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Original specs of .357 Magnum

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Mr. Mosin, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. AK103K

    AK103K Member

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    Im just going by what I see when I look at some of the older manuals, and with a number of them, the older "beginning" loads, are now considered to be on the hotter side of the data, and in some cases, middle of the road loads, are now past "max".

    Same bullets, same powders. What changed? Differences in the powders over time? Differences in how they measure things?

    Most all the later manuals seem to be on the lighter side of things when you compare them to the older manuals.
     
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  2. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy

    The 357 Magnum cartridge was a continuation of the 38 Special cartridge called the 38/44 Heavy Duty. Also known as the 38/44 S&W Special. To quote Neal and Jinks, the Remington Arms Company and Elmer Keith developed this cartridge in 1930. It carried a 158 grain bullet and achieved a velocity of 1,175 fps, delivering 460 ft. lbs of energy. This was in comparison to the standard 38 Special loadings of the time that propelled the same 158 grain bullet at 870 fps, delivering 266 ft. lbs of energy. To further quote Neal and Jinks, "This cartridge was developed primarily for use by police against the bullet proof vests and bullet proof automobiles that criminals of the period had begun to use." Note nothing is stated about penetrating an engine block. The idea was to penetrate bootleggers' car bodies that had been reinforced with armor plating. The revolvers that were used with this cartridge were the large N frame 38/44 Heavy Duty revolvers. Basically a large N frame revolver chambered for 38 Special. They were called 38/44 because they were built on the N frame, which was often used for 44 caliber revolvers. The large diameter cylinder of these revolvers provided the strength needed to resist the pressure developed by these cartridges. They were not recommended for standard K frame 38s.

    This is a Smith and Wesson 38/44 Heavy Duty:

    38-44HeavyDuty03_zps55bdf48a.jpg




    In 1931 a target version of this revolver with adjustable sights, called the 38/44 Outdoorsman, was also offered.

    Like this.

    38-44%20Outdoorsman%2001_zpskykl0hpb.jpg




    The difficulty with this arrangement was that the 38/44 ammunition could be chambered in any standard 38 Special revolver. I don't have any statistics on how often this happened, but it was not recommended.


    According to Roy Jinks in 125 years with Smith and Wesson, published in 1977, the history of the 357 Magnum cartridge began with Phil Sharpe. He had been communicating with the S&W factory through the 1930s, urging them to produce a special revolver that could handle pressures beyond standard 38 Special pressures. In 1934, Winchester developed the new cartridge. It developed 1,515 fps with a 158 grain bullet. The new cartridge was christened the 357 Magnum. It was contained in a cartridge case about 1/8" longer than a standard 38 Special cartridge, so it could not be chambered in a conventional 38 Special revolver. I have heard the Magnum appellation came about because Douglas Wesson was a wine aficionado. I cannot vouch for that.

    The new revolver developed for the new cartridge was simply called The 357 Magnum. Built on the same N frame as the 38/44 Heavy Duty, it was a luxury item, with a great variety of barrel lengths and front sight styles available. Smith and Wesson began a special marketing campaign registering each revolver to its owner. These revolvers became known as the Registered Magnums. The 357 Magnum revolver sold for $60, which was $15 above the price of any other revolver that S&W made at the time. Don't forget, this was the height of the Great Depression. Because of the high price, S&W did not expect to have to produce a high volume of the new revolver. However they were swamped with orders, and had a difficult time keeping up. In time the Registered Magnum program was dropped, and the revolver was simply cataloged as The 357 Magnum. In 1957, when S&W went over to a numbering system to identify its revolvers, The 357 Magnum became the Model 27, with the Model 28 being the slightly less expensive version without the fancy finish and checkering on the top strap and barrel rib.

    Everybody knows that the first Registered Magnum was shipped to J Edgar Hoover, but not everybody knows that the second one was sent to Phil Sharpe.

    Anyway, that's what I have been able to find out about the original loading of the 357 Magnum cartridge.

    1,515 fps with a 158 grain bullet.

    I have no idea what current factory loadings are.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
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  3. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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    Yes, the 1515 was from a 8-3/4" barrel. A 1938 Remington ammo catalog shows a 158 grain Metal Point bullet at 1510 fps from a 8-3/4" barrel.

    The current factory load is advertised as a 158 grain bullet is 1235-1240 fps from a 4" vented barrel.

    My Ruger Blackhawk with a 6.5" barrel runs current factory Federal and Remington 158 grain JHP ammo at 1415 and 1421 fps, respectively. Add two more inches to that and one should gain about 100 fps, so it seems about the same as what the old spec from a 8-3/4" would do.
     
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  4. Riomouse911

    Riomouse911 Member

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    I’m thinking there was a lot of adman hype attached to new cartridges...and the thought that the magnum could punch through steel doors and disable a driver rather than punch through sheet steel and then an engine block may have led to the mystique.

    In any event, back then it was the baddest revolver round on the planet so the hype that accompanied its initial years took a while to be debunked by real world results.

    Stay safe
     
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  5. MidRoad

    MidRoad Member

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    If you want 158gr @1500 fps like the original 357 l factory load both Underwood and buffalo bore produce rounds that are right up there. Folks reporting 1450-1500 with 6" revolvers in the reviews, not to shabby....

