Getting To Know You

So here I sit with my newly-acquired S&W Mod 65:

…and because I’ve not owned a .357 Mag revolver for lo these many years, of course I had to check out the ammo on hand.  (Yeah I know, I had ammo for a gun I didn’t have — like that’s never happened to any of you, don’t get me started.)

Actually not too bad, considering.  About 100 rounds of “self-defense” (i.e. hollowpoint 158gr killer-diller stuff) the shortage of which I shall address when time and wallet allow, but I can get by with that, certainly. As for practice .357 ammo?  About 500 rounds of the Winchester White Box 110gr.  Little light, there.

So off I went to look for said White Box practice ammo via Ammoseek… and holy shit!  Are you kidding me?  $2.40 per round??????  Two dollars and forty cents every time I pull the trigger????  Looks like the lightweight 110gr stuff may become my backup “self-defense” load — and yeah I know, the little 110gr pill doesn’t do well in ballistic gelatin etc. etc. yadda yadda yadda because even though it absolutely screams out of the barrel, there’s not enough mass to penetrate deeply enough to satisfy the Death Brigade Cognoscenti.

Anyway (after I’d got my heart working again), after browsing Ye Olde Internette a little further I found an old friend:

Still spendy, but in the current climate, not excessively so.  [20,000-word rant deleted]

“Okay, Kim:  why the lightweight stuff (125gr) instead of the proven (and cheaper) 158gr?”

Because if I know anything about the K-frame S&W revolvers like the 65, it’s that you can beat them up badly shooting lots of heavy .357 mag ammo through them.  And I plan to shoot lots because I’m out of practice shooting a meaty revolver cartridge.

Yeah, I know:  I can practice with .38 Special (no need to buy more of that, no sir), but I follow the old adage:  practice with what you’ll shoot.  And while the 125gr bullets aren’t the same as 158gr bullets in terms of recoil and such, they still have that little .357 snap!, more so than an ordinary .38 Spec, even the 158gr ones.

Comments in the usual place, please.  I welcome them all, because it’s been a long time since I shot the .357 Mag, out of any gun.

Oh, and for the many (!!) kind people who have written to me with offers of gifts of components, I really have no plans for getting into reloading, but thankee most kindly for the offers all the same.


  1. I thought 125g was considered the optimal self-defense load for the 357 mag. The 357 Sig was designed specifically to replicate this load from a semi-auto. No idea whether that particular Remington load is state of the art.

    1. That was my understanding back in the day when I was active with my Model 19; 125GR JHP in .357 was supposedly the go to round. IIRC it was the bullet of choice of Bill Jordan

      For .38 Special use it was 158gr LSWCHP +P (AKA “Chicago” or “FBI” load). I do recall a 110gr +P defensive load (the “Treasury” load) but never worked with it.

      Course this was back when Men were Men, Training was Tough, and Dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

    2. The 125 was what the Texas DPS (Highway Patrol) carried for many years and earned a fearsome reputation for one-shot stops. They carried it well into the autos-for-cops age and finally replaced it with Sigs in .45 ACP, which proved inadequate (!) The .357 Sig was a move to regain the performance of their beloved .357 Mag.

  2. Hey Kim. I can help you with some ammo. A bit cheaper than what you are finding there. I like Remington Golden Saber 125gr. They won’t beat your 65 up as much. Sorry I am not super flush with it but I can spare a box of 50. Out of your 4 inch they should move out at about 1250 FPS. You can check Lucky Gunner Ballistics for what they will do. Let me know. We actually frequent the same LGS in Plano. Might be able to do a meet up. I’ll check and see how much full speed 125s I have. Not sure that I will shoot these myself so I might part with them.

  3. You’re not into reloading, so this is irrelevant in multiple ways, but Speer used to make a .357″ 160 grain SWC half-jacket swaged bullet, with a companion 146 grain HP version. Because the lead core was swaged, that meant “massive expansion” and the copper alloy half-jacket held it together it still retained most of its weight (they also made a .429″ 240 grain SWC and a 225 HP version of the same bullet; my 629 loves that 240 bullet, on top of slighty too much WW 296, and it’s a Kenworth-equivalent on deer. I still have about 300 loaded and am hoarding them).

