In Dirty Harry: Magnum Force, Inspector Callahan claims to use a “light special” load for lighter recoil and better control in his Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver. That’s Hollywood gobbledygook. There is now ammo labeled as “light special.” But HSM’s Cowboy Action .357 Magnum cartridges might be close.

I’ve always felt that there was a gap in the mid-bore sporting, civilian defense and law enforcement revolver cartridge world. On one end, there’s the 158-grain RNL .38 Special police service load at 755 feet per second. It’s great for target shooting and civilian self-defense but not for stopping heavily armed and armored crooks or large dangerous animals. On the other end is the full-powered 158-grain .357 Magnum. This load developed 1,400 feet per second muzzle velocity and 688 foot pounds of muzzle energy. While it has more stopping power, it can also be more difficult to control.

A 1,400 FPS 158-grain .357 Magnum bullet generates a healthy amount of recoil. Multiple rounds become less than enjoyable to shoot in very short order. However, if that bullet could be slowed to a more sedate yet respectable speed — say 1,200 feet per second or so — that might give you a “light special” version of the .357 Magnum. There would be enough power to handle almost anything and without beating up you or your handgun!

About Cowboy Action Loads

HSM’s .357 Cowboy Action load is unlike mid-bore cowboy action loads I have fired in the past. Most cowboy action loads are loaded to a minimal velocity — just enough to bang a steel plate or punch a cardboard target and allow rapid repeat shots.

HSM loads a 158-grain lead semi-wadcutter (LSWC) Keith-style bullet into a brass .357 case. Their LSWC bullet exits the muzzle at a respectable 1,175 feet per second, delivering a solid 484 foot pounds of energy, which is the “light special” sweet spot.

Testing the HSM Cowboy Action .357 Magnum

I tested the HSM Cowboy Action .357 Magnum ammo in two different sessions and from two different revolvers. The first was a well-used but still solid S&W Model 65 .357 Magnum 4-inch service revolver. The ammo was also shot from a 4-inch Pietta .357 blued steel single-action revolver.

HSM’s cowboy ammo was a perfect fit for Model 65 “K Frame.” Recoil was controllable firing two-handed at 25 feet, masking the serious amount of power behind each shot. The load was accurate, and the bullets landed dead on to the point of aim. This HSM .357 would have made a better police service round than the 210-grain S&W Model 58 Police .41 Magnum introduced in 1964.

I also tested the HSM ammo in a 25-pound block of modeling clay from Hobby Lobby. The ammo was tested from the Pietta. Upon firing, small pieces of clay sprayed on myself and a friend, so I was probably a bit too close. As well, the holder we usually use for clay block testing had been damaged in a previous shoot. It didn’t seem like a big deal initially.

Though the clay block fell apart due to a shoddy holder, the entrance hole was large, and the expansion was impressive.

The HSM ammo made a large entrance hole and expanded internally. I thought it would look great sectioned off. However, as I was thinking that, the HSM .357 lifted the block up and over the edge of the board it had been resting on. The block landed squarely on the ground, with the large cavity collapsing in on itself. The block ended up flat as a pancake.

After I said a few choice words, we picked the block up and sectioned it as best we could. The picture gives an idea of what the cavity would have roughly looked like. It was an impressive hit, trust me. And the Pietta also handled the recoil very well.

Should You Shoot With HSM Cowboy Action Rounds?

If you are looking for a round that can do many things well and be fun to shoot, look no further than the HSM Cowboy Action Loads in .357 Magnum. They just might be what the .357 Magnum should have been all along.