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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys, as some of you know, I've had a pretty good fascination with 3" wheelguns lately. However, I've been unable to locate a decent deal in a 3" .357 and I've noticed there are some 3" Model 10s on the surplus market out there.

So, I thought I'd ask for opinions and criticisms of .38 +P vs. .357 out of a 3" barrel. Mainly, I'm wondering if I'll lose much by going with a 3" .38, instead of a 3" .357. My round of choice would probably by the old standby (158 LSWCHP), but the potential for the Gold-Dot short barrel load to be carried is there. In .357 I would probably opt for a full power 125 grain HP.

Thanks for your thoughts,

-Rob
 

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Hello. The .357 does beat the .38 Special from about any bbl length. I own both a 3" Model 64 .38 Special and a 3" S&W CS-1 and a Ruger 3 1/16" bbl SP101. That said, what I do is try and pick something that (hopefully) maximizes the special caliber's "stopping power."

Right now, in .38 Special, I personally think that the choice is Remington's 158-gr. :LSWCHP +P.

Small Frame such as an S&W J or Ruger SP101: Corbon 125-gr. DPX or Remington 125-gr. Golden Sabers. These are indeed mid-range magnums, more than .38 Special and about like 9mm +P and +P+ from a service size automatic.

In the medium to large frame revolvers, I'm currently going with the Winchester 145-gr. STHP.

It is very possible that the "Short Barrel" Gold Dots from Speer will also be grand, but I have not personally tried them.

Here are some links that provide information to the question you asked and my observations if of interest:

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/38vs357snub.htm

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/Range%20Evaluation%20-%20Ruger%20GP100.htm

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/Ruger%20SP101%20Report.htm

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/38%20Special%20Expansion%20Tests.htm

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/Corbon%20357%20Magnum%20125%20gr%20DPX%20Ammo.htm

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/38%20Special%20158gr%20LSWCHP.htm

Best.
 

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Mr. Camp, Thanks for the excellent advice about The Remington 158 gr LSWC +P. I went through 80 rounds today. Used a S&W Model 67 4" and S&W Model 49 Bodyguard. About 40 rounds each.

Very accurate out of the M67. In the M49 it is fine for defense, easy to control and recover. It if the first time I wish there was about an 1" more grip on the bottom of the banana Smiht grips, but not so much not to use the ammo. I may consider another grip, but the standard profile is just about perfect. Even though I'm somewhat ham-fisted, their shape still gives good control with hot loads. But rubber grips wouldn't offer ths same degree of slickness I have now.

I did tighten screws in the M49 when I got home to clean the wheel guns tonight. A couple were back out a quater turn on the M49. Nothing moved on the M67.

Maybe a little locktite on the screws if it happens again.

I also had some thirty year old Super Vel, R-P JHP, S&W JHP, wadcutters and other samples left over from range work through out the years. Interesting to see what was considered hot loads thrity years ago.

I think the Model 49 is just about ideal for carry with this Rem load. More than accurate enough out to fifteen yards.

Thanks for your suggestions as always.

Regards

Steve
 

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Hello, sir. Glad to have been of service.


The J-frame Airweights are darned sure convenient to tote 24/7, but can be "snappy" in recoil, which is why I practice fairly regularly with my usual carry snub, a Model 642. (The gun shown was originally intended as a backup replacement gun were I to have to use my well-worn Model 042 against a felon.)


The same loads, be they light or hot, seem downright pleasant in the 4" K-frame that filled so many police holsters until the move to semiautos...


...but to me, the 3" K-frame sort of seems the ideal package for the .38 Special. I note very little velocity gain with the LSWCHP +P when going from a 3" to 4" barrel, although the gain is significant when going from a snub to the 3" at velocities already "low" compared to many. Usually the gain is something like 70 to 90 ft/sec! The K-frame/LSWCHP +P combination is easily mastered by most and probably a fairly potent one. I'd much rather have a .38 Special I could shoot accurately at speed than a .357 that I couldn't.


Either of these two .357 revolvers is capable of delivering a more potent round to the target in my opinion and I think that the Winchester full-power 145-gr. STHP is probably more powerful than the mid-range Corbon 125-gr. DPX shown with the SP101, but I carry it in the smaller gun. The reason is that the more powerful load is simply enough so that I'm right on the edge of not being able to control it in rapid-fire, something that might be necessary in a self-defense scenario. In the GP100, my CS-1, and other larger framed magnums, I usually tote the Winchester when carrying a factory load; they offer enough more size,weight, and grip that I can handle it. It just seems to me that while the magnum can deliver more at the receiving end, the gun/cartridge combination that delivers the most "stopping power" is the one that can be shot most accurately...within limits. I feel fine with a .38 Special 3 or 4" loaded with the LSWCHP +P, but it is the minimum I am satisfied with from a snub.





Best.
 

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Terminal results were always better with the .357mag in my wetpack tests. More expansion with excellent penetration. However, the new Speer 135gr+p 38special round is impressive. All I have are snub J-frames, here is one test showing the Speer results with a Taurus 85 comparing it to some 380's and 9x18's..





