question about .357 vs .38 revolvers


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Don Lu
November 19, 2006, 09:18 PM
Just curious... Why would someone buy a gun that only shoots .38 when you can buy a .357 that shoots both ? Ive seen people recommend that others buy a .38 instead of a .357 and I dont understand the logic.. I dont own any revolvers and am very inexpirienced w/them in general..thanks for any insight..

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Preacherman
November 19, 2006, 09:23 PM
Don, if you don't want the blast and recoil of a .357 Magnum, why not buy one in .38 Special instead? I know many folks who own a .357 and have shot full-patch rounds through it - once. Thereafter, they decided that the milder .38 Special load was just fine with them!

There are also some jurisdictions that mandate a revolver capable of firing only a .38 Special load for certain jobs (police, security guards, etc.). Whilst a .357 could be carried with the lighter load, the authorities insist that the gun should not be capable of firing anything heavier. That's why many of the manufacturers made revolvers in both calibers, so that they didn't shut themselves out of such markets.

Don Lu
November 19, 2006, 09:50 PM
"Whilst a .357 could be carried with the lighter load, the authorities insist that the gun should not be capable of firing anything heavier"


That makes sense..Just couldnt understand why not buy a gun that can shoot both.

PythonFan
November 19, 2006, 10:04 PM
For snub nose revolvers, .357 does not make a lot of sense for most people. The recoil is unmanageable for most people and the cylinder has to be a bit longer.

benelli12
November 19, 2006, 10:08 PM
Maybe not everyone who is new to guns, do the research to find out the fact that a 38 can be fired thru a .357, when just looking for a defense pistol. But if you wanted a .45 colt, you could buy a .454, and it would shoot both. That is a little more extreme than the 38/.357, but it's similar.

jad0110
November 19, 2006, 10:17 PM
The recoil is unmanageable for most people and the cylinder has to be a bit longer.

And in the case of J-Frames, the cylinder is a little wider and the barrel is 2 1/8" long instead of 1 7/8" for the .38. That's why I picked the 642 (.38) for pocket carry, it is slightly smaller.

Not to mention that there are some really wonderful guns out there chambered in .38 Special. The S&W K-38 Combat Masterpiece is one I know I'd love to own one day. Either that or a S&W Model 10, regarded by many to be one of the most accurate handguns ever made.

Kudos on your interest in the good 'ole wheelie. Once the bug has bitten and infected you, the only cure is to buy more wheelies ... and more and more and more ... :D

MCgunner
November 19, 2006, 10:26 PM
.38 snubs tend to be a little smaller and lighter and more pocketable than .357 snubs and not that lower in ballistics with +P stuff. I wouldn't want to fire a full house .357 load in a 15 ounce J frame anyway, OUCH!

Your question may hold a little more water for K frame sized guns. I can tell you, I went through three .357s and on the fourth one found one that shot very tight with .38 ammo. Perhaps it's the extra length of the cylinder an free bore, but many K frame size .357s don't shoot all that accurate with .38s. My old Security Six couldn't do any better than 3" at 25 yards with wadcutters. Heck, my J frames will do that and my little 3" Rossi M68 .38 special will shoot 2" groups at that range. My M19 Smith and my M971 Rossi shot .38 wadcutters about 2.5" at 25 yards and the Rossi wasn't much better with most .357 loads. Then, I finally found a gun that'd put a couple of .357 loads and my .38 Wadcutter into 1" at 25. It's a Taurus M66.

I have a M10 Smith that'll shoot 1.5" at 25 yards with that same wadcutter load and it's just a plain ol' fixed sight service revolver. All I was really looking for was a .357 that could shoot .38s as good as that M10, but that was hard to find, but I finally got a jewel.

Yeah, I know, a gun don't have to be that accurate at combat ranges, but I see a K frame size gun as a field gun, something I might wanna shoot a rabbit with at 20-26 yards or stop a hog with using heavy loads. I don't carry that gun for defense, it's heavy and bulky even IWB. For me, it's a belt gun plain and simple. I don't CCW the gun.

My old M10 is accurate enough that I've won a few revolver shoots with it. The M10 is the base for a lot of custom PPC revolvers. It's a superb, accurate revolver that's hard to improve on and has more accuracy than most .357 chambered guns. I think it's the added free bore, like I said. A .38 size cylinder adds accuracy to the .38 that it just has trouble getting from a .357.

EddieCoyle
November 19, 2006, 10:27 PM
When I was looking for a lightweight carry revolver, I narrowed it down to two Smith and Wesson revolvers: the 642 and the 340. The guns are nearly identical. Both are 5-shot, lightweight, concealed-hammer revolvers. The main difference is that the 340 can fire .357 Mag and .38, and the 642 can fire .38 (including +P) only.

