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.357 v. 9mm

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by AStone, Sep 24, 2005.

  1. AStone

    AStone Well-Known Member

    Dang it, folks, you've done it again.

    I came to THR seeking advice about shotguns. Got 10X more than I was looking for. (Thanks.)

    Then, I decided to upgrade my 9mm. Done. (Kahr K9. Thanks.)

    Then, a holster for the 9. (Ordered; now in production: High Noon Topless. Thanks.)

    Then came swords. (Verdict is still out, but likely to be an Angus Trim 1320.)

    The latest: somehow - I'm sure it has nothing to do with things I've read on THR :rolleyes: - I've become interested in a revolver for HD/SD. (NOT hunting.)

    Some background: my first handgun was a revolver: Taurus .38 snubbie that I bought in a panic the day after some crack-crazed loonie tried to break into my apt. Later changed to a SW 3914, which was too big for my small hand, so changed recently to a Kahr K9. Ahhh. Perfect fit, love the gun. Great for CCW.

    But in recent days, I have started lusting again for a revolver. (DA like my K9.) I've been reading the archives (as I write this) looking for advice.

    I'm a relatively small person who's not fond of heavy recoil, so not inclined towards .44/.45. So, I'm leaning towards a .357 mag. I'm attracted to the fact that a .357 can take .38 ammo. That's one reason I'm buying a Rem 870 12 ga.: parts availability, shells widely available. If, for some ungodly reason (translation: TEOTWAWKI), I'm unable to find 9mm cartridges, maybe having a .357/.38 could be useful.

    Here's what I've learned so far about that caliber: they shoot both .357 and .38. Some of the most recommended ones are the Ruger GP100 and SW 686. (I'm leaning strongly towards a 4" tube.)

    Here's what I am still unclear about:

    1) This is mostly academic: why does a .357 also accomodate at .38? That's more than .02 difference. I'm not clear about how one pistol can shoot both & still maintain accuracy. Can someone please explain this to me?

    2) How does .357 mag compare to 9 mm in terms of stopping power? (My current HD rnds are Rem Golden Saber 124 gr.)

    If there's a thread in the archives that deals with this, please just let me know (maybe with some keywords).

    Thanks in advance. :cool:

  2. Shear_stress

    Shear_stress Well-Known Member

    Ah, the addiction begins.

    At the risk of codependency, let me encourage you. Either a GP100 or a an S&W 686 is a great choice. If you want to buy new, might also consider S&W's new 619 and 620. If used, keep an eye out for an S&W 586 (blued version of the 686), M19 (K-frame magnum), or 66 (stainless version of the 19).

    To answer your first question, despite the names, the 357 and 38 Special actually use the same diameter bullets. Making things more complicated, bullets used for both rounds actually have a nominal diameter of .357 or 0.358". Confused yet? As for why the old "38" isn't, well, that's another story . . .

    Anyway, the 38 Special was originally developed for black powder, and its large case capacity and low chamber pressure reflect that legacy. The .357 Magnum is essentially a "hot-rodded" 38 Special--a high-pressure, high-velocity version developed in the mid-1930s. The slightly lengthened case of the Magnum is a safety feature intended to prevent unsuspecting shooters from attempting to fire this round in guns not designed for it. The ".357 Magnum" name is half marketting and half an attempt to further differentiate the rounds in the minds of shooters.

    The upshot is a .357 revolver can fire 38 Specials, but not vice versa.
  3. jlh26oo

    jlh26oo Well-Known Member

    .357 and .38spl bullets are of the same diameter. As far as "stopping power"; well, let's just say power. Assuming each round is loaded near max recommendations:

  4. AStone

    AStone Well-Known Member

    LOL. :D :D :D

    Ah, thanks to you both. Great way to wind down a fine friday night.

    Shear-Stress: not confused at all. Your post clears up mucho. ;)
    SW 620: I may be in love. :evil:

    jlh2600: this is very clear: .357>>9mm>38spl

    I'm particularly intrigued that .357 is '>>' {much more powerful} than 9 mm,
    which is more {though not 'much more'} powerful than the .38 spl.

    Seems to relate to my handgun sequence so far:
    1) Taurus .38 that i traded for;
    2) SW 3914 9mm (which i traded 1 month ago for);
    3) Kahr K9 (which I love; it resides inches from my right hand);
    4) the addictive pull towards a .357 mag.


    More suggestions very welcome.

    Last edited: Sep 24, 2005
  5. AStone

    AStone Well-Known Member

    On closer look, I find that the SW 620 & 686 are very similar.

    When i open both pages in the browser, and click between the two,
    i find little difference.

    One ounce difference in weight, similar grips,
    identical barrel lengths, frame, finish, sights;
    yet $50 difference.

