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Thread: .38 or. 357

  1. #1
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    .38 or. 357

    I am thinking about maybe getting a little revolver to carry as a back up. I don't know much about revolves my dad raised me to be shotgun rifle boy. I like 38's just because they are smaller than some of the 357's but I don't know anything on the ballistics of the two. Any advice from anyone on witch one would make a better back up keeping in mind witch ever one I get would be a back up not my primary carry
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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    In short barrels there is a school of thought that says the .357 merely generates more muzzle flash than a .38spl. Not much performance can be expected from a 2" Barrel. From 4" and up the difference is major.

    I have a 38spl with 2" barrel that's nice to carry when looking for a good reliable "pocket gun" and it's loaded with 130gr GDHP Short Barrel ammo. This ammo is designed for reliable expansion at the low speeds common from shorter barrels. A good combination for real close quarters Defense and backup although for backup I prefer my P3-AT. Fits a pocket better, even a shirt pocket.
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    I would suggest getting a 357 because you can shoot either 38 specials or 357's through it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeeper1 View Post
    I would suggest getting a 357 because you can shoot either 38 specials or 357's through it.
    +1 If you get a .357, even a snubby, you can use it for more type of ammo. Believe it or not, there are times when you will want a heavy weight hard hitting round, like if you're out camping and hiking in the woods and come across some half crazed, sex starved goat or a momma bear protecting her cubs.

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    Regular Member Baked on Grease's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeeper1 View Post
    I would suggest getting a 357 because you can shoot either 38 specials or 357's through it.
    Yes and no, mostly gotta make sure to clean the "crud" the 38 leaves behind before using 357's again... Otherwise you run into major problems. But on the face of it the rounds are interchangable in a 357 chambering.

    The suggestion is the same as always... Go to a range and shoot them, if the range has some for rent, or bring a friend and try his out. If it's a concealed (2" barrel) gun then the 38 may work better as it's typically a smaller package.

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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sirpuma View Post
    +1 If you get a .357, even a snubby, you can use it for more type of ammo. Believe it or not, there are times when you will want a heavy weight hard hitting round, like if you're out camping and hiking in the woods and come across some half crazed, sex starved goat or a momma bear protecting her cubs.
    From a 2" barrel?????
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  7. #7
    Regular Member decklin's Avatar
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    I for one would recommend a .357 as it basically gets you two calibers for the price of one. I played around with the Ruger LCR a few months back and have to say it is phenomenal. The grip on it really absorbs the recoil.
    I would not get a revolver with a two inch barrel as a trail gun though. I know you said it was for backup but after reading that other comment I just thought I should say it. It would be a bad idea. As a trail gun I would recommend a minimum of .45 Colt with a 5" barrel. No Hollowpoints! An animals fur, especially bear, actually act as a natural body armor and does not allow proper penetration and expansion of hollowpoints.
    I know that was not what you were asking but I thought it was necessary to point that out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by amlevin View Post
    In short barrels there is a school of thought that says the .357 merely generates more muzzle flash than a .38spl. Not much performance can be expected from a 2" Barrel. From 4" and up the difference is major.
    You just need to look at the specialty ammo manufacturers. Buffalo Bore, for example, offers a range of .357 loadings including some optimized for short barrels (fast powder, I assume.)

  9. #9
    Campaign Veteran Schlitz's Avatar
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    I've fired the .357 LCR....it's kick is rediculous. I don't suggest any .357 snubby as a back up. I do suggest getting a snub chambered in .357 though, you can still carry +p.38...I like options...
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  10. #10
    Regular Member fire suppressor's Avatar
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    A 357 is a 38 bullet with more powder?
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    fire suppressor,

    The .357 Magnum cartridge case is derived from the .38 SPL--it's longer but otherwise identical. Thus a chamber made for .357 will also seat the slightly shorter-length .38 round, but not the reverse. While the .357 case is only slightly longer than the .38, the latter was originally a black-powder cartridge (or derived directly from one that was, I forget exactly which.) Thus, when used with smokeless powder which generally has a much higher energy density, there's room for a lot more propellant than the original .38 design allows for (which is why .38 +P and +P+ loads can be created.)

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    Regular Member jbone's Avatar
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    I say a S&W Model 60 would be perfect.
    Last edited by jbone; 10-05-2011 at 06:52 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by amlevin View Post
    From a 2" barrel?????
    First thing I thought of. A 9mm round out of a 2" barrel isn't going to do more than annoy an already angry quadped.

    Quote Originally Posted by fire suppressor View Post
    A 357 is a 38 bullet with more powder?
    Sort of. A 357 is essentially more powder than a .38SPL, but not to be confused with a standard .38 bullet. Think of it this way, a .38SPL is a .357 round in a necked down but slightly longer .38 Long Colt case since the Long Colt 38 is the parent case to the .38SPL.

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    as others have mentioned, 357 offers flexibility of shooting the cheaper .38 for practice. However, when you carry, load it with 357hp. Almost all ruger and s&w revolvers are awesome. I shoot .38's out of my .357 vaqueros all the time with no problem. Is more cleaning required? Yes but .38's are substantially cheaper than .357, and that's why shoot 'em. The most time I have on a ultra-light .38 is the Taurus model 85. It's so small and so light it's very difficult to shoot accurately past 10 yards. Oh, and a must have on these pocket guns is a crimson trace laser, so add another $150-200 for that. Most of the pocket guns have horrible sights.

