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.357 magnum vs. .38 special +P

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by psyprofessor, Mar 27, 2009.

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  1. psyprofessor

    psyprofessor Member

    Jul 7, 2008
    I noticed that a .357 magnum bullet was almost identical in length as a .38 special +P. (I realize that they are the same in diameter.)

    Question: Just how much more effective is a .357 (110gr JHP) vs. the best .38 special JHP?

    I was looking for descriptive answers (example: bullet penetrates two walls vs. three.....vs. numerical data that relates to pressure loads, impact energy, etc.)

    Is it worth loading the gun with the .357 vs. the .38 special for HD?
  2. C-grunt

    C-grunt Member

    Jun 12, 2005
    Phoenix Az
    While the .357 mag is more powerful than a good .38 spec, it can actually be detrimental to home defense because of the blast and noise.

    A 158 grain HP .38 is somewhere around 850 fps leaving the barrel.

    A 125 grain .357 is somewhere around 1400 fps leaving the barrel.

    Both of these are generic examples if you are using a revolver with around a 4-6 inch barrel.

    IMO a good heavy weight .38 is probably a better HD round than a .357 because of less blast, noise and recoil. All which will help with follow up shots.
  3. Firewall

    Firewall Member

    Dec 30, 2007
  4. Action_Can_Do

    Action_Can_Do Member

    May 28, 2005
    The muzzle blast of a 357 is worse than a 38+P. That said, it isn't that much worse. Hunters fire rifles that are much louder than and handgun and still manage to hit their target without hearing protection. If a 357 would make you jump so much that you couldn't hit the target, a 9mm, 45 auto, or 38 will do the same.
  5. BlindJustice

    BlindJustice Member

    Jul 26, 2007
    Pullman, WA

    You need to do a little bit of research on cartridge development .

    .38 Special circa 1899 todays standard is 17,000 regular and 19000 PSI
    for +P

    .357 Mag. 1935 pressure 35000 PSI and it uses slower burning powder that gives the velocities you cite with longer barrels 5"-6" in len. to get those velocities

    when the .357 mag is fired with only a 2" snubby it blows a lot of the slow
    burning bpowder out the muzzle, thus a big muzzle flash
    and the volcity loss is significacant.

    with the 110 gr. bullets you mention theyue is a problem with the burning powder flashing out getween the cylinder and barrel entry point and cutting into the top strap of the frame.... do your homework Prof.

  6. Buck Snort

    Buck Snort Member

    Oct 5, 2004
    N. CA.
    C-Grunt wrote: "A 125 grain .357 is somewhere around 1400 fps leaving the barrel."

    Sometimes si and sometimes no.
  7. Oro

    Oro Member

    Sep 22, 2007
    WA state
    There is no difference at all between .38 and .357 bullets - they are the same. The length is going to be variable on the weight, not the caliber here. The .357 is vastly more powerful than the .38. How you handle them and what kind of structure you live in is a variable you need to decide for yourself.

    A good idea would be to go to some manufacturer's websites and read about ballistics, as well as a search here and in google. Personally, I would never load a 110 gr as a personal defense load - that's "plinking" territory to me, not a hard-hitting defensive round.

    Personally, I don't care much whether I am carrying .38+p or .357 - whether I put 158 grains of lead into a critter or human at 750fps or 1250 fps is not THAT important to me unless it's a BIG critter - either one is going to penetrate enough to hit the vitals. Your real question is where you hit.
  8. BlindJustice

    BlindJustice Member

    Jul 26, 2007
    Pullman, WA
    I have two .357 Mag chambered Revolvers
    S&W 686P ( 7 shot cyl. ) 4" Bbl.
    39 oz weight empty
    S&W 60 ( 5 shot cyl. ) 3" bbl.
    24 oz. weight empty.

    For both of these for HD, I load
    them with Speer .38 Special +P 125 gr.
    Gold Dot JHPs, velocity is just under
    1100 FPS. That's below the speed of
    sound so there's no big blast from sonic
    boom, and far less muzzle flash, so it's
    easier in comparison to a full house .3.57
    Magnum load to recoil management and
    recover the point of aim for a repeat shot.

