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.357 Mag vs .38 +P in 2" snubbie

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by hurrakane212, Feb 21, 2006.

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  1. hurrakane212

    hurrakane212 Member

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    So I stumbled on a debate about .357 Mag ballistics being not much better than .38 +p ballistics in a 2" barrel. Is this true? How big a difference is there? .357 's hurt after a while out of a snubbie... if I can shoot something with a little less "slap" (I prefer the "shove of a .45 acp) and get comparable results.. well... I'm in!~Nathan
     
  2. Mooseman

    Mooseman Member

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    .357 vs 38+p

    Without knowing squat about ballistics. I would think that since the recoil is noticibly harder with the .357 its got to be hitting the target harder all things being equal. Just a thought:)
     
  3. Mooseman

    Mooseman Member

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    I should have reread your question

    Sorry, didn't really answer your question and couldn't figure out how to delete my post.:(
     
  4. Jkwas

    Jkwas Member

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    I don't enjoy shooting 357's out of my snub for many reasons.
    Excessive noise
    Excessive flash
    Excessive recoil
    Having to re-position my hand on the grip after each shot
    Wearing off the skin on the inside of my thumb
    You get the idea.
    I use a good quality 125gn 38+p hollow point load. After looking at the ballistics of this type of ammo, I am very confident it will do the job.
    Currently using 125gn 38+p speer gold dot, but I also have carried PMC Starfire.
    Do you give up a measure of performance by not shooting 357? Sure but hitting the target is most of the battle and follow up shots are important also.
    Not to mention the debate about the 357 making you deaf with out hearing protection (right or wrong) is enough to dissuade me from using it as a PD round. I don't think you need worry that 38+p isn't enough.
     
  5. ChristopherG

    ChristopherG Member

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    Your objection to .357's from a snub is that they hurt after a while? What is this gun for? Why would you need to shoot it for longer than 'a while'? What I'm getting at is that the discomfort level of shooting a .357 mag snub is just the price you pay to have power on tap should you ever need it.

    As far as the meat of your question, .357's outperform .38's by a sizeable margin out of a gun of ANY barrel length (or even NO barrel length). It's true that they gain LESS than they do from a longer barrel, but they are certainly more potent. And the critical thing is that the .38 (or .38+p) with the limited velocity you get from a short barrel is at the bottom end of what a lot of people consider the acceptable range of performance for a SD handgun. Even if the gain is not MASSIVE, it's enough to get you out of that grey area where a JHP may or may NOT perform as designed due to marginal velocity. A .357 snub is the least fun gun I own by a big margin, and the one I carry most by an even bigger margin.

    If you're feeling brutalized by your little gun, look into Speer's new .357 SB (short barrel) load using their massive-cavity 135 GDHP.
     
  6. ChristopherG

    ChristopherG Member

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    I've been seeing this a lot lately, and have to ask; haven't you guys ever shot accidentally without ear protection? I have, several times (over the course of several years and several tens of thousands of rounds downrange), and I'm here to tell you the difference between the sound of a .38 and a .357 is nothing you're going to care about in a life-and-death confrontation. I've shot a full-on, hot-loaded .41 magnum from a short-barreled Ruger without hearing protection, on a galvinized-roof, enclosed-shooting-stall range.

    It was loud.

    But my ears rang for just a couple minutes, and I can still hear just about as well as I could before. I sure as you-know-what don't endorse listening to gunshots unprotected, unnecessarily; but to make the difference between the SOUND of a .38+p (which also hurts, incidentally!) and a .357 the grounds of your choice of caliber is to make a decision for the wrong reasons.
     
  7. Stephen A. Camp

    Stephen A. Camp Moderator In Memoriam

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  8. Ben Shepherd

    Ben Shepherd Member

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    The old speer #8 manual has a section on this exact subject. While I don't have it handy at the moment,I can tell you, WITHOUT A DOUBT, that as noted above 357 will ALWAYS outrun 38, regardless of barrel length.
     
