Magnumitis: The .357 Magnum Cartridge

Smith and Wesson revolver with chamber open and wood grain grip, pointed downward on pale yellow background with partial wording showing.

A Rifle on the Hip

You won’t find Magnumitis in the dictionary. The term, coined as a derisive nickname for the tendency of shooters to go for broke in the pursuit of power, simply implies a shooter who has succumbed to Magnumitis places power above accuracy.

The originator made the argument that we could do just as well in the hunting field with standard calibers as the Magnums. When it comes to rifles this is probably true, but in handgun terms, Magnums represent the much-needed improvement in standard performance.

Smith and Wesson revolver with chamber open and wood grain grip, pointed downward on pale yellow background with partial wording showing.
The Smith and Wesson revolver is among the finest ever made, with attention to detail and recessed cylinders for safety.

Handguns are weak instruments compared to long guns. When compared to the .30-06 rifle or 12-gauge shotgun, the weak .38 and strong .45 are more alike than they differ. The outlook is different when we begin to move to the Magnums. These handguns often are possessed of more real-world killing power at moderate ranges than high power rifles. Magnum handguns have a surplus of power in some applications. The Magnum revolver is a fine example of modern technology.

Where the Magnum Excels

Prior to the advent of the Magnum, the accepted standard for increasing handgun effectiveness was to increase the bore diameter and the weight of the projectile. Frontal area and mass still mean much, but the Magnum introduced another important factor into handgun ballistics. For the first time, handgun calibers proved capable of reaching velocity over 1,300 fps, and with full bore, heavy for the caliber bullets.

Handloaders had acquired a taste for high velocity with 1200 fps .32-20 WCF loads. Heavy bullets once were the slowest choice in each caliber, often compromising velocity for weight. With the advent of the Magnum, heavy bullets with long bearing surfaces became feasible. The advantage of the big bore had been short-range killing power, which the small bore lacked.

Magnums introduced another consideration, a product of increased velocity. Handguns now had increased range. The handgun had sufficient velocity to make long-range handgun hunting a real possibility. The projectile retained sufficient energy to retain its effectiveness at this increased range. Handgun cartridges had reached a new plateau. The Magnum gave outdoorsmen an all-around revolver. The handgun seen as a backup to a rifle was useful for taking down a bad steer at point-blank range or perhaps finishing off a wounded animal—and little else. The Magnum legitimized the serious consideration of the revolver as a hunting arm.

This was a major accomplishment.

In 1935, the newly introduced .357 Magnum shattered every existing long-range accuracy record for revolvers. Not inconsiderable was the Magnum’s effect on the handgun marketplace. The introduction of the .357 Magnum—and the deluxe revolvers that chambered it—assured the ascendancy of the revolver for over 50 years. Autoloaders could not compete. We were a nation of revolver men and the Smith and Wesson Magnums were the finest of all revolvers.

Two silver 180-grain Federal Case Core bullets, one new, the other after recovery from ballistic media, on a white background.
These are 180-grain Federal Case Core bullets, one in new condition and the other after recovery from ballistic media. Note the gascheck to prevent gas cutting of the forcing cone and top strap.

Today, we have other Magnums, from the diminutive .17 caliber Magnum to the mighty .500 Magnum. I will not sugar coat the problems inherent in mastering the Magnums and the skills needed. The principles of marksmanship are not so difficult the average shooter cannot master them. When we add bone-jarring recoil to the equation, the problem compounds considerably.

Full power Magnum loads are not pleasant to fire in long sessions. There is muzzle blast as well as recoil. There is no free lunch. These guns and loads really do the business with a good man or woman behind the sights. And, as you should know, you do not have to run the Magnums wide open all of the time. There are ammunition choices that let you to practice with pleasant, even docile, loads. The .38 Special is a great understudy for the .357 Magnum. Since the .357 was developed from the .38 Special by lengthening the .38 Special cartridge case by one-tenth of an inch. .38s are easily loaded and used in the Magnum chamber.

The .357 Magnum cartridge represents a logical progression from the .38 Colt to the .38 Special to the Magnum. The .38 Special was developed into a powerful cartridge by individual handloaders, with a sharp-shouldered, 160-grain SWC loaded to 1200 fps. No factory would offer a loading at such pressures. There were foreign revolvers chambered for the .38 Special that were barely safe for the standard RNL load.

Some are so poorly chambered they will accept the .357 Magnum cartridge. This would be like holding a hand grenade at arm’s length if you were foolish enough to fire this combination. Even the better American grade guns, in light frame versions, would wear quickly with such a loading. However, there was a strong demand for a cartridge with greater velocity, penetration, and killing power than the .38 Special. Smith and Wesson developed the .357 Magnum cartridge by the simple expedient of lengthening the cartridge case one-tenth of an inch. This prevented the cartridge from being chambered in .38 Special revolvers, but allowed the use of inexpensive and readily available .38 Special brass.

