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Old June 2, 2001, 03:16 PM   #1
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Which is the better self-defense round and why? 357 magnum has more velocity, but more noise, recoil, flash, and danger of overpenetration. Is the extra velocity worth the extra cost of ammo and loss of control?

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Old June 2, 2001, 04:07 PM   #2
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Both should do the job. .357 is way more powerful. I have carried both and prefer a Model 60 with Federal 125 grain nyclads (low flash, noise, and great expansion!). I even carry them in my SP101 .357mag.

Hope this helps.
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Old June 2, 2001, 05:20 PM   #3
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In most cases for home protection a hot .38 or mild .357 is plenty. A hot .357 is as you said much louder and harder to control. Shot placement is the most important thing. I would not feel undergunned with a good accurate .38. rc
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Old June 2, 2001, 07:41 PM   #4
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Obviously, .357 magnums are the more effective -- frequently, far more effective -- rounds. However, the individual's specific circumstances are critical in making this judgment. For example, LEOs who may have to disable automobiles or shot through car bodies to eliminate threats will favor .357 magnum loads, which have superior muzzle velocity. On the other hand, individuals who live in apartments, townhouses, or who worry about carry-through and over-penetration should prefer .38 Special rounds (including standard pressure loads).

The "good news" here is the several outstanding .357 magnum revolvers (e. g., Ruger GP-100s and SP-101s, Smith 686s and 627s, Colt snakes of various species, etc.) are designed for both .357 mag and .38 Special rounds. Therefore, adapting to the likely circumstances is as easy as changing the "carry load" in the revolver and speed loaders.
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Old June 2, 2001, 08:36 PM   #5
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The extra velocity from the .357 magnum also allows a hollow point to open up more fully. The extra velocity is also good in the winter, when everybody is wearing heavier clothing. Believe it or not, it is an important difference.

In a small, light gun, the hotter .357 loads may be a handful. In a larger revolver, a K or L frame for instance, the .357 recoil is very managable.
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Old June 2, 2001, 11:31 PM   #6
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Of course the .357 is a better defense round. The last Evan Marshall report I saw had the 125gr hollow point at 96-98% one shot stops.

The .38 Special +P, 158gr lead, semi-wadcutter, hollow point is known in various localities as the FBI, Federal, St. Louis, Chicago, New Orleans, or LA load. This is the .38 that put a stop to the failures to stop, caused by the old round nose 158 lead bullet.

If you train enough to handle the .357, that's what I'd carry. A good compromize would be a .357 "Light", or mid-range load.
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Old June 2, 2001, 11:57 PM   #7
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I like the .38 Spl.+P, 158 grain lead hollow point as a defense load in a .38 or .357 revolver. The .357's are just too hot for me to control in rapid fire and I cannot get used to the muzzle blast.

If I want to move up from the .38 Spl.+P, I go to the .45 ACP. (Much more controllable and much less muzzle blast)

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Old June 3, 2001, 12:03 AM   #8
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When you say self defense are you talking home, CCW, or Open carry?

For CCW a small 9mm or 38 special will work better for most people IMHO.

For Open carry or home defense in a revolver I would probably pick a 44 mag or 44 Special.

The first handgun I owned was a 357. Because that is what everyone said was the best choice for a beginner. Even though the first handgun I shot was a Colt Delta in 10mm. I shot that 10mm a lot and I liked it but I knew the ammo was to hard to get and spendy for my budget at the time. But looking back I think a 9mm or 45 auto would have been a better first handgun or even a 44 magnum revolver. The 9mm or 45 are much better choices for CCW because they are easier to conceal than a 4" 357. While a 44 mag loaded with a good 44 special HP offers the same ballistics as a 45 acp and mild recoil and blast, but can be loaded up with 44 magnums for hunting or sport.


Your asking which cartridge is the better self defense round which isn't exactly the right question. A better question is with what gun/cartridge combination can I become the most skilled. Which is a combination of ergonomics [including decent trigger pull & fit], logistics [the cheaper it is to purchase and feed the more practice is possible for given amount of money], and confidence in the weapon/caliber of choice. If you believe in big slow bullets you would be better off with such, but if you think small & fast is the way to go then you should get that.