    Outside of the house, say in the field,
    the .357 Magnum might be loaded for better range
    however I think the magnum really gets more
    velocity with a longer barrel.

  9. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    The end of the road between Sodom and Gomorrah Tex
    I use a .38 for home defense. No, it's no .357 for horsepower, but it's plenty enough and the muzzle blast is tolerable even out of a snubby.
  10. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Member

    Apr 13, 2008
    Pyroprofessor -

    This article might interest you: http://www.chuckhawks.com/handgun_power_chart.htm
    And this: http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/38special.html

    .357 mag vs .38+p has been debated for quite a while. I'd say it's a little unfair to limit the comparison to "the best +p made" and 110 gr jhp magnums, as .357's greatest stopping potential for humans is around 125 gr. Even coming out of a snub barrel, most magnum ammo will have better stopping power than most +p's.

    As for the "too much flash & noise" argument, we're talking about a HD gun and not a pocket snubbie. The barrel will probably be a manageable 4-6" and not spew nearly as much flash or be as noisy as a CC revolver. There are factory loads & powders made to decrease flash for short barrels, too, so I wouldn't consider flash to be a factor. Noise is still worse, sure, but even a .38 can cause deafness if you shoot it indoors.

    I'd say magnums are more effective than +p's in terms of stopping power, but I'd still choose +p's for HD; both can overpenetrate, but magnums will obviously penetrate further. I live in an apartment, so this is a big concern. I've heard about fragmented ammo as a possible solution, but haven't been sold on the idea yet.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2009
  11. jad0110

    jad0110 Member

    Feb 28, 2006
    Somewhere between the Eastern Block states and Flo
    Either will blast through MANY layers of drywall and exterior walls before stopping, so either way you must be certain of the safe "firing lanes" in your home.

    As for stopping abilities, select a good load that offers good penetration (the 12" FBI minimum is a good benchmark) and that you can shoot well. 358, 38+P or standard 38 (yes, there are good non+P loads in 38 special around - for example, Federal just reintroduced their excellent 125 grain Nyclad).

    I keep my bedside gun loaded with 38+Ps because it has less blast, and I can get back on target a bit more quickly.
  12. Steve C

    Steve C Member

    Jan 5, 2006
    When you fire a gun in self defense its because someone is trying to kill you. You won't be paying any attention to the muzzle flash or the noise. Lots of times people who have been in that situation can't even tell how many rounds they did shoot. You may notice that later your ears are ringing and the officer that's asking you questions isn't talking very loud but that's all after the fact.

    When it comes to saving my life, I want the most powerful ammo the gun is capable of shooting. That means magnums in .357 magnum revolvers and +P for 38 spl revolvers.
  13. warnerwh

    warnerwh Member

    Feb 14, 2009
    Once you've been in fight or flight mode those of you using .38 ammo in a .357 understand why it won't matter. You can't hear well, everything is in slow motion and you lose much of your dexterity. You'll be so focused on protecting yourself nothing else will matter. Steve above is exactly right.
  14. golden

    golden Member

    Aug 28, 2007
    Go 110


    I would go with the 110 grain .357 magnum load over the .38 Special +P. My agency issued this load before we went to the .40 S&W.

    It has more stopping power than the +P .38 Special 158 grain lead hollow point load and kicks less or about the same. The blast, flash and noise are not nearly as bad the 125 grain .357 load.
    When I use a .357 magnum for defense, this is the load I prefer.

    The difference in stopping power between the 158 grain lead hollow point and is small. Maybe 4 or 5 % plus for the 110 grain load. For me, the improvement without any loss of control is a good tradeoff.

    The .357 magnum, 125 jacketed hollow pointgrain can be a bear. IT CAN DESTROY OR WEAR OUT OLDER K-FRAME GUNS. My agency had a problem with S&W model 13's bursting the forcing cone when using this load.
    That said, the 125 grain is significantly more powerful than the 110 grain loads and also more effective than the heavier 158 bullets.
    The heavy bullets work better on game animals than people.

    I would try all three loads on a standardized qualification coarse and then decide for yourself. If the 125 grain scores the same or almost the same, then go with it. If not, unless you find a problem with the 110 grain load you are using, I would stop there.

    I see no advantage to using the 158 grain load in a .357 magnum.

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