    As an alternative, you could always get a +p rated 38 and you're in the realm of 357 stopping power.

    One of the newer revolvers that has caught my eye (haven't shot it) is the chiappa rhino. It's weird looking but the design leads me to believe that follow up shots would be easier as the muzzle flip would be less.

    Just my .02.

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    Quote Originally Posted by amlevin View Post
    From a 2" barrel?????
    Yes, even from a 2" barrel. First most (note I say most and not all, most is not an all inclusive term and means there are exceptions to this statement) .38 spl rounds have a lighter projectile than a .357 mag. Second, generally speaking, even out of a 2" barrel the .357 will have a higher muzzle velocity than the standard .38 spl. Lastly, when coming across ticked off wildlife, often just making a loud enough noise will scare them off. So if you put in some 180-200gr HP hot .357 mag loads in a 2" barreled revolver, imagine not only a harder hitting round but more noise and flash. You really think an animal will stick around? You don't always have to kill a wild animal.

    I may just have to find a 2" .357 to play with at the range with the crony, now.

    The .38 Special (.38 Smith & Wesson Special) was developed based on the .38 Long Colt that was designed as a cartridge replacement for the .36 cal cap and ball revolvers. (Not to be mistaken with the earlier .38 Smith and Wesson.) The very early cartridge was black powder but was easily adapted to smokeless powder.

    Quote Originally Posted by onlurker View Post
    First thing I thought of. A 9mm round out of a 2" barrel isn't going to do more than annoy an already angry quadped.

    Sort of. A 357 is essentially more powder than a .38SPL, but not to be confused with a standard .38 bullet. Think of it this way, a .38SPL is a .357 round in a necked down but slightly longer .38 Long Colt case since the Long Colt 38 is the parent case to the .38SPL.
    No sort of about it. The question was "A 357 is a 38 bullet with more powder?" The topic is .38spl vs .357. Not sure why you brought up the .38LC, but oh well. The only difference between the specs of a .38 S&W Special and a .357 Mag is case length, powder load and often bullet weight.
    Last edited by sirpuma; 10-06-2011 at 01:32 AM.

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    I would go for the .357 snubbie.

    While you do lose velocity in a short barrel, you lose velocity for both .38 and .357.

    A slowed .357 is still faster than a slowed .38. Don't believe me? Try it. Take a .38 and .357 with the same bullet weight, launch each from a 2" .357 and see which one kicks like the dickens.

    Also, there is a fairly good supply of mild .357 ammo out there. So, you can test them until you find one that you can stand the recoil. For example, Winchester USA brand makes a (110 grain?) hollow-point .357 that while giving stout recoil in a snubbie, is less painful than say Federal 130 gr hollow-point .357 mag. Also, MagTech makes a 90gr or 100gr .357 mag hollow-point.

    You gotta read labels, though. I came across one light bullet ammo--Corbon maybe--that ramped the velocity up to 1600fps (out of a 4" barrel) yielding over 600 foot-lbs muzzle energy according to the label. Out of a 18-20 oz snub gun, that has got to hurt the hand holding the gun.

    The point is that there is a wide range of loads (and resulting recoil) in .357 Mag, and you can shop and test til you find a milder one you like. Lotsa flexibility there.

    And, in a .357 gun, you can also shoot .38spl +P.

    Lotsa flexibility to find a load you really like.

    Also, if you plan to shoot .357, you might steer toward the all-steel guns. The additional weight helps soak up some of the recoil energy. The ultra-light guns (scandium and titanium alloys) while cool, weigh noticeably less, and are easier to carry. But, are no fun to shoot unless you are a manly man with a high pain threshold.

  17. #17
    Regular Member fire suppressor's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone lots of good info for both arguments. I think I probably should go to a shooting range where I can rent both types and see witch one works best for me
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  18. #18
    Campaign Veteran Schlitz's Avatar
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    yea, it blew my mind when I first learned about .38 vs .357

    .38 is really just nomenclature.

    The bullet diameter of a .45 is .45 of an inch...the diameter of a .50AE is .5 of an inch. .357mag? .357 of an inch. .38spcl? .357 of an inch. lolwut?
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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sirpuma View Post
    Yes, even from a 2" barrel. First most (note I say most and not all, most is not an all inclusive term and means there are exceptions to this statement) .38 spl rounds have a lighter projectile than a .357 mag. Second, generally speaking, even out of a 2" barrel the .357 will have a higher muzzle velocity than the standard .38 spl. Lastly, when coming across ticked off wildlife, often just making a loud enough noise will scare them off. So if you put in some 180-200gr HP hot .357 mag loads in a 2" barreled revolver, imagine not only a harder hitting round but more noise and flash. You really think an animal will stick around? You don't always have to kill a wild animal.

