3" Barrel difference between .357 and .38spl+P


September 28, 2011, 11:35 PM
My wife likes the idea of a SP101 with a 3" barrel. She is considerring one in .357magnum. My question is, how much of a ballistic advantage does a .357mag really have in a 3" barrel? From what I've seen the difference is only about 100 - 120ft/sec.

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September 29, 2011, 01:29 AM
Grabbing from a company known for their accurate velocity numbers:

.38 +P: 158g SWCHP-GC
Ruger SP101, 3 inch- 1143 fps (458 ft. lbs.)

.357 MAG: 158g JHP
3" S&W J-Frame 158gr. Jacketed Hollow Point = 1398 fps

I don't know how much of a difference the gun will make but these are best case scenario's. There's no disadvantage to buying a .357 SP101 vs a .38 one, I would suggest getting the .357 and finding a load that she's comfortable with that gives good terminal ballistics.

September 29, 2011, 04:48 AM
Wow, the .357 should work up about 658fps of muzzle energy. That is definitel a decent difference.

My reason for asking was, I've always read that in 2" or shorter barrel there wasn't enough difference to make .357 worth while. Obviously that starts to go out of the window at 3 inches.

I know placement and ability to get follow up shots is more important than the extra ME. It is just cool to know that spending money on .357mag practice ammo won't be a waste.

September 29, 2011, 07:50 AM
A 158 grainer at almost 1400 FPS from a 3 in. J frame? I'm not gonna call anyone a liar but that has to be, shall we say "optimistic". Even if that was possible I don't think I would run loads like that from a J frame.

September 29, 2011, 09:13 AM
the 38 special information in post # 2 is optimistic by 200-300 fps in my experience

September 29, 2011, 10:14 AM
Go to Ballistics by the inch. Take a look at the results.

They used a 125 gr JHP on both the 38 sp and 357 Mag tests. (didn't test +P rounds though) I think the difference for the same bullet was about 300 fps.

Also, the 357 will push a 158 gr bullet out the 3" barrel faster than a 38 sp will push a 135 gr bullet

September 29, 2011, 10:26 AM
.357 magnum performs very well out of 4-6" barrels and decently well out of 3" barrels. It shows a steep velocity loss in 2" barrels, though, and a lot of people, including me, don't like them in snubnose revolvers because the increase in recoil and difficulty of control are so great that it's not worth it to shoot .357 over .38 +P in the 1-7/8" to 2-1/4" barrel guns.

September 29, 2011, 12:35 PM
I got an SP 101 .357 about 2 months ago, day before yesterday took it to the range, shot 158 gr. JHP .357's and 125 gr. 38 + P's. My 101 has the 3.06" barrel, it feels maybe a little heavy on the front end, your opinions might be different, but I did not find the recoil offensive at all with any of the rounds I fired. It has the stock grips, not hard to handle at all. MikeNice, don't be scared away with all of the stories you hear about short barreled revolvers, have your wife heft one of these and possibly you'll both like it. Very nice revolver, built very well and a good shooter.

September 29, 2011, 12:50 PM
A 158 grainer at almost 1400 FPS from a 3 in. J frame? I'm not gonna call anyone a liar but that has to be, shall we say "optimistic". Even if that was possible I don't think I would run loads like that from a J frame.

It's possible. The original .357 Magnum loading was a 158-grain LSWC that was...quite a bit more violent than modern offerings in the same class. Duplicating it with 2400 powder is doable, but it's not something that you'd want to shoot a lot of even from a K-frame. I won't post the data here, other than to say that 14.5 grains of 2400 and my own cast 160s clocked almost 1400 from a 4-inch 681 and bumped 1450 from a 6-inch Model 27...and that's not a top-end load. After about 2,000 rounds, my L-frame started to develop a little endshake...so I cut it back a full grain and stopped shooting it so much. Even 13.5 grains beats modern 158-grain loadings by 50-60 fps.


The above data was safe in my guns. It may not be in yours. Approach carefully.

September 29, 2011, 03:29 PM
I remember when revolvers were still dominant in LE work and the monthly gun rags often posted chrono results using an assortment of loads and various 2 1/2" - 4" guns as commonly carried for duty & off-duty. I always looked for them back then.