Also for CCW you need to consider how easy it will be for you to carry it. Mouse guns have always been very popular because they are easier to carry than a service sized pistol. On the other hand I know people that carry a pair of 45 acps and some that carry 44 mags for CCW on a regular basis.


With the 125 JHP full power load the 357 is effective. But the recoil and blast are not fun at all, at least when shot in DA mode from normal 4" guns. Which makes it much more difficult to become skilled in the use of a gun loaded with 357 mag. I have noticed that shooting my 357 in SA mode is more comfortable, probably because I can maintain a better grip.

A 9mm gives up a little in theory to a full powered 357 but is much easier and enjoyable to shoot. And if you us a Glock or other SA type gun the trigger is a lot easier to manage than the DA trigger on most revolvers [a tuned Colt python's DA trigger would probably be much better than a Glock's trigger ]

Picking the gun that "fits" your hand the best and that you have most confidence in is the way to go IMHO.

As to over penetration, remember in real life you will be lucky if 1/2 to 3/4 of your rounds hit the target your aiming the real concern about overpenetration should be for the rounds that miss target completly.
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Old June 3, 2001, 04:23 AM   #9
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Which is the better self-defense round and why? 357 magnum has more velocity, but more noise, recoil, flash, and danger of overpenetration. Is the extra velocity worth the extra cost of ammo and loss of control?

If you didn't know it it is a very good thing to shoot clear through the person you're shooting. Unless you get a CNS hit the person you're shooting can continue to fight/resist/struggle until their brain no longer has enough oxygen to remain concious... until the lose a few pints of blood. Also I believe that around 30-40 percent of hollowpoint bullets don't expand anyhow. If you're going to shoot someone you want to make as big a hole go as deep as possible to make the person you shoot lose blood faster. BTW, a human heart can pump all the blood out of a person in about 45 seconds if I remember right. This doesn't really matter to me since I use a 12 guage with 000 buckshot to protect my house/life/stuff. I don't think that ANY pistol is adaquate to protect my even a huge caliber like the .45. Few people could survive just one or two blasts to the chest or gut from my shotgun so I recommend people use a 12 or 20 guage shotgun for home defence.
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Old June 3, 2001, 05:39 AM   #10
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I agree Rail Gun, a good 12ga shotgun loaded with some powerful loads (00 Buck, 000 Buck, etc..) cannot be beaten for home-defence! But If I had to use a .38 or .357 I'd definitely pick the .357 Magnum. Even with a big, hot load I still wouldn't want to use a .38 Specal given a choise between the two. I'd rather use a .22WMR over a .38 Special if it wasn't a +P. Just my opinions...
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Old June 3, 2001, 06:14 AM   #11
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I replaced 357 magnum with 38 special

Last night I took the 357 magnum cartridges out of my Taurus 617 Titanium and put in 38 special. I usually carry two speedloaders with it. One speedloader now has 38 special, the other 357 magnum. This is a revolver I carry fairly often. I have several handguns from very small to full-size and like to carry all of them from time to time. I do have two 9 mm's, but my question was restricted to 357 vs. 38, not a full review of all calibres for CCW.

On this question, as with putting grease on rails, there is a division of opinion and one must use one's best judgment.


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Old June 3, 2001, 07:39 AM   #12
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Hey Drakejake,

What .38's did you put in the 617Ti? I have one as well and have been debating going with a 158gr .38+p. The recoil is so manageable w/ the .357's that I figured the .38's would be super easy to to control w/ MUCH less noise and blast......what do ya think?
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Old June 3, 2001, 10:52 AM   #13
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My Ammo

I'm not too picky about ammo. I tend to buy the least expensive factory FMJ ammo I can find, although I do have some SilverTips, etc. I have been carrying PMC 158 grain JSP .357 in the Taurus 617. I have replaced that with Samson 130 grain FMJ 38 Special. From what I have read, there is no point in using JHP with 38 special in a short barreled revolver. The bullet doesn't go fast enough to expand. I suppose 357 mag shot from a short barrel does go fast enough to exand. Am I wrong?

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