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357 barrel length

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by colorado_handgunner, Oct 14, 2012.

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  1. colorado_handgunner

    colorado_handgunner Member

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    I have read many times on here that the 357 magnum needs a sufficiently long barrel to burn the extra powder to reach the rounds full effectiveness. I was wondering what the general consensus is for what this barrel length is. Thanks.

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  2. 56hawk

    56hawk Member

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    Around 16" is going to give the maximum velocity.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    The .357 will continue to accelerate right up to 18-20". As will the other magnum revolver cartridges. So I'm not sure how to answer your question. Yes, you get more velocity out of longer barrels but that doesn't make shorter barrels useless.
     
  4. beatledog7

    beatledog7 Member

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    And it's pretty hard to conceal and comfortably carry a .357 revolver with a barrel longer than about 6". Most find 5" or so about the practical limit for CCW. YMMV.

    Mine's a bit over 2", way down on the wimpy end of the scale. Yet nobody's volunteering to stand in front of it.
     
  5. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

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    Contrary to popular wisdom even in a 2" barrel 357 will outperform its lesser 38cal cousins.

    It just doesn't outperform them BY AS MUCH as it can from a longer tube.




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  6. Checkman

    Checkman member

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    Yes indeed. An article about this very topic from the late Stephen Camp's website http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/

    .38 Snub Vs. .357 Snub



    For as long as I can remember, the question of whether or not the .38 Special snub is as potent as the .357 magnum in a snub-nose revolver has been debated again and again. This is not an extensive article, but I think the answer becomes pretty clear.



    I didn't have a .357 with a barrel as short as the 1 7/8" barrel on my snub thirty-eight's so I just fired the .38 Specials out of a 2 1/2" Model 19. The magnums were fired from the same revolver. It is true that .38 Specials will lose a little velocity when fired from a revolver chambered for the slightly longer .357 Magnum. The figures are slight, but later on, we'll "give" another 50 ft/sec (which is a generous amount) to the measured thirty-eight special velocities.





    A stock S&W Model 19 2 1/2" revolver, except for the stocks, was used for the chronograph results shown below.



    Velocities are based on 10-shot strings of fire about 10' from the chronograph screens.



    Ammunition Average Velocity (ft/sec)



    Federal .38 Special 129-grain Hydrashok +P 846



    Winchester .38 Special 158-grain LSWCHP +P 858



    Remington .357 Magnum 125-grain SJHP (Full-house load) 1243



    Handload: Rucker 158-grain CSWC 1100

    7.0 grains Unique

    Winchester Small Pistol Primer

    Starline Case



    At this point, I'll have to ask you to accept that the 129-grain .38 bullet is approximately the same as the 125-grain .357 and that the 4 grains would not make any real difference. Also, the handloaded .357 round was used simply because I had no data on any factory magnums in that bullet weight. Note that this is not a "hot" handload in that caliber and bullet weight.



    Now add the 50 ft/sec we spoke of earlier to each of the .38 average velocities and we get an "adjusted average velocity" of 896 ft/sec for the Hydrashok and 908 ft/sec for the LSWCHP. Compared to the 125-grain .357, we see that the magnum bests the .38 by 347 ft/sec. I find this a significant gain. With the heavier .38 Special bullet compared to the same weight slug from a .357 handload, we find a difference of 192 ft/sec in favor of the magnum and a medium handload.





    The data provided was not extensive, but based on it and what I've seen on more than one occasion in the past, the little .38's main advantage as a carry gun or BUG is that it's light, small, and easy to conceal. Its ballistic payload is not equivalent to the .357's in most cases. While it is true that both S&W and Taurus offer .357's in very nearly the same size package, it's been my experience that they border on being uncontrollable when shot in rapid-fire. Others may have had better luck. I'll take my .357 magnums in a K, L, or N frame.



    Little in this world is a hard and true fact and the same applies here. I note that out of a 1 7/8" barrel S&W Model 642, Corbon's 115-grain +P+ JHP averages an amazing 1188 ft/sec. This is in the .357 range of velocities and might be thought of as a "quasi-magnum" load. A Ruger SP-101 averages 1278 ft/sec with Triton 125-grain Quik Shok +P ammo, so we see the magnum winning again, but the .38 load does surprisingly well. Sadly, both of these loads are discontinued, as Corbon no longer uses and Triton's out of business. Out of the 2 1/2" Model 19, Winchester's 110-grain .357 JHP averaged 1166 ft/sec so the Corbon .38 Special load beat it slightly in both velocity and bullet weight. These are exception to the rule. FWIW, with the thin forcing cone in the J-frame S&W, I've quit using the 115-grain load for fear of cracking it.



    The notion that the .357 is so inefficient in the two-inch guns that it's no more effective than a hot .38 Special just doesn't seem to be true. While neither is at its best in the snub, the magnum is the more potent of the two with most ammo.



    Best.

     
  7. Checkman

    Checkman member

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    Mr. Camp always did good work and he applied common sense to his writings. He is missed.
     
  8. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Member

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    For me, choosing guides me to the following barrel lengths: 2-3" for concealed carry or everyday carry for defense; 4" for general carry, shooting, woods critter defense, or home defense; 6" or more for general shooting and hunting. If you carry a 357 as a hunting backup, I go with a 4".

    Regardless of the barrel length chosen with a revolver, full power 357 loads will result in a portable flame thrower.
     