    Someone – can’t remember who, and I’m too lazy to search – makes a ~140 grain HP load in 38 Special and, IIRC, 357 Magnum. I’ve long thought that something about halfway between the hyper-speed 125s and the “traditional” 158s would be just about right for 38/357 (which brings us into the realm of .357″ 148 grain wadcutters, which, as hard cast and at the right velocity, work wonders in Social Situations – in fact, in .38 snubbies, somewhere around halfway between “regular” and ” P” (that’s “plus P” – for some reason your software doesn’t like the plus sign) almost seems like a Magic Bullet – just don’t try to get IPSC-level reload times with them. Unfortunately, almost all 148 WCs are swaged, not cast, although hard cast is available, but AFAIK no ammo company is loading them, and what swaged WC ammo is available is loaded to “target” velocities).

    .38 Special ammo has always been a lot more expensive than 9MM or even 45 ACP; back when I was teaching I kept a couple cases of generic name-brand factory FMJ in 38 Special, 9MM, 380 Auto and 45 ACP on hand for student use, and 38 was always 2X 9MM. No idea why, but that seems to extend to all straight wall rimmed cartridges (44 Special and Magnum, 45 Colt, etc.). That said, what’s happening today seems like pure profiteering.

  4. I agree that the Speer 160 grain bullet is excellent, I loaded a bunch of them over the years, but sold all my reloading supplies and equipment when I downsized when moving to Florida about five years ago. (Dumb move in retrospect). Accordingly, don’t know if these bullets are still available. I don’t remember the powder or grain weight I used but it was right at the max according to the Speer manual. Good accurate load and I would not hesitate to use it for any purpose, never had to shoot anyone, (thank God) but I am sure it would have worked, and worked well.
    Good luck to Kim on his purchase, my current Smith is a 3″ Model 66, good little pistol but a bit of a handful.

    1. RE: the Speer .357 160 grain swaged half-jacket – “Accordingly, don’t know if these bullets are still available.”

      They’re not, sadly to say, haven’t been for about 15 years that I know of, could be longer. A shame, because the Speer 160s in .357 and the 240s in .429 were absolutely superb bullets – accurate as all get out, very effective when they arrived, but they did need to be driven fast to get the accuracy; every time I tried lighter powder loads acuracy dropped off. Not a lot, but noticeable. I wound up settling on 296 but 296 is quite pressure-dependent – Winchester cautions against less than 90% case capacity loads (IIRC, 296 was developed originally for the .30 Carbine, I do not know if that’s true, but the standard 296 load for .30 Carbine in all the books is 15 grains and the books caution against going lighter; I tried 14.6 and it doesn’t work well at all – erratic velocities and occasional ejection failures.).

  5. If you can find it, the Winchester Silvertip in the 145gr. JHP loading is a favorite in my S&W Model 28, Highway Patrolman. It’s not the latest generation wunderpill, but I’ve seen it’s performance on whitetail deer, where it proved more than adequate to the task.

    Bit of Mission Creep for you to consider, too. Both Rossi/Puma and Henry Repeating Arms make perfectly suitable lever rifles/carbines in the .357Mag/.38Special chamberings. Pretty good SHTF combo with the ammo commonality, and a relatively low-key profile on the carbine. Something to consider?

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  6. Back in the day, the Federal .357 Mag 125gr SJHP was “the $hit”. It held the highest “one shot stop” percentage of rounds reported on by Evan Marshall in his famous(or infamous) survey. Federal loaded the 125gr bullet to 1400 FPS from a 4″ barrel.

    The W-W .357 Mag 110gr “Treasury” load was an early attempt to get decent performance in shorter barreled .357 revolvers without the flash and heavy recoil of the Fed 125gr full power load.
    Winchester loaded the 110gr bullet to 1295 FPS from a 4″ test barrel; it does about 1240-1250 FPS from my M13 S&W, which has a 3″ barrel.
    It is my “general purpose” carry load. Recoil is noticeably less than the Fed 125gr loads.

  7. Found the Hornady Critical Duty .357 in 135 grain the other day cheaper than the Remington per round. But I normally feed it into L or N frames except for a J frame that is almost exclusively carried .357, shoot .38😎

  8. That reminds me, I have to get out to the range and sight in my Savage with the new Tech Sight.

  9. Back in the day when the High Sheriff wouldn’t let reserve officers carry automatics (he claimed that they were “too complicated” for us part timers) I loaded my 4″ 686 with Federal 125gr jacketed hollow points. Like Termite I’d read the Evan Marshall studies and thought that Federal load was my best option in a full size service pistol. Thankfully I never had to put the round to the test but I always felt that it was a pretty good choice. I still have the 686 and a couple of boxes of the Federal ammunition but I keep it more to remember those days in the early 90s.

    I bought a Model 640 J-frame back up that was chambered in .357. Since it had a steel frame it was on the heavy side but I was never afraid of shooting stout loads. The Federal 125 grain rounds gave me a huge muzzle flash and I always thought that I could set the bad guy on fire if I couldn’t actually hit him. I bought some 125grain .38 Winchester Silvertips (remember those?) that supposedly did better in a short barrel gun and carried those for many years in my snubby.

