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Old May 6, 2013, 05:21 PM   #1
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Barrel length for 357

On a couple threads you may have noticed im trying to select another revolver. My revolver experience is limited at best. I have found some very nice 3" barrel guns. Normally I consider anything 4" or less a carry weapon. I live in NJ so I will never use it for that, besides I already own a PA63 which would make a great pocket gun. So why choose short barreled revolvers if not for carry? Am I able to take advantage of a 357 power in a 3" barrel? If not at what length barrel does it start to become a "magnum"?
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Old May 6, 2013, 05:28 PM   #2
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In my opinion a 4" barrel is an optimal compromise for handling vs. optimized velocity for most .357 revolvers. Any longer, and the thing gets a bit unwieldy, and eventually you'll run into diminishing returns. Much shorter, and you'll be losing a good bit of velocity. I'd say, however, that probably anything in the 4-6" range is probably right in the .357 mag's sweet spot, especially with lighter, faster bullets.
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Old May 6, 2013, 05:31 PM   #3
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The ballistics of the .357 magnum are enhanced considerably by a six inch barrel. The longer sight radius and greater weigjht "out front" also make the recoil more manageable, especially in rapid fire..

I've owned a couple of four inch .357s in the past and was never completely satisfied with them.

I've fired a friend's 8 3/8 inch barreled .357, but that seemed to be a bit "too much of a good thing."

Currently, both of my .357s are six inch (S&W 27 and Ruger Security Six)
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Old May 6, 2013, 05:44 PM   #4
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It comes down to purpose. Many folks claim a 4'' is easier for woods carry than a 6''. I find no difference. A 4'' carries better when riding a horse or sitting in your truck when using a hip or drop holster and does fit in the glove box a tad better than a 6''. On the nightstand there is little difference altho the extra 2'' of barrel will help minimally with muzzle flash and noise. For hunting and shooting at the range a 6'' shines for the reasons Ben Dover states in his post. I have 686s in 4'', 5'' and 6''. The 5'' is really the better all-around gun, but they are far and few between. The 6'' gets shot the most at the range cause it's just the most pleasant to shoot and for me and the others that shoot it, the easiest to be accurate with. Many folks initially like the balance of the 4'' until they've shot a coupla cylinders from each, then they tend to reach for the longer barrels. If I were to sell one(which I'm not.....), it would probably be the 4''.
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Old May 6, 2013, 06:00 PM   #5
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If you can find a 5" that would be perfect. The balance is great.
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Old May 6, 2013, 07:27 PM   #6
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You'll lose velocity from a three inch barrel but, on the other hand, you'll gain muzzle flash. So, if you're not going to carry it, I would go with a four to six inch barrel. As you can see from this thread, opinions differ.

The balance will be different on frame size and barrel length. Smith and Wesson has built .357 magnums in the K-Frame (medium), N-Frame (large frame), and L-frame (intermediate). I really like the balance of the K-frames which include Models 13, 19, 65, and 66. They don't make them anymore.

The N-frames include the Models 27, 28, 327, and 627. The grips are larger than the K-frames.

The L-frames include the 586 and 686. The frame is in between K and N but it is just about as heavy as the N frame because it has a full underlug. The grip size is the same as the K-frames.

You really just need to handle some to see which fits your hand. They are all great revolvers.

I'll let a Ruger person talk about them.
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Old May 6, 2013, 08:15 PM   #7
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I able to take advantage of a 357 power in a 3" barrel? If not at what length barrel does it start to become a "magnum"?
The published numbers you see are from 8" barrels. Even with a 4" barrel you are at 1/2 the length the ammo is tested in. That would be the equivalent of firing a 300 magnum from a 12" barrel. A 3" 357 would equate to about a 9" rifle barrel. The hotter 9mm loads equal or beat 357's from sub 4" barrels. If you really want magnum performance you need at least 6". Anything less is just a lot of noise and not a lot of performance.

That said, 4" is what I prefer. I'm willing to sacrafice some performance for portability. If they made 5" as a common length I'd be interested, but those are not at all common. Ruger and Smith have made limited numbers. When you get into revolvers with barrels longer than 6" I'd just as soon carry a short barreled carbine.
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Old May 6, 2013, 09:01 PM   #8
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Longer barrels offer more than just increased velocity. They also offer a longer sight radius which improves the shooter's ability to hit the target. I like 6" barrels if concealment is not a issue, as I like the balance. Even with a 3" barrel a magnum is a magnum, but you won't get all the good out of it. Get the longest barrel that works for you.
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Old May 6, 2013, 09:02 PM   #9
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Balliestics by the Inch

Look at the bottom of this page at "Real World Guns"

The difference between the 4" Smith and the 6" Python is counterintuitive, to say the least. And the same Smith compared to a 5.875" korth revolver shows the 4" barrel almost identical---just a few ft./sec less.

