.357 Maximum/Supermag

Here’s a group of Federal .357 Maximum/Supermag cartridges. Developed by Elgin T. Gates, it is a lengthened .357 Magnum case designed for the express purpose of knocking down 50 pound steel rams in handgun silhouette competition.

From the left: Elgin convinced Federal Cartridge Company to make some experimental cases for him…this is the prototype. The second round is the factory Federal 180 grain Silhouette load. Later, unprimed nickel brass was sold with the headstamp as shown on the third round, while Gates had Federal make a special run just for the silhouette organization he helped found back in the mid-1970’s. The symbol at 9 o’clock is a silhouette of the ram, from the official logo.

Ruger also was involved with testing Elgin’s 1.6" case, but chose to go with a shorter 1.49" case version initially. It was chambered in an extended-frame Super Blackhawk called the Maximum. Dan Wesson stretched their large-frame revolver, and named it the M40, to take full advantage of the new round’s potential, and gun was an instant success. Many perfect scores have been fired over the years with the .357 Supermag, and it is still a popular round for both revolvers and single-shot Contenders.

As I recall, Ruger did not chamber this round very long. I know at least with the first revolvers, they had a terrible problem of gas-cutting of the underside of the top strap of the frame, just behind the forcing cone of the barrel. We had one, the only one we sold, come back for this. After a very small quantity of firing, the frame was cut quite deeply. I don’t know if they resolved this ever or not, in revolvers. There was very little silhouette shooting in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we never had any further call for guns of this caliber, so never stocked them again. Of course, gas cutting would not be a problem or consideration in a Thompson Contender, or other single-shot pistol.

That is true John. Ruger made only 10,000 of them, half with 10" barrels, the other half with 7.5" barrels. Part of the problem was the early gunwriters trying to drive 110 grain bullets at Mach 3 with large doses of ball powders to see how fast they could get it to shoot. This caused quick erosion on the top strap. The cartridge was designed for 170-200 grain bullets, not the lightweight ones. I believe after a couple years, Ruger pulled the gun off the market to fix the problem, but they never did.

The Dan Wesson also exhibited top-strap erosion, but it only went so deep, then stopped. The top strap is thicker than the Ruger, and it was never a safety problem. Their fix was to include an extra barrel with each revolver, and a coupon for a discount on a third barrel. Dan Wesson barrels are easy to change, so, although it didn’t “fix” the problem, it was tolerable.


I love it! :) :) :) :) Somebody pinch me.


Ray - I know you aren’t complaining but for those out there that may not like postings that get into guns, I will say flat ou that you cannot divorce the subject of ammunition from the guns that use it, nor from the history behind the guns as well as the cartridges. On occasion, even the history of one cartridge must lead you into the history of another gun and cartridge. Example - .38 Long Colt and .45 Auto Pistol and ctg.

No, I won’t turn this thread into a discussion of those two. Most will know precisely what I mean - cause and effect.

John Moss