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Old July 25, 2005, 10:09 PM   #1
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357 vs 9mm/.40/.45

I'm confused about something (as usual...). I read where the .357 is supposed to kick like a mule and have a god-aweful blast. However, reading the recoil tables on Chuck hawks, it looks like it kicks more than a 9mm and less than a .40. Is this correct?

I am leaning toward a S&W 686 with a four inch barrel or a Ruger revolver for home and car defense (not concealed carry). I like that I can also shoot snake shot in 38 out of it. So, is the 357 absolutely horrible or what? Again, Chuck hawks says it is the best defense cartridge made. I am hopelessly lost...

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Old July 25, 2005, 10:23 PM   #2
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I shoot a 686 with 6" bbl and magnum loads frequently. When at the range, I usually start with my carry piece, a 9mm. after about 50 rnds I start with the magnum. The first round usually stops shooting on the range for a few moments while everyone looks to see if I blew something up. Definitely has a kick with 160gr JSP's and 14.5 gr of 2400 but nothing unmanagable. I do like it because of the versatility (38's, shot loads, magnum loads) but it is a cannon. The 6" bbl lets me get the second shot on target quicker than I believe one can with the 4". One nice feature of the .357 mag. is that it will often penetrate things that the 9mm won't. Of course you will want to take that into consideration in a defense scenario. More attention must be paid to the bacground.
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Old July 25, 2005, 10:34 PM   #3
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Ed Matunas' book Rifles for Large Game (I think that is the title) published by Lyman Products lists a felt-recoil formula for rifles. I know of no reason why the formula wouldn't apply to handguns (physics is physics). The formula relies on a complex interaction of the weight of the firearm, the weight and muzzle velocity of the bullet, and the weight of the powder, as well as some constants about the acceleration of a mass from inertial rest, etc., etc. The actual formula ends up with ft-lbs of felt recoil. It is all a little bit over this history teacher's head (I just plug the numbers into a calculator and nod my head when it spits out a result)....

I think you could probably short-form it for comparison of different firearms and cartridges: take the weight of the bullet in grains, multiply that by the muzzle velocity, then divide the resulting product by the handgun's weight in ounces. Units don't matter; you will end up with a number which you can use to compare with other handguns and cartridges to get a relative measure of how much more or less one will recoil than the other.

After all, the same .357 load kicks more in a J-frame snubby than in an L-frame. Good luck, and good shooting!
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Old July 25, 2005, 11:37 PM   #4
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In my experience, it kicks more than most 9mm pistols of the same size and weight. I imagine than those Keltec featherweight pistols chambered for 9mm would be more unmanageable than the revolvers you specified. The only .40 and .45ACP autoloaders that I've fired have been well designed and recoil was slightly milder than the .357 (although the .40 seemed stouter than the .45) I own a Ruger GP100, and while the recoil is stiff, it's manageable with practice. God awful blast? Well . . .

The GP100 was the first centerfire revolver I'd ever fired; I rented a 4" bbl at a range. It went like this:

Went to the stall, set up my target, ran it out to 25 yards. Loaded six 158 grain .357 Magnum cartridges, pointed the gun at the target with hammer down/finger safe to get an idea of the sight picture. Cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger.


Where there was shooting in the other lanes before, it was suddenly quiet; stayed that way for about ten seconds. I sat there looking at a hole in the 10 ring and a big smile on my face.

I was hooked.

For home defense, especially if you live alone and don't have neighbors close by, the S&W 686 or Ruger GP100 are good choices. From what I've read, it's a proven self defense cartridge. You can always find lighter factory or handloads for .357, or shoot .38 Special. Hope this helps.

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Old July 25, 2005, 11:54 PM   #5
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Recoil is a factor of the weight of the bullet and it's speed out the muzzle compared to the weight of the gun. There's a direct relationship here -- the lighter the gun for a particular load, the more recoil forces you will have to deal with. Likewise, drive a given bullet faster -- or drive a heavier bullet at the same speed, recoil goes up.

The .357 can kick like a mule and sting your hand when firing. It doesn't have to be that way -- and you can still have plenty of power.

The good thing about .38/.357 guns is that you can find a load with enough power to do most chores without getting into hand-numbing fire-breathing loads.

