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Old November 25, 2008, 12:50 AM   #1
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What ammo should I use for my S&W .357 Model 19-4?

I just bought a S&W .357 Model 19-4, 4 inch barrel revolver that has never been fired.(200 bucks) I read that it was designed for a 158 grain .357 ammo and it is proned to cracked if you use a smaller grain. Is that because the smaller grain is shorter or higher velocity? Does it matter the grain when using .38 SPC ammo?

Thomas.... stuck in Afghanistan, soon to be home!
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Old November 25, 2008, 04:01 AM   #2
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357 mag loads

First let me say welcome to the forum.The hot 125 gr loads were reputed to burn out the forcing cone on the S & W pistols.Many will tell you to use 38 spl for plinking and use the 357 for serius work.I have seen articles that defend that statement from both sides.One I saw stated that the forcing cone of a S & W is actually larger than a Ruger,but a Ruger doesn't have a reputation for that problem.I would stick to a heavier bullet in either 140 gr or 158 gr in a 357 loading and follow the advice of the majority and use 38 for plinking.Likely you will not have any trouble unless you try to feed it a steady diet of a hot 125gr.
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Old November 25, 2008, 06:55 AM   #3
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How the hell did you manage to snag an unfired 19-4 for $200? Holy crap.

As far as ammo, the 19 is a K-frame Smith, and while it certainly will handle .357 hot loads just fine, it will not hold up over time as well as an N frame like the 686.

Mine is a 19-3 that I bought new in 1971, and I typically shoot my handloads which I load at the lighter end of the tables rather than the heavier end.
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Old November 25, 2008, 07:11 AM   #4
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Painter, welcome to the forum!

Regards to your Model 19... you know you practically got a "steal" on that gun at the price you paid, right? Nice job. Now, as to ammo...

Short history
The Model 19 was one of S&W's premier police revolvers and was carried in huge numbers by police between the 1950's and 1980's. For most of it's lifetime, S.O.P. was to practice with .38 Wadcutters or .38 RNL ammo and use the .357 Magnum on duty. Instructors believed it was sufficient to use low-powered loads to develop good shooting habits and techniques that would carry over under stress, even with the much more powerful .357 Magnum loads.

In the late 70's, police training adopted the "train like you fight" doctrine which required a lot of .357 Magnum ammo for training and qualification. Most officers used a 125g JHP (Remington or Winchester) duty load so that's what most agencies used for training. Police armorers soon found many Model 19's failing. Heavy erosion of the forcing cone, top strap and cracking of the frame along the "flat" beneath the barrel.

According to several different sources, the shorter 125g (and 110g) bullets have two problems. First is that they exit the cartridge case much sooner than the longer 140g+ projectiles. This means there is more time for hot propellant gasses to act on the topstrap and forcing cone. the standard 158g bullet builds up more pressure and (apparently) moves much slower from cylinder to the rifling, which burns more propellant inside the case & cylinder. The lighter bullets also tend to impact the forcing cone harder because of their speed from cylinder to rifling. This tends to "hammer" the metal more than the heavier bullet. Bullets of 140 grains or more have sufficiently long bodies to reduce the gas cutting and are less prone to impact damage to the barrel.

Part of the problem is that the .357 Magnum barrel has to have a flat spot cut at the bottom to allow the cylinder yoke to close. This sets up a stress point that seems to transfer the impact forces to the frame under the barrel.

Note that this problem occurs with .357 Magnum ammo, not lightweight .38 Special ammo.

In response to your question, when using .357 Magnum ammo, I would use 140g or heavier bullets in a K-Frame .357 like your Model 19. If you use .38 Special, you can use any bullet weight desired as the forces are much lower.

There is conjecture as to whether the damage is accumulative or a combination of factors (age of the gun, total rounds fired, cleanliness of the gun, it's temperature, how fast shots are fired, etc). I lean towards the accumulative theory -- that the more "lightweight" rounds are fired, the more likely the damage.

Come home safely, Thomas!
BillCA in CA (Unfortunately)
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Old November 25, 2008, 08:43 AM   #5
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Well I was gonna chim in but it appears BillCa pretty much covered it.

I was in LE at during the time period he mentioned,and Yeap, We started being issued 125 Grn Wincnhester stuff. I did shoot loose a Model 19 and later a Model 13. (I was issued a Model 28 but was allowed to carry our own 19s or 13). I went back to my Model 28 for heavy mag shooting.

Though a heavy dose of heavy 357s was hard on K frames it did beat the loads we were issued before the department wised up.

When I first hired on, we were issued 158 RN 38s, these were cast and hand loaded by prison trustees. Needless to say, I went to town and bought my own ammo.

PS if you want to make a quick 10% return on your investment, give me a call.
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Old November 25, 2008, 02:25 PM   #6
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What ammo should I use for my S&W .357 Model 19-4?

answer = NONE.......keep that virgin as is and go get a used shooter at a bargin price.
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Old November 25, 2008, 03:57 PM   #7
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I reload and shoot 158 gr bullets in .357 mag in my model 19 all the time - and its never been a problem. I load them mid-range per the tables.