    I Underwood is about 1/2 the price as buffalo bore and is a quality product.

    You should do some Google Fu on Douglas Wesson's adventures with the 357.
     
  6. sgt127

    sgt127 Member

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    Couple old ads pushing the penetration of the round.

    6EF47C5E-DAF3-4D84-8B83-3E3FB1BFEF90.jpeg 00E83F79-08BB-4E89-8A5A-7196CC4A8ECC.jpeg
     
  7. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Great ads! Sure shows someone "shooting through a vehicle", and so, it in not implausible that the original advertising claimed shooting through engine blocks. Everyone knows that advertising is a bit optimistic. As Noam Chomsky says, the purpose of advertising is to create ill informed consumers who make irrational choices. Now, if they claimed they could shoot through a 1952 Crosley engine block, made of sheet metal, with a total weight of 59 pounds, I think that is a maybe.

    I saw a Crosley on the road and it was like an oversized Amusement Park Go Cart.
     

    Attached Files:

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  8. Riomouse911

    Riomouse911 Member

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    “Ill informed consumers who make irrational choices”...sounds a lot like California voters to me! :(

    Stay safe.
     
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  9. MI2600

    MI2600 Member

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    There was a segment of the old "Dragnet" wherein a salesman was trying to get Sgt Friday to change from his .38 Spl to the new .357. One of his selling points was that the .357 could go through engine blocks.Friday wasn't buying. But, it was on TV so it has to be true!
     
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  10. Rock185

    Rock185 Member

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    Maybe that lawn mower block;) I've never had an 8 3/8" or 8 3/4" revolver and 1930s ammunition to chronograph, but have always wondered if the early 158 @ 1500+ FPS was true. How accurate were the era's chronographs, and how exaggerated might the advertising have been? In any case, I have little doubt that that the originally advertised ballistics would be possible to achieve today, given today's wide selection of components.
    For example, I chronographed Buffalo Bore 180 grain in several revolvers. I didn't have an 8" revolver available, but it averaged 1514 FPS in a 5 1/2" gun.
     
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  11. ECVMatt

    ECVMatt Member

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    I love the .357 and what it does. In my world of Glock love, I find that my .357's are getting more and more use the older I get and the farther I move away from civilization. I am a GP100 guy at heart, but recently have added a couple of 27 5"s. I will admit that the 27's are almost a work of art. They have very little recoil and are laser like accurate. I don't see a real need for a 158 grn bullet @ over 1500 fps and am happy with my H110 loads that come in at about 1425 fps. They are easy on brass, shooter, and gun and have proven effective on varmints and medium sized game at close range. I have not tried them on engine blocks as I don't care for the taste, but they do put deer and hogs in the smoker on a fairly regular basis.
     
  12. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Very minor correction: 8 3/8" has long been a standard S&W barrel length.

    8 3/4" has not.

    This Model 17 has an 8 3/8" barrel.

    Model%2017%20Long%20Barrel%2001_zpsdlflgard.jpg
     
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  13. Dibbs

    Dibbs Member

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    I would be inclined to agree that if the engine block was running, and hot, and a .357 FMJ struck it at the right angle, at one of the weakest
    spots, it may be possible to crack an engine block. While this is just conjecture, one could see how, then, somebody might turn the phrase "cracking the block"
    and exaggerate it into "shooting clean through an engine block", in Urban Legendia.
     
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  14. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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    No correction required. The article Elmer wrote says 8 3/4". The Remington catalog says 8 3/4".

    The Registered Magnum (the original gun in which the 357 Magnum was introduced) was available with a barrel length of up to 8 3/4". The name was changed to the Model 27 when S&W started naming their revolvers with a model number.

    https://www.ammoland.com/2017/03/smith-wesson-registered-magnum-revolver/#axzz65WGJPpqT
    https://www.guns.com/news/2012/02/0...-magnum-possibly-the-finest-handgun-ever-made
    https://www.gunbroker.com/item/840512040
    https://www.gunbroker.com/item/842359311
    https://www.gunsinternational.com/g...5-/s-w-registered-magnum.cfm?gun_id=101253077
    http://sportsmansvintagepress.com/read-free/smith-wesson-hand-guns/smith-wesson-magnum-357/

    The Registered Magnum is identified in the Standard Catalog Of The Smith & Wesson, 4th Edition by Jim Supica and Richard Nahas as a 8 3/4" length. Customers could order a gun with a barrel length in 1/4" increments anywhere from 3 1/2" to 8 3/4". The 8 3/8" length became a 'standard' length later on.

    I'm aware of the 8 3/8" guns. I had a Model 17 8 3/8" and a Model 29 8 3/8".
     
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  15. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    0% chance. There is ZERO chance that a lawyer is looking at a test engineer’s numbers and fudging them up or down. No chance. This is a joke of an idea.
     
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  16. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    There was a time when.357 was the most powerful handgun out there. Even then it had to be loaded hot to get desired results. Not true any more. It has it's place right where it's at.
     
