The Smith & Wesson Model 19


by Butch Kent (a.k.a. "Cross Creek Charlie")

Photography by Butch Kent

October 26th, 2005




You know how sometimes you can look at a photo or read a statement in an article a just get all red faced and mad in an instant?  The statements that gets my blood boiling are those that suggest that Smith & Wesson's Model 19 is too lightweight for the heavy stuff and should be used mostly for 38 Special loads with an occasional hotter 357 load for business only. Bull….    You see, I happen to be the proud owner of a 6-inch barreled Model 19, which I purchased in 1973. And that means it has seen mostly full house loads for …only 32 years!!

I can clearly recall the day I purchased the revolver at a local gun store. I was very proud of the weapon, as it was then the most powerful handgun I had ever owned or shot. Now as I can recall as I read every word of the S&W owners brochure and listened closely to the gun shop owner during the deal making, and not once was there any indication that I should take it easy with the revolver. Not once did S&W or the dealer tell me I should practice with 38s and only shoot a high velocity 357 Magnum load when it was real important.  If they had, I would have told them where they could put their panty waist revolver.  Nope, it was sold to me as a fine firearm, made by a fine gun maker, and represented one of the highest quality weapons available at the time.

So naturally when I bought factory ammo, I went for the good stuff. After all I was going to learn to shoot it in practice, as I would use it in the field. This was to be a hunting gun.  After I had a few hundred once fired cases, I set about developing some hand-loads which were true masterpieces and for me were the closest thing I could get to a nuclear weapon for deer. Armed with these new special MAGNUM loads, I practiced and refined loads until it would group 1 to 1 ½ inches at 30 yards. During the off-season, I took the combination into the field after ground hog, a quarry I had chased for years with my trusty Remington 700 Varmint Special in 22-250. The challenge now gone with the 22-250, I found a renewed excitement when using the 357 Magnum. This was great practice! Soon the leaves changed color and a cold wind blew and deer season arrived. More of the full-house 357 Magnum loads were prepared. No need for deer practice. After taking many ground hogs from crouched positions at 50 yards with solid hits and head shots, only a running deer would have been a great stretch. And, I don’t stretch. I don’t take shots beyond my ability or the lethal range of my weapon. My favorite load is still a Sierra 150 hollow cavity over XX (liability reduction) grains of 2400. My first deer was taken at a range…. STOP! I’d like to tell the whole story.

I was working very long hours in my profession, and had only been able to scout out one area before the season. I loaded the truck and left for my stand, a ground stand, on the side of a steep hill overlooking a natural draw in a hardwood forest in Alabama. It was cloudy but I couldn’t tell how heavy in the early morning darkness or I would have probably stayed in bed.  I slipped into the woods and walked about 400 yards to my stand, quietly took my position by the trunk of a large red oak tree about 15 yards up the side of the hill, and readied the 357. After about a half an hour I heard something coming through the woods. No, it wasn’t the deer I had come to find but a rolling wall of rain. It rained so hard that in the early morning light I couldn’t have seen a deer had it been standing on the other side of the tree. Thunder…rain…thunder…rain. It seamed like it was going to rain all day, but in reality only lasted about 45 minutes. Just as quickly as the downpour had caught me, it stopped.  The woods were absolutely quiet. Only an occasional drip of water from a tall tree and they would hit the wet leaves like a 2 liter bottle of coke. Then without making a sound in the wet forest, a nice six point buck appeared about 40 yards in front and quartering towards me around the base of the steep hill.  Smith ready, I waited until he either got to my chosen spot for the shot or the chance that he would spook and try to run. He didn’t run, but walked right into my shooting spot. I slowly squeezed the trigger on the 357 until it fired. It was the loudest round I had ever heard. Immediately the buck lunged to the right and ran through the woods to a small stream in the hollow. There he piled up on the far bank and didn’t move again. The bullet had entered just behind the shoulder on the left side, about mid body height, and exited the right side. The exit hole was at least the size of a quarter. The run was less than 30 yards. This was the first deer I took with the Model 19, but not the last. Over the years I have taken more deer with it than any other handgun I own. I always use the same load and always get the same results, clean one shot kills. Except once…but that’s another story.

I can’t tell you how many rounds I have fired through that Model 19. I am certain it has been thousands over the thirty plus years. The gun is still just as tight and accurate as the day I first shot it. I have no intention of loading 38 Special-type loads for it. I did back down from some of my hottest loads fired during development of the perfect round when signs of high pressure (flattened primers) were noted. But the 357 Magnum that Smith and Wesson built for me can take factory or roll-your-own magnum loads year after year.

If anybody has one of those panty waist guns referred to in those other articles, send it back and demand a refund or just cut it up and throw it away. A Magnum that’s not a Magnum is as worthless as them little things on the belly of a boar hog.

Butch Kent


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Click pictures for a larger version.


Author's favorite .357 Magnum is his S&W Model 19, which has seen much use firing full-house magnum loads since 1973.




Butch often practices with his S&W Model 17-2, with an identical setup to his prized Model 19.




 Shown for comparison at left is a 150-grain Sierra HC handloaded to .38 Special +P pressures and used in Butch's Model 36. Butch's favorite .357 Magnum load (2nd & 3rd from left) is the 150-grain Sierra HC with 2400 powder. .357 plinking ammo (2nd from right and far right) is Samson's 158-grain JHP.