The 2 1/2" results were often nudging the 1300+fps range with most of the major maker's defensive middleweight loads, with the same loads generally running 1400fps - 1450fps in the 4" guns. Not bad for short tubes (meaning under 6").

Personally, I never considered a 2 1/2", 3" or 4" .357 Magnum to be a "bad" choice for a defensive weapon.

While I've never chrono'd my SP101DAO with its short 2.25" barrel, I'd still think it offers more in the Magnum loadings than it does in the .38 Spl +P loadings, and when I carry it I use Magnum loads.

Now, my 1 7/8" M&P 340's (I have a pair of them, with & without the lock) are carried with +P loads. I use standard pressure, +P and Magnum loads at various times for training, practice and quals, but I feel the Magnum loads are more of a disadvantage than advantage for me. The barely 13oz weight tilts the weight just far enough the wrong way for my preferences.

I can get fast & accurate doubles & triples at reasonable distances (meaning out to 10 yards) using Magnum loads in the lightweight guns, but I can do it even faster with +P loads ... so that's what I carry in those Airweights.

September 29, 2011, 04:00 PM
Out of a 4 inch Colt Diamondback I have never Chrono-ed a 158 grain faster than 950 ft/sec including +P.

Out of one of my snub, 2.75 inch barrel, about 900 ft/sec.

I find it difficult to think that a 1.78 inch barrel is going to eject the same round at 1143.

September 29, 2011, 04:19 PM
I find it difficult to think that a 1.78 inch barrel is going to eject the same round at 1143.

Well, considering the heavier 158gr bullet loads often seem to produce more back-into-your-palm-and-the-web-of-your-hand felt recoil, I'd not be exactly eager to use one that did push a 158gr bullet out the end of the short 1 7/8" tube at 1143fps. :uhoh:

The 125gr & 145gr Magnum loads are bad enough in the lightweight 5-shot wheelies, recoil-wise, as it is. ;)

September 29, 2011, 04:28 PM
I'd not be exactly eager to use one that did push a 158gr bullet out the end of the short 1 7/8" tube at 1143fps

If they did, all of the hysterical "+P is such a super hot round and will destroy your gun" or "I would never shoot a 38 +P out of a gun that isn't rated for .357" people might have a point.

And as you say...would not be fun, especially out of a tiny snub that you can only wrap 2 fingers around the grip and made of high strength styrofoam.

Would rather be tased while being waterboarded with a bucket of Rosie O'Donalds sweat.

September 29, 2011, 04:51 PM
Good Lord. The taser and waterboard, I could probably handle...

September 29, 2011, 05:03 PM
The taser and waterboard, I could probably handle...

I REALLY don't like shooting ultra light snubs with tiny grips.

Interesting that I am fine with a hot loaded 44 magnum and LOVE shooting 12 gauge shotguns.

Recoil perception is weird.

September 29, 2011, 05:04 PM
I personally wouldn't want to shoot any .357 out of any j-frame. Hot .38 loads are painful enough, thanks.

September 29, 2011, 05:35 PM
Hot .38 loads are painful enough

I have never shot a hot .38 in a J Frame. +P is as much pressure as I am going to use.

September 29, 2011, 06:23 PM

September 29, 2011, 06:30 PM

That was some funny stuff Guillermo ...

High strength styrofoam, indeed.

While I generally don't make specific recommendations to folks (LE and non-LE, alike) when it comes to makes, models and calibers ... preferring them to try guns & ammo combinations out for themselves in order to decide ... I have hinted that shooting .357 Magnum out of the Airlites and the M&P 340/360's (between the Airlites & the Airweights in actual weight) is probably something that exceeds the skillset of many users. Why waste the money on a Magnum J that's only going to see standard and +P loads all the time?

If they had made a M&P 340 at the time that was only chambered in .38 +P, I'd have bought it instead of the Magnum-rated one. (I realize since the introduction of the M&P 340 that the company has worked with LAPD to introduce such a model variation, though.) I bought both of my M&P 340's for the Scandium frames, the blackened (PVD) stainless cylinders, and especially for the XS front night sight. I bought the second one to have the variation without a lock (so I have one of each). I look at them as sort of "improved" 442/642's.

