.357 6" vs 4" - Any Practical Advantage?


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HoosierQ
July 27, 2009, 11:43 AM
Are you giving up much in a .357 going from 6" to 4" in the way of power or accuracy?

I am kind of a simple guy...I like my .45s and my .357s big so the overall size of 6" vs a 4" is of no concern to me here.

I ask for a couple of reasons.

When I had a 4" GP100 there was a huge muzzle flash visible in all but bright sunlight. There is clearly "wasted" powder there (I do not reload I'm afraid). So I have to wonder.

But the 4" is a rather more attractive and proportioned shape with the full under-lug barrel. The 6" Rugers are nice but wow is that a big fat barrel. I have seen pictures of ones without the underlug but never seen one up close. I don't hate the 6" underlug but it does not look as nice...maybe it's me.

By contrast, I really like the look of S&W Model 28s and Colt Troopers in 6" because they don't have that full underlug that is so popular today. They look proportional.

Anyway, I am leaning toward a Ruger right now because of price but nothing has been decided.

Does a .357 with a 6" barrel offer any practical advantage over a 4"?

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ArmedBear
July 27, 2009, 11:49 AM
Longer sight radius.

More muzzle weight for practical accuracy of slow, carefully-aimed shots (especially in a half-lug -- a 4" 686 sits steady enough for me).

Really, it depends on what feels good to you.

There's almost always wasted powder. If you want to use the powder, get a .357 Marlin carbine.:)

HoosierQ
July 27, 2009, 12:26 PM
Sight radius is definitly what I'd call a practical advantage. As far as wasting powder...it's not the waste really, just the understanding that I'd get more velocity.

A .357 carbine is on the list of "must haves".

hardluk1
July 27, 2009, 12:47 PM
The 6" barrel will offer a bit more velocity and energy over the same gun with a 4" barrel and with a 357 a bit less flash but only by a small amount and a bit less rise when fired. You do get the longer site radius and that to most is a plus. Remember it should not be a beauty contest. I have 4" and 8" for my dan wesson and when hunting it will carry only the 8" barrel. Are you hunting with it? Check and see if there is a minimum barrel lenght.

HoosierQ
July 27, 2009, 01:38 PM
Hardluck

I will not be hunting with it...although having options are nice. What I am starting to hear is that sight radius is the biggie. Like I said. I like my .357s big so I may just need to see what I see and see how they feel.

Pistol Toter
July 27, 2009, 02:15 PM
50 to 75 feet per second/inch, is the rule of thumb. IMHO you would have to be right on the threshold of not having enough gun to accomplish the desired result. So to do the math for you; in a two inch reduction of barrel length there would be between 100 and 150 feet per second reduction in velocity. Personally, unless you are going to be doing a lot of longer distance shooting which would more utilize the longer sight radius/improved sight picture, I would go with a 4" for ease of carry.

Oro
July 27, 2009, 07:12 PM
What I am starting to hear is that sight radius is the biggie.

It's more of a theoretical advantage at that length than a practical one unless you doing scoped hunting as far as I can tell. The only actual semi-scientific test of it anyone has been able to pull up was one done for Gun Digest back I think in the late '60s. It is reprinted in their "Gun Digest Book of Combat Handgunning." In it, they got S&W revovlers in 4" and 6" in three or perhaps four different calibers and then had competitive shooters run the FBI combat course with both lengths and compared the scores. The scoring emphasis was accuracy, not speed.

After testing multiple calibers, guns, and shooters, there was no scoring difference in those running with 4" vs. 6". So, to me, no one has actually demonstrated a practical advantage in accuracy of 6" over 4" typical handgun distances.

If you are a larger guy and size/weight is not a big issue to you, or ease of carry, then I'd just let what felt better to the hand let you decide. Accuracy is not going to be affected in any practical way based on the evidence, and, as Pistol Toter pointed out, you have to be on the ragged edge of "too little gun" for the muzzle speed difference to matter.

ArmedBear
July 27, 2009, 07:15 PM
FBI combat course isn't the only shooting anyone does with a handgun.

I have a 10 1/2" Super Blackhawk that I shoot offhand at 100 yards, and you can bet your bee-hind that the sight radius makes a difference.:)

Gryffydd
July 27, 2009, 07:18 PM
You can always get the best of both worlds and grab a 5" ;)

This is the one I got...
http://www.galleryofguns.com/Genie/Default.aspx?item=1740&index=1&mfg=Ruger&mdl=GP100&cat=1&type=Revolver&cal=357&fin=All&sit=All&pid=&inv=

It's a very nice compromise in my opinion.

