MAGNUM - The S&W .357 Magnum Phenomenon
by Timothy J. Mullin
Deluxe First Edition, 2012
282 pages, 224 illustrations, 138 in color
Today, the most sought-after versions of the Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver are the pre-war Registered and non-registered models, and these are given pride of place in the first 16 of this book's 24 chapters, plus a detailed, 28-page serial number Database.
The .357 Magnum was the result of the two-pronged development of a new revolver and a new cartridge. The .38 S&W Special cartridge was developed to counter the shorter, weaker .38 Colt round, which was the government issue handgun cartridge at the turn of the 20th century.
Then in 1929 the Colt .38 Super automatic threatened the long-established popularity of the .38 Special M&P revolver as an arm of choice for law enforcement. This led to the introduction of a pair of new .38 caliber S&W revolvers called the Heavy Duty and the Outdoorsman's, both built on the massive N frame used for the .44 Hand Ejector series, and firing a more powerful cartridge called the “.38/44 S&W Special”.
The next step was a cartridge with even more pressure, velocity and power, which could well have been hazardous to fire in ordinary revolvers. The solution was to lengthen the .38 Special case by 1/10", resulting in a new round which was christened the .357 Magnum. The N-frame 357 Magnum revolver was announced, with deliveries beginning on April 8, 1935.
Coverage of the modern S&W .357 Magnums begins with the rare post-war long-action “transition” model. The new short-action Magnum was introduced in 1950, and numbers replaced names in 1957, the Magnum becoming the Model 27. K-frame Model 19 “Combat Magnums” were introduced in 1956; the first stainless steel Magnums in 1970; the new stronger L-frame Magnums in 1981; and finally, Magnums with cylinders made of titanium and frames made of exotic scandium-aluminum alloy. Today, tiny lightweight J-frame Magnums are available, weighing well under a pound.
Custom Magnums from the S&W Performance Center, and some interesting Magnums of other makes, both domestic and foreign, are also discussed and depicted.