So I hope Stephen will get some of the Speer and see how in compares in a 3" revolver.

FWIW,
og
 

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Here are some velocities from my 3" S&W 65. I've seen that a given load will chrono pretty differently between one gun and the next (even from guns with consecutive serial numbers), so this isn't any proof of how a given load will perform from any other gun.

Sellier & Bellot .357 magnum 158-gr JSP
average velocity 1077 fps, extreme spread of 37.47, standard deviation of 13.82.

Remington .38 spl +P 158-gr LSWCHP
avg velocity 842.3 fps, ES 31.49, SD 12.88

Federal .38 spl +P+ 147-gr Hydra-Shok
avg vel 896 fps, ES 25.4, SD 8.67

Winchester .357 145-gr STHP
avg 1175 fps, ES 84.78, SD 32.93

Handload in .38 case (5.1 gr Unique/147-gr Rainier plated DEWC seated flush)
avg vel 967.5 fps, ES 47.83, SD 17.52

Handload in .38 case (6.0 gr Unique/158-gr LSWCHP)
avg 883.3 fps, ES 85.12, SD 39.03


Anyway, I hope this is of some interest. I've opted for carrying the .357 STHPs, but I'd feel fine with the Chicago PD/FBI load or that DEWC handload, too. If my wife were to be handling the gun (for instance, if it got used as a house gun), I'd put the DEWC handload in it (it's pretty pleasant to shoot, and it moves right out).
 

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Erich, your numbers just remind me just how much disparity there can be between loads and loading data. The Speer reloading manual in front of me (#13) lists the 158 LSWCHP at 919 fps from a 6" Model 14. The published load is 5.2 grains of Unique and is listed as the maximum in the .38 Special +P section of the manual, page 523.
 

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Out of a 6" tube, it might just hit that. I like the Speer manuals, because they're always very clear on the firearm they use to test the load (none of this "4" vented barrel" nonsense).

That 6.0-gr handload was given to me by a friend - he shoots it in his .38s, but I would strongly note that it's way outside what the manuals say is acceptable for a .38 spl load. I have only shot it in my .357s.

The loads I discussed up-thread were safe in my .357 magnum Model 65 - that's all I can vouch for.
 

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Ahhhhh, okay. I have a 38/44 load for my N frame .357s that would probably come close to detonating some guns and would definitely take most out of action. Thanks for clarifying.

The most recent Lyman manual I have lists 4.5 grains of Unique as a maximum, but for a bullet only three grains lighter and of the same composition, they list a +P load which is far past the "maximum" for the same bullet. Right now I'm in the process of getting rid of most of my cast bullet .38 Special reloads so that I can completely replace them with no more than two loadings, one with the Speer LSWCHP and the other with a good hard cast SWC.
 

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Revolvers can sure be individualistic. I have a 3.5" Custom .44 mag that matches my stock 6.5" 29 in velocity for the same loads chronographed on the same day. Also I have a 4" 629 that matches an 8 3/8" 29. It is tough to figure out!

To the original question, while I think you will not loos as much in FPS from a .38 I agree with Steve, the magnum will be more effective in factory fodder. That does not mean I would necessarily choose it or recommend it. You have to figure out if it is costing you anything - or more appropriately too much - in recoil control.

For me, if I were hunting deer or larger game with the gun I would opt for the more intense loading as the effectiveness of one shot might mean more. OTOH, if it is self defense I might opt for the .38 +P if it cost me too much (in a 3" K-frame it only costs me about .1 to .15 seconds for 5 shots so I tend to stick with the magnum in factory loads but it is a close thing).

This does not mean I dislike the .38. Actually I sort of lean toward it for a field cartridge with handloads but mine are probably more in the "Heavy Duty" load or +P+ range.

I have to admit, that 135 gr Speer is a very impressive load for a .38. I shot up some old meat a while back and by coincidence used a 3" 65. The Speer 135 .38 was every bit as impressive as a Remington 125 gr .357 magnum from that gun!!!

Jim
 

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"I shot up some old meat a while back and by coincidence used a 3" 65. The Speer 135 .38 was every bit as impressive as a Remington 125 gr .357 magnum from that gun!!!"

And, that just reminds me of how often the online caliber wars amount to just quibbling over angels dancing on the heads of pins. A friend of mine on some other boards is a real aficionado of the .38 spl. - he's killed a pile of critters with it. He feels absolutely confident with it for personal protection use. And, you know, from the shootings I've worked on, he's right.

Anyway, it's sure nice to have such an intelligent and genteel group of individuals to discuss the subject with in such a productive and calm manner. What a great board this is. :)
 

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Hi, Erich,
Also, a round of applause to all the ammo companies for making our hobby so interesting. It's amazing how many different brands and loads we have to chose from.
og
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well, this certainly turned into a more interesting thread than I could've hoped for. So, from what I'm seeing, while the .357 is significantly more powerful from a 3" barrel, the .38 +P is still a formiddable round.