  9. 1911user

    1911user Member

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    I always used 38+P 158gr LSWC-HP (old FBI load) out of 38 and 357 snubbies. Good shot placement with adequate penetration and rapid follow-up shots are what is important. You should be able to put 2 good shots each into 2 targets at 5 yards in 2 seconds or so. If you can do that repeatedly with 357 mag ammo, carry it; otherwise stick to 38s. It's a hard test when you have to reposition your grip after each shot or are afraid to practice. Consider me a fan of 38+P properly placed.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2006
  10. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    The .357 will put up over 400 ft lbs with a good load out of a two inch. The +P .38s will deal out about 250, advantage .357. However, if you wanna get the .357 up closer to the 550-600 ft lbs it's know for, you're going to have to use a 4" gun. I've never shot the 3" guns, but from what I've read in some articles, they push the .357 much better than any 2" by a large degree. The .357 uses a lot of slow burning powder. Think of the gun as a solid fuel rocket. A lot of the recoil is caused by that action/reaction thing that causes the space shuttle to fly. It's got a lot of pressure and it's still burning hard, like an after burner, when it comes out of the barrel. It ain't working on the bullet anymore to create velocity, but it's one heck of a rocket and has the muzzle blast to go with it.

    If I do get a .357 CCW anytime in the future, it'll be a 3" SP101. It's a heavy gun with a longish tube, but in the caliber, that's a very good thing. It is still quite concealable IWB, but no pocket gun. I prefer 9mm +P or +P+ from a 3" compact, though, myself. I get 400 ft lbs from a 115 grain bullet, more than the .38 +P if a little short of .357 (not much). It doesn't have the flash bang of either and the recoil is softened by the action of the slide. I shoot a compact nine much better than I think I could a .357 mag in a light J frame 2". I don't know that for sure since I've never owned one and haven't put more'n half a box of .357 through a friends, but just from that half box experience, it was pretty evident I was better off with a 9 or .38 +P. His was a steel frame gun, too, not one of the titanium ones.

    If you can shoot it and are willing to pay the price of temporary blindness in a dark room and temporary deafness even outdoors without hearing protection...:what: ...go for it, but it ain't for me, don't think. I'll stick with my 9mm, maybe my .45 or just carry my .38+P first, thanks. I LOVE the .357 as a hunting and outdoor caliber, love it in the self defense role in a large gun, but in a compact 2" J frame, I'll pass.
     
  11. rnovi

    rnovi Member

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    MC Gunner touched on a big part of the snub-nosed recoil question: gun weight. Shooting a hot 125 grain .357 from a 12 ounce S&W Airweight snubbie just plain hurts. Shoot the same load from a 26 ounce Ruger SP101 and the load is "Stout", but not painful.

    In either case, the .357 will out perform the .38 in any situation...except maybe target shooting! A .357 load that goes 1500 fps out of a 6" tube might go 1200 out of a 2" snubbie. Still, a .38 spec is around 900fps in nominal loads and around 1200 max in a +p load through a similar 6" barrell.

    Magnums - You just plain get more.

    Now whether or not more is better, well, only YOU can answer that!
     
  12. 1911user

    1911user Member

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    If a 38+P has enough momentum to penetrate all the way through someone with an expanded hollowpoint, tell me how a magnum is going to "plain get more"? For quartering shots through tougher animals, then magnums are better for most situations due to longer range and larger/tougher animals so long as the bullet is decently heavy to not sacrifice penetration.

    rnovi, take my test: 2 cardboard torso targets at 5 yards, 2 center shots into each in 2.0 seconds total and you can start with the pistol in your hand. Can YOU do it from a snubby revolver loaded with 357 mag ammo? It's a very practical scenario for CCW don't you think? You don't even have to draw or reload, just 4 good hits in 2.0 seconds. I don't have a snubby revolver anymore, but it wasn't hard with good technique, some practice, and heavy 38+P ammo. I use a 9 and 45 now.