It all comes down to personal preference and what you will use the firearm for.
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Old May 6, 2013, 09:21 PM   #10
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The published numbers you see are from 8" barrels.
Not always...

Speer specifies a 4" vented barrel for their Gold Dot ammo:

Winchester Silver tips are from a 4" vented:

And a 4" vented for their PDX1 ammo:

Remington's Golden Saber .357 magnum ammo specs are from a 4" barrel:

Corbon also uses a 4" test barrel:

Buffalo Bore give data for a variety of barrel lengths:

Hornady's numbers do come from an 8" barrel though:


Last edited by peacefulgary; May 6, 2013 at 09:40 PM.
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Old May 6, 2013, 09:30 PM   #11
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If I remember correctly, .357 will continue to gain velocity all the way out to carbine-length barrels, 18" or more. So surpassing the "optimum length" isn't a concern with a handgun, more is better. Just has to be weighed against the drawbacks.

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Old May 6, 2013, 09:58 PM   #12
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For a range gun, I think the 6" is a no-brainer.
The reasons have already been listed.

Ruger, Smith, Colt: they are all very good. Check them out and see which one pulls your chain.
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Old May 7, 2013, 12:01 AM   #13
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craZivnIf I remember correctly, .357 will continue to gain velocity all the way out to carbine-length barrels, 18" or more. So surpassing the "optimum length" isn't a concern with a handgun, more is better. Just has to be weighed against the drawbacks.

That, Sir, is way too logical a post for an internet thread...
And, of course, I agree with it completely, as I've read many times the same kind of results and information!!!

That said, I'd heartily recommend the 6" bbl. length for a .357 Mag. revolver.
I found that my RUGER GKGP-161 favors Winchester 110-gr. loads by returning the favor of POA/POI at several different ranges out to 25-yds.
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Old May 7, 2013, 01:30 AM   #14
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For me 5" would be an ideal compromise, but if I have to choose between 4" and 6", I'll choose 4" every time.
I generally make light to mid range handloads with faster powders, so the longer barrels do little for me.
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Old May 7, 2013, 07:53 AM   #15
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If you're not going to carry, or only going to carry it open at a range or hunting, anything from 4-6" works well in my opinion. I will disagree with the idea that anybody who tries a 6" and a 4" will gravitate to the longer tubes; I've fired plenty of 6"-7.5" .357s and both of the S&Ws in my safe are 4" tubes. The longer barrel is easier for most people to shoot accurately but with practice and proper technique a 4" gun is just fine out to 50-yards.

As for performance, I'm a huge 9mm fan (have been for as long as I've been shooting handguns) but the .357 can outmuscle the nine. My Glock 17 clocks 1270-fps with 127gr +P+ Winchester Rangers; experience suggests the G-26 should clock around 100-fps less with the same ammo. My 586 clocks 1450-fps with run of the mill Rem/UMC JSPs and I would be really shocked if a 3" gun was magically less than 1200. And at the same time I can comfortably toss 158gr .357s at 1200 fps with a 4" gun; nothing in a service-sized 9mm can do that. Though I will say the 9mms are easier on the shooter than the Magnums.

In the end though, pick the one you like and use up lots of ammo getting proficient. There aren't truly any wrong or bad choices (except maybe the ultra-light .357s with full-house MAGNUMS. You're on your own there, I'll take a pass... ).
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Old May 7, 2013, 11:00 AM   #16
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I lost interest in 357 mags as well as 38spl revolvers after owning and shooting a Colt Python. I just never clicked at that time with the 357 caliber, but loved the 41 mag. The CCW thing brought me back to buying and shooting both 357 and 38 spls again. I believe TN passed their CCW law in 1996-1998. I finally came around to accepting the need for a carry permit as okay in the early 2000's.

I have a 3" GP-100 and use it as my home defense gun. I generally keep it loaded with 38spl +P's. The gain or loss in velocity did not enter my decision making. Did my CCW training with that gun and factory 357's. It was the first time I had ever shot it, which I find humorous. It didn't blow up on me.