When Magnum brass was still hard to come by, shooters used heavy .38 Special loads in the new revolvers, but with confidence. More than one shooter got his first Magnum weeks or months before he could find ammunition. Many early successes were accomplished with loads put up in .38 Special brass.

So much for the current ammunition shortage—it has been worse.

The Ratings

When the first Magnum loads were available, they were rated at 1,550 fps. I think this may be optimistic. I have achieved 1,450 fps from a six-inch barrel with heavy Magnum loads, so perhaps 1,500 fps with the 8 3/8-inch barrel was possible. Whatever the true velocity, the loads were hotter than anything previously offered in a handgun. Factory bullets were not constructed from as hard an alloy as cast bullets and tended to lead the bore badly. You could fire a dozen shots or so before accuracy fell apart. The Magnum was a handloader’s handgun. The first Magnum was a deluxe large frame revolver with a beautiful blue finish, a checkered top strap and barrel rib, a target trigger and hammer, and excellent adjustable sights.

Smith and Wesson could build only 120 a month and demand often outstripped this modest production. Barrel lengths ranged from 3.5 to 8 3/8 inches. As for accuracy, the Model 27 is easily among the most accurate revolvers ever built. With good hand loads, it would group five shots into two inches at 50 yards. With modern high quality jacketed ammunition such as Hornady’s 140-grain XTP, the guns will do the same.

When the first Magnum is considered in the light of over seventy years of experience, we have to consider what the cartridge will and will not do. The .357 has limits. Bore size imposes these limitations. Here is a Magnum with a medium bore although many refer to the .357 as a small bore. To my way of thinking, the .32 is a small bore, but many big bore men do not recognize medium as an acceptable description. The .357 has taken game larger than many think it should be employed against, and on occasion has served to defend its users against large animals such as bears.

Four-inch .357 Magnum with black handle and cartridges showing in a medium tan Taurus holster
A four-inch .357 Magnum and a holster crafted by retired Deputy Chief Michael Taurisano of Taurus holsters. It doesn’t get any better than this.

A realistic limit on the .357 Magnum is 200-pound game at 50 yards. Long barreled Magnums, in good hands, with deep penetrating bullets have taken large bear and even elk and moose. However, respect for the laws of physics tells us this is too large an animal for the .357 Magnum cartridge. The advantage of the .357 is that most of us can tolerate its recoil well even in lightweight revolvers. It is a fine deer load in the hands of one who has mastered the cartridge. Properly placed, the original Keith load or a modern 180-grain hollow point can be effective. Against javelina, coyote and the like, the 125- to 140-grain hollow points are quite effective.

There are those who scoff at the .357 for large deer, and their points are well taken. The larger guns are doubtless more effective. However, for any shooter, regardless of his opinion, the .357 Magnum is the place to start in the Magnum hierarchy. The .357 is the training tool needed to master the larger guns. If you cannot master the nuances of handloading, marksmanship and game taking with the .357, you will have no chance with the .44 Magnum.

In the field, in self-defense and in police work, the .357 Magnum is legendary. Even with the original load, the Magnum proved a good man stopper. In contrast, the .38 Special round-nose bullet load once issued to peace officers produced a cessation of hostilities about one time in four with a solid hit. This is a widowmaker cartridge, and the smaller cartridges are even worse. The Magnum is not just a little more effective, but several times as effective.

Young woman in a yellow-and-white stripped sweater shooting a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum with green dividers and autumn foliage behind her.
This young lady is enjoying firing the Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum.

I have looked over both ends of a gun barrel in my lifetime, and the Magnum produces rapid effect on target and a more severe wound than even the .45 auto. The semi-auto is easier to control and has many advantages, including good effect on motivated adversaries. Nevertheless, the Magnum has more wound potential. Many who used the .357 Magnum in the wild and killed animals as dangerous as Jaguars remarked that as far as killing power at short range, the Magnum was a ‘rifle on the hip.’

The .357 Magnum is available in a wide array of configurations, from two-inch barrel hideouts to hunting handguns featuring twelve-inch long barrels. Incredibly, the cartridge works well in all barrel lengths and generally gives good accuracy. The Magnum has waned in the hunting field and is primarily now considered a self-defense cartridge. After all, we have the .44 Magnum for hunting animals. Nevertheless, the first Magnum will always have a place in our heart and our deepest respect.

There are several class of loads available for the modern .357 Magnum revolver. As an example Buffalo Bore offers a Tactical line of loadings, intended for personal defense, that are sensibly less hot than the full power loads the company offers for hunting. The 125-grain Barnes bullet load in particular is an excellent choice for personal defense, brilliantly accurate. For deer-sized game at closer range the 158-grain JHP loads are acceptable. Among the best heavy hunting loads are those specialty loads that feature a 180-grain heavy cast bullet. There is no shortage of choice in the .357 Magnum and these choices range from mild to wild. The .357 Magnum is a great cartridge with an impeccable lineage.

