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Dangers in shooting 38s out of a 357??

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by 4kbeard, Feb 27, 2012.

  1. 4kbeard

    4kbeard Member

    I read somewhere in some article that I can't recall that constantly shooting 38s out of a 357 can or will cause them to become less accurate. Did I read (or remember) wrong? Is this so? Say it aint so, as that is the round that I can afford to shoot more oft than not.
  2. Bush Pilot

    Bush Pilot Well-Known Member

    You'll be fine, just run a bore brush through the holes in the cylinder once in a while.

    ADKWOODSMAN Well-Known Member

    Ditto brush_pilot.
  4. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    NO. That's an incorrect assertion. Many, many tens of millions of .38 Spc. rounds have gone down the barrels of millions of .357 Mag. revolvers over the years without doing a lick of harm. (Same goes for .44 Spc. and .44 Mag.)

    If you shoot a lot of .38 Spc. ammo, you should probably clean the carbon out of the chambers well before shooting any .357 Mags. A little will build up in the gap between the end of the .38 Spc. case and the end of the .357 Mag length chamber and can cause elevated pressures and/or hard extraction.

    In fact, I've read that ".38s for practice, .357s for business" was the policy of S&W when they built their .357 Mag K-frames.
  5. Dnaltrop

    Dnaltrop Well-Known Member

    Same thing for shooting .45 colt in a .454, works fine. Just have to pay attention to your cleaning.

    Shoot the longer cartridges first before the short ones and don't step back to the long ones without brushing the cylinder out.

    The best advice if you're concerned about the carbon buildup, is to Reload, use the longer cases and Download those .357's to standard .38/.38 +P
  6. Ford Prefect

    Ford Prefect Well-Known Member

    Perhaps you're mis-remebering.

    .38's tend not to be as accurate out of a .357 because of the gap between the bullet and the barrel/chamber. This "jump" effects accuracy. Every time. It can get worse over time due to lead fouling/buildup. No danger that I know of, with normal cleaning.

    I have shot some older long barreled .38's and they are sweet guns. Easy to shoot, accurate and smoothness close to a .22lr. I love dedicated .38's and love full bore .357's out of a GP100, but you don't need two guns. One will do both fine.
  7. bergmen

    bergmen Member.

    Not according to the manual for my Model 83:

    The use of .45 Long Colt ammunition in 454 Casull chambers is NOT recommended. An optional .45 Long Colt cylinder is available for your Freedom ArmsĀ® revolver chambered in 454 Casull.

  8. mortablunt

    mortablunt Well-Known Member

    357 and 38 are pretty much the same caliber. As a general rule for revolvers: if it fits in the hole you can shoot it.
  9. 4kbeard

    4kbeard Member

    Thanks guys. I am, more often than not, on the ball with my cleaning.
    I am not set up to make my own reloads yet, but will keep in mind the trick of down grading full .357 casings into 38+Ps when I do. At least for range time.
  10. Dnaltrop

    Dnaltrop Well-Known Member

    Interesting, but I think that's a flawed argument Bergmen.

    A FA is a finely tuned high end revolver. with incredible tolerances. (I've been drooling over them for years) I think the reason they don't want you shooting .45 Colt, is that they don't want you scarring up all their hard work for being a cheapskate on the brass with a $2000 or so pistol.

    I don't like shooting .38's in a .357 either, and the solution is the same for both... Use the longer case and download the pressure.

    Standard 454's of every other brand can chamber both .45 Colt and Casull, .460's chamber all 3. I've not heard of a .454 that absolutely cannot use .45.

    "Cannot" is not the same as "for the love of Mike, PLEASE just buy another Cylinder"


    The new cartridge is a lengthened version of the .454 Casull, itself a lengthened version of the .45 Long Colt. So both of those cartridges can be fired in a revolver chambered for the .460 Magnum.


    The .454 came out in the late 50's and was the big, bad boy in town, till the advent of the .500 S&W mag and now, the .460S&W magnum. This caliber, designed by Dick Casull, is great for us who have lots of .45 Colt ammo (I reload for cowboy shooting, but want a gun that can handle everything up to this magnum with very heavy lead bullets moving out at speeds in the 1300-2000 fps range.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.45_Colt (actually only checked this as an afterthought)

    The .45 Colt became the basis for the much more powerful .454 Casull cartridge, with the .454 Casull having a slightly longer and stronger case. Any .454 Casull revolver will chamber and fire .45 Colt, but not the inverse due to the Casull's longer case. The .460 S&W Magnum is a longer version of the .454 Casull and the .45 Colt. Likewise, .460 Magnum revolvers can chamber and fire the two lesser cartridges, but again, not the reverse

    But I agree with you otherwise, use the proper length brass for the proper caliber gun, except where unavoidable.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  11. oldfool

    oldfool Well-Known Member

    ".38's tend not to be as accurate out of a .357 because of the gap between the bullet and the barrel/chamber."

    inclined to respectfully disagree, friend
    38 target wadcutters are generally regarded as the "best" round for consistent accuracy out of 38 sp guns, and there is obviously more bullet jump with target wadcutters vs. other bullet styles

    I see no differences in group sizes out of my 38/357s for 38 vs 357 (just minor difference in POI vs POA, which is affected by multiple variables, of course). Pretty sure I am not the only one who would say that.
    Methinks throats and alignment far outweigh bullet jump on all that.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  12. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    If you are playing any kind of speed game (IDPA, USPSA, Steel Challenge, etc.) where reloads will be a factor, using shorter brass consistently provides smoother, more positive reloads than using full-length brass, which tends to get hung between the stocks and star, or not quite clear, and otherwise hang up the works at the worst possible time.