  17. mcb

    mcb Member

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    Rambling thoughts from the deer stand.

    I think there are two aspects to this idea 357 Mag is not what it use to be. First, is the SAAMI spec. I maintain that SAAMI has never changed the spec on 357 Magnum. No one has been able to prove me wrong yet. That said the SAAMI of the 1930's when 357 Mag was in development, was still a fledgeling organization, and had far less influence on the arms market than it does today. It was the development of the 38/44 and a few other cartridges pushing the envelope that could create unsafe conditions that had prompted the industry to self regulate with SAAMI before Congress stepped in with government oversight. So other than the Remington, Winchester and the military, few other loaders, private or not had any real test equipment. Pressure barrels and even just a chronograph, that is relatively common today, would have been expensive cutting edge technology only operative by engineers and technicians in the 1930's. How many of those old 1930's - 1950's loading manuals have pressure data included?

    That said I have no doubt the big three (Win, Rem, Fed) no longer load 357 Mag all that close to SAAMI Max. That is fairly obvious in the numbers when compared to the results of the boutique loaders like Buffalo Bore and Double Tape and hand loaders that are loading close to that Max. There are lots of reasons for this both cost related and liability related, and to some extent user related with many shooters not enjoying full house 357 Mag. Got to sell to the masses...

    And some of it is just the mystic of the past...

    Rambling while the merry squirrels sound like herds of deer coming through the woods.

    ETA: if it matters I am a 357 Mag "hater". I own two and never use them, not with 357 Mag. Got revolvers in other cartridges that are more useful to me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2019
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  18. GooseGestapo

    GooseGestapo Member

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    Understand that the original spec for the .357mag was with a CAST LEAD GASCHECKED SEMIWADCUTTER from a 8-3/4” barrel. Allegedly, it was obtained with ~15.0gr of #2400.

    A cast, lubricated bullet has lower initial engraving resistance as well as lower barrel friction passing down the barrel resulting in significantly higher velocities.

    Back in the early’90’s, Georgia Arms sold a load called the “Georgia Deer Stopper”. Curtis Shipley, CEO gave me a box to test (and carry in my issue 4” M686) to see if it delivered the statutory 500ft/lbs of energy @ 100yds. Also, a statutory requirement of 6”bbl.(I was only DNR Officer who owned a chronograph). In order to attain 500ft/lbs at 100yds, it takes 1535fps with a 158gr bullet. The load DID in fact attain that velocity from my 6” pistol team M686. I was suprised, to say the least.

    I submitted a memo, that resulted in a written memo from the commissioner allowing the use of the ammo. Most 158gr ammo would clock in at around 1,375-1,400fps.
    So yes, some of the .357 ammo is throttled back.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2019
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  19. LaneP

    LaneP Member

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    Could the introduction of the K frame precipitated a mellowing of .357 factory ammo? Even if .357 factory loads "aren't what they used to be", they are still a healthy step up from .38 Spl. But, to realize the true potential of the .357 and fully take advantage of the many excellent bullets on the market, handloading is the way to go. I haven't touched off a factory loaded .357 since sometime in the 80's, so I don't know what off the shelf load performance is these days.
     
  20. Master Blaster

    Master Blaster Member

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    The original loading used a jacketed 158gr bullet or solid lead? Was it gas checked? Metallurgy propellant and bullet technology is certainly better now than it was in 1935. How often did folks blow up guns back then? I think the spec for .357 magnum was the ability to shoot through a car door not the engine block.
     
  21. mokin

    mokin Member

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    I haven't shot up an abandoned car since high school. Seems like the deserts are getting cleaned up. I recall learning a lot about what gunfire will really do to a vehicle as opposed to what is depicted on TV and in the movies.
     
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  22. Obturation
    • Contributing Member

    Obturation Contributing Member

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    Agree. There was a time i would hot rod 357 mag to the max. Put a ton of those rounds through an old dan wesson and never did any harm but to be honest i never really gained anything but fireballs, muzzle blast and concussion. Any gains i saw in velocity were over shadowed by poor accuracy and bullets coming apart making it less effective. As soon as i realized that i just got a bigger gun that easily surpassed the 357 with little effort. I'm sure elmer pushed thing beyond what was safe to get the results he wanted but he figured out what he really needed was larger diameter and a larger case.
     
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  23. joed

    joed Member

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    The .357 and other revolver cartridges have been throttled back by SAAMI. Not sure why but have read about CUP and PSI conversion having caused it. Also, the revolvers are not tested with vented barrels (cylinder, barrel gap) anymore.

    Pick up an older reloading manual and compare to newer manuals and you see some big differences.
     
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  24. mcb

    mcb Member

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    I would challenge you to show proof that SAAMI changed the spec. They have not, the liability is to great with a move either direction.

    If those older reloading manuals don't have velocity and pressure data they don't mean much in this context.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2019
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  25. Speedo66

    Speedo66 Member

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    People have no doubt been blowing up guns since gunpowder was invented. There used to be a high powered rifle only cartridge for Winchester 92's in .38-40. Probably caused more than a few Colt SAA's loaded in the same cartridge to kaboom before the loading was dropped.
     
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