  9. BaltimoreBoy

    BaltimoreBoy Member

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    56hawk's chart however, shows also that there is a big payback in going from 2" to 4" - on the order of 300 ft-lbs. Going from 4" to 6" buys about 200 ft-lbs. Going from 6" to 8" only maybe another 100 ft-lbs.

    So, it would appear you pay dearly for going down to 2". But beyond 4", each additional inch contributes progressively less.

    I suspect the late Bill Jordan chose the 4" for this reason. It is probably the best comfort/power tradeoff.
     
  10. colorado_handgunner

    colorado_handgunner Member

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    Thank you gentlemen.

    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 2
     
  11. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    The problem with the .357 in short barrels is not loss of velocity -- it's that as the gun gets lighter, recoil impulse increases. A gun writer whose name I forget at the moment said, "With light-weight revolvers made from exotic metals, gunmakers have managed to change the .357's recoil from merely unpleasant to downright painful."

    By the way, short barrels don't burn less powder -- by the time the bullet is in the forcing cone, all the powder is burnt. From that point on, expanding gas drives the bullet.

    If you find unburned grains of powder, it's not because of the short barrel, it's due to incomplete combustion, usually traceable to inadequate bullet pull.
     
  12. nofishbob

    nofishbob Member

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    56Hawk-

    What is the source of your chart?

    Thanks!

    Bob
     
  13. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    IMO the best barrel length for a magnum revolver is 5".
     
  14. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    The original question was...
    Quite a bit can vary on the load being used...bullet weight, type bullet being used, type of powder, the velocity you are looking for etc.

    The .357 Mag is at it's most effective, in terms of the power it can achieve, from a long gun. Meaning a carbine.

    Try looking here...

    http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/357mag.html

    The op did not say what they were looking to do with the gun or the round. Depending on the type powder used you can have unburnt powder. But if the load is right for the gun being used a good match can be had for the purpose.

    tipoc
     
  15. 56hawk

    56hawk Member

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  16. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

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    It bears repeating though that BBTI's test barrels are measured like you would measure an automatic or rifle NOT like a revolver that doesn't include the cylinder or chamber


    For example their 2" inch figures on their test gun would = a revolver with a 1/2" tube



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  17. nofishbob

    nofishbob Member

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    Thanks R.W. Dale. That's what I was hoping to confirm.

    It seems that many threads bemoaning the lack of velocity from short .357 revolver barrels reference BBI data that is being misunderstood.

    Bob
     
  18. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    They also show test results from actual guns with representative barrels. The results are not the same, but are pretty close. In many cases only 15-20 fps difference. In some as much as 75 fps.

    Personally I have no use for a 357 shorter than 4". Yes a 2-3" 357 will outperform a 38 from equal barrel lengths. But with barrels that short a 9mm +p will equal or beat a 357. And do it in a smaller gun with less recoil, less muzzle blast and considerably more ammo. A 4" Glock 19 will be 1.5" or more shorter and as much as a full pound lighter than many 3" 357 revolvers. And still get 1250 fps with 125 gr bullets.

    I happen to own and like 357 revolvers, but prefer them with longer barrels and heavier bullets that allow you to take advantage of their capabilities.
     
  19. Rail Driver

    Rail Driver Member

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    Something I've always wondered about .... How does the cylinder gap in a revolver affect the velocities given with longer barrels? The numbers for the longer barrels look similar to numbers I've seen out of lever guns and other solid action firearms, but I've never seen any numbers generated using a revolver, so I don't really know how to compare them.

    I would think that once you get to a certain point, the cylinder gap negates any velocity gain from having a longer barrel (thus longer pressurized time) since the chamber doesn't contain the pressure - it all goes out the cylinder gap.
     
  20. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    By and large, a reasonable cylinder gap has very little effect on velocity at any barrel length. There are currently some carbine-length .45 Colt/.410 shotgun revolvers and they seem to develop about the same velocity in .45 Colt as similar loads from a fixed breech carbine.
     
  21. Warp

    Warp Member

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    At any barrel length the .357 puts out more than a .38 spl. If you can handle the .357 in a little 1 7/8" barrel, go for it. It'll hurt more, on both ends, than .38

    I'm happy with the 4" barrel on my .357 wheelgun
     
  22. beag_nut

    beag_nut Member

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  23. Rail Driver

    Rail Driver Member

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    Thanks much for the link! I didn't look at the first link, so I didn't notice the same source until I went back and looked when you mentioned it. After a bit of reading I've deduced that the gap doesn't make that much difference under 3" barrel, but past that the gap makes a larger difference. There's very little difference where snubnose revolvers are concerned (which is what I was particularly interested in since I carry one every day).
     
  24. Remllez

    Remllez Member

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    I'm pretty sure that all practical length handgun barrels are too short to optimize their respective cartridges speed. In that respect a person that handloads and uses a chronograph will be at an advantage in finding the "best" load for any particular caliber/barrel length handgun they own.

    For those not privy to test equipment, factory load data is a good starting point in choosing a load, but must be carefully interpreted by the end user. A .357 load that is optimized at 16-20 inches is moot when extrapolated over practical handgun barrel length's. Long story short we are reminded yet again just how anemic handguns are for self-defense.

    Effective shot placement then becomes the single most important factor in stopping threats with handguns. Training and much practice regardless of what round one uses are variables we have control over and should be our top priority.
     
  25. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    Hogwash. Powders are chosen for the cartridge and its pressure range, not barrel length. The same powders that will yield the highest velocities in rifle-length barrels will yield the highest velocities in revolver barrels. Those would be H110/296 and Lil Gun.
     
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