Help School Me on .357 bullets


December 4, 2012, 10:28 AM
As the title says, please help school me on the different bullet types in the .357/38 special platform. I'm not new to revolvers but just new to this seemingly very versatile platform of revolver. There is a plethora of choices especially if one reloads. You've got wadcutters, semi-wadcutters, semi-wadcutter hp, jsp, jhp, sjhp, full lead loads, and probably a couple more I don't know about. What are the advantages/disadvantages of each? Like wadcutters for instance, I take it those are mainly just for punching holes in paper. What about semi-wadcutter hps being used as a defensive round? Also with like the sjhp where the lead tip is exposed, how do these compare to full jhp? Thanks for taking the time to school me on this :).

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December 4, 2012, 12:50 PM
I reload wad cutters in 158 gr for practice but do not use them in this caliber for defense. I like the 125gr Jacketed HP for that in my Colt magnum carry. In my heavy Ruger Blackhawk hunting gun and my Freedom arms 83 I use a 180 gr soft-point at 1200 ft/sec for deer and wild boar, out to about 45 yds.

December 4, 2012, 01:08 PM

December 4, 2012, 01:13 PM
Thanks Craig. Real helpful.

Now. Wadcutters are, as you say, ideal for target loads as they make clean holes in the paper. They're not terrible defensive bullets either although better choices exist.
The semi wadcutters have the advantage of dropping into the chamber easier due to their conical shape, so better for active competitions.
In hollow points, there is no magic bullet for defense. In the old days when PDs issued the .357 the king of the load was the 125gr SJHP. A vicious mother that killed many K-frame Smiths. I personally like the 145gr Silvertip but everyone will have a preference.

Ky Larry
December 4, 2012, 01:15 PM
You're right in that the .38spl/.357mag is one of the most versitile combos available. I load all kinds of bullets for my 4 .357s and 3 .38spl revolvers. I have very light wad cutter target loads to JHP social work loads. A good reloading manual can answer your questions better than I can. Good luck.

December 4, 2012, 01:18 PM

December 4, 2012, 01:31 PM

The advantages and disadvantages have a lot of questionable and incomplete science behind them. One study that is widely quoted had some glaring errors, so take everything with a grain of salt.

One example of the wide variety of opinions and scientific conclusions is hollowpoints. There is question as to how fast any given bullet has to go so as to reliably expand as well as the fact that many believe that clothing can fill the opening and hamper the round from fully expanding. As to the latter, some makers fill the cavity so as to prevent this problem.

I suggest that you follow Craig's advice (always a good idea, he is a smart guy) and read up yourself. I would also suggest that you hunt with your handgun. In addition to the handgunning skills you develop, you get to recover the bullet and thus gather your own data.

Enjoy your hunt for knowledge. It is a LOT of fun!!! :D

December 4, 2012, 02:08 PM
here is some VERY basic information

December 4, 2012, 02:19 PM
with all of the varied and conflicting opinions as well as the mixed scientific results, "Go read books" is a reasonable response.

December 4, 2012, 03:16 PM
Criticizing the advice of others isn't helping the OP.

Offer the advice you want and only correct if another's advice is dangerously incorrect

December 4, 2012, 03:20 PM
Hey fellas, I do appreciate any and all advice that is given whether it is a suggestion as to which books I should look into or through ones personal preference and experience, both are valuable to my learning. I would like for this thread to not have to be shut down due to arguments as I do value everyones opinion on THR and why I asked the question here and not elsewhere.
Thank you all for the advice so far.

December 4, 2012, 03:40 PM
no worries amigo

just remember that virtually everything you read should be taken with a grain of salt.

I cited a couple of examples.

Another includes semi-wadcutters vs hollow-points

Some folks believe that the flat nose and hard edge make for good penetration.
Others will argue for an expanding bullet making a wider wound channel.

And we haven't even begun to get into bullet weight and velocity which is its own kettle of fish.

It would have been better if you had asked "what is the meaning of life?" or "how do women think?"


December 4, 2012, 03:53 PM
As you've learned, there's an abundance of choices for the 357, exposed lead JHPs are designed for terminal performance as compared to pistol JHPs that also require feed ramp reliability.

