St. Louis gun expert Tim Mullin knows his stuff. I quoted a couple of his books in the first volume of “Massad Ayoob’s Greatest Handguns,” and more of it in the forthcoming Volume II, of which I’ve just reviewed the galley proofs (should be out this year).


Tim has just come out with “MAGNUM: The S&W .357 Magnum Phenomenon,” published in the finest “coffee table book” style by Collector Grade Publications in Ontario (

Magnum book

It’s every bit as well researched as his previous book on the Colt National Match pistol, and the photos will induce at least the same high drool level among connoisseurs as did the latter book.

The big revolver and its ground-breaking new cartridge – “the gun that took the ‘proof’ out of bullet-proof vests,” as it was advertised at the time – did much to popularize hunting big game with handguns.  Gun collectors know the ultimate “grail gun” was the very first “Registered Magnum,” given by the company to J. Edgar Hoover, later to disappear into “a private collection” after his death. Well, grail hunters…you’ll find a couple of pictures of it in this book. Hoover thought enough of the weapon to order several for the FBI, and many more agents bought their own, including legendary gunfighters Jelly Bryce and Walter Walsh.  Walsh, over 100 years old, is still with us, a living monument to the ideals the Bureau was meant to stand for.

Mullin delves deep into the history and the subtleties of this classic outdoorsman’s revolver. He points out that the first gun expert to write about it in The American Rifleman did so without ever actually firing one. While Tim details the .357s that followed it – from Smith & Wesson, and from other makers – he focuses on the original .44-frame model, later designated the Model 27 series.  Its mirror-polished finish, its checkered topstrap, and its hand-honed action crafted by the company’s most skilled artisans, made it a showcase of the finest American workmanship that could be applied to a firearm.

The $69.95 retail price is commensurate with super-high quality “coffee table books,” and worth it for the details of Mullin’s painstaking research. I for one enjoyed the heck out of it.

Is the classic Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum one of your favorites, too?  If so, come on into the comments section here, and tell us about it.


  1. Mas – I grew up on semi-autos, primarily Colts and a well used Browning Hi-Power. After reading your “Greatest Handguns” book, I’ve gotten hooked on Smith & Wesson revolvers. I just bought my first vintage Model 27 and my only regret is not buying one sooner. The polish, the deep blue color and the smooth trigger pull are incredible. Thanks for getting me started on a slippery slope.

  2. I cant say I fire or carry them much. I own three guns chambered in the cartridge and really like them, it has just worked out that I dont carry or compete with them and as a result dont shoot them a lot.

    A buddy had a 4″ S&W Model 19 that I loved shooting. If I found one today I would likely buy it and might just carry it a bit.

  3. M-27’s are everything they were written up to be. My 5 inch was one of those “don’t let this one get by” purchases years ago. I remember an article from long ago by Skeeter Skelton regarding the 5 inch M-27 as “one gun to ride the river with”. The article stuck in my head, even though I knew a good 1911 was my #1 choice; bar none. It helped that most all gun scribes I read considered it “the” 357 to own.

    Then one day, a friend of mine told me there was a guy in South Buffalo, NY selling off a relative’s estate. My Dad & I went to look at the stuff. When the owner removed that N-frame from it’s box; my brain said “what’s wroo….;RRIGHT with that gun!!!”. Some cosmetic problems, nothing that affected the lockwork or precision of that fine S&W. $200 later and a trip to Pistol Permit and it is mine.

    Like I’ve said; the 1911 is the perfect handgun. That said, the 5 inch S&W M-27 is close second. Mine loves 140 -158 gr bullets over generous doses of Win 296; the bullet holes hug each other at 50 yd. It rides quite well in a DeSantis belt rig and is somewhat concealable. When I get in the mood to go wheelgunning, this one usually gets the duty – and thanks me for it.

  4. I’m a big fan of Magnums, but not a big fan of S&W- EXCEPT for the Model 29. I read that someone once referred to it as “the Cadillac of (Magnum) revolvers” or words to that effect, and it truly is that and more. At minimum it’s a great hunting handgun, and I carry it into the field for that purpose whenever the situation calls for it (which is pretty much on any big game hunt!).

    My favorites in .357 Magnum revolvers are the Colt Python and Ruger Security-Six. Honorable mention to Taurus and their full-size and snubbie wheelguns as well. Never really had any interest in S&W .357s after shooting/owning the above.

