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Thread: S&W Model 19 and 158 cast and Unique powder.

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

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    S&W Model 19 and 158 cast and Unique powder.

    Just like to have some opinions.

    I have an older Model S&W Model 19 4" and have been loading Lee 158 gr RNFP cast ACWW and Lyman #358429 both with 6.5 gr of Unique, in .357 magnum cases. Shoots nice small groups.

    I have researched and read all the stories of the K-frame magnums and the abuse and damage caused by the 125 gr. jacketed mag loads used by L.E. officers in years gone by......cracked barrels @ the 6 o'clock position, burned out throats, excessive end-shake, etc. The 125 gr being a very short bullet, the high pressure and flame temp of the magnum powder charge and the flat cut machined into the bottom of the barrel at the throat area all working together to beat up the k-frame revolvers.

    Does the above listed loads...158-170gr cast and 6.5 gr/Unique in .357 magnum case, sound mild enough for long term use in the S&W Model 19 K-frame?

    I have a S&W 586 4 inch that I use for full-magnum hunting loads with 2400 and H110 powder. And most of the time, I shoot the above mentioned lighter loads in the Model 586 also.
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  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    I don't think those loads will be a problem. That said, what do you shoot with them? If it is paper, rocks or whatever plinking target, there is no need for that level. The greater the recoil the shorter the revolver life. The parts battering together will do the trick sooner or later. The lightest load you need will produce the greatest revolver service life. I have revolvers I have been shooting for over 50 years and they are still tight and ready to go. The weight of the revolver is also a factor. Heavy revolvers produce less parts battering that lighter revolvers with the same load.

    Many shooters just like the buck and roar of shooting heavy loads, but there will be a price to pay in terms of revolver life.

    Your loads are pretty mild 357 loads, but any load is to much, if you don't need that much juice. I know folks will disagree, but I will stand by what I write here.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    I agree with Char-Gar completely. I shot countless thousands of light target loads using 4-4.2g of 231 with 150g wad cutters and they were not only pleasant to shoot, they were amazingly accurate in my guns. If you’re not hunting or carrying for self defense, why beat up the gun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSB View Post
    I agree with Char-Gar completely. I shot countless thousands of light target loads using 4-4.2g of 231 with 150g wad cutters and they were not only pleasant to shoot, they were amazingly accurate in my guns. If you’re not hunting or carrying for self defense, why beat up the gun.
    Cuz "Train like you fight?"

    Pssst, pssst, there are lots of guns.

    So you have to ask yourself, "Self, is this a training tool for a life and death situation or a safe queen?"

    and then "Self, do I honestly believe that good tools used properly never wear out?"

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Your cast load is pretty close to what I use in mine with no problems yet
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    Thanks fellows.

    This M-19 is my primary "walking in the woods, riding the 4-wheeler, cruisin' down the dirt roads handgun." Nice to carry in a chest or shoulder holster.

    My N-frame .44's get the deer and bear hunting duties.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    I have a SW 19-9 and really like 358429 over Unique 6.0 gr and 358156 over Red Dot/Promo 5.0 gr. for casual use. I do have a box of JHP's over a stout load of 2400 standing by that I also like.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Master


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    I can't begin to count the number of rounds of .357Mag that I've shot using #358429 over 6.5grs of Unique, in M19-2. It was a used Police revolver I bought in 1975. I had to shoot the medium .357Mag load because the LAPD's Harbor Pistol did NOT allow Magnum loads.
    That 6.5grs of of Unique was the most I could get away with. Probably the reason it's lasted as long as it has.
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  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    My late FIL cracked his M19's barrel. I now have the revolver and load nothing exceeding 38 Spl +P loads.

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Butzbach View Post
    Cuz "Train like you fight?"

    Pssst, pssst, there are lots of guns.

    So you have to ask yourself, "Self, is this a training tool for a life and death situation or a safe queen?"

    and then "Self, do I honestly believe that good tools used properly never wear out?"
    Really? If you view any handgun as a life or death fighting tool, get a Glock! Use them up, throw them away and get another. Better yet, buy them three at a time. But the OP is talking about a classic Smith and Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum, that is not made anymore, at least that version. Take off your Ninja suit, grab a beer and chill.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  11. #11
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    Being one of those folks who has split a forcing cone on a Mod19 by shooting 110gr and 125gr bullets out of my Mod19, I can tell you it was the jacketed high velocity ammo that split the forcing cone. I had the barrel replaced by S&W in 1988 and have subsequently fired thousands of CAST bullets out of the revolver with no issues at all. I will not shoot that 110gr stuff anymore out of any revolver. The throat erosion and top-strap erosion caused by that stuff is horrendous.

    Here is the actual barrel with its split forcing cone that I used to bring to my classes when teaching other LEOs to show them what damage they could do to their revolvers if they fired that stuff in their guns. The 110gr ammo was never issued to us but when we went to the range it was fun to shoot for the visual effect it had. Enjoying that visual effect could be expensive.

    On the high resolution image and the actual barrel, you can definitely see the evidence of erosion (pitting) on the forcing cone entry. It was being eaten alive by the erosive effect of high velocity particle impingement.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Tar Heel; 10-11-2021 at 05:07 AM.
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    What a great post....my better-half carried my 66 (stainless 19) and I carried a 27....on duty....she carried +P 38.....we were aware of the 110 and 125 gr. jacketed bullet problem. Our practice was 358429 bullet and 6 grains of Unique. My 2-1/2" 66 gets FBI (Dallas PD) 38 loads. FWIW....that load never failed to stop when used by our officers.....
    When guns are outlawed only criminals and the government will have them and at that time I will see very little difference in either!

