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Old March 19, 2013, 06:03 AM   #1
dayman
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.38spl vs. .357 for target.

Basically my question is whether to buy a gun chambered specifically in .38spl or a .357mag as a target gun - so, pretty much exclusively putting .38spl through it.

After getting my prodigal sp101 back I've sort of fallen in love with shooting it. I haven't given up on my autos, but I find the double action pull - while taking a lot more active thought - is just more fun. I'm not going to fight it as, at the moment, revolvers are a lot easier to come by (and often cheaper) than the plastic high-cap autos that have historically caught my eye. However, with it's 2.25" barrel my current revolver is not the best target gun in the world.
So, I decided to start looking around for something better for targets. My initial though - based on looks and the fact that I don't have python money - was a 4" 586/686.
However, I read that shooting .38spl through a .357 screws up the accuracy a little due to having too much headspace in the chamber. I don't imagine this will be an issue for quite some time, but I plan on keeping whatever I wind up with for the next 50 years or so, and hope to eventually improve to the point that it might. So, would I be better off in the long run buying something specifically chambered for .38spl? Or - since I do intend on getting into reloading this summer - would it be doable to just reload .38spcl loads into .357 brass and avoid the problem entirely?
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Old March 19, 2013, 06:21 AM   #2
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I don't see anything wrong getting a gun chambered specifically for 38 Special. My Smith and Wesson Model 10 and 64 are the the most accurate handguns I own and the 64 has an unbelievably smooth trigger.

If you want a versatile gun go with the 357 of course, if your strictly looking to punch paper it wouldn't hurt to get a 38. Its not like there are rules regarding these sorts of things.
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Old March 19, 2013, 06:33 AM   #3
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This question comes up from time to time, and the consensus is that if it's an issue, it's so minor that it's essentially negligible. More important than jump to the throat is the throat itself, since that's what stabilizes the bullet before it enters the barrel. IOW, a .357mag can shoot .38spl as accurately as a gun chambered in .38spl.
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Old March 19, 2013, 07:15 AM   #4
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Quote:
Or - since I do intend on getting into reloading this summer - would it be doable to just reload .38spcl loads into .357 brass and avoid the problem entirely?
I agree with MrBorland that the question of accuracy of .38 Special in a .357 chamber is really a non-issue. That said, loading .38 Special-equivalent target loads in .357 cases removes any doubt and is what I've done with all my .357 revolvers over the last 40 years or so. And it has the added benefit of obviating the need for any extra cleaning of the chambers to remove residue from the .38 cases that could make chambering .357 more difficult.
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Old March 19, 2013, 08:12 AM   #5
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Quote:
has the added benefit of obviating the need for any extra cleaning of the chambers to remove residue from the .38 cases that could make chambering .357 more difficult.
Over the years I've owned a lot of .357 revolvers, yet I have fired very few 357 rounds in them. I just never saw any reason to buy/load expensive, hard recoiling, louder ammo, just to punch a hole in a piece of paper. So the alternative of course has been 38 special. In that time, I have never seen any particular need to do any special cleaning of the chambers, and have never had any trouble chambering 357 ammo on those occasions when I have used it. YMMV of course.