A 4" or 6" S&W 686 is a solid gun for this caliber -- in fact the L-Frame of the 686 was built specifically for the .357 Magnum. For home defense, most folks I know use a quality .38 Special load or .38 Special +P. I usually keep a .357 bedside loaded with .38 rounds and a back-up speedloader with 6 Winchester .357 Magnum 125gr JHPs.
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Old July 26, 2005, 01:29 AM   #6
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.357 Magnum round: LOUD and lethal


I'm in complete agreement with Grimjaw and BillCA. In an extreme "life or death" moment when a bad guy is within seconds of killing you or a loved one, the .357 magnum cartridge can be a life-saver if YOU are the good guy!
It's proven itself for decades for law enforcement and I believe even the Navy SEALS use a 686 loaded with .357's for some missions. At a velocity of 1100-1200 fps a 125 gr HP round expands in human flesh and DUMPS it's energy. The .357 magnum round is right up there with the .45ACP for it's effectiveness at stopping bad guys effeiciently. It's arguably #1.
For indoor shooting range practice, it'll send 9/10 shooters to the exits after one sharp CRACK!! Now, what about for INDOOR self defense? I prefer revolvers and shoot them better than Semi-Autos. Still, I'm a bit squemish about using such a LOUD, high velocity round for Concealed Carry. That's MY problem, though.
If my LIFE were in danger (and when else would we draw and fire in self-defense?) I'd probably be WANTING 6 rounds of Remington Golden Saber HP's in high octane .357 Magnum! My "house gun" is a Ruger GP-100 .357 loaded with Hornady .38 Sp. HP's. (I heard what I thought was either a single pistol shot or firecracker just moments ago near my house as I was typing this. 10 seconds later, my Airedale Terrier begins barking furiously in our living room!
I retrieved my trusty Ruger turned on my outside lights. no more barking, no more "shots" or single firecracker pops.Hmm...)
To summarize: Get a .357 Magnum like a S&W 586(686), Ruger GP-100 or Colt King Cobra. Practice with .38 Specials and fire about 6 .357 rounds per session for familiarity and perhaps self-defense, but make them hollow-points.

Larry C.
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Old July 26, 2005, 02:03 AM   #7
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.357 special doesn't have much recoil, in fact it has the least recoil of all handgun cartridges if measured against energy.

You can achieve the same energy by pushing a heavy bullet at low speeds or a light bullet at higher speeds. Speed goes plain into the recoil equation but at the power of 2 into the energy equation.

Let's compare a typical .38 special +P vs. .357 magnum

The .357 magnum has 36% more bullet velocity. 36% more recoil. But it has 85% more energy out of 4" barrels. Perhaps I should note that factors like powder burn rate and duration of acceleration do matter, too. Just compare 12 gauge vs. .30-06, shotgun recoil is very different from rifle recoil.

I am not a fan of the .357 magnum. The very very bad thing is muzzle flash even out of 6" barrels blinding you in low light conditions. While I own .38 special guns the caliber is a little on the weak side. So my preferred handgun caliber would be a cartridge between .38 special +P and .357 magnum (and no, with 9mm this is not the case, 9mm out of revolvers is *weaker* than .38 special +P).

The very high speeds .357 offers are the reson for being the best self defense round. Higher speed equals more penetration, more expansion. .357 is #1 leaving .45 acp and .40 s&w in the dust.
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Old July 26, 2005, 05:30 AM   #8
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Agree with most of the above, especially the comment that a .357 fired inside a dark room DOES produce quite a flash, not to mention too much noise (in a real situation, earmuffs will not be an option.).

Well, maybe you can find low-flash .357 ammo, but if not, try .38 +P inside a room. I still remember the flashes and the excessive loudness of when I fired my 4inch 686 inside a normal size room. YMMV but for me, follow-ups were ....slow and uncomfortable.
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Old July 26, 2005, 07:12 AM   #9
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I don't know about recoil, but there's no comparison between the muzzle blast of a 9mm or a .40, and .357 Magnum. The magnum is almost ridiculously loud even out of a 6" barrel like my Highway Patrolman, and I can actually feel the concussive effect of the blast beating against my face. Shooting full power magnums wears me out pretty quickly... but it is alot of fun
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Old July 26, 2005, 07:29 AM   #10
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Muzzle flash is lot more dependent on the actual load selected--NOT the calibre. There are low-flash .357 Magnum loads and very bright 9x19 loads. Just be careful which loads you pick.

To a lesser extent the same is true of muzzle blast. The old 125-grain SJHPs were terrible in that department (they are also very hard on the weapon--I don't shoot them in any of my .357s).

As for recoil, since you're not talking concealed carry, you can look at revolver actually built for the .357 Magnum like a King Cobra (used), a GP100 or a 686. Those are rather substantial revolver, and unless you are shooting some sort of "nuclear" load totally unsuited for your stated mission, recoil will not be an issue.