    Mas, after reading your brief but excellent Handgun Primer book and seeing the Python depicted there, I wonder about where your stance is regarding Colt vs S&W. Is one overshadowed by the other or do you hold a candle to both equally? By and large it seems to me that you’re more of a S&W fan, at least today. Are there any writings of yours that address this in any detail? Just curious.

  5. Oh, Andy, you just HAD to ask that, didn’t you…:-) ?

    Doing my best to sound like a political candidate: “I basically agree with both positions.”

    I presently own four Colt Pythons and four S&W Model 27/pre-27 .357s.

    I won one state championship PPC match back in the 1970s with a 6″ Nolan Santy-tuned Model 27, when the long barrels were allowed…three or four with a Jerry Moran-tuned Python when a 4″ barrel was required, and one with a Reeves Jungkind-tuned 2.5″ barrel Python, which is a funny and desperate story. Won the 2005 “open class” side of the national Snubby Summit match with that short barrel Jungkind Python, too…

    IDPA, on the other hand, all my state and regional titles were won with Smith & Wessons and Rugers, though those were K-frame and L-frame Smiths, not the big N-frames. The Ruger wins were with a GP100.


  6. I absolutely love the .357 mag, as well as the 19/66 (Thanks Bill!), and 28 HP revolvers.

    My EDC gun is a .357 mag. It’s a 640-1, with an XS big dot tritium front sight, and Corbons 125 gr DPX. For a CCW gun that is carried in the front pants pocket, I think it’s about perfect.

  7. Yo Mas: Missing ya bro, haven’t seen you since LFI-1, LFI-2, and Weapon Retention Class, years ago in Vancouver,Wa.

    I carried the model 28 for many years while on patrol here in Portland. Then Dirty Harry came out, and …yea you know the drill…had to get one! Still have my Harry Special 6″ and then shortly thereafter, everyone started the transition to pistols.

    Not sure of my dates but methinks the “Onion Fields” changed the thinking to a higher capacity weapon for street duty, with multiple attackers.

    I have big mitts, so the twenty seven, was a bit pricy for me then, so I chose the twenty eight, and never looked back. Never a misfire, good accuracy, etc.

    Hope to see you, up the road out west, please take my email for your personal list of former students. You are the best boss!

    Stay Safe, Alert &n Alive,God Bless, Sincerely,Tom Kelly

  8. My stainless 6-inch barrel Ruger GP-100 is my biggest baby, the gun I have beside me whenever I have to travel through West Texas, with about 10 speedloaders handy. Of course, one of my Glocks or SIG M1911 is there, too, but the .357 is closest. About 15 years ago, I gave my girlfriend a SP-101 for Christmas. She still has it, now with CT lasergrips, on the nightstand and ready all the time. As much as I love my 45s, the .357 is still my favorite caliber.

  9. .357 Magnum is a great caliber! It’s inherently accurate, very easy to reload, & easy to control in all but the lightest handguns. The Remington 125gr. SJHP set the standard for defensive stopping power, based on street results, according to several studies. Ammunition manufacturers are still trying to duplicate it’s performance in several semi-auto calibers, such as 9mm +P+, 357 Sig, 40 S&W, & 10mm, with varying results. There have also been a lot of great guns to choose from in .357 Mag. over the years.

    Although I like the Colt Python & the S&W Model 19 a lot, my personal favorites are the Smith & Wesson L-frames. The two most accurate handguns I own to this day are a pair of early S&W Model 586’s…one with a 6″ barrel & one with a 4″ barrel. The full underlug barrels not only reduce recoil, but also make the guns easier to hold steady & on target. The L-frame is the perfect size for a .357 Mag.– not too large & not too light. The trigger pulls, right out of the box, are also better than anything you can find now that hasn’t been tuned by a gunsmith. Even though my concealed carry handguns these days are almost all semi-autos, I would never feel under armed with a full-sized 6 shot .357 Mag. double-action revolver.

    It’s also worth mentioning some of the other great guns that have been chambered for .357 Mag. The Dan Wesson Model 15, with interchangeable barrels, is another super-accurate revolver on par with the Python & the Model 586/686. The Colt Trooper is a nice gun. The Ruger Security-Six & .357 Mag. Blackhawk are classics. IMI/Magnum Research even made the Desert Eagle in .357 Mag.! And if you’ve never fired a modern reproduction of a Winchester Model 1892 lever action carbine in .357 Mag., you owe it to yourself to try one. It’s very viable as a home defense gun, especially for those who do not shoot well with a handgun or a 12 ga. shotgun, because of the light recoil.