Bass Pro sold some 5" 686's a few years ago and I handled one. Didn't really have the money at the time and passed. Loved the feel and balance of the gun with a 5" tube. When I became more interested, BP had sold out of them and I really didn't feel like chasing one down online.

As far as a range gun goes, I lean toward a 6" 357 as being just about optiminal. My favorite 357 mag revolver is a 6" Colt Trooper Mark III. It isn't going anywhere in the near future, but you just never know it might get lost in a boating accident given the right circumstances.

But if you could find an 8 3/8" M27.... that would be a great range gun! My 8 3/8" M57 is quite the shooter! It replaced the 357 mag as an appropriate whitetail hunting gun as I just didn't believe the 357 mag was powerful enough for me for that purpose. Others dissagree.

You have a lot of available choices in revolvers in 357 mag. I suspect you'll find it much more pleasant to shoot than the 460 S&W.

Last edited by 22-rimfire; May 7, 2013 at 11:17 AM.
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Old May 7, 2013, 07:34 PM   #17
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I have a Ruger GP100 6 inch and wouldn't trade it for a 4 inch. I have worn it around the house in both a belt and drop leg holsters and it doesn't get in my way or become uncomfortable. I also have a Winchester 94AE in .357 with a 24 inch barrel and it delivers down range at 100 yards with no issues, I wish the range I am a member of had a 200 yard board so I could see how that works out. When I do get a shorter .357 it will probably be a 3" for ccw purposes.
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Old May 7, 2013, 07:52 PM   #18
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I'm going to repeat what some others have said. Get a 5 inch barrel, if you can find one. The 5 inch length combines the best of the 4 and 6 inch lengths. One of the distributors is showing a special run of ruger GP-100's with a 5 inch barrel. Of course, whether they are in stock is another thing.

You didn't say that you were limiting your consideration to double action revolvers, and so you may want to consider a ruger new vaquero with a 5 1/2 barrel. It's worth handling one before you decide. I know a single action revolver is not recommended for defense, but if that is what I had, I would not feel helpless.
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Old May 7, 2013, 07:57 PM   #19
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I have .357's in 3", 4", 6", & 8 3/8". (The 3, 4 & 8 3/8" are Smith 686;s; the 6" is a Python.)

If concealment is no issue at all, I'd lean toward the 6". My "nightstand" piece is the 4". But if my 6" were a 686, and not a Python, that'd probably be my home protection piece. But I have small hands, and the Python seems to be better suited for a larger hand.

The 8 3/8" barreled piece is a bit much. It's very heavy and I wouldn't want to have to wield it around the house in the middle of the night. Although it handles really easy with full house magnum loads. Very accurate at 50 yards and beyond.
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Old May 7, 2013, 09:18 PM   #20
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140 gr cor bon
2'' 911 fps
3'' 1172 fps
4'' 1394
5'' 1493
6'' 1580
7'' 1671
8'' 1717
9'' 1745
10'' 1802
11'' 1814
12'' 1851
13'' 1916
14'' 1933
15'' 1942
16'' 2004
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Old May 7, 2013, 09:39 PM   #21
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Another vote for the 5" barrel, especially the 8 shot version
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Old May 7, 2013, 10:20 PM   #22
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I have the Wiley Clapp Ruger GP100 and Wiley considered the 3" barrel the best compromise between ease of maneuverability and ability to take advantage of today's modern ammo. He knows a lot more than I do about these things so I will not argue. I personally like 3" barrels in all my guns. They just balance right in my hand and allow me to get on target faster. Quite honestly, most people I know load them with .38 +P unless they are in the woods. You can see why yourself when you get one and fire rapid fire with .357 and .38.

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Old May 7, 2013, 10:23 PM   #23
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4"-6" are the OPTIMAL barrel lengths for 357mag! My favorite is my 4" N frame. My best shooter is my 6" Python.
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Old May 10, 2013, 08:39 PM   #24
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My 5" Smith & Wesson is my favorite 357 to shoot.

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Old May 10, 2013, 08:46 PM   #25
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The longer the better. Especially with a light bullet packed with slow burning powder.

With a 125jhp and a healthy dose of H110 I got the following speeds:
3" SP101 1367fps
6" GP100 1647
18" 77/357 2227fps That's 1376 ft/lbs. Quite a thump!
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