BCRider
July 27, 2009, 07:26 PM
I've been able to shoot a few 4 inch barrel options but I'm not allowed to own one up this way. In comparing my 6 inch barrel guns that I AM allowed to own to the 4 inch the only issue is that the 4 inch K frames balance in the hand absolutely delightfully. And frankly if you're much of a shooter then the 4 inch has a long enough sight distance to work well. Hell, I shot a far tighter group my first time shooting a 4 inch 19 than I had managed with my CZ 9mm despite having around 1000 rounds down it by that time. The 6 inch is a touch better but not by a whole lot.

The good news is that unless you shoot the 4 and 6 inch versions back to back you can easily get used to the 6 inch without an issue. Especially when it has grips that fit your hand well. But the same grips on a 4 inch would be heaven.

The big N frame 27 and 28 are in a whole other league. You KNOW you've got something serious in your hands when you're holding an N frame and yet it's not over the top like the bigger framed hand cannons. I love my 28 for that reason.

Dutchman01
July 27, 2009, 07:33 PM
I'm with BCRIDER on this. Four inch double actions are wonderful in the hand, balance well, and ride in a good holster very well. Having owned both I'd have to go with the four incher any day.

BCRider
July 27, 2009, 07:36 PM
Of course this brings up the standard THR answer for dilemas of this sort.... Get one of each.... :D

ArmedBear
July 27, 2009, 07:38 PM
Four inch double actions are wonderful in the hand, balance well, and ride in a good holster very well.

I agree, and my safe proves it.:)

However, I've really liked my friend's 686 with an 8 3/8" barrel, too, when it comes to shooting small things from a decent distance. Sometimes a gun that's quirky and impractical for many things, is also the PERFECT gun for one particular use.

I'd hold the guns and buy whatever feels the best. Really.

OrangePwrx9
July 27, 2009, 07:51 PM
With a 6" barrel, the bullet is in the barrel longer, its path is affected by recoil longer, and any inconsistencies in how you handle the recoil will result in reduced accuracy. Kind of a wash with the longer sight radius....what the longer barrel giveth in accuracy, it also taketh away. It takes practice to learn to handle the recoil of a powerful revolver consistently. But, the shorter the barrel, the less it matters.

I too have a 10-1/2" SBH. When it was new (1981), I could shoot it quite well...if I practiced regularly. But that was almost 30 years ago. Now the eyes have a hard time accomodating the range of focus needed to get a sharp sight picture with that long barrel. Much easier is my 4" Security Six, which I've always shot well even without much practice. With the front & rear sights closer together, getting a clear sight picture is a lot easier, and the picture isn't disrupted by minor wobbles nearly so much. And with less hanging out there, there's less wobble....and a lot less barrel time for the bullet.

I had a 6" GP100 for awhile. Fell for the sight-radius and velocity claptrap. It's the only .357 revolver I ever got rid of. Built like a brick with the balance of a brick. Very reliable, but I could never shoot it well. Hated the way it felt. My 6" Python is better, so is my 6" 686; both are good shooters. But the 4" Security Six topped them all and still does.
Bob

Oro
July 28, 2009, 02:43 AM
FBI combat course isn't the only shooting anyone does with a handgun.

I have a 10 1/2" Super Blackhawk that I shoot offhand at 100 yards, and you can bet your bee-hind that the sight radius makes a difference.

Yes, but that's a significant difference in absolute terms than 4" vs. 6". The sight radius on a 4" N frame is not 2/3rds of that of a 6" - it's about 75% (and without the added barrel time, as Orange... brought up. The sight radius of a 4" N frame (for example) is 5 7/8", a 6" is 7 7/8". That's 75%.

And the practical results show that expert shooters couldn't really maximize that. The Bowman results from 1963 actually included shooting the 4" and 6" out to 100 and eve 200 yards for comparison, not just on the FBI Police Practical (which at that time went to 60 yards itself). I do not know where the original test was published, but it was highlighted in, as I mentioned, Gun Digest's "Combat Handgunnery" compendium.

HoosierQ
July 28, 2009, 11:10 AM
...and everyone. As I stated in my OP, I like my .357s big. Having seen some 28s and Troopers...well one just drools doesn't one.

