Is it normal for a .357 to not shoot .38 as accurately?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Smaug, Jun 28, 2022.

  1. JTHunter

    JTHunter Member

    Jul 25, 2010
    Southwestern IL-ANNOY
    Smaug - don't forget that the .38s are a little shorter than the .357. As a result, the bullets (esp. those LRNs) may not be engaging the barrel's rifling smoothly.
    BlueHeelerFl and gobsauce like this.
  2. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

    Oct 19, 2010
    East TN
    I've never found 38 Special rounds less accurate in a 357 Magnum revolver than 357 Magnum ammunition. But, alot of that has to with the loose nut between the trigger and the sights.

    I prefer to shoot the appropriate length cases for what the revolver is chambered for (357 Magnum in a 357 Magnum chamber, 38 Special in a 38 Special chamber) but with some work with powder and bullets, I'm sure one could get a load combination where a 38 Special round will have excellent accuracy when shot in a 357 Magnum revolver.

    Generally, these days, I do not shoot full power magnum loads in my magnum revolvers. I enjoy shooting them but have no desire to shoot wrist snapping recoil loads so I load mid-level loads. I load these loads in the magnum cases and save the shorter cases for the revolvers chambered in the shorter rounds. Fortunately, I'm in the position to do that since I have guns chambered for the different length cases.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2022
    1976B.L.Johns. and NewHamshooter like this.
  3. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

    Jan 14, 2020
    First question is, has the forcing cone been optimized for lead... second question is the factory load a shape you have had success with before...
    I don't like factory rounds, because your forced to use what they provide. That means you have to keep trying brands until you have success. It's more expensive searching for the right one than just doing it myself.
    NewHamshooter likes this.
  4. Hookeye

    Hookeye Member

    May 24, 2015
    Ive had great accuracy w .38s. in .357 (3 screw Ruger and a Python).
    No roundnose though, 158gr SWC

    Do remember there being a .38 spcl target Python.
    Never dug into the reasons why.
  5. .45Coltguy

    .45Coltguy Member

    Apr 6, 2021
    Sometimes I load .38 spl loads in .357 cases and shoot those thru my Blackhawk and Henry. That eliminates any "issues".
    Y-T71 likes this.
  6. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

    Jan 26, 2010

    Whay do you care "what it looks like"? Heck I have rested small pocket pistols
    Rest the barrel on something solid and shoot it. You may be surprised:)

    Smaug likes this.
  7. willb

    willb Member

    Apr 18, 2022
    This target was shot with my Sp 101/357 Mag, at 50', one hand un-supported, open sights, using my own hand loads of 158 gr swaged LSWC's over target loads of Bullseye in .38 Spl. cases.
    I'll make the sweeping generalization that .357 SP 101's with 2 1/4" barrels firing .38 Spl. ammo are capable of decent accuracy.

    From what you've told us I think your 6" group is due to the bullets not bumping up/obturating to sufficiently engage the grooves of the rifling. The consequent less-than-optimum rotation could account for the poor 'smooth bore' accuracy. The factory ammo may be of a hardness that the lighter .38 Spl. charge cannot cause to properly expand, or, the diameter of the bullets may not be compatible with the groove diameter of your SP.

    Factory ammo can certainly be inconsistent with regard to charge and bullet weight. But I don't think it would account for a 6" spread at 7 Yds.

    Lastly, I don't doubt that you are capable of firing 2" groups, however I do agree with the others who recommend using a rest of some sort when testing ammo.

    Hope this helps.
    Smaug likes this.
  8. Bill M.

    Bill M. Member

    Nov 21, 2019
    I do not think it is normal for .38 special shot in a .357 chamber to be less accurate. I do not know what is happening in your case but I bet the chamber difference itself is not the culprit.

    With my guns I do shoot smaller groups with relatively fast jacketed bullets and bigger groups with relatively slow coated bullets. I have never known why that is but if I had to make 1 shot count I would pick the Lil-Gun loads.
    Smaug likes this.
  9. Tallball

    Tallball Member

    Oct 2, 2014
    My shooting buddies and I shoot some 357's through our 357 revolvers, and a lot of 38's.

    The accuracy doesn't seem to be different.
    Smaug and gobsauce like this.
  10. BlueHeelerFl

    BlueHeelerFl Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    Treasure Coast, FL
    I seem to remember reading that due to the extra distance the bullet has to travel to reach the rifling a 38 has the potential to be less accurate than a 357.

    I'm not an accurate enough shooter to notice if there is any distance
    JTHunter, Smaug and Tallball like this.
  11. DMW1116

    DMW1116 Member

    Oct 10, 2020
    Depends on the load for mine. I have a 357 load using wadcutter bullets that shoots great. Same powder, bullet, and primer from a 38 case just couldn’t match it. However, changing bullets and powder gave a load that shoots almost as well or equal.

    My most accurate loads are from 357 cases but they are jacketed bullets and I’ve not tried the vaunted 158 grain SWC cast bullet yet.

    I’m in my second year of reloading so I’m still trying all sorts of oddball combinations just shy of seating the primer over the bullet. I’ll eventually calm down and just load what works.
  12. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    Deep in the Ozarks
    Here are a few things to try:

    1. Load hollow-base wadcutters -- they were developed to bump up on the way to the throat.

    2. Load your bullets farther out.

    3. Load .38 special loads in .357 brass.
  13. RA40

    RA40 Member

    Oct 14, 2005
    I've not noticed a drastic difference across a variety of quality ammo. I've been going through some of the older JHP from Winchester and Remington and feel those are consistent. Between the JHP and FMJ in .357 and .38 SPL, not really.

    I have some pretty soft shooting HSM reloads with 125gr LRN's that get reasonably placed where I aim at. They feel inconsistent that there ares some that I even wonder if it made it out the barrel they are so soft. For the close plinking at 10-15 yards the results vary, sometimes I can get a ragged single hole and other times enough fliers. LOL. I don't have much expectation for those.
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