    There are also a lot of great guns among the current offerings in .357 Mag. from S&W, Ruger, Taurus, & others, but you already know where to find them.

  10. I’ll check out this book Mas…I never had a 27 but bought a brand new 6 inch model 28 in 1973 for my first police job,cost was $125.00 at a dying box store, and carried it on duty for four years before I switched to a Python. Sold the Python years ago, but still have that old scarred 28 and it is a laser! best, Jack

  11. My first love was the Colt Python – at age 11 or 12, they were the flagship of the “Realstuff” squirt guns, they were also the gun of Hutch from Starsky and Hutch. I always liked your articles when you wrote about the Python.

    The next one, though, was my uncle’s truly SHINY Model 66 he carried while on duty with the Chicago PD, but that was “officially a .38,” not a .357.

    And then I started reading your articles, Mas, and out of all the ones you’ve written about, it’s got to be the Model 13 you would take to New York, though, the piece on 3 1/2 inch Model 27’s you wrote about in the Complete Book of Handguns 2010 or 11 really lit a fire of interest in that one.

  12. Got a S&W 60-18 ’cause of Mas writing about it. (5″ J frame .357). After mag-na-porting and an action job, (sa dangerous and da impossible), it has been a joy to shoot. Almost as much fun as my original 63 which is an inch shorter, but feels exactly the same and has basically the same sights.

  13. You know I love my 1911s,Mas, but the gun I put the most rounds down range with ( maybe more than all others combined…maybe except the .22 ) is my model 28. My buddy, who had a 27, would belittle my plain jane 28 but it was up to any task his 27 was. Still have mine, he doesn’t, in fact he doesn’t even shoot any more. Poor soul.

  14. The beauty of a .357 is that one can practice with .38s, load .38+P for self-defense and magnum rounds when needed. I know of no other firearm which can chamber three “different” cartridges.

  15. I can’t say that I’ve ever had an S&W M-27. I have preferred the Colt Python instead. Not that I have anything against S&W. I do have a S&W M-625 and a M-629 Stealth Hunter. In fact I was out at the range this weekend to celebrate my uncle’s 86th birthday; he is a WWII army veteran and saw action in the Pacific Islands. He is the first person to ever put a handgun in my hand and still likes to shoot. I took along the .44 and with a 2X Leupold scope with factory 240 gr. loads; I could knock the hell out of the hanging bowling pins at 100 yds. I was firing against a guy with a Mini-30. He was lucky to hit the backstop. Also have a S&W M&P-15T and a S&W M&P-15-22, S&W M&P compact 9 also a S&W-57 with 4” barrel and others that I have forgotten.

    After time at the range, my Wife had a big turkey, with all the trimmings, waiting for us back home, as well as a birthday cake.

    But, on another matter: This book I am sure is finely done with beautiful photos. However, when you say a coffee table book, I get the hee-bee-gee-bees. One can pick his friends, and your relatives you know. However, repair guys that enter your home could be on parole, etc. A book as you describe, on your coffee table, would be a dead giveaway that guns are present and your home could be a target for thieves etc. Sorry Mas, I hide your books too!

  16. Love my 4 inch SW 686, pretty sure it’s about the same age as me even. It’s been my companion since I was a kid. When I can, I’ll get another one and convert the new one to DAO or bob the hammer. Can’t bring myself to do that to my first 686…

    Other wheelgun is a SW442 carried as a back up. Probably will get another one or two J-Frames for carry rotation. A SW .44 Magnum is on the “to get” list as well.

    @Randy- I hear ya. I conceal all of that as well. Gun books are kept out of sight (although it’s getting harder with more books :P). Gun accessories and cleaning stuff are kept out of sight as well. Heck, I watch who and where I talk about gun stuff to as well. Even the most well meaning friend can get carried away in mixed company.

    It’s quite something to have someone’s little ol’ grandma instantly recognize the smell of Hoppe’s #9 in the house and comment on it (true story).

  17. Mas, what do you think of the S&W Model 13 “FBI” revolver? (3″ heavy barrel, round butt). I bought 3 of the last 6 S&W built several years ago. IMHO, great CCW piece.