One of the nice things that you all pointed out is the availability of holsters for 4" vs 6" and that is good. I also see a lot of 4"...more so than 6". I'd really love a 5" but those are scarce as hen's teeth and Ruger doesn't make one...not sure if S&W does.

Great information. I am summing up from everybody's input that there are no significant practical advantage to 6" over 4", and, in fact, there may well be practical advantages of the 4" over the 6"...carry ease, balance, weight, etc.

S357mag
July 28, 2009, 05:14 PM
Ruger has made a 5inch GP-100 in special runs. I just bought one NIB not too long ago. Same with the 686. They both should make the 5 inch a standard.

lions
July 28, 2009, 05:30 PM
You can always get the best of both worlds and grab a 5"
They both should make the 5 inch a standard.

My thoughts exactly!
If I couldn't have one of those I would want a half-lug 6" barrel.

Oro
July 28, 2009, 07:54 PM
I'd really love a 5" but those are scarce as hen's teeth and Ruger doesn't make one...not sure if S&W does.

Not in the 28 or 686 model (fyi, the L frames are almost as large as the N, you could also look at 586s and 686s).

But 5" was one of the most common lengths for the Registered/.357/27 model. You can find 5" 27's pretty easily in both blue and nickel. I'll take nickel, please. ;)

5" N frame leather is hard to come by either used or production; you'd have to hunt a while or get something custom made.

Daizee
July 28, 2009, 08:50 PM
I shoot almost any 6" revolver more accurately than a 4".
At 50 yards, slow fire, single-action, the difference is clear.

The right 6" revolver will balance nicely for you. Full underlug barrels are rather burly in that length.

-Daizee

mgregg85
July 28, 2009, 08:57 PM
I've got a 6" full lug GP-100 and I love it. It seems to help soak up that recoil too.

trex1310
July 28, 2009, 11:11 PM
I got a 6" GP100 and I like it, in spite of what the FBI says. The FBI has been
known to lie to the public and to make mistakes on occasion.

nulfisin
July 29, 2009, 12:34 AM
Better sight picture. Plus, when you're firing 357s, every bit of mass you can get to soak up recoil helps.

If you're going to shoot 38s through your gun, which is what I usually do with my GP 100, a shorter barrel won't be a hindrance since recoil is negligible.

drewball
July 29, 2009, 11:30 PM
for me first there is a big difference with proportionality and balance between the frame sizes. a 4" K-frame just feels great, excellent balance, and for the frame size proportionally "right". same with the 6" N-frames (i've been told the the 5" is perfect on the bigger frame but never held or fired one.) Having said that both of my field K-frames have 6" barrels. for shots that will be slower and more aimed less pointed i like the additional sight radius and muzzle weight and velocity of the additional length. Ultimately it comes down to end use. for me a 6" N-frame "feels" better than a 2 1/2" but it is WAY HARDER TO CONCEAL.

Blue .45
July 30, 2009, 12:46 AM
Gryffydd wrote:

You can always get the best of both worlds and grab a 5"


That's interesting. I had no idea the GP100 was available with a 5" barrel. Is it noticeably less muzzle heavy than the six inch version?

ironvic
July 30, 2009, 02:33 AM
Depends on the gun. My old S&W Bangor-Punta era 6" Model-28 wasn't very accurate and it spit lead like its lungs were infected or something. So I sold it.

On the other hand my Colt Trooper MK-III is the most accurate revolver I've owned to date (bought my first revolver in 1979, a S&W Model-18 Combat Masterpiece). In the hand though, I have to give it to the 4" barrel as the ideal tube length. The very best, most accurate gun I ever owned was a super-sweet S&W Model-15 Combat Masterpiece. Simply deliciously accurate and soooo well balanced.

That does it! I'm goin' shootin' tomorrow!

ironvic
July 30, 2009, 02:38 AM
BCRider: In a world without 4 inchers, I'd just wanna curl up and die. I feel for you, man. To think that I only live just across the border in Blaine! What is this world coming to?

TwoNiner
July 30, 2009, 02:56 AM
I have a 6" GP 100 and it shoots like a dream. The sight is easy to align, the balance feels great. Sure it *looks* like a long gun, but once you get on it looks don't matter. Very smooth even with 357s, and personally I think it takes 357s much better than 38s. Unless you are planning on carry I'd go for the longer barrel, although the GP frame isn't my #1 choice for toting around anyways.

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