    The only difference is that 'trigger' and 'hammer' are 'target' in the 686,
    but ostensibly not in the 620.

    I'm thinking 'target' is more for competition shooters than SD.


  6. Shear_stress

    Shear_stress Well-Known Member

    Stuff like this keeps these boards full of irreconcilable debate regarding the "effectiveness" of one handgun caliber versus another. For instance, the 9mm, for its apparently small size, is actually a high-pressure round that, on average, offers 50% more muzzle energy than even +P 38 Special loads. Does that make it more "powerful"? I have no idea. Afterall, the 38 Special can generally support heavier bullets, which could be an advantage. Even the status of the .357 as "much more powerful" than 9mm is not always true in the context of snub-nosed revolvers, where the velocity loss for some factory ammunition can be enough to bring the muzzle energy down to 9mm levels. And the debate goes on . . .

    The great thing about a 357 revolver is the range of ammo choices--everything from 38 match wadcutters to full-house Buffalo Bore magnum loads. I find that I tend to shoot 38 Specials more than anything due to the low cost of that round and the fact that I am mostly a paper puncher. I'll run an occasional box of magnums through when I just want to make some noise.

    Regarding the differences betwen the 619/620 and 686, they are not too substantial. They are all based on the same L-frame. The 619/620 are interesting in that they combine Smith's new two-piece shrouded barrels with a more traditional "service revolver" look than the full-lug 686. The jury is still out on S&W's stab at shrouded barrel technology (Dan Wesson has been at it for a while), but, for whatever it's worth, the folks over at Gunblast.com raved about the quality and accuracy of the new guns.
  7. ClarkEMyers

    ClarkEMyers Well-Known Member

    Might consider a revolver in 9mm - have to shop hard though

    S&W has made J-frame revolvers in 9mm. You might like the J-frame size. S&W even made a comped J-frame mostly in .356TSW but with some straight 9mm cylinders available. Ruger and others have made 9mm revolvers mostly for the export market (such as India if I recall correctly) - see the history of 9mm Federal rimmed ammunition after the pattern of the .45 Auto Rim for a general discussion of 9mm revolvers.
  8. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Well-Known Member

    In my opinion, the 357 Mag far out performs the 9mm in terms of stopping power. The 357 was developed for police use where the recoil was still controllable. (Police were using 32's and 38spls primarily at the time.) Many 38spl rounds would not penetrate car doors or ricochet off windshields. This was before the +P 38's were introduced. Police liked the 357 round, but it has over penetration problems for a general use caliber and in a revolver it was limited to 5 or 6 rounds in the cylinder. (With the higher strength steels available now, you see higher capacity cylinders available from S&W.) Then came along the spray as you go 9mm guns of the 1970's and 1980's... more "fire power", but generally not as effective as the 357 when you hit what you are aiming at.

    I personally have a 3" GP100 (357 Revolver) that I think is nearly perfect for the application you seek. I shoot both 357 and 38spl +P rounds through it. The 357 mag has probably too much muzzle flash, noise, and certainly over penetration issues for home use. I keep my GP100 loaded with 38spl +P 125 gr factory HP's at home. Gun handles the recoil of the 38spl +P round like a champ and is sufficently accurate for typical defensive situations. This is not a hunting firearm. You would be better served with a longer barreled revolver 41 magnum and larger for deer sized game, but the 357 works okay.

    With autos mostly, I prefer the 40 S&W over the 9mm. Never owned a 9mm and don't intend to ever buy one. (Not completely true as I have owned and shot an Uzi carbine a fair amount.) The 45 ACP is better yet. But, the recoil of the 40 is very manageable in factory loadings.

    As a revolver alternative, you might consider a S&W Model 625JM which is in 45ACP. You get an auto round that will fit your auto inclinations as you step up in power.
  9. MillCreek

    MillCreek Well-Known Member

    Nema, I have little to add to the sage words above, except that from a standpoint of cost-effectiveness, durability, shootability and pure fun, you cannot go wrong with a stainless Ruger .357. I happen to be partial to the Security-six models over the GP-100, but that is a personal preference. Either is a fine, fine revolver. The Security-six is no longer manufactured, more's the pity, but many used models at great prices are on the market. Since you also live in the wet part of the country, I like stainless handguns, myself.

    Be sure to come back to us when you want advice on buying a serious snubby revolver for carry!
  10. AStone

    AStone Well-Known Member

    thanks for the feedback

    Everyone, thanks very much for your kind suggestions. I've read each one at least a couple of times this afternoon. Good thought-provoking ideas.

    Pardon the length here. I'm thinking outloud so others more knowledgeable than me can critique my thinking. I'm also using this as a set of on line notes for myself to review while making a decision in this issue. (Hopefully, they may help others reading archives in some future day also...)

    Good point, Shear_stress; I agree.