What do you think about the .357 Magnum? Share your thoughts in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (45)

  1. I have long been a fan of the .357 Magnum, and have been loading for the cartridge since my first “N” frame Smith back in 1965. I carried one on my belt as a condition of my employment for many years. I have used the .357 for hinting everything from ground squirrels to moose.

    Over the years, I have seen .357 magnum (factory) ammunition on the declining spiral to mediocrity. The upper end loadings fall into the category of the mid range loads from the old loading manuals.

    This is the result of the proliferation of light frame guns. In it’s original configuration, a 158 gr. SWC, at 1550 fps, the .357 was adequate for anything in North America. That loading was not the the upper end, Paco Kelly cites loads for “N” frame S&W, and Ruger Balckhawks that surpass the 1500 fps mark, using the Keith 170 gr. bullet.

    If you want a magnum that does everything from indoor target shooting to hunting big game, my older brother killed a very large Kodiak brown bear with one, the .357 is still a good choice, but you will need a large frame gun from S&W, Ruger, Freedom Arms, etc. And you will have to “roll your own”. .

  2. 140 grain hp’s at 1500 – 1600 fps sounds devastating. I’m surprised this weight isn’t more popular considering everyone overreaction to flame cutting and forcing cone erosion with the 125 grain bullets.

  3. ” Probably the man who understood magnum handguns more than anyone looked at the 357 and then began juicing up the 44 special.”

    I’m assuming that you’re talking about Elmer Keith, Elmer. If so, this comment is incorrect, as Elmer Keith (along with Phil Sharpe) was also heavily involved in developing what would become the .357 Magnum.

  4. Nice article, and very true. Although I have to wonder why in an article about .357 Magnums, there is no mention of the Desert Eagle. My first .357 Magnum was a Ruger stainless steel Security Six with a 6 inch barrel. It was actually my first handgun and I loved it. It was accurate and fun to shoot. I sold it to a good friend many years ago. Since then I have owned S&W .357s and shot the beautiful Colt Python, but nothing comes close to my Desert Eagle for accuracy and comfort when shooting. I have a .357 Magnum and a .44 Magnum, and they are amazing pieces of machinery. Accurate, comfortable, and reliable. So, if you have Magnumitis, don’t forget the Desert eagle.

  5. In regard to Scott’s experience with Rhino’s recoil and muzzle flash, an instructor at the gun shop/range where my daughter & I became familiar with it, made mention of these characteristics. I received the Rhino only today and haven’t confirmed his suggestion to use ammo designed for short barrel self defense. Buffalo Bore and CTD have such a round. I’ll receive them Monday. But I’m interested seeing how my daughter and 100 rounds of 38 range ammo might fare with regard to recoil? My WWII, Korean, Viet Nam Veteran Father suggested a relaxed posture when firing a pistol; tight grip but let the elbow and shoulder share the impact. He and I held marksman ribbons for pistol. After reading Scott’s experience, I’m some what concerned it may not be the best choice for her first weapon even though she seemed OK at 12 rounds. The Rhino/Jerry Miculek video was very informative.

  6. I love the magnums. My first deer at age 15 was with a 44 magnum at 133 yard. When I got out of the Active Army I bought my first .357 S&W. I recently bought the Chiappa Rhino .357 for concealed carry. The Rhino is an incredible pistol, I thought it was going to kick b/c of the 2inch barrel but it kicked considerably less than my 4inch S&W. I even let my NCO from the Guard shoot it even though She had never shot a pistol before that day, she had no problems with the 165 grain JHP. The grouping at 15 yards was identical to the S&W and the rapid fire grouping was much better with the Rhino at 15yrds. The only problem I had was the gun instead of kicking up, it kicked straight into the web of your hand and after a few shots it started to hurt. Also with its 2 inch barrel it is one of the loudest pistols I’ve ever shot, with large flame from the muzzle. I definitely recommend this .357 for concealed carry. It may not be for everyone but I really like it.

  7. As an ex-FBI Agent, Police Officer & Military Intel Spcl OPS Officer I’ve carried many handguns. The S&W Model 19 LEO version was a favorite for plain-clothes carry though the wood grips would tear-up your hands after 18 to 24 rounds of .357 magnum firing. However, it was accurate & one of the best weapons I ever carried. A .357 is a penetration/shock round that has a one-round “knockdown” capability. So does the .45Auto in spades. In Korea we used .357magnum rounds to penetrate North Korean Body Armor, something a .45Auto cannot do. But the .45 WILL knock a subject down. Today a .357 cannot penetrate a Class IIA Armored Vest, a .357Sig can.(but the Sig cannot defeat a Class IIIA Vest). Also, the .357Sig is a smaller bullet being pushed @ much higher chamber pressure. My “Rule-of-Thumb” has been (generally) for close-in fighting (Home) a .45,.38+P Self-Defense (Buffalo Bore has some great stuff)OR if you have kids in other rooms frangible rounds. When “Out & About”, .45+P/.357 for Winter to penetrate thick clothing but always remember what is behind what you are shooting at! If a novice, then reduce your loadings “in-caliber” or even go to frangible ammo or go to a smaller cartridge such as .38 or 9mm where you can still get effective rounds with modern ammo now. Most gun-fights occur within 7 yards, and of that even closer. So well-placed “Shock & Awe” shots decide the fight in seconds.
    Given that, If you cannot control a .357 but can a .38, then USE THE .38! If you can’t hit what you need to hit then the firepower of a .357 is useless and you will be dead! Use what works for YOU and TRAIN with it (I mean the full-power loads!).
    Have a Nice & Peaceful Day!