I bought the 642. Here's why:


For most of the applications for this gun (self defense at conversation distances) the LSWCHP .38 Special +P will be plenty effective.
I test fired a 340 with a more powerful (.357 Magnum) load and found it uncomfortable to shoot. Think "less practice" here.
Even though the 340 would have given me the versatility to shoot the more powerful .357 Magnum, I know I'd never shoot it with the .357 because I wasn't going to practice with it and therefore wouldn't carry it.
The 340 was almost twice as expensive as the 642.

And here's the biggie....


If I bought the .357 and only shot .38's out of it, it would have been harder to clean than if I just bought a .38 to begin with.

For real. That was the deal breaker.

Do you like cleaning revolvers?

No?

OK, let's make it twice as hard.

Now do you like it?
...

I thought not.

michael_aos
November 19, 2006, 10:31 PM
Most of my experience in 357 is with my Ruger Blackhawk.

That prompted me to buy these 38's.

http://www.smith-wesson.com/wcsstore/SmWesson/upload/images/firearms/162802_large.jpg

http://www.smith-wesson.com/wcsstore/SmWesson/upload/images/firearms/162504_large.jpg

P. Plainsman
November 19, 2006, 10:36 PM
1. In small snubnosed revolvers, particularly ones with ultra-lightweight alloy or titanium frames, many of us cannot shoot .357 ammo with accuracy or confidence. Ammo in .38 Special +P is about the maximum in such guns, for many seasoned shooters. So why pay more for the extra structural improvements that are needed in a .357 snubby?

2. When it comes to medium-frame or larger "service" revolvers, you've got more of a point. But plenty of people shy away from .357 in larger guns too -- it's vociferous, flashy, and pretty hard kicking. A quality .38+P revolver can be made cheaper and (in many cases) a bit lighter and sleeker than a comparable .357. A S&W Model 10 is a simple, highly ergonomic, shooter-friendly revolver -- weight and balance just right.

The accuracy of a good S&W .38 K-frame can be a delight to behold. Many will yield groups of circa 1.3" to 1.5" at 25 yards. That's with a 4" barrel, fixed-sight handgun that runs about $410 new, $250-$300 used.

To paraphrase gun writer Mike Cumpston, it is its own reason for being.

Marko Kloos
November 19, 2006, 10:39 PM
Also, if'n you only shoot .38 Specials anyway, having a .38 Special-only gun saves you having to scrub chamber rings out of Magnum chambers.

ugaarguy
November 19, 2006, 10:47 PM
I'll add another reason. Because of the longer cylinder made to accept the longer 357 Mag case, and longer cartridge overall length resultant from the heavier bullets a 357 can fire, 38s are actually less accurate that 357 Mag loadings in some - not all - 357 Mag chambered guns. The extra distance down the cylinder provides a bit of "free bore" time which can affect accuracy - you won't know until you shoot the gun. As Preacherman noted, if you're not going to shoot 357 Mag loadings but once in a blue moon, do you really need the capability?

One could also look at revolvers made for centerfire target competition. They're range guns that will primarily see use with light 38 target loads.

Of course jad touched on the best reason of all - The S&W Model 10, and the pre M10 M&P service revolvers. There are tons of them on the used market. With widespread availabilty mechanically excellent gun that has some holster / finish wear can be found almost anywhere in the US for around $200. For a basic defensive firearm they're a great value, and yes jad, the one I one is more accurate than me.

Don Lu
November 19, 2006, 10:49 PM
Ok, the insight with regards to the snubbies and the difficulty/recoil of shooting .357 through them makes alot of sense. also the cost difference in the guns if you know you arent gonna be shooting .357 makes alot of sense. Thats the kind of info i was looking for..my next gun will be a revolver, a .357 for sure thinking s&w 686, ruger gp100 or taurus 608. (all in 6")

Jim March
November 20, 2006, 01:14 PM
On the accuracy issue: match-grade rifle shooters invest a lot of effort in getting ammo that *exactly* fits the gun - you'll see terms like "match chambers" meaning the place the shell goes *exactly* fits precision ammo (and makes military-spec stuff either iffy or incompatible).

Accuracy works the same way in handguns. Most competitive shooters only need 38spl horsepower levels, so by running 38 chambers instead of 357 they get an accuracy advantage.

The difference isn't usually important in defensive wheelguns but it is often noticeable.

In my 357Mag Ruger New Vaquero, I tried two loads side by side: both Speer, both using the same 135gr JHP, one loaded by Speer in 38+P cases at about 950fps in my gun, the other in 357 cases and a "mild loading" of about 1,150 (this is Speer's "short barrel specialty load" in 357). The 357s grouped 2" at 25yds, the 38+P did 3". As both loads were very controllable in that gun (comparable in heft to a 686 or GP100) I would put that 1" difference down to which ammo is shooting from it's own chamber size.