    In retrospect, I wish I'd named this thread differently. I wasn't intending to start a 'which caliber is better" war, just trying to get some sense, on average, what the relationship is between those two. That was actually only a part of what I am hoping to learn here, but the wording of my questions was not good.

    Still, so far, based on this limited number of opinions, it does seem that, on average across various loads in each caliber, the .357 with a hot load is going to offer slightly to substantially more bump than the 9. (At least, that's my read.)

    Good point also, Shear_Stress, about the variety of loads that the .357 eats. That's actually part of my motivation for looking at them, instead of staying with a 9 only. I like the idea of having two calibers such that, no matter what podunk town in the outback that I might wind up in after a SHTF event, there'll probably be some rounds available that I can shoot (9, .38 spl, .357).

    22_Rimfire, good idea about going with the .38 spl P for HD. I hear you about the hot mag loads.

    Speaking of home defense, and the issue of overpenetration, "home" for this gun is different than most. My studio, where I spend most of my time, is not in a residential area, but an industrial one. At night (which is when I work there), the hood is nearly totally deserted. (Which is part of why I want a .357 there: I'm mostly on my own out here. My kindly, smaller 9 will eventually be my carry gun.)

    Mill creek, the friendly guys at my local gun store said the same thing today. I agree. My K-9 is stainless. I didn't think I'd like the 'shiny' as much as black, but given the weather here ... and, the 'shiny' is growing on me. :p

    When I posted this thread last night, I hadn't ever even held a .357. So this afternoon, I took a bike ride over to the store. Looked at SW 520, 686 + (seven rnd, stainless) and a Ruger CP100. (They didn't have the SW 620; haven't checked the other store in town yet.)

    Clark, they also had a SW J-frame (60 maybe?), which allowed me to try out that type of frame. Admittedly, the LOP was much better for me, but I confess it didn't feel right for me; the balance, feel and weight wasn't as immediately satisfying as the more massive L frames.

    Yet, catch 22: even though I liked the larger frames, the immediate issue that came up was the LOP: each was slightly longer LOP than my K9. (Again, I've got small hands.)

    Of the three, the GP100 seemed most comfortable, but even with it I seemed to need to "cock" my grip sightly to the right side of the grip so that my finger would lay comfortably flat on the trigger. But then my thumb did not lay completely naturally (flat) on the left side of the grip. Hmmm. But, it felt "OK", and allowed a comfortable, smoothe trigger pull. Yet I'm not sure how much difference that slighly altered grip would make during shooting, especially hot rounds.

    The salesman would not offer too much advice on the fit other than, "Bunch that skin between thumb & forefinger a bit by gripping high, and if it feels good, it's probably right."

    He did point out that changing the grips could be part of the solution. Indeed, he recommended full rubber grips for the Ruger to help with the sting of recoil. Would enjoy hearing more thoughts about that.

    Both SW's felt a bit more awkward than the Ruger. I liked the DA pull on the Ruger better. It seemed smoother yet more solid than the SW, but that's only first impressions.

    In addition, I wasn't sure that I liked the "finger indents" on the front strap of the grip on the SW. The Ruger is smoothe. The SW forces my fingers into those dents. In particular, given my small hand, both of them forced my pinky finger lower than felt natural, separating it from my ring finger. Not sure how I feel about that.

    Overall, if I'd have been forced to pick one today, I'd have taken the Ruger.

    But the grip issue does raise some amount of concern for me since I traded my other auto for the Kahr because the former was too big by only a small amount, but was uncomfortable to shoot, and it affected my accuracy.

    I'm guessing by 'serious' you mean .45, right? None of these puny little .357 mags, but a real gun? ;)

    Thanks guys; I much appreciate the help, as always.

    More thoughts and opinions are very welcome. I've got some time on this. I'm not going to rush it at all. (In fact, the money for a purchase in the form of a LONG overdue IRS refund ( :fire: ) is still at least weeks away. I'll also probably buy the 870P first, get it settled in before getting too serious about bringing home a .357.

  11. MillCreek

    MillCreek Well-Known Member

    Oh, no, NemA, I routinely carry a variety of small frame .38 or .357 revolvers (S&W J-frame, Ruger SP-101, Taurus 650 or Taurus 651) and rarely, if ever, feel undergunned. Note that my lifestyle is as an executive living in suburbia, so easy concealment is a must and I am rarely going where angels fear to tread. I cannot readily conceal a full-size service pistol in my usual weekday attire. Small frame snubby revolvers meet my needs just fine.