All that being said, I think it is very, very hard to be the 145-grain Silvertip in the role you describe. It is low-flash. The muzzle blast is bearable. I've shot it a number of times without hearing protection (outdoors only) while hunting or dispatching vermin, and muzzle blast has not been an issue.
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Old July 26, 2005, 10:21 AM   #11
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Muzzle Blast

In my experience the lighter the bullet the worse the muzzle blast. I find 158gr loads much more pleasant to shoot than the 125's or even 110's. I will gladly put up with a little more recoil in exchange for less muzzle blast. By the way, recoil is not a big deal if you're not scared of it. My 115lb mother can handle a Ruger Service Six, Taurus model 66, and S&W model 28-2 with equal ease. That being said, she got used to shooting .38's before she worked up to .357's.
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Old July 26, 2005, 11:16 AM   #12
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.357 Magnum is far and away my favorite handgun round. I have 9mm and .45ACP pistols, but my bedside weapon is a 4" Stainless Ruger GP-100 with Meprolights and charged with 158 grain Speer Gold Dots with a back up speed loader of 180 grain Winchester Partition Gold JHPs.

This magnum revolver is by far the most accurate handgun I own. It is the hardest hitting too. Many SD loads for it are particularly made with low flash powders and I second the notion that if one stays away from 110 to 125 grain loadings, most of the special effects factors go away.

Yes, it is DAMN loud. Get some electronic ears to hang from your bedpost. My shotgun is primary and no one accuses those of being quiet. I want anyone I shoot to be deeply drilled irrespective of what they are wearing, or at what angle they happen to be struck from. The penetration abilities of the .357 Magnum are partially legend, but when you see one with 158, 170, 180, or even 200 grain bullets loaded over maximum safe powder charges, abusing steel plates and bowling pins, you won't likely go back to anything less if you can master the revolver.
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Old July 26, 2005, 03:43 PM   #13
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In my opinion the only reason someone would want a .357sig pistol, is if they plan on shooting at cars. seems to be the only reason why State Highway patrol, police carry .357sig pistols. i personally like the .357sig round, but i would never buy one, i would buy a .357sig barrel, to put in my .40sw gun though. i have also read that the .357sig round, could penetrate light armour. but that is just something i have read in a gun catalog, so not sure if thats true.
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Old July 26, 2005, 03:59 PM   #14
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Thanks guys! Everything is as clear as mud now! :^).

Although I had been thinking of the 357 as the allaround best round out there, I am now thinking otherwise. Two ideas have been presented here... 1) if the gun is shot inside (especially in a car) then I may very well be deaf afterwards. 2) There are other roud s that are just as good and not quite as deafening. I am now thinking that for basic defense and just plinking at the range, that a 9mm is a good bet because it has enough power, but also is cheap to shoot.

If I wanted to get a revolver instead of an autoloader, is there another round that I could get it in beside a 357/38 that awould be effective and fun to shoot? Please disregard my ignorance, but what rounds do revolvers come in and which ones are practical? I always loved the western style gun more than the newer style (like the 686), but I think all of those come in single action only. Am Ii correct about that?

Todd in TX
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Old July 26, 2005, 05:27 PM   #15
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Shooting any handgun from inside you car will cause significant temparary deafness. I wouldn't want to do it.

Recoil is a funny thing. The lighter, faster bullets are "snappier" and the 45acp (heavier and slower) is more like a shove. Also, the moving slide on an auto-loader changes the recoil dynamics significantly.

If you like single action revolvers, the 45 colt is pretty traditional and widely available.


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Old July 26, 2005, 05:52 PM   #16
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If you just want to shoot at the range, the 38's are great with mild recoil, similar to a 9mm. I really enjoy shooting them.

Now the .357 magnum... I just don't care to fire those off. A lot more recoil than my 9mm or .40, and even the 45's I've tried. I think a lot of it is there's nothing in a revolver to absorb the energy like in an autoloader so the full effect is transferred right to your arms. The percussion is damn hard and I usually have to switch off when someone is firing the 357 in the lane next to me. Couldn't imagine having to fire that cannon without earmuffs and plugs.
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Old July 26, 2005, 06:09 PM   #17
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I have a 686P with a 4" barrel and hogue rubber grips. Even with .357 magnum rounds its much more comfortable to shoot than the Springfield XD .40S&W which is much snappier and flips the barrel front end nice and high. Shooting .38's out of the 686 is childs play.

Compared to a 9mm yes the .357 has more kick and muzzle flash, but out of a full sized framed gun such as a S&W 686 or Ruger GP100 the recoil is negligble and easily managable. As others have stated there is a broad enough range of accessable rounds that can fill your role as needed whether they be 110gr .38+P's or full house 180gr .357magnums.