    However, the .357 has been proven to be at least an equal to a .45 in man-stopper power, but its drawback (in the Military) is in its Revolver design and lack of more than 5 to 7 rounds & handy reload (hence the attempt to bridge that with the .357Sig Auto Pistol which has not caught-on with the U.S. Military.)

  8. Great article and comments. My first gun a few years back was an S&W 686P, 4″, for exactly some of the reasons described here. While practicing with .38 is cheaper and more forgiving (and magnum rounds are not allowed at my range:( ), I have never felt the .357 to be all that overbearing. It’s great to have such a versatile gun that can handle either round. Revolvers are great for beginners, as malfunctions are essentially non-existent. I have since bought a Chiappa Rhino, 2″ for concealed carry with this round. The Rhino’s barrel placement helps out with recoil.

    God Bless the folks who love this country and fight to do the right thing for it. I think that includes most on this board.

  9. @Nick comment #28 – There are many ‘erroneous’ statements in many of these comments, such as “absolute stopping power,” but your assertion that the “.44 Magnum is essentially a .45 magnum since it shoots a .45 cal bullet” is grossly incorrect. The .44 mag is not even a .43 caliber, just slightly larger than a 10mm (10.9mm), let alone .45. The .44 mag bullet is .429″ and the .45 is either .451″ or .452″.

    For those with any idea that there is some magical ‘one shot stopper’ our there, consider that even the best on the ‘Hatcher’ scale rate up to perhaps 90%:

  10. when my brother came home with a super Blackhawk, I had to shoot it. It was too much gun for me at the time, but I fell in love and knew I had to get one. A few years later when I was of age to buy my own pistol I came across a great deal on a blued security-six with a 6″ barrel. Remembering my experience with the 44, I decided to start with it. I have never regretted my decision. I shot it all the time, becoming very proficient at hitting almost anything baseball sized out to @50 yards offhand, smaller or farther if I had a rest. The gun was lost when my parent’s house was robbed. For about 15 years I didn’t find another one like it. Any I found were 2′,4′ or 12′. Then walking through a gun show I saw one just like my old one.. After a lot of story swapping and a little bit of haggling, I got it. I went striate to the woods to try it out. It was like being reunited with a long lost friend. In the 16 or so years since, I have taken 4 deer, a bobcat, many rattlers and moccasins, and defended myself from a small pack of feral dogs. I own several other pistols, but my security-six will always be my favorite.

  11. My Ruger SP-101 in .357 is my summer carry without exception. In the winter when I can hide all sorts of things under my jacket, that’s another story. But when it has to be small, the .357 snubby is my gun of choice.

  12. Sorry guys, but the author is correct. Glass checks do stop gas cutting and leading. Gas cutting is the damage to the base of the bullet as the bullet runs through the forcing cone. Which is the main cause of leading. The damage to the top strap is called flame cutting. It is the result of the high pressure and heat after the bullet has started into the barrel after the pass through the forcing cone. This is the highest point of pressure after initial firing and can only be controlled by the cylinder gap and low velocity loads. I have seen many 22 revolvers with bad flame cutting due to sloppy cylinder gaps.

  13. I have 3 357’s 6″ruger gp100 is my favorite, as it fires any load beautiful, and my favorite load is the Winchester silver tip. as a average shooter I can really get some accurate hits on the target. this is without turning my hand red. my ruger snub sp101 really has a jolt, and I prefer to use 38+p in it. the 6 1/2 Blackhawk is just fun to shoot with anything in it, but tiresome to keep loading. I have had my rugers for over 18 years, and there as good as when I first got them

  14. Strange CTD should publish this article the day after I purchase the Chiappa 20DS .357magnum revolver. I’ve been a .45ACP user for decades and had never fired a revolver larger than .32cal.. I was very impressed with the Chiappa design and performance. My Daughter and Son-in-Law put a box of .38’s though the 6″ model; me included. My Daughter can’t chamber my XDm 3.8 .45cal so we set out to try revolvers to satisfy her desire for a CHL. If she cares to become proficient with this model, I may take advantage of another good deal on the 40DS model from CTD; otherwise I’ll have two concealed carries. With regard to the premise of this article and many of the comments suggesting the over powered magnum, I did purchase Buffalo Bore Tactical Short Barrel JHP to satisfy a lesser need for defense and sill utilize the magnum at a reduced 1100fps.