    I still shoot the 686 on occasion and these days my load of choice is a 158 grain hard cast semi wadcutter for plinking. I’ve also loaded a bunch of hot 158 grain jacketed soft points that I can shoot in my Smith, Rossi 92 Carbine, or Uberti Cattleman.

    In my old age I’ve gone back to the idea of using the bullet weight that the firearm was designed for – 158gr for .357, 230gr for .45acp, 240gr .44 mag, 150gr .30-06 etc. I can find lots of good load data and the “standard” components are the easiest to find (I didn’t say easy, I said easiest).

    Getting back to the original question, since I’m old school and big and slow rather than small and fast I’d look for a heavy 158gr hollow point defense load if I could find one. They will kick but I doubt that they’ll shoot your gun to pieces. Second choice would be a 125gr jacketed hollow point and the Remington load you show is a perfectly good choice. In a home defense scenario in Texas or Oklahoma the paperwork for two (or more) rounds is the same as one so use something that you can hit with and won’t tear your gun up. Stay away from the 110gr rounds unless you have squirrels or poodles that need killing.

  10. As usual, you go for the most handsome gun. I soooo much prefer the bull barreled (or half lug, like my vintage Security Six) over the full-length underlug guns, which simply look clunky to me. That is one purty revolver, right there.

    As has been pointed out, the 125 gr fodder is the round of choice, and as far as I know, for .357 magnum, always has been. And as has also been pointed out already, the 158 LSWCHP was seen as the cats meow for the .38 special revolvers back before we started designing hollow points in Star Wars laboratories.

    One thing I’ve noticed, thankfully, is the “pistol round wars” seem to have stopped. Whether this is because the gun rags stopped doing them or because I tired of reading the gun rags as much, I do not know, but it’s a good thing. I remember the bad old days when you couldn’t pick up a gun magazine without a story about how this round was an 85.7% one-shot stopper, versus the other one which was only an 83.4% stopper according to this or that database. What errant nonsense that was.

    Get a good gun.
    Practice with it.
    A lot.
    Learn to do decent double taps with it.
    Better yet practice until you can do two in the HVAC and one in the CPU.
    Don’t worry about the ammo.

    That said, the 125 gr loads are what you want. Chart at the bottom of this article is all you need, the movie is not necessary. The 158 gr round is overkill. Not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly not ‘better’.

  11. “Because if I know anything about the K-frame S&W revolvers like the 65, it’s that you can beat them up badly shooting lots of heavy .357 mag ammo through them.”

    From what I’ve read at the Smith and Wesson Forum, the opposite is true. The lighter, hotter rounds are more damaging than the traditional 158 grain loads.

  12. I have a 65 just like that. It has NRPD stamped on the side (New Rochelle Police Dept? IDK). I paid $300 for it from a private seller ten years ago.

    I hate to nitpick, but you’re mistaken about the supposed dangers of shooting the “heavy stuff” in K-357s. In fact the “heavy stuff” is the hot-rodded 125gr loads. Their recoil impulse is so fast that it raises the barrel before the bullet gets out of the chamber, resulting in the bullet hitting the forcing cone, causing erosion of same and stretching of the frame. 158gr loads at 1200fps or so are a great choice for the K-357, and it will eat them forever.

    OTOH, a 125gr JHP at 1450fps WILL turn a goblin inside out and ruin his day, and this is the reason that load reigns supreme in the one-shot-stop stats. But you don’t want to use those all day in your K-frame.

  13. I thought the 158gr 357mag cartridges were fine for K frames and it was the 125grain bullets that caused the throat erosion and or cracked frames.


  14. A bit late to the party. Nice classic knframe you have there! It will handle a wide range of fodder for service and practice.

    I would stay away from the hight speed light bullet for high round count practice. It’s very hard on the barrel extension of K frames. See that flat spot where the barrel meets the crane inside the frame? That cut significantly reduces strength. Many a fellow has cracked the barrel at that thin spot by shooting 125 grain bullets at speeds in excess of 1000 fps. Bianchi Cup shooters of a certain age all have replaced barrels on their K frame race guns from meeting that 120 power factor with light weight bullets.

    Best to handload with nominal 158 grain bullets at modest velocity. Use slower powders to avoid gas cutting the top strap.

    Have your revolver mechanic set end shake to minimum as insurance against beating the gun apart prematurely. It’s an easy and inexpensive job. Good investment.


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