Question, has anyone tested the Winchester Ranger .38 +P+ rounds? The rating is something like 1255 fps from a 4" barrel...If we see losses similar to other reported 4" to 3" losses, then one might be able to expect 1100-1000'ish FPS? Then the question becomes, is the 110-grain bullet weight sufficient in expansion and penetration.

I'm interested in finding out, I do not have a 3" .38/.357 with which to find out myself, but if someone is willing to volunteer a pistol. I might be willing to find a source of ammo and volunteer some rounds for testing purposes.

-Rob
 

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I have not shot the Ranger +P+ but I have fired/chronoed the old Winchester "Treasury Load" 110gr +P+ as well as the FBI's 147 Hydra-Shok +P+.

The Winchester 110 T-load gave almost 1100 fps from a 2" so you guess at 1150 from a 3" would not be a bad guess I think.

Two remarkable incidents occurred with that load when I was around. One, in Memphis one day at the combined agency motor pool we heard a shot (not all that rare in memphis but this one came from the lot! ) We cautiously moved out of the office (we were picking up a car) and saw a GSA vehicle move out of the lot rather quickly. We found the empty slot where it had been and there on the asphault lay a 110gr .38 bullet. The lead was smeared a little flat on the nose but you could have loaded and fired it again. It left a slight dimple in the asphault. Never did figure out which bright federal agent forgot "Rule 3". But it did disprove my opinion that they couldn't hit the ground


Another incident occurred when I cornered a woodchuck in a culvert. I could see him with my flashlight and I figured I would never get a better chance to shoot a chuck with a snub. I had some of these +P+ "T-load" in it and I had to lay down to shoot. I manage to hit him in the body twice - once on the move - but he would have run over me if I had not rolled out of the way. A friend - when he quit laughing - shot the poor critter about 100 yards out with a .243 ending his hole digging career. We did not try to dig out the .38 bullets but they did not seem to trouble the thing much. I guess he would have died later since they were not periferal hits.

Oh yeah one other incident happened with a 110gr. This was a .357 handload from a 6" Ruger Security Six. Wasn't mine so I am not sure exactly how fast but the guy doing the loading never did anything mild. We ran across a rather large snapping turtle while woodchuck hunting. From about 5 feet he shot the turtle in the head and it expried quickly but we noticed that there was no hole! The 110gr bullet had left a slight depression (reminiscent of that dimple in the parking lot) in the top of the head. No blood but it certainly gave him "Acedrin Headache # 357". BTW, it was the same guy who finished the woodchuck I was pestering with the .38.

The FBI 147 was a bit disapointing and only went around 900 out of a 4"...it did not expand in wet newsprint.

Onward,
Jim
 

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Jim, that pretty much sums up my concerns with 110-grainers. ;)

BTW, your 147-gr +P+ numbers pretty match what I've found. I posted on them out of the 3" up-thread. Not super-impressive, really. Someone once told me (38-44HD45 over on the S&W Forum? The illustrious Mr. Camp?) that these were only given the +P+ designation to keep them out of the hands of us mere mortals, since the Fibbies like to be special. After what I've seen chronographing them, I'd certainly have no problem firing them from even my alluminum framed guns.
 

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There's a warning on the 147 Federal box:

"FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT USE ONLY: These cartridges were loaded to specifications which require higher breech pressure than other 38 Special cartridges. They are designed for use only in modern alloy steel frame revolvers. To avoid possible gun damage and personal injury, do not use these cartridges in aluminum cylinder or aluminum frame revolvers. Consult ammunition officer as to use."

In firing these from the Ruger Speed Six and both 3" and 4" S&W M10s, I'd have to say, based solely on subjective factors of noise, recoil and blast, that this warning should probably be heeded.

 

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+P and +P+ refer to pressure, not velocity. (I know, I know.........)

The point I'm trying to make is that just because a load is inefficient in generating velocity doesn't mean its not really high pressure.

I agree with the assessment that the feds like to feel 'special'. I got a ton of stories......



Regards,

Pat
 

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Well, we have different boxes, and perhaps different loads. The 147-gr +P+ HS that I have feel a little sharp, but not at all fierce.

Given that I'm able to throw 148-gr wadcutters at higher velocities with a standard-pressure (acc. to the Speer manual) load of Unique, I'm not too worried about the pressures in the Fibbie load.
 

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Well, we have different boxes, and perhaps different loads. The 147-gr +P+ HS that I have feel a little sharp, but not at all fierce.

Given that I'm able to throw 148-gr wadcutters at higher velocities with a standard-pressure (acc. to the Speer manual) load of Unique, I'm not too worried about the pressures in the Fibbie load.
I shot over 2700 of them from a 3" M13 at the FBI Academy in a week. They didn't seem too hot to me...the worst part was blisters on my trigger finger :-/ That and discovering that after a whole day of shooting with my weak hand that I could not pull the trigger at the end :-[

I did find that they were *very* accurate. ;)

Onward,
Jim
 

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2700?! Good Lord!

You know, I noticed that the SD on these was very low from my gun. I guess that goes along with accuracy. :)
 
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