  15. It has been my experience and training, that magnums are not a good choice, for self defense. As an NRA Pistol Trainer, although I bought my wife a SS Ruger GP 100 5 shot .357 Mag., I have only encouraged her to shoot .38 Police+P+ Hydra shock rounds in it, as the magnum round is over powered, for it’s size and could lead to over penetration, that could result in an innocent victim being injured or killed, by accident.
    Remember, that You are Responsible for whatever damage that round does, once it leaves your barrel, whether intentional or not. A .357 tends to shoot Through a person, unless it encounters solid bone. Thus, an attempt to shoot to center mass, could, inadvertently lead to the person Behind your target being shot, as well, unless it lodges in the spine. On the other hand, a slower moving larger diameter bullet has more knock down power. I choose a M1911A1 .45 ACP, for my favorite self defense weapon, even though my S&W M&P 9mm holds many more rounds. I simply Carry more magazines ;~)
    The .45 ACP is the preferred side arm of both the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team as well as out military’s Special Operations Groups… All folks who should be expected to Know what they’re doing, better than most of the rest of us. The military’s switch to the 9mm cartridge, to become compatible with other NATO countries has left our soldiers, in combat, in some serious difficulties, when under attack, by Jihadists seeking ‘Martyrdom’, just as it did, our fore fathers, who when confronted by attacking Moro Tribesmen (Muslims)in the Philippines, couldn’t stop them with their issue .38 cal. side arms. Which led to the adoption of the M1911A1, in the first place.
    I won’t speak to handgun hunting with the cartridge, as it’s another topic, requiring additional expertise.

  16. Mr Russell. The .44 Magnum is essentially a .45 magnum since it shoots a .45 cal bullet. If you wan’t .44 Mag power in a 1911 check out the .460 Rowland cartridge. — As for what I think of the .357 magnum- it’s fine, but you might as well go for the .44 Magnum- I prefer it.

  17. I own a Ruger New BlackHawk manufactured with the interchangeable .357 and .9mm cylinders. I believe this is referred to as The Liberty Model. It is blued with a 6″ barrel. I also own a Taurus .357 Magnum, standard 4″ barrel, blued. I have never put a round down range with the Taurus. It is my tactical vest back-up weapon. As for the Ruger, that is another story. It eats any rounds you place in the chamber,
    re-load or factory, .38 or .357 Magnum. It is a joy to fire and damn accurate, too. I have not fired any .9mm loads using the interchangeable cylinder yet. I understand it is just as accurate, though. For side arm carry or concealment/personal protection, the .38 Special or .357 Magnum is a reliable round. We also carried the S&W Model 15 Combat Masterpiece .38 Special in the Air Force Security Police until the Baretta came along. It too, was a fine weapon. I wish they would have allowed the military members to purchase their duty weapon rather than giving them to a foreign country as a military surplus buy only to use them against us somewhere down the road.

  18. All a Magnum is extra ie little more powder for extra pressure and what really effects the accuracy is quality of gun and the length of that barrel.,but in my opinion NOTHING on earth has ever pumped the Magnum up as much as: “GO AHEAD MAKE MY DAY” …Oh yeah DIRTY HARRY and that beast .44 magnum that is the ICON of Magnums? Sales skyrocketed after that and for the .357 again movie THE ENFORCER! Name alone sounds like utter BAD A@@ in a handgun period? I wish they had made a .45 Magnum just for sake that a .45 has such knock down power and perfect defense round?

  19. In 1972 I received a S&W Model 19 6″ Barrel and Model 29 with the same. I shoot Both every week with full Magnum loads. I am 5’7′ and I have NO PROBLEM shooting a Magnum Load. I have recently discovered the .22 Magnum and I LOVE IT for small game. I just bought a Ruger SP-101 2″ as my canceled carry with .357 Hydro Shock. After 1 shot if he is still standing, he is NOT of this Earth! As far as the*^%@# 9mm load, I’ve seen 9’s bounce off of screen doors.

  20. The .357 and Ruger. As the author might say, it doesn’t get any better than that! My first Ruger, I still have, was the old ‘three screw’ .357, given to me by my excellent to my needs wife;) Bear with me, as I always want to relate my “Ruger” story. Back when Bill Ruger was still alive and kicking, my son was carrying his .357 Ruger in a holster as he and his cousin were hunting in the woods and subsequently fell into a stream they were crossing. Being young enough not to understand that getting that gun and holster wet and leaving the gun in it was not the thing to do, the barrel and cylinder became etched by the chemicals still present in the holster. At the time, you could have the gun re-blued by Ruger for $25! We sent the gun to Ruger, but instead of simply refinishing the piece, they determined that the barrel displayed sufficient throat erosion that it should be replaced. That gun had been through thousands of ‘hot stuff’ rounds. Long story, short, Ruger replaced the barrel, barrel shroud, and refinished the cylinder all at NO CHARGE – essentially we were returned an almost new piece! Unlike many manufacturers, it was not a long wait in having our gun returned. Needless o say, Ruger is #1 with us in the gun making business, and we own enough examples of their products, including rifles, that we should be considered partners.