I doubt is many people could tell any accuracy difference between a 38/357 and a dedicated 38. I know I can't. Lately I've been buying 38's because as a rule of thumb I can find 38's for less money. Think Model 15 vs a Model 19. Model 10 vs Model 13. Colt Official Police vs Python.
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Old March 19, 2013, 10:18 AM   #6
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I convinced myself years ago that .38's weren't as accurate in the .357 gun. I loaded wadcutters in .357 cases and shot them in a 6" model 19. Several years ago I started shooting IDPA. I used a 686 and a 586 both 4" guns. With 158 RN cast bullets both guns are extremely accurate at 25 yards. I don't shoot true target loads like 2.7 gr Bullseye with the 148 WC. I have not shot with a machine rest at 50yds.
For D/A shooting a tuned 586 or 686 is hard to beat. If you really get hooked you'll want a 625 and moonclips.
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Old March 19, 2013, 10:31 AM   #7
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In that time, I have never seen any particular need to do any special cleaning of the chambers, and have never had any trouble chambering 357 ammo on those occasions when I have used it. YMMV of course.
I have no personal experience because I've always been a handloader and never had any need to fire .38 Special cases in my .357s. But I have a number of friends who've experienced the problem - maybe their regular cleaning methods could use some improvement, but I know it can happen because I've seen it.
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Old March 19, 2013, 10:46 AM   #8
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My S&W 586 shoots .38 special just fine. Most .38/.357 guns prefer bullets in the 158 gr (or 146 gr. SWC )
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Old March 19, 2013, 10:54 AM   #9
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I like to shoot the plus P .38 Special loads for a little less drop at longer range, so a magnum rated gun assures me of strength. I really like the pinned and recessed model 19 S&W .357 magnum loaded down with .38 specials for field use and small game hunting. I think a quick brushing to get the crud out before chambering a .357 gets you back. If you feel resistance with the longer shell, you need to brush the chambers a little more. Happy blazing without the earsplittin Loudenboomer!
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Old March 19, 2013, 11:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
dayman
.38spl vs. .357 for target.
It depends on what you consider "target". For general plinking and range work, I'd get the .357. Sure, you may have to run a brush through the cylinders a bit more often if you're mostly shooting .38 , but why not have the extra option? As for the accuracy concern, most people shooting off-hand will not see any difference.
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Old March 19, 2013, 11:17 AM   #11
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I really don't see any less accuracy in shooting 38s in a 357. Just clean out the cylinders after each shooting session. If not a ring will build up just ahead of the 38 case causing difficult extraction when you shoot 357s.

Easy way to clean that is bell the case on empty 357 brass and run it in the cylinder to cut the gunk.

I'm not a big fan of loading 357s to 38 pressures, its safe enough but when I pick up a 357 I want it to be a 357.

Having said that I concur on the Model 64. My number one target revolver. Smooth and accurate.
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Old March 19, 2013, 11:27 AM   #12
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cmon lets admit it theres probably like ten ppl on the firing line that only use .357s rest of us girly men like or .38s and just tell people its a .357
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Old March 19, 2013, 11:39 AM   #13
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There are few things in the shooting world more pleasurable to spend an afternoon with than a K-frame .38Spl.
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Old March 19, 2013, 11:42 AM   #14
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If I were to buy a revolver specifically for target shooting, it would be a S&W Model 14. I know that the Model 19 is a great gun and very accurate, but I would never consider choosing it over a 14.
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Old March 19, 2013, 11:57 AM   #15
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Quote:
Easy way to clean that is bell the case on empty 357 brass and run it in the cylinder to cut the gunk.
+1
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Old March 19, 2013, 01:30 PM   #16
natman
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If I were to buy a revolver specifically for target shooting, it would be a S&W Model 14. I know that the Model 19 is a great gun and very accurate, but I would never consider choosing it over a 14.
A big +1. The 357 is a useful round in many ways, but if what you want to do is shoot for accuracy, get a 14 in 38 Special.
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Old March 19, 2013, 01:56 PM   #17
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When I chose a Revolver I went with the Ruger GP100 6in SS in .357 Magnum, Partly because my Fiancee has a Charter Arms .38 and my excuse was I could reload ammo for both on one set of dies. I love shooting .357 loads, theres something deep down in the pit of my stomach that tingles when I do, a .38 just doesnt do that for me. I let my ten year old daughter shoot it loaded with .38s, it makes her feel 10 feet tall.
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Old March 19, 2013, 03:55 PM   #18
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Quote:
If I were to buy a revolver specifically for target shooting, it would be a S&W Model 14. I know that the Model 19 is a great gun and very accurate, but I would never consider choosing it over a 14.
Today 12:09 PM
That. The K38 Masterpiece is the target revolver par excellence.
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Old March 19, 2013, 03:59 PM   #19
Bob Wright
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If caliber selection (.38 vs. .357 Magnum) is of no consequence to you, then may I suggest you find one of two older target revolvers, the S&W K-38 Masterpiece (Model 14) or a Colt Officers Model Match. Both guns are of a bygone era when the .38 Revolver ruled the firing line. Both are built for .38 Special ammunition, that is, they are not heavy nor bulky pieces, and lack the heavy lugged basrrels stc. Both have fine adjustable target sights. Fired with .38 Special wadcutter target ammunition, they are wonderfully accurate, pleasant shooting, and emit that pride of ownership.

