MYTH BUSTED! No Reason for .357 Magnum Snubnose Revolvers? NOT SO, Says Luckygunner Test

We’ve all heard that one before, right? “There’s no point to the .357 Magnum in a snubnosed revolver, from a barrel that short you might as well carry a .38.” Well, thanks some some exhaustive testing by Chris Baker and the LuckyGunner Labs team, turns out that’s not really true.

As part of his ongoing clear gel testing of different small arms ammunition for the LuckyGunner ammunition store and its sister blog, Chris collected 38 different kinds of .38 Special and .357 Magnum ammunition, and shot them into denim-covered gel from two different length barrels: a 4.2″ Ruger GP-100, and a 2″ Kimber K6s snubbie. The results were pretty eye-opening: Out of the 18 .38 Special rounds tested, only 4 met FBI standards for penetration with expansion in 5 out of 5 bullets, and only 3 of those four gave the generally recommended 150% expanded diameter. The .357 Magnum was a different story altogether: 14 of the 20 loads met FBI standards with 5 out of 5 expansion, and 9 of those loads gave the recommended 150% expanded diameter.

This means that the .357 Magnum snubnose gives its owner 4-4.5 times the choice of suitable defensive ammunition that the .38 only revolver gives! That’s a pretty big difference!

Why did the .357 Magnum perform so much more consistently? Simply, it has more energy available to force the bullet to expand greatly while still penetrating to the minimum FBI diameter. I cover the mechanics behind this in two previous posts: Ballistics 201: Introducing a New Way of Thinking About Terminal Effectiveness – Force, Energy, and Work, and Ballistics 201: Introducing a New Way of Thinking About Terminal Effectiveness – The Energy Budget.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • Jack Burton

    I still value my hearing far too much to be interested though.

    • Calavera

      True that. The .357 exhibits a spectacular spike in decibel levels, overwhelming the best of hearing protection. I lost my hearing to the .357 years ago, but it’s not a totally silent world. What’s worse is the nerve damage, resulting in tinnitus. The chirps, whistles, and beeps make it all but impossible to sleep at night.

      • Hoplopfheil

        Tinnitus sucks.

        • iksnilol

          No it doesn’t. Rings, whooshes, but no sucking.

          • Dougscamo

            Rings like a motherf….rings bad….
            Tell me why it stops when I’m wearing hearing aids Bill Nye….
            Check your answer tonight after I get back from the range….

          • iksnilol

            So ear aids stop the ringing for you ?

            Nice! 😀

          • Dougscamo

            Very nice indeed!

          • Calavera

            Auditory hallucinations. Something to look forward to in your old age: the ringing stops because the brain tunes it out to concentrate on the amplified sound provided by the aids. In the elderly with profound hearing loss, the brain “creates” sounds absent due to hearing loss. In my mother’s case (she’s nearly deaf), she occasionally hears the soft sound of a radio quietly playing in the distance, or a just barely audible opera or barbershop quartet. Never “alone” indeed.

          • Dougscamo

            Heck…according to my kids I’m already in old age! Had tinnitus since the 60’s and no end in sight….too many 12 ga rounds before someone figured out that hearing protection was a good idea for civilians…

          • adverse4

            I don’t feel so alone with ringing in my ears.

          • retfed

            You too, huh?
            When I told my wife about the constant humming in my ears, she said, “You’re never alone when you have a hum.”
            I told her she’d be an idiot savant if she was a savant.
            Married life is fun.

        • mazkact


          • Hoplopfheil

            I have a single note in my right ear, and a full chord in the left.

  • Major Tom

    I value being able to hit something on the other side of a room. Snubbies have really low range and accuracy.

    • ARCNA442

      They really don’t lack either range or accuracy. From a 2″ barrel, .357Mag comes close to the velocity of a 9×19 from a 4″ barrel and their mechanical accuracy is generally equal to that of any other revolver.

      Where they fall short is shootability because of their small size and lacking sights (perhaps someone should try milling one for a micro red dot?).

      • Anonymoose

        And the light weight (at least with scandium, aluminum, and polymer revolvers) and stubby/undersized grips don’t help either. You could get one of those new 3″ M66s and put a Weig-a-tinny scope mount on it and a Aimpoint Micro or RMR if you wanted a shootable snubby .357 with a red dot.

        • FWIW: The “International Long Range Pistol Shooters Association” in the UK used to have a Long Range Pocket Pistol division. This had stages at 100 and 200 yards. The rules originally allowed barrels up to 3.5 inches, but this was apparently reduced to 2 inches for revolvers at a later date. However, the rules provided quite a bit of leeway in other modifications. This resulted in the creation of monstrosities such as the modified Colt New Service seen below.

          The United States Revolver Association (USRA) used to have Pocket Pistol events, but it allowed for barrels up to 4 inches. This was later
          extended to 4.5 inches to allow for the use of handguns like the Colt
          M1903 Pocket Hammer. They did at least restrict the overall weight to 32 ounces with a minimum caliber of .32, and the sights had to be
          rounded so they would not “interfere with quick drawing.” Match O
          required five shots on a target at 20 yards in 30 seconds. This was
          repeated until 25 shots were fired. Match F required five shots on a
          target at 50 yards in 30 seconds. Again, this was repeated until 25
          shots were fired.

      • gunsandrockets

        Laser sights good too.