    One or two comments regarding the .357 as some “ultimate” attack stopper. A highway patrolman was recently killed after putting four rounds into the chest of his assailant with his .357. He was killed because he took a single round under his armpit, the area his bulletproof vest did not cover. Said that to say that the FBI recommendation for a ‘self defense’ caliber states that any caliber is fine as long as it starts with a 4! Even then, anyone thinking that your ‘magnum’ hand cannon is a “one shot” stopper needs to rethink that. An old Marine SgtMaj once said that the hardest thing to get through to those not having been in combat was for them to understand and NOT be surprised to see someone they had just shot NOT fall over, like in the movies, but continue to fog rounds in their direction – and those guys are using rifles!! The human body is a marvel in sustainability; if your assailant is not hit in one of the immediate ‘stoppage’ areas, the heart – resulting in immediate blood pressure drop, the spine, or the brain-housing-group, you best be aware that the assault might just NOT stop! Read up on the worst shootout in FBI history, the Florida case, the two guys in that car were shot to doll rags before it was over and FBI agents were dead and wounded all around. Just recently, an Atlanta woman and her children were fortunate to live, after she shot some intruder five times, missed him once, with her .38 revolver and the guy still managed to walk outside to his truck…. his last request to the woman was “don’t shoot me anymore.” To point out that he still might have killed them, his being armed or not, is evident.

    My personal ‘carry gun’ is a Glock 29 w/Speer 180 GDHP that chrono 1200+fps in a 15 rd mag – groups under 2″ @25 yds. That load, in a 6″ barrel makes 1350 and over 728 fpe! Best advice is never underestimate the capabilities of your assailant or ‘overestimate’ yours!

  21. Although I have several semi-autos, I have only owned two revolvers in my life. One was a Taurus .38 which I never really liked and only kept for about 18 months. The other was my favorite firearm ever, but at the time I failed to realize it. It was a Blued Ruger Security Six. Now keep in mind that I owned this gun back in the ’80s, in California, before the all the gun-control craziness really took effect. Anyway without a carry permit in those days, I always transported it legally, and was it fun to shoot. In the woods, in the desert, at the range. At one point I bought into the Glock revolution, and went 9mm. My favorite semi is my current S&W, but Several firearms and many years later, that .357 still remains my All-time favorite. Live and learn.

  22. I carried a S&W model 19 and later, a S&W 686 during my first 20 years in law enforcement. Both were excellent pistols, the latter really being nice due to the weighted barrel. I still prefer a revolver over a semi-auto, even though I own both. The 38/357 are great rounds…

  23. I really enjoyed this article and some of the comments! I have been a huge fan and advocate of the .357 MAG round for almost 30 years. Although I carried a Colt Gold Cup 1911A1 .45 ACP as a main gun for 25 years, I was always impressed with the accuracy and raw power of my Smith & Wesson 19-5. I had purchased the S&W after firing a friend’s Ruger Security-6. The accuracy of his pistol was uncanny. I thought that the length of the barrel was determining amazing shot groups. So, when I was unable to get a Ruger Security-6 locally, I opted for the S&W 19 with an identical 5 inch barrel. Unknown to me at the time was that a gunsmith had worked on the Ruger. I was a little disappointed that I could not shoot as well with the Model 19-5 as with the Security-6, but I kept the Smith & Wesson anyway. I did eventually get a Security-6, but it has a 2.5 inch barrel, so I did not even attempt longer range targets. The recoil is fine for such a short barrel. I assume that the Ruger GP-100 had improvements over the Security-6 as the latter is no longer in production. I have been tempted to buy a Ruger LCR in .357 MAG, but am somewhat leery of the recoil. I have nerve damage in my neck from a parachute accident in the Army and consequently, I experience some numbness in both hands. I really like the feel of the LCR and the size is great for concealed carry. However, I am reluctant to invest in a weapon that may be difficult to engage multiple targets with. I am grateful for the input on this site.

  24. I must disagree with author’s assertion that until one has mastered the .357 magnum they are unlikely to have success with the large bore magnum’s such as the .44 magnum. I have a GP100 with a 4″ barrel and when shooting my max pressure hand loads, it is much more difficult to handle than a hot loaded large frame .44 mag. In my experience the large frame magnums do a great deal to tame recoil, something that the .357 rarely benefits from. Practicing with my .357 improves my accuracy with all of my other handguns (.45, .40, & 9mm) because by comparison my 9mm recoils like a .22. I find that my recoil management and basic marksmanship improve which then translates to the lighter calibers.

  25. I agree with Elmer’s comment. A true magnum is my Stainless Ruger Super Redhawk 44 magnum with 7.5 inch barrel, which is like a masterpiece gun to me. If I need to dial it down I load 44 special hollow points.

    Besides being a beautiful gun, it shoots the pants off my 9mm and 10mm.

