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Is a magnum load in a short barrel revolver wasted?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by d-dogg, Jan 16, 2013.

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  1. d-dogg

    d-dogg Well-Known Member

    Sorry for the dumb question, but I figured the hand loaders would be the best crowd to answer this.

    Basically I'm trying to evaluate whether a short barreled .357 is really going to pack a whole lot more punch than a .38 SPL at the same short barrel length.

    I think I read at some point that powders used in magnum loads are slower burning to help accelerate the projectile to maximum muzzle velocity.

    If this is correct then is it essentially a waste to shot a magnum load in a short barrel revolver?

    I have a .44 magnum with 10.5" barrel, and it produces a heck of a muzzle flash, which sort of leads me to believe the powder is not fully burned even after 10.5".

    Or is my thinking all wrong? Please educate me.
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Most of the the powder is burned inside the cylinder, regardless of the caliber or barrel length.
    A little more is burned in the first inch or so of barrel.

    The huge fireball is not unburned powder.
    It is super-heated high-pressure gas hitting the free oxygen in the air outside the barrels muzzle crown and making it light up like white plasma gas.

    Now to the question.

    A .357 in a short barrel will always outperform a +P .38 in a short barrel.
    Need Proof?
    It kicks harder, because it is going faster.

    At the expense of higher recoil & muzzle blast.

    Pick your poison.

    I carry +P .38 Spl. Short-Barrel Gold Dots or .158 lead SWC in snubby .357's.

  3. gspn

    gspn Well-Known Member

    I hate it when RC is the first one into a thread...cause it's over...everything has been answered. :D
  4. 788Ham

    788Ham Well-Known Member

    Way to go rc, use some of that knowledge you've got stored up!
  5. joneb

    joneb Well-Known Member

    I have a 2.75" barreled 357 mag. I have had good results with Accurate #7.
    I would recommend this powder for manageable 357 mag. load.
  6. Madcap_Magician

    Madcap_Magician Well-Known Member

    I dunno about wasted. As rcmodel pointed out, it will always be more powerful than the .38 Special +P, although Buffalo Bore does have an insane .38 Special +P load that I think is a LSWC going 1100 fps, which is pretty close to what you'd see from a .357.

    I think for me what it comes down to is that in a steel gun with a 2.5" barrel or longer, you lose less performance than from a 1-7/8" J-frame, and the increased recoil control from the extra weight of a steel gun makes it worthwhile to carry .357 in a larger, heavier snub or short-barreled revolver (3" being my favorite). In the airweight and scandium versions of the J-frame, the massively increased recoil makes .38 Special +P painful and .357 downright uncontrollable, so for the smallest and lightest revolvers, .38 Special is the only practical route for me.
  7. Buck13

    Buck13 Well-Known Member

  8. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    Yep. ;)
  9. sellersm

    sellersm Well-Known Member

    Never much to add after rc has answered, as has been mentioned, but it's sure good to read his replies!! Thank you rcmodel...
  10. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Well-Known Member

    Just for kicks and giggles.... load up a near max. charge of a fast powder like W231 in a magnum case (I've seen 6.7 gr as a published max under a 158 gr JFN)...

    This will be the definition of a "snappy" load.... even in a 6" barrel, so hang onto your hat with that snubby.

    Just don't load too many.... unless you like to pull bullets.

    And please don't ask me how I know this :rolleyes:

    I kept a few around, just for demostration purposes, when I want to show someone the difference between a slow and fast burning powder.
  11. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

    There is certainly some loss in velocity, but to consider it a total waste, not by any means. I load for snubs using H110 and there is a decernable increase in velocity with magum loads. I don't however have any snub nosed 44 magnums, my shortest barreled one is 6"-ish. But the .357 mags I load for are 2" snubs and 6", and although there is an increase in the longer barrel v.s. the snubs, velocity in both is viable with magnum loads.

  12. 454PB

    454PB Well-Known Member

    One of the first handloader's tools we should buy is a chronograph. I've owned several, going back 40 years. You'll be surprised at what you see, and learn to take all of what you read with a grain of salt.