    • DIR911911 .

      tell that to my s&w 686 2 1/2 inch , headshots @25 yards all day long

    • retfed

      I beg to differ.
      In the earlier part of my career, our only authorized weapons were two-inch to four-inch revolvers. I have seen more than one agent shoot a perfect 250 on a 50-round qualification course (1.5 to 25 yards, timed) with a two-inch Model 37. I myself once shot a 248 with a Model 640 using full-house 125-grain .357s (my personal best with that gun). If we’re talking about short-barreled full-size revolvers, I once shot a perfect 300 on a 60-round qualification course (1.5 to 25 yards,timed) with a 3-inch Ruger Speed-Six (fixed sights), with 125-grain .357s. I’ve seen several other people do the same thing, with both fixed-sight Rugers and 3-inch Model 65s.
      Well-made short-barreled revolvers are more accurate than the people who shoot them.

      • TJbrena

        Generally speaking, guns of any type are usually going to be more accurate than the shooter.

        • retfed

          Yeah, but so many people don’t believe it about short-barreled revolvers.

      • sthomper


    • trjnsd

      Not if you practice! I carried a Smith M60 as a back-up and regularly qualified with it, including 25 yard shots. My favorite was a Smith M66 2 1/2 inch .357. I shot it as well as my duty 4″ model. Most revolvers are more accurate than the shooter. Our RangeMaster was fond of taking a Model 10 away from a rookie who complained about the “not shooting right” issued revolver and hitting centers with the same gun, while holding it upside-down and pulling the trigger with his pinky finger! its all in the sight alignment and trigger press; and practice, practice, practice!

    • Don Ward
  • In the world of defense, no matter what you use, energy is king. The harder you hit with a baseball bat, the more damage you do. The harder you hit with a bullet, the more damage it does.

    It’s all physics, but at the end of the day, we be squishy, and the harder you hit us, the less likely we are to want to keep going after you.

    Someday, hopefully we’ll get to a point where self defense tools are able to leverage different effects for defense, like disrupting the central nervous system sufficiently to cause unconsciousness, or messing with the inner ear to cause instant nausea, vertigo, etc. without the need to inflict permanent damage.

    So far, we’ve managed to come up with not-so-effective systems like tasers and chemical agents, at least in small, concealable, man-portable systems. But, as a sci-fi nerd, I can dream.

    • I should also say, this is why I enjoy shooting the .45 ACP, the 10mm, the .45 super, the .460 rowland, 9×23, etc. Well, maybe not *enjoy* so much as the calibers and playing around with them fascinates me.

      I’m very intrigued by playing with physics.

    • A.WChuck

      I was under the impression that placement was king. Miss something important and you haven’t done much.

      • Placement is key when considering how damage is applied: spread over a wide area, or in a narrow corridor.

        Another simple but distinct point is in the end goal.

        Shot placement is king when describing a physiological incapacitation, since in order to render a person or animal incapable of further attack, you have to disable the systems that enable the body.

        However, as anyone who has studied self defense or police use of force can tell you, a physiological stop is not instantaneous, and is highly dependent on body chemistry and whatnot.

        this is why even properly placed shots on an individual that are sufficient to damage heart or arteries won’t immediately stop an attack.

        For that to happen, you have to not only do enough damage to stop the person over time, but you have to apply enough force or damage to do so *quickly*, and that means more energy applied.

        A .22 will kill someone, but won’t likely stop them. A .357 will likely *stop* someone because it has a hell of a lot more immediate effect on target.

        Part of the whole thing is the brain has to register the hit.

        • Drew Remington

          A “physiological stop” can be instantaneous. It’s called immediate incapacitation.

          You’re correct about shooting the heart. It wont stop a person immediately. A person can live for as long as 7-20 seconds after failure.

          Arteries are a different story. What arteries? If the jugular is seperated they’re going to lose consciousness quickly. With the brachial or femoral, it can be as long as 1-3 minutes if sufficient pressure is not applied to the vessel.

          Stopping a person is a myth.
          Airways, breathing circulation. Everything else is not immediately vital assuming the individual is physically capable.

          Of course, we’re talking about pistol calibers here. With rifle and machine gun it can be a different story. Individuals hit with .50 BMG don’t do so well even if hit in non-vital zones. 7.62×51 from a 24 inch barrel will transfer as much energy at 800 yards as a .357 magnum point blank.

          Something impossible to do with a handgun unless you’d like it to hit you in the face everytime you shoot it.

          • QuadGMoto

            Airways, breathing circulation. Everything else is not immediately vital assuming the individual is physically capable.

            Don’t forget the nervous system. Also, a skeletal hit in the right spot can also end a threat if the assailant doesn’t have a gun.

            In the end, I think the police have it right. Aim center of mass and keep firing until the threat ceases.

          • Drew Remington

            You’re right but, i was talking about anything short of immediate incapacitation. I may not have explained it well enough.

            A round in the stomach may be painful but, there are some that can fight through it. Check out the 1986 shootout in Florida between FBI agents and two former soldiers. Not often talked about but, that incident created a shift in training, thought process and armament.

          • That’s my point, though. Very little will be an immediate stop. I guess all I meant to say was that if you can hit them hard enough that it registers in the brain, or seriously mushes up some major bits, you’re going to have to be damn accurate and hit just so, or you’re going to be waiting a bit for the guy to run out of blood/oxygen.

          • Matthew D Herrmann

            Some of that makes a case for a larger, more powerful round. If you can cause damage over a greater area, then the likelihood of hitting something vital is increased. Or potentially you can cause the body to go into shock. I’m guessing that one of the reasons .50 BMG is so effective even in non-vital hits is because it causes so much damage, over such a large area and so quickly that the targets enters into shock and dies.

      • gunsandrockets

        Brain Hits Matter!

      • ozzallos .

        Caliber is a hedge for placement. Real world says you can’t guarantee those tap-tap interweb movie headshots.

      • The Brigadier

        No but if I miss the heart and instead shoot him in the kneecap with a .45 or any of the magnum rounds, it will blow his lower leg off and the shock and blood loss will stop his attack.

    • Bob Gallucci

      Phasers on stun!

  • WPZ

    The lesson is clear- don’t get into gunfights with men made of ballistic gelatin.
    On the other hand, lighting off a few .357s out of a 2″ gun in an enclosed environment will render both shooter and shootee incapacitated due to blast.
    I tried my Magnum Carry in a shoot house years ago and vowed never to do that again.

    • noob

      What if you had the cylinder of your 357 rated pistol full of 38 special, and a speedloader of 357 magnum. You could practice most of the year with 38 special and just light off a few 357 magnum in training so you are used to the recoil. In a defensive shoot, you exhaust your 38 special first, if the problem persists then firing your speedloader of 357 magnum would be appropriate. At that stage if you have shot half a dozen 38 special with no earpro in a fight for your life you have already deafened yourself and the remaining agressors are probably very close now so all the disadvantages of 357 magnum out of a snubbie are outweighed by the desperate need to know your next shot will have a definitive effect.

      • Hem90

        Completely unrealistic in a defensive situation.

        • Calavera

          “In a defensive shoot, you exhaust your 38 special first, if the problem persists then firing your speedloader of 357 magnum would be appropriate. ”
          Not recommended. I’ve fired .38 spec., then immediately followed it by trying to load .357, only to find the cylinder fouled by spent powder which prevented reloading with the longer casing of a .357. If still in a gunfight with all your .38 spec. exhausted, time to beat feet.

          • junkman

            I’ve never had that problem. What kind of dirty ammo were you shooting?

          • Calavera

            Can’t recall. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Your mileage may vary. “This might or might not work” is not a strategy I would ever employ going into a gunfight. If you carry a magnum revolver, use it as one.

      • WPZ

        My solution is to use Buffalo Bore 158gr SWC +P loads- a superior bullet to anything in a 9mm, and heavy enough to carry through and break stuff.
        These depart my 2 1/2″ Model 19 at close to 1100fps, have modest flash, and are much quieter than any .357 load I’ve tried.
        And they are quite controllable. I can get hits with splits in the quarter-second range at 7 yards.

        • Stuki Moi

          +p+ 158s are fine enough for a 19, but for the airweights that form the meat of the .38 market, those are pretty unruly for most people too. You’re talking close to .40s&w recoil, out of a little revolver.

          • WPZ

            I agree on airweight J frames, especially with wood grips.
            The Buffs are no trouble on the lightweight Colt Agent that is my usual carry revo (when the Commander can’t fit the occasion.)
            There’s enough handle to control this fine.
            And 900-plus feet per second of Keith is good stuff.

        • The Brigadier

          1100 FPS is a .38 special +P round and that’s the same for a similar 9mm round. A light round in a .357 magnum is 1200 FPS and a light strong round is 1350 FPS. If you have a strong revolver such as a Colt Python or a Ruger Security Six, try a max load with 125 grain bullets charged to 1520 FPS. Use two hands to hold it when you try.

    • Phillip Cooper

      I’m always amused by ALL the targets closer than 15 meters in our range jumping when I fire my 357. I’ve had people accuse me of firing on their target.

    • 22winmag

      I used to pull the lanyard on an 8 inch. I also stood about 20 yards in front of one when it was fired with max charge. I’m impervious to blast and recoil.

  • Lew Siffer

    My wife carried a revolver for four decades. But, in keeping up with technology, she just switched to the Glock 43. Yes, that means the revolver is dead. Sorry, Colonel Colt.

    • gunsandrockets

      When CT ammo comes out for revolvers, expect a renaissance.

      • Stuki Moi

        Why specifically revolver? I would think an auto would, at least theoretically, benefit more from CT than revolvers would (better able to withstand repeated violent cycling and chambering, bullet profile invariance similar to what revolvers already enjoy….) I was told, by a revolverman with some knowledge, that shortening the cylinder to even current auto cartridge lengths, puts the cylinder gap,and attendant blast, uncomfortably close to the shooter’s the hand or hands..

        • ostiariusalpha

          CT has the particularly convenient feature of sealing the type of cylinder gap that revolvers have, you just have to push the cartridge onto the forcing cone a bit. It also allows the use of smaller calibers than the typical straight wall rounds, without all complications that go with trying to use bottle-necked metallic cartridges in a revolver.

          • gunsandrockets

            Take Chiappa Rhino revolver in .357 magnum. Assemble .40 S&W cylinder in place of normal .357 cylinder. Load .40 S&W cartridges with polymer CT-type endcaps holding .357 bullets.

            Presto! A CT cartridge revolver. (Maybe?)

        • gunsandrockets

          CT cartridge seals revolver cylinder gap.

          • Stuki Moi

            And then unseals it reliably enough not to affect cylinder rotation?

            Has anyone actually tested this to the point where reliability is up to what people expect of a revolver? Or just to the “Elon Musk says Tesla’s autopilot is safe” standard, of permanent beta tech industry standards? Before having a .454Casull equivalent go off with a cylinder gap positioned to blastcut my trigger finger clean off, I’d want some pretty darned solid assurances that the sealing would actually work. And ditto that it would “unwork” reliably enough that I’m not trying to stop a charging Griz with a single shot…..

          • gunsandrockets

            CT ammo was designed to work with the LSAT LMG. A LMG is much much more challenging to proper function of a cartridge than a revolver.

          • Humpy

            Doesn’t the old 1895 Nagant revolver use a sealing cartridge?, I believe the cylinder also moved a bit forward when the pistol was cocked.

          • gunsandrockets

            Yep. And the clumsy Nagant shows how much potential the simple CT cartridge has for changing the revolver game.

      • Sam P

        Do triangular (e.g. dardick trounds) CT cartridges make any sense?

        • gunsandrockets

          At the least it would make a six shot revolver’s cylinder more efficient.

  • Pete Sheppard

    My reservation about .357 in a J-frame (for example) is the difficulty of repeat shots. The light weight makes recoil brutal; if you put the first shot in the right place, fight over–hopefully. Getting off fast, accurate follow-up shots, though, will be tough. IMO, the smallest gun for .357 is something like the Ruger SP-101.

    • QuadGMoto

      Someone at the range once let me try one of those loaded with .357’s. I put it down after the first shot, thanked them, and vowed never to do it again.

      • coyote-hunter

        Shoot one at night and it looks like your hand blew up!

        • junkman

          I did a video of shooting most of my handguns in total darkness; I have my own private range. I truly expected a fireball with a .357 from the LCR, but nope. Even the video confirmed there was no huge fireball. I was surprised.

          • Pete Sheppard

            It depends on the powder; some loads are blended to be low-flash.

        • Pete Sheppard

          I fired some ‘Treasury Loads’ (superhot 110gr .38–somewhere up at +P+ levels) in my SP-101 at dusk; the fireball was EPIC! 😀

        • The Brigadier

          Yeah that foot long lick of flame looks scary doesn’t it?

      • The Brigadier

        Magnum revolvers and pistols are not for everyone. You can shoot lighter loads like the ones made for the Ruger SP101. I have hand loads in ,38 special with more oomph than the ones made for that little magnum revolver. Still I know women who carry them and they can shoot accurately with 1150-1200 FPS light magnum loads, so there is a place in the great shooting universe for lighter magnum rounds.

    • redlace

      My wife wanted something to carry on hikes in the CO wilderness, so we checked out some .38/.357 offerings at the local range, along with an airweight S&W .38 my Mom gave me a couple years ago.
      Wife tried the .38 loads in the S&W airweight, agreed it was no fun, then moved on to the .38 loads in the SP101 (3″ bbl). She thought that was manageable. Then – surprise! – we tried the .38 loads in a Chiappa Rhino (2″ bbl). She peppered a 6″ Shoot & See target at 10 yards.
      Then I suggested we try the .357 loads in the Rhino. Still manageable, though she definitely noticed a difference. She still hit the target better than 50% with the .357 loads. Her comment – “I wouldn’t take it out for a fun day at the range, but I like the way it shoots.”
      Her response when I asked if she wanted to go back and try the .357 loads in the SP101 – no hesitation, just “Nope.”
      She now owns a 2″ Rhino.

      • TDog

        The Rhino definitely mitigates felt recoil. She made a good choice!

      • 22winmag

        Add some Civil Defense ammo in .38 or .357 and enjoy lighter recoil and superior terminal performance at typical self defense ranges.

        Standard disclaimer: Not for 50 yard self defense, not for blasting through tempered glass self defense, and so on and so forth.

      • Bftsplyx

        I own a 2′ Rhino and love it. For folks who aren’t familiar, the barrel is on the bottom, so the recoil is very manageable.

        • int19h

          I think it’s also in part due to how heavy the Rhino is. That 2″ version is 24 oz. For comparison, Ruger LCR .357 is 17 oz. That’s a pretty big difference, and would certainly noticeably affect felt recoil.

          • Bob Katt

            I had a 340 PD and decided the best course of action would be to give to an attacker and make them shoot the danged thing. It woke old Arthur up after three shots and Arthur didn’t leave for a week.

          • Hugo Stiglitz

            I had my 340 and put a Delta Ergo grip on it. Still not fun to shoot but significantly improved. Great pocket gun.

          • Bob Katt

            It just hurt my arthritis too much to shoot it and the pain took too long to go away. Pachmayr makes a nice grip, but the 340 was history before I found it.

          • Hugo Stiglitz

            The porting made a significant difference. I know lots of people don’t like it, but I’m satisfied with the improvement.

          • Bob Katt

            I went the other way to an SP 101. Strangely enough, the trigger is better.

          • supergun

            I will take the LCR

          • junkman

            Me too. If you look at the lock work in the Rhino it’s too complex. I like simple; to me simple is more reliable. Love my LCR; see post above this one.

          • supergun

            I purchased the LCR 38 special a few years ago. It is lighter than the 357 model. It would fit in my pocket like a derringer. I could shoot bullets 60 ft away inside my hand imprint. I sure as hell would not want to get shot by one of these bullets, especially the plus Ps. Probably one of the best lightest small revolvers for the money. I love the 357 model, but it is overkill.

      • 9911kelly

        I traded a Taurus Model 85 .38 Special for a S&W Model 60 for that exact same reason. I live in Farmington, NM and spend a lot of time in the La Plata and San Juan mountains.

        However, it is pretty uncomfortable to shoot .357s through, even with Hogue Monogrips. But I still carry it.

      • Jason Lewis

        Glock 29

      • Hyok Kim

        Had she shot .357 at night, inside an enclosure to stimulate the muzzle blast?

    • Harry’s Holsters

      I read a great book on snubbies recently and it said a 357 snub gun should be a minimum of 22oz. I have a SW 360 and it’s painful to shoot with 38s. I’m a good shooter with semi autos and full size revolvers but this thing is impossible to shoot well due to my flinch. I don’t see how someone could control 357 with one.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      I read a great book on snubbies recently and it said a 357 snub gun should be a minimum of 22oz. I have a SW 360 and it’s painful to shoot with 38s. I’m a good shooter with semi autos and full size revolvers but this thing is impossible to shoot well due to my flinch. I don’t see how someone could control 357 with one.

      • junkman

        Simple fix; sell the Smith & get a Ruger.

        • Harry’s Holsters

          I don’t sell guns but I will be getting a ruger!

      • The Brigadier

        Use a lighter load. Only masochists try and shoot magnum loads made for larger magnum revolvers in snub noses. I have tried and its very brutal.

    • supergun

      The Ruger LCR is smaller and lighter.

    • Agostino

      In a GP-100 with a 4 inch barrel .357 is downright comfortable. Not so much in an S&W Combat Magnum (Model 19).

    • junkman

      I have a bunch of .357 Rugers. The SP101 & LCR both easily handle full house .357 Magnum loads. People look at the weight of the LCR & think ouch because of the poor recoil characteristics of the ‘J’ frame Smith, which I agree is atrocious. The LCR is a totally modern revolver that does not kick like a mule in .357 Mag. When my 120# 5’2″ niece says ‘I like this’ referring to shooting the LCR with full power loads, that says something. IMO, the ‘J’ frame needs retired. That new Kimber K6S looks nice, but I’ll keep my Rugers.

      • Rod Klomp

        I have all the guns mentioned, my Kimber kicks ass on all of them, the K6S is now in my EDC Rotation, in my j frames I use only 38 +p never 357, even in my Ruger sp 101, you’re right about the LCR, it manages recoil much better than most small j frames and is fun to shoot, Paqmyer makes a great rubber grip that really tames the j frames, I have those on my air weight and my 640 pro and I’m thinking of putting them on my 60 also..

    • Rod Klomp

      Try a Kimber K6S, I have both Ruger SP 101, my Kimber K6S wins hands down, with the SP101 coming in second

      • Pete Sheppard

        Since I pocket-carry, weight is at a premium. I’ve carried a 442 Airweight, but my steel M49 is ‘just right’ for me 🙂
        It’s nice to have options, though!

  • mosinman

    the other thing that’s good about a .357 revolver is that you can shoot .38 special out of it too if you like

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Who said I need a reason?

    • MissileMech

      Exactly! That K6 is sexy as hell and I want one. I just like shiny revolvers dat go boom.

  • Spencerhut

    I remember reading something like “the person at S&W who thought a titanium snubie 357 was a good idea should be hung” back in the 80’s. I know why they used the Kimber for this test, it weighs more than a 4″ 686. Kimber: A pile of overpriced garbage for men with large wallets, small brains and equally small manhood.

    . . . and try shooting any .357 snubie fast & accurately, indoors or outside without ear protection.

    • Steve Milliron

      IIRC, they used the Kimber because its 2″ barrel splits the difference between 1.875″ (most J frames and LCRs) and 2.25″ (SP101s)

      • Spencerhut

        No, they used the Kimber because it weighs a metric tonne

    • sthomper

      intruder intruder grab the earpices all quyick like and kill’em

  • 22winmag

    Here we go again with the “FBI standards for penetration and expansion” garbage which has much more to do with penetrating car doors and tempered glass in Miami-style gun battles than it does real-world soft-target self-defense scenarios and performance. Any ammo or gun/ammo combination that produces less than 12 inches of penetration is immediately written off as ineffective.

    Purpose built defense rounds such as Guard Dog (expanding) and Civil Defense (fragmenting) get written off all the time, when in fact they are highly effective, low recoiling, and less likely to overpenetrate.

    • No one

      222winmag shi lling for Liberty Ammunition and not understanding ballistics in yet another post? god what a shock.

    • Stuki Moi

      Car doors and tempered glass, yes. But also two arms stretched out for a two handed grip on a gun. Right in front of where most CCWers are trained to aim. The effect of a round fragmenting a foot or more in front of someone’s torso, airburst style, is much tougher to predict, hence rely on, than one that pokes a boring, old hole.

      Shoulder shots on someone crossing in front of you (or perhaps shooting extreme Weaver) is another scenario where more reliable penetration can be a nice feature.

      The main beauty of all the focus on “FBI” standards as far as home defense goes, is the reliability of expansion of even deep penetrating, heavy and slow, hence comparatively quiet, rounds. Back in the day, when the heavies’ expansion was iffy, sacrificing some reliability of penetration in order to better safeguard against over penetration, may well have made sense for “home defense” type scenarios.

      But now, especially with the latest polytipped offerings, you can to a much greater extent have your cake and eat it too. At least if you, like me and most internet Wyatt Earps, assume you will be hitting the guy you aim at, so that there is some tissue for the round to expand in. .

  • Bub

    the problem with stubnose revolvers is some of the lightweight models can be a little hard to shoot.

  • Vizzini

    Every time I try it, I decide by the fifth round I don’t want to load another five rounds of .357 magnum in my LCR. It’s only comfortable if I’m wearing a glove — I find .38 +P no problem at all. Can shoot them til the cows come home.

    My accuracy is fine — at least as good as with .38 Special, but I don’t think I’d be very fast on followup shots. I’ll stick to my S&W 681 for .357 Magnum.

    ETA: Regarding hearing, I’ve only ever fired .357 Magnum outdoors. I’ll take everyone’s word on the indoor effects.

  • James Reeves

    Interesting theory but as YouTube commenters have assured me on any snubnose revolver video I have done, this experiment is wrong, turns out. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

    • RSG

      How come you don’t have TFB staff recognition next to your name?

    • Phillip Cooper

      You forgot the all-caps and stunning use of vulgarity.

      • mazkact

        Not Paul Helinsky

    • The Brigadier

      YouTube just deleted all firearm videos and announced it will allow no more to be downloaded. I think Google should be taught a lesson about left wing censorship and everyone ban YouTube for the next three months. Email Google and let them know why.

  • Alan

    Here’s hoping they do a similar test of .22LR vs .22WMR out of a 1.75″ North American Arms revolver.

    I’m sure neither round would meet FBI standards, even out of a rifle, but I’m thinking the flash and bang of the WMR>LR makes a difference if you decide to carry a pocket knife revolver!

    • 22winmag

      Screw FBI penetration and expansion standards. How many car doors and windshields does one need to penetrate in order to defend themselves against a home invader? Guard Dog, Fiocchi EMB, and Civil Defense… all solid picks for real world self defense… and all marginal or fail the stupid FBI Miami gun battle hard-cover based standards.

      To your point, Gold Dot Short Barrel .22WMR is a NASTY little round out of any length handgun.

  • Emfourty Gasmask

    >a more powerful round is better than a less powerful one


    • Who are you quoting?

    • Kivaari

      Good hits with a lesser caliber are better than poor hits and misses with a big caliber. It is a major reason cops went from .357 to .38 +P+. The lack of control using .357 along with a loss of night vision made using the lesser cartridige more desirable. If limited to one shot the .357 will do more damage. If it is night out, chances are you will not be able to see your target after that one shot. If using a lightweight gun, like a K-frame S&W chances are any followup shots will miss. I’d rather get there well with less.

  • Don Ward

    What moron has been spreading the myth about there being no use for a .357 magnum in a snubnose? I suspect the person spreading that myth has never actually fired a .357 and .38 Special out of one and observed its impact on items.

  • Hoplopfheil

    Yeah but didn’t LG also show that 9mm is as good or better than .357 Magnum?

    Who cares about the fight for third place!

  • miniguyvegas

    If you watch, or read to the end, you see that there is little difference between 2-4″ 38spl and 357 for those rounds that qualify. The gist being that if it performs equally, then choose the more controllable round.

    In other news, 9mm performed as well or better than 357mag. It’s an engineering problem, better design allows for great performance on nearly every round today, or at least those that actually work. The one nice bit is the generally better performance with the universally available big brand defense ammo. In 38 you might not have a ton of options, but those that you have are easy to find.

    • DrewN

      And it looks like the old standby .38 special Super Match 148 wadcutter keeps trucking along. If it ain’t broke…

    • The Brigadier

      What other news says that 9mm rounds are as effective .357 ones? Nowhere have I ever found this stated. In FBI ballistic tests .357 rounds penetrated ballistic gel deeper than any other rounds including all the other magnum ones. Please especially show me where 4″ .357 revolvers performed the same as 9mm pistols of the same length. Maybe this is true for 1 and 2 inch barrels so please don’t make statements that don’t hold up to readily acceptable established proof.

  • Edeco

    Interesting. I like Lucky Gunners articles. Cool how they beat that lawsuit. I’d want 357 capability, be nice to have a small gun that can eat a plethora of ammo. But I checked the data on BBTI and while a short hose doesn’t turn 357 into 38, it does appear to make it a lot like 9mm, on paper. Not surprising, the peak pressures of 357 and 9 are about the same and without enough tube to use the added propellant, yanno.

    Also, my old 38 Spl came with crud from shorter cartridges. I think the prev owner put varnished, buffalo-parchment-patched, resin-bound-nitrocordite-fueled Boxer-Rebellion surplus 38-200 or something thru it. Could have been 38 Super. So I know people do it all the time but I’m a little phobic of mixing short and long cartridges, that sticking might ensue.

    • The Brigadier

      Jeez Louise, use a modern solvent and remove the grips and soak the entire thing if you have to. I presume you are jesting, but if you are not clean the darn thing completely of sheep dung and everything else.

  • Joe

    So, a 9mm revolver would give close to .357 ballistics, without the muzzle blast/recoil.
    Maybe an LCR in 9mm would be a good choice then.

    • However, some 9x19mm ammunition in a lightweight revolver can be prone to the projectiles unseating themselves from the case. The combination of inertia and lack of a hard crimp is just enough to do the trick. As it is, some dedicated revolver cartridges suffer the same fate in airweight revolvers.

  • Calavera

    Hearing protection has come a long way. My father was a AA gunner on a quad .50 during WWII. Cotton balls were standard issue hearing protection back then. Yes. He went deaf. Many folks don’t realize that damage can be cumulative as well. Prolonged exposure to loud music played through earbuds will eventually cause damage too.

  • gunsandrockets

    In my opinion anyone buying expanding bullets for any pistol caliber less than 9mm in search of greater lethality is wasting their money.

    • 22winmag

      You’re one of those FMJ for .25ACP and .32ACP guys?

      Me too, but why mention this when commenting on an article devoted to .38/.357 snubnose performance?

      • gunsandrockets

        Because .38 S&W Special is less powerful than 9mm Luger.

  • int19h

    Bah. If you want to know what recoil is, try shooting .357 out of S&W 340PD (which is about 30% lighter).

  • adverse4

    I am going to stay with my 125 grain jacketed hollow point +P .38 Special non lethal rounds. Only brutes use .357 mags. The 125 grain jacketed hollow point +P .38 Special round is a kinder and gentler round. Kills you softly.


    After my nephews began noticing my father being deaf AF from launching planes and maintaining carrier equipment for 23 years, they wear earpro doing anything stupid or loud. They wear goofy fancy sunglasses while mowing, but eh….

    Glad to see them wearing gloves during any strenuous work, too. I’m proud of them

  • mazkact

    S&W 442, Speer Gold Dot.

  • larry

    How about a list of the loads tested?

  • A Fascist Corgi

    It’s hard to take their results seriously when they use clear ballistic gel.

  • Martingard

    Bought a 340SC Smith years ago and stuck some .357s in it right off. Never again! Gave the pistol to my wife for concealed carry and she fired one (1) round of .357 and said not
    to buy her any more of those nasty things. She absolutely loves the pistol with .38s in it and is deadly accurate with it.

  • jonp

    Great Odins Raven, who ever said there was no room for a snub nosed 357Mag never shot and carried a Ruger SP101.

  • coyote-hunter

    Duh!….How moronic would have to be to claim a .357 snubby has same power as a .38???

  • sthomper

    get a bodyblade, use it, and the steel 357 snubs will be al you want to use.

  • The .357 is also usually a bit heavier, and loads can be tailored to barrel length for energy levels in between full house .357 mag and 38spl+p. (9mm luger qualifies too, in a more compact revolver.) The .357 is just more versatile and more customizable to the shooter.

  • supergun

    I love the 357 LCR, but the 38 special in the LCR will do the job. But I would choose the 357 model and shoot the 38 plus Ps. Grouping at 60 feet is pretty tight, within a hand size.

  • Wow!

    And yet that snub nose offers far less than a subcompact semi auto in any of the trinity subcalibers. I don’t understand the deal with people defending revolvers like how people defend pocket gun calibers. They have their niche, but they are an inferior choice for nearly every other use where you can carry a more conventional sidearm.

  • Humpy

    My problem with .357 magnum for a defensive round is the muzzle blast, and muzzle flash, you will not only be deaf, but at night you will be blinded by the flash.
    Both would be problems, try it sometime.

  • Old Gringo

    I carried 38s and 357s in law enforcement starting in 1976 for about a decade. I carried a model 640 SW, 5 shot J frame, 357 at 24 ounces, for maybe 20 years. I also shot maybe 2 dozen wounded deer with these rounds and have strong opinions about the extra velocity of the 357. For example, I chronographed 2 SW model 637s with 38 plus P ammo (125 grain). One would not break 900 fps and the other made nearly 950 fps. My little model 60 SW, 3 inch adjustable sights with 158 grain factory ammo will exceed 1,200 fps and shoot about 4 inch groups at 25 yards. Now, the penetration of the 357 with the heavier bullet and 250-300 fps, puts it way above 38 snub nose as well as all of the 9mm single stack pocket guns. And at 24.5 ounces recoil is really not bad. Probably does not matter much on shooting people at point blank range, but if your attacker is a pit bull or a wild hog, it does matter. We had a lady killed by 2 pit bull this week where I lived and I personally know a guy who was attacked by a 300 pound wild hog while dove hunting. These things do happen. When I go to Walmart I carry a 2 inch 38 or model 43 Glock. When I fish or hike in the woods I carry the little 357, just for the added penetration. If you do the numbers, the 357 has nearly twice the energy of the 38 in barrels of 3 inches or less. The concealed hammer guns are just hard to shoot at very much range and after 45 years of carrying concealed I don’t use them. But If you need too shoot the gun while it is in a jacket pocket as in a mugging, nothing works better. Just my 2 cents.

  • tarnishedcopper

    I personally wouldn’t shoot .357 magnum in anything smaller or lighter than a 2.5 inch K frame model 19 or 66, and L or N-frame S&W. Even in a k-frame, .357 magnum is a hand-full. I know an old FBI agent who said they allowed them to carry their own revolvers in lieu of the .38 specials they were issued. He carried a 4 inch model 66. They told him that the first 6 rounds he fired had better be .38 special. He was assigned to Sioux City, IA, and had to go to some of the shoot-outs in insurrections involving native Americans in that area. He said he was definitely outgunned, and many times took additional unauthorized long-gun weapons with him as well.

  • ron

    Well I’ve know this for a long time. I carry full bore underwood ammo in my 640 and my 327. Chrono results reveal around 550 pound feet of energy and I have no problem with follow up shots (takes practice of course). A snub is not a gun for a beginner. Novices are best sticking with Glocks where they can make up for bad marksmanship with 17 rounds.
    Spray and pray.

  • Agostino

    Only in the movies does one torso shot always stop and often kill the bad guy. As Pete Sheppard says, you have to be concerned with follow-up shots. The more recoil, the longer those shots take. When your life is on the line you don’t want any delay. I don’t think a .357 in a snubby buys much of anything over a .38 Spl. rated for +P anyway. It will usually cost a bit more up front for a similar model. At 4 inches of barrel I’d recommend the .357.

  • Jason

    So a little more “umph” is useful? Does that apply to my Glock 29? 🙂

  • kcshooter

    Simply firing a .38 and .357 one right after another in the same cylinder at the range pretty much puts that argument to bed. Anyone who has shot them together knows this.

  • Tom

    Considering no round from a handgun is 100% effective, it makes sense to go for a round that meets FBI recommendations AND allows for quick follow-up shots. And then there’s that muzzle blast, ability to see and hear thing…

  • 300 wm

    Yes the 357 is a great round. But, the number of people capable of shooting it well especially in a small frame revolver is few and far between. I have an sp101 that is chambered for 357 mag which I keep 38 +p in because I am not as proficient with 357 mag as I would like. The sp101 is about the smallest revolver I would suggest for full power magnum loads. Still relatively small but enough weight to dull the thump of the 357.

  • lamarlamar

    I carry a S & W 340 PD .357. It does kick! …….and make a lot of noise!

  • Colonel K

    What myth was busted? The article clearly states there were three acceptable .38 Special loads vs. nine acceptable .357 Magnum loads for defensive use in a snub-nosed revolver. Since I only need one good load, my takeaway from this report is that you are well armed with a .38 Special if you choose the right ammo, and with the added benefit that the problem of recoil is mitigated. If I’m hiking in the country and really think there is some risk of a large animal attack, I will be carrying something bigger that either of these firearms.

  • BeoBear

    That was some very interesting reading, surprising also. I’ve been a fan of the .357 magnum for a long time, the first gun I ever carried as a new police officer was a 4.2″ GP100. My department required you to furnish your own gun and I didn’t have one of my own to take to the academy so I borrowed the GP100 from another officer who carried it off duty. It didn’t take long to fall in love with it. My current GP100 is the stainless 3″ Wiley Clapp which is why is was so interested in the results of this test. I wish they had tested a 3″ also but it’s safe to assume it would perform somewhere between the 2″ and 4.2″.

    I’ve not had much experience with the .38 Special but had always heard they were pretty good performers. I was surprised to see that the majority of .38 loads tested performed so badly, in both barrel lengths. The quote “Overall, the performance of the .38 Special loads we tested falls
    somewhere between the typical .380 ACP and 9mm results from our previous
    tests” didn’t foster much confidence either. The performance of the .357 mag on the other hand was excellent, just as I expected.

    I’ve been hoping for some quality testing on short barrel .357 magnums for a long time and this one was excellent. It’s good to know that my current factory home defense loads are still proving to be an excellent choice although it’s more of a backup to my other HD guns due to the noise and blast of the .357 indoors.

  • Ernul

    SS practices shooting for the hip as quickest and largest take-down area. I prefer face/eye shots. ALWAYS puts them out of action.

  • vwVwwVwv

    i made for a friend who is a hunter rubberized bronze grips for his snubby
    what made it heavier and the blowback more tolerable.
    in germany only hunters can have such
    a short revolver, i love
    how they look.

  • BDub

    Would have been nice if the test could have included 38+P.

    • It did.

      • BDub

        Ah good. I didn’t see it mentions above and haven’t had chance to read the full report., thnx

  • robocop33

    A revolver is a great concealed weapon.

  • Anon. E Maus

    My argument would be less “it doesn’t perform” and more “it’s not nearly as easy to perform with”.

    I suppose if you take a 5 shot snub and load 4 Specials with 1 Magnum, and align the cylinder with the Magnum cartridge on top, so it goes last, your final shot would be a last ditch, since you’re not following up with anything after that (not immediately, anyway). I guess it’d also key you in that you’re empty. But I have no idea how solid that idea is, this is just me thinking out loud.

  • Hyok Kim

    I’m sorry I disagree with Nathaniel F and the team that did the test for the merits of .357 snub as a serious SD weapon.

    The conclusion is penny wise, dollar foolish. SD weapon for most civilians is most likely to be used at night inside a home. .357 generates far bigger flash and blast than .38, and even .38 is bad enough already.

    Firing .357 snub inside a home at night is most likely to make one a deaf and blind momentarily, forget about repeat hits. Situational awareness all SNAFU. Cops miss 4 out 5 shots they fire while on street.