Re-Visiting An Old Friend

The .357 Magnum

S&W 686 with 6" barrel and Eagle combat grips, all neatly topped with an UltraDot
L/T in a Weigand Machine and Design mini-mount. Lots of ammo options for the .357!

It’s confession time. For many years I’ve neglected the .357 Magnum. When hunting big game with straight-walled pistol cartridges, I generally reach for the .44 Mag. or some other big bore cartridge. I’ve always felt the .357 was a bit marginal for deer and hogs, even though I’ve taken a few critters with the little magnum. The .357 Mag. seems to always be compared to the larger magnums and, as a result, takes a back seat. It dawned on me recently this was unfair, as the .357 is sort of in its own class. Call it a “little” big bore?

To make amends, I’ve been enjoying lengthy range sessions with three .357 Mag. revolvers. One characteristic making the .357 so versatile is the ability to shoot less expensive .38 Special ammo. You can enjoy quality trigger time without depleting your wallet. All three revolvers showed themselves to be very accurate with both .38 Specials and .357 Mag. ammo.

One of the neatest DA revolvers I’ve shot is the “Mongoose” from Nighthawk Customs. It’s the very famous German Korth. These DA revolvers are built one at a time by one gunsmith, from start to finish. One feature I appreciate is the ability to have interchangeable cylinders. The change of cylinders is simple. You rotate the cylinder and press the silver button on the right-hand side of the frame. The cylinder simply slides forward and the 9mm cylinder inserts back in place.

The twist rate is 1:10 to ensure common bullet weights are stabilized in both calibers. This adds to the versatility of the Korth and I was impressed by how well the 9mm performed. On the 9mm cylinder, the ejection system was designed to allow the use of rimless cartridges. Unlike revolvers cut for moon clips, the Mongoose 9mm cylinder has six individual chambers cut into the cylinder and its own set of extractors for each chamber. Pretty nifty!

The grip is very similar to a Smith & Wesson L-Frame, and my gun came with a set of rubber Hogue grips, but Korth offers two-piece walnut grips as well. The trigger feels very smooth, incorporating a roller bearing in the top, engaging the hammer during DA fire. The trigger on my test gun broke cleanly just a bit over 3 lbs.

Another S&W 686 with 83/8" barrel wearing beautiful Culina combat grips.
Leupold’s 4x scope is fitted in Weigand’s base and three rings.

S&W Too

I’ve also been shooting my Smith & Wesson Model 686 guns. One’s a 6″ while the other is the classic 83/8″ version. The 6″ wears an UltraDot reflex sight mounted on a Weigand Machine and Design mini-mount. This revolver wears a set of combat grips from Eagle. Talk about a fun shooting revolver — this is it!

The 83/8″ version wears a 4x Leupold scope fitted on top of Weigand’s mount, and three rings. A set of Culina combat grips are not only attractive but extremely comfortable as well. This is a serious hunting revolver, primarily for varmints and such. However, this sixgun is very accurate and I wouldn’t hesitate shooting whitetail out to 75 yards or so with the right ammo.

Korth Mongoose with interchangeable 9mm cylinder.


Ammunition for both cartridges is readily available just about everywhere. Handloaders can also tailor loads for specific applications with the huge variety of bullets out there. Thanks to Redding’s T-7 turret press and four die set of Redding dies — including their micrometer adjustable crimping die — handloads can be tweaked for top performance. I’ve been shooting a lot of Nosler, Sierra and Hornady’s 158-gr. XTP jacketed bullets. There are a multitude of powder choices for every bullet weight, and brass is readily available. I usually lean on Starline brass for my handloads.

Small game like rabbits or squirrels can be taken with the .357 Mag. and is great practice. I’ve taken rabbits with .38 Special wadcutters and they work perfectly with head or body shots. Those flat bullets work! For deer I make certain shot placement is dialed-in and keep to that 75-yard max. Many handgun hunters use Hornady’s 158-gr. XTP for whitetail and they work with well-placed shots. If a big hog hits the radar screen, I grab Swift’s 180-gr. A-Frame.

The .357 Magnum makes a fine choice especially for those who don’t want to deal with heavy recoil. When shots are kept inside sane, realistic ranges, the .357 Mag. will deliver. If you’re looking for a mild-mannered, accurate, easy-to-handload fun revolver, with a wide selection of factory ammo for a variety of applications, the .357 Magnum easily fits in this category. I plum forgot just how fun this caliber can be.

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