As for shooting anything beyond a .22lr without ear protection, well thats just stupid. Any of the rounds, 9mm included, will cause temporary hearing loss.
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Old July 26, 2005, 06:24 PM   #18
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Thanks Again!

I really do appreciate all of the input. I am going to post this at the revolver site, but what do you think of this gun...

At a local shop today I found a Colt Trooper MK III in 90-95 % condition. The gun felt really good in my hands and has a 6 inch barrel. The cylinder felt tight and everything seemed to work OK. The only problem I found with it is a small area at the tip of the barrel where the blue has rubbed off some. He want $299 for it. Is this a good gun and is he asking too much?

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Old July 26, 2005, 07:04 PM   #19
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That is a good deal. Have a smith check it out for you to make sure all is functioning well.

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Old July 26, 2005, 07:19 PM   #20
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The .357 Magnum is a wonderful cartridge, and one of the few that can be put to use as both a hunting round and a defensive round. It's only major hold-back is a lack of bullets designed for the cartridge in the defensive field.

The rumours about .357 Magnum effects as a self defense cartridge are largely exaggerated, but not because of the cartridge's failings. As mentioned previously, the fault lies with ammunition manufacturer's choosing not to pursue modern bullets in this cartridge. Not that the weapon is shooting blanks, it's simply that there are more reliably expanding loads in cartridges that have seen more development from the ammunition manufacturers.

As for the recoil, it depends on the load. I've fired 125gr loads at approx 1400fps and was unimpressed with the recoil from a full size revolver. 158gr loads at the same 1400fps, or higher have noticeable recoil, but nothing uncontrollable.

As for noise, the cartridge's reputation is well deserved. It is noticeably louder than a 9mm, even when producing similar ballistics. This likely has a good deal to do with the increased powder capacity, as well as the fact that most .357's are shot from revolvers, which tend to be louder due to the forcing cone.

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Old July 26, 2005, 08:39 PM   #21
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I would certainly go with the Trooper. It should be a fine performer.
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Old July 26, 2005, 09:07 PM   #22
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Buy the trooper. A 357 is about the most versatile gun there is, as you can use 38's for targets, heavy 357's for hunting, light 357's for defense.

As far as shooting any gun indoors in a defensive situation- if I sustain hearing damage, I'll get a hearing aid and thank God all that got perforated was my eardrum.
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Old July 27, 2005, 01:15 AM   #23
Larry C.
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Colt Revolvers: Practical?


I love Colt Revolvers. Owned Pythons, Anacondas and Detective Specials. But finding someone to WORK on them an getting PARTS is another ballgame.
If this is a self-defense weapon, consider a Ruger or S&W (especially a used S&W at least 10 years old).
It's easy to get parts and labor for work on them. What if your Trooper has or develops timing issues? (like my Detective Special)OK, there are people who work on them and parts are available, BUT it's more difficult and time-consuming with Colt. Having said that, I've still got a soft spot in my heart for Colt; how they managed NOT to be king of the firearms mfg business is totally beyond me!
Having a Colt revolver is almost as bad as owning an AMC car-as far as parts and servicing go.Almost; you COULD always send it back to the factory, but most if not ALL of the good revolver people are LONG since retired or passed away. Colt revolvers are unique. Do you really WANT your self-defense weapon to be unique? Think.

Larry C.
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Old July 27, 2005, 07:18 AM   #24
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BoneDigger, I hate to admit it, but Larry C. does have a point. I love Colt revolvers, too, so my first impression is always to jump on one when I can.

I'd still hate to pass up on that Trooper, though....
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Old July 27, 2005, 07:27 AM   #25
juliet charley
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The Trooper Mk III is one of the newer models, and they're pretty tough (tougher than S&W and maybe even tougher than Ruger). Barring outright abuse, I wouldn't expect any real problems with them--and they're not near as hard to work on as Colt's older models. That's a good price and as a whole, Colt revolvers are appreciating (which is definitely not true of current product S&W or even Rugers). That being said, they're still discontinued models.

There are still three pretty good places to have Colt work done (thanks to dfariswheel).

Cylinder & Slide is more on the order of someone to do true custom gunsmithing and custom alterations--EXPENSIVE, and turn-around is slow.
Quality of work is sky-high.

The Colt factory--NO ONE knows more about it then they do. Price is very competitive, and turn-around is usually the fastest.

Pittsburgh Handgun Headquarters
1330 Center Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15229
(412) 766-6100

Pittsburgh used to be Colt's overflow for warranty repair work. They apparently have a good supply of parts, and still work on the older guns, for which Colt doesn't have parts anymore. Price is good, turn-around is good, and quality of work is factory-level.
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