    Depending on the gun, shorter barrels can exhibit velocity drops anywhere from nearly zero to 20%. Accepted wisdom says that using a slow burning powder like H-110 in a 2.5" .357 magnum is a waste of powder, but I've seen velocities that were only 100 fps. slower in the snubbie than in a 6" barrel. However, you ARE going to see a huge fireball and terrific muzzle blast. Maybe that's not all bad when you're trying to deter a bad guy.
  13. Slamfire

    Slamfire Well-Known Member

    I have shot thousands of 38 Specials through my snubbies. I have shot 357 snubbies and found the blast and recoil objectionable. These 357 snubbies weigh more than the 38 Specials and I don't want to carry the extra weight.

    I also believe that the little extra velocity gained with a 357 in a snubbie is not enough to offset what I consider the disadvantages.

    In a 4" or 6" barrel, the 357 is the better choice of cartridge for self defense.

    For a concealed carry gun, I think the 38 Special is the better choice.
  14. tbob38

    tbob38 Well-Known Member

    For defense I carry 125gr 357 magnum rounds in my 2.5 inch model 19, when carrying a small revolver. I want all I can get and to heck with the blast. Don't find the recoil that bad.
  15. Loc n Load

    Loc n Load Well-Known Member

    Short barrel maggies

    Carried revolvers as a duty weapon for half of my career as a LEO, Ballistically you sacrifice approx. 50 fps per inch in bl lngth.....at one time my agency issued us k frame smith's with 2" bl"s chambered for 38 spl. They issued us what would become known as the "treasury load"...it was a +P+ 38 spl that ran a 110 gr. JHP at near 357 velocities. It was a nightmare to train and instruct. Huge muzzle blast, enormous muzzle flash ( especially on night qual's), and a lots of felt recoil. WE had so many new hires failing firearms qual, that the brass hats decided we should train & qualify new hires with 38 spl wadcutters. You can probably see the problems that are going to stem from that. Recoil, muzzle blast, and muzzle flash is all a factor, but it all depends on the shooter. Some people can handle those factors, some simply cannot.
    I have seen that conundrum played out with several agency's staff that I instructed with short bl revolvers shooting the +P+ 38's and later full power 357 magnums. All of this was back in the 70's & 80's.
  16. Rule3

    Rule3 Well-Known Member

    IMHO, yes it is a waste, Chronograph it it out of your gun. Even if you get 50 FPS more from it is it worth the blast, flash, recoil??

    In the overall scheme of hings at SD distance will it make a difference??

    Better yet try it out of a alloy J frame.:eek:
  17. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    Overall I would agree that the .38Spl is the better cartridge for a 2" revolver but also understand that by choosing so I am taking a hit ballistically. There's no reason to make up arguments about there being little gain to justify this choice. The chronograph tell us the real story.

    In this case "accepted wisdom" is wrong.

    You can't assume anything, there are too many variables between individual guns. In this case, the data from BBTI is probably the best tool to judge this by. I'm seeing a difference not of 50fps but of 300fps, given that their 3" numbers are the most comparable to a 2" snubby. Sorry folks but you cannot nearly double the operating pressure and expect only 50fps difference. IMHO, there way too much myth and legend surrounding this subject and very little fact.

  18. Rule3

    Rule3 Well-Known Member

    Well right there you are interpolating "their 3" numbers"
    That isn't a 2" or 1-7/8" barrel. You can't change the laws of physics

    But of course use what ever you feel "comfortable" with and try and get of an accurate second shot;)

    Guess I am blind as I do not see 38+P not the same exact bullet used for 38 spl and 357 mag???
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2013
  19. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    Smart guy, their measurement includes the chamber. So yes, their 3" number is very close to what one would expect from a 2" revolver. :rolleyes:

    It doesn't really matter how well it replicates a specific revolver length, it is an identical length which is perfect for comparing the two to each other and that is what is in question.

    No, the 300fps figure was for a .357 load that was 15gr HEAVIER than the fastest .38 load. Comparing the fastest 125gr .38 load, the .357 was 400fps faster. So you're really not helping yourself. No matter how you look at it, the argument that "you don't gain much with a .357 in a short barrel" is 100% bogus. Now if you want to talk about recoil and follow-up shots, that is another matter.

    I love how people try to twist the facts to fit their argument.
  20. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf member

    It's certainly not wasted.. it's big fun to set off car alarms fifty feet away!
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