The Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum Model 66

The Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum Model 66

The stainless steel version of the Smith & Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum is a beautiful revolver with a storied history.   If you know much about revolvers or just love reading about handgun shooting, you’ve probably heard some of the names I’m about to mention.  They all had a hand, of sorts, in the development of the .357 Magnum cartridge, without which there would never have been a Model 19 or Model 66.  Truthfully, if you like .357 Magnum handguns, you should probably know the names of folks like firearms writer Philip Sharpe; gun designer Dan Wesson and gun writer and all around interesting fellow Elmer Keith.  I don’t have the space here to get into the backgrounds of each of these legendary men, but I should state clearly that without these gentlemen, the .357 Magnum might never have been born. .

In addition to the fellows I’ve already mentioned, is another gentleman named Bill Jordan.  Mr. Jordan was an Assistant Chief Patrol Inspector with the U.S. Border Patrol at a time when gun fights were not uncommon.   Among his credits, Bill Jordan was a lawman, a gun fighter, an exhibition shooter and a terrific writer.  In fact, he wrote one of my favorite gun related books entitled, “No Second Place Winners.”  Oddly enough, it was one of my father’s favorites as well.  Mr. Jordan employed his considerable experience as a lawman in an effort to design the perfect peace officer’s sidearm.  He worked hand-in-hand with Smith & Wesson in this effort.  The result was the Smith & Wesson Combat Magnum, which was later named the Model 19 and which gave rise to the stainless steel version dubbed the Model 66.

The Model 66, along with it’s blue steel brother the Model 19, rode in the holsters of many a police officer for decades.  In my dad’s day, the Combat Magnum was considered a dream gun by most police and security officers.  Long before law enforcement and security moved to semi-automatic sidearms, I was issued a Smith & Wesson Model 10.  I really liked the Model 10 at the time and I still do.  That said, I would have loved to have been issued a Model 19 or Model 66.  I must admit to having been envious of the guys who carried them.  My dad liked the gun a lot and was a big fan of Bill Jordan and his writings, but my dad was a Colt man through and through.  His duty sidearm was a .357 magnum Colt Python with a 4 inch barrel.

The Model 66 fell out of production by Smith & Wesson in 2005.  I guess sales weren’t as robust after most police and security agencies moved to the semi-automatic sidearm.  Fortunately for those of us who love a good revolver, the Model 66 was reintroduced in a newer version in 2014: the Model 66-8.

The gun I use in this video is a Model 66-4 that I purchased as a law enforcement trade-in.  It is a wonderful revolver in excellent condition.  Stoked with full charge .357 Magnum self-defense ammunition, the Model 66 is a formidable weapon.   Revolvers may no longer be fashionable, but in my experience, and my father’s, anybody who underestimates the power and effectiveness of a .357 Magnum does so at their own peril.  Living in Southern California, I would not carry the Model 66 as a concealed carry gun due to it’s size, weight and the warm weather we have here.  However, it is a great choice as a home defense revolver and can be loaded with self-defense .38 Special ammunition if you are concerned about over-penetration.

In addition to self-defense, the Model 66 shines as a field gun for those who prefer to carry a handgun while hunting.  I’ve carried my Model 66 on many a hunt.  The K-Frame of the Model 66 affords me a powerful sidearm in a slightly smaller and lighter package.  After a long day’s hunt lugging rifle, ammo and hunting gear, the lighter weight of the Model 66 in contrast to the heaver Model 686 or Ruger GP-100 (both fine revolvers) is a true blessing.