Yes, it may seem like a dumb idea for a revolver to not function well for the very rounds it was designed for but I have heard and read this from multiple sources and have some first hand experience.
Basically the idea goes, while .357 Magnum Revolvers are built to fire .357 Magnum cartridges, excessive use of them will basically shake the gun so much that something in will break or bend and cause the revolver to lock-up and simply not work. Civilian revolvers were never meant to fire so many .357 rounds in such a short period of time and thus they’re only certified for firing maybe a couple of dozen rounds at a time at most and are meant more for defensive carry or hunting and not for excessive target shooting or plinking. The only revolvers you can actually shoot dozens if not hundreds of .357 rounds at a time are actual military hardened revolvers because they are specially designed to do this.
So my own experience, I own a Ruger GP100 revolver. I mainly fire it with .38 Special rounds while target shooting because of their low recoil and it’s a dream to shoot with the occasional dozen rounds or so of .357 Magnum just for fun. Once at the range I ran out of .38 Special and decided to finish off a box of .357 Magnum which was about 40 or so rounds. As I got to the end of the box I noticed the revolver was now considerably much stiffer to eject cartridges and once I finished it I noticed I could no longer actually open the cylinder to eject the spent rounds as it seemed glued shut. I wound up having to just take it home but even after a couple of hours of settling it still wouldn’t budge, was forced to take a bunch of q-tips and rub solvent all between the gap between the cylinder and the back part of the frame and let it sit before it actually let me pull the cylinder off for some serious cleaning. It works fine now but this was the first time I’ve ever seen a revolver stick before (I own three revolvers but shoot most of them with 38 special or 44 special).
Anyone else ever encounter or hear about this?
Edit: “Danger in firing too many .357 Magnum rounds in a .357 Revolver?” is what I meant
What the fuck is a “military hardened revolver”? The last revolvers the United States military procured was the S&W Model 15 in .38 Special used by USAF Police and the S&W Model 56, a snub-nose .357 Magnum. Military forces around the world have almost uniformly moved to autoloading pistols because they are more durable, less susceptible to contamination, and have greater firepower than revolvers.
The .357 Magnum can be a punishing cartridge to fire in a lighter weight gun, and revolvers in general tend to have shorter lifespans than modern autoloading pistols just by virtue of the more delicate mechanism and frame stiffness limited by geometry (a modern revolver can absorb 10k to 20k rounds while many modern autoloading pistols have seen 50k and more full power rounds and still function reliably), but the Ruger GP100 is one of the most stoutly build revolvers designed from the ground up to fire a diet of full power .357 Magnum rounds. It sounds as if your difficulty is not any kind of deformation or other damage but contamination by particularly dirty rounds building up between the barrel and cylinder, which despite the oft-repeated nonsense that “revolvers don’t jam” is actually a common occurrence. Note that regularly firing .38 Spl rounds in a .357 Magnum revolver, while safe, will result in a buildup of residue in the chamber where the longer cartridge would normally occupy, and it is possible that this buildup of residue was pushed forward and cemented causing your blockage.
You should be cleaning the gun, and particularly the chambers of a revolver, every time you shoot including using a solvent to remove lead and copper residue which can and will build up when firing the .38 Spl in a .357 Magnum pistol.
Outside of the US apparently some police and military units still use .357 revolvers as this video showcases two from the 70’s that were “Military hardened” and he brings up the fact they can take 1,000’s of .357 rounds implying other non-military revolvers can’t.
Was it lead bullets or copper plated? Crud can build up in both cases, but particularly with the former. And yes, it’s worse with .38. A properly built gun (Ruger qualifies) should accept higher pressures than you can possibly shoot.
You find that people on gun forums, stores, etc. pass on a bunch of BS.
I’ll reiterate that I’ve never heard of a “military hardened revolver”. The Roger GP100 is one of the most stout revolver designs I have seen, designed from the ground up to accept full power .357 Magnum loads and with a front-and-rear cylinder lockup. I find it unlikely to the point of certainty that the frame was distorted by firing a moderate amount of .357 Magnum ammunition through it. I find it vastly more likely that poor cleaning discipline resulted in the buildup of propellant residue residue and residual lead to jam into the cylinder to barrel gap–hardly an unheard of condition–and resulted in the phenomenon which was observed.