  26. I have had a Python for about 30 years now. I live on a ranch and it is my working gun. It was sent to the factory in ’78 to have a factory tune and the factory tune provided subtle but noticeable improvement in the trigger pull and accuracy. When I was a hunter, the gun pulled down every large game in Texas and not a few hogs. It is my favorite everday and I cannot say enough good about the caliber in all it’s configurations.

  27. I owned a Taurus .357 and about 10 years ago took an 8pt. 180lb white tail at about 40yds with a perfect heart shot using 158gr hollow Pts.
    The deer bucked and ran…it dropped about 40 yds away. A .357 is sufficient from 40yds and in…I would go out no further!
    Now I use a .460xvr for white tail hunting and have dropped them in there tracks with a mis-hit from just beyond 60 yds.
    So tho a .357 may be more accurate use a shooting stick and go with a higher bore for longer range shooting!

  28. I shot my first .357 Mag at 8. My fathers duty revolver. It’s by far my favorite cal. to plink or carry. I still like my .44 Mag and .460 Mag, but the . 357 is and always my first choice.

  29. The .357 is a fine caliber and love the fact the .38 special can be fired in it
    making it more versatile , Much like the .22 with short or long rife. Own a stainless
    long barreled security six which has dispatched many varmints. The only thing ( In my H/O ) is there is something about the sound. It has a high frequency discharge?
    In other words it is LOUD!!! The kind that really hurts! Now at the range no problem with muffs. But in the field ouch! Also own a model 29 Smith & Wesson where as the .44
    reminds me more of the deep BOOM of a shot gun A lot nicer on the ears. But then again just my humble opinion 😉

  30. I obtained a Model 19 Smith and Wesson .357 from an LEO who was issued it as standard carry. In 1985 it became part of my collection when my house was broken into and the County police went semi-auto pistols. It then became home defense and I carried with a permit. Some may call this a hand cannon and careful use could see car engines stopped with well placed shots. Even a Dirty Harry movie focused on rogue cops using the .357 to take out bad guys. This is an icon to many and I’ve been offered over $700 at the range when people see it. The wood grips, blued barrel and size intimidated anyone having to face it. Shooting it is a trip, and yes it has some kick. I also practice with a Beretta Storm 45acp, and it is tame in comparison to the Model 19. Of course, a six shot revolver is no match for high capacity pistols, but it’s force is a constant. It’s firepower gives it great dimension. I almost got a colt Python, but once I picked the .357 up, it was a formed fit for my large hands. It carries best in a shoulder holster, but waist or hip carriers work too. These guns will last and be a part of Smith an Wesson history. Everyone should shoot one to feel the “shock and awe” of a .357 magnum!

  31. I have 4 of them, this is the cartridge I enjoy shooting the most, Being a hand loader, they are quick and easy to load, My Colt Python with 8″ Barrel is the most accurate handgun I own, I have 2 more handguns in 357, a Smith and a Taurus, both shoot great but nothing like my Python, I have just purchased a Henry Big Boy in 357, I haven’t shot it yet but I am anxious to do so, from the numbers, I think I can make a load that will out perform a 30-30 for deer hunting, I have a lot of guns, and if I had to get rid of all calibers except one, I would keep my 357 magnums.

  32. I have a large hand and can handle magnum loads fairly easy . I acquired two Colt Pythons way back in the day brand new. A six inch and 4 inch. 1970’s production. I took a peek at gun broker just for the hell of it and I was surprised to see what there selling for. I only have one box the other got tossed for no reason. I have shot them both maybe 100 rounds, not much but would carry the 4 inch on Coyote (used a 30-06 rifle) hunts in a custom leather holster that was made by an Gentleman in San Diego who made custom leather holsters. Sadly he has passed away several years ago. I had to send my 4 inch to Colt to have it re-blued since the end of the barrel bluing was showing some wear and also to tune it up. took six months to finally got it back. Looks beautiful. Funny, when you have something like this at the range people want to look and hold it. I was shocked to see you can not buy in in Calif. I’m moving to the lone star state next year. Had enough of the Bull- s&*%t

  33. If gas checks prevented gas cutting into the top strap, revolvers shooting only jacketed bullets would exhibit no flame cutting at all. We all know that simply is not true.

    I hope the young lady in the picture gets some competent instruction as some point and gives up that ridiculous stance.

    A 357 is certainly better than a 32 ACP, but comparing it to a ‘rifle on a hip’ is a little preposterous. Even the geriatric and plodding 30-30 shames the 357 when an honest look at ballistics is involved. Probably the man who understood magnum handguns more than anyone looked at the 357 and then began juicing up the 44 special. Bill Jordan wanted a 41.