    PS: Do they actually allow gun shops in Eugene, or are they forced across the river in Springfield? :uhoh:
  12. Marshall

    Marshall Well-Known Member

    .357 Mag is substantially more powerful than 9mm, I can't see them even being compared.
  13. Sunray

    Sunray Well-Known Member

    Geezuz, how far out in the boonies are you? 9mm should be readily available in Walmart.
    "...the friendly guys at my local gun store..." No 9mm there? They can order it.
    "...why does a .357 also accomodate at .38?..." The .357 case is 1/10th of an inch longer. Other than that the cases are identical. The length difference is so .357 ammo won't fit in a .38 Spec. revolver. If you're reloading, it's a good idea to load .357 cases to .38 specs. It avoids having lube gunk building up in the cylinders.
    No handgun round will give 100% reliable one shot stops. Not even a .45. There are too many variables.
    If you can, try a .45ACP pistol. They're not the big, mean, bone jarring, pistols the gun rags used to prattle on about. Most of the Government model copies will fit your hand too. The truth is that a .45 is far more comfortable to shoot than a .357. However, the fit of any handgun is paramount.
    "...I seemed to need to "cock" my grip sightly..." Change the grips. The stock grips don't quite fit your hand. There are very few revolvers that beat a GP. They need a trigger job though, but so do all new firearms. Frivolous liability law suits.
  14. AStone

    AStone Well-Known Member

    Hahaaha...not at all. I'm in a medium sized city.

    No, never said that. I bought my 9 from them. Good folks. I'm also looking at .357's at their shop, and if they don't have the one I would buy (they don't now), yes they can order it. Quick turn around time they tell me (relative to the 12 ga. I want, which is now in short supply thanks to Ms. Katrina & Ms. Rita.)

  15. BluesBear

    BluesBear member

    The 620 has a short underlug. It just encloses the ejector rod.

    The 686 has a full underlug.
  16. pauli

    pauli Well-Known Member

    the question is, are you speaking in absolutes (where i will have to take issue with you), or are you speaking of all else equal situations (686 vs 625, etc)...
  17. AStone

    AStone Well-Known Member

    BluesBear, thanks for the clarification.

    Pauli, would you mind elaborating on your point? I'm not getting it. Thanks.
  18. KONY

    KONY Well-Known Member

    Don't forget the Ruger Security-Six. I own both this and a 686 with 4" tubes and they both are very accurate. I shoot both exclusively in DA.
  19. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Well-Known Member

    The original ".38s" were developed at the dawn of metallic cartridges. These cartridges used "heeled bullets" -- the after part of hte bullet was reduced in diameter to fit inside the cartidge case. After a few years, an improvment was made -- the bullet size was reduced to allow the bullet to seated deeply in the case, with the lubrication grooves below the mouth of the case.

    This required reducing bullet size from about .38 to about .36. The bore diameters were also reduced, but the guns and ammo continued to be called ".38." The bullets were made of soft lead with hollow bases so they would still shoot fairly well in the older revolvers.

    The .357 Magnum was developed in the mid-1930s. It is essentially a very high pressure .38 Special, with the case lengthened enough to prevent if from being used in a standard .38 Special revolver.

    At the time it was introduced, Doug Wesson, them president of Smith and Wesson, decided to name the new cartridge for the true bullet diameter.

    If you line up the "family," you have in ascending length and power the .38 Short Colt, the .38 Long Colt, the .38 Special and the .357 Magnum. All four can be fired in a .357 revolver.

    That's a difficult term to define. But look at it this way:

    The .357 Magnum can drive a 125 grain bullet to between 1,700 and 1,800 fps.

    The 9mm can drive a 124 grain bullet to about 1100 fps.

    The .38 Special (+P) can drive a 125 grain bullet to about 1000 fps.

    The velocity advantage of the .357 is especially impressive when you realize kenetic energy increases with the square of the velocity. The 70% increase in velocity (compared to the .38 Special +P) works out to a 189% increase in energy.

    On the other hand, the 9mm gains only about a 21% increase over the .38 Special.
  20. pauli

    pauli Well-Known Member

    nematocyst, you asked for elaboration about my comment about sunray's comment about 45 vs 357 in terms of comfort.

    there are two ways he could have intended his statement.

    a: 45 caliber handguns, as a rule, are more comfortable to shoot than 357's. ie, 1911 vs 686.

    b: under the same conditions - same grips on the same frame size with the same barrel length and same over all weight - 45acp ammo is more comfortable to shoot than 357. something like 625 (45acp n frame) vs 627 (357 n frame).

    a is obviously a 100% subjective apples and oranges comparison. i can't shoot a 1911 worth a darn, and cannot stand they way they recoil in my hand, but my model 13 is the most comfortable centerfire handgun i have ever shot, bar none. maybe i need to find even hotter ammo, but i'm having a hard time figuring out how to make it as unpleasant as a 45 auto. other people, however, feel the reverse.

    b, however, is somewhat different. fired from the same platform, 45acp is going to feel different than 357, but in quantifiable ways. the recoil change is measurable.

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