For the record, I have been a tactical firearms instructor certified by a national standards organization. I’ve fired uncounted rounds through hundreds of different types of pistols and revolvers including the GP100 (a good quality gun that deserves a far better trigger). I’ve observed most of the common failures that can occur with a firearm due to bad design, poor maintenance, and improper modification, and I have never, ever seen such a thing as a “military hardened revolver”. I have fired a Korth .357 Mag revolver (often described as the “Rolls Royce of revolvers”) and countless S&W, Colt, Roger, and Taurus revolvers; have seen them jam and break from improper maintenance, overloading, and aging; and while I don’t claim to be an expert I believe I have enough experience to speak with enough experience to state that the notion that firing a few dozen rounds through a full sized, steel frame .357 Mag revolver should not result in any kind of damage or deformation.
I’ve heard of some of the S&W Model 19s (basically a beefier Smith & Wesson Victory Model revolver chambered for the higher power cartridge) can have some forcing cone issues after a few years of firing hot .357 Magnum rounds.
A Smith & Wesson N-Frame revolver or a Ruger Security Six/GP-100 is built like a Soviet Tank. They’re designed to talke full-power .357 Magnum loads all day, every day.
From a liability point of view, imagine the brouhaha if it was found out a new gun labelled “.357 MAGNUM” on the barrel was, in fact, not capable of firing the round as more than a “sometimes treat”?
If the problem with the revolver was actual deformation, solvent wouldn’t have fixed it. My 6" S&W 686 (a pretty big beast) also gets a bit balky after I fire a box of dirty .357. It just wants to be clean again. The Ruger is indeed built to take .357 rounds all day long…as long as you clean it.
When an arms maker designs a weapon for a particular round, they alway include a safety factor, and then test extensively. Tens, even hundreds, of thousands of rounds. What you’ve described is fouling - not damage. Yes, magnum cartruidges will foul more than lower-power catridges. They’ve got more powder, thus more burning gasses, more soot, and more unburn powder to gum things up.
There is a lot of ‘gun lore’ floating around from various well-meaning but basically ignorant individuals. Good stories grow in the telling, and the best ones become legendary, then become accepted wisdom - even when not actually true. Edit:
Oh, also: The Ruger GP100 revolver is a tank of a gun - those are built solid. There’s nothing flashy, fancy, or cutting-edge about them. They’re simply robust, solid, well-craafted, and reliable.
When I joined the Army in 1989 all Army helicopter aircrews were issued .38 revolvers. I don’t remember the nomenclature but it was a mix of Colts, Smith and Wessons and Rugers. That was my primary weapon for two years until I transferred to Fort Hood and I happened to get there when they were first issuing M9s right out of the box.
We were still using model 15s/.38 at Cape Canaveral AFS in the late eighties as well. It was about the time the M9s were making their way into some Air Force units, and when I wondered aloud when we would be getting the 9mm, an astute co-worker replied “by the time we get 9 millimeters the rest of the world will be using lasers!”.
I got his point. While we were surrounded by, literally, space-age development, we were at the tail-end of the USAF support supply chain.
There are several reasons for an excessive gap at the forcing cone, but stretching of the topstrap would be a very unusual cause for this. The steel in any quality revolver will stretch very, very slightly when fired and then return to its original state.
On the other hand, I know very little about cheaply-made revolvers, so I guess it’s possible that some of those may be subject to stretching and permanent deformation.
Aluminum alloy framed revolvers had a reputation for shooting themselves loose up into the 1980s. Gun writers, like Mas Ayoob, often advised using the aluminum gun for carry and using a steel framed variant of the same model for practice at the range. The same was said about aluminum framed autoloaders. In the 80s, aluminum alloys must have improved, as I haven’t heard of this being a problem in a long while. Still, I’d use full house magnum loads sparingly in an older aluminum gun.
Depends on the gun. Eventually you will develop excessive endshake and the cylinder may not lock up properly = dangerous to fire. Frame stretching is also possible, and bad.
Some revolvers are built tougher than others. Freedom arms and rugers are more durable with hot loads. But even in rugers, you will get more endshake after tens of thousands of hot rounds. Though you can repair it with steel shims.
One of the cons of magnum revolvers. They are punishing on your hands and the gun itself.
Unlike a 9mm pistol where you can keep replacing springs and parts and go for 100k+ rounds.