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    Boolit Master

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    It always gives me confidence when I get to sit in on a "round-table" of friends who truly know what they are talking about!

    My Model 19 was a police trade-in that I found in a Pawn-shop/gun store many years ago, about the time when L.E. was transitioning to semi-autos. I don't think it was shot much with hot jacketed magnum ammo, as there is no gas-cutting on the top strap, and the throat looks new. It had leading in the barrel, which I guessed was probably from target wadcutters,... maybe, maybe not.

    Some holster wear on the bluing, but overall the revolver was excellent. One thing that makes me grin, the right wood handgrip was beat up and scratched. I imagine it connected with doorknobs, desk tops, and seat-belts frequently!
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  14. #14
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    My observation is that if you shoot the full-on, 125 grain Magnum stuff out of a 19, you'll be shopping for a barrel by the time your round count hits 2,000. One fellow I knew shot his into the repair shop in just over 1,000 rounds of .357 Remington JHP'S. My 66's see very limited magnum ammunition of any sort, but a lot of +p 38. 5.0 grains of Unique, a 358-156 and you'll be sniping flies at 50 feet, or at least scaring them witless.
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  15. #15
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    I have not seen the point in 110gr in this gun and although have tried factory 125gr self defense my little experience thinks this revolver is best with heavier stuff running at less than hypersonic edge of safety stuff.
    Ive run a bunch of 148gr WC and 158gr through it and my -4 looks like new although I run them over Promo.

    Mostly i shoot 38sp target in my 357mag's. If im feeling wooly i get my trusty Blackhawk out. Unless I make a serious mistake my 357, 45LC Blackhawks will take it and better than the SW although less refined

    Would I carry 125gr in it? Yes but it wouldnt be a standard target load for me, self defense only. Just not a fan of high velocity light rounds.
    Last edited by jonp; 10-11-2021 at 04:34 PM.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSB View Post
    I agree with Char-Gar completely. I shot countless thousands of light target loads using 4-4.2g of 231 with 150g wad cutters and they were not only pleasant to shoot, they were amazingly accurate in my guns. If you’re not hunting or carrying for self defense, why beat up the gun.
    Why beat up your hands, elbows, and shoulders. All those have a round count too.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master curioushooter's Avatar
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    I have a M19-3 that I cherish. After studying all the opinions on the matter I think the following:

    Don't shoot anything lighter than 125s in it for any reason, even if it's 38+P. That silly flyweight 110 grainier the CHP used messed up Model 68s which are Model 66s that were chambered for 38 instead of 357. Besides, magnum isn't about speed. It's about using heavier bullet at the same or greater speed, IMO.

    Don't shoot pre-'95 ammo or use pre-'95 max loads (~1995 is when SAMMI downgraded 357 from 45,000 CUP down to 35,000 PSI, modern ammo is substantially reduced) out of them.

    You'll be fine shooting new ammo and new max loads out of it, but really given the fact S&W doesn't make P&Red 19s any more, you better take it easy. If you want to go crazy get an L-frame or Ruger. The smaller size of the M19 is nicer with more moderate ammo too. The Security Six was a fine revolver, not as fine as a M19, but probably better able to digest spicier loads and is nearly as neat in size.

    I personally think 6 grains of Unique pushing a 158-172 grain cast bullet is enough. With the M19s long cylinder, it practically begs for 358429 in mag cases. It runs right around 1000 FPS. Great all around load I think. I have a variety of SWCs and RNFPs in this weight range and favor the naked butted and Keith-designed 358429 with its long nose in the M19.

    I have taken a liking to HERCO with this bullet weight for these all purpose loads lately. Lyman lists 5.6-7.1 grains (17,900-39,000 CUP) with 358429 and Herco at 1.553 OAL (this is short seated crimped over driving band for short cylinder N frames and consequently is more pressure than if you seat it out to ~1.65" or so). New formulation Herco is cleaner burning. Closer to 7 grains expect bit under supersonic velocity (~1100FPS), which is why I like this load. It's the most potent 357 mag load that is subsonic. Herco is bulky and fills the case. Wont possibly result in a double charge.

    Blue Dot is also a winner with 8.3-10 grains (18,400-39,200 CUP) with same combo, which should earn you an honest 1200 FPS near max. Slower powders than BD just don't deliver much increase in velocity in my 4" barreled M19. Honestly, the difference between Unique, Herco, Blue Dot (which are very similar powders, just slower burn rates) and even slower powders like 2400 or 296 just isn't that great. 13.5 grains of 2400 will only put it ~25 FPS or so faster than 10 grains of BD out of a 4" barrel. Big deal. You can use half as much Herco or Unique and be maybe 100-200 FPS slower. Again, big deal.

    I use the same loads for HPs (which weigh less) as solids. If it goes a wee bit faster yay, but I don't push it beyond max loads because it is lighter.

    I have a 686 and a T/C G2 and a Marlin that can take the full powered 357. No need for this in a M19.
    Last edited by curioushooter; 10-16-2021 at 11:30 AM.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master

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    Thanks for all the good advice.

    I am going to try 5.0, 5.5 and 6.0 grains of Unique and test for accuracy. (Did it years ago, but never wrote it down!) All three will probably be more accurate than me.

    I have my 586 for the stiff loads.
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master LAH's Avatar
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    There is nothing wrong with your load for the 19, especially for woods walking.
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  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    i thought the cause of split forcing cones was build up of lead on cone then shooting jacketed bullets .i used lewis lead remover in my 686 ,surprising how much lead is left in the cone after shooting light target loads even though there was nothing in the barrel.

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