Ammo Comparison 38+P vs. 357 cal.


XD Shooter
January 30, 2006, 09:15 PM
How much differance would there be between these two loads 38+P vs. 357 cal.? Self Defense purposes (SW 442 vs. SW 640). Thanks Phil S.

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January 30, 2006, 09:59 PM
Which ones? What bullet weights? Many variables, here.

In general there will be no comparison between a .38 and a .357 Magnum in terms of velocity. I expect at least a 400 FPS advantage in my Magnum loads over a .38 Special of the same bullet weight. My .38 defensive loads is a 125 JHP at 1,200 FPS and my favorite Magnum load with same slug clocks 1625.

Factory loads may or may not show this much difference but the Magnum should always be considerably faster no matter what barrel length.

January 30, 2006, 10:11 PM
The difference is night and day. Buffalo Bore's .38's energy ranges 306-351 ft/lb. Their .357 mag's range from 740-802 ft/lb. If you are able to shoot the mag well, go with that. If not, the .38 is ok.

January 31, 2006, 12:10 AM
In a snubbie, you have to try it.

Two shots with good .38 Sp +P beat one with .357 from a snubbie. Depends on your ability to shoot accurate followup shots with a given round.

By the numbers, 38 Sp, even +P is an unimpressive round compared to most everything else including 9mm. But those numbers aren't everything. Otherwise, you'd want a .44 Magnum snubbie.:)

January 31, 2006, 09:59 AM
Most of the numbers I've seen out of 2" barrels suggest the main difference is noise and flash from the .357, maybe an extra 100 fps for all the kaboom. However, there's special short barrel loads out now days and I haven't paid attention. Loaded with a faster powder, the .357 should be able to distance the .38 in a shorter barrel. The normal 125 grainers with the slow powders need barrel to get going, though. Going from a 2" to just a 3" helps a LOT. Out of a service 4", no comparison. The longer the barrel, the better the mag round does.

Reason I've never considered a snubbie .357 is there's just not enough gain to justify it over a .38 P+. Now days, with the special loads available, that may not be so much the case. But, I feel perfectly well armed with a .38 snub. To me, it's not worth the extra punishment to go with the magnum. But, that should be your call. I can get a double tap off pretty quick out of my 15 ounce .38. If it were one of the titanium lightweight .357s (I like light for carry), I might be at 12 O'Clock with the thing after the first shot. :D

Put 'em where it counts with the .38 and it will do the job with good ammo and good shot placement.

January 31, 2006, 10:35 AM
This comes up a lot. And I often read posts that say there is hardly any advantage to .357 over the .38 in a short barrel. People like to say that most/all the powder is wasted on the short barrel, and there is hardly any advantage with the .357

Well, there is always an advantage in ballastics using the .357 instead of the .38 round. Yes, if you shot the same .357 round out of a 4" barrel vs a 2" one, you're going to get more velocity out of the longer barrel. A good rule of thumb is to find out what test barrel length was used to test a certain round (say .357 in this case) to get it's FPS figure. Then subtract 50 FPS for every inch of barrel shorter your gun is vs the test gun's barrel. So if its 1200 FPS out of a 4.5" barrel, you're probably looking at about 1075 FPS out of a 2" barrel.

But yes, there will be fairly more recoil when using .357 mag in a concealed carry snub, which is probably going to be 2" and weigh about 23 ozs or lighter. If the recoil is just too much for you to be accurate, then go with a .38 load. If you're looking at a .357 load for short barrel, small frame gun, I would recommend Remington Golden Saber 125 gr JHP or Speer's Gold Dot SB 135 gr JHP. Both of these loads are not full power, and have less recoil than most other .357 rounds available.

And I take it "Thatguy" might be referring to his/her own handloads? Especially if it's out of a short barrel, because I don't think I could find a manufacturer that makes a .38 125 grain round that travels 1200 FPS. At that speed a .38 is essentially a .357 round, and out of a short barrel concealed carry gun, thats gonna be just too much recoil to deal with (unless its a sp101 3" or larger). So I don't think his/her response to "XD shooter's" question is much help.

And as far as "S&W620" talking about buffalo bore for SD, that isn't very applicable to the question at hand either.

January 31, 2006, 11:15 AM
Yes, loads taken from a 1970 manual printed before the lawyers told them to tone it down. The .38s work fine in K and J frame guns and the .357s have been OK in N and K frame Magnums... so far. Current factory .38s are like 900 FPS and .357s are something like 1200 or so. Weak in my opinion.

No matter what barrel length the edge remains essentially the same for the Magnum. I have tested 2" guns with many .28 and .357 loads and difference is fairly constant.

I don't think 1200 is Magnum velocity and factory +P is barely faster than standard, not approaching proper Magnum level.

Gary A
January 31, 2006, 09:45 PM
One thing that always strikes me in these various comparisons of rounds and calibers is that whether one compares using such controversial methods as "one shot stops" and "Fuller Indexes" or methods which compare penetration, wound volume, bullet upset, etc., the benefit gained by going to the faster, more powerful or, in some cases, heavier round is not nearly the same magnitude of the velocity and/or weight increase. One might increase the energy level from 250 to 500 lbs to gain a much, much smaller increase in "effectiveness". I don't doubt the increased effectiveness of the more powerful loads, but there is a definite diminishing returns factor at work. Makes sense to me to use the most powerful load one can handle effectively, knowing that doubling the load emphatically does not double the effectiveness.

January 31, 2006, 11:31 PM
I wouldn't even ASK the question before shooting each.

A skilled shooter with .38, calmly hitting a target right where he/she wants to will be a lot more effective than someone as scared of his/her own tiny little overloaded handcannon as of an assailant.

And like Gary A said, more energy doesn't mean more effectiveness in the same ratio.

Jim March
February 1, 2006, 02:19 AM
I'm convinced that GOOD 38+Ps and a calm head will get you through damned near any fight this side of a bear.

That said: as your barrel gets shorter, ammo selection gets more critical. You need at least 10" of penetration combined with decent (at least 50cal, 55+ is better) expansion.

February 2, 2006, 07:32 PM
I will just say this. At 5 yards distance my 2 1/8 inch .357 puts a clean hole in the target the size of a sharpie marker while shooting 38 +p. But shooting .357's it puts a slightly larger (and indented hole) with rips all around the edges. That shows me the difference right there. And thats on paper (no pun intended).

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