    I may just have to find a 2" .357 to play with at the range with the crony, now.
    Interesting about the "heavier bullet" in .357mag. My reloading data shows that the .38 spl, .357 mag, and 38 spl +P all can use a bullet from 110 gr up to 200 grains. Also, the +P 38 spl loading gives performance near that of the .357 for many bullet combinations.

    If noise is all that's needed, I doubt any "ticked off wildlife" will notice the difference between a .38 and any other caliber for that matter.

    While the .357 may be "numerically" superior in a "snub nose" there is another consideration and that is control. Here's an article on the topic with some comparisons with a telling statement:

    http://www.snubnose.info/docs/38-snub_vs_357-snub.htm

    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.

    Also note the comment on the Corbon +P+ ammo.
    "If I shoot all the ammo I am carrying I either won't need anymore or more won't help"

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    Quote Originally Posted by amlevin View Post
    Interesting about the "heavier bullet" in .357mag. My reloading data shows that the .38 spl, .357 mag, and 38 spl +P all can use a bullet from 110 gr up to 200 grains. Also, the +P 38 spl loading gives performance near that of the .357 for many bullet combinations.

    If noise is all that's needed, I doubt any "ticked off wildlife" will notice the difference between a .38 and any other caliber for that matter.

    While the .357 may be "numerically" superior in a "snub nose" there is another consideration and that is control. Here's an article on the topic with some comparisons with a telling statement:

    http://www.snubnose.info/docs/38-snub_vs_357-snub.htm




    Also note the comment on the Corbon +P+ ammo.
    I think you missed part of my statement that said Not All. But anywho, in standard .38spl the bullet weights are GENERALLY lighter than found in the .357. Not that you can't find them in the 180-200 range but that's not the standard weight. Also, +P+ is fine but you don't want to shoot that from older .38 revolvers as their not rated for those chamber pressures. I certainly didn't mean you couldn't load a .38 with a 200gr round. In fact one of the earliest .38spl was a 200gr Police Special. I was just saying that you don't typically find the .38spl in that weight.

    As far as control goes. Practice.

    Oh, and thanks for posting that article, it proved my points.

    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.
    Last edited by sirpuma; 10-06-2011 at 03:20 PM.

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    Regular Member hermannr's Avatar
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    If you like being able to hear at all, go with the .38 spl.

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    Founder's Club Member Jim675's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hermannr View Post
    If you like being able to hear at all, go with the .38 spl.
    Or see at night for follow up shots! But of course, which caliber you choose is optional if you start with a .357 firearm. Load heavy for a walk in the woods and use your normal self defense loads (of either caliber) at home.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by fire suppressor View Post
    A 357 is a 38 bullet with more powder?
    Yes. Or, more precisely:

    The .38Spcl and .357mag projectiles are the same diameter.

    The .38spcl came out around 1900. As mentioned above, the cartridge case is long because it, like many other early revolvers, was originally for black powder. Meaning, the reason revolvers have such long cartridge cases today is because they evolved from the black powder era. You don't need that long cartridge case in order to get enough powder into it anymore. Modern smokeless powder doesn't need that much volume. Notice that the 9mm (.355") has more energy than a .38spcl generally speaking, but the 9mm has a much shorter cartridge case.

    Around 1935 or so, a few somebodies talked Smith & Wesson into sooping-up the .38spcl and called it the .357mag.

    In developing the .357mag in 1935 it was decided to make the .357mag case about 1/8" longer so it would be too long to fit in a .38spcl cylinder. Otherwise, people might accidently load the .357 cartridges in their 38spcl gun, and blow up the gun.

    So, the cartridge case was made longer for the .357mag, but the projectile diameter was left the same.

  24. #24
    Regular Member fire suppressor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen View Post
    In developing the .357mag in 1935 it was decided to make the .357mag case about 1/8" longer so it would be too long to fit in a .38spcl cylinder. Otherwise, people might accidently load the .357 cartridges in their 38spcl gun, and blow up the gun.
    I have herd this before but never knew if that was true or not


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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen View Post

    Around 1935 or so, a few somebodies talked Smith & Wesson into sooping-up the .38spcl and called it the .357mag.
    One of those "somebodies" was Elmer Keith. He was loading the .38spl way beyond it's design limits. Kind of like +P+ (and maybe more) before SAAMI came along.

    Fire Suppressor-

    The .38 case is 1.155" long and the .357 case is 1.290" long. These are the only dimensional differences in the two rounds. Some reloaders merely put a .135" spacer under the lock ring of their sizing and seating dies when changing from .38 loads to .357. The same holds true for the 44 spl/44 Mag rounds although the "spacer" is only .125" thick.

    As for shooting "specials" in a Magnum and having a crud buildup in this approximately 1/8" area, I've interchanged these rounds many times over the years. It's not as bad a problem as many would suggest. Most will shoot .38 for practice, clean, and load .357's for carry. The key is regular cleaning and a good brush for the cylinder. Now for those who think cleaning is a "once a year" task, that might be a problem. Cast or swaged lead bullets can put more crud in this "gap" but jacketed bullets don't. Again, cleaning is key but that should be a no-brainer.
    "If I shoot all the ammo I am carrying I either won't need anymore or more won't help"

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