In short, they are nice to shoot and nice to own.

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Old March 19, 2013, 04:20 PM   #20
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I have gotten excellent results shootng 38 WCs bullseye style out of my Colt Trooper .357, Ruger Security Six and Dan Wessons. IIRC part of the sucess of the Colt Officer's Model Match was its 1-14" twist. Regular cleaning to eliminate the buildup of lead and lubricant in the chambers is recommended.
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Old March 19, 2013, 04:42 PM   #21
Kreyzhorse
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It is a non issue. The chambers can get some build up but if you clean it, it isn't a huge concern.

As far as accuracy, no difference that I've ever noticed.

I'd suggest getting the .357 since it gives you more options.
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Old March 19, 2013, 06:18 PM   #22
Newton24b
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there was a handloader magazine article on this topic not to many months ago. i believe from a rest they determined that from the same gun, the accuracy between specials and magnums was well, twice the difference in case length.

not much to be noticed by the normal shooter. by an olympic level shooter, well its enough to cause a migraine
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Old March 19, 2013, 07:11 PM   #23
savit260
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I"m with Bob Wright on this one.

A K-38 Smith or an Officers Model Colt are superb revolvers.

If you want to shoot .38 Specials, those are two of the finest choices IMO.
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Old March 19, 2013, 08:37 PM   #24
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I'm pretty much of a S&W guy, and here's my order of accuracy:

1) S&W Mdl 27 5" 4-screw: thank goodness for its accuracy...I probably paid more than I should; have fired only .357 target and 357 thumper loads, no 38 Spl yet;

2) S&W Mdl 586 (accurate with both 38 & .357) this is a 4" barrel, and I've had it for years....old reliable. But I do have to clean out the chamber after an extended session with 38 Spl;*

3) S&W Mdl 14: what's not to like? Accurate with almost any load, but, oddly enough, factory wad-cutters suck, but Lee cast WC with Green Dot or WW 231 loads are great;

4) Taurus Mdl 82-4: I can hear the cries of outrage from the Taurus haters....but yes, it's true. I tinkered with the trigger, and with selected loads (stress selected), it puts bullets in the same 3" hole, every time;

5) S&W Mdl 10: it's a beater cop trade-in, but again, with selected loads (alas, not the same loads as the Taurus), it's almost as accurate as the Taurus. My latest fun load is the 38 Spl. version of the old Brit 380-200.

5) Taurus Mdl 85: no surprise; who'd expect a 2" barrel to get any better than minute of chest at 10 yds? Again, I had to tinker with the trigger and hone practically every working surface. But it was cheap and it's now reliable.

*edit....I shoot lead bullets almost exclusively, so maybe that's why it's sometimes difficult to load .357 after an extended 38 Spl session?

Last edited by VancMike; March 20, 2013 at 07:37 PM. Reason: bullet clarification
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Old March 20, 2013, 10:55 AM   #25
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I shoot 38 spl's in 38 spl and .357's in .357. That way it forces me to go out and buy some of the great old 38 spl revolvers and they're a bunch of them.

No problem shooting 38 spl in the.357 other than the shorter burn ring in the cylinder. I can load up and shoot the 38 spl all day and not beat my hand to death. So much cheaper and fun to shoot the 38 spl. Did I say they're a lot of great 38 spl revolvers out there?
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