    All of the massive :what: foot-pounds of energy that remain after the bullet has exited the target is useless.

    EDIT: I guess the point I'm trying to make is that if you can't control the snubby in rapid fire, it will prevent you from placing your shots well. And if you can't do it in practice, you haven't a hope of magically gaining skills when crunch time happens; you'll be lucky to retain most of your practice skills at best.

    My educated belief is that the 2 most important things in serious pistol shooting are good shot placement with enough penetration to reach vital areas. If those 2 conditions are not met, it's going to be a long day unless the opponent decides to just give up. Even magnum handgun rounds are not a lightning bolt from the gods, see Preachermans post (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=184631) for his discussion of the inherint weakness of handgun rounds. If you can't control it, why carry it?
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2006
  13. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    Where's Doctor Courtney when you need him?;) But, I agree that the .38 is plenty and since it's much more managable in a smaller gun, your point of putting it in the torso is easier to do for most folks, Dirty Harry excluded. That's why I like .38+P in little guns like J frames. There's more to defensive handguns that pure power. You have to put it where it'll work.
     
  14. Marshall

    Marshall Member

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    I would rather have .357, thanks though. :)
     
  15. rnovi

    rnovi Member

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    1911user - Two seconds? No. Can't even do that with my GP100. But three seconds? Yes, I can. I can't pull a DA trigger fast enough to accurately put down four shots in two seconds with any gun. However, in three seconds I can do it with a 2 1/4" SP101, but I can't do it with a J-frame airweight. That's the weight part of absorbing the recoil of a full magnum. That was my point - weight makes a big difference in absorbing recoil.

    It's something I practice, mainly for the giggles of it. The loads I use are "shock and awe" loads: 125 gr FMJ's over a large quantity of 2400. The load clocks out at 1625 fps from my 6" gp100. I haven't bothered to clock it with an SP101. We have Tuesday Night "Tactical-Lite" nights at the local gun range with various scenarios such as "Car-Jacking". The whole idea of full mags in a snubbie came about during "Flashlight Night".

    The range is completely black except for one small light in the back and the flashlight in your hand. All targets are forward of you and include steel popers, paper targets, and the like. What started as a joke (ok, 24" fireball from an SP101) turned into a cult phenomena with a bunch of us trying to punch targets downrange with snubbies and full loads.

    I do agree, a .38 spec is far more controllable in a lightweight snubbie than a full .357 mag. I've never argued that point. Nor do I argue that a .38 special with 158 grain lead hollowpoints is not a decent home defense load. It is. Heck, my bedroom gun is loaded with .38 specs so I am not disagreeing.

    I also fully agree: all the power in the world (.460 Weatherby anyone?) is meaningless if you can't put your shot on target.

    The original question, however, was wether or not a .357 puts out more power than a .38 spec. A .357 mag still puts out more power than a .38 +p, even in a snub. The only time it didn't was, what, prior to 1934 when the .357 didn't even exist.

    As to the secondary comment on "all the extra energy that isn't placed into a target is useless" - true. However if you have a 500 fpe .357 load that dumps 350 fpe into a target before exiting then you have still done more damage to the target than if the target got hit with a 260fpe .38 spec load that stays in the target. You've dumped more energy into the target and created a bigger hole on the other side of the target which would mean greater blood loss and a greater chance of a an incapacitating shot.

    This of course, can be argued against shot placement (did you hit a rib? Soft tissue shot? Etc.), bullet design (glassers vs. cast lead vs. std jhp's), and just how whacked up on heroin the perp might be.

    It still doesn't mean that a .38 special is a more powerful round than a .357. It isn't.
     
  16. SAWBONES

    SAWBONES Member

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    Use whatever you can best handle, which your gun shoots accurately.