  18. Mas,
    While my daily carry is a 1911 .45, I own two Model 66’s (a 4 inch and a 2 1/2 inch) and a 4 inch Model 19 plus a Ruger Security Six. I figure this covers my bases.
    BTW, just to make you jealous, the 2 1/2 inch 66 and the 19 are pinned barrel/recessed chambers guns. Lovely, huh?

  19. TSgtB, the Model 13 is a sweet revolver, and in 3″ barrel/round butt configuration is an excellent concealed carry piece. Excellent balance, in both the visual and the tactile sense. Ditto its stainless twin, the Model 65. Go easy on the really hot 125 grain .357 Magnums, though…one of my Model 13s had to be completely re-tuned twice because I shot so much .357 through it back in the ’80s when the Model 13 was the issue gun of the department I then served. (We went to S&W .45 autos in 1988, and I left for my current department a couple of years later.)

  20. A lot of the older Texas DPS (Highway Patrol) guys really hated the transition from the .357 mag revolvers to the pistol. My CHL instructor was retired from DPS and he’d wax nostalgic on it every once in a while.
    Reliability, penetration, performance on people and animals, consistent trigger pull, and etc. I’m a .45 1911 guy but sometimes I get .357 fever just from rubbing around with the .357 mag fans.

  21. I still have my first handgun – a matt-finish M-28 I bought in 1986 for a gig as a private investigator. Accurate enough to break clay targets at 100 yards (with a 4 ‘ tube, no less!) and very smooth action. fits perfect in my hands with pachmyr grips, and most importantly for self defense – it WILL fire if the trigger is pulled, and WON’T fire if it isn’t. No takedown levers, no safeties, no fuss, no confusion in the heat of a confrontation. 100% reliable. No auto pistol ever invented has this level of dependability.

  22. Comparing S&W .357 revolvers to any other brand is something that should never be done simply because there is no comparison. People argue about the smoothness of a Colt Python, but the reality of the Python is its looks, and that’s it. The price is just so greatly inflated, and the so-called collectors are thinking that they are sitting on a gold mine. However, all S&W .357 “K”, “L” and “N” Frame revolvers are not only the best shooters, but the most desirable amongst collectors. Back in 1935 when S&W first introduced the .357, it started a tradition that continues to this day. If the Python is so great one must ask: WHY ISN”T IT STILL MADE?

  23. Mas, would you use the S&W Model 13 (with an action job by and the Ruger Security Six in different situations? I love them both although I need to get a rubber grip for the Ruger since I lost my old one. On your recommendations from the 80s I got both of them. With the Model 13 and Rem 125grSJHP with the original small (square butt) grips, it carried quite a snap. Since that time would you change your ammunition choice for either. Because I trusted what I had read about the 125gr SJHP, I started a long journey of trying to get similar ballistics out of a 1911 .38 Super which I did carefully and scientifically – still at one point bursting a case and turning my nose into a brass sliver cactus! That was when the Sig Sauer P229 .357 Sig came out and I was satisfied and still use it! (I know the terminal ballistics are a bit different since there’s no dead-soft exposed lead) Still, I’m efficient with the revolvers and speed loaders. Many thanks for the years of wonderful and credible information! (p.s. I so need to find a place I can test on steer heads e.g. the .40SW 135gr JHP!)

  24. Kathy, I’d still use the 125 grain full power Magnum in my 4″ Model 13, my 3″ Model 13, OR my Security Six/Speed Six/Service Six Rugers in any barrel length. In fact, that’s what I’ve got in the 4″ S&W 686 I’m wearing at the moment.

  25. Mas, Thank You so much for the reply! I’ve wanted to ask you questions forever, but since I’m in SoCal, it was impossible to take your classes! Because I spent so many years training with my revolvers, I’m still smooth with speed reloads and still love the solid reliability and safety of them! I’ve even managed to not get burn cutting on the frame of my Model 13! (bty, I was trying to say that my M13’s trigger job was by Don Kehoe and it has made a lot of S&W affectionados jealous!)

  26. I have a 1986 Ruger Security Six. Like new. Does anyone know what they are worth. Today’s date is Feb., 2013. Thanks!

  27. I have a Ruger Mark II with a 10″ inch barrel. Been looking at a Taurus model 66. My research shows they were produced with a 12″ barrel at one point. Are there any of those around. I’m leaning towards the 66 with a 6″ barrel but if I were to locate a 12″ barrel would it be interchangeable?