    Short brass gets popped clear and just flies away -- more or less every time. HUGE benefit.
  13. kludge

    kludge Well-Known Member

    The .45 Colt loads that people tend to shoot out of FA revolvers are quite different than standard .45 Colt loads, even even Ruger Only loads... 5-shot revolver .45 colt loads approach .454 Casull loads and pressures... packing the case full of H110.

    In a FA gun, you "might" end up with some flame cutting in the extra 0.1" of chamber... after a while this can lead to hard extraction for .454 cases as the brass fills the area of the cut.

    And even with standard .45 Colt loads, if you don't get all the crud out, you can get stuck cases, or worse - and overpressure situation, since FA revolvers' chambers are not as generous as most in their dimensions.
  14. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    At the risk of bringing on a storm of controversy, I'll relate a little story.

    Circa mid-1980s, if memory serves me. The gun was probably 25 years old.

    An older gentleman who owned a Model 27 and dearly loved to shoot but couldn't tolerate much .357 ammunition due to arthritis fired only .38 Special in it. This went on for years, and...because he reloaded for his only handgun...he shot it a lot.

    When he died, his son came into possession of the revolver, and one day he naturally decided to limber it up. The call came, and the visit followed shortly after. Six cases firmly frozen in the chambers. After driving them out, I noticed that they all had narrow expanded rings about a 10th inch from the mouths. Close examination revealed mating rings in the chambers, about a 10th inch behind the shoulders. Really close examination revealed indication of flame cutting and erosion...which makes sense. If the frame will flame cut over the B/C gap...why wouldn't it cut the chambers? It did.

    Smith & Wesson replaced the cylinder and returned the gun. I haven't fired .38 Special in a .357 chamber from that day to this. I download .357 cases.
  15. Dr_B

    Dr_B member

    Responding to the OP, .357 and .38 special cartridges use the same sized bullet, so I don't see any issue with barrel wear. I would be more concerned about the bullet material causing build-up rather than the type of cartridge causing a problem.

    Flame cutting from lots of .38's. Yes, I can envision that happening over enough time and use. Personally, I don't think I should worry much about it. I suspect I will wear out before my revolver does.

    I'm considering using my GP100 in the next steel match in my area. Thinking about .38 specials because magnum loads are not allowed in the match, and because they will be easier to control and eject in a hurry.
  16. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Has anyone ever seen an old K-38 with a gazillion rounds through it suffer from flame cut chamber throats??

    I sure haven't, and I seen a lot of old K-38 match guns with a gazillion rounds through them.

    I just have a hard time believing you could shoot enough .38's in a .357 in a lifetime to do that.

    I could see corrosion under the hard carbon rings from never cleaning them out etching into the chambers though.

  17. 45_auto

    45_auto Well-Known Member

    Probably because when the bullet passes the flash gap the pressure almost instantly drops from chamber pressure to atmospheric (from somewhere around 10,000 to 40,000 PSI to 14 PSI atmospheric) and the hot gases expand violently at that point, impinging on the top strap and eventually eroding it. You don't have the same situation inside the chamber.

    None of my handguns or rifles have flame cutting in the chamber in front of the cartridge case. I've been shooting some of them for over 40 years, no telling how many thousands of rounds. Never seen any flame cutting on any of the full-auto class 3 stuff with MANY thousands of rounds through them either. Plenty of worn out barrels though! ;)
  18. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    IMO: Flame cutting on top straps is actually bead-blast cutting from powder granules being blasted out of the B/C gap at very high velocity.
    Just like a waterjet cutting motorcycle parts on American Chopper!

    There is not enough flame duration at the flash from the gap to heat steel hot enough fast enough to burn it away like a cutting torch.

    It doesn't happen in the chamber throats because the powder granules are going through them, not 90 degrees against them with a running start.

  19. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

    RC's explanation is perfectly logical.

    My guess is that something else was going on in that Model 27.

    Corrosive powder perhaps?
  20. svtruth

    svtruth Well-Known Member


    I'm with 1911 Tuner. The story is that a lot of .45s result in flame cutting a shallow groove at the mouth of the cartridge. when a .454 is fired the brass fireforms into thje annular ring, resulting in difficult extraction. And unless you are very recoil resistant, you will fire many more .45s than .454s.
    I bought a levergun in .45 as a kid brother to my .454 for that very reason, now I'll have to get a Blackhawk to keep it company.

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