    I have several S&W and Ruger "snubbies", all of which shoot more accurately and precisely with .38 Special +P JHP loads than with .357 Magnum 125gr+P JHP loads (and I'm not particularly recoil-sensitive), so that's what I carry and shoot in them.
    Unfortunately, the traditional .38 Special 158gr LSWCHP +P loads from Federal and Winchester seem to have very poor accuracy and precision compared to the (now discontinued) Federal Nyclad 158gr+P HP. Fortunately the Speer Gold Dot .38 Special "short barrel" 135gr+P JHP loads are spot-on. (I haven't yet tried the "short barrel" Gold Dot 135gr JHP .357 Magnum loads, but look forward to doing so.)
    It's quite true that typical premium factory .357 Magnum loads in 125gr+P require a gun with a longer (6"-8") barrel in order to maximize velocity while minimizing muzzle flash and blast. Shooting premium factory .357 Magnum 125gr loads in a 2" barrel "snubbie" is a basically a waste of energy and effort, IMNSHO.
     
  17. oldbear

    oldbear Member

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    .357 snub Vs. 38 snub.

    .357 Vs. .38

    Much has been made about the muzzle blast, recoil, and noise a .357 makes when fired from a 2” revolver and much of this is correct. Yet I can attest form personal experience that if you ever have to fire a .357 or any pistol, for that matter, in a combat situation you will not feel the recoil, here any noise, or notice the muzzle blast. So go with the cartridge you feel most comfortable shooting, and practice, practice, practice with it.

    I day-to-day pistol is a Taurus 617 2” with Speer 125 Gr .357 loads. My bedroom gun is a 30 year old S&W M-66 2 ½”. As I now live in a condo, and I don’t wish to worry about putting a round into my neighbor’s wall at 3:00 A.M. the first two rounds are .357 Magsafe rounds then the next four are 158 Gr. .38 +P rounds.

    Enjoy your shooting and be safe.
     
  18. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    Gold Dot Short Barrel .357 loads are just a bit hotter than their +P is.

    I shoot my full-house trail carry .357 handloads in a snubbie Model 60, no problem. But I don't like them in an alloy lightweight. The 60 is all stainless steel.

    In my Airweight, I shoot .38+P. Of course, that's what it's chambered for, but I chose to buy it that way after trying "real" .357 in an Airlite. That hurt, and fast followup shots were difficult.

    Borrom line? I wouldn't pay the few hundred extra bucks for a lightweight pocket gun, to get a .357. I don't think you'll end up using it with anything but .38+P, or maybe those Gold Dots that aren't exactly "real" .357 anyway.

    But, especially for applications like trail carry, a steel snubbie is completely viable with the hottest .357 you want to load in it.

    Note also that the Model 60 has a larger grip on it, than the 642 that I often pocket-carry.
     
  19. Landric

    Landric Member

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    This comes up a lot, and I still can't figure out how the various internet commandos have come to the conclusion that the .38 Special+P (and +P isn't plus much P over standard pressure loads) is somehow equal or nearly equal to the .357 Magnum out of a short (or for that matter) any length barrel. However, it does seem to be "common knowledge", so perhaps this will do a little to dispel it. Here are some facts:

    I chronographed the Speer 135 grain Gold Dot .38 Special +P and the Speer 125 grain Gold Dot .357 Magnum (I chose the 125 grain Magnum because the 135 grain GD "Magnum" is not in any way, shape, or form a full power magnum, its really a +P .38 Special in a Magnum case). I chronographed each load in both my 2 1/4" Ruger SP101 and my 4" S&W 681-3. Here are the results:

    .38 Special +P-

    SP 101 Ave. Velocity 856 fps, Ave. Muzzle Energy 219 ft.-lbs.
    681-3 Ave. Velocity 996 fps, Ave. Muzzle Energy 297 ft. -lbs.