I've done a lot of shooting with an early stainless 640 that had the frame marked for +P+ (which was a limited model, as I recall, since the Magnum rated 640 was in the works). I used it to burn up some cases of some older Winchester .38 Spl 110gr +P+ that had been pulled out of agency inventory when revolvers were dropped for pistols. It helped blow the dust off my revolver skills (which had become idle for a few years after we'd gone from revolvers to pistols) with the little DAO guns and to become better accustomed to using +P in the "new" Airweights rated for a steady diet of +P loads.

It didn't take me long to suspect that the new Airlite/Airweight .357 Magnum models were really pushing the further boundaries of the human/machine interface in handguns. The .500 Magnums I fired were downright pleasant and enjoyable by comparison.

I remember thinking when I was younger, and an avid handloader, that an enjoyable afternoon was shooting several hundred rounds of stoutly loaded Magnum through various Ruger SA's (.357, .41, .44 & .45 Colt - "Ruger Only" loads in the older manuals).

I gave up doing the Magnum "shooting for thrill" thing after I was into my 40's. ;)

September 29, 2011, 06:35 PM
The numbers I posted are far from optimistic, my own chronograph reports over 1000 fps from a 642 1 7/8" with the first load. It's buffalo bore. As for recoil: it's more than standard pressure but no worse than other +p loads.

September 29, 2011, 10:43 PM

even with your 642 that is capable of shooting harder than a longer barrel..."over 1000" is not "1143"

What grain and brand please

September 29, 2011, 11:14 PM
He said it's Buffalo Bore. So read here: http://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=108

It will do 1000fps from a 2" barrel.

I intend to find out tomorrow if my hands can handle that in a Model 642 which is as light weight as I am willing to go. A big plus for me was that it was a .38 Special +P only revolver. I intend to carry the BB load as I do in K frames but I need to know that I can stand it enough to actually practice enough to make it worth the expense.

September 29, 2011, 11:45 PM
The SP 101 with a 3" barrel is my favorite carry gun. I've had the 3" for the last 13 years. Also bought my wife, daughter, son, and daughter in law one each, most were the 2". I've chronographed the same load in both barrel lengths using .38 special brass, 38 +P load data, and Lymans 358156 gas checked bullet which is 158 Grs when cast 50% WW/ 50% linotype and AA#5 powder, the 3" gun averaged 902 FPS, the 2" 832 FPS. These are +P handloads. The Accurate Arms proved the best in the short barrels. Tried Unique, WW231, and bullseye but they did not produce the velocity of AA#5. 902 is not bad at all from a 3" barrel seeing as the factory standard 158 gr lead roundnose lists as 850 FPS from a 6" barrel. (have not chronographed them) I have chronographed .357 handloads in the 3" barrel only. #358156 cast with the same alloy, 14.5 grs H110, 1172 FPS average. Same bullet, same primer, but 15.0 ,grs H110 gave 1172 FPS. Increasing the powder to 15.5 grs H110 produced 1174 FPS. This puzzled me so I ran the same loads again at a later date and came up with essentially the same results. (no increase) My guess is H110 is not the best powder for this short a barrel. To answer your question, the .357 does have an advantage over the .38 in a 3" barrel.

September 29, 2011, 11:46 PM
Personally I'd buy the 3" barrel gun simply because 3" revolvers are easier to work. They're easier to sight, more forgiving of poor sight alignment, a whole host of reasons.

I stopped shooting .357s in small frame guns long ago. .38 Specials will do the job quite well. Only hits count. The .38 Special is a much easier cartridge to master.

September 30, 2011, 01:45 PM
Original numbers are for a 3" gun guillermo, I had a very tight nickle S&W 19 2 1/2" that woud show chrono readings of 1125-1175 on the first load. I picked up some of the second load earlier, I'll post results from a 4" GP100 and 2" lawman as soon as I have a chance.

September 30, 2011, 02:18 PM
2" lawman as soon as I have a chance

thank you

September 30, 2011, 04:16 PM
There are many valid reasons to but a .357 Magnum revolver, but one of the best is the variety of different ammo that can be safely used in one.

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