Be safe over there.
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Old November 25, 2008, 04:32 PM   #8
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If you forego the hot 357 JHP ammo and keep your loads on the medium scale, your 19-4 will last a LOOOONG time. For all around shooting in my 4 inch 19-3, I used the Speer swaged lead 158 grain swc over 11.0 of 2400 in 38 brass cases. This is a moderate 357 load in 38 brass, and SHOULD NOT BE FIRED IN SMALLER FRAMED GUNS! If you are worried about getting them mixed up, keep them in a seperate place and mark the box. Some guns prefer the same load in 357 cases because of the shorter jump to the forcing cone from the longer case. The same bullet can be loaded over 14.0 to 14.5 of WW 296 and magnum primers. If your revolver has good rifling and a smooth bore, leading will be almost nonexistant. The hotter jacketed bullet loads have the reputation of forcing cone wear and frame stretching over time because of the slamming of the ogive into the forcing cone; that's why I recommend lead bullets for general shooting, and jacketed for business use. The K frame guns are well built, but were designed to be carried all day and shot occasionally; that's why Bill Jordan and others convinced S&W to bring out the Combat Magnum. Good cast bullets include the RCBS 38-150-KT, the 38-162-SWC, the Lyman 357446, 358477, 358156, and the 358429.
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Old November 25, 2008, 04:59 PM   #9
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I'd recommend handloads consisting of 357 cases, magnum primers, and 5 gr. of HP38. For heavier loads, go up to 7 gr. of HP38.

If you must go with factory ammo, use 38 Special or 38+P. Why risk it with magnums? It isn't a hunting gun. If you don't cut the topstrap and break the frame with the magnums, you will at least shoot it loose.

That, or sell the gun at a huge profit (at least 100%) and buy a shooter.
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Old November 25, 2008, 08:30 PM   #10
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CDH said:

"it will not hold up over time as well as an N frame like the 686""

Sorry, pal but a S&W model 686 is a L frame; and NOT an N
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Old November 25, 2008, 08:34 PM   #11
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How the hell did you manage to snag an unfired 19-4 for $200? Holy crap.
Triple ditto.

I prefer shooting full magnum load .158 gr. in mine. In a letter from S&W concerning ammo for this gun, they made no mention of certain rounds to avoid. All SAMMI spec ammo will work in it with no problems.
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Old November 25, 2008, 08:58 PM   #12
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i shoot a smith 65-2. hornady makes a great factory 38+p 125gr xtp load. i shoot the remington 125gr jhp 38+p loads for range time and keep the hornadys for the bad guys.
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Old November 25, 2008, 09:00 PM   #13
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If you want to use it for protection go for something like the140gr Silvertips or super X 125gr JHP or if any police agencies in your area still allow wheelguns ask them what they issue. Congratulations on an excellent buy I bought mine in the 70's and have put thousands of rounds through it many of them 125 and 140 gr hollow points. another good round is the Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 135gr load in either 38+P or .357
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Old November 25, 2008, 11:35 PM   #14
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I'd stick with 140grn or heavier bullets when shooting Magnums. The K-frame Magnum's weakness is that it's forcing cone is ground flat on the outside at the 6 o'clock position thus making a thin spot that is easily cracked. This problem seems to be most common with 125grn jacketed bullets at velocities above 1400fps froma 4" barrel. There are a couple of theories on this. One is that the overall length of the 125grn bullet is not long enough to reach the barrel before exiting the case and therefore allows buring powder and hot gas to flow around it into the forcing cone. The other is that the 125grn bullet's lighter weight allows it to exit the case sooner and therefore doesn't let as much powder burn up inside the case. This burining powder then comes into contact with, and can eventually erode and crack the forcing cone. Honestly, I don't see much point in the 125grn magnums anyway. With the right bullet, one can get more than adequate expansion from a 158grn bullet at 1200-1250fps so the added velocity is really no longer needed (such has not always been the case). Kinetic energy is close enough to be inconsequential (583ft/lbs with the 125grn and 535ft/lbs with the 158grn). Finally, the noise is less deafening, the flash is less blinding and penetration is better with the heavier bullet. For a nice practice load that comes close to the recoil of a 158grn Defensive loading, try a 158grn LSWC over 13.5grn of 2400.
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Old November 26, 2008, 06:53 AM   #15
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Sorry, pal but a S&W model 686 is a L frame; and NOT an N
C'mon man, did you notice what time of day I posted that?

The coffee had only started percolating.
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Old November 26, 2008, 07:22 AM   #16
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For personal defense you can not depend ( stake you life) on h.p.'s expanding, there are just too many variables to comprehend. I go by the time and tested ,air in blood out theroy and choose 158 grn. s.w.c.'s that will penetrate heavy clothing and not bounce off of perps heads ( had a 110 grn do that once). Now I know im off the topic a bit but, in a sense im not. The lead round doesnt pound the forcing cone, cut the top strap,strain the crane,and generaly loosen up the gun as BILLCA has so elequintly stated and recoil is manageable so that double taps are on target as they should be. They are cheaper than jhp's and that means more pratice and thats one thing that cannot be replaced by technology. Now i know i have unleashed the h.p. high vel dogs of war but this is just my humble opinion based on four decades of experience. Why not shoot pratice ammo that hits the same place as your p.d. ammo does?
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Old November 26, 2008, 11:42 PM   #17
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I do practice with what I shoot as for expansion I shot a guy in the chest with a 110gr federal JHP +p+38spl The round entered just off center went through 2 layers of clothing through the heart and lower lobe of the lung and stopped just under the skin in the back mushroomed to .612 on the micrometer. Check my web page in my profile under Negrete to see the slug.

Last edited by armsmaster270; November 27, 2008 at 03:44 AM.
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