In my case I'm glad that gun is a 357 because I may need that power level one day. But I wish I had a 38spl match-grade cylinder for it to improve accuracy in that caliber. This is an optional service Freedom Arms provides on their 357 guns, as part of their quest for max accuracy.

My smaller piece is a J-Frame-class 38+P, perfect for concealment. I don't want to shoot more than 38+P horsepower in a 17oz gun.

Ex-MA Hole
November 20, 2006, 05:03 PM
Have you ever shot a +P out of a 642?

Do that, then tell me that you want a gun that weighs the same, but has even more kick.

Deanimator
November 20, 2006, 05:10 PM
Just curious... Why would someone buy a gun that only shoots .38 when you can buy a .357 that shoots both ? Ive seen people recommend that others buy a .38 instead of a .357 and I dont understand the logic.. I dont own any revolvers and am very inexpirienced w/them in general..thanks for any insight..

It depends upon what your purpose is.

I have a S&W Model 14 K-38 for bullseye pistol shooting. In that application, a .357 Magnum wouldn't benefit me in ANY way. The paper's already dead, I don't need to kill it.

That having been said, my choice for a self-defense gun would almost always be a .357 Magnum over a .38 Special. I keep the Federal .38 Special "FBI" load in all of my .357s. I still have the option of using magnums.

Cousin Mike
November 20, 2006, 05:29 PM
I'm a masochist. I've accepted that. I LOVE shooting full power .357 Magnum rounds from airweight S&W revolvers. I have a Taurus 608 - 4" ported barrel and weighs 44oz. - and for whatever reason I like the recoil of a S&W 360 (weighing in at a whopping 12 oz.) MUCH better when it comes to full-power .357 loads.

That said, my girlfriend doesn't like shooting .357 Magnum from much of anything. She's like the rest of you wimps... thinks that smaller and lighter makes it hurt more or something. :neener:

She loves her .38 Special though.

All joking aside, I'm seriously in the minority of the shooting community. Most people I've met don't fancy shooting something so powerful out of something so light and small. For those folks, the capability to fire .357 Magnum means nothing, and in a carry gun, the extra length needed to support the .357 might not be desireable.

chr_edw
November 22, 2006, 09:27 AM
I am thinking about buying the 340pd same as the 360 above just with concealed hammer. Below is my reasoning for buying it

1. Power of the .357

2. Weight ( only 12 oz. ) I will be more likely to carry it every day, I have heard the the extra few ounces can make a difference.

3. There are sight options from various companies since the factory sight is pinned on.

4. I know it will not be comfortable to shoot full power .357's but I will work my way up to it, and It's not like it is my only gun to take to the range.


Price is rough but it is better than having a gun that is heavier that I might leave at home.

chaim
November 22, 2006, 11:56 AM
Cost. Many .38 only guns are cheaper than the comparable .357mag.

Weight. In a steel gun, a .357mag version may be heavier than the .38spl version. If it is a J-frame sized gun and you plan on carrying this may well matter.

Cleaning. Shooting .38s out of a .357's longer cylinder leaves a ring of residue you have to clean out. It can be a real pain, and it can be dangerous (overpressure issues) to shoot .357s out of it with too much buildup. If you have more than one gun anyway, why not have a dedicated .357mag and a dedicated .38spl?

Accuracy. Correct or not, many people think .38spl ammo is more accurate out of a .38spl than out of a .357mag. If so, it may be the free space in the cylinder that causes the difference.

In a gun you don't plan on shooting magnums out of (like a lightweight snub in my case, possibly even the K-frames for some people) why pay extra for the .357mag? There really is no reason not to go with a dedicated .38spl.

brownie0486
November 22, 2006, 02:34 PM
I've carried 38 snubs [ 36 and 60's ] at times over the last 20 odd years. Still have the 36.

If I am going to carry a snub these days, it's my 640-1 357. Yes, it is heavier, the cylinder is longer, the length of barrel is longer [ but not by enough in any of them to matter ].

I stoke it with 357's, not 38's. The 357 may not get the full potential from the short barrel, but it still has more ooomph than the 38's do, and more energy at the threat than the 38's do. I carry it for possible SD, so the more oomph I can get out of it, the better in basically the same package.

I also have a model 65 357 and that gets a very steady diet of 38's for practice, and barely a 357 goes out the barrel these last several years. It gets cleaned when I feel like it, and if I stoke it with 357's and it's dirty, it never has balked at it's previous diet of 38's, and just runs like it is supposed to.

The 640-1 is deep concealment with a hipgrip and tyler T. The 36 is NO easier to hide with the same setup.

When the snub comes out for service, it's hot, clothes are minimal, it needs to be concealed and if it ever has to bark, I want the advantage [ any advantage no matter how small ] of the 357's ballistics over the 38's.

