guess if there is a consensus about lighter framed revolvers, it is to moderately limit use of any magnum shells and fire away with the .38s. Heavy loads in a light framed revolvers are hard on them in a number of ways.

    Right now my K frame model 66 is loaded with my favorite load, Remington 125grain hollow point magnums. Most, but not all, of my practice is with lighter handloads (cheaper, easier on the gun, and much easier on me!).

    I believe in the case of your Ruger, you will wear out sooner than your gun with any factory loads you choose.
     
  20. S&Wfan

    S&Wfan Member

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    Hi,

    I carry 125 grain defense loads in my 3" Model 65 K-frame, with no qualms. The gun is tight and "right."

    However, I DO handload my practice ammo with 148 grain wadcutters and very light power loads of Alliant's Unique."

    My POA is virtually the same, and the very light loads do nothing to hurt the revolver . . . or myself!

    Thus, my little K-frame will outlast me and give me years more pleasure.

    Inspect any used handgun closely before purchasing. With the K-frames, unless it has been really ragged out, with lots of hot 110 grain (the worst) or 125 grain rounds sent downrange, the average K frame will give you a lifetime of service!

    T.
     
  21. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    Hmm, well, I happen to be wearing my 3" Taurus M66 today, so I whipped it out to check and there's no flat spot on the bottom of the forcing cone. It has a thinner forcing cone than my Blackhawk, of course, but looks heavier than my Smith M10 (which cracked once on me even though it's a .38. It cracked at the bottom, too. I'm thinkin' it could have been a barrel obstruction, maybe some lint or something, though, not really sure. It's not normal for a M10 forcing cone to crack. I never shoot really hot stuff in it, mostly wadcutters. It now wears a heavy barrel and shoots even better. :D

    I still limit the round count of .357s in Taurus medium frames just like I did when I had my M19, though. A heavy diet of magnums of any bullet weight isn't good for cylinder end play in these lighter guns. Nice info on the flat spot on the medium frame Smiths, though. Learn all the time on this site.

    My Blackhawk is a cannon, though, built like a tank. I don't worry about longevity in that gun even shooting 180 grain handloads that I won't shoot in lesser guns. That's one of the reasons I traded my Security Six for it, and the longer barrel and accuracy of the guns. While I sorta miss my Security Six, I wouldn't trade back. :D
     
  22. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    Yes, the variances can be due to the way the stainless steel is heat treated. Ruger has tight quality control, but every now and again a lemon squeaks through. I recall that two Kentucky cops complained that their holsters were wearing down the front sights of their Smith 681 revolvers. Closer examination revealed they were from the same batch and that there were other signs of extreme wear, including unusual wear and stress in the forcing cones. There were even some reports of stainless Ruger Security-Six forcing cones cracking, but strangely, only the stainless. Again, it was the rare exception and almost exclusively the earlier ones.

    Still, any .357 can suffer the ill effects of shooting 125gr JHPs. A forcing cone doesn't have to crack. The edges can wear and angles change. The throats of the cylinder can also allow gases to blow past the bullet and wreak havok on the topstrap and the forcing cone. This is far more likely with Taurus revolvers than Smith and Ruger, both of whom have better quality control. The poor man's way to check the throats is to drop a new .357 jacketed bullet into each chamber and see if they fall through. I've seen many Taurus revolvers where the bullets just drop right on through. If that happens, you can bet that gases will escape, too.

    Most Smith and Colt revolvers have 11-degree forcing cones. Ruger, I understand, uses either a 5-degree or 8-degree. I've been told that this offers a bit more protection. You may get a little more fouling with lead bullets from a 5-degree forcing cone, but it won't affect accuracy with jacketed bullets.

    Colt never warrantied their revolvers against cracked forcing cones, and some of their Pythons suffered from them, and Smith says flat out not to use light bullets (under 158gr) in their K frames.

    The bottom line is that I would use light bullets sparingly in all my revolvers. The one thing not to do is to have a barrel "fixed" or repaired. The hot gases cause leeching of the steel which causes fatigue that cannot be seen but which is, nevertheless, there. Turning back and re-reaming the barrel cannot fix that fatigue. Stainless steel also significantly resists that leeching, so that is one more reason to go with stainless.

    Rugers still offer the greatest resistance, but there's no doubt that N-frames and even L-frame are far better than the K-frames. It makes me wonder why the K-frames are selling for as much as they are, but it undoubtedly has more to do with their cosmetic appeal and their wonderful craftsmanship.

    The Security-Sixes will still drink them under the table, though.
     
  23. jad0110

    jad0110 Member

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    That's a neat little trick, thanks for the tip!
     
  24. Miamitiger

    Miamitiger member

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    What about the S&W stainless steel J frame model 60?

    Confederate thanks for the valuable information!!!. Tell me a little about this revolver I just bought. How many shots in this revolver with the 125gr bullet will cause trouble?
    I am a new member trying to learn as much as I can.
     
  25. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    And, the fact that you can carry a K frame all day without back surgery. :D

    No doubt, but they don't make 'em anymore. It would be a good decision to bring back the Security Six IMHO. It was as light as a M19 and stronger. Of course, they don't make M19s and 66s anymore, either.:banghead:
     
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