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.357 from short barrel

5923 Views 7 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  wilsoncqb1911
I'm considering getting a 2-3" barreled .357 magnum revolver for woods carry. I want something small and light but "good enough" for up to black bear, with the primary emphasis being self defense.

My concern is with the ballistics of the magnum round out of a 2 or 3" barrel. With today's modern loading of 9mm heading in the 1300-1400 fps range, am I losing so much velocity with the short-barreled .357 to the point where I'm just as good with the 9mm?
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Howdy Mr. Wilsoncqb1911,

Well sir I suspect you will get some interesting responses to this one. You are asking for opinions so I will offer mine. Personally I feel the .357 magnum even from a 2 or 3" tube in the right load may still have as much or more "hootus" than a 9mm. But that one will probably generate some interesting opinions too.

I know you asked two basic questions in my reading - what magnum load for a short barreled revolver in .357 mag, and is a 9mm just as good. There are many excellent rounds for the .357 mag, and I hear only good things about the Speer load designed for short barrels. There are also many excellent rounds for the 9mm today, and many will give you high velocity. But velocity is not the only issue to consider, as you also want to think in terms of bullet weight, expansion, penetration, etc. All of these factors merge together in my view, to make a round that is effective, regardless of caliber. But yes sir, we are lucky to have so many good 9mm loads to choose from these days too.

If you are looking for a handgun primarily for self defense, why not take a long hard look at the 357 Sig round. To me it combines the virtures of both rounds - in good loads you get performance that equals a 125 gr JHP in a 4" .357 mag revolver. You also get extended capacity in a platform that will often offer a double row mag for increased capacity over a revolver.

But I will muddy the water a bit more here now sir. I grew up in NC and did a lot of hunting in the eastern part of the state where there were a lot of bears. The black bears that I normally encountered were not something I would want to shoot with either a .357 mag or 9mm. Personally I would want at least a .41 mag or .44 mag, if I were going to use a handgun. But again that is just me sir.

I am not sure where you live and might be likely to encounter black bears. So I have no idea what size they are around you. But again, if I think I may encounter a bear, I personally would want something with a bit more "hootus" on my side.

If I were going to go with a short .357 mag revolver, personally I would opt for the 3" as it will give you a bit more velocity from your rounds. I also think they balance better in my hands and help a bit in recoil as well. But again sir, that is just me.

I am not sure if I helped you are just muddied the water more for you. But these are my thoughts, and I felt that is what you were asking for anyway.

Good luck and when you make a decision and purchase something, please share your thoughts with us.

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Thank you very much for you help.

I'm looking for a "companion" for my 1894C Marlin lever-action in .38/.357. So I'm kind of "stuck" on the .357 magnum.

I camp some in Vermont. I have no idea the size of the bears, but I was looking to cover all my bases if possible.

I was specifically looking at a Ruger SP101 with the spur on the hammer in a 2 or 3" barrel (I can't remember). But I was concerned that it wouldn't be much better than one of my 9mms with the short barrel.
Howdy sir,

Ok, since you clarified you are comparing a short barrel .357 mag to a short barrel 9mm, I would vote for the .357 mag revolver then. You also have the advantage of being able to use snakeshot loads in the revolver in the warmer weather if you encounter a poisonous snake.

Given your clarifications, my vote would be for the .357 mag revolver.

Hope this helps a bit more.

I would never voluntarily pay for a 38 Special when a 357 is available simply because of the flexability. But I generally carry 38s in my 357s. For woods walking, I think a 357 would be superior to a 9mm from something that small.

Interesting question. Actually several. First I'd rule out the 9mm and like rounds because they don't pack the penetrating power needed for large animals. With a bear you may have to smash through heavy hide, muscle/tissue, and bone to get to the vitals. A heavy Keith type semi-wadcutter could do that. I wouldn't trust the lighter jacketed bullets to get the job done unless you can guarantee placement. Personally, I'd opt for KTSWC heavyweights in .41 and .44 mag. Even then you'll be on the marginal side. The .357 from a rifle performs fairly well, but I still wouldn't consider it real bear "medicine".
If you're stuck on the .357 rifle pistol combo I'd keep the rifle close at all times and use the pistol for a last ditch effort.
Luckily, most bears tend to be shy, but there is always the exception to the rule.

If you will always have your .357 1894C Marlin with you there's no point in carrying a .357 snub, which greatly emasculates the cartridge ballistically. Very few black bears would be able to tell the difference in a hit with such a snub, a 9mm or a .357 Sig. And, yes, a snub revolver drops .357 ballistics down to or close to .38 Special ballistics in a longer(6-8")-barrelled revolver.

When it comes to angry, aggressive black bears, bigger is better --- much better. I wouldn't settle for anything less than .44 Magnum or a hot-loaded (for Rugers and similar only) .45 Colt.

There's lots of black bears where I work and when you encounter one face-to-face, whatever you're carrying doesn't feel big enough. True, they are generally timid creatures but historically black bears have killed a lot of people. (Enough to produce a 1-hour documentary on the Discovery Channel covering only attacks by black bears, excluding the incident in Utah a few weeks ago.)
This is what I love about this forum more than all others -- you guys have some trully informative posts. Not just regurjitation of the latest fad or what everyone else is posting on the internet.
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