Full jacket JHPs like the shallow cavity Gold Dot are very reliable expanders, as are the Hornady XTPs. Living in a rural environment, I like JHPs in the 140gr-158gr weight range due to their increased penetration potential. Should I come across a large boar, 180gr WFNs/170gr Keith bullet should get the job done, as well as the heavier JSPs. Keep in mind that the 357/158gr bullet basically has the same sectional density as the 10mm/200gr, typically higher sectional density means deeper penetration.

December 4, 2012, 04:09 PM
The perfect bullet for .357/.38 Special would be a Lee 158 grain RF with a gas check or a plain flat base instead of a bevel. But the bevel is so slight, it's still almost perfect. I don't know if any commercial casters use that mold or not. Here's what it looks like in a 2-holer:

It has a wider flatter nose than a SWC, with a sharp edge. It cuts clean holes in paper, but a little smaller than a full wadcutter.

December 4, 2012, 07:15 PM
The great thing about the 357 is the variety of bullets (and factory ammo) available for it. The accuracy is great with virtually all loads. Over the years, I've gone to using 158 gr LSWC as they make nice holes in my target and the same load is accurate in all my 357s. While I load some JHP, I have no problem using the LSWC for defense.

December 4, 2012, 07:53 PM
Depending on the purpose, but there are four main categories I reload for:

1). Home/Self defense (two legged predators) = 38 special 125 to 158 gr. preferably hollow-point of somekind with proven effective expansion. A 357 can over penetrate harming friendlies in tight quarters or next door. Also, there is a better chance of hearing loss from the loud crack of the 357 indoors.

2). Hiking defense = Hard Hard Hard Cast 158 to 180 gr. with bullets loaded for max penetration through thick skulls and hides. Fragmentation is not allowed!

3). Hunting = Hornady XTP 158 to 180 gr. Great for deer and smaller game (you can try other JHPs of equal weight, but you will only be wasting your time and money ;)).

4). Range = Plinking-- 148 wadcutters (cheap and accurate).
Remember to practice at the range with all the ammo in your arsenal!

December 4, 2012, 10:11 PM
What about leading issues? I haven't shot any soft lead through my revolver yet but do the Jacketed soft points or semi-jacketed hollow points have issues with leaving lead or is it mainly the full lead bullets that you need to watch this on?

December 4, 2012, 10:15 PM
lead is easier on your barrel and if sealed properly, leaves virtually no lead.

If you get leading, shoot a couple or three cylinders of plated bullets clean it right up.

If not, a brass brush on a drill will clean it in seconds.

Do not allow lead to be an issue.

December 4, 2012, 10:29 PM
What about leading issues?
I usually shoot a mixture of bullets at the range. The jacketed bullets will help with the leading of the softer wadcutters.

Guns and bullet mixtures can play a major roll in leading. I've been challenged by some bullets that claimed to be hard cast, but their diameter and content gave me nothing but problems in some guns, but not in others. I've had good luck with CB bullets online for minimal leading issues for hard cast. Great price and free shipping.

December 4, 2012, 10:32 PM
Beware, though a full lead wadcutter will punch a .358 caliber hole in almost anything! Even your right foot, just ask my old neighbor, "Quickdraw". When at the store he bought some cheap practice ammo, thank god!

December 4, 2012, 11:06 PM
I can't really help you with non jacketed bullets, as I only reload with jacketed bullets and have for over 30 yrs.. I used Speer SJSP and SJHP almost exclusively for some 20 years and they performed very well with full tilt H110 / 296 loads. But I began using other jacketed brands and types as well, and now I find myself really fond of Hornady XTP's. And even though they are considerably less expensive than Sierra, Nosler, and Speer JHP's, they have performed very well with regard to accuracy and penetration. In order of my prefrence, Gold Dot, XTP, Sierra, and Nosler. Actually I haven't really cared much for Sierra or Nosler in terms of retention integrity on both game animals, and wet dennim with full velcoity H110 / 296 loads.

I've seen mule deer taken with my Gold Dot and XTP loads, and they drop them quite nicely from about 100 yds. and don't come apart. But the performance expectations I have may not be consistent with that of another hand gunner, in that, I like a good full expanding bullet that stays together well.


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