  34. I use a Ruger 357 LCR (snub nose) as a carry. It is loaded with a 158g self defense load. People are always amazed at a few things. 1) how light and small it is for a revolver. 2) the noise. At an indoor range I will practice with 38’s but when I fire the 357 everyone stops to see what I’m shooting. 3. Muzzel blast. It will shoot flames at least 2 feet. Cool factor. 4. Painful to shoot! This is a short distance center of mass weapon. Anything beyond that will take considerable discipline. Someone told me if i missed the sound and blast would scare them into running or freezing for a second shot. I want maximum stopping power with the littlest weight and profile. If I ever have to use it I don’t want to worry about shot placement. That’s the benefit of a Magnum.

  35. My old man started me off into handguns at about 10 years old on a pair of 6″ S&W 357s… one a highway patrolman which now resides with my older brother and 19-2 which has found a home in my safe. Most of our shooting was with lightweight 38 plinking rounds my dad would load up. The problem is my older (5 years) brother was already into the 357 magnum loads and as his younger brother, I’d want to do everything he did. I can remember the sinking feeling I felt as my dad agreed to allow me to try a 357 at about 12 or so… I was talking bigger than my confidence! But my dad had a way about him that gave me the confidence to do it any way. I hit the pop can I was aiming at (a bit of luck there… 12 years old + 1st 357 + pop can + 20 yards = a little bit of luck). 26 years later, although I have upped my woods sidearm to a Ruger Redhawk 44mag, the 357 is still my all time favorite revolver cartridge. In addition to that old 19-2, I also keep a 6″ Ruger GP100 and a 3″ SP101. I’m not sure dad would be disappointed in my love for Rugers or not, but he’s be smiling that the 357 is still tops in my book!

  36. GREAT article! I shot a S&W 686 w/6″ barrel & Pachmayr grips back in the early 90’s belonging to a co-worker. Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to acquire one exactly like it, and FINALLY earlier this year I did. I have several handguns of different calibers, and my 686 is by far my favorite to shoot too this day. Although not as light as most of my others, I feel the added weight assists in controlling the felt recoil. I have since purchased a Taurus in mint condition, and am looking forward to seeing how it handles compared to the 686.

  37. I have owned several Ruger Security Six’s and I can’t imagine any better .357 on the market. They can take loads that I wouldn’t put in any other 357. I am a big fan of the .357 Mag. it’s a great round and no problem using it as a primary self defense round.

  38. While I am still learning a lot since I am retired where I can focus on fun stuff rather than work related stuff. I have owned a Ruger Blackhawk for decades, and have just learned that my pistol is capable of shooting accurately out over 100+ yards.

    Found the post extremely interesting and will be reading it again and again.

    Keep the good posts coming.

  39. I love the 357 magnum, one of the finest calibers in existence. It is a versatile handgun, going form tame low power .38’s all the way up to hot load magnum rounds, giving the shooter the power or lack thereof during training and plinking. From those who prefer low power and flash to those who want absolute stopping power in a handgun, it is the choice for versatility.

    I have to disagree on the point of full power magnum rounds being too much to handle. I’ve shot a large frame, 6 1/2 inch barrel revolver, and a lot of it, with full charge rounds, and I have never found it to be unpleasant or difficult to control. Certainly the medium frame revolvers, and with 4 inch barrels, must find it much harder, and using full charge rounds in snub nosed revolvers must be almost unadviseable. In the proper, full size and weight revolver, the full magnum rounds can be handled with ease, to devastating effect, and with incredible accuracy.

    I also purchased a Winchester 94AE in 357, with the 18 inch barrel doubling the power of any 38 or 357 magnum rounds from a 4 inch barrel. The rifle is quite incredible, reaching power about equal to a 223 Remington, with a much larger and flatter bullet, doing much greater short range destruction. With the added energy from the barrel, it is more than enough gun to take full size deer up to 100 yards, with careful placement of course. The rifle gives incredible lethality in short range hunting, with almost no recoil and very little report. Almost a big 22lr.

    Its a fantastic cartridge, offering a powerful, medium game hunting rifle in a carbine, and dangerous self defense handgun. Wither plinking or hunting, or self defense, at the price you pay you certainly gain the performance, and options, for your money.

  40. Merle, you are absolutely correct on the function of a gas check. I can’t imagine where the writer got the idea that the gas check protects the firearm in any way.
    I’ve owned three S&W K-frames over the years; two Model 19’s (2 1/2″, and 6″) and one Model 66 (4″). I took a Mule deer with the 6″ when I couldn’t get to my back-slung rifle in time. That deer didn’t even take one step, just crumpled.

  41. I had always understood that the gas check was for preventing the bullet base from melting & not for preventing gas cutting. I know you can get higher velocities (without leading) from a gas check bullet, so I am inclined to believe that this is the intended function.


  42. Got my Ruger GP-100 .357 in stainless with a 6″ barrel about 20 years ago. After a few warm-up shots I thumb-tacked a paper plate to the target board. Using a rest, at my first shot the paper plate fell to the ground. Thinking I hadn’t fastened the plate properly I went to pick it up. On inspection, where the thumb tack had been was a .357-sized hole. That gun has not disappointed me since.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading