.357 or .38 Special In A Small Revolver

There is a lot of controversy out there about shooting .357 Magnum cartridges out of small revolvers, especially snubbies. Some would contest that there is little to me gained from a .357 out of a short, 2 inch barrel except muzzle flash, noise and recoil. Some will swear a .38 lacks the power to stop an angry tree squirrel.

Justin, over at the Revolver Guy blog takes a stab at this issue by trying to apply some common sense, logic and actual range testing (link). I definitely encourage anyone interested in this topic to take a look at what he has to say.

My own personal, non-scientific, opinion says that neither is a bad choice and I will stick with my .38 Specials. In part because I only own one .357 Magnum, an all steel Ruger SP101. While I love shooting it, I don’t really plan on using it as a carry gun. For me, carrying a revolver is about weight. My snubbies are light, handy and reliable and I can carry them in a pocket all day without noticing. The .38 Special will do the trick if I do my part and even if it doesn’t get the job done on its own it will level the playing field, allow me to get out of dodge or to get to a more effective self-defense tool.

What are your thoughts?

God bless.

4 thoughts on “.357 or .38 Special In A Small Revolver

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    First consideration is whether there are any legal requirements for specific caliber.
    Personally, the .38 Special with any offering of ammunition will do fine. The Plus-P, or, the Standard Velocity, are okay. The vast array of LSWC, SJHP, and the lowly wad cutter in 148 grains that makes a wicked cookie cutter hole in flesh. They’re all good. You must be able to consistently hit the target. You must practice and not go plinking.
    I happen to like blue steel over stainless. A bit more care involved.
    Selection, is a matter of taste. Model-36 or Model-60; Model-10 or Model-64. You like five shots or six? Model-19 or Model-66. There are tons of other revolvers in the mix from many manufacturers, and a budget gun can be okay without too much demand placed on it.
    I will say this, a two inch barrel while good, not much different than a service revolver barrel of four inches, and more concealable, has an issue. When the revolver is fired, as police are trained, and the reloading of the cylinder is involved, the thumb piece is pushed, while the left hand middle and ring fingers open the crane. The thumb ejects cases while the torso rotates. Two inch barrel revolvers have a short ejector rod. Practice the ejection, and keeping the cylinder chambers clean is important because you do not want any cases hanging up or, Murphy’s law coming into the scene, the cases getting under, the cylinder star, especially in stressful combat. A three inch barrel or even a 2.5 inch barrel, helps eliminate that problem tremendously.
    Get training. Many good trainers are out there. If it’s a revolver that you like, learn to shoot like a cop. Reloading operations. Fast acquisition of the front ramp. Five points to the draw, aim, fire. Reverse to holster. Learn to keep the finger off the trigger. Learn to understand and know the trigger weight and why your revolver has whatever it has for pull weight, if necessary, adjust, because street guns are not paper punchers. Street guns are killers. Make certain that you are not the one to be killed by your own gun, and be extra careful around others, especially your family.
    Today, a Model-19 S&W, gives versatility of caliber and safety when using .357 or any .38 Special offering. Nice sight picture, when you consider aging eyes. Extra meat on the barrel. If you really want extra meat to tame recoil, stainless, should be your choice. Let your hand, select the butt configuration and grip selection. All I need, is a Tyler T-grip. I prefer regulation holsters of OWB style with covered trigger guard and thumb break safety. I like an opening at the bottom of the holster to allow rain and dust to get out and, if no hole is present, my pocket knife with awl, spins a nice hole opening and then dressed from the inside of the holster to neat things up. I wrap the revolver in Saran Wrap, to check fit. If needed, I spray WD40 all over the holster and then insert the revolver and work the thumb break. Sometimes it needs to be done twice or thrice.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Really good info Brittius.

      I sometimes carry a 642 J frame and have not felt under gunned having a .38 special revolver onboard. However, I have felt somewhat under gunned with only 5 shots. That’s why my 642 is now primarily used in backup status.

      My main carry weapons of choice are now semi autos with 9 shots (Shield 9mm) or 13/16 shots (XD Mod 2 9mm subcompact) available. I realize that statistics have shown that most gunfights are over with 3 shots or so, but I do want to be ready should mine be longer lasting, God forbid.

      I do have a soft spot in my heart for small revolvers though. I do not own an LCR, but will probably get one at some point in .38/357 just because.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are not undergunned. Follow the USMC teaching of, “ONLY THE HITS COUNT.”, and you will do better than you imagined. I was in three On-Duty shootings with a S&W Model-10. My count is, 3-shootings/8-rounds total fired/8-hits/7-dead gunmen. It happens very fast. I used to shoot 400 rounds per day, seven days a week, because I had a fear of a missed shot doing some harm, so I practiced. It paid off.

        A 642 as either primary or backup in a firearms battery system is very nice. The things that I used to have done were, throating, competition cylinder hand for quick timing lockup, action hone buttery smooth and do not tinker with trigger pull weights or risk the revolver going “click”, when it should go, “BANG!”. On the 642, I would suggest looking into a Tyler T-grip, and really, that should be just about all you might like.

        When I was in uniform, the Model-10 was the authorized service weapon. I worked one of the worst ghettos in America and possibly the planet/cosmos. The Model-36 was my backup. When I worked plainclothes, I carried two Model-10 revolvers because it is quicker than a reload, and, the Model-36 again, as a companion backup. When I went into proper business attire, as detective and then detective sergeant, I carried the Model-36. I never felt undergunned with the J-frame. I wore a 2x2x2 leather reload ammo pouch and, always two Bianchi Speed Strips with full compliment of six rounds of ammunition. Learn how to use the cylinder fluting to index a reload procedure. Insert and peel two round at a time. There will be a spare round for a strategic reload if moving from point-A to point-B, with a full cylinder of ammunition. Once you get the hang of it, charging the cylinder is second nature, and done rapidly. In uniform or while carrying the Model-10, the HKS Speed Loaders were regulation and excellent. I also carried one or two, double dump pouches, with Bianchi Speed Strips, tabs pointing out, just in case.

        A 642 in a system, is nice, and you need to combine training to accommodate usage of both the semi-auto and revolver at the gun range. Practice indoors and outdoors. Fire the revolver. Combat reload the revolver by pushing the thumb piece, left hand middle index and ring fingers open the cylinder. Twist your torso to the right with your hips while the left thumb ejects the cases from the cylinder, onto the ground to your right side. Then bring the gun to your ammo. Right side, muzzle tilted down, and charge the cylinder, closing the crane by pushing the cylinder with your left thumb and peer at the target in case the perpetrator moved positions. Then up comes the 642, up, up, into your line of vision and get a sight picture. On my blue steel revolvers, I swabbed the front ramp with typewriter correction fluid and it was nice in low light. If rain or oil deteriorates the correction fluid, peel it off, then clean the ramp with rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab, and wait for it to dry and re-paint it. On a Model-19, painting can be with acrylic metallic gold. Two coats. Not much on the streets is metallic gold and it makes a nice and easy front ramp pickup with the eye.

        Just remember, train to relax your mind. Why? Because combat is stressful. Learn the mechanics and then introduce time as a stress factor. Train safely. Always train to relax your mind. Many cops commented that I had ice water in my veins because I was always at my coolest and calmest, while under stress and all hell was breaking loose around me. Part of that training is with a pencil. Pushing the eraser tip as a trigger stroke to learn the proper trigger stroke. Then point your finger at objects. Never at family photos because you will subconsciously “green light”, so only do it at inanimate things like door knobs, light bulbs, etc. Breath and learn a Zen-like manner of quickly operating both your semi-auto and revolver. Because I used to mix it up on the streets, I carried a knife and another knife on my off side in case the weapon is grabbed but I can bring a knife into play with a thumb assist and stick the perpetrator in the side, the rib cage, the kidneys, the neck. If anything goes mano-a-mano, the only rule is that you survive the fight with as little harm to yourself or third party you are protecting. Also, I still have extremely strong hands. Practice your gripping and striking. My hands are like leather, so you might need to put salt in water and soak your hands to toughen them up. Do work with your hands whenever possible. Why? Because you might need to grapple with a perpetrator or go for the windpipe. It’s all a system. The weapons you carry, and most importantly, YOU.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. While I certainly can’t pretend to have even a sliver of the knowledge shared here, I do also have a 5 shot Ruger SP101 that we keep as a back up in one of the cars. We have used both .357 and .38 for practice, but prefer to just stick with .357 for both. God bless.


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