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Opinion: 38 vs. 357 short barrel

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by sloman, Jan 15, 2007.

  1. sloman

    sloman Well-Known Member

    Am seriously contemplating making my J frame my backup weapon to a Ruger SP101 (short barrel). Someone tell me, does the short barrel of the .357 take too much out of the powerful round that it's not worth carrying and I should just stick to the 38's?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Iggy

    Iggy Well-Known Member

    You lose some of the velocity and power of the .357 in a snubby, but you will still have more than you would with a .38.

    You have to decide if the recoil and blast is worth the difference.
  3. sloman

    sloman Well-Known Member

    Thanks Iggy

    What I'm looking for is that penetration and expansion. I guess if I used a DPX, I would do ok. I remember years ago the .357 125 gr JHP was the #1 manstopper. Were those results out of 4" guns?
  4. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member

    I don't do a lot of jello shooting, but I can tell you from 2" to 3" you're going to lose over 100 ft lbs. To me, the 2" .357 ain't worth the flash/bang. I'll stick to 9mm or .38 +P. The 2" SP101 is over 2", though, and Rugers tend to shoot fast. I'd still rather have the 3" (which is actually 3 1/6" I think) version if only for the extra sight radius, but also for the added velocity it'd give. Unless it's a pure pocket gun, frankly, 3" barrels are better IMHO even on a .38. They're just easier to shoot well due to sight radius. The SP101 is no pocket revolver, so I'd get mine in the 3" version.

    Yes. A 4" gun will be another 100 ft lbs over the 3" barrel. The 2" gun is really neutered. Oh, it's still an effective gun, but much harder to shoot than a good .38 load and, frankly, there's nothing wrong with the .38+P IMHO. A 158 grain +P is going to have adequate penetration and the guns can be a lot lighter and still not be much a handful.
  5. perpster

    perpster Well-Known Member

    Short Barrel Ammo

    Check out CCI/Speer Gold Dot Hollow Point Short Barrel (GDHP SB) ammo. Specifically designed for barrels under 4" and for less flash/bang. Designed in conjunction with NYPD for J frame 2" guns, Speer now make them in several calibers, including both .38+P and .357 Magnum.
  6. tantrix

    tantrix Well-Known Member

    I agree with MCgunner for the most part, a 3" barrel is the minimum I'd go for in .357, and even that is cutting it close. With my revolvers, the 2" ones are in .38SPL (+P) and 4" or longer are in .357.
  7. ronto

    ronto Well-Known Member

    The SP101 in 2 1/4" or 3 1/16" (a 13/16" difference if my math is right) should make no appreciable difference in performance especially if you use .357 Magnum 135gr. Speer GDHP "short barrel" ammo which is specifically designed for snubbies.
    I have the 2 1/4" DAO version which is easier for me to conceal. As far as length of the site plane goes, neither one is considered a "target" gun and I can hit the target within the 7 to 10 yard self-defense range with the 2 1/4" version.
    I also find it easy to carry in my front jeans pocket with no holster at times when I'm not worried about the "print".
  8. JERRY

    JERRY Well-Known Member

    the DPX rounds are designed to give you magnum performance without all the recoil and "flash/bang" of standard loads.

    if you want the most power you can control, there are plenty of .357 loads to choose from and try out.

    if you subscribe to the too much theory you may be suprised by some of the .38spl loads from a J frame that kick like an Arkansas mule....

    you have to determinie what you are willing to deal with. if recoil is an issue then a standard pressure .38spl in an all steel gun is the way to go.....if you can handle some amount of recoil, you will just have to try out what works for you.

    be bottom line is the .357 out classes the .38 in every field be it in 2" or 4" barrels.....it is the ++p++ .38 load if you will.

    dont handicap yourself.

    with a .357 you can load it for what ever you can handle. with a .38 youve just placed a limit on yourself.
  9. Desk Jockey

    Desk Jockey Well-Known Member

    I have no first-hand experience in comparing the two (357 vs 38), but this writeup indicates that the short 357 is a significant step up from the 38.

    If that article is just wrong, I'd be interested in hearing why.

    I recently came across a table showing the results of someone's experiment where they started with an 18-inch barrel and chopped off an inch at a time, measuring the velocity change with each barrel length. Wish I could find that again - it's surprising how much velocity drop you get as you approach "snub-nose" lengths.
  10. Mad Chemist

    Mad Chemist Well-Known Member

    What caliber for the Ruger and what caliber for the S&W? Steel or Airweight J-frame? The mass of the gun is going to affect your performance more than the ammo type is going to affect terminal performance.
    .357 out of an SP101 isn't bad at all.
    The same load out of a S&W Airweight or Airlite is awful.
    I've owned and shot SP's and J-frames for a while, I'm not just repeating errornet lore.
    .357 recoil out of an alloy J-frame SUCKS.:eek:
    The steel J-frames are manageable, the SP101 is very manageable. YMMV.

    You will get a significant loss of velocity out of the shorter barrels. As someone already stated, the Speer SB does a good job in compensating for this. I've only used the .38 load and have no first hand exp with the .357 SB load.

    Some ammo types use slower burning powders and yield lousy results from a snubby. I don't know about DPX, I'd be interested to see some data from DPX out of a short barrel.
  11. Phil DeGraves

    Phil DeGraves Well-Known Member

    "What I'm looking for is that penetration and expansion."

    First of all, if you increase expansion you REDUCE penetration. High velocity is necessary for expansion. But, most handgun rounds, especially out of a short barrel will fail to expand when shot at bad guys (of course, penetration is usually excellent as a result). The reason is not just because of the low velocity, but because the hollow points fill up with clothing, drywall, etc. which makes the bullet behave as a solid (unless you are shooting naked bad guys). I would opt for the 38 +p round as it is easier to control (thereby resulting in better hits), less muzzle blast and faster and more positive unloading and reloading with the shorter case. It is still authoritative enough.

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