Brownie

amprecon
October 8, 2007, 01:03 PM
I have relegated the .357 (and .44mag) to longarms. Not because of the recoil, but because of the massive report, it is extraordinary and why should I subject myself to that kind of abusive noise when there are other viable options out there in handguns.
.357 revolvers are mostly bought to be used as SD or woods guns. When you do need to use them you won't have time to put on the necessary ear protection. Let me tell you from personal experience, it is painful, and that's when it's used outdoors. If you need the power of a .357 or a .44mag, save your ears, bring a shotgun.

Regolith
October 8, 2007, 06:03 PM
I've thought about getting a .38 as a BUG, as it conceals better, paired with a .357 revolver. Carry full house loads in the .357, then have .38's in the BUG and for reloads. If the first cylinder doesn't get the job done (very unlikely), it might be better to have all of your backup ammunition be a common caliber for both guns, in case you lose your primary weapon and have to go to the BUG.

Just a thought. Haven't really implemented it; I still need to buy the revolvers, first, then get a CCP....

RyanM
October 8, 2007, 06:11 PM
Wow, ancient thread resurrection.

Anyway, a .38 SPL only gun will give you a few more feet per second (10 or 20 or so) with .38 ammo, compared to an identical .357. I guess some gas leaks out around the bullet, or something. Also, the cylinder may be very slightly shorter. Not sure, though, wouldn't surprise me if the major manufacturers now make all their .357 bore cylinders and frames the same length, to cut costs.

Jkwas
October 8, 2007, 10:23 PM
Because of the longer cylinder made to accept the longer 357 Mag case, and longer cartridge overall length resultant from the heavier bullets a 357 can fire, 38s are actually less accurate that 357 Mag loadings in some - not all - 357 Mag chambered guns. The extra distance down the cylinder provides a bit of "free bore" time which can affect accuracy - you won't know until you shoot the gun.
Bingo. When I shoot 38spl in my 357, longer bullets that mimic the overall length of the 357 round shoot more accurately than the shorter ones. Eg. 158's are more accurate than 110's or 125's. In my 38spl M10, all 38's seem to shoot well. I attribute this to the close proximity of the bullet to the forcing cone.

gandog56
October 8, 2007, 11:18 PM
Maybe not everyone who is new to guns, do the research to find out the fact that a 38 can be fired thru a .357, when just looking for a defense pistol. But if you wanted a .45 colt, you could buy a .454, and it would shoot both. That is a little more extreme than the 38/.357, but it's similar.

And a 44 mag/44 special........ and I belive a 44 Russian

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong on the Russian.

sixgunner455
October 9, 2007, 12:22 AM
And do you want to know why the .38 is cheaper than the .357? Well, making a .357 capable gun is more expensive -- to compare two very similar guns, S&W repeatedly stated that the steel in the cylinder of a model 19 is different from the steel in the cylinder of a model 15, and the heat treating is different, too.

My take on that is that they use a more expensive alloy for the model 19, the heat treat is more complicated, and machining after the heat treat on the model 19 could be harder on the machining tools, wearing out tool heads and such faster. So the 19 costs more to produce than the 15, by costs of materials, time to produce, and wear on tools.

If you're not going to shoot the .357 in a particular gun, then it makes a lot of sense not to go to the expense of paying for all of that.

Confederate
October 9, 2007, 12:58 AM
I dunno, I'd never buy a .38 when I could get a .357 at the same size. Yes, the chamber sizing is different on both guns, but you can shoot light loads in .357 cases. But the biggest pain is that the industry went to HEAVY .357 mag revolvers. The Ruger .357 was the SIZE of a .38, but it had the POWER of a .357. They also were easier to carry.

For serious defense, there's not a better stopping round than a 125 gr. JHP in any handgun, even a larger caliber magnum. A .44 mag will send any bullet right on through a human because humans weren't what it was designed for. The .357 was made for primarily two reasons: 1) penetration of cars and tires by the Highway Patrol; and 2) greater stopping power in humans. It's also a respectable hunting round, but that came later.

True, the early .357s penetrated human frames too easily, but with the lighter bullets it did just fine; almost perfect, in fact. It also kept its ability to penetrate cars. At 110 gr. JHPs, the bullets begin to fragment in heavy clothing and underpenetrate. At 158 gr. JHPs you begin seeing excessive penetration again and you get into hunting territory. So 125-140 gr. JHPs are ideal. The magnum, with .38 ammo, can still be fine for plinking and non-competition target shooting. And if you clean your gun, you shouldn't have any problems at all. An old trick someone at the NRA once told me is, once you shoot your lead .38s through your magnum, shoot about 12 .38 JHPs through to kind of clear out some of the lead build up.

Buying a .38 for just a tad bit more accuracy is sacrificing an awful lot of versatility, in my book. I'm just glad I have a Security-Six in every barrel length.

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