    .357 Magnum-

    SP101 Ave. Velocity 1242 fps, Ave. Muzzle Energy 428 ft.-lbs.
    681-3 Ave. Velocity 1392 fps, Ave. Muzzle Energy 538 ft.-lbs.

    Just for grins, I also chronographed the legendary "Thor's Hammer" load, the Federal Classic 125 grain SJHP .357 Magnum out of both guns. Here are those results:

    SP101 Ave. Velocity 1293 fps, Ave. Muzzle Energy 464 ft.-lbs.
    681-3 Ave. Velocity 1428 fps, Ave. Muzzle Energy 566 ft.-lbs.

    As we can see, the full power magnum has a serious advantage over the .38 Special +P when two Gold Dot loads are compared. The magnum has nearly 400 fps on the .38 Special and nearly twice the muzzle energy. In fact, the magnum load only loses 11% of its 4" velocity when fired from a 2 1/4" gun. On the other hand, the .38 Special +P loses 14% of its 4" velocity when fired from the snubbie. Its not a huge difference, but the .38 Special actually loses more than the magnum does in short barreled revolvers.

    One does pay for the extra magnum power with increased recoil and blast. For some of us the trade off is worth it. For others, it isn't. I'm already limiting myself to five shots, I want as much power per shot as I can get while still having control. I can control full-power magnums in the SP, so that is what I carry.

    None of this, of course, is likely to persuade the internet commandos who have never taken the time to test their "knowledge", but they aren't reading this thread anyway, they already "know".
     
  20. ironvic

    ironvic Member

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    I've had a couple .357 snubbies and they do tend to hurt a little when they go boom, but I'd rather be on my end of the gun than the other. My current .357 snub is a S&W 686 Plus, 2 1/2 incher. For me, anyway, it doesn't hurt at all to shoot .357 Magnums with it, and .38 Specials are a breeze coming out of the short L frame.

    My stainlesss J frame snub hurt a bit more when slinging .357s but it was very reassuring when I worked behind a counter down at the bookstore on the night shift. I practiced with it shooting .38s and finished up range sessions by running a couple of cylinder loads of .357 Magnums to feel comfortable with the recoil.

    After a while, that little J frame biter started to cause my right hand to go numb from damage caused by recoil where the thumb joint connects with the palm by the web of the hand. My solution was a heavier shorty gun and the problem was solved. I figure it's better to go bigger on the gun and not have to worry about nerve damage to my shootin' hand from repetitive recoil damage. I guess the key point is that I'd still stick with .357 rather than have to rely on the .38 Special when there's that little extra "punch" that the .357 gives in an emergency.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2009
  21. armsmaster270

    armsmaster270 Member

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    Per Speer, the Gold Dot Short Barrel in a 2" vented barrel
    38+p 860fps-222ft lbs
    357 990fps-294ft lbs recorded at the muzzle for both.
     
  22. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Member

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  23. Landric

    Landric Member

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    That website is interesting as far as it goes, but I think a lot of people don't read the testing procedure, look at the chart, and then claim their opinion that .357 is little better than .38 Special is correct because of it. However, according to their own test data, they are measuring their 2" contender barrel using a method that includes the chamber. Since the average .357 Magnum cartridge is just over 1.5" long, that means it has about 1/2" barrel in the 2" tests. A real revolver with a 2" barrel gives the magnum 2" to work with, not 1/2". You will note that their 3" data ( 1 1/2" of actual barrel without a cylinder gap to bleed off velocity) is more in line with the actual results from a 2" snubbie. One will also note that in their "Real World" section they do not include any testing of magnum loads in an actual 2" revolver.

    As interesting as the information is, it doesn't have much at all to do with the realities of a 2" magnum revolver.
     
  24. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Member

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    Agreed, they should have used a snubby revolver in their 'real world weapons' section, as common as they are.
     
  25. jakk280rem

    jakk280rem Member

